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Siddhalepa Group MD Asoka Hettigoda, Honored with “AYURVEDA RATNA” in British Parliament

One of the most important dates in British Parliamentary history is the 5th of November 1605 when Guy Fawkes, a member of the gunpowder plot, failed to blow up Parliament along with King James I. While celebrating an event which took place over 400 years ago, members of Parliament took time to acknowledge and honour the work of the Hettigoda family and their services to Sri Lankan Ayurveda.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Indian Traditional Sciences of the House of Commons welcomed Asoka Hettigoda to address dignitaries and guests of the committee regarding Sri Lankan Ayurveda and work that his family has been devoted to for over 200 years.

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner to UK, Excellency Manisha Gunasekara along with representatives from the Indian High Commission, were guests of the group chaired by Baroness Verma alongside Baroness Uddin and other parliamentarians.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Indigenous Ayurveda in Sri Lanka has a history of over 6000 years dating from King Pulasthi, grandfather of famous king Ravana, who popularized the concept of “Hela Vedakama” (Indigenous Ayurveda of Sri Lanka) holistic medicine. King Ravana, who was a specialist Ayurveda physician, developed fundamentals of Hela Wedakama, such as Nila – Pressure points therapy, Chakra – Energy points, Pulse Diagnosis and Rasa Osu – medicines using minerals and herbs. According to current research, Sri Lanka has more than 3700 plant species and of it more than 1400 are considered to have medicinal properties while nearly 200 are endemic. This clearly highlights the rich bio-diversity of this tiny island, Sri Lanka.

The Hettigoda family with its roots in the southern city of Galle, started the practice of Traditional Ayurveda and Astrology over 200 hundred years ago, using local herbs and know how to treat the people of the area. My grandfather, Dr. Hendrick De Silva Hettigoda, was appointed as the village headman in 1920’s and continued his family practice of Ayurveda in his clinic in Walpola, Imaduwa a suburb of Galle. Fluent in English, Dr. Hettigoda was known to be a specialist in Kidney Diseases, travelled to India for further studies. After completing several years of studies in 1934, an Indian rishi, his guru in India, gave him the secret formula of Siddhalepa Balm. On his return, he started producing Siddhalepa Balm and began prescribing it not only in his clinic, but also in other Ayurveda pharmacies throughout the island becoming the Sri Lanka’s first commercial Ayurvedic product. As he was a traditional doctor with very little business acumen, his business went bust, but continued his practice at his clinic.

My father Victor, the fifth in a family of nine children, followed his father’s footsteps but was not actively practicing Ayurveda. In 1972, with Hendrick’s decision to handover all the Ayurvedic formulations to Victor, the story of Siddhalepa turned to a new chapter. He established Hettigoda Industries Ltd as a private limited liability company. With greatest difficulty, he obtained the approval in 1974 from the Ministry of Health, making Siddhalepa the first Ayurvedic product approved by the Independent Sri Lanka. From its early days, Victor’s keen interest in developing a professional company producing quality Ayurvedic medicines complying to national health standards resulted in creating a new FMCG industry segment for over-the-counter (OTC) Ayurvedic products.

Innovation was a key driver of his journey, as many of the traditional pharmacopeia medicines were introduced to the market in convenient easy to use packaging, while several groundbreaking new products were also launched revolutionizing the market. Visaka, the first toilet soap with herbal decoctions, Supirivicky, the first brown toothpaste with Ayurvedic Churna or powder and oils with no Fluoride, Ayurvedic capsules, Cough Syrup, Asamodagam, Digestive and Gastritis relief, Diacin, medicinal tea for Diabetes, are some of the innovative products to enter the market making Ayurveda part of daily life. Recognizing the need to obtain acceptability in the medicine market, Hettigoda Industries embarked on several research projects in house as well as with external parties. Projects were conducted with local and foreign universities and the findings were published in reputed journals.

In 1982, Hettigoda Industries became the first Sri Lankan company to export Ayurvedic products and our first shipment was to Germany followed by several European countries. This was a clear sign that there was a demand for natural products in the developed world. With its portfolio of products expanding into more than one-hundred, Siddhalepa brand was well established in Sri Lanka and became a household name, especially with its slogan “Siddhalepa – an Ayurvedic doctor in every home”.

As one the core principles of the company was to produce quality products, in 1994 we became the first company in Sri Lanka to obtain ISO 9001 International Quality certification. Within few years, Hettigoda Industries obtained ISO 14000, 22000, HACCP, GMP and other local certifications becoming the most quality conscious Ayurveda Company in Sri Lanka.

Expanding its journey, Siddhalepa Ayurveda Hospital was established in 1988 as the first Ayurveda hospital with specialist channeled consultations. This was a groundbreaking concept in Ayurveda where all specialists came under one roof providing their own medicines. Hospital consists of 40-beds and provides treatments to many ailments specializing in Arthritis, Stroke, Fractures, Rheumatism, Asthma, Diabetes, spondylitis, weight loss and other stress related ailments.  To further popularize the Ayurvedic philosophy, Siddhalepa Hospital partners many local and international Medical programs where internships are offered and one such program is with Uppsala University of Sweden.

Recognizing the demand to offer quality Ayurvedic services to discerning tourists, Siddhalepa Ayurveda Health resort was established in 1999 as the first purpose built health resort in Sri Lanka. With its aim to provide holistic therapy, Siddhalepa resort offers a complete medical holiday conducted by Ayurvedic doctors, trained therapists, using traditional Ayurvedic oils, creams, pastes, tonics and powders produced at our own facilities to international standards. In addition, yoga, meditation, cooking lessons, elixir tasting sessions, visits to Ayurveda factory have made it a unique and an experience that is memorable.  In addition, these guests have access to many consultants who visit the hospital and are registered in our on-line Ask Doctor platform which provides regular medical advice even after they leave the resort. Siddhalepa Resort has won many local and international awards including the President’s Award, Pacific Asia Travel Association awards, South Asian Travel Association Awards as the best Ayurveda Resort and the best wellness & Spa brand of Sri Lanka and South Asia.

Expanding its services, Siddhalepa was the first to introduce Ayurveda Spa services at the SriLankan Airlines Serendib Business class lounge in the year 2000, and have pampered more than 175,000 business class passengers. As the acceptance of Ayurvedic products and services were on the rise in Europe, Siddhalepa established its first Ayurveda Clinic in Germany in 2004. With its success, we opened two more centers in Germany, one in Czech Republic in 2006 and one in Slovakia in 2010. ShangriLa Resorts and Spa, one of the largest hospitality chains in Asia, entered Sri Lanka in 2015 and Siddhalepa became their authentic Ayurveda Service partner giving a new window of opportunity for international clientele.

During the last several years, Sri Lanka has enjoyed continued growth in tourist arrivals and travel trends around the world were changing and there was more focus on Medical tourism. Anarva Hotel and Spa, 100-room star classed hotel, was established in 2017 as the first medical tourism hotel with the partnership of Siddhalepa Hospital.

Being the best Ayurveda Brand in Sri Lanka, Siddhalepa has led the way on its responsibility on conservation of medicinal plants and furthering education on traditional knowledge. A Medicinal Plant project was initiated at schools in 2010 with the intentions of popularizing the knowledge of Ayurvedic herbs, promotion of growing endemic medicinal plants and income generation of rural families. By 2019, we have distributed more than 50,000 endemic and endangered medicinal plants to 600 schools where more than ½ million students are educated on the benefits of Ayurveda and the need for conservation for future generations. In addition, Siddhalepa is the largest grower of medicinal plants in Sri Lanka and for its efforts in increasing the medicinal plant coverage, Siddhalepa has received many local and international awards such as the Presidential Environment Award, as well as Asia Aspire Award.

Long before the phrase “Corporate Social responsibility” was branded, Siddhalepa recognized its responsibility towards the community, initiated a project in 1988 to provide free first aid to 2.5 million people who go on the annual pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak. Similar Health camps are conducted at centuries old Madhu Church, Tewatte Basilicca, Nallur Kovil in Jaffna, Kataragama Temple and Kandy Temple of the Tooth Relic providing free treatment for more than 2 million persons annually.  In creating a society conscious on cleanliness, Siddhalepa initiated a project to provide garbage bins to religious places over thirty years ago, and have now distributed more than 110,000 bins. Siddhalepa decided to build a new school for girls affected by tsunami in Walahanduwa, Galle in 2006 and now has an enrollment of 2,500 studying from year 1 to Advanced levels. Continuing its CSR activities, a video was created in 2017 to save lives of school children on “How to survive with Dengue Fever” and was shown at 550 schools island-wide to create awareness on do’s and don’ts. There has been a significant impact as student mortality has been reduced by 80%.

To share the wisdom of Sri Lankan Ayurveda, Siddhalepa conducted an International Ayurveda Symposium at Siddhalepa Resort in October 2019 with the participation of several International and local speakers. The event was covered by journalists representing Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, Australia, Japan, China, and Middle East. We hope to conduct this symposium annually and will certainly be a boost to Sri Lankan Ayurveda to promote its efficacy throughout the world.

Just to recapitulate, Indigenous Ayurveda – Hela Wedakama has been embedded in Sri Lankan culture for over 6,000 years. For over 200 years it has been Siddhalepa’s duty and joy to be the guardians of Sri Lankan Ayurveda preserving, nurturing and being the advocates and ambassadors of holistic healing for body, mind and spirit… long may Siddhalepa’s legacy continue!

Asoka received an award of recognition “Ayurveda Ratna” for the exceptional service of the highest order for the furtherance of Ayurveda. In addition, and on behalf of his family, Asoka also received an award honour of his ancestral lineage over six generations of Ayurvedic Physicians in Sri Lanka.