The State of Ayurveda in Colonial Bengal

Report by Vinod Kumar

The project highlights the Ayurvedic movement during late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Bengal. Europeans introduced the western medicine in this country during the British rule; however Ayurveda remained firmly entrenched in the countryside and rivalled western medicine in urban areas as well. Though British termed the traditional system as unscientific, the fervour of nationalists of the late nineteenth century raised the demand for the resurgence of study and research of this ancient indigenous system.. This led to revival of many well-known ayurvedic practitioners and private organizations taking a keen interest in ayurvedic medicine, treatment and cure.

Ayurvedic dispensaries were started in different districts of Bengal that gave free of cost treatment to the poor. The main pioneers of the movements were the well-known kavirajes of Bengal like Ganga Prasad Sen, Jamini Bhushan Roy, Gananath Sen and others. They worked for synthesis of medical systems and institutionalization of Ayurveda resulting in a large number of books and periodicals in Bengali on indigenous medical systems from late nineteenth century to impart ayurvedic knowledge to the laymen.

“Bhisak Darpan, Chikitsak, Chikitsa-Sammilani, Swasthya and Ayurved Sanjibani were some of the most important periodicals. From early twentieth century, Bengal witnessed the founding of Ayurveda colleges established by well-known ayurvedic practitioners. The movement was not a simple, linear isolated process of reviving a pristine, pre-colonial indigenous system but a complex one emphasizing tradition while at the same time attending to the changed and changing conditions under colonialism,” Jayanta Bhattacharya Pachim bangia Vijnan Manch, Kolkata.


Vinod Kumar

Health Journalist & writer. Editor of monthly health magazine "Health Spectrum."

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