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Friday, June 2, 2023

May a thousand Ramdevs bloom

Patanjali Ayurveda Ltd. founder and crackerjack yogacharya Baba Ramdev has a long tongue reeking of acerbity which he periodically uses to excoriate critics. He is hated and loved in equal measure depending on your faith (or the lack of it) in traditional or alternate medicine as well as your political leanings.

The secular crowd, self-loathing Hindus included, have a natural disdain for anything remotely linked to the country’s ancient culture and traditions. Especially ayurveda whose roots lie in the bottomless well of the past stretching into the Vedic era, perhaps even beyond.

The “science of life” finds mention in the NyayaVaisheshika school of Hindu philosophy. Its core, however, remains spiritual. Handed down by our great meditative sages, its antiquity is beyond the comprehension of seculars. Most cannot fathom its depth.

Hoary legacy

Ayurveda’s hoary legacy has over the years been the subject of serious research in America and Europe, but denizens of India as opposed to Bharat are awaiting the West’s certification before making it a part of their daily lives. Such is the damage which the counterfeit Nehruvian vision of the world has wrought on successive generations. Traditional cures are equated with quackery. That they can be more effective has still to find acceptance within the allopathic community and its adherents.

Take the case of China where traditional medicine exists cheek by jowl with its modern counterpart in every hospital.  Even the godless CCP knows its timeless value. In March 2021, the president of Madagascar released Covid Organics, a medicinal cocktail containing artemisia, neem, and lemon. It was only tested on 20 patients but aroused no howls of protest as in the case of Patanjali’s immunity booster, Coronil. The drink was exported to other African countries. Data released a month later showed a significant downturn in covid cases in Madagascar and neighboring countries.

Ramdev’s latest broadside against the ills of allopathy is the most vicious blow he has struck to expose the downside of the medicinal system whose global dominance has both revolutionized health care and done irreversible damage with its atomistic ‘pop a pill’ approach. Quite apart from the soaring costs which few can afford in a country with no social security.

The alarming growth in the deadly black fungal infection (mucormycosis) is the most recent example to have brought the financial untenability of allopathy to the fore. Lakhs of families with members who caught the virus have been drained of their entire life savings. Doctors at the Chandigarh-based Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research confessed that 25 per cent patients prefer to risk death than court bankruptcy, and 54 per cent who have the dough to get treated end up at the crematorium.

The mind-boggling array of costly anti-fungal medicines, injections, and elaborate surgical interventions administered by a phalanx of ENT, ophthalmologist, faciomaxillary, neuro and reconstructive surgeons can frighten even the most stout- hearted. Expenses on equipment, investigation, room rent and surgery, vial cost can rise to Rs 5 lakh a week depending on the gravity of the disease.

Allopathy’s chinks

The pandemic has exposed the chinks in allopathy’s armor like seldom before. All that its practitioners have done since the Wuhan virus sneaked into Bharat 15 months ago is shoot in the dark with Remdesivir and steroid injectables and push antibiotics like azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine down the throat of patients. This, despite much evidence that none is a panