By Dr. Edackadu Mohan
‘A peripatetic scholar whose sole life mission was to teach, preach and practise Ayurveda’ is the most befitting epithet for Dr. K.Rajagopalan. He died on 10 January 2015 at an age of 83 leaving a great lacuna in the realm of Ayurvedic research and development. Having earned both DAM and MBBS, he took to being an Ayurvedic physician following his family tradition. Admittedly, he upheld the science of healing called Ayurveda claiming it to be potent enough to become the medicine of the future. He fought vigorously for it as a champion in the form of polemics against any attempt of disparaging its true merit. A nationally acclaimed maestro of healing art, he gave solace to thousands of patients. He was a relentless researcher who had strong adherence to the ancient wisdom that laid the theoretical and therapeutic foundations of Ayurveda. But nonetheless he had no qualms about arguing for modern methodological advantages contributed by medical technology.
Nation honoured him by bestowing the Padmasree Award on him in 2003 for his lifelong incessant service to Ayurveda as a scholar, researcher, practitioner and innovator. Fascinated by his erudition and creativity in the science of Ayurveda, a large circle of medical professionals cutting across systems meticulously listened to his words. Being chronically reluctant in self-promotion and lacking in craze for publicity, he led a peaceful but most productive life till death. He was not for cashing in on any lucrative opportunities for selfish motives. For him, medical profession was by no means an El Dorado.
Rise of a Legend
Born on Nov.17, 1932 in Kollam as the second of the seven children of Dr.M P Krishnan Vaidyan and Dr. P. Kalyanikkuttiyamma , Dr. Rajagopalan bequeathed an outstanding legacy of Ayurvedic scholarliness from his ancestral lineage. His father belonged to Thottakkaran family at Kilikolloor in Kollam city. He was one of the first batch students of the DAM course at the Travancore Ayurveda Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram and passed out in 1955 with a first rank. But even prior to the age of 14, he had proved well-versed in Sanskrit and the Ayurveda literature. He had been at ease with even Ashtangahrudaya and Sahasrayoga. He used to describe himself as one who had been born and brought up in an atmosphere laden with the aroma of medicinal herbs. Naturally, he had a vocation for Ayurveda which made him boldly discard the Assistant Surgeon post offered by the Government of Kerala soon after he passed his MBBS with flying colours from Thiruvananthapuram Medical College in 1961.
As a medical student, he proved to be equally brilliant at Ayurveda and Allopathy. Later, as a physician too, he demonstrated his expertise and excellence at both the systems. That he preferred Ayurveda to Allopathy was surprising as it happened at a time when the latter was considered as a gold mine for most of the aspirants of medical profession. It may be construed that he was to prove that those who take to Ayurveda practice were not at all inferior to those who aspired for Allopathy. Even while being the staunch defender of Ayurveda, he never denigrated Allopathy. It is reasonable to assume that he found merit in the methodological practices of Allopathy while having strong moorings on theoretical perspectives of Ayurveda regarding human well-being and disease.
Passion for Ayurveda
Dr. Rajagopalan started his professional life as Chief Physician at MP Krishnan Vaidyan Memorial Ayurveda Hospital run by his own family in Kollam city. Ever since, he had been passionate to it to the core. The truth is that he was able to recognise that it was his blood and flesh. His ardent passion for Ayurveda can be traced back to his parents Dr. MP Krishnan Vaidyan and Dr. Kalyanikuttiyamma who nurtured his therapeutic interest and attitude. His paternal grandfather Padmanabhan Vaidyar was a famed Ayurveda physician in the locality. His mother was also adept at Ayurveda and Siddha schools of healing. Apart from being a renowned physician, his father was also a royal physician of the Travancore Royal family. Rajagopalan was also good at English and Sanskrit.
As soon as he started his career as a physician, he joined Kerala Ayurveda Mandalam, an organization dedicated to spreading and promoting the cause of Ayurveda as a scientific and appropriate way of medical treatment. It was history that he later became President of that organization and continued in the post for as many as 25 years. He got married to PK Saralamma, a member of another renowned Vaidya family namely Aneppil in the city of Kollam in 1953. His married life spanned as long as over a period of four decades and she died in 1995.
