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Medicine in India

Modernization And Globalization

Under first the Moghul and then the British colonial powers, indigenous Indian medicine survived as it always had, mainly through support from patients and the community, but with occasional patronage from the state, with education and practice being devolved and decentralized, often taking place at the family level. During the twentieth century, ayurveda assumed an important role as an icon of national identity during the independence struggle. After independence, the government of India adopted the traditional systems of Indian medicine, including ayurveda, Islamic Unani medicine, yoga, and the South Indian Siddha tradition and provided a state-sponsored structure of education and practice on the model of Western medicine. To these indigenous traditions were also added homeopathy and naturopathy, both adopted and tightly integrated as part of "Indian" health care and administered by the same department within the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. At the start of the third millennium, a process of globalization—similar to that which took place earlier with yoga—has begun to occur also with ayurveda. In diaspora ayurveda is changing and adapting, as it moves from its premodern role in India to a new position as one part of a portfolio of alternative and complementary therapies offered alongside modern biomedicine.

See also Medicine: China; Yoga.


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Wujastyk, Dominik. The Roots of Āyurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings. 3rd ed. London and New York: Penguin, 2003.

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Dominik Wujastyk

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Mathematics to Methanal trimerMedicine in India - Systematic Medicine, Medical Concepts And Therapies, Surgery, Modernization And Globalization, Bibliography