Women in Saudi Arabia are going the organic way - in fashion at least. From Balaramapuram, a tiny village on the outskirts of Kerala's capital city Thiruvananthapuram, comes burqas made out organic cotton and medicinal plants. 'The handloom weavers of Balaramapuram export such 'ayurvedic' clothes that are woven with ancient Hindu wisdom to Saudi Arabia, US, UK, France, Mexico, South Africa and Japan', Says Rajan , a handloom weaver whose family has been in the trade for 600 years : ' In Ayurveda, these fabrics are called Ayurvastra . Only natural cotton and coloring is used so that they are free of toxic irritants. These are also treated with medicinal herbs as prescribed by Ayurvedic texts to improve the healing value.'
In Rajan's 'wear house', you can wear your cure for ailments ranging from dermatitis to arthritis, from blood pressure to diabetes.
According to him, the manufacturing is tedious and demands 100 percent purity. Only firewood is used, (different ones for different medicines), natural spring or ground water and organic cotton. The gum for fixing the colors, too, is natural and varies depending on the medicine.
After dyeing, the clothes are dried in the herbal garden. Even the factory building is organic (to avoid radiation on the clothes) and uses lime and gum extracts from wild trees in place of cement and sand.
'In the past few months, we exported about 4,000 burqas to Saudi Arabia,' Rajan says. 'But the demand for Ayurvastra doesn't stop there. Last year, our Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society exported clothes worth Rs 2 crore to the US, UK, France, Mexico, South Africa and Japan ', he adds with a touch of pride.
Well, does Ayurvastra practice what it proposes? Clinical trials at the Government Ayurveda College Hospital have shown that the fabric was quite effective, especially in cases of skin ailments and arthritis. As part of the test, patients were constantly exposed to Ayurvedic herbs through Ayurvastra for 30 days.
Rajan's brother Satish Kumar was quoted: 'The demand for Ayurvastra is increasing. But there are impediments like lack of organic cotton. Japan and France demand a certificate that it is organic. We can overcome this by taking up organic cotton farming. But it is not possible without government help'.