The Wandering Ayurvedic Doctors of India
Traveling around the country in vans, living in open fields, following an age-old tradition of selling Ayurvedic jadibuti (medicinal and aromatic plants)), is the lifestyle of a nomadic tribe from Satna district in Madhya Pradesh.
We came across group of families settled on a barren land with tents pitched adjacent to each other and vans parked behind them. As curiosity built up we found out more about these nomads, who are leading a challenging life.
“We collect jadibuti (plants) growing in the wild from all over the country (from Haridwar to Mumbadevi in Mumbai) or purchase them sometimes and develop different kinds of medicines meant for several diseases. This practice has been passed on from seven generations, just the way you study in school we study this from childhood,” explained Rajiv Singh, a serious-looking fellow from the tribe. Initially he was a bit hesitant to speak, thinking we would highlight or write negative things about them. But after convincing that we were genuinely keen on knowing about their nomadic way of living, he spoke quite freely. There were around 25-30 of them who got together in this remote village on the outskirts of Mumbai. Each family sets up their shop in the market, selling medicines priced between Rs 50 to Rs 500. “The cost of the medicines is quite cheap and we guarantee the customer about his/her recovery. After which many of them give us rewards, which is much more than the actual cost of the medication,” said Rajiv.
We walked around the place taking pictures, which generated some interest among the tribe, especially this man, Vikram Singh, who happily posed with his kids. His wife was kind enough to offer us a glass of water and told us to come back again in five days when they all adorn nice outfits and perform Durga puja. They also cook up a meal of Puris where they immerse their own hands in the hot ghee to remove the puri when its cooked.
This woman dressed in traditional Ghagra Choli plucking out spinach leaves to cook for her family. While the kids were more than happy to strike a pose. The nomadic tribe travels to all parts of India with their wives and kids for eight months and the remaining four months are spent in their hometown village in Satana. “We all have concrete houses in our village, and we return home during monsoons,” said another middle-aged man who had traveled from Mumbai. The duration of their stay at a place completely depends on the amount of earnings and demand for Ayurvedic medicines. It can range from 10 days to two months. We asked some of them where they were heading, the response was quite simple, “We don’t know, we haven’t decided yet.”
Each family heads to a different part of the country and they set up their shops, they then coordinate as to where they will meet on occasions or for business discussions and come together again. Wandering through unknown pastures to keep alive an ancient practice, the nomads sure lead an adventurous life!
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