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The knowledge of anatomy and health in Āyurveda and Modern Medicine: colonial confrontation and its outcome

Author(s): Jayanta Bhattacharya

Journal: Eä : Revista de Humanidades Médicas & Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología
ISSN 1852-4680

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2009;
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Keywords: Āyurveda | anatomy | modern medicine | health | Indian medicine | epistemological encounter | colonialism

In my paper I shall argue that Western medicine has passed through epistemological and paradigmatic shifts from Bedside Medicine to Hospital Medicine to Laboratory Medicine. The singular act of post-mortem dissection differentiated Hospital Medicine from Bedside Medicine and established its unquestionable authority over Indian medical knowledge systems. In Āyurvedic knowledge, there is no single conception of the body, but a dominant one – a bodily frame – through which dosa-s, dhātu-s and mala-s flow. On their behalf, Āyurvedics were caught within a two-edged sword. First, since antiquity treatment of a disease could be efficiently resolved by tri-dosa theory and marman-s, without having any modern anatomical knowledge. Second, to establish Āyurveda as a valid and eternally “modern” repository of knowledge, learning modern anatomy became mandatory for high caste Āyurvedics to usurp it from the lower-caste practitioners. Consequently, a shift from traditional philosophy of tri-doṣa theory to “modern” notion of organ localization of disease occurred. It reconstituted the philosophical matrix of Āyurveda through this “modernization’ of Āyurvedic knowledge of anatomy.

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