When we trace back the evolution and history of Thai Medicine and Thai Massage that is practiced today in Thailand and around the world, it becomes very clear that the earliest roots of Thai massage lie not in Thailand but in India.
Traditional Thai Massage (นวดไทย ) and Thai Medicine as a whole actually, are said to have been founded by the legendary Dr Shivago Komarpaj ( ชีวกโกมารภัจจ์) also know as Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha. He is revered throughout Thailand as the Father of Medicine. Dr Shivago is a very interesting character with a wonderful story attached to him, worthy of a Blog post all of his own.
He was from northern India and was the personal physician to the Magadha King Bimbisara over 2,500 years ago. He is documented for having extraordinary medical knowledge and skill and for having treated important people of his day, including the Buddha himself!
The teachings of Dr Shivago probably reached what is now Thailand at the same time as Buddhism – around the 3rd century B.C, but if course the history of Thai Massage is slightly more complex than a single founder would suggest.
Thai Massage itself is a complex mix of many traditions and philosophies, It is strongly influenced by Indian Ayurvedic Principles yes, but also Chinese Medicine, Buddhism and Southeast Asian Cultural as a whole. It was likely these many traditions and healing practices were fused together in the 19th century creating what is know as TTM today.
Even today, there is a lot of variation from region to region across Thailand, andthere is no single routine or theoretical framework that is universally accepted among healers.
However there were originally two different styles of Thai massage. Most Thai Massages done today are a mix of these two ancient styles.
Firstly there was The Royal Style of ancient Thai Massage ( Nuat Rajchasumnak ) which required great respect and courtesy of the receiver by the practitioner.
Secondly is the more common style of ancient Thai Massage ( Nuat Chaloeyseuk ) which involved strong manipulation of muscles that have tensed and hardened through manual labour.
Among the common people, these healing traditions were probably passed down orally, from teacher to pupil but the Royal Court kept ancient reference texts on the subject of traditional Thai medicine, which were sadly destroyed when Burmese Invaders attacked Thailand in 1767.
The few remaining fragments were commissioned to be re drawn as over 60 stone tablets by King Rama III in 1832 and today these are displayed in Wat Po Temple, detailing treatment points, herbal remedies and energy lines.
Today Thai Massage and Thai Medicine has many variations and forms and is taught all around the world, as a holistic healing system but its core beliefs and traditions remain the same. It is a spiritual healing practice for the whole body, not only its physical form but on its energetic and emotional level as well.