It is time India reached out to ayurvedic diaspora: Wellness expert

August 17th, 2010 - 1:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) It is time India reached out to its “ayurvedic diaspora”, scattered among most countries in Southeast Asia where this ancient system of medicine is still practised with some local adaptations, said a wellness expert.
According to Gerry Bodeker, professor of integrated medicines at Oxford University, India’s “ayurvedic diaspora” is the result of the “scattering of seeds” by ancient Indian rulers from the Chola and Pandya dynasties, who spread Indian health traditions, plants, customs, and languages to neighbouring countries where they still are present.

“It is time India reached out to its diaspora and rebuilt its ancient ties, through cultural exchanges, joint ventures, and new business opportunities. The Chinese have already done this; they have built bridges with the countries where the ancient Chinese medicine system, or Kampo, is practised,” Bodeker said at a talk during the International India Wellness Summit here.

Giving an example, he showed the ruins of an ancient Hindu temple in Kedah state of Malaysia, located in the northwestern part of the country. According to Bodeker, Kedah comes from the Sanskrit word Kedar, which means mountain lord. The temple was built according to vaastu traditions.

He said in Malaysia, the ‘panchlogam’, or alloy of five elements of the siddha tradition, is still in practice to promote amritanam or immortality. The word ‘nadi’ or pulse is still used in Malaysia.

In Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, the spas use very fresh medicines, parallel to siddha of India, he said.

The ayurveda traditions can also be found in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, he said. The popular Thai massage was brought to Thailand by the Buddha’s own physicians who were practitioners of yoga. In Myanmar too, the traditional medicine comes from ayurveda, he said.

The word diaspora means family. “Like India’s Jews went back to Israel, India should recognize its ayurvedic diaspora as its own progeny. Mother India has forgotten this diaspora.”

Ayurveda belongs to India, but India is busy building its global brands and spreading worldwide while ignoring its ayurveda, he said.

Bodeker stressed that globally ayurveda is part of the context of wellness and “everyone wants it”.

“India should set up joint ventures, set up spas with its ayurvedic diaspora, because they share the same roots. China has done it already with countries where the Kampo medicine tradition spread, like Korea, Mongolia and Japan.” Kampo, a herbal system of medicine, was developed during the Han Dynasty - 206 BC to 220 AD.

But while building bridges with its ayurvedic diaspora, care should be taken not to upset the local traditions, he said.

Giving an example, Bodeker said ayurveda follows the principle that the human body consists of five elements - earth, fire, air, water and space. However, Buddhists don’t include the fifth element.

“One has to be culturally sensitive, while globalizing ayurveda in the context of wellness,” he said.

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