Dated, sexist and problematic—Why Indian Ayurvedic syllabus should evolve with altering instances


A query paper from the Rajiv Gandhi College of Well being Sciences, Karnataka, is making headlines for all of the unsuitable causes. The Kayachikitsa paper requested fourth-year undergraduate college students of the Bachelor of Ayurvedic Drugs and Surgical procedure course to write down an essay on ‘Stree as a Vajikarana dravya’ or ‘lady as an aphrodisiac substance’. The college responded by saying that the query paper was set as per the syllabus permitted by the Central Council for Indian Drugs, which the establishment “has no authority over including or omitting”.

I need to make clear that, as a practitioner of Ayurveda, I do not intend to denigrate historic texts from which I’ve learnt quite a bit. They continue to be essential for his or her advanced and in depth descriptions of the epistemological framework of Ayurveda, alongside their different contributions as medical treatises. However as a professional specialist, I ought to point out some uncomfortable truths pertaining to trendy interpretations of this self-discipline.

Whereas a lot of what’s studied in school is actually associated to the medical apply of Ayurveda, the unlucky reality is that the Karnataka college’s query paper proves, and never for the primary time, how misogynistic contents proceed to be taught to Ayurveda college students. As an illustration, they be taught that ladies, notably unbiased ladies (svatantra stree), are to not be trusted.

What has transpired inside the area of collegiate Ayurveda, and the development of its curriculum, that such absurdities have made their means into the training and examination system?

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Decoding the issue

A serious chunk of the collegiate Ayurveda syllabus is derived from three foremost textual sources—the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and Ashtanga Hridaya. The parts of the texts being mentioned right here, have been retained within the syllabus with none important interpretation or version to this present day. This can be a failure to reply to, or incorporate the vastly nuanced, modern dialogue round these points into the collegiate curriculum.

The rationale these texts acquired centrality in Ayurvedic training have acquired centrality within the collegiate Ayurveda syllabus has to do with the post-colonial renaissance that Ayurveda underwent in India. Nonetheless, within the course of, Ayurveda satirically got here to be outlined by most of the similar parameters of the Western biomedical system that it had additionally got down to counter. Certainly one of them was biomedicine’s emphasis on codified data, which pushed Ayurveda to centralize, standardise and validate long-standing codified sources of its personal.

This effort, alongside others, gained momentum from the Nineteen Sixties onwards, and ultimately got here to be regulated nationwide in 1977 by the newly established Central Council of Indian Drugs. On this quest, the primary syllabus makers of Ayurveda promoted these key texts. Thereafter, the distinguished position that these texts occupied in CCIM mandated syllabi was additionally maybe as a result of it will be unimaginable for anybody to refute their historicity, and in addition as a result of their perceived origin in a pre-colonial, culturally wealthy India doubtless contributed to nationalist fervour. These texts rapidly turned symbols, as did Ayurveda, of traditionally and culturally endemic Indian medical data, in distinction to biomedicine, which is each current and of Western origin.

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Inside critique is troublesome

College students of Ayurveda are reluctant to query and critique texts which might be very important to their identification and legitimacy. Over time, these texts have acquired a sure reverence that frowns upon makes an attempt to query or critique them.

Lack of such critique meant that grounds turned fertile for absurdities just like the Karnataka query paper fiasco. This has left college students and practitioners of Ayurveda in a quandary.  On the one hand, they’re reluctant to query and critique these texts; on the opposite, they intensely justify them as these texts symbolize all the pieces they’ve learnt.

These justifications are supported by claims that the texts additionally venerate, even worship, ladies. However they’re evasive at greatest. Such a response doesn’t deal with why statements objectifying ladies are allowed and studied within the first place. The 2 don’t cancel one another out.

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Change is crucial 

Whereas everybody has broadly agreed that one thing must basically change, nobody is answering precisely what should change. Ideas to edit out objectionable parts of those texts are met with affront by purists, to whom it quantities to ‘tampering’ with textual purity—however change can seldom be averted, and is especially essential to reform the Ayurvedic curriculum in India.

Contemplating the large influence of vernacular literature on Ayurveda over the previous century, diversifying the literature mandated in faculties will divest the Sanskrit manuscripts, no less than partly, of the vested essentiality that they at the moment possess and facilitate simpler important engagement with them. Additional, numerous and extra contemporaneous literature will present students with a large number of views on a number of elements—together with a important examination of historic and modern gender inequality inside the conventional science, and what efforts have or may be made to deal with them.

What would be the insurance policies pertaining to what’s taught or allowed into syllabi? Who will take these selections? How will they be enforced? The ‘massive three’ texts are all in Sanskrit, and are throughout a thousand years previous. However the static nature of Ayurvedic data that this suggests, the elitist implications of an unique reliance on Sanskrit texts should even be thought of in revised syllabi.

It’s important that the Ayurveda syllabus additional evolves to realistically meet the alternatives and challenges of the rising world, and takes a tough have a look at a few of its extra problematic components, as thrown up by the current controversy. It’s excessive time that AYUSH and anxious stakeholders of the Ayurveda fraternity revisited the syllabus, for it’s clear that some issues urgently want to alter.

Pushya A Gautama is a Doctoral Scholar on the Nationwide Institute of Superior Research, Bengaluru. She is a gold medalist in Ayurveda (Dravya Guna) from the RGUHS. She can be concerned in medical trials that research the position of Ayurveda in enhancing the standard of lifetime of superior most cancers sufferers. Views are private.

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)


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