Ayurveda in India
Updated: Jun 1, 2019
Fortunately Ayurveda, even though it is older than most religious practices of India, has maintained its popularity there and, in fact, has made a major comeback, despite a number of attempts to suppress it during the colonial days in order to promote Western medicine.
During the 150-odd years of British rule in India, most upper- and upper middle-class Indian families sent one of their children to study Western medicine and to become a physician. Today India has the second-largest number of trained physicians in the world, and Indian physicians in large numbers support the medical systems in the U.K. and the U.S.A.
However, in this period Ayurveda became a second-class option, and the intellectual elite was creamed off by Western medicine. Yet the village poor still turned to Ayurveda, because few Western-trained doctors were prepared to go and work in the villages. In spite of their wealth affording them the possibility of using Western medicine, the aristocrats and the maharajas also supported Ayurveda. The Sanskrit sholars, the spiritually minded and orthodox Hindus also continued to follow Ayurveda.
A few institutions, like the Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala, the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy in Coimbatore, and the Benares Hindu University kept alive the noble traditions of Ayurveda in their pristine form. Ayurvedic hospitals became the last refuge for rejects from the Western medical system who could not be cured of chronic long-term ailments like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and skin diseases.
Today, there has been a sea change. Ayurveda is now a thriving science, and more than 500 new Ayurvedic companies and Ayurvedic hospitals have been set up in India in the last 10 years alone. Orthodox physicians and Ayurvedic physicians now work alongside one another.