Aarogya Mandir, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh
Review by Rupinder Kaur, Visit: Sep 2021
If you live in North India and are looking for a naturopathy centre near you, you can try Aarogya Mandir. A place of historical importance, an eminent founder, and a lush green campus are what make Aarogya Mandir special. A family run set-up, Aarogya Mandir is most famous for its founder: Dr Vithaldas Modi, a naturopath credited with reviving naturopathy in India in the 1960s. Discussions between Dr Modi and Mahatma Gandhi inspired the setting up of this facility in the 1940.
The greenery and openness of the facility is the first thing that catches the eye. Cobbled pathways, mud tracks, and clean corridors made walking barefoot a pleasure. Even though every part of the facility is well ventilated, the clean air and cool breeze in an area inundated with gardens made me want to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Large yoga halls and well trained instructors made me look forward to the yoga classes, especially the one held in the morning.
Sadly, the traffic noise from the highway running right outside the main gate is a real kill joy and a constant in the living areas. You can avoid it only on a walk in the large garden situated towards the back of the facility.
Given that food is medicine in naturopathy, one gets to experience the lightly cooked vegetables and coarse rotis (bread) served in fairly large quantities for lunch and dinner. Eating 2 vegetable dishes mostly boiled or lightly steamed and devoid of any spices, salt or oil is mandated for more patients. To add taste to the food, each patient is served with a tablespoon of freshly made dip or chutney. While the food is fairly different because of how it is cooked, diversity was an issue. The kitchen only provided cooked food, which meant that each patient had to arrange for their share of raw salads, fruits and dry fruits, all prescribed by the Doctors as part of treatment. The lack of a juice counter, a big part of naturopathy diet in my experience, was a big minus for me.
Located 5 km from the Gorakhpur railway station and about 11 kms from the airport, this nature cure facility is spread across 4 acres of land. It provides both residential or IPD (in-patient department) and OPD (out-patient department) facilities. Residential facilities comprise 40 rooms and 2 general wards/dormitories which can together house upto 100 people.
A 1 minute walk from the entrance gate and accommodation area takes one to the treatment section and yoga hall. The women’s and men’s treatment sections are both covered areas that can take upto 40 patients at any given time. The hydrotherapy or water treatments were all done in well ventilated and lit rooms.
Mid April to mid July are peak months for treatments and one needs to do a 1 month advance booking for accommodation during these times.
There are 2 large yoga halls that can take upto 50 people each and a lecture hall with a 100 seating capacity.
The dining area, which can currently seat 16 people at a time, is in need of an upgrade. We had to either rush to get a seat or wait till others finished eating, both of which were a bit annoying. Also compared to the rest of the campus, the dining area was cramped, poorly lit and ventilated.
An on-site shop comes equipped with basic naturopathy equipment, herbal concoctions, oils and books on nature cure. I found the rates high, given that I have bought the same equipment (enema, patti) in a large city like Delhi for 30% less.
Doctors and Staff
The facility had 3 naturopaths during the time of my stay: Dr Vimal Modi, his son Rahul Modi, and Kumudh Rani. Dr Vimal is the most experienced, having practised for over 40 years, 20 of which were with his father Dr. Vithaldas Modi. Rahul Modi’s basic training is in osteopathy, while Kumudh Rani is a naturopath. Amongst these 3, patients were seen every day, though I found not being associated with one primary naturopath a bit unusual. Dr Vimal Modi’s wife, Dr Smita Modi, who is a gynaecologist and a naturopath is also available in the adjoining building for a consultation. Additionally there were well qualified yoga instructors and physiotherapists on campus.
Doctors are available between 8 am and 5pm to attend to any patient query and do provide enough personal attention.
The treatment staff was roughly 40, equally split between the men’s and women’s section. Most of them are well trained and about one third are old timers, the most tenured having worked there for over 20 years. Because this facility also runs a teaching facility, 5-6 interns were constantly visible in the treatment section.
The staff maintained personal hygiene and administered the treatments with care and caution. They were careful in ensuring that the right sequence was maintained between treatments (no water bath after a massage or potli), sometimes asking the patient to go back and recheck with the doctor. However one could sense the lethargy in them in the afternoon hours, either due to overwork or disinterest.
To listen to my interviews with the Doctors there, click here
Range of treatments offered
All basic naturopathy treatments are offered here: mud packs and mud baths, massage, full wet pack and all local girdles or lappeds, steam bath, hip bath, foot bath, and enema. They offered almost the full range of water treatments. Additionally one could also get a janu basti, kati basti, and potli, all of which fall under Ayurveda and require the use of medicated oils. A separate physiotherapy section with equipment that offered spinal massages, ion detoxification and much more, was in constant demand. I sadly did not witness any sun treatments, given my stay coincided with the rainy season, but I could see and was told that those are also available.
Hygiene and sanitation
Hygiene and sanitation of the treatment areas was well maintained. All the water treatment areas were well cleaned along with the equipment. The only thing that didn’t make sense to me was the slight cramping of mud and non-water treatments into one large room, given how much outdoor space is available in this facility.
The cleanliness of the bathrooms in the non-air conditioned rooms could have been better. While there is cleaning staff, the onus of finding and getting work done by them rests with the patient.
The morning bell rings at 5 am, to ensure that everyone drinks some water and steps out for a walk. The morning atmosphere was energising with everyone enjoying the fresh air and barefoot walking. The only thing interrupting this serenity was the constant traffic noise from the highway outside. There is alovera juice and herbal tea placed in the open corridors between 6 am and 7 am. The morning yoga session is from 7 am to 8 am. Post yoga, the residential patients went back to their rooms to freshen up and eat a fruit. Then there was a wait for doctors rounds, which happened between 9:15 am and 9:45 am, after which patients headed to the treatment section.
Lunch was between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm, followed by a rest period upto 2 pm. From 2 pm to 5 pm, it’s back for treatment. Bottle gourd juice is available in the kitchen at 4 pm, followed by an hour long evening yoga session from 5 pm to 6 pm. Dinner is between 7:30 pm and 8 pm.
Personally, I loved the early morning time and yoga session, and the after dinner walks. Waiting around for the doctor’s rounds felt like killing time. The evening yoga session was fairly taxing on the body and missed by most residential patients who were elderly or unwell. Even though I did not fall in either category, I found it tough to keep up because of the restrictive diet, and gave it a skip on alternate days.
For IPD, room costs start at INR 700 per bed in a dormitory and can go upto INR 3,500 for a deluxe AC room. Each additional bed in a non-AC room is INR 700, while in a Deluxe room (which comes with TV, refrigerator, kettle) is INR 1,000. These charges include all naturopathic treatments and yoga sessions. Ayurvedic and physiotherapy treatments such as janu basti or ion detoxification are charged extra. Food from the kitchen: 2 standard meals, 1 aloevera juice and 2 herbal teas costs an additional INR 200 per day. All patients need to buy raw salads and fruits, which is an additional amount.
Additional money is spent on buying treatment specific equipment: the most common here were the patties (priced at INR 700 a set) and potli (INR 700 per set)
I spent 7 days as an IPD patient and paid approx. INR 13,000. I would say the place is affordable in terms of accommodation and slightly on the higher side for the equipment prices.
For OPD patients the treatment charges range from INR 2,500 for 10 days; INR 4,000 for 20 days; INR 5,400 for 30 days, excluding food and a 1 time registration fee of INR 300.