From the book: The Boom of Ayurveda
Baerbel Schwertfeger/Monika Kirschner

January 2004

Be on a cure authentically and uncompromising in the Geethanjali Ayurveda Madom

Since early morning Sreeja plucked the leaves like tamarind, “Indian monk pepper”, castor and four exotic plants in addition from fresh picked branches and chop it into little pieces finally. Than the young Indian lady heated the green “mountain” of leaves with desiccated coconut, lemon peel and different spices in a special herbal oil. She spread out the hot mass on four pieces of cloth and tied it together into bundles as big as your fist. Everything is ready at 10.00 a.m.

Dr. Gopika Remanan, Ayurveda Doctor 3rd generation, examined our blood pressure and than starts the treatment. I lay down on a wooden couch in a treatment house built according to old ayurvedic instructions. Dr. Gopika and Sreeja started to massage my body with hot leave bundles. They work with synchronized movements and with firm pressure starting from the feet over the legs, stomach progressing to the head. The massage assistant takes away the bundles every few minutes, to place them in the warm oil, with that they stay hot and the herbal sap can develop the impact. Finally they should get into the skin as deep as possible, make the joints smooth and elastic, furthermore release the products of metabolism (named slag by ordinary people).

Before “elakizhi” (the name of the treatment with the herbal bundles) can start the purifying process of the body that takes 7 days is very important. Because Dr. Gopika follows the rules and instructions of the traditional Ayurveda very strictly: As he has learned from his ancestors and when he was at university. The Ayurveda doctor has been treating European guest in his private house near to Trivandrum in Kerala for 3 years. “Das ist kein Resort” (This is not a resort!) is the headline of the image brochure from the Geethanjali Madom. Because Dr. Gopika wants to be different from many hotels, where they offers Ayurveda as a kind of exotic wellness. Whoever comes to him for a treatment, has to submit to the cure totally: And that means also peace of mind first and foremost.

Abstention and benefit from Ayurveda
Sunbathing, swimming, smoking and alcohol are a no-no as are trips into the surroundings. Furthermore the course would last for 14 days at least. The first week serves to purify the body with body treatments and a individual medicine of herbs. Only than the true cure starts with special treatments. “That can’t be shortened”, says Dr. Gopika. Anyone who disagrees would be called charlatan.

According to Ayurveda the body consist of seven layers and that’s why it takes seven days until the oils and herbs have penetrated to the deepest layers. “Without deep purity the treatments have no effect” explained the Indian man. “That is like, as if you dye a piece of dirty clothes. The result will not be satisfactory.”

No compromise
Dr. Gopika insists on the finest treatment for his guests. Therefore the receive individual treatment, medical care and welfare what they can’t find elsewhere. Because the doctor has in insight about each patient permanently. He observe their reactions to the massages and herbal medicine, he also has an open ear for any question they have at any time. Four employees and one Yoga teacher take care of two guests only. They mix the individual massage oils, prepare the suitable herbal medicine and cook the correct food.

The preparation for every cure starts four weeks previous. The personal dates, case history including treatments so far; have to been sent to India in advance so Dr. Gopika can prepare for every guest personally. Therefore he studies old Sanskrit works and takes care of the preparation for suitable oils and herbs. When the guest arrives, everything is waiting for him.

Treatments in a family atmosphere
The trip from airport to Chittattummukku, a little place north from Trivandrum, takes approximately half an hour. The modern, one-story residential building is situated in a quiet street. On the ground floor there are the medical praxis, living- and dining room, kitchen as well as the living space from Dr. Gopika, his wife Geetha and two school-aged children Kunjunni and Malu. For the Ayurveda guests are on the upper floor two simple furnished rooms, private bathroom and a small library with comfortable seating corner.

From this floor upwards you enter over a metal stair case to a large terrace covered with a palm roof. The welcome is hearty. First and foremost Geetha with her pleasant personality creates an atmosphere that you feel at home immediately. The second guest, an elderly lady from Germany with bad rheumatism, is already there for some day’s, and is used to the daily routine.

Next morning Sreeja wakes me at 6.30 a.m. and she gives me a awful herbal drink. One hour later Gireesh arrives for the Yoga lesson on the roof terrace. The young man explains very sensitively and with a soft smile that Yoga can heal many diseases but it can also lead to injuries if you do the exercises to fast and abrupt or you breath wrong.

Before the Yoga lesson starts, Gireesh speaks to the Doctor and received his orders for suitable exercise. He explains us very patiently every single Asana and explains why they are good and he corrects posture and breathing. Every day we learn new exercises in addition and practice already the  familiar ones. “Two exercises are enough every day”, Gireesh calms down as we express grave doubts, If we would also practice on at home.

Fulfillment of a lifetime dream
Thanks to the Swiss Hans Mueller, European guests are getting benefit from Dr. Gopika’s Ayurveda knowledge. One day the doctor heard a lecture on tourism from Hans Mueller in the Rotary Club, Trivandrum. The Swiss pensioner lives in Kerala since 1996, gives advice to Indian hotels and he is also busy with Ayurveda. He criticizes foremost the negative spin-off of the commercial Ayurveda offers. He places everything he has got into the preservation and protection of the authentic Ayurveda. That’s why Dr. Gopika told him about his lifetime dream: He wants to offer authentic Ayurveda treatments for Europeans in his residential house. Mueller encouraged him, he helped him to achieve his lifetime dream and he supports him also to this day.

