Ayurveda's Sushruta-Dr P K WARRIER

  • By Dr T S Muraleedharan
  • October 7 2021
  • This is a tribute to the respected Dr P K Warrier, who gave up his body recently.

Padmabhushan Dr. P. K. Warrier (1921-2021) was one of the senior-most practising physicians of the country, who was universally revered for his exceptionally compassionate healing touch. He completed 100 years of a most fruitful life. The Indian traditional healthcare system of Ayurveda has undergone tremendous changes in the past over half a century and it presently finds itself on the verge of a global takeoff. This phenomenon owes to the role played by Dr. Warrier. Dr. P. K. Warrier was the Managing Trustee and Chief Physician of the reputed Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala (AVS), which is a 120 years old Charitable Trust committed to the practice and propagation of Ayurveda in its authentic form.


Dr. P. K. Warrier built and raised a multifaceted structure which is the present day Arya Vaidya Sala. He took cues from his elder brother, late Dr. P. M. Varier, who was at the helm for nine years. From 1953, Dr. Warrier continued to be the Managing Trustee of AVS and was instrumental in all the important steps of modernisation and upgradation which has brought AVS to the forefront of the national healthcare scenario. More importantly, these steps had a direct impact on events which enhanced the stature and capability of Ayurveda on a pan[1]Indian scale.


Article was first published in Bhavan’s Journal Mumbai.


Dr. Warrier continued to devote the whole forenoon period every day for the care of his patients. He spent time with his managers to guide them in matters related to administration, drug production, research, education and academic efforts. He also found time to get himself involved in general matters of social relevance. Dr. Warrier was recognised as a physician par excellence. Scores of chronic patients from every strata of the society and from every corner of the country and abroad, who visited Kottakkal bore testimony to his benign therapeutic skills. Dr. Warrier and a retinue of able assistants made every possible effort to provide them with solace, armed with their total faith and confidence in the healing capabilities of classical Ayurveda.


His compassion and erudition were in equal display whether the patient before him was a high dignitary from Delhi or a lowly commoner from a nearby village.


Apart from being a successful clinician, Dr. Warrier also made his indelible mark in other domains which define the core competence of Ayurveda. In spite of its essential philosophical content, Ayurveda is mostly perceived now as a healthcare system. And consequently, its vast armamentarium of herbal based formulations defines its public face. And this is one area where Dr. Warrier prompted many significant upgradation steps.


Almost all of the Ayurvedic formulations happen to be not quite user-compliant in terms of their unsavoury taste, cumbersome dosage factor and unwieldy handling requirements. Recognising that a quantum jump is required to render these very effective classical formulations more amenable to modern lifestyle, he courageously initiated measures to convert the bitter tasting kwathas to the form of tablet, the greasy tailas to the form of gel and cream, the sticky avalehas to the form of granule and the extra-fine bhasmas to the form of capsule.


The golden rule in all these innovative efforts was an uncompromising insistence on maintaining fidelity to the basic formula and to its dosage requirement. The changes were only in the dosage presentation form. It took time for the public, the practising physicians and the regulators to accept these changes. But Dr. Warrier was sure that unless such rational improvements were made in the classical formulations, they would ultimately vanish from usage.


Research is another area where he got himself involved in a significant way. His personal involvement in the cancer clinic at Kottakkal gave rise to the development of a unique Ayurvedic package for dealing with different types of cancer.


The Centre for Medicinal Plants Research at Kottakkal, which was inaugurated in 2003 by the then President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has now been accredited as a Centre of Excellence by the Dept. of AYUSH.


Several important research programmes in collaboration with ICMR, DBT, DST, AYUSH, etc. addressed issues related to photochemistry, botany, tissue culture, etc. Other research programmes concerning formulations and processes are in progress in association with DAE, MAHE, IIT (Kgp.) and NIIST.


Dr. Warrier closely interacted with eminent researchers like Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, Dr. M. S. Valiathan and Dr. R. A. Mashelkar while planning these programmes. The five volume treatise “Indian Medicinal Plants - A Compendium of 500 Species”, which he co-authored, amply represents his dedication to scientific research and documentation in Ayurveda. 


Ayurvedic drug manufacturing procedures are based on principles and methods deeply rooted in traditional practices. AVS started industrial level manufacturing in the middle of the last century. It necessitated the incorporation of the methods and tools of modern technology. It was in 1967 that a steam boiler was inaugurated at Kottakkal by the then Central Health Minister, Dr. Sushila Nayyar.


From then, it was a continuous chain of upgradation steps. The new AVS factory at Nanjangud in Karnataka boasts some of the most modern pharma technologies in operation. Here again the objective of Dr. Warrier has all along been not to deviate from the core of Ayurveda and yet accept appropriate inputs from industrial technology for equipping Ayurveda to meet the demands of contemporary society.


His efforts for propagating the science of Ayurveda were seen in the annual conduct of seminars, competitions and awards for Ayurveda students, publication of a variety of professional books and financial support to the Ayurveda College at Kottakkal by AVS. He was a widely travelled professional, taking the message of Ayurveda to both the hemispheres of the globe.


He was the President of the Delhi based All India Ayurvedic Congress on two occasions. His many awards and recognition include the Padmashri and Padmabhushan by the Government of India, the Dhanvantari award from Mumbai, Doctorates from Calicut, Mahatma Gandhi and Jamia Hamdard Universities, Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorious award, Kerala Sahitya Academy award, etc.


History will remember this versatile achiever not only as the most sought-after healer, but also as a renaissance personality who contributed significantly to the growth of Ayurveda in modern times. He will also be remembered for his progressive ideas which enabled him to enhance the credibility and acceptability of this truly Indian traditional knowledge base by incorporating inputs from other parallel streams of knowledge.


This article was first published in the Bhavan’s Journal, 31 August 2021 issue. This article is courtesy and copyright Bhavan’s Journal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai-400007. eSamskriti has obtained permission from Bhavan’s Journal to share. Do subscribe to the Bhavan’s Journal – it is very good.


Also read

1. Ayurveda is a Science of Life ie ancient yet modern

2. Ayurveda and Modern Concepts

3. Ayurveda – A Distinct approach to Health and Disease  


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