BANGALORE: Darshan Shankar’s garden is no ordinary one.
Located on the premises of the Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine (I-AIM) near Yelahanka Airbase, his garden boasts of over thousand species of rare medicinal plants collected from all over India.
During his stint as a social activist in Karjat, Maharashtra, he was inspired by the medical traditions of the tribes in the area. He came to Bangalore in 1993 and set up Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Tradition (FRLHT).
“There are 960 species that occur (traded) in the All India Trade. Out of these, 198 species are traded in very large quantities exceeding 100 metric tonnes,” said Darshan Shankar.
He realised that these species did not require any attention, while several others with medicinal properties as identified by indigenous medical traditions were dying.
“I realised there was a need to strategise cultivation of plants that I collected and studied during my visits to the tribal belts in Maharashtra,” he said.
He met like-minded people, who helped him with the creation of database of medicinal plants in the wild.
Now his garden, with over 25,000 plants, provides essential medicinal extracts to treat patients through Ayurveda.
Once he realised that a garden can be successfully cultivated in the city, he took the next logical step — set up a nursery to encourage development of domestic herbal gardens.
“We provide saplings as well as basic training to people interested in setting up gardens,” he said.
Question him on how this helps to sustain the tribal medical traditions and the simplicity in his logic is, well, healing.
“Our website provides herbal remedies for common ailments such as fever and stomach aches using simple ingredients such as turmeric and tulasi,” he said.
With such initiatives, traditional knowledge is made relevant and hence preserved.
Darshan Shankar has many accolades to his name including the prestigious Padma Shri award in the field of Public Affairs and the Norman Borlung Award for his contributions in promoting conservation of wild population of medicinal plants.
He holds prestigious positions such as the Advisor in the Planning Commission of India, Chairman at the Karnataka Knowledge Commission on Traditional Medicine Systems and a Member at Executive Board of Global Initiative for Traditional Systems (GIFTS), Oxford, UK.
The book, “Challenging the Indian Medical Heritage” was written and edited by him