He couldn’t imagine how Ayurveda should go well in a big hotel, means Dr. Gopika. Finally the Doctor has to be a friend, philosopher and leader. Because Ayurveda is a philosophy and art it consists in the body to bring harmony with the five elements. “That is like if tuning an instrument.”, that explains why you need experience and intuition.

From there, he doesn’t think much of questionnaires completed in only a few minutes. This questionnaire should be an indication for which type of constitution you are. Because in reality the doshas are a completely different and difficult matter.


My first treatment

Dr. Gopika takes a blood sample and measures blood pressure. He explains, that it is absolutely necessary. Because people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels could get cardiac problems after the oil massage.

Afterwards we go in the madom, beside the house. The spacious treatment room in the shadow of a big mango tree was built true to very ancient plans and after exact ayurvedic calculation. The adjustment, high proportions and the exclusively natural materials – nothing was left to chance. The palm roof is pulled down to the ground, a large number of air slots provide a good ventilation. In the inside every corner has a particular purpose. Right hand side a little altar is situated, on the left there are the judges kept with individually prepared oils for every patient and in the center stands the treatment table “thoni” made from one piece of wood – more then 100 years old.

Every treatment is a ceremony in the Geethanjali. At first I get a special powder applied on several points on my head. That we be balancing for the nerves an regulate the temperature of the body. Now stats the synchronized massage with herb oil. There is a spirit of total silence. Geetha and Sreeja are concentrated on my body totally and treat the body with strong, stroke movements. After the treatment I get rubbed on with a coarse-grained paste out of herbs, roots, barks and honey. With it the skin will be protected against irritations. After leaving the powder for 15 minutes we go to the “bath”, a little corner in far end of the madom. There Sreeja and the 16 year old massage assistant Shanti rinse off the powder with warm water and apply another one - a fine-ground herbal powder, that should dissolve the oil without reducing the effect of the rubbed in substances. 

Then I get bathed from both with a warm herbal water and dried carefully. At the end you get applied a powder on the head once again to protect the body against cold. Then we receive a horrible herbal drink. Sreeja stands sympathetically beside me and passes me some cashew nuts, to drive out the bitter taste fast. She shows me back to my room and gives me a little bowl with “khanji”, a kind of rice soup with special herbs – it cools the body inside. Than you have a rest until lunch.

Everything in rhythm: Further daily routine
There are only traditional and vegetarian food from Kerala. Already for breakfast you receive “dosas” – thin pancakes out of lentil flour and hot curries. 

At lunch and dinner you get several vegetable curries, rice, fruits everything prepared with instructions from Dr. Gopika. Finally the food is also a the medicine. After lunch there is recommended rest period again. Sreeja serves tea and cookies on the palm roof top at 3.30 p.m.; afterwards the children come with us for a walk frequently, by whom the village inhabitants have a good look at us: After all no stranger gets lost in this area. However Dr. Gopika has considered this also that’s why he has informed the village inhabitants about his project in advance. At 5.30 pm Gireesh comes for the evening  yoga lesson and at 7.30 pm  you have dinner. After the meal we sit together and chat about Ayurveda and India.

The procedure remains the same for 7 days, but the massage takes longer and the pressure we be increases day by day. I’m not allowed to shower or wash my hair for 7 days. Therefore you get fresh sheets for your bed and a fresh caftan for wearing every day. After the rest day we shower and wash our hair than starts the main treatments with hot herbal bundles for 7 days.

A very varied cure: Culture and Astrology included
Dr. Gopika and Geetha attach great importance to that their guests also get an idea to the Indian culture they arrange concerts with traditional music and dance presentations in their Ayurveda Madom. During several conversations Geetha and Dr. Gopika make always clear, that are the culture very different and that the Indian society is always marked by ancient traditions. Even today parents are looking for a suitable wife for the educated sons in high-ranking management position from America. And in addition without a suitable horoscope is this relationship would not proceed.

Also Dr. Gopika works very close together with an astrologer: his Ayurveda guests also gets astrological advice. I explained Dr. Gopika that I don’t believe in astrology several times but there he won’t be put off. Also here it’s clear, the prediction of the astrologer are rooted in the Indian culture very deeply. Like this he claims for example, my horoscope says, that I used to be vegetarian, a statement that probably a western astrologer wouldn’t never say.

What is so unique about the cure? There are the many conversations, the loving care and the conscientiousness like Dr. Gopika an Geetha treat their guests. This unique has spread around and they are fully booked well in advance.

But an Ayurveda cure in Geethanjali isn’t surly suitable for everyone. You have to be open minded and curios furthermore you have to let yourself into the way of thinking and way of life. But you get a unique treatment and the possibility to know Kerala from another side.