Thai massage gets UNESCO heritage status

Updated: 14 December, 2019 09:57 IST | Agencies | Bangkok

Originating in India and practiced in Thailand for centuries, the massage was popularized when a specialty school opened in the 1960s to train massage therapists from around the world

A glimpse of the body-folding, sharp-elbowed techniques of Thai massage. Pic/stock
A glimpse of the body-folding, sharp-elbowed techniques of Thai massage. Pic/stock

Bangkok: At Bangkok's Reclining Buddha temple, Krairath Chantrasri says he is a proud custodian of an ancient skill — the body-folding, sharp-elbowed techniques of Thai massage, which was added Thursday to UNESCO's prestigious heritage list.

Originating in India and practiced in Thailand for centuries, the massage was popularized when a specialty school opened in the 1960s to train massage therapists from around the world.

Nuad Thai's addition to UNESCO's list of "Intangible Cultural Heritage" practices "is historic," said the Thai delegate at the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organisation meeting in Bogota, Colombia.

"It helps promote the practice of Nuad Thai locally and internationally," he said. From upscale Bangkok spas and Phuket beach fronts to modest street-side shophouses, 'nuad Thai' is ubiquitous across the kingdom, where an hour of the back-straightening discipline can cost as little as $5. Krairath, who teaches at the Reclining Buddha School inside the famed Wat Pho temple, helps thousands of Thai and foreign students who flock to the centre each year.

Doctors and monks were said to have brought these methods 2,500 years ago to Thailand, passing its secrets from master to disciples in temples and later within families. The Nuad Thai school, which has trained more than 2,00,000 massage therapists who practice in 145 countries, opened in 1962. The teachings focus on directing blood circulation around problem areas to solve muscle aches. Studies have shown it can help relieve back pain, headaches, insomnia and even anxiety.

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First Published: 14 December, 2019 09:47 IST

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