Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

Hinduism Indian Medicine
by
Dominik Wujastyk

Introduction

Contemporary India has what anthropologists such as Charles Leslie have termed a “pluralistic medical system” (see Ayurveda in the Modern World). This expression captures the idea that a person experiencing illness may have recourse to multiple therapeutic resources. For nondangerous illnesses, an ill person is quite likely to be treated at home by friends or family members, perhaps using therapies and ideas that have been passed down from earlier generations through family traditions. Other ill persons may turn to temple healers, herbalists, village healers, ascetics, exorcists, practitioners of modern establishment medicine, unani tibb, ayurveda, siddha, or a host of other diverse forms of healing (see, for example, The Human Body). Forms of medicine are often combined, in spite of having different explanatory models. An important distinction exists between forms of medicine sanctioned and financially supported by the government (establishment medicine) and others. The Indian government’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare devotes most of its budget to modern establishment medicine (MEM). But it also has a Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH). Thus, in India, the latter forms of medicine can also be considered “establishment” medicine. Outside South Asia, these forms of medicine are normally part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and this different status gives them a different historical and social trajectory. “Indian medicine” is commonly understood to refer to medical systems that have their historical origins in South Asia. The present bibliography will focus especially on ayurveda, the most ancient and widespread of theses systems and the one with the longest continuous literary history. The Sanskrit word āyurveda, meaning “knowledge for long life” has now entered the English language and routinely appears in English dictionaries. It can therefore be used, without the diacritical mark, as an English word signifying classical Indian medicine.

Introductory Works

The foundational works on Indian medical history that are still important and useful include Jolly 1977 (original German edition 1901) and Filliozat 1964 (original French edition 1949). Jolly 1977, first translated and updated in the 1950s, is still valuable, though we now know more details about a wider range of Sanskrit medical literature. Filliozat 1964 is also still valuable, although some of his arguments concerning the strong historical connection between Vedic and ayurvedic medicine have been superseded. His comparisons between ayurveda and Plato’s Timaeus are suggestive, although research in the decades since his work was done has not produced any conclusive historical data on connections between Greek and Indian medicine. Kutumbiah 1962, originally the author’s lectures for medical school students, shows a modern establishment medicine (MEM) doctor wrestling with the history and interpretation of ayurvedic medicine from the point of view of real medical theory and practice. Besides being an original and informative historical essay, Majumdar 1971 usefully locates historical information about ayurveda in the framework of the history of science in India. Basham 1967 and Basham 1976 are essays on ayurveda and have introduced many academic readers to the history of Indian medicine. They locate information about ayurveda carefully in a sociohistorical framework that helps the reader transcend trite images of ayurveda as a timeless, unchanging ancient wisdom. Wujastyk 2003 was written in order to make foundational ayurvedic texts available in a translation into contemporary British English that would be accessible to readers without a background in Sanskrit or Hindi literature. It also presented a concise introduction to the latest historical discoveries about ayurveda and its contemporary interpretation. Mazars 2006 provides a valuable, short introduction to Indian medicine in a historical framework, with attention to the place of ayurveda in contemporary India.

  • Basham, A. L. The Wonder That Was India. 3d ed. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1967.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This remains a classic work and still probably the best general introduction to the history and culture of India up to 1000 CE. Appendix VI on ayurveda has been, for many readers, their first introduction to ayurveda as an academic subject.

    Find this resource:

  • Basham, A. L. “The Practice of Medicine in Ancient and Medieval India.” In Asian Medical Systems: A Comparative Study. Edited by Charles Leslie, 18–43. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This essay, along with Basham 1967, remains important and original, and both are still valuable introductory reading, with a slant toward social history and the patient’s experience. Reprinted in 1998.

    Find this resource:

  • Filliozat, Jean. The Classical Doctrine of Indian Medicine. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1964.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A foundational classic. Filliozat discusses Greek and Indian medical parallels. His remarks on medical ideas and vocabulary in Vedic and Avestan literature remain valuable. Filliozat proposed that ayurvedic prognostication may owe much to treatises of Mesopotamian origin that circulated when the Persian Achaemenids ruled northwest India, between the 6th and the 4th century BCE.

    Find this resource:

  • Jolly, Julius. Indian Medicine: Translated from German and Supplemented with Notes by C. G. Kashikar; with a Foreword by J. Filliozat. 2d ed. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1977.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First published in German in 1901 and substantially updated by the translator in 1951, this extraordinarily informative book is still an important reference work and offers a clear, well-referenced survey of many fundamental topics in ayurveda.

    Find this resource:

  • Kutumbiah, Pudipeddy. Ancient Indian Medicine. Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1962.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A classic work written by a professor of medicine. Shows attention to the details of early ayurvedic anatomy, physiology, and surgery. Approaches ayurveda from the angle of a working physician. Often reprinted.

    Find this resource:

  • Majumdar, R. C. “Medicine.” In A Concise History of Science in India. Edited by D. M. Bose, S. N. Sen, and B. V. Subbarayappa, 213–273. New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy, 1971.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A concise but comprehensive introduction to the history of ayurveda and other forms of Indian medicine from a professional historian. A chapter in a larger collection of worthwhile materials on the history of science in India.

    Find this resource:

  • Mazars, Guy. A Concise Introduction to Indian Medicine. Indian Medical Tradition 8. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A more modern short introduction aimed at beginning students.

    Find this resource:

  • Wujastyk, Dominik. The Roots of Āyurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings. 3d ed. New York: Penguin, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Selected ayurvedic texts from different periods of history in a contemporary translation, with a general introduction and historical introductions to each text.

    Find this resource:

General Overviews

Meulenbeld 1999–2002 (A History of Indian Medical Literature, henceforth “HIML”) has been a milestone in the study of ayurveda and the history of medicine in India. It summarizes and evaluates the contents of thousands of ayurvedic works, most of which are not available in translation, and also evaluates all serious scholarship on Indian medical literature published before 2002. Meulenbeld notes in his introduction that his work is a kind of prolegomenon to any future history of Indian medicine, and that it does not aim to provide a “a continuous history of Indian medical literature, nor a history of Indian medicine that, in a chronological order, sketches progressive and regressive lines of development . . . ” (vol. IA, p. 4). Using the formidable resources of HIML, there nevertheless remains much to be done in understanding Indian medical history. The huge bibliography of HIML has also been converted to an online resource (Meulenbeld 2002–). The two standard histories of ayurvedic literature, Sharma 1975 and Vidyalankara 1976, are excellent and extensively cited in HIML. Leslie 1977 and Leslie and Young 1992 contain important basic readings from an ethnographical and anthropological viewpoint, while Sigaléa 1995 (in French) provides more popular presentations with good illustrations. Comba 1990 is a particularly good book, with a philosophical bent, for Italian readers.

  • Comba, Antonella. La medicina Indiana (Āyurveda). Turin, Italy: Promolibri, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excellent, medium-length introduction to the history of ayurveda, with a focus on philosophy. An appendix on the tantrayuktis, or formal rules of interpretation in medicine. In Italian.

    Find this resource:

  • Leslie, Charles, ed. Asian Medical Systems: A Comparative Study. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Classic work that launched the theoretically, historically, and anthropologically informed study of Asian medical systems. Includes landmark papers on India by Basham (general introduction), Beals (curers in South India), Obeyesekere (impact in Sri Lanka), Montgomery (medical practitioners in South India), Taylor (tradition and modernization), Leslie (ambiguities of medical revivalism), and Gupta (kaviraj traditions in Bengal).

    Find this resource:

  • Leslie, Charles, and Allan Young, eds. Paths to Asian Medical Knowledge: A Comparative Study. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A second classic collection of essays, following Leslie 1977, including writings by Trawick (on death), Obeyesekere (on science and clinical practice in ayurveda), Leslie (on syncretism), Zimmermann (on the reinterpretation of ayurveda in the West as a gentle medicine), and Nichter (anthropological study of Kyasanur forest disease in South India). Also papers on Islamic humoral traditions.

    Find this resource:

  • Meulenbeld, Gerrit Jan. A History of Indian Medical Literature. 5 vols. Groningen, The Netherlands: E. Forsten, 1999–2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A general survey of Sanskrit medical literature. Also covers alchemical, veterinary and culinary literature, and the medieval transmission of Indian medical literature to Tibet and the Middle East. Includes the most authoritative account of the identity and date of Caraka (pp. 105–115), Suśruta (pp. 333–357), and Vāgbhaṭa (pp. 597–656).

    Find this resource:

  • Meulenbeld, Gerrit Jan. ABIM: An Annotated Bibliography of Indian Medicine. 2002–.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Meulenbeld has converted the bibliography of HIML into an online resource. In its online form, the bibliography is keyword-searchable, and Meulenbeld continues actively to update the bibliography.

    Find this resource:

    • Sigaléa, Robert. La médecine traditionnelle de l’Inde: doctrines prévedique, védique, âyurvedique, yogique et tantrique, les empereurs Moghols, leurs maladies et leurs médecins. Geneva, Switzerland: Olizane, 1995.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A valuable history, especially good on the Mughal period. Noteworthy for its judicious selection of illustrations. In French.

      Find this resource:

    • Vidyalankara, Atrideva. Āyurved kā Bṛhat Itihās. 2d ed. Lucknow, India: Hindi Samiti, 1976.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An important and comprehensive history of ayurvedic literature written in Hindi. Includes a history of early ayurvedic book publishing. First published in 1960.

      Find this resource:

    • Sharma, Priya Vrat. Āyurved kā Vaijñānik Itihās. Jayakṛṣṇadāsa Āyurveda Granthamālā 1. Varanasi, India: Caukhamba Orientalia, 1975.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A major history of ayurveda, in Hindi, by the great scholar P. V. Sharma, whose contribution to the serious study of ayurveda has been significant.

      Find this resource:

    • Zysk, Kenneth G. Religious Healing in the Veda, with Translations and Annotations of Medical Hymns from the Rgveda and the Atharvaveda and Renderings from the Corresponding Ritual Texts. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 75. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1985.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Appendix 2 contains a bibliographical essay on the history of scholarship on ayurveda.

      Find this resource:

    Source Literature

    The secondary literature on the theory, background, and history of ayurveda is largely based on the original medical classics written in Sanskrit. There are English translations of many of these, and selections in modern “mid-Atlantic” English are presented in Wujastyk 2003 (cited under Introductory Works). If you wish to consult the full text of the works, or sections not included in Wujastyk 2003, the following are given in approximate chronological order of composition. Few of the following translations are fully satisfactory from the point of view either of philological and scientific accuracy, or idiom, but they are the best (and sometimes the only) complete translations currently available. At least they allow the English-language reader to follow up the textual citations in the secondary works and glean a general idea of what the texts say. But if precision and deep understanding is sought, there is still no alternative to learning Sanskrit and reading the originals. This is a slow but exhilarating and fascinating journey. One of the issues affecting the translations is that few are by native speakers of British/American standard English. Those published in India, for example, include many untranslated words that are understandable by native Hindi speakers (although some of these words are so-called false friends) but unfamiliar to other readers. Some translations are simply not idiomatic for native speakers of any form of English, or they do not take into account contemporary usage. Very few translators show sensitivity to the boundaries between scientific and colloquial usage of English vocabulary. By contrast, several translators are on a mission to prove that ancient Indian texts show an awareness of modern scientific discoveries, and they attempt to support this belief by using modern technical terminology in translating old Sanskrit words. For background on the dates and historical contexts of these works, and alternative translations of selections from them, see Wujastyk 2003. For a listing of other translations, see Zysk 1985 (cited under General Overviews). For the fullest survey of scholarship on the history of these and many other works, Meulenbeld 1999–2002 (cited under General Overviews) is the ultimate authority.

    Carakasaṃhitā

    The Carakasaṃhitā is one of the foundational texts of ayurveda. Rich in philosophy of medicine, and generally reflective in tone, it also presents a large catalogue of herbal therapies. We know that these were very influential, because they are repeated in many later works, and several were even carved into the wall of a South Indian temple in the 11th century. Its contents have been summarized by Meulenbeld 1999–2002.

