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The ‘Ayurveda industry’ in Nepal

world Updated: Nov 08, 2008 23:02 IST
Anirban Roy
Anirban Roy
Hindustan Times
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Nepal has a glorious history of Ayurveda, and it is generally believed that most of the original understandings of the centuries-old healing process have come from the Himalayan nation.

It is endowed with rich medicinal plants; reports claim that about 1,700 plants with magical therapeutic value are found in Nepal. For decades, tourism boom in the picturesque Himalayan nation has also encouraged the growth of various services of Ayurvedic healthcare to the tourists.

In fact, like the herbal medicines, Ayurvedic massage is also miraculous, and serves the purpose of detoxification and rejuvenation of the human body.

Like Thailand, Nepal, too, over the years, learnt the art of blending the great tradition of Ayurveda with smart promotion, too earned the distinction of a massage destination for the western tourists.

Unfortunately, under the swathe of “great Ayurvedic tradition”, a section of devious businessmen in downtown Kathmandu, are now all out to make quick cash by selling sex.

The tourist district of Thamel has now emerged as the nerve-centre of a lot of sleazy massage parlours, which openly vend flesh trade. The clients in the parlours are mostly budget tourists and local youths as sexual services are offered at cheap rate.

“This is shameful,” Karma Sherpa, a tour-operator in Kathmandu said, adding that the massage parlours are earning bad name to Thamel’s vibrant tourism industry.

Illiterate and young rural girls, generally within the age of 16 to 20, are roped in for the ‘sexual massage’. Most of them are not trained as masseurs and are forced to work for their survival.

Surprisingly, the government as well as NGOs have been turning a blind eye to the problem. Some NGOs distribute free condoms in the massage parlours to prevent the spread of HIV.

Even the Family Health International has conducted surveys and studies on the massage parlours in Kathmandu, and has submitted its reports to the Nepal government.

Entrepreneurs in Thamel allege that the massage parlours do roaring business in the tourist district as the administration is weak. “It is shameful for us that we are forced to tolerate these sleazy massage parlours and dance bars in a country, which is the birth place of Lord Buddha and Sita,” Ajay Shah, a pashmina trader.

Shah demanded that the government should immediately raid the massage parlours and arrest the owners as they have been exploiting the young and illiterate girls. “The government should also try to rehabilitate the poor girls with different forms of vocational training,” he said.