The Rise of Āyurveda From British Colonial

ayurveda in indiaPhoto by Aysegul Alp

 

Ayurveda is more than a 5000 year-old science. It's about the relationship between us and nature. The Sanskrit word Ayurveda translates to the "longevity" (Ayur) of "knowledge" (Veda). It's a way of life, a tradition, that been handed down thousands of generations, written down and embedded in families across India. 

Through trade, Ayurveda spread across Tibet, China, Indonesia, Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. This helped discover new information, herbs and therapies from other cultures which were slowly incorporated into the science. In comparison to Western medicine, Ayurveda works to treat the root cause rather than the symptoms.

It was not until during the British colonial rule that disrupted and completely halted all hopes of Ayurveda. In 1833, all Ayurvedic colleges across India were banned, sacred books burnt and teachers silenced. For around 100 years, Ayurveda was only practiced in rural villages and referred to as the "poor man's medicine" as western medicine was far too expensive. Western medicine was positioned to be superior to indigenous practices, further pushing Ayurveda out of the picture and secretly practiced in households.

India's independence in 1947 saw the re-emerging of Ayurveda as it began getting back onto its feet and rivaling with western medicine. In 1978, WHO (World Health Organisation) recognised Ayurveda as the best medical system for underdeveloped countries. Ayurveda's use of local, organically-grown herbs, traditional remedies, low cost and less dependency on western pharmaceuticals was much favoured.

Fast forward to the 21st century, in particular this new decade, there has been a significant surge in the use of traditional herbs by pharmaceuticals and beauty brands alike. For example, centella asiatica (Gotu Kola) in skincare products to help reduce redness and inflammation. The questions lies in whether we are crediting Ayurveda and its rich history or diluting it?

How can we honour it's legacy and support its continued growth?

1) Acknowledge the impact of colonialism on Ayurveda

We can begin by educating ourselves about Ayurveda and its principles, as well as its history and cultural significance. This can involve reading books, attending workshops, and learning from Ayurvedic practitioners, particularly POC practitioners who can share their knowledge and experience.

2) Promote diversity and inclusion

Ayurveda should be accessible to people from all backgrounds and not exclusive to certain communities, classes or cultures. This means acknowledging and addressing the ways Ayurveda today sometimes has barriers to entry like cost.

3) Take a holistic approach

To gain a deeper appreciation for Ayurveda and the spiritual connections between mind, body, and soul, consider incorporating other practices into your daily routine, such as yoga asana and meditation. Taking care of yourself is important, so be mindful of your thoughts and treat yourself with kindness. Remember to remain open-minded and recognise your own place as you explore new practices. If you're interested in learning more, here are a few of our favourites to check out:

 

 

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