ARUN KUMAR SAHU
HIGH COMMISSIONER OF INDIA
The Coronavirus pandemic has taught us to value a very fundamental aspect of human life, its relationship with the environment, and its defence mechanism that we call immunity. It taught us that only the science of treatment is not good enough to keep us protected. Possibly we as a bio-organism need a better interactive natural existence with our environment. The thinking that because we have a brain and we have created the robots and supercomputers, we are different from the rest of the organisms in the ecosystem is simply not correct. Like any other bio-organisms, we are procreated, we live, and we perish. The oldest healthcare system in the world, Ayurveda, believes in this harmonious existence with nature.
“Ayurveda” is derived from the Sanskrit words Ayur (life) and Veda (knowledge). It is a system of health care and treatment, originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. Ayurveda raises the fundamental question of “why” instead of simply treating a symptom. For instance, it asks, “Why does a body get flu?” and tries to find how the body will not get the flu rather than simply treating the flu by medicine. It tries to find out the cause of the flu and addresses a solution, which is out of the nature of plants and herbs and not chemicals.
It believes that the human body can maintain a balance within itself and with its natural surroundings. In case of an imbalance, it can be rectified by specific lifestyle interventions, therapies and natural medicine to regain that balance.
A body’s constitution (prakriti) and life forces (doshas) are the primary basis of ayurvedic treatment. The principle behind diagnosis in modern medical science is very similar to what Ayurveda has been practising, such as pulse, tongue, speech, touch, vision, appearance and urine and stool tests.
Ayurveda developed during the Vedic period. Subsequently, Buddhist and Jain monks added to its body of knowledge. The two very important medical compendiums of Ayurveda are those of Charak and Sushruta. They were also translated into the Chinese language in the fifth century. In the eighth century, they were translated into the Arabic and Persian language. The Arabic works eventually reached Europe by the 12th century CE. During British colonial rule in India, western medicine and surgery gained acceptability and popularity. However, after Indian independence, there was a renewed focus on Ayurveda and other traditional medical systems. Ayurveda became a part of the Indian national health care system.
In India, Ayurveda is considered a form of medical care equal to conventional Western medicine. Almost 80 per cent of people in India use Ayurveda exclusively or combined with Western medicine. In 1970, the Indian Medical Central Council Act, which aimed to standardise Ayurveda practitioners’ qualifications and provide accredited institutions for its study and research, was passed by India’s Parliament.
In 1971, the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) was established under the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha medicine and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to monitor higher education in Ayurveda in India. The Indian government supports research and teaching in Ayurveda. The state-sponsored Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) is designed to serve this purpose.
Many of the public and private hospitals in India have Ayurvedic doctors and pharmacies. Ayurveda doctors undergo rigorous institutionalised training for five years in a recognised Ayurvedic medical college with an internship to get a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) degree.
There are reputed Ayurvedic Medical Colleges all over India, and a high school pupil has to pass a national level entrance examination to join one of the colleges.
Some of these reputed institutions include the Institute of Medical Sciences Banaras Hindu University, Shree Guru Gobind Singh Tricentenary University, Tilak Ayurved Mahavidyalaya, Patanjali Ayurved College, State Ayurvedic college and Hospital and KG Mittal Ayurvedic College.
The argument for Ayurveda and any other alternative medical system is not to discard the western system of medicine but to provide more patient options.
Some of the famous Ayurvedic medicines brands are Uniray Lifesciences, Baidyanath, Dabur India Ltd, Hamdard Laboratories, Zandu Ayurveda, Patanjali Ayurveda, Charak Pharma Pvt Ltd, Himalaya Wellness, Vicco Laboratories and Sandu Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Along with medications, Ayurveda also employs therapy, yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises).
In the Indian subcontinent, Nepal and Sri Lanka also practise Ayurveda. In Nepal, the National Ayurvedic Training and Research Centre (NATRC) researches medicinal herbs in the country. In Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine looks after the research in Ayurveda through various national research institutes.
(Text of the remarks
made at history fest,
University of West Indies)