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Ayurvedic Medicine in Ulpotha

Ulpotha has an exciting programme of Ayurveda treatments and, by the very definition of 'holistic', possesses the ideal climate and environment for the practise of this deeply therapeutic and traditional art of Ayurveda.

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Ulpotha has an exciting programme of Ayurveda treatments and, by the very definition of 'holistic', possesses the ideal climate and environment for the practise of this deeply therapeutic and traditional art.

There are seven treatment programmes on offer at Ulpotha:

  • Ashinsanaya (Benediction) – 5 days - $300
  • Sanasuma (Satisfaction) – 7 days - $400
  • Namskaraya (Salutation) – 10 days - $600
  • Abhishekaya (Coronation) – 12 days, $720
  • Aswesilla (Solace) – 14 days - $800
  • Samadhiya (Profound) – 21 days - $1,200
  • Mokshaya (Redemption)– 28 days - $1,600

Until recently, Ulpotha had offered non-specific and general native treatments such as steam and infused water baths. The main reason for the absence of Ayurveda in Ulpotha was that the founders wanted to wait until the right person crossed their path to carry out the very specialised therapeutic practise of Ayurveda.

When the founders of Ulpotha met Dr. Srilal Mudunkothge B.A.M.S., they realised they had found the person in whom they could place their confidence and trust to establish an Ayurveda practise in Ulpotha. They felt that his Ayurveda qualifications and credentials, combined with his understanding of the profound importance that a healthy and natural environment has to the process of healing, made him the ideal practitioner to introduce Ayurveda to Ulpotha.

As an integral part of the arrangements made with Dr. Srilal, an Ayurveda clinic was established in August, 2005, to give Ayurveda treatments to local villagers free of charge. This initiative, which includes free Ayurveda medicines, takes us back to the traditional way Ayurveda was dispensed, where Ayurveda patients rarely if ever paid in cash for the Ayurveda care they received. Instead they would make a symbolic offering of betel leaves to the Ayurveda doctor at the time of consultation and make their own services in kind available to the Ayurveda doctor.

The clinic is funded by the income generated from Ulpotha's Ayurveda treatments.

Ayurveda Treatment Programmes

The primary aim of Ayurveda is to balance the body’s energies and thus restore one’s health and vitality. Ulpotha is a particularly suitable place in which to undergo Ayurveda treatment, as the food and the environment complement the therapies and serve to underscore the holistic approach of Ayurveda itself.

Subject to availability, all guests may consult Dr. Srilal, Ulpotha’s resident Ayurveda doctor, to learn about their state of health from an Ayurveda perspective or to simply satisfy their curiosity. This first consultation is free.

If a Ayurveda treatment programme is desired, Dr. Srilal will prepare a personalized detoxification and rejuvenation treatment plan for each individual. Central to the drawing up of an Ayurveda programme is the consultation. Through this the doctor will get a sense of what imbalances are present, and which one of the seven different type of body types is involved. Once an Ayurveda treatment programme is chosen, the doctor will then vary the use of treatment ingredients and medicines accordingly and administer one of the Ayurveda therapies below :

All of the Ayurveda programmes begin with detoxification therapies, which consist of preparatory and specialized elimination treatments. Preparatory treatments are called oleation and fomentation.

Ayurveda Oleation therapies consist of the following :

  • Abyanga: Oil application for the first layer of the body
  • Angamarda Abyanga: A deeper oil application for the second layer of the body
  • Pattu: Application of a detoxifying herbal paste on the body – though this does not involve oil, it is an important step in the process of opening the pores of the body to facilitate detoxification
  • Shirodara: Dripping of oil on the third eye to detoxify, relax and still the mind
  • Sarvangadara: Involves the dripping of oil on the whole body
  • Pindasweda: Application of oil with a milk rice poultice

All of the above Ayurveda oleation therapies are administered with the intent of dislodging toxins from the body’s tissues and moving them towards the pores. These toxins are extracted through the fomentation therapies, which consist in turn of herbal baths, steam baths and herbal saunas.