    • Sharma, Ram Karan, and Vaidya Bhagwan Dash. Agniveśa’s Caraka Saṃhitā (Text with English Translation and Critical Exposition Based on Cakrapāṇi Datta’s Āyurveda Dīpikā). 7 vols. Varanasi, India: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1976–2002.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This excellent translation also includes a paraphrase of Cakrapāṇidatta, integrated with the translation.

      Find this resource:

    • Sharma, Priya Vrat. Caraka-Saṃhitā: Agniveśa’s Treatise Refined and Annotated by Caraka and Redacted by Dṛḍhabala (Text with English Translation). 4 vols. Varanasi, Delhi: Chaukhambha Orientalia, 1981–1994.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A generally good translation by a scholar with excellent Sanskrit. Volumes 3 and 4 give a paraphrase of Cakrapāṇidatta, the major commentator on Caraka.

      Find this resource:

    Suśrutasaṃhitā

    The Suśrutasaṃhitā is the second great classic of ayurveda that survives from ancient times. It is often treated as a treatise on surgery, and indeed it contains detailed chapters on the training of surgeons and on various surgical procedures. This material is unique in the ancient world. But this is only a part of what the Suśrutasaṃhitā contains. There is also much material on general medicine paralleling that of the Carakasaṃhitā, but with various differences of theory or interpretation. Its contents have been summarized by Meulenbeld 1999–2002.

    • Bhishagratna, Kaviraj Kunjalal. An English Translation of the Sushruta Samhita Based on Original Sanskrit Text. 4th ed. Varanasi, India: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1991.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      First published in 1918. Very old fashioned and mentioned only because it is still widely used. But reference to it should be deprecated in favor of Sharma 1999–2001.

      Find this resource:

    • Sharma, Priya Vrat. Suśruta-Saṃhitā, with English Translation of Text and Ḍalhaṇa’s Commentary Alongwith [sic] Critical Notes. 3 vols. Haridas Ayurveda Series 9. Varanasi, India: Chaukhambha Visvabharati, 1999–2001.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Another translation from P. V. Sharma, mostly reliable.

      Find this resource:

    • Singhal, G. D., L. M. Singh, and K. P. Singh. Diagnostic (and Other) Considerations in Ancient Indian Surgery. 10 vols. Varanasi, India: Singhal, 1972–1982.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A more accurate translation of the Suśrutasaṃhitā than Bhishagratna 1991, but this is published in ten volumes, all with slightly different titles and coauthors, and much accompanying advertisement, so it can be hard finding one’s way around the text.

      Find this resource:

    Bhelasaṃhitā

    An extremely ancient text, containing materials of roughly the same antiquity as the Carakasaṃhitā and the Suśrutasaṃhitā, that survived to present times in a single palm-leaf manuscript today kept in the Saraswati Mahal Library of Thanjavur in South India and a manuscript fragment found in Central Asia. The translation of the entire work in Krishnamurthy 2000 is helpful in getting an overview of the subject matter, but the critical philological and text-historical work of reediting and translating the work is being done by Tsutomu Yamashita (Yamashita 1997).

    • Krishnamurthy, K. H. Bhela-Saṃhitā: Text with English Translation, Commentary, and Critical Notes. Haridas Ayurveda Series 8. Varanasi, India: Chaukhambha Visvabharati, 2000.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The only translation of this text available as of 2010. The Sanskrit text of the Bhelasaṃhitā is not yet critically edited, and even the best translator often has trouble.

      Find this resource:

    • Yamashita, Tsutomu. “Towards a Critical Edition of the Bhelasaṃhitā.” Journal of the European Āyurvedic Society 5 (1997): 19–24.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Early results from Yamashita’s important research on the Bhelasaṃhitā. Yamashita’s text will become the standard edition of the work because of the critical methodology he applies and because of his use of Central Asian manuscript evidence to supplement the Thanjavur codex unicus.

      Find this resource:

    Kāśyapasaṃhitā

    Another ancient work surviving in only one or two manuscripts, this is a treatise focusing on the medical care of women and children.

    • Tewari, Premvati. Kāśyapa-saṃhitā, or Vṛddhajīvakīyam Tantra: Text with English Translation and Commentary. Varanasi, India: Chaukhambha Visvabharati, 1996.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The only available English translation of the entire text. The Sanskrit text in Tewari’s book is copied from the edition by Hemarāja Śarman in 1938 that was accompanied by his Hindi translation.

      Find this resource:

    Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā

    The Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā (The heart of medicine compendium) by Vāgbhaṭa is probably the most widely read, translated, and influential ayurvedic work in history. Composed c. 600 CE, it became the standard school text for learning ayurveda, and the thousands of manuscript copies still found in libraries across India and the world testify to its great popularity. It was translated in premodern times into Tibetan and Persian and also reached the Islamic world. The text is a model of clarity and good organization, and it presents a reasoned synthesis of the earlier great classics of Caraka and Suśruta. However, there are two key historical problems regarding the work. First, there is the relationship of the Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā to another work called the Aṣṭāṅgasaṃgraha (The treatise on medicine) that is ascribed to a Vāgbhaṭa. Secondly, are these Vāgbhaṭas one person or two? The learned introduction to Hilgenberg and Kirfel 1941 made important arguments about these issues, reversing the current wisdom of the time and arguing that the “Treatise” was a rewritten expansion of the “Heart,” probably by one person. These arguments were summarized in English and given important scrutiny in Vogel 1965. More recently, the issues have again been discussed at length by Meulenbeld 1999–2002 (cited under General Overviews), which does not agree with the one-author theory. Meulenbeld holds complicated views about the gradual evolution of both works and the participation of many authors in this evolution. He considers the whole matter still unresolved.

    • Hilgenberg, Luise, and Willibald Kirfel. Vāgbhaṭa’s Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā, ein altindisches Lehrbuch der Heilkunde, aus dem Sanskrit ins Deutsche übertragen mit Einleitung, Anmerkungen und Indices. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1941.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The most scholarly translation of Vāgbhaṭa’s classic work into a European language. In German.

      Find this resource:

    • Srikantha Murthy, K. R. Vāgbhaṭa’s Aṣṭāñga Hṛdayam: Text, English Translation, Notes, Appendix, and Indices. 3 vols. Varanasi, India: Krishnadas Academy, 1991–1995.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The translator, formerly a professor at the Government Ayurveda College at Bangalore, has published workmanlike translations of many major ayurvedic works.

      Find this resource:

    • Vogel, Claus. Vāgbhaṭa’s Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā: The First Five Chapters of Its Tibetan Version Edited and Rendered into English along with the Original Sanskrit; Accompanied by Literary Introduction and a Running Commentary on the Tibetan Translating-Technique. Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 37.2. Wiesbaden, Germany: Steiner, 1965.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A partial translation, but nevertheless extremely valuable for its deep scholarship, valuable introduction, and many insightful notes comparing the Sanskrit and Tibetan versions of the work.

      Find this resource:

    Mādhavanidāna

    Composed by Mādhava in about 700 CE, this work describes 120 diseases and their symptoms. It became the most authoritative treatise on nosology in premodern India, and its arrangement of diseases was copied by most later authors.

    • Meulenbeld, Gerrit Jan. The Mādhavanidāna and its Chief Commentary, Chapters 1–10: Introduction, Translation, and Notes. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1974.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This is a more careful translation and includes a translation of the main commentary, but it covers only chapters 1–10 of the work. It includes several extremely useful appendices on ayurvedic authors, works, dates, plants, and a glossary of technical terms. Use it for these appendices if nothing else. A reprint appeared in 2008 (Delhi, Motlilal Banarsidass).

      Find this resource:

    • Srikantha Murthy, K. R. Mādhava Nidānam (Roga Viniscaya) of Madhavakara (a Treatise on Āyurveda): Text with English Translation, Critical Introduction, and Appendices. Delhi: Chaukhambha Orientalia, 1993.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Another workmanlike translation from Srikantha Murthy.

      Find this resource:

    Śārṅgadharasaṃhitā

    Composed in the 14th century, this work became enormously popular across South Asia, functioning as a physicians’ vade-mecum. Its herbal recipes are still used in the ayurvedic pharmaceutical industry today.

    • Srikantha Murthy, K. R. Śārṅgadhara-saṃhitā by Śārṅgadhara, Translated into English. Delhi: Chaukhambha Orientalia, 1984.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A workmanlike translation that gives general access to English-language readers but is still peppered with untranslated Hindi and Sanskrit vocabulary, making it hard to use for readers without Indian-language skills.

      Find this resource:

    Bhāvaprakāśa

    The Bhāvaprakāśa was written by one of the leading scholars of Varanasi in the 16th century, and it has gone on to become one of the major encyclopedic textbooks of ayurveda. Still in print and widely circulated, it consists of two parts: a large materia medica and a textbook of medicine that summarizes all the best authors. In a few instances, and unusual for an ayurvedic work, it also shows an awareness of the diseases and therapies of the Muslim and European communities.

    The Human Body

    The potential for exploring this topic within ayurveda is almost endless. “Body studies” has been a very productive area in humanities scholarship, especially since the advent of postmodernism. Contemporary theoretical approaches have been slow to be applied to the South Asian case, and many interesting insights in this area can still be expected. Underlying the selected readings below is the idea that there are many conceptual bodies in early South Asia and that they do not necessarily overlap. Meditating yogins, for example, experienced their bodies in terms quite distinct from surgeons or doctors, and they used different language and terminology in their body discourses. These different conceptualizations were not merely terminological variants for some unified underlying reality: they were different bodies. Cakras, for example, were not part of the reality of the human body for physicians and were neither discussed nor even recognized.

    In South Asian Religion and Culture

    The studies collected in Bouillier and Tarabout 2002 and Michaels and Wulf 2009 represent the current state of the field from several perspectives, including the specifically medical. They are essential reading.

    • Bouillier, Véronique, and Gilles Tarabout, eds. Images du corps dans le monde hindou. Collection Monde Indien, Sciences sociales, 15e–20e siècle. Paris: CNRS, 2002.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A valuable collection on the interpretation of the human body. The four sections include “Logiques descriptives” (papers by Zimmermann, Wujastyk, Angot, and Tarabout); “Univers ésotériques” (papers by Padoux, White, Darmon, and Bhattacharya); “Mises en scène” (papers by Colas, Joshi, Racine, and Grimaud); and “Constructions sociales” (papers by Saglio-Yatzimirsky, Bouillier, Sorrentino-Holden, Filippo and Caroline Osella, and Grévin).

      Find this resource:

    • Michaels, Axel, and Christoph Wulf, eds. The Body in India: Ritual, Transgression, Performativity, Paragrana. Internationale Zeitschrift fur Historische Anthropologie 18. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2009.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Another important collection, overlapping to some extent with Bouillier and Tarabout 2002, includes papers on the body in religious and philosophical texts by Zimmermann, Malamoud, Colas, White, Flood, Baldissera, Pernau, and Böhler. Also papers on the body in narratives and ritual performance by Freeman, Sax, Schnepel, Hüsken, and John and on the body in visualizations and images by Juneja, Brosius, Menon, and Clemens.

      Find this resource:

    Anatomy

    An important point concerning the ayurvedic discourse on the body is that it does not reference the cakras, the kuṇḍalinī, ṇāḍīs, or other features familiar from the tantric and yogic discourses on the body. Hoernle 1907 is a classic of the genre that revealed for the first time the detailed and accurate physical anatomical knowledge that was present in ancient India. In the classical literature, the ayurvedic body is described in recognizably anatomical terms and includes ducts and tubes that carry fluids such as blood and urine between receptacles such as the bladder and intestines (Wujastyk 2003, Wujastyk 2008). Zimmermann 1978 and Wujastyk 2009 reflect in different ways on the culture clash of the 19th- and 20th-century ayurvedic encounter with European anatomical concepts. Das 2003 focuses specifically on the ayurvedic metabolic processes related to sex and reproduction. Zysk 1986 is a classic paper on early anatomical considerations in medical texts that is philologically precise, stays close to the source texts, and makes interesting comparisons with surgery in modern Europe.

    • Das, Rahul Peter. The Origin of the Life of a Human Being. Conception and the Female According to Ancient Indian Medical and Sexological Literature. Indian Medical Tradition 6. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2003.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Das sets out to answer the question, “What happens in a woman’s body at the time of conception?” It investigates ayurvedic thinking about conception, gestation, and birth while closely adhering to the original Sanskrit texts. It touches on many topics related to the functioning of the human body. Appendix 2 (pp. 511–593) is a valuable dictionary of ayurvedic concepts.

      Find this resource:

    • Hoernle, A. F. R. Studies in the Medicine of Ancient India: Osteology or the Bones of the Human Body. Oxford: Clarendon, 1907.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A pioneering work that studied the earliest lists of bones in Sanskrit medical literature, with many important reflections and digressions. Very scholarly, still relevant, and still available in reprint editions.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. “The Science of Medicine.” In The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Edited by Gavin Flood, 393–409. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An overview of early Indian medicine that includes a careful account of the tubes, pipes, and conduits in the human body according to ayurveda, together with their physiological functions.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. “A Body of Knowledge: The Wellcome Ayurvedic Anatomical Man and His Sanskrit Context.” Asian Medicine: Tradition & Modernity 4 (2008): 201–248.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines a well-known painting of an ayurvedic human male body, from the Wellcome Library in London, and analyses the textual passages that accompany and comment on the image, naming various organs and receptacles in the body.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. “Interpreting the Image of the Human Body in Premodern India.” International Journal of Hindu Studies 13 (2009): 189–228.

      DOI: 10.1007/s11407-009-9077-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Makes the point that the concept of a body is metaphorical and draws attention to several quite different historical body-related discourses that arose in premodern India. Ends with a section on 19th- and 20th-century attempts to integrate the ayurvedic and non-Indian anatomical descriptions of the body.

      Find this resource:

    • Zimmermann, Francis. “Introducing Western Anatomy to the Practitioners of Classical Indian Medicine: An Ethno-historical Analysis of the Treatises by P. S. Varier in the 1920s.” In Asie du Sud, traditions et changements: Sixth European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Sèvres 8–13 juillet 1978. Edited by Marc Gaborieau and Alice ThornerAlice Thorner, 1–3. Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1978.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This paper studies ayurvedic physiology and its reinterpretation during the early 20th century as a result of the encounter with European anatomical treatises.

      Find this resource:

    • Zysk, Kenneth G. “The Evolution of Anatomical Knowledge in Ancient India with Special Reference to Cross-cultural Influences.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 106 (1986): 687–705.

      DOI: 10.2307/603532Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Describes Vedic observations on the body’s construction and the early dissection of the body for teaching purposes described by Suśruta. Explores some possible links with Greek anatomical traditions.

      Find this resource:

    Yoga, Karma, and the Medical Body

    Yoga and karma are both broad topics of research in themselves and overlap with medical and ayurvedic studies at many points. Zysk 1993 examines the history of ideas concerning respiration, which became a major topic for both medical and yogic thinkers, in spite of the absence of the identification of the lungs as connected with the process. Weiss 1980 and Leslie 1999 specifically discuss karma in relation to medicine, while Leslie 1999 extends the discussion to show the sharp contrast that exists between Sanskrit medical and religious forms of body discourse. Alter 2004 treats medical topics throughout, including important chapters on Gandhi’s health politics, on the Indian uptake of German naturopathy, and on the history of auto-urine therapy. Alter 2005 places modern yoga practice in an historical context, examining the processes of reinvention that have led to it being perceived a contemporary component of complementary medicine.

    • Alter, Joseph S. Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between Science and Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A major anthropological enquiry into how the human body is interpreted and manipulated within the various yoga traditions in contemporary India.

      Find this resource:

    • Alter, Joseph S. “Modern Medical Yoga: Struggling with a History of Magic, Alchemy, and Sex.” Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 1 (2005): 119–146.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Early Indian yoga practice is profoundly implicated in magical and alchemy belief and in processes aimed at the control of semen. Alter traces the pathway by which modern yoga, as a form of practice centered on physical fitness, wellness, and holistic health, emerged directly out of the early-20th-century yoga renaissance, purging itself of its more ancient associations.

      Find this resource:

    • Leslie, Julia. “The Implications of the Physical Body: Health, Suffering, and Karma.” In Religion, Health, and Suffering. Edited by Roy Porter and John Hinnells, 23–45. London: Kegan Paul International, 1999.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Explores attitudes to the body and karma in three traditions—Jainism, Dharmaśāstra, and ayurveda—showing how very differently the concept of the body was processed by religious, moral, and medical thinkers.

      Find this resource:

    • Weiss, Mitchell G. “Caraka Saṃhitā on the Doctrine of Karma.” In Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. Edited by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, 90–115. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A clear account of the ideas on karma found in the Carakasaṃhitā.

      Find this resource:

    • Zysk, Kenneth G. “The Science of Respiration and the Doctrine of the Bodily Winds in Ancient India.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 113 (1993): 198–213.

      DOI: 10.2307/603025Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A classic paper on the history of breath and breathing (prāṇa) in premodern Indian literature. It traces the notion of breath from early Vedic sources into the divergent conceptual universes of yoga and the medicine.

      Find this resource:

    Medicine and the Tantric Body

    The following studies all offer descriptions of the body from the tantric point of view, which is, as mentioned above, entirely distinct in its history and preconceptions from the body known to ayurvedic medicine. Kakar 1982 is a charming introduction to tantra and the body, insightfully describing the author’s encounters with several contemporary healers. Briggs 1938 is learned and draws on years of experience living in India and paying attention to ascetic traditions. It contains an appendix specifically describing the body known to these renunciates and described in the literature of the Gorakṣanātha tradition. Ganapathy 1993 provides an insight into the views of the body held by Siddha medicine, the indigenous healing tradition of South India, including descriptions of tantric channels in the body, the cakra system, and the superimposition of mantras on the body. Treating the body in this way, as a series of locations in which divinities and mantras are invested is a widespread tantric practice: Padoux 1990 is a rare scholarly study of this body-visualization technique. White 1996 is a study of the Gorakṣanātha siddha tradition is a modern classic, one that also presents rare information about the traditions of body perfection that were current among medieval Indian alchemists.

    • Briggs, George Weston. Gorakhnāth and the Kānphaṭa Yogīs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Long a classic of the history of Indian renunciation. Much of what these yogis practice revolves around their understandings and manipulations of their bodies, and Briggs gives the background necessary to understand this cultural history. Reprinted in 1982 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass).

      Find this resource:

    • Ganapathy, T. N. “The Siddha Conception of the Human Body.” In The Philosophy of the Tamil Siddhas. By T. N. Ganapahty, 115–140. New Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 1993.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      It can be hard to find scholarly information on the body as understood in the siddha tradition of South India. Ganapathy steers clear of the wilder forms of narrative and gives a careful account closely following the original Tamil sources.

      Find this resource:

    • Kakar, Sudhir. Shamans, Mystics, and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and its Healing Traditions. New York: Knopf, 1982.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Kakar’s brilliant and amusing book surveys several pathways to healing that are available in contemporary India.

      Find this resource:

    • Padoux, André. “The Body in Tantric Ritual: The Case of the Mudrās.” In Panels of the VIIth World Sanskrit Conference. Vol. 1, The Sanskrit Tradition and Tantrism. Edited by Teun Goudriaan, 66–75. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1990.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A careful study of tantric mudrās and the body by the doyen of tantric studies.

      Find this resource:

    • White, David Gordon. The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An important study of the human body as understood by medieval Indian alchemists and siddhas.

      Find this resource:

    The Medical Body in Buddhist Thought

    The understanding and interpretation of embodiment could be said to be one of the central concerns of Buddhism and as such has attracted a large literature from the time of the formation of the Buddhist canon onward. Zysk 1998, Hamilton 1995, and Hamilton 1996 explore the body very specifically as a medical entity within the framework of Buddhist doctrine. Zysk 1998 is a sociohistorical exploration of the ascetic milieu out of which Buddhism arose, arguing that this same milieu created the form of medicine later known as ayurveda. Hamilton 1996 is a deep and subtle study of the Buddha’s teaching about the five so-called aggregates that make up the human body according to early Buddhist doctrine. One of Hamilton’s central arguments is that these aggregates are more appropriately understood as subjective experiences located in personal consciousness rather than as descriptions of objective physical entities. Hamilton’s works are hard to find and hard to read, but they are among the best writings available on the Buddhist view of the body.

    • Hamilton, Sue. “From the Buddha to Buddhaghosa: Changing Attitudes toward the Human Body in Theravāda Buddhism.” In Religious Reflections on the Human Body. Edited by Jane Marie Law, 46–63. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Charts the changing attitude to the body of Theravada Buddhist authors from an earlier balanced and detached neutrality to a much more negative view that Hamilton attributes especially to Buddhaghosa (c. 400 CE).

      Find this resource:

    • Hamilton, Sue. Identity and Experience: The Constitution of the Human Being According to Early Buddhism. London: Luzac Oriental, 1996.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Along with Hamilton 1995, this offers sophisticated analyses of the human body as understood in the context of the five Buddhist aggregates (Skt skandha; Pali khandha) that constitute the person and their experiences.

      Find this resource:

    • Zysk, Kenneth G. Asceticism and Healing in Ancient India: Medicine in the Buddhist Monastery. 2d ed. Indian Medical Tradition 2. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Outlines the knowledge of the human body that was current among ascetics at the time of the Buddha. First published in 1991 (New York: Oxford University Press). See especially pp. 34–37.

      Find this resource:

    The Body in its Environment

    Zimmermann 1987 has rightly achieved classic status. It applies French structuralist methods to the study of classical ayurvedic notions of different types of physical environments, and to the lists of fauna that may be eaten, drawing out the implications of various fundamental binary oppositions in ayurvedic thinking. Dove 1992 is a unique study in that it takes issue with Zimmermann’s assumptions, asserting that Zimmermann’s focus on structural and social arguments at the expense of a diachronic approach to the history of actual land use leads him to misunderstand the significance of land classifications that can be explained more plausibly as evolutionary changes arising from farming usage. Dove argues that the change in the meaning of jaṅgala from “luxuriant forest” to “savanna” accurately reflects a fundamental, historical alteration of relations between culture and nature. Wujastyk 2004 explores further a theme referred to by Zimmermann that amounts to a giant classificatory system for the universe.

    • Dove, Michael R. “The Dialectical History of Jungle in Pakistan: Relationship between Nature and Culture.” Journal of Anthropological Research 48 (1992): 231–253.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Argues that the economy of the early pastoral societies was based on transforming the region’s natural thorn forest into an anthropogenic savanna, through the historical intensification of land-use patterns in response to demographic and political pressures. Reversals in land productivity led to the semantic reversal in the meaning of jaṅgala.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. “Agni and Soma: A Universal Classification.” Studia Asiatica: International Journal for Asian Studies 4–5 (2004): 347–370.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A pervasive theme in Indian medicine is the opposition between fire and water, hot and cold, red and white, parched and nourished, symbolized by the Vedic deities Agni and Soma. This duality is extended from explaining bodily functions and diet to characterizations of the external environment, the seasons of the year, and the world as a whole.

      Find this resource:

    • Zimmermann, Francis. The Jungle and the Aroma of Meats. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Deals with the conundrum that the word “jungle”—meaning, in English and modern Indian languages, a lush, overgrown environment—is derived from the Sanskrit jaṅgala, meaning a sterile, arid desert. In the process of exploring this semantic shift, which he considers to be the result of a historical misunderstanding, the work reveals several deep structures and patterns in ayurvedic thinking. First published as La jungle et le fumet des viandes (Paris: Gallimard, 1982).

      Find this resource:

    Concepts of Disease

    These studies specifically address the causes of illness as understood from the ayurvedic doctor’s viewpoint. Kutumbiah 1999 presents a positivist view of ayurvedic pathology, attempting to make sense from a modern doctor’s point of view of what ayurvedic theories are saying about the genesis of illness. Kutumbiah stays close to the earliest ayurvedic writings and describes their classification of diseases and the details of the humoral theory of pathology. Tabor 1981 is an early but still important field report based on work in Gujarat, especially with the much-respected ayurvedic physician Dr. Bāpālāljī Vaidya. Tabor points out that although Gujarati vaidyas in the 1970s and 1980s respected the Carakasaṃhitā, the texts they actually read and referred to in practice were the much later Mādhavanidāna (8th century) and Bhāvaprakāśa (16th century). The concept of āma, or the “unripe,” with its effect on digestion and metabolism, was central to their understanding of pathology. Close readers of the ayurvedic literature will notice an ambivalence concerning blood. There are three humors—wind, bile, and phlegm—and blood is not one of them. But sometimes, especially in the Suśrutasaṃhitā, it is treated as a humor, interestingly bringing ayurvedic pathological doctrine a step closer to ancient Greek theory. Meulenbeld 1991 explores this ambivalence in detail and points out that while human ayurvedic medicine normally rejected blood as a humor, veterinary medicine normally accepted it. Meulenbeld 1992 takes an insider view of the humors, or doṣas, and considers their workings in detail. Scharfe 1999 extends the historical exploration of the doṣa “humor,” and dhātu “element” concepts. One of Scharfe’s findings is that the doṣa terminology is used somewhat differently in the Carakasaṃhitā and the Suśrutasaṃhitā, suggesting the possibility of an early conceptual scheme visible in Buddhist literature and the Carakasaṃhitā in which bodily components (dhātus) become contaminated (dūṣita), to a historically later scheme in which humors (doṣa) are themselves bodily components that may be normal, depressed, or inflamed. Many important historical questions raised in this paper require further research. Maas 2007–2008 compares medical ideas occurring in the early yoga literature with those of ayurveda, and his close examination of the concept of the dhātus in the Carakasaṃhitā shows that the concept and number are still fluid and evolving in that text, whereas in the Suśrutasaṃhitā a list of seven dhātus is standardized and becomes canonical in later ayurveda.

    • Kutumbiah, Pudipeddy. Ancient Indian Medicine. Hyderabad, India: Orient Longmans, 1999.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      First published in 1962 (Bombay: Orient Longmans). An account of what makes one ill, and how the metabolic processes of the body can fail, according to ayurveda. Closely adheres to the original ayurvedic source texts.

      Find this resource:

    • Maas, Philipp A. “The Concepts of the Human Body and Disease in Classical Yoga and Āyurveda.” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens 51 (2007–2008): 123–162.

      DOI: 10.1553/wzksLIs123Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Comparison of disease concepts in classical yoga with those of ayurveda, revealing unexpected inconsistencies in the evolution of the concepts of doṣa and dhātu.

      Find this resource:

    • Meulenbeld, Gerrit Jan. “The Constraints of Theory in the Evolution of Nosological Classifications: A Study on the Position of Blood in Indian Medicine (Āyurveda).” In Medical Literature from India, Sri Lanka, and Tibet. Edited by Gerrit Jan Meulenbeld, 91–106. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1991.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the special place of blood in ayurvedic thought and how it may be implicated in causing disease.

      Find this resource:

    • Meulenbeld, Gerrit Jan. “The Characteristics of a Doṣa.” Journal of the European Āyurvedic Society 2 (1992): 1–5.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Short but important paper exploring the internal contradictions and difficulties of the ayurvedic theory of the doṣa.

      Find this resource:

    • Scharfe, Hartmut. “The Doctrine of the Three Humors in Traditional Indian Medicine and the Alleged Antiquity of Tamil Siddha Medicine.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 119 (1999): 609–629.

      DOI: 10.2307/604837Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Sketches out the history of the concept of doṣa, “humor” and compares it with that of dhātu, “element.”

      Find this resource:

    • Tabor, Daniel C. “Ripe and Unripe: Concepts of Health and Sickness in Ayurvedic Medicine.” Social Science and Medicine 15 (1981): 439–455.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An important paper based on fieldwork in Gujarat that documents the contemporary practice of ayurvedic physicians, and especially their conceptual frameworks concerning digestion and the ripe/unripe axis of foodstuffs (though Tabor’s discussion is curiously without reference to Lévi-Strauss’s Le Cru et le cuit of 1964). Tabor points out that although Gujarati vaidyas in the 1970s and 1980s respected the Carakasaṃhitā, the texts they actually read and referred to in practice were the much later Mādhavanidāna (8th century) and Bhāvaprakāśa (16th century). The concept of āma, or the “unripe,” and its effect on digestion and metabolism were central to their understanding of pathology.

      Find this resource:

    Buddhism and Medicine

    This is an important topic on which much fundamental research remains to be done. A useful bibliography of studies is given in HIML, pp. 830–831. Zysk 1998 is an excellent introduction to the place of medicine in early Buddhism, with a social-history focus on the role of the monastic community and the background of classical Indian medicine within the ascetic communities of the 4th and 5th century BCE. Mazars 2008 is an accessible yet careful survey of the historical and ethical issues that appear in the Pali canonical writing and related medical sources. Granoff 1998 also focuses closely on the early Buddhist literature, with a more analytical approach to the medical events and situations that are narrated in the literature of the Buddhist birth stories. Birnbaum 1989 is a popular book that focuses on Mahayana Buddhist traditions, especially the figure of the Medicine Buddha or healing master, Bhaiṣajyaguru, that emerged in Tibet and became a prominent representation of the Buddha in China and Japan. Scholars who focus on ayurveda in India can sometimes forget that ayurvedic medicine is a major tradition in Sri Lanka as well, with government support and control not to mention a long literary and practical tradition. Uragoda 1987 is a valuable general history of medicine in Sri Lanka, while Liyanaratne 1999 presents an important collection of detailed studies on literature, manuscripts, and materia medica.

    • Birnbaum, Raoul. The Healing Buddha. Rev. ed. Boston: Shambhala, 1989.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the Healing Buddha concept particular to the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, China, and Japan. Also outlines the history of healing in the development of Buddhism from the earliest texts, including the Lotus Sutra. First published in 1979 (Boulder, CO: Shambhala).

      Find this resource:

    • Granoff, Phyllis. “Cures and Karma II: Some Miraculous Healings in the Indian Buddhist Story Tradition.” Bulletin de l’Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient 85 (1998): 285–304.

      DOI: 10.3406/befeo.1998.3834Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A close reading of several Buddhist sources in their original languages, especially from avadāna literature, with attention to miraculous cures, epidemic disease, and several other medical topics. Granoff finds that a distinction can be made between the Buddha’s miraculous cures for plagues and his cures for all other types of ailments.

      Find this resource:

    • Liyanaratne, Jinadasa. Buddhism and Traditional Medicine in Sri Lanka. Keleniya, Sri Lanka: University of Keleniya Press, 1999.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Ayurveda has long been a major part of the healthcare system in Sri Lanka. There exist many early Sinhalese-language translations and adaptations of Sanskrit medical works. This volume collects important studies about medical manuscripts and literature, plant names, nosology, and the relationship between early Sri Lankan and Indian medical literature, by the doyen of scholarship on Buddhism and traditional medicine in Sri Lanka.

      Find this resource:

    • Mazars, Sylvain. Le bouddhisme et la médecine traditionnelle de l’Inde. Paris: Springer, 2008.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A study, in French, dedicated to the question of medicine and Buddhism. A carefully researched and well-written book. Covers ancient Buddhism, medicine in premodern India, Buddhist ethics, medicine in Buddhist literature, the question of whether Buddhism is essentially a kind of medicalized soteriology, medicine, and Buddhism’s attitude to suffering. Also covers Buddhist ethics to medical practice and the social dimension of medical practice.

      Find this resource:

    • Uragoda, C. G. A History of Medicine in Sri Lanka, from the Earliest Times to 1948. Colombo: Sri Lanka Medical Association, 1987.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The earliest history of hospitals in South Asia includes the evidence from textual and archaeological sources in Sri Lanka. These are usefully summarized here. See especially pp. 23–35.

      Find this resource:

    • Zysk, Kenneth G. Asceticism and Healing in Ancient India: Medicine in the Buddhist Monastery. 2d ed. Indian Medical Tradition 2. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The standard work on this topic, in which Zysk argues that the origins of ayurveda as a formal system of medicine are to be found in the practices and floating oral traditions of the ascetic communities of the 5th century BCE, including the Buddhists. Zysk finds strong parallels between passages in the Buddhist Pali Canon and the Carakasaṃhitā. First published in 1991 (New York: Oxford University Press).

      Find this resource:

    Jainism and Medicine

    There is still much research to be done into specifically Jaina traditions of healing. The Jaina dedication to vegetarianism and ahiṃsā led the 8th-century Jaina author Ugrāditya to write a complete textbook on ayurveda that removed all use of meats from medicinal recipes (Shastri 1940). Granoff 1998 is a fascinating account of the illness and healing narratives that occur in many rare, often untranslated Jaina biographies and stories. Granoff discusses tales in which a holy person’s body has the power of healing through touch. She also investigates leprosy, which appears frequently in these narratives, as of course does karma-fruition as a cause of disease. A bibliography of secondary literature on Jaina medical thought is provided in HIML (see General Overviews).

    • Granoff, Phyllis. “Cures and Karma: Healing and Being Healed in the Jain Religious Literature.” In Self, Soul, and Body in Religious Experience. Edited by Albert I. Baumgarten, Jan Assmann, and Gedaliahu G. Stroumsa, 218–255. Studies in the History of Religions 78. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1998.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An invaluable survey of healing narratives in many Jaina literary and religious texts. Full of original insights based on the original reading of generally inaccessible texts in Sanskrit and Prakrit.

      Find this resource:

    • Shastri, Vardhaman Parshwanath, ed. The Kalyāṇa-kārakam of Ugrādityacharya, Edited with Introduction, Translation, Notes, Indexes, and Dictionary. Sakharam Nemchand Granthamala 129. Sholapur, India: Śrī Seṭh Goviṃdajī Rāvajī Dośī, 1940.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The second pariśiṣṭādhyaya, after the last chapter, is a prose discourse defending the vegetarian diet, delivered by Ugrāditya at the South Indian court of King Nṛpatuṅgavallabha. Couching for cataract is described, and the work includes important early references to alchemical procedures. The work is discussed and summarized in HIML.

