Friday, 2 November 2012

The Thonde Kai Swamy

India is home to numerous systems of medicine and perhaps the most popular among them is Ayurveda.
Ayurveda as system of medicine is mentioned even in the Puranas and ancient Indians had mastered the art of Ayurveda. The God of healing, Dhanavantari, was an expert in Ayurveda.
Legendary figures in Hindu mythology such as Ravana were experts in Ayurveda. Ravana has also authored books on Ayurveda. Hanuman carrid the Sanjeevanai hill which was full of medicinal plants.
The study of  shastars in ancient days included the study of Ayurveda and this perhaps made several religious leaders, saints and seers masters of the Ayurveda.
Medicines and tablets till the 18th century in India were made out of plants and creepers and mathas and homes grew shunti (ginger), sweet potato, saffron powder or turmeric, soppu (leaves), vegetables not only for coking but also for preparing Ayurvedic products.
The close connection between mathas (religious institutions), religious heads and Ayurveda continued from the ancient times till recently. It was only with the advent of the British that the allopathy made headway in India.
One of the seers who was also an expert in Ayurveda was Lakshmipathi Theertha of Sripadaraja Matha, Mulabagal.
Lakshmipathi Theertha  succeeded Lakahmi Manohara Theertha as the pontiff of Sripadaraja Matha.
Lakshmipathi Theertha had a deep interest in Ayurveda and he became a expert at dispensing Ayurvedic medicines. He himself prepared the medicines from herbs and plants
He continued treating people even after he headed the Sripadaraja Matha. He was the matha head till 1715.
Lakshmipathi Thertha had become such an expert in Ayurveda, he knew the medicinal value of plants, herbs and even vegetables. The seer had realized the  nutritional and medicinal value of certain vegetables centuries before researchers and food scientists had zeroed in on them.         
 The Madhwa Mathas have a rigid system of diet  where some  vegetables cannot be consumed at all. Certain types of vegetables and fruits can be consumed only during certain periods of the year or masas as they are called, All the Madhwa mathas follow this system and the Sripadaraja matha is no exception.
 Lakshmipathi Theertha, however, managed to distinguish between Sampradaya (tradition) and need. He realized the value of certain vegetables in Ayurveda and felt that they had to be used in the herbal decoction or paste. He thus used Thonde Kai extensively in preparing Ayurvedic preparations.
Thonde Kai is known as Coccinia or Manohi. It is a small greenish vegetable with high nutritional value. Lakshmipathi Theertha realized the invaluable medicinal properties of Thonde Kai and used them in almost all his regular Ayurvedic preparations.
Even as his fame as an Ayurveda expert spread far and wide, his use of Thonde Kai was grudgingly accewpted by the orthodox Brahmoi community then. This is because Thonde Kai is not prepared by followers of the Uttaradi and Ragjhaveendra Swamy Matha.  To these two mathas, Thonde Kai is a nishidda tarakari  (banned vegetable).
Indeed, so famous did Lakshmipathi Theertha become, that he came to be better known as Thonde Kai Swamy. Even today, the Sripadaraja Matha serves Thonde Kai in memory of this saint.  
So, he was also known as Thondekai Swamy.
More than 300 years after he first made systematic use of Thonde Kai, researchers and doctors of the Institute of  Population Health and Clinical Research, Bangalore,  say that regular and daily use of Thonde Kai can normalize your blood sugar levels.
The research said coccinia could reduce post-prandial glucose after a meal by 18 per cent. The sugar count level can come down by sixteen per cent by just ingesting this vegetable.
Some of the findings of this research was first published in the international journal of Diabetes Care.  
Lakshmipathi Theertha used Thonde Kai to cure people of diabetes and sugar urine.
The Thonde Kai is also called Kundru. In Telugu, it is called Dondakai and Kovvaikai in Tamil. In Malayalam, it is called Kovakka.
It was not only Lakshmipathi Theertha who was an expert on Ayurveda. Medhanidhi Theertha, also a pontiff of the Sripadaraja  Matha was an expert Ayurvedic. He was the pontiff of the Sripadaraja Matha from 1908 to 1926.
Thus, long before science came out with the medicinal values of herbs, plants and vegetables, our ancestors discovered them and used them for the good of the people. Let us, at the least,  acknowledge the contribution of Thonde Kai Swamy.

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