As the Indian population’s interest in biomedicine increased at the end of the nineteenth century, public confidence in India’s indigenous medicines flagged. Physicians of Ayurveda and officials of Indian medical organizations responded with discussions about and plans for reconfiguring the āyurveda (“life science”) of the Sanskrit medical classics of Caraka, Suśruta, and Vāgbhaṭa to be compatible with the anatomical, physiological, and pharmacological frameworks of biomedicine. This article considers some of the negotiations that shaped Ayurveda in late colonial and postcolonial India, paying special attention to how these debates affected the history of ayurvedic education. Reflecting on how the presence of biomedicine in India prompted ayurvedic practitioners to reimagine the history of their profession, it examines the revitalization of Ayurveda through the reinvention of ayurvedic education. It probes the historical move away from the gurukula as the seat of education and the institutionalization and standardization of education in the ayurvedic college. The historical record is expanded periodically with ethnographic data collected at gurukulas in South India to offer contemporary views on changes in ayurvedic education over the past 130 years.
This epilogue reflects on scholarship in the study of South Asian medicines and healing traditions at the end of the twentieth century and in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. It underscores the growing multidisciplinarity of this field, and it suggests that the contributions to this special issue signal this development and speak to the theoretical richness and importance of this research.
This opening piece introduces the eight articles in this special issue of Asian Medicine, all of which emerged out of the daylong Science, Technology, and Medicine in South Asia Symposium: Medicine and Memory, at the 2018 Annual Conference on South Asia in Madison, Wisconsin. These articles are concerned with the ways in which time and healing entangle across regions and healing traditions in South Asia, including Unani, Ayurveda, Naturopathy, and biomedicine. Linking the findings from these articles with recent scholarship, our conversation in the symposium moved beyond the notion of medical pluralisms to a notion of dynamic plurals, through historicizing regional and local diversities in practices and philosophies, often grouped under a single name by communities and practitioners. In an increasingly communalist and politically fractured modern South Asia, we suggest that the discussions in this special issue make a critical contribution to understanding how cultural institutions of knowledge function in society.