When women come to Rasa Ayurveda for group programs through our partner, AyurvedaTrip.com, one essential activity is interacttion with local Malayalee in a meaningful way thru The Muthashi Project. This week, women attending the Women’s Ayurveda Retreat at Rasa Ayurveda participated in our fourth Muthashi Project event. Sanju, Dr. Geetha, Sandia Bachman, Rema and all the staff and students did a fantastic job showing up to offer another great program, inspiring young Malayalee women to carry on valuable ancient traditional knowledge.
The Muthashi Project, founded in 2008, seeks to sustain the traditional relationships between Malayalee women and the native botanicals they’ve successfully relied on for medicine for thousands of year. ‘Muthashi’ means great-grandmother in Malayalam, the language of Kerala. ‘Muthashi’ represents the potential every woman has to live and heal thru her personal connection with Nature, the knowledge and experience of the generations of women that came before her, and the depth of her own wisdom.
The Muthashi Project sponsors Women’s Outreach Programs to inspire younger Malayalee women to continue the age-old practice of recognizing and using native plants as medicine. We usually offer these programs in communities lying just outside the city, where there is undeveloped land and backyard space for plants to grow, but where traditional knowledge and life-ways are evaporating quickly.
Most Women’s Outreach Programs feature the participation of western women who’ve come to Rasa Ayurveda for treatment or study. Their presence is intriguing to younger 30 and under women, who may be more focused on earning IT degrees, than on making sure they’re able to pass their grandmother’s knowledge on to the next generation. When light-skinned, western apparently successful women show their interest in Kerala’s traditional medicine and native botanicals, the younger local women often see the treasures of their birthright with fresh, appreciative eyes, and become eager to re-embrace a healthy relationship with their plants and healing culture.
Planning for an Outreach Program begins when an interested woman invites other women of various ages from her local community to attend the program. An awning is erected. Chairs and tables are set up for the event, and a delicious meal is arranged. One the day of the program, all the participants arrive and settle in. Sanju acts as facilitator and translator, welcoming everyone in Malayalam and English, and explaining the purpose of the meeting.
Next he moderates a discussion, asking the local women questions such as:
- What plant medicines did you take when your first baby was born?
- How do you manage your husband’s headaches?
- What do you do if your child gets a mucousy head cold?
The older women share their knowledge of specific botanicals sending young boys scampering off onto the land to retrieve fresh, wild-growing samples of the plants they like to use. They talk about how they prepare remedies for various minor or nascent ailments.
The western women usually tell stories of how grateful they are to Ayurveda for the resurrection of their own health, and how inspiring it is to spend time in Kerala, where life can still embody the harmonious relationship with nature, that gave rise to traditional healing ways.
When I’m present for the program, I jump into the talk and begin asking the younger women about their use of plant remedies. I quiz them in a jesting away about botanical recognition, and encourage them to talk about the home remedies and hair oils they use. I hope to inspire them to take a greater interest in learning what their Muthashi has to teach them, before it’s too late.
Everyone shares what they know, and the women compare the effectiveness of traditional vs. Western medicine for different diseases. In every program so far, the older women have mentioned the increasing scarcity of plant materials as their main obstacle to continued practice of their ancient healing ways.
After much satisfying group discussion, attention turns toward sharing a meal together, while the learning, sharing and cross-cultural pollination continue informally, and the men and children from the community help serve the food.
When the meal is over, the Western women make a gift of three medicinal seedlings to each Malayalee woman. This is a beautiful gesture, as the plants become a living reminder of our interdependence with one another and with nature.
Each woman plants and nurtures the tiny medicial plants. As they tend their seedlings, we hope they’re reminded of their connection to women in the west and the world over, and of nature’s healing bounty. Once the plants mature, the women can prepare their traditional medicines knowing that they are sustaining the existence of valuable knowledge and culture, while caring for their health and the health of their family.
Fostering the woman/plant relationship is so valuable, because:
- personal relationship with plants enhances awareness of the state of the environment and increases a stewardship attitude
- the ability to identify and use botanicals increases self-care at an affordable cost
- the relationship sustains traditional healing and cultural knowledge, and strengthens inter-generational ties
The Women’s Outreach Programs are always great fun, filled with new connections, stimulating discoveries, laughter, and a revitalized reverence for the traditional knowledge and native plant resources of Kerala.
The Muthashi Project also…
- …offers free clinical services and meals for local women in need
- …researches and documents Malayalee women’s traditional herbal home-medicine and nutrition practices, and the conservation status of the native plants women use for medicines
- …is working to preserve land for medicinal botanicals
- …funds scholarships for female students who intend to serve women by applying the principles of traditional Ayurveda in alignment with the values and spirit of the Muthashi Project.
The Muthashi Project is funded by proceeds from MayaShakti Ayurveda, Pvt. Ltd. and the Rasa Ayurveda Traditional Healing Centre for Women. Donations of any amount are welcome. Companies and individuals are welcome to sponsor an outreach program or donate any amount to the general Muthashi Project fund. Please email for more information.
We look forward to welcoming you to Rasa Ayurveda ~
Niika Quistgard, Director
Rasa Ayurveda Traditional Healing Centre for Women