Ayurveda Elimination therapies
The specialised Ayurveda elimination therapies on the other hand consist of inhalation, purgation and emesis treatments among others. All of these are used to bring the body’s energies into balance, though not all of them will be necessary in all cases. Once a balance is achieved, nourishing Ayurveda therapies are administered to maintain that balance. These rejuvenation treatments consist of traditional Ayurveda oral remedies using organic ingredients.

In order to experience all of the Ayurveda prepatory and elimination treatments, it is necessary to choose the Namaskaraya (10 day) or longer programme.

On your arrival in Ulpotha you will be introduced to Dr. Srilal, who can book you in for a free Ayurveda consultation. Depending on whether you have pre-booked an Ayurveda programme or, if not, your suitability for treatment and availability, he will administer the Ayurveda programme length of your choice and / or needs.

Please note that you need to be in Ulpotha for at least two days before starting an Ayurveda treatment if you have arrived directly from overseas.

What You Can Expect

All Ayurveda treatments, regardless of the personalized elements of a treatment that stem from a personal consultation, contain preparatory and elimination therapies. The preparatory therapies are the ones everyone likes and most Ayurveda is known for - massages, oil applications, steam baths, saunas and herbal baths. Elimination therapies on the other hand, are the ones that some - if not most - people will find a little bit more challenging to accept. They consist of what is more commonly known as Panchakarma (ie. the five specialized elimination therapies): inhalation, purgation, emesis (vomiting), enemas and blood-letting. The latter three are very rarely carried out in Ulpotha.

If an Ayurveda treatment is short in length, say the five day Ashinsanaya or one week Sanasuma programmes, then you only have enough time for preparatory treatments that would support inhalation as an elimination therapy. If you have time for the ten day Namaskaraya, 12 day Abhishekaya or two week Samadhiya programmes, then you can also undergo purgation. However, the consultation is critical to determine which of the elimination therapies are required. If someone is particularly weak, then they will be subject to much more of the preparatory treatments and very little of the elimination therapies regardless of how long a programme they have chosen. In other words, while you need to be on a long Ayurveda programme to undergo elimination therapies, it's not necessarily the case that you will definitely be subject to them.

For the one week long Sanasuma (Satisfaction) and ten day Namaskaraya (Salutation) programmes, guests will receive treatments every day. Each day will consist of roughly two hours of treatments. The 12 day Abhishekaya and two week long Aswesilla (Solace) programmes will have one or two rest days, while the three week long Samadhiya (Profound) programme will have two or three rest days and the four week Mokshaya (Redemption) programme will have three or four rest days

If we take an example of the Sanasuma treatment, which is administered over the course of seven days, the first day will consist of a full head and face and body massage oil application, called Abyanga (a superficial tissue, or relaxing oil application that soothes the first layer of the body) followed by a herbal bath. Guests will also be given appropriate Ayurveda remedies to take, starting the first day for each day of their treatment - these Ayurveda remedies are meant to facilitate the treatments being received. The second day may consist of intensive, deep tissue oil application that is meant to penetrate to the second layer of the body, which is called Angamarda Abyanga (no head and face) followed by a sauna or steam bath. The third day will consist of a relaxing body oil application massage followed by Shirodara oil application on the forehead and head. The fourth day will consist of an inhalation therapy accompanied by a head and face oil application and a face steam. The fifth day will be a Sarvangadara oil treatment (from a layman's terms, this is a Shirodara but one for the whole body) followed by a steam bath. The sixth day will be a full body body massage oil application carried out using poultices made of a special milk rice consisting of medicinal decoctions followed by a warm water bath. The seventh day is a herbal facial treatment consisting of cleansing scrub, face steam, massage and herbal pack.

Ayurveda treatments will be scheduled either in the morning or in the afternoon. Guests will have the rest of each day to hang out and do other things, including the optional Yoga classes. Guests having treatment will be able to attend at least one Yoga class a day. Sometimes they may prefer to just relax after Ayurveda treatments, something that is absolutely fine.

A Little History of Ayurveda in Sri Lanka

In ancient times, when Sri Lanka was called ‘Thambhapannee’, its inhabitants discovered that there were certain plants which, if boiled with water, crushed, powdered, or used internally or externally, relieved pain or had other beneficial effects on various disorders.

Through time, many other plants with medically useful properties were discovered and incorporated into therapeutic recipes. These properties were used to influence the functioning of various specific internal organs and to cure disease. The practice of this indigenous medicine was based on observation and clarity of recording, rather than theory and symptomology.

In the 6th century BC, Prince Vijaya came to the island from India with a group of people and became its king. He renamed the island Singhaladveepa and ruled for nearly 40 years. He was the first king of the island and was reputed to have been an expert in the Sixty Four Arts (Siwsata Kala), one of which is Ayurveda.

It was Prince Vijaya, together with his personal physician who came with him to the island, who introduced Ayurveda to Sri Lanka. Ayurveda is the codified, indigenous medicine of India that is based on Indian Samkya philosophy. It is a complex therapeutic and medicinal system encompassing philosophy, psychology and spirituality together with a deep understanding of the nature of disease.

Over the centuries, Ayurveda incorporated elements of native treatments indigenous to the island and this knowledge was honed and handed down through the ages.

In 1790, during the reign of the last king of Sri Lanka, King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, a son of the king’s personal physician became a monk and built a temple in a village called Neelammahara, where he practised indigenous Ayurveda medicine. This was the beginning of the now-famous Neelammahara medicinal heritage, which specializes in the treatment of mental illness. Over the next two centuries the tradition was passed from generation to generation as its reputation grew throughout the island.

Our Doctor's Ayurveda Heritage

In 1942, a young boy by the name of Sooriya Arachchige Amaratunga went with his mother and brother to see the island’s leading practitioner of the Neelammahara tradition, Dr. Ven. Dehiwela Dhammaloka Thero, for the treatment of his brother. He was immediately captivated by the art and science of Aayurveda as practised by the Thero. So much so that the Thero decided to take the young man under his wing and to become his mentor. After a long and illustrious period of study under the Thero, he went to study under another famous physician specializing in the Elvitigala tradition, which covers general indigenous medicine.

After obtaining honours in Neelammahara and Elvitigala traditions, Dr. Amaratunga came into his own, practicing the rare combination of the two. Dr. Amaratunga enjoyed a long and illustrious career as both a practicing physician as well as a teacher.

As his life matured, he looked for a suitable candidate to whom he could pass his unique knowledge. In 1997, Dr. Amaratunga anointed a third year student, who was studying indigenous medicine at the University of Colombo at the time, to carry on his rare heritage. That student was Srilal Mudunkothge. Srilal completed his formal studies by obtaining a Bachelors Degree in Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery and thereafter registering as a general and special doctor with the Ayurveda Medical Council of Sri Lanka in 2002 and 2003 respectively. He is also registered as a Pharmacist with the Sri Lanka Medical Council.

After practicing as an Ayurveda physician in Colombo for four years between 2000 and 2004, Dr. Srilal based himself in Ulpotha. He has established a unique practise in the tradition of his illustrious Ayurveda forebears, Dr. Ven. Dehiwela Dhammaloka Thero and Dr. Amaratunga. To facilitate him in this, Ulpotha has set up a free Ayurveda clinic where Dr Srilal diagnoses and dispenses free medicines to over 100 local villagers weekly. The cost of this is paid for by the money raised from the Ayurveda treatments paid for by Ulpotha's guests. Guests are encouraged to visit the free clinic during their time at Ulpotha where they can learn about some of the plants that are commonly used in Ayurveda treatment. Many of the medicinal herbs and plants used in Ayurveda are grown in the compound surrounding the clinic.