Hidden away in the verdant Sahyadri mountain range in Maharashtra, some ninety kilometers from Mumbai, is Govardhan Ayurveda, a healing center that could change your life.
Like all Ayurvedic centers, it has roots in ancient tradition. But what sets it apart from other such centers is the unique setting – a spiritual community called Govardhan Eco-Village, which takes you back in time and transports you to a dhama, or holy place, 5,000 years ago.
Right outside the doors of Govardhan Ayurveda is an active devotee community of more than 250 people; an ashram with over seventy brahmacharis; and a goshala caring for 100 cows. There are replicas of Vrindavan forest, the Yamuna river, and temples like Radha Vrindavan Bihari and Radha Madan Mohan. And there are educational institutions like Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha.
Govardhan Ayurveda started as a wellness clinic about five years ago before developing into a full-fledged Ayurvedic healing center. About ninety inpatients come every year from many countries and backgrounds, although a large percentage are ISKCON devotees.
The devotees and cows provide a therapeutic feeling of community
Patients reside in one of four different guesthouses, quaint cottages or forest cabins named Vrindavan, Barsana, Gokul and Madhuvan. They stay for anywhere from twelve to thirty days, and are cared for by a team of qualified Ayurvedic physicians, or “Vaidyas.”
Ayurveda, literally meaning “life knowledge,” started as an oral tradition some 5,000 years ago in India, and was first documented in the Rig and Atharva Vedas.
“According to Ayurveda, we are healthy when our mind, body, and spirit are in a state of balance and harmony with each other, and with the environment,” explains Dr. Sreejith Ayyappath, one of Govardhan Ayurveda’s “Vaidyas.” “Disease is expelled by the restoration of this balance. Ayurveda is a holistic system which targets the root causes of disease, rather than the symptoms.”
A patient receives the shirodhara Ayurvedic therapy, which is beneficial for anxiety
Depending on a person’s body type – called Vatha, Pitha, or Kapha – Govardhana Ayurveda doctors prescribe lifestyles, regimens, and daily and seasonal routines particular to the individual. They also counsel and educate patients to maintain a balanced lifestyle, and prevent disease before it occurs again.
In addition, expert therapists from Kerala perform detox therapy called Pancha Karma, which comprises of five treatments: Vamana – emesis therapy; Virechana – purgation therapy; Nasya – elimination of toxins through the nose; and two medicated enemas called Anuvasana vasti and Kashaya vasti.
“Even if you buy the best vehicle, you still need to service it regularly for proper maintenance,” says Dr. Sreejith. “So Ayurveda advocates these detox therapies to maintain the body and prevent ourselves from getting diseases.”
A patient receives Abhyangam massage, which is good for insomnia, fatigue, overweight and other vatha conditions
Govardhan Ayurveda treats patients with many different conditions: lower back aches, muscular and joint issues, cervical spondylosis, anxiety, depression, obesity, insomnia, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, skin diseases, infertility, thyroid diseases, and more.
For each one, doctors design a unique course of treatment. For example for anxiety, one of today’s most common problems, patients receive Ayurvedic therapies such as shirodhara, which involves pouring warm herbal oil on the forehead; follow an Ayurvedic diet; take herbal medicines; do daily yoga classes; and have doctors visit them twice daily in their rooms.
For obesity, another common issue today, they receive medicated enemas, treatments for hormone disorders, and advice on exercise patterns and lifestyle changes, as well as of course a special diet that is rich in fiber and low in processed foods.
The rustic yet cosy rooms in the Vrindavan accommodations
Each patient, depending on their condition, is given a customized diet. Food is prepared in a dedicated Ayurvedic kitchen using grains and vegetables that is free from pesticides and grown locally in Govardhan Eco-Village, then offered to the Lord with Tulasi leaves before being brought to the patient in their room.
As well as eating prasadam, patients also attend mangala arati at the Eco-Village’s multiple different temples, along with both Govardhana Puja and Yamuna arati every day.
But perhaps most important is the association and support of the resident devotees, including senior leaders like Gauranga Das and Radhanath Swami.
The view of gorgeous Govardhan Eco-Village from the Barsana accommodations
“Most of our patients come from the West, and many suffer from feelings of loneliness,” says Dr Sreejith. “So we help them experience and understand the importance of community life in Krishna consciousness. We’re introducing them to a new lifestyle, which is healthy physically, mentally and spiritually. We aim for a complete positive transformation that is sustainable when they leave.”
Many patients have amazing stories of miracle cures. Victims of road accidents who were practically paralyzed were able to move again. One patient, a doctor herself in the West, had severe insomnia and was on large amounts of sleeping pills – but after a one-month treatment at Govardhan Ayurveda, she is now sleeping eight hours a night.
A staff member gathers herbs and spices
One devotee, Paramesvari Dasi, had suffered for two years from heel spurs. “It became so bad that I limped out of bed every morning for the last year, and felt severe pain after standing for a few hours in the temple kitchen,” she says. “I was treated by Dr. Sudheesh Krishnan with Agni-karma three times, and to my amazement the pain in my heel is now 90% gone! I can walk normally when I wake up in the morning, and can even stand six hours in the kitchen without pain. Amazing!”
Patients often recommend Govardhan Ayurveda to friends and relatives, and lately the center has become completely booked out by the year.
All herbs, spices and foods are offered to Lord Krishna
“With the rise in demand, we are planning to build a hospital,” says Dr. Sreejith. “The new big kitchen is already almost done, and will be operating in one month. In one to two years, we hope to complete the full twenty-five bed inpatient facility, so that patients can stay in the hospital itself rather than in outside guesthouses. And we hope to keeptransforming lives!”
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies