Indian Massage - 'Maalish'

How can I forget that day when I got pain in my right shoulder. It was the first day March 15, 2020 when the nation was shutdown with Covid 19. The pain though not agonizing yet it was more of an annoyance, even combing hair was challenging. Raising the right hand above the shoulder was like moving a mountain. As the situation stabilized a bit and shutdown was relaxed, I secured an appointment to find out what was wrong.

The doctor presented his report to me after the usual protocol of X-Ray tests. The doctor said that I had Acromioclavicular osteoarthritis (AC). The choices presented were to live with the pain or get a cortisone injection. I decided to wait on the second option, hoping that the pain might abate over time. After some time, someone suggested to me to try out a massage. So, I tried it out for a few months, and I felt less pain and more arm mobility. Slowly I adopted it making it a weekly ritual.

After a year we went back to India for a visit. So, the week I was traveling I could not go for the massage. After arriving in Delhi, I thought let me get a massage to keep my weekly ritual plus it will also help me to get over the long flight fatigue. So, I went to Maharishi Ayurveda Center not very far from my parent’s house. I enquired about the availability of massage options. I was told that yes, they do offer massage services, but I cannot get it. Upon inquiring about the reason, I was told that I did not have Ayurvedic Doctor’s prescription. I was told that the massage is only available to patients when prescribed. I was flabbergasted that in the top Hotels they want you to avail the massage services, and a doctor’s prescription is not needed. No such requirement of prescription exists anywhere for a massage. In any case I did not get any massage during my stay in India. Then the next year we were back in India and spent about two weeks at Sanjeevani Kaya Shodhan Sanathan, Gohana; there daily massage is part of wellness regimen.

I am not going to give a litany of benefits from massage. I will conclude that aspect with blurb from famous writer Khuswant Singh as:

“A good massage needs powerful hands going all over one’s body from the skull to the toes. I have this done at least once a day or at times twice a day. I am convinced that this has kept me going for so long.” 

He emphasized the need for massage, which was to keep the body muscles invigorated and for better blood circulation. He reasoned that in old age one can’t do any strenuous exercises for muscle strength, but to keep them healthy and in shape, massage was the only way.

I kept wondering that when a child is born in India, the newborn is usually given a daily massage by a Dai, an experienced lady in giving these massages. The massages have been part of our traditional lifestyles even for adults. In fact, the masseuse used to visit their clients and give personal massages at homes, that practice is disappearing. But I don’t see the tradition of ‘Maalish’ making a transition on to a commercial scale with massage parlors mushrooming. Even a google search for the word ‘Maalish’ does not provide a vide option of places where the massage services are offered. But when we look elsewhere, we find that Swedish Massage has become worldwide gold standard. Besides Swedish other massages have made a global imprint like Thai, Chinese, Lomi-Lomi (Hawaii), Deep Tissue, Aromatherapy, Shiatsu (Japanese). But we have failed to transform our traditional massage called ‘Maalish’ into a national institution. Expecting it to become a global institution will be wishful thinking. There is some proliferation in the commercialization of massages in Kerala, but they have not yet been scaled up to become a national brand or become worldwide sensation.  

The Indian massage makes copious use of oils rubbed all over the body. After the massage the body is dripping in oil, and one cannot think of venturing out without having a bath or a shower. Even the wooden Massage Tables are dripping in oil and the concept of modernizing the operations making them more hygienic, less of slipping hazard can help gain more market acceptance. The availability of portable massage table coupled with mobility of trained therapist/masseuse can bring the massage to your home. We need to make the ‘Maalish’ massage relevant, beneficial, health promoting, in hygienic settings for today’s world on the go. It is time to reconfigure and repackage the age-old ‘Maalish’ making it relevant, and suitable for current lifestyles. It will need less use of messy and greasy massage oils, which will be replaced by suitable substitutes. This repackaging can make it vogue not just for the sub-continent alone, but for the entire world, making it a new export. Hoping that some savvy entrepreneur with a business sense, and knowledge of massaging can reinvent the traditional ‘‘Maalish’’.


1. Singh, Khuswant. Secret of my longevity

Image (c)


More by :  Bhupinder Singh

Top | Health

Views: 452      Comments: 5

Comment Thanks Bhupinder for this useful article. I had undergone a massage treatment in Kerala at the AryaV.S. for P. D. I would definitely recommend a massage for all. The problem is that the massages are becoming expensive in USA. Thanks again for sharing this message.

HarvInder Singh
12-Feb-2024 12:32 PM

Comment I noticed elderly men and ladies getting a massage regularly in Hong Kong, during my first visit away from home. I was told it was needed to keep the elderly persons fit and agile. Thanks for a good write up, sir.

T.S.Chandra Mouli
10-Feb-2024 11:20 AM

Comment Thanks Hardeep Ji!
Well sometimes it is good to change gears. I am sharing my experience ans also Khuswant Singh's take on it.

Bhupinder Singh
30-Jan-2024 11:42 AM

Comment Love the article . Should explore further Someone coming at home is the best choice Thai massage or any in USA is expensive and worthless

Nooranissa Pasha
30-Jan-2024 10:59 AM

Comment whoooooo Bupinder ji what a change of topic but like the topic. so you have started exploring other topics. Like that Good luck

29-Jan-2024 18:40 PM

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