A Tireless Pursuer
A voracious reader, especially in the arena of medical sciences, he used to carry a number of authentic books along wherever he went in connection with his medical practice. His colleagues would dub his car as a mobile medical library. He kept himself abreast of even the most sophisticated therapeutic techniques and newest pieces of medical information. Surprisingly, he was ready to delve into the prospects of reviving the folk medicine for the benefit of human well-being. He was to the core a humanist medical practitioner. His role model was the sage Charaka who wandered far and wide as an Ayurvedic missionary.
He was a relentless crusader against diseases. He thought the science of Ayurveda was the most powerful weapon in that incessant fight. But, he was not bind-folded one about his tool. He was well-aware of its historical limitations. So, he resorted two things. One was to be broad-minded to accept the practical advantages of allopathy in diagnosis and treatment and to use them in his ayurvedic medical interventions. The second was to empower his own system through research in its theory and practice.
Since the beginning of his career, he had been nurturing an amazing research interest. He came to the national limelight with his bold and practical proposal he made in his paper presentation in the Ayurveda Mahasammelan held at Patyala that Ayurveda could safely and fruitfully be used in family planning campaign. It was a time India was pondering over the possible remedies for its over-population problems. He was endowed with superb level of insight, which made him capable of diagnosing diseases very easily. One of his main original contributions to the Ayurvedic practice is the combination medicine technique, which is a product of his own research.
He conducted research in life style diseases and very serious illnesses for which allopathy and other systems have not found any remedy so far. He was optimistic in his attempts to find solutions to the problems of diseases. He developed an ayurvedic medicine for cancer, which was based on the black cumin seed. AIDS was another area which attracted his strenuous attention. He conceptualised and formulated ‘Medhakshaya’ treatment for AIDS. He formulated effective medicines for spondylitis and disc disorders. Till his death, he was the Hon. Research Director of Amala Ayurveda Medical College. Many a cancer patient got recovered completely from their problems under his treatment. With his interest in folk medicine, he developed certain recipes for abnormal reduction in blood platelets and paralysis.
Productive and Creative Career
His career was not confined to the post of Chief Physician at his family hospital. But, he was eager to find new vistas to pursue his research. He joined Ayurveda Central Institute at Cheruthuruthy as Senior Research Officer. In the meantime, Regional Research Institute at Thiruvananthapuram also got his service. Moreover, he spent a short stint of 3 years at Thiruvananthapuram Ayurveda Maedical College as Honorary Professor. He served Coimbatore Ayurveda Medical College for 10 years in the capacity of a visiting professor. He, then, took up the post of the Director of Shornur Ayurveda Hospital run by Ayurveda Samajam.
From 1997 onwards, he was the clinical and literary consultant at the famous Kottackal Arya Vaidyasala. He was the chairman of the task force (Ayurveda and Homeo) of the State Planning Board. He functioned as examiner at Kerala, Calicut, Madras and Bharathiar Universities. He was the Dean of Sree Sankaracharya University. He served as the member of Central Council of Indian Medicine and Patroon of Kerala Ayurveda pharmacy. He was a regular contributor to periodicals in matters related to Ayurveda and public health. He published many scholarly articles in international and national research journals. The widely acclaimed book he wrote is ‘Panchakarma Chikilsa Saram’.
An Enthusiastic Practitioner
His was a very busy schedule as a physician. Every Sunday he used to patients at his residence at Susrutha Bhavan, on Hospital Road in Kollam City from 9.30 am to 1.30 pm. All other days, he was away. On Mondays, he was Aluva Ayurveda Pharmacy wheras on Tuesdays, he was Trissur Amala. On Wednesdays, he consulted patients at Kottackal Cancer Clinic. On Thursdays, he was at Kottackal Hospital. Fridays and Satuurdays were earmarked for Ayurveda Samajam Hospitals at Shornur and Thiruvanathapuram. He would reach home in Kollam late at night on every Saturday. It was routine for him to travel more than 3000 kilo meters every month even at his eighties.
Recognition for his achievements
As recognition of his great lifelong contributions to the science of Ayurveda, he was awarded Padmasree in 2003. Before that,the highest award in Ayurvedic field namely Bruhatrayi Ratna had been awarded to him in 1997. In 2001, he was chosen for Patanjali Puraskara. The Ashtanga Ratna Award instituted by the govt. of Kerala for the efficient Ayurveda practitioner was also bagged by him in 2009. There are many other awards, fellowships and endowments bestowed on him. Dr. Rajagopalan will be remembered for his epoch making contributions to Ayurveda theory and practice. He will remain evergreen in the memories of the people as a humanist and loving physician for long.