Medicine has always been a significant part of the Indian heritage. Flourishing about 2000 BC, the architectural design of Harappa does point to a conscious concern for public health and sanitation. The Atharvaveda was probably the first repository of ancient Indian medical lore and these were later transmitted through the Brahmana texts. It was magico-religious in nature in nature and incantations (mantras) were frequently resorted to (1). Ayurveda as ‘the science of (living to a ripe) age’, sans mantra, appeared around Buddha’s time.. The concept of humorous or doshas which is central in Ayurveda, is nowhere seen in the Vedic literature. Nor it does reflect Hippocratic or Galenic thinking. The protagonists of this system may have been inaccurate in their knowledge of human physiology but they were extremely good at plant morphology, its medical functions and therapeutics. On the other hand Charaka and Sushruta placed emphasis on direct observation. But unfortunately their texts and later commentaries have no anatomical or surgical illustrations. It is difficult to see how such techniques as rhinoplasty could have persisted purely textually (2). In any case Ayurveda remained a living and fertile area of research and interpretations. The scenario became even more interesting with the introduction of Galenic traditions by the Islamic medical men. Gradually appeared the a hybrid Muslim-Hindu system known as the Tibb. They differed in theory, but in practice both traditions seem to have treated and borrowed from each other. History books galore with examples of their close connections.

These system of medical practice never received the due place in society (even till date) especially in society were it originated for many reasons. Historians have discussed some of these. Their main concerns have been the highly divisive caste system very peculiar to South Asian society, the combination of caste and faith, ruinous separation of theory from practice, of mental work In the practice the blowing heavy wind of taqlid (tradition) and the dimming of the lamp of wisdom…. the door of “how” and “why” has been closed and questioning and enquiry have deemed fruitless and tantamount to paganism (3). On the other hand when modern medicine entered the new lands riding the colonial wave they over took these traditional system in less than one and half decades. Apart from developing professionalism the Western medical discourse occupied an extremely important place in the colonization of India.

Taking the clue from Charak Samhita the western medical practioners organized periodically conferences and meetings. They not only met at time ofmedical calamity but on regular basis academic and scientific gatherings of scholars and thinkers took place. This paper traces the advent of Western medical science and its strong communication channels in India. It analysis the strong institutional roots in the development of medical societies, journals and academic institutions so to overtake the traditional medical practices. It is argued that through these strong communication channels the western medical knowledge tried to bypass the strong Indian medical practices that existed for more that 2000 years. How effective has been the borrowed knowledge is question that requires an answer.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Development of communication channels in Indian medicine

Ramesh Kundra   National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies

Medicine has always been a significant part of the Indian heritage. Flourishing about 2000 BC, the architectural design of Harappa does point to a conscious concern for public health and sanitation. The Atharvaveda was probably the first repository of ancient Indian medical lore and these were later transmitted through the Brahmana texts. It was magico-religious in nature in nature and incantations (mantras) were frequently resorted to (1). Ayurveda as ‘the science of (living to a ripe) age’, sans mantra, appeared around Buddha’s time.. The concept of humorous or doshas which is central in Ayurveda, is nowhere seen in the Vedic literature. Nor it does reflect Hippocratic or Galenic thinking. The protagonists of this system may have been inaccurate in their knowledge of human physiology but they were extremely good at plant morphology, its medical functions and therapeutics. On the other hand Charaka and Sushruta placed emphasis on direct observation. But unfortunately their texts and later commentaries have no anatomical or surgical illustrations. It is difficult to see how such techniques as rhinoplasty could have persisted purely textually (2). In any case Ayurveda remained a living and fertile area of research and interpretations. The scenario became even more interesting with the introduction of Galenic traditions by the Islamic medical men. Gradually appeared the a hybrid Muslim-Hindu system known as the Tibb. They differed in theory, but in practice both traditions seem to have treated and borrowed from each other. History books galore with examples of their close connections.

These system of medical practice never received the due place in society (even till date) especially in society were it originated for many reasons. Historians have discussed some of these. Their main concerns have been the highly divisive caste system very peculiar to South Asian society, the combination of caste and faith, ruinous separation of theory from practice, of mental work In the practice the blowing heavy wind of taqlid (tradition) and the dimming of the lamp of wisdom…. the door of “how” and “why” has been closed and questioning and enquiry have deemed fruitless and tantamount to paganism (3). On the other hand when modern medicine entered the new lands riding the colonial wave they over took these traditional system in less than one and half decades. Apart from developing professionalism the Western medical discourse occupied an extremely important place in the colonization of India.

Taking the clue from Charak Samhita the western medical practioners organized periodically conferences and meetings. They not only met at time ofmedical calamity but on regular basis academic and scientific gatherings of scholars and thinkers took place. This paper traces the advent of Western medical science and its strong communication channels in India. It analysis the strong institutional roots in the development of medical societies, journals and academic institutions so to overtake the traditional medical practices. It is argued that through these strong communication channels the western medical knowledge tried to bypass the strong Indian medical practices that existed for more that 2000 years. How effective has been the borrowed knowledge is question that requires an answer.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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