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The Growing Edge

Sarita Shrestha

Devi Ma Kunja – A Holistic Healthcare Center in Nepal

Big Sur coastline

Imagine a place where quality Ayurvedic care is available to all, in a healthy, natural setting and at a cost according to their means? Expand this vision to include a 30 bed Ayurvedic hospital, a family planning and birthing center, gardens where medicinal herbs are grown, an herbal pharmacy, and a place which serves as a cross-cultural educational and retreat center for an international community of holistic healthcare practitioners and students. Include also the vision of a center focusing on sustainability on all levels by maintaining the integrity and diversity of the cultural heritage of Ayurveda.

The seeds of such a place now exist in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal, the traditional birthplace of Ayurveda. It is called the Devi Ma Kunja, and it is the manifesting dream of Dr. Sarita Shrestha. A “kunja” means a holistic, serene place filled with positive energy, and “Devi Ma” is the Universal Mother.

Dr. Shrestha is well qualified to be the force behind a center with such an ambitious name. She faced discrimination while trying to pursue her medical degree. She was told by the principle of the university that, “Women cannot become doctors. You should quit now before you begin.” Her response was, “I will try.” She tried and she succeeded. She has received national and international recognition for her volunteer services and was Nepal’s first woman Ayurveda specialist and the first Nepalese OB/GYN in Ayurveda. Her accomplishments and dedication to selfless service have inspired other Nepalese women to follow in her footsteps to become doctors themselves.

Dr.Shrestha saw a lack of compassionate care available to many in Nepal, as well as a heavy emphasis placed on allopathic medicines, even though Ayurvedic herbs are found in every kitchen in Nepal. There are only 2 Ayurvedic hospitals in all of Nepal, and the government runs both of these so they are often poorly supplied and staffed. Dr. Shrestha’s dedication is a response to a need. She will not accept payment for her services. On her infrequent days off, she travels to remote villages giving free health camps, education and medicine or free clinics in Kathmandhu. When she teaches abroad, she saves her earnings to build her hospital while supplying Nepal’s poorest people with medicine and care. She is truly an inspiration.

The Devi Ma Kunja is truly a unique approach to meeting the extensive health care needs of Nepalis. While providing profoundly needed healthcare, it will also function as a unique laboratory illustrating “Ayurveda in action” for an international community of practitioners and students who will be welcome to work and learn within this Nepali-run center. The clinical program of the Kunja officially opened its doors to patients in December 2002. As of now, the clinic is housed in a 6-room rented home in Sipadol, Nepal, a rural community of about 8000 people 18 km from Kathmandu. The clinic contains 2 recovery beds, 1 birthing bed, 2 out-patient rooms, 1 yoga room, a small garden to supplement the wild herbs collected, and a pharmacy. It provides greatly needed and previously unavailable healthcare services and educational self-care programs to local villagers. The center is staffed by 4 Ayurvedic physicians (BAMS), 1 midwife, 2 staff nurses, 2 administrative staff members, and 1 community coordinator.

The Devi Ma Kunja is “pregnant” with possibility as a holistic model of Ayurvedic health care. Very simply, the mission of the Kunja is to provide sustainable healthcare to the people and to support the health of the natural environment on which their continuing well being depends. In the words of Dr. Shrestha: “Playing is healing, singing and dancing is healing, being in nature is healing. All of these healing ways will be found within the community of the Devi Ma Kunja, for all people.”

So Little Goes Such a Long Way!

To fulfill this vision, the Devi Ma Kunja needs your help! At present the clinic portion of the Kunja operates on approximately 75,000 rupees or $1000 per month! In order to support these important ongoing services and see the development of its future potential vision, the budget must certainly be expanded. A fully tax-deductible financial contribution of any size is greatly appreciated. Checks may be made payable to “The Growing Edge – Devi Ma”.

Find out more at www.saritashrestha.org


The Growing Edge
for Sustainable Peace &Healing 
445 Summit Road
Watsonville, CA 95076
(831) 402-7577


Photographs ©1999-2000 David Howard
and The Growing Edge