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Ayurvastra is a branch of Ayurveda, a 5000-year-old Indian Medical Science. The word Ayurvastra breaks as ‘Ayur’ meaning ‘Life’ or ‘health’ and ‘Vastra’ meaning ‘clothing’. Thus, Ayurvastra means ‘Life Cloth’ or ‘clothing for health’.Ayurvastra garments are made out of organic cotton, wool, silk or coir fabric infused with organic herbs and medicinal plants extracts. Ayurvastra does not contain synthetic chemicals, toxins, irritants and side-effects and is biodegradable.The art of Ayurvastra is practiced in Kerala, India , more prominently in the village of Balaramapuram. Ayurvastra is used to cure a wide range of diseases. It is also believed to help restore balance within body’s systems and strengthen the immune system. About 20 lakh families are dependent on this handloom for their livelihood. It is said that in olden days such clothes were sewed for the members of the royal family. The ancient art was revived through a project submitted to the state government by a Weavers society in kerala. The task was further progressed by the Ayurveda University of Kerala, India.
Method of Preparation
Ayurvastra clothes are devoid of any chemicals and are made of purely organic and biodegradable materials. The preparation of Ayurvastra begins with absolutely organic cotton. It undergoes a process of de-sizing so as to avoid loose particles or debris. The organic cotton yarn or fabric is then coated with a mixture of natural gums so that the mixture acts as a medium between the cotton fabric and the dye and sticks them together for a longer time . The cotton fabric is then bleached using animal manure like cow’s urine and by exposing it to the sunlight.
The dyes are prepared from herbs like red sandalwood, vetiver, wild turmeric, sweet flag, neem , tulsi , sida and mimosa pudica. Flowers like Champa , Shoe flower along with roots, leaves and seeds of different herbs and medicinal plants are also used in preparation of the dyes. These herbs are also grown organically. These dyes contain between 40-60 specifically blended herbal ingredients which will complement each other in helping cure a certain disease.
The clothes are then dipped in these dyes in controlled conditions for a minimum of six hours. The temperature of the dyes, duration and number of dye soaks, the blend of herbs as well as the equipment used – everything is carefully controlled. All of kinds of shades of red, yellow, brown, orange and green can be made using different combinations of the herbs and to make the colors bright and fast natural mordents such as Myroballams, rubhabsleaves, oils, minerals, alum, iron Vat etc. are used. The finishing process after dyeing consists of sprinkling pure water on the cloth and then stretching under pressure using hand rolls, aloe Vera, castor oil etc. It is believed that keeping these fabrics to dry in a dark room enhances its healing capacities. After the seasoning process of 2 weeks , the cloth is ready for tailoring.
|Sandalwood, Safflower, Madder root
Indigo, Lime, Jaggery
Pomegranate Rind, Turmeric, Marigold, Saffron
Safflower, Madder root, Marigold
Pomegranate, Indigo, Neem, Amaltas, Turmeric
Cateccu, Lai Kashish, Henna
Iron scrap, Jaggery, Cardamom , Cloves, Peanut oil, Castor oil
Ayurvastra is eco-friendly as it is biodegradable. Only natural processes are used in the entire process of manufacturing Ayurvastra. The blend of herbs and other materials to be used for dyeing a cloth is decided on the basis of the wellness/health benefit to be derived. It is said that ancient physician and scholar Charak Rushi used this method whereby an environment is created around the patient with clothing , bedding, wall-coverings etc all coated with medicinal herbs specific to the health condition.
The cloth made this way is known to ameliorate a range of diseases like diabetes, skin infections, eczema, hypertension, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, psoriasis, rheumatism and paralysis. Also , it can help improve insomniac conditions and thereby help one sleep well. It is also known to help reduce obesity. Ayurvastra cloth is often used for sleepwear, bed sheets, towels, and meditation clothes. Coir mats are also made of this method for which the fibers are soaked in Ayurvastra dyes and then woven into mats. Nowadays Ayurvastra cloth is also used to make sarees, churidars and similar outfits. The Anti - bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of Ayurvastra extends its use as dressings and bandages.
People extensively use garments made of Ayurvastra so that maximum benefits are absorbed through skin. It is suggested that Ayurvastra clothes should be used at a time when body is at rest as our body is able to derive maximum benefits in those conditions. Several experiments have been conducted to ensure the effectiveness of Ayurvastra and it has been proved that a marked improvement had been witnessed in patients suffering from eczema, psoriasis and rheumatism after using bedding, rugs and towels made from Ayurvastra for one month. The waste generated throughout the process is also organic can be used as bio-manure and even used to generate bio-gas.
The handloom sector in Kerala is crises-ridden. The process of making medicinal cloth is very complex and time-consuming. The fabric owns a very small share in Indian Market. Lack of awareness about the effectiveness of Ayurvastra is considered to be the major reason behind its low popularity. Some instances of China-made cheap cloth being supplied instead of the genuine Ayurvastra cloth have been reported. Power-loom products and replicas are taking over the original handloom clothes.
Attempts for Revival
The national Handloom Protection Act was passed in 1985 which empowers an official to take action against people who sell power-loom clothes in the name of hand-loom.Ayurvastra is a new initiative launched by the Directorate of Handloom, Department of Industries and Commerce and the Department of Dravyaguna Vijnan, Government Ayurveda College, Kerala, aimed at creating a niche for the eco-friendly handloom fabric. The state authorities of Kerala had taken up the initiative of providing two pairs of school-uniforms made of handloom cloth free of cost to school children. This initiative aimed at providing employment to over 2 lakh weavers and also re-opening more than 25 spinning mills and thus employing even more people. The government encouraged the handloom industry by offering to provide rupees 8 crore as decided by the then prime minister Shri Atal Vihari Bajpayee. A first of its kind museum building containing the Ayurvedic handloom on display is in making at the cost of rupees 3 crore. The KHPF has sought the government’s help in promoting Ayurvastra clothing among pilgrims of religious abode and as yoga mats. In 2014, the KHPF had submitted a proposal to set up a ‘Ayurveda Handloom Village’ to the central government. The proposal awaits nod from the centre.
Some surveys reveal that the customer base for Ayurvatsra products is the youth of age ranging from 20 to 30 years. The maximum promotion is done by oral recommendation by friends and family. Most people find the products reasonably priced. Its medicinal values draws people’s attention to it. The Ayurvastra products are exported to the US, Italy, Germany, UK, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Indian government sees herbal clothing as a way to revitalize and increase the market for their handloom industries and to create a niche for their eco-friendly handloom fabrics. An ayurvedic dye house has been set up by the Handloom Weavers Development Society (HLWDS), with aid from the Japanese Government, at Thumpode in Balaramapuram, Kerala.
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