Agra, Nov 1: The once bustling and busy Vaidya Gali near the Agra Fort bore a deserted look Friday, on Dhanvantri Divas – the day dedicated to the Hindu god of medicine, Dhanvantri.
Till 20 years ago, the Vaidya Gali of Agra, sandwiched between the Agra Fort and the Jama Masjid, was a major centre of ayurvedic medicine, and many practitioners operated out of this area.
“Nowhere in India could you find so many famous and popular vaidyas (traditional doctors) practising ayurveda with dedication and strict adherence to the norms of the medical practice that were handed down across generations,” Kaushal Narayan Sharma, great-great grandson of the famous vaidya Ram Dutt Sharma, told IANS.
The younger generation of vaidyas from the area have left for greener pastures. Many of them have taken to practising allopathy.
It is hard to imagine that there was once a time when people made the beeline to Agra, in search of a cure for chronic, difficult medical conditions.
“There was a time when patients, not only from Agra but from distant places, made a beeline to meet one of the vaidyas here, all members of a single family, whose tradition was founded by Ram Dutt Sharma in 1870,” says Kaushal Narayan Sharma.
Even Mahatma Gandhi once stayed in Agra in 1929, for 11 days, while under the treatment of a local vaidya. The house he lived in while under treatment has since become a museum, the Gandhi Smarak adjacent to the Etmauddaula Tomb.
“My father told me that Gandhiji once had some infection. In Agra, he received mud and water treatment by a famous vaidya,” Mahant Yogesh Puri of the famous Mankameshwar Temple told IANS.
“We still have a few vaidyas in the area. The Kshetra Bajaja Samiti also runs an ayurvedic dispensary. The Rawatpara area, known as the spices mandi, also has numerous retail counters selling ayurvedic drugs, herbal concoctions, roots and skins, powders and ‘bhasm’. The demand has picked up after Baba Ram Dev’s Patanjali launched ayurvedic preparations in modern packaging,” says Shravan Kumar Singh, a nature-healer.
While Kerala in south India has emerged as an important destination for Ayurvedic treatment, there are old-timers here who say that better promotion and marketing have projected the other state as the ideal place for ayurveda.
There were more than 20 ayurvedic doctors in a single lane about 25 years ago, with a large clientele; these days, only about five remain.
“The senior-most is Ram Dinesh, others are Ram Sudhir, Ram Adhar, Ram Murti,” says one resident of the area. Interestingly the names of all the vaidyas begin with Ram.
However, in 1937, Agra’s first X-ray unit was set up by Ram Narayan, whose family now takes the name Narayan instead of Ram.
The extended family of these vaidyas now own more than 40 havelis and mansions in the heart of the city, around the famous Mankameshwar Temple. But the traditional profession of ‘vaidya-giri’ no longer attracts the younger generation.
“A heritage is on the verge of extinction,” lamented Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society. “Some of the modern vaidyas are known to be using allopathic drugs, even giving injections!”(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org