      Find this resource:

    Evolution of Medical Literature

    There are quite literally tens of thousands of Sanskrit and other Indian-language treatises on medicine. Until recently, there was no general guide to this literature. Jolly 1977 was for quite some time the best guide available, and although accurate, it was too short and outdated. Partly as a result of this hole in the secondary literature, ayurveda was often treated as if its literary base consisted of just the ancient compendia of Caraka and Suśruta. All that has changed dramatically with the publication of Meulenbeld 1999–2002 (HIML). This work surveys thousands of ayurvedic treatises, giving summaries of their contents, evaluating their innovations, and profiling their medical and medicinal content. The publication of HIML is nothing less than a revolution in ayurvedic studies, although it does not seek to provide an overarching narrative that would “tell the story” of ayurveda in India. Wujastyk 2003 provides selected translations from key ayurvedic works, together with a historical narrative outlining the literary and social background to the chosen texts. Zysk 1996 is the best source for information on the medical information that can be gleaned from the Vedic saṃhitās, the earliest surviving literature in Sanskrit. The medical milieu discernible in these religious hymns mainly involves spirit possession, prayers, and herbal medicine. The key features of ayurveda humoral medicine, a systematic theoretical base, and observational and evaluative approach are absent. Dasgupta 1969 unexpectedly, perhaps, contains a rather rich account of early medicine in India, including ayurveda, as a result of his conviction that the accounts of formal debate given in the Carakasaṃhitā were the origin of early Nyāya or Indian logic. Dasgupta particularly connects ayurveda with the Atharvaveda, in line with common opinion at that time. Chattopadhyaya 1979 remains one of the few books that proposes a theory about the early evolution of medical literature, and it repudiates this Vedic connection, seeing rather an orthodox grab for originally empirical medicine. This thesis is probably too crude in the form Chattopadhyaya proposed it, but it remains interesting and provocative. Zysk 1998 develops the argument in an important way, demonstrating a tight connection between Buddhist canonical texts and early ayurvedic literature. The principal ayurvedic treatises begin with slightly differing narrative accounts of their own composition that connect them with a divine or Vedic source. These passages are sometimes taken literally by contemporary commentators. Zysk 1999 analyzes these passages, treating them as examples of brahmanization, the process of superimposing orthodox ideas on material that is largely heterodox by the use of mythology. Ramacandra Rao and Sudarshan 1985–2005 is a valuable collection of historical and literary information, with sensitivity to historical issues and to the actual content of the sources.

    • Chattopadhyaya, Debiprasad. Science and Society in Ancient India. Calcutta: Research India, 1979.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This work makes a strong argument against the orthodox position that classical ayurveda is an organic development from earlier Vedic precursors. Reprint of the original 1977 edition.

      Find this resource:

    • Dasgupta, Surendranath. A History of Indian Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A well-informed discussion of the history of medical literature in India, with a focus on Vedic and Atharva-vedic materials. Reprint of the 1922 edition, Volume 2, chapter 13.

      Find this resource:

    • Jolly, Julius. Indian Medicine: Translated from German and Supplemented with Notes by C. G. Kashikar; with a Foreword by J. Filliozat. 2d ed. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1977.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      First written in 1901, but with much new material added in the 1951 translation. Old but still very valuable. Note, however, that it is written backward, in the sense that it starts with the literature that was contemporary to Jolly and describes the history of ayurvedic literature going backward in time to the earliest sources.

      Find this resource:

    • Meulenbeld, Gerrit Jan. A History of Indian Medical Literature. 5 vols. Groningen, The Netherlands: E. Forsten, 1999–2002.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A general survey of Sanskrit medical literature. Also covers alchemical, veterinary, and culinary literature, and the medieval transmission of Indian medical literature to Tibet and the Middle East. Includes the most authoritative account of the identity and date of Caraka (pp. 105–115), Suśruta (pp. 333–357), and Vāgbhaṭa (pp. 597–656).

      Find this resource:

    • Ramachandra Rao, S. K., and S. R. Sudarshan. Encylopaedia of Indian Medicine. 6 vols. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1985–2005.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      As a whole, these volumes are a valuable and generally trustworthy resource. Volume 1 contains a survey of the history of ayurvedic literature.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. The Roots of Āyurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings. 3d ed. New York: Penguin, 2003.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the history and reception of ayurvedic texts (pp. xxiv–xxxv, and individual chapter introductions), and provides contemporary translations in Mid-Atlantic English from Sanskrit texts on hospitals, epidemic disease, humoral medicine, anatomy, the uses of garlic, medical philosophy, and general medicine.

      Find this resource:

    • Zysk, Kenneth G. Medicine in the Veda: Religious Healing in the Veda with Translations and Annotations of Medical Hymns from the Rgveda and the Atharvaveda and Renderings from the Corresponding Ritual Texts. 3d ed. Indian Medical Tradition 1. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The standard study of the history of the earliest documented medicine in South Asia. First published in 1985 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society).

      Find this resource:

    • Zysk, Kenneth G. Asceticism and Healing in Ancient India: Medicine in the Buddhist Monastery. 2d ed. Indian Medical Tradition 2. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Makes a well-argued case for a similar view to Chattopadhyaya 1979 and considers the social history of early ascetic communities as critical to the birth of classical ayurveda. Originally published in 1991.

      Find this resource:

    • Zysk, Kenneth G. “Mythology and the Brāhmaṇization of Indian medicine: Transforming Heterodoxy into Orthodoxy.” In Categorisation and Interpretation: Indological and Comparative Studies from an International Indological Meeting at the Department of Comparative Philology, Goteborg University. Edited by Folke Josephson, 125–145. Gothenburg, Sweden: University of Gothenburg, 1999.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A discussion of the narratives of the descent of ayurveda from the gods that preface most early ayurvedic works.

      Find this resource:

    Hospitals

    The history of hospitals in South and Southeast Asia remains a fascinating story and is an important part of global medical history. It appears that hospitals—recognizable institutions with nurses, doctors, equipment, and purpose-built premises—were known in South Asia earlier than anywhere else in the world. A comprehensive account remains to be written. Mukhopādhyāya 1994 includes a survey of the materials from the Carakasaṃhitā, the Buddhist Pali canon, and other early sources that refer to hospitals. Nikam and McKeon 1978 provides a readable translation of the 3rd-century BCE inscriptions of Aśoka, in which the king describes, among other things, his measures to provide medicinal herbs, wells, and shade trees for his population. While not providing hospitals per se, Aśoka may have instigated the concept that a sovereign could take some responsibility for the health of the population. Wujastyk 2003 provides a translation and discussion of perhaps the earliest historical description in the world of a hospital’s design and construction. Zysk 1998 argues plausibly that early Buddhist monasteries in South Asia included special rooms that could be called clinics and may have foreshadowed more elaborate healthcare provision. Gurumurthy 1970 describes an inscription from a temple in the South Indian village of Tirumukkudal, which describes the visit of a king in the late 11th century and his donation of land and money for founding a hospital, college, and student hostel. The inscription gives great detail about the salaries and costs of the institutions and describes many medicinal recipes that are to be used, which can be traced to the Carakasaṃhitā. Rama Rao 1995–1996 gives further analysis of this inscription and about donations to physicians and surgeons that are recorded in South Indian inscriptions. Hospitals or hospital-like structures were built at least as early as the late first millennium in South and Southeast Asia, including Cambodia and Sri Lanka, and probably much earlier. Uragoda 1987 gives a valuable summary of the Sri Lankan evidence, much of which needs to be revisited and developed.

    • Mukhopādhyāya, Girindranāth. The Surgical Instruments of the Hindus, with a Comparative Study of the Surgical Instruments of the Greek, Roman, Arab, and the Modern Eouropean [sic] Surgeons. New Delhi: Cosmo, 1994.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The author offers a useful discussion of the history of hospitals in early South Asia and provides translations of several medieval Sanskrit texts that mention the value of founding hospitals as an act of religious and social merit. Note, however, that Mukhopādhyāya repeats the common error of asserting that King Aśoka built hospitals. First published as two volumes in 1913 (Calcutta: Calcutta University).

      Find this resource:

    • Gurumurthy, S. “Medical Science and Dispensaries in Ancient South India as Gleaned from Epigraphy.” Indian Journal of History of Medicine 5 (1970): 76–79.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A useful overview of the references to early hospitals and clinics mentioned in South Indian epigraphical records. Available online.

      Find this resource:

    • Nikam, N. A., and Richard McKeon, eds. The Edicts of Asoka, Edited and Translated. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An accessible English translation of Aśoka’s inscriptions. The critical passages about his healthcare contributions are on p. 60. There is no evidence for hospitals, and the Aśokan inscriptions usually invoked to prove the case do not, in fact, mention or even suggest hospitals or clinics of any kind. Originally published in 1959.

      Find this resource:

    • Rama Rao, B. “Interesting Aspects of Health Care in Tamilnadu History.” Studies in History of Medicine and Science 14 (1995–1996): 67–73.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Both the above works discuss important epigraphical evidence from South India that refer to the founding of medieval hospitals.

      Find this resource:

    • Uragoda, C. G. A History of Medicine in Sri Lanka, from the Earliest Times to 1948. Colombo: Sri Lanka Medical Association, 1987.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The earliest history of hospitals in South Asia includes the evidence from textual and archaeological sources in Sri Lanka. These are usefully summarized here. See especially pp. 23–35.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. The Roots of Āyurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings. 3d ed. New York: Penguin, 2003.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses hospitals in ancient India and translates the description of how to build and equip a hospital from the Carakasaṃhitā. See especially pp. 10–11, 35–38.

      Find this resource:

    • Zysk, Kenneth G. Asceticism and Healing in Ancient India: Medicine in the Buddhist Monastery. 2d ed. Indian Medical Tradition 2. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The author collects the evidence for early infirmaries in South Asia, especially in the context of Buddhist monasteries. Reference is made to important inscriptional evidence.

      Find this resource:

    Epidemic Disease

    A great deal of good scholarship has been devoted to the history of epidemic disease in South Asia. However, most studies focus on the colonial and modern periods, for which documentary evidence, including government statistics, is available in English. Thus, for example, cholera in India is commonly treated as disease originating in the 19th century, because that is when it first affected the troops of the British Army. However, cholera is clearly documented by Gaspar Correa and Garcia da Orta in 16th-century Goa. And the earlier history of cholera and cholera-like dysenteric diseases may be traced to even earlier periods in the medical literature of ayurveda. In general, for the period before about 1800, evidence about epidemic disease is usually to be found in Persian, Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit, or the regional languages of India. The early accounts of epidemic disease found in the writings of Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British colonial authors from about 1500 onward segues into the more general narrative of the historic encounter between European medicine and South Asian medicine. No account of epidemic disease can omit McNeill 1976, which has quite a lot to say about epidemics in India. McNeill shows how epidemics as social phenomena shape history. Kohn 2008 is a general overview that includes detailed information on the history of epidemics in South Asia. Arnold 1993 is a classic work in medical history, taking smallpox, cholera, and plague as case studies through which to study the relationship between medicine and state power. Jaggi 2000 is a valuable modern survey of sources concerning epidemic diseases in India.

    • Arnold, David. Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Studies the colonial government’s responses to epidemics in India and develops the argument that the colonial state used medical services as a tool of power and state control.

      Find this resource:

    • Jaggi, O. P. History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization. Vol. 9, Part 1, Medicine in India: Modern Period. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A useful survey, based mainly on European-language sources. Cholera, plague, smallpox, malaria and other fevers, kala-azar, typhoid, tuberculosis, leprosy, and venereal diseases are covered here in a 19th-century context.

      Find this resource:

    • Kohn, George Childs, ed. Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence: From Ancient Times to the Present. 3d ed. New York: Facts on File, 2008.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A particularly clear general survey, with many entries relevant to epidemics in India. Also gives a useful tabular presentation of all the epidemic outbreaks known to have affected India specifically.

      Find this resource:

    • McNeill, William H. Plagues and Peoples. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1976.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Compulsory reading for anyone exploring epidemic disease in history. It includes a plausible epidemiologically based theory for the origin of the Indian caste system.

      Find this resource:

    Premodern and Indigenous Epidemiology

    Epidemic disease is described and analyzed in Sanskrit texts from the 1st or 2nd century CE. Further accounts are found in the writings of Portuguese authors arriving in India after 1500. While lacking the detail and statistical underpinning of colonial accounts, they provide often vivid firsthand accounts of epidemic disease. Wujastyk 2003 translates one of the earliest descriptions of epidemic disease in South Asia. The text develops a theory for epidemic outbreaks in terms of corruptions affecting air, water, land, and time. In this sense, there are strong parallels with the famous Hippocratic treatise, “Airs, Waters, Places.” The Portuguese observers Correa (fl. 1495–1561, Goa) and Da Orta (fl. 1502–1568, Goa) both provided eyewitness accounts of cholera in Goa during the 16th century. Gaskoin 1867 is an old but still valuable collection of these and other observations, in translation. Pearson 1996 surveys the 16th-century Portuguese medical encounter in India, highlighting the cultural parity that existed in medical matters and the initial openness of Portuguese physicians and patients to indigenous Indian physicians and their medicine. Walker 2002 explores this theme more explicitly, through the Portuguese colonial archives that still remain in Goa, finding great permeability in medical matters between Portuguese and Indian physicians. Nicholas 1981 is a classic paper on smallpox in India that surveys the early Sanskrit literature on the topic, the early history of Indian variolation, and the cultural history of the smallpox goddess, Śītalā, and the associated religious responses to smallpox in Bengal, especially in the 18th century. Stewart 1995 continues this theme, with translations of original Bengali hymns and prayers.

    • Gaskoin, George. “Contributions to the Current Literature of Cholera.” The British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review or Quarterly Journal of Practical Medicine and Surgery 40 (1867): 217–232.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Many valuable observations on the history of cholera in India, with translations from early Portuguese sources.

      Find this resource:

    • Nicholas, Ralph. “The Goddess Śītalā and Epidemic Smallpox in Bengal.” Journal of Asian Studies 41 (1981): 21–44.

      DOI: 10.2307/2055600Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Classic paper on the religious dimensions of smallpox epidemics in Bengal.

      Find this resource:

    • Pearson, Michael N. “First Contacts between Indian and European Medical Systems: Goa in the Sixteenth Century.” In Warm Climates and Western Medicine: The Emergence of Tropical Medicine, 1500–1900. Edited by David Arnold, 20–41. Wellcome Institute Series in the History of Medicine. Atlanta: Rodopi, 1996.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Fascinating account of the first Portuguese experiences with Indian medicine.

      Find this resource:

    • Stewart, Tony K. “Encountering the Smallpox Goddess: The Auspicious Song of Śītalā.” In Religions of India in Practice. Edited by Donald S. Lopez Jr., 389–397. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Provides a translation from the “The Auspicious Song of Śītalā,” a collection of hymns and oral tales related to the goddess of smallpox, by the late-17th-century Bengali author Kṛṣṇarāma Dāsa. Also includes an introduction and bibliography of further reading.

      Find this resource:

    • Walker, Timothy. “Evidence of the Use of Ayurvedic Medicine in the Medical Institutions of Portuguese India, 1680–1830.” In Āyurveda at the Crossroads of Care and Cure: Proceedings of the Indo-European Seminar on Ayurveda held at Arrábida, Portugal, in November 2001. Edited by Ana Salema, 74–104. Lisbon, Portugal: Centro de História del Além-Mar, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 2002.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Describes how several Malabar healers worked with the Portuguese. One in particular, Ignácio Caetano Afonso Pão, became chief physician in the 1790s. He wrote Discripçoens e Virtudes das Raizes Medicinaes (Descriptions and virtues of medicinal roots), which discussed five fundamental medicinal roots of the Indian Ocean basin, with notes on use and medical efficacy of their plants and seeds.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. The Roots of Āyurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings. 3d ed. New York: Penguin, 2003.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Presents a discussion and translation of the earliest indigenous account of epidemics in India, from the 2nd-century Sanskrit of the Carakasaṃhitā. See especially pp. 11–13, 38–50.

      Find this resource:

    Traditional Surgery

    The Suśrutasaṃhitā (Compendium of Suśruta) reached its present form in approximately the 4th century CE, after about five hundred years of evolution as a text. Some of what may be its earliest layers consist of detailed chapters on surgery. These describe the training of students, characterizations of surgical instruments, and descriptions of actual surgical procedures. All these materials are extremely impressive given their early date, and in many cases appear more developed than the surgical procedures available in Greece or elsewhere in the ancient world. Majno 1975 is a lively description of early Indian surgical practice, using excellent illustrations and historical fiction to convey a vivid sense of the past. Majno also tried out some techniques in the lab, using rats, showing that they indeed worked. The descriptions of repairs to torn earlobes, cleft palate, and the rebuilding of a severed nose are particularly important historically and have a connection to the barber-surgeon practice of these skills that was witnessed by British physicians in the late 18th century. Wujastyk 2003 translates the Suśruta passage on nose repair and describes how the derived barber-surgeon practice was reported in British publications and led to a 19th-century revolution in European surgical technique that some have called the birth of plastic surgery. A broad range of surgery was once practiced by ayurvedic healers, as is described in the medical literature and exemplified in the narrative literature collected by Haldar 1977. But curiously, it had passed out of use by the late 1st millennium CE, with the exception of a limited number of techniques that were continued by barber-surgeons. Mukhopādhyāya 1994 is an in-depth study of the surgical instruments described by Suśruta, with illustrations created for the book, but almost no premodern Indian surgical instruments have survived in the archaeological record or elsewhere. Deshpande 1999 and Deshpande 2000 discusses the descriptions of a form of cataract eye surgery described in the Suśrutasaṃhitā that became popular in China in the 6th and 7th centuries and still survives in village-level practice today.

    • Deshpande, Vijaya. “Indian Influences on Early Chinese Ophthalmology: Glaucoma as a Case Study.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 62 (1999): 306–322.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0041977X00016724Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the transmission of Indian ophthalmological surgery to China.

      Find this resource:

    • Deshpande, Vijaya. “Ophthalmic Surgery: A Chapter in the History of Sino-Indian Medical Contacts.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 63 (2000): 370–388.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0041977X00008454Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Continues the narrative of Deshpande 1999, exploring the reception of Indian ophthalmological surgery in China and its later history there.

      Find this resource:

    • Haldar, J. R. Medical Science in Pali Literature. Calcutta: Indian Museum, 1977.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Describes the evidence for early surgery to be found in the Buddhist canonical literature.

      Find this resource:

    • Majno, Guido. The Healing Hand: Man and Wound in the Ancient World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An engaging and well-illustrated account of premodern Indian surgery and wound healing techniques. Includes imaginative narratives of what it might have felt like to be a surgical patient in premodern India. The author performed some of the surgical procedures on lab rats: for example, the use of ants with strong mandibles to close a wound. He illustrates and describes his experimental findings.

      Find this resource:

    • Mukhopādhyāya, Girindranāth. The Surgical Instruments of the Hindus, with a Comparative Study of the Surgical Instruments of the Greek, Roman, Arab, and the Modern Eouropean [sic] Surgeons. New Delhi: Cosmo, 1994.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A classical work that gives a good account of the actual instruments described in the Suśrutasaṃhitā, with artists’ impressions of what they might actually have looked like and comparisons with instruments from ancient Greece and medieval Europe. Originally published in two volumes in 1913 (Calcutta: Calcutta University).

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. The Roots of Āyurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings. 3d ed. New York: Penguin, 2003.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A translation of the Suśrutasaṃhitā passages on the use of knives, studentship, early surgical career, plastic surgery on ear and nose, and the diagnosis and extraction of foreign bodies. With an introduction discussing the history of nose repair and its reception in Europe. See especially pp. 65–72, 83–109.

      Find this resource:

    Demons of Fever and Possession

    The ayurvedic classics include various accounts of supernatural beings that can influence a person’s health. One subgenre of these accounts specifically addresses the illnesses of women and children. Another subgenre is connected with supernatural causes for insanity. Smith 2006 is a major contribution to all aspects of this subject. Filliozat 1937 is a translation and study of a key Sanskrit text about demons that cause illness in children, and the appeasement of these demons, that was translated into many languages and traveled far beyond the borders of India. Wujastyk 1999 and Wujastyk 2003 offer translation and discussion of other Sanskrit texts about demonic attacks on women and children. There is a large literature on demons and illness written by anthropologists and ethnographers, much of it referenced in Smith 2006. Freed and Freed 1967 is an early classic of the genre, still well worth reading.

    • Filliozat, Jean. Étude de démonologie indienne: le Kumāratantra de Rāvaṇa et les textes parallèles Indiens, Tibétains, Chinois, Cambodgien et Arabe. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1937.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A classic study of the most famous Sanskrit text on the demons that attack young children. Compares the Sanskrit original with other Sanskrit texts, including those of the Mahābhārata. The work was of such general interest that it was widely translated and circulated in throughout Asia. Filliozat compares the versions in Tibetan, Chinese, Cambodian, and Arabic.

      Find this resource:

    • Freed, Stanley A., and Ruth S. Freed. “Spirit Possession as Illness in a North Indian Village.” In Magic, Witchcraft, and Curing. Edited by John Middleton, 295–320. Texas Press Sourcebooks in Anthropology. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A pioneering anthropological study of spirit possession (viewed as a form of hysteria) that the authors found to be widespread and standardized in form across North India.

      Find this resource:

    • Kapferer, Bruce. A Celebration of Demons: Exorcism and the Aesthetics of Healing in Sri Lanka. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An anthropological account of possession, disease, and healing in Sri Lanka during the 20th century.

      Find this resource:

    • Smith, Frederick M. The Self Possessed: Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature and Civilization. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A major survey of the theme of possession in Indian cultural history. Chapter 12, “The Medicalization of Possession in Ayurveda and Tantra,” is specifically devoted to concepts of possession and madness in Sanskrit medical literature.

      Find this resource:

    • Thite, G. U. Medicine: Its Magico-Religious Aspects According to the Vedic and Later Literature. Pune, India: Continental Prakashan, 1982.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Collects information on medical possession from some unusual sources, especially from the karma-fruition (karmavipāka) literature.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. “Miscarriages of Justice: Demonic Vengeance in Classical Indian Medicine.” In Religion, Health, and Suffering. Edited by John Hinnells and Roy Porter, 256–275. London: Kegan Paul International, 1999.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A further discussion of the materials above, with reference to the Sanskrit literature on karma-fruition (karmavipāka) and the causes of miscarriage.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. The Roots of Āyurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings, 3d ed. New York: Penguin, 2003.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Translation and discussion of materials from the Kāśyapasaṃhitā, a medical work of perhaps the 7th century that focuses on pediatrics. The materials excerpted here concern women whose children are possessed by disease demons. See especially pp. 161–189.

      Find this resource:

    Insanity

    Three very different scholarly communities have interests in the topic of insanity in premodern India: Indologists, anthropologists, and historians (including psychiatrists with historical interests). Studies by contemporary anthropologists often find that the categories of ayurvedic medicine are still at work in the subjective understandings of mental-health issues found among village patients.

    Indological Studies

    Within the Sanskrit sources on ayurveda, two rather different approaches are taken to treating the causes and treatment of mental illness. On the one hand, it is treated physiologically as a disturbance of the bodily humors and the blockage of certain pathways in the body that are critical to mental function. On the other, it is treated as the result of possession by various divine or demonic supernatural beings (see previous section). Meulenbeld 1997 is a unique study by a Sanskritist who is also a practicing psychiatrist. Bhugra 1992, also written by a senior psychiatrist, gives a good overview of the texts and some past studies. Wujastyk 2003 provides a translation of an original Sanskrit text on madness and its treatment from the Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā. Ramachandra Rao 1990 is an anthology of translations from earlier literature. Weiss 1977 is a foundational study of madness in ayurvedic, providing original texts, translation and interpretation. Nanal 1998 is an account of mental illness written by an eminent practitioner of ayurveda. Roşu 1978 (in French) is perhaps the fullest treatment of the mind in ayurveda, with reference to philosophical as well as medical views. Gupta 1977 is a slightly shapeless but nevertheless useful collection of materials from medical and philosophical literature.

    • Bhugra, Dinesh. “Psychiatry in Ancient Indian Texts: A Review.” History of Psychiatry 3 (1992): 167–186.

      DOI: 10.1177/0957154X9200301002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An overview based on ayurvedic literature with a keen eye to realities of mental health deterioration and treatment. Notes that, for ayurveda, observation of the patient is more important that the subjective experience of the patient. Concludes that the philosophy and practice of ayurveda have much to offer, and modern clinicians should take up the challenge.

      Find this resource:

    • Gupta, Satya Pal. Psychopathology in Indian Medicine (with Special Reference to Its Philosophical Bases). Chaukhamba Ayurvijnan Studies 8. Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 1977.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A useful overview based on the author’s doctoral thesis, which examines philosophical as well as medical bases for ayurvedic views of mental illness.

      Find this resource:

    • Meulenbeld, Gerrit Jan. “Aspects of Indian Psychiatry.” In History of Psychiatric Diagnoses: Proceedings of the 16th International Symposium on the Comparative History of Medicine—East and West September 1–8, 1991, Susono-shi, Shizuoka, Japan. Edited by Yosio Kawakita, Shizu Sakai, and Yasuo Otsuka, 183–237. Tokyo and Brentwood, MO: Ishiyaku EuroAmerica, 1997.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An excellent overview, giving an insiders’ view of the Sanskrit sources.

      Find this resource:

    • Nanal, Vilas M. Mental Health in Traditional Medicine. Chennai, India: Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems, 1998.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An overview written by a practicing ayurvedic physician. Appendix 2 on the domestic healing traditions at Poonkudil Mana is particularly interesting for comparison with the more anthropologically oriented research on Poonkudil Mana found in texts such as Tarabout 1999 (cited under Anthropologically Oriented Studies).

      Find this resource:

    • Rao, S. K. Ramachandra. Mental Health in Āyurveda: Source Book of Charaka and Sushruta Samhita. Bangalore, India: National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, 1990.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The author was trained in psychology and presents selected translations of texts on mental illness and health from the early ayurvedic classics.

      Find this resource:

    • Roşu, Arion. Les conceptions psychologiques dans les textes médicaux indiens. Publications de l’Institut de Civilisation Indienne, Série in-8, fasc. 43. Paris: Institut de Civilisation Indienne, 1978.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      One of the fullest studies of Indian notions of the mind, with reference to ayurveda and other sources.

      Find this resource:

    • Roşu, Arion. “Medicine and Psychology in Ancient India.” Curare 4 (1981): 205–210.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A brief English-language summary of Roşu 1978, giving an overview of the psychological conceptions found in ancient and medieval Indian medical texts.

      Find this resource:

    • Weiss, Mitchell G. “Critical Study of Unmāda in the Early Sanskrit Medical Literature: An Analysis of Ayurvedic Psychiatry with Reference to Present-Day Diagnostic Concepts.” PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1977.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An important study that remains very close to the original sources and provides translations of many key Sanskrit texts relating to mental illness. Available only through UMI microfilms. The classification of ayurvedic categories with those of modern diagnosis (DSM) has perhaps been superseded by more intracultural evaluations, but the study remains valuable.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. The Roots of Āyurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings. 3d ed. New York: Penguin, 2003.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Provides a brief discussion of insanity in ayurveda, and provides selected translations of original texts on insanity and its treatment. See especially pp. 244–251.

      Find this resource:

    Anthropologically Oriented Studies

    Carstairs 1955 represents the earliest professional anthropological work on this topic and remains an influential and insightful contribution, highlighting the importance of therapeutic success entering sympathetically into the lives and worldviews of patients. Obeyesekere 1977 focuses on ayurvedic theory and its practice in Sri Lanka. Tarabout 1999 describes the ayurvedic mental-health work done at the healing shrine of Poonkudil Mana, Kerala, whose claim to fame rests on the notion that traditional ayurvedic methods of therapy are applied. Nichter 1981a and Nichter 1981b offer insight into the narratives used by patients when communicating with psychiatric and other health workers. Nichter brings out the profound differences in understanding that exist between these two views, differences that are not just matters of nomenclature but that deeply affect the epistemology of the healing encounter. Pakaslahti 2009, a study of language usage at a healing shrine in Rajasthan, is based on careful transcripts and recordings of actual dialogue and breaks new ground in penetrating the cultural presuppositions of patients and healers.

    • Carstairs, G. Morris. “Medicine and Faith in Rural Rajasthan.” In Health, Culture, and Community: Case Studies. Edited by Benjamin D. Paul, 107–136. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1955.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A participant-observer study by the renowned anthropologist. Carstairs addresses “the gulf of misunderstanding between the Western doctor and the Indian villager” and emphasizes the importance of the healthcare worker meeting rural patients’ local concepts of disease.

      Find this resource:

    • Nabokov, Isabelle. Religion Against the Self: An Ethnography of Tamil Rituals. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An insightful study of healing temple practices in Tamil Nadu, where families consult spirit mediums for the expulsion of negative spirits and for reconnection with benign spirits of their deceased family members. Includes biographical studies of practicing mediums and explores subjective experiences of dealing with grief in personal and family contexts.

      Find this resource:

    • Nichter, Mark. “Idioms of Distress: Alternatives in the Expression of Psychosocial Distress; a Case Study from South India.” Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 5 (1981a): 379–408.

      DOI: 10.1007/BF00054782Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A careful study of the ways in which Brahman women from Karnataka express what modern observers would call psychosocial distress. Such distress is often reported by these patients in terms of bodily pain or dizziness. It is suggested that such modes of expression are an adaptation to a situation in which the expression of more inward states of distress would be socially unacceptable or ineffective.

      Find this resource:

    • Nichter, Mark. “Negotiation of the Illness Experience: Ayurvedic Therapy and the Psychosocial Dimension of Illness.” Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 5 (1981b): 5–24.

      DOI: 10.1007/BF00049156Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Explores how the use of familiar categories of Indian ayurveda and astrology can help patients express their illness experiences more cogently and to have a more meaningful and productive experience with the physician.

      Find this resource:

    • Obeyesekere, Gananath. “The Theory and Practice of Psychological Medicine in the Ayurvedic Tradition.” Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 1 (1977): 151–181.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The author elucidates the internal logic and the consistency in both theory and practice of ayurvedic psychological medicine. He describes the classical Indian metaphysical base ayurvedic concept of mind rests and the manner in which the classic theory is implemented in contemporary practice in Sri Lanka.

      Find this resource:

    • Pakaslahti, Antti. “Terminology of Spirit Illness: An Empirical Study of a Living Healing Tradition.” In Mathematics and Medicine in Sanskrit. Edited by Dominik Wujastyk, 155–192. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2009.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An innovative analysis of language-use at the healing shrine of Balaji, where mentally disturbed patients are treated through rituals of exorcism as well as with ayurvedic medicines.

      Find this resource:

    • Tarabout, Gilles. “‘Psycho-religious Therapy’ in Kerala as a Form of Interaction Between Local Traditions and (Perceived) Scientific Discourse.” Paper presented at the 13th European Conference of Modern South Asian Studies in Toulouse, France, 31 August to 3 September 1994. In Managing Distress: Possession and Therapeutic Cults in South Asia = La prise en charge de l’affliction: possession et cultes therapeutiques en Asie du Sud. Edited by Marine Carrin, 133–154. New Delhi: Manohar, 1999.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An important study of a healing-shrine in Kerala where ayurvedic and religious healing methods are used to help patients with mental disorders.

      Find this resource:

    Historical Approaches

    Ernst 1987 was the first study dedicated to the government’s incarceration of Indian subjects in 19th-century India, a topic developed in at greater length by Mills 2000, where greater attention is given to indigenous voices. Fabrega 2009 is unique in being written by a psychiatrist and gives a global overview from the Vedas to the present day.

    • Ernst, Waltraud. “The Establishment of ‘Native Lunatic Asylums’ in Early Nineteenth-Century British India.” In Studies on Indian Medical History. Edited by Gerrit Jan Meulenbeld and Dominik Wujastyk, 169–204. Groningen, The Netherlands: Forsten, 1987.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the treatment of the Indian insane by British establishment medicine.

      Find this resource:

    • Fabrega, Horacio. History of Mental Illness in India: A Cultural Psychiatry Retrospective. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2009.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A global history of mental illness in South Asia by a cultural historian. Studies the Sanskrit religious and medical literatures as well as some anthropological literature; the book also develops a general thematic view of the topic.

      Find this resource:

    • Mills, James H. Madness, Cannabis, and Colonialism: The “Native Only” Lunatic Asylums of British India, 1857–1900. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the lunatic asylums of colonial India between the war of 1857 and the end of the 19th century, with a focus on the incarceration and treatment of Indians.

      Find this resource:

    Pharmacology

    The ayurvedic literature abounds in herbal recipes: in a sense, it is the heart of the healing tradition. Sooner or later, working with ayurveda inevitably raises questions about plant nomenclature and identification. Furthermore, the methods of gathering, manufacturing and distributing traditional Indian medicines went through a revolution in the 20th century, with the application of modern factory methods and the application of business models.

    Plant History and Identification

    The Sanskrit texts themselves display an impressive attempt to classify the plant world. A great deal of time has passed since the ayurvedic medical texts were composed, and it is inevitable that some plants fell out of common usage and were hard to find in new settlements, mistaken for similar species, or were deliberately switched by opportunist suppliers in the bazaar. When researching Indian medicinal plant identities, must-have books include the five volumes of Warrier, et al. 1993–1996, which arrange plants by Latin name and give botanical and medical notes and valuable extracts from the nighaṇtu literature. Also important is Sivarajan and Balachandran 1994, with much historical and practical information as well as careful botanical analysis. Both these books come from Keralan traditions but are sensitive to north-south variations in practice. Also essential are Kirtikar and Basu 1987 for its information on indigenous medicine and botany, Meulenbeld 1974 for its accurate appendices on materia medica, Nadkarni 1954 for its diversity and wide coverage, and Singh and Chunekar 1972 for its careful and informed analysis of all the plants listed in the earliest surviving ayurvedic works. At about the turn of the 20th century, ayurvedic innovators such as P. S. Varier in Kerala and S. K. Burman in Calcutta founded companies that applied modern methods of drug manufacture, packaging, distribution, and sale to ayurvedic medicines. This was a revolution in traditional medicine and became an enormous commercial success. Today, pharmaceutical companies specializing in ayurvedic, unani, and siddha medicines are among the most successful in India. Bode 2008 and Banerjee 2009 are both innovative studies exploring traditional pharmacology as it modernizes.

    • Banerjee, Madhulika. Power, Knowledge, Medicine: Ayurvedic Pharmaceuticals at Home and in the World. Hyderabad, India, and London: Orient BlackSwan, 2009.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A sociologically and politically sophisticated analysis of the circulation, distribution, and meaning of ayurvedic pharmaceutical substances in the modern global market.

      Find this resource:

    • Bode, Maarten. Taking Traditional Knowledge to the Market: The Modern Image and of the Ayurvedic and Unani Industry, 1980–2000. New Perspectives in South Asian History 21. Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman, 2008.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An important study of the ayurvedic pharmaceutical marketplace, the commodification of traditional medical products, and the modernization and identity of ayurvedic medicine in the contemporary world.

      Find this resource:

    • Kirtikar, K. R., and Baman Das Basu. Indian Medicinal Plants. 2d ed. Dehradun, India: International Book Distributors, 1987.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Major survey of ayurvedic plants. Four volumes of text and another four volumes of line drawings of plants. Particularly valuable for the serious effort to collect synonyms for plants in many languages of India and the world. Regrettably, diacritical marks were not used, so some imagination is often required in understanding these synonyms. First published in 1918 (Allahabad, India: Suhindra Nath Basu).

      Find this resource:

    • Meulenbeld, Gerrit Jan. The Mādhavanidāna and Its Chief Commentary, Chapters 1–10: Introduction, Translation, and Notes. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1974.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An appendix contains a very important index of ayurvedic plant names and the literature in which they are studied. Supplemented by Gerrit Jan Meulenbeld’s “G. J. Meulenbeld’s Additions to his ‘Sanskrit Names of Plants and their Botanical Equivalents,’” in R. P. Das, Das Wissen von der Lebensspanne der Bäume: Surapālas Vṛkṣāyurveda (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1988).

      Find this resource:

    • Nadkarni, A. K. Dr. K. M. Nadkarni’s Indian Materia Medica, with Ayurvedic, Unani-tibbi, Siddha, Allopathic, Homeopathic, Naturopathic & Home Remedies, Appendices & Notes. 2 vols. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1954.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A curious, systematic collection of information that is always surprisingly rewarding despite its rough edges. Hampered by the lack of scientific transcription for Indian words.

      Find this resource:

    • Singh, Thakur Balwant, and K. C. Chunekar. Glossary of Vegetable Drugs in Brhattrayī. Varanasi, India: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1972.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A still-valuable index of all the plant names occurring in the basic ayurvedic source texts, with thoughtful botanical identifications and detailed references to the original texts.

      Find this resource:

    • Sivarajan, V. V., and Indira Balachandran. Ayurvedic Drugs and Their Plant Sources. New Delhi: Oxford & IBH, 1994.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An exceptionally valuable study of ayurvedic plants and their sometimes multiple botanical identifications, with important reflections on difficult cases. Special attention is given to geographical variation between plants used in North and South India. Arranged by Sanskrit plant names and contains illustrations.

      Find this resource:

    • Warrier, P. K., V. P. K. Nambiar, and C. Ramankutty, eds. Indian Medicinal Plants: A Compendium of 500 Species. 5 vols. Madras: Orient Longman, 1993–1996.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Originally the shop-floor manual of the manager of the Arya Vaidya Sala pharmaceutical factory, this multivolume study is richly illustrated and arranged by Latin botanical classification and includes illustrations. Also very valuable for providing excerpts from the nighaṇṭu literature for all plants.

      Find this resource:

    European Discovery of Indian Medicine

    Desmond 1992 is the best and most enjoyable starting point for exploring the early European discovery of Indian materia medica. Desmond describes, among other things, how Garcia da Orta (c. 1502–1568) was the first European author to write systematically on Indian materia medica (see Premodern and Indigenous Epidemiology). A century later, the Dutch governor of Malabar, Henricus van Rheede (1636–1691) produced the next great overview of Indian medicinal plants, the Hortus Malabaricus (van Rheede 1678–1703). He was aided by ayurvedic physicians in identifying and naming the plants he drew and described (Figueiredo 1984, Pearson 1995). Grove 1996 is an insightful study of how the Portuguese, Dutch, and Indian physicians interacted and contributed to each others’ medical practice. O’Shaughnessy 1841 is a key text marking the birth of professional pharmacology in India as well as being an interesting crossover between Indian and European materia medica. The “numerous special experiments” referred to in the title include historically important clinical trials of cannabis as an anesthetic for terminally ill tetanus patients.

    • Desmond, Ray. The European Discovery of the Indian Flora. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A brilliant and accessible study of the European encounter with the flora of South Asia, giving biographical accounts of the earliest European botanists to grapple with the startling new world of Indian plant life that they entered.

      Find this resource:

    • Figueiredo, John M. P. de. “Ayurvedic Medicine in Goa According to the European Sources in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 58 (1984): 225–235.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Studies the early Portuguese and Dutch perceptions of ayurveda.

      Find this resource:

    • Grove, Richard. Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600–1860. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Chapter 2, “Indigenous Knowledge and the significance of South-West India for Portuguese and Dutch Constructions of Tropical Nature,” is a brilliant study of the medical encounter between Portuguese and Indian physicians, which points to the strong influences on the Europeans of ayurvedic vaidyas and other social groups in Kerala who had significant medical skills and knowledge, such as the Ezhavas.

      Find this resource:

    • O’Shaughnessy, W. B. The Bengal Dispensatory and Pharmacopoeia, Chiefly Compiled from the Works of Roxburgh, Wallich, Ainslie, Wight and Arnot, Royle, Pereira, Lindley, Richard, and Fee, and Including the Results of Numerous Special Experiments. Calcutta: Bishop’s College Press, 1841.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The first published pharmacopoeia in India, aimed at European doctors practicing in India, but introducing many items of local Indian materia medica due to the high cost of importing drugs from Britain.

      Find this resource:

    • Pearson, Michael N. “The Thin End of the Wedge: Medical Relativities as a Paradigm of Early Modern Indian-European Relations.” Modern Asian Studies 29 (1995): 141–170.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0026749X00012658Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Excellent study of the medical encounter between Indian and European medicine in the 16th and 17th centuries.

      Find this resource:

    • van Rheede, Henricus. Hortus Indicus Malabaricus, Amstelaedami: Joannis van Someren and Joannis van Dyck. 12 vols. 1678–1703.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Twelve astoundingly beautiful folio volumes with large illustrations of Keralan plants, together with a Latin narrative on their properties, names, uses and healing powers. Now digitized and freely available online.

      Find this resource:

    Ayurveda in the Modern World

    The anthropological, ethnographic, and historical study of indigenous Indian medicine since independence has grown strongly since the 1970s, giving rise to a large literature that can only be sampled here. In recent years, the popularity of Indian medicine, especially ayurveda, has grown enormously, leading to the phenomena of globalization and further radical forms of modernization and commercialization.

    Modernization, Professionalization, and Self-Representation

    Singer 1972 is one of the first works of modern anthropology to take ayurveda seriously, and it stimulated much later work, including the many critically important studies on ayurvedic modernization and professionalization published by Charles Leslie between the 1960s and 1990s, represented here by Leslie 1976 and Leslie 1992. In the post-Independence era, government attitudes to ayurveda fluctuated from initial all-out rejection, to cautious acceptance and centralized monitoring and support. Ram Nath Chopra was a major medical figure who, in the 1950s and 1960s, argued that ayurveda could function as a source of medicines for assimilation into modern establishment medical pharmacology. In the course of making this argument, publications such as Chopra, et al. 1958 gathered and organized a great deal of information about ayurvedic materia medica and its uses. Wujastyk 2008 describes Chopra’s work in the context of the numerous government committees that struggled to integrate Indian systems of medicine into the new nation’s state healthcare provision.

    • Chopra, R. N., I. C. Chopra, K. L. Handa, and L. D. Kapur. Chopra’s Indigenous Drugs of India. Calcutta: Dhur & Sons, 1958.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The result of R. N. Chopra’s vision of ayurveda as an ethnopharmacological source for therapeutic chemicals that could be synthesized and assimilated into modern establishment medicine, the volume nevertheless retains a valuable function as a scientific survey of mainly ayurvedic medicines.

      Find this resource:

    • Leslie, Charles. “The Ambiguities of Medical Revivalism in Modern India.” In Asian Medical Systems. By Charles Leslie, 356–367. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Points out that contemporary ayurvedic practice owes as much to syncretic patterns of medicine developed since the 16th century as to the thousand-year-old Sanskrit treatises and explores the modernization of ayurveda in postindependence India.

      Find this resource:

    • Leslie, Charles. “Interpretations of Illness: Syncretism in Modern Āyurveda.” In Paths to Asian Medical Knowledge. Edited by Charles Leslie and Allan Young, 177–208. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Explores the roles of such pioneers as Pandit Shiv Sharma (1906–1982), Dr. Chandragiri Dwarkanath (1906–1976), and Kaviraj Gananath Sen (1877–1944) on the formation of modern ayurveda. Also discusses the several attempts to produce a syncretic synthesis of ayurvedic ideas in terms of “modern Western medicine.”

      Find this resource:

    • Singer, Milton. When a Great Tradition Modernizes: An Anthropological Approach to Indian Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A classic early anthropological study of ayurveda in South India. Strongly influenced by the author’s contact with the great scholar V. Raghavan. Describes the practice of ayurveda in Madras. See especially pp. 104–108, 140–141.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. “The Evolution of Indian Government Policy on Ayurveda in the Twentieth Century.” In Modern and Global Ayurveda: Pluralism and Paradigms. Edited by Dagmar Wujastyk and Frederick M. Smith, 43–76. New York: State University of New York Press, 2008.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Assesses the Indian government’s multiple attempts to come to terms with ayurveda as heritage and as modern medicine.

      Find this resource:

    Understanding Ayurveda Today

    A large anthropological and ethnographic literature contains much extremely fine analytical work on modern ayurvedic practice. Langford 2002 gives an anthropologist’s participant-observer view of contemporary ayurvedic practice, including interviews with practitioners in Kerala who report on their subjective experiences of treating patients from the United States and Europe. Zimmermann 1989 (in French) is a superb ethnographical study of traditional ayurveda in 20th-century Kerala. Recent sociologically aware studies, such as those collected in Alter 2005 and in Wujastyk and Smith 2008, are bringing a new sophistication and insight to our understanding of ayurveda’s place in the contemporary international world. Zimmermann 1992 explores the changes taking place in ayurvedic practice as it leaves India and is taken up in Europe and the United States. Wujastyk 2005 studies the attempts of the British government to classify ayurveda as part of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in preparation for new regulatory legislation. Although not centrally concerned with ayurveda, Weiss 2009 and Attewell 2007 are sophisticated and important contemporary studies of Tamil and Unani traditions respectively: they show how important other systematized forms of premodern medicine are in contemporary South Asia and how they have often shared ayurveda’s struggles and strategies for modernization.

    • Alter, Joseph S., ed. Asian Medicine and Globalization. Encounters with Asia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Theoretically sophisticated and insightful collection including papers by Alter (ayurvedic acupuncture), Habib and Raina (drug manufacture in late colonial India), Kumar (compares British India and Dutch Indies), van Hollen (ayurveda and HIV/AIDS), and Selby (New Age discourses on women’s health).

      Find this resource:

    • Attewell, Guy. Refiguring Unani Tibb: Plural Healing in Late Colonial India. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2007.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Drawing on a range of material in Urdu, Arabic, and Persian, Attewell shows how Islamic medicine in India reconfigured itself radically during the 19th and 20th centuries, adapting to biomedical concepts, various languages, nationalist and community-based politics, changing social and moral norms, and forms of legitimacy inspired by colonial models.

      Find this resource:

    • Langford, Jean M. Fluent Bodies: Ayurvedic Remedies for Postcolonial Imbalance (Body, Commodity, Text). Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An anthropologist’s account of contemporary ayurvedic practice, especially in Kerala. A probing and readable book, theorizing ayurvedic encounters in the idiom of contemporary American anthropology.

      Find this resource:

    • Weiss, Richard S. Recipes for Immortality: Medicine, Religion, and Community in South India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the medical pluralism of South Asia and in particular evaluates the strategies for success employed by siddha practitioners in Tamil South India, strategies that depend partly on deep-seated nationalist concepts of Tamil identity and mythic history.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dominik. “Policy Formation and Debate Concerning the Government Regulation of Ayurveda in Great Britain in the 21st Century.” Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 1 (2005): 162–184.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Analysis and critique of the British government’s attempts to understand and regulate ayurveda.

      Find this resource:

    • Wujastyk, Dagmar, and Frederick M. Smith, eds. Modern and Global Ayurveda: Pluralism and Paradigms. New York: State University of New York Press, 2008.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A collection of essays examining many facets of ayurveda in the modern world, including Maharshi Ayurveda, the formation of Indian government policy on ayurveda after independence, forms of modern ayurvedic educational, ayurvedic epistemology, and many other critical topics.

      Find this resource:

    • Zimmermann, Francis. Le discours des remèdes au pays des épices: Enquête sur la médecine hindoue. Paris: Payot, 1989.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A profoundly insightful treatment of the ayurvedic practice of Kerala, written after an apprenticeship with the great Aṣṭavaidya physician, N. S. Vayaskara Mooss (1912–1986).

      Find this resource:

    • Zimmermann, Francis. “Gentle Purge: The Flower Power of Āyurveda.” In Paths to Asian Medical Knowledge. Edited by Charles Leslie and Allan Young, 209–223. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Points out how the transition of ayurveda from an indigenous healthcare system in premodern India to a component of global alternative medicine has been accompanied by the removal from ayurvedic practice and thought of all its violent and unpleasant components.

      Find this resource:

    LAST MODIFIED: 01/27/2011

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195399318-0035

    back to top

    Article

    Up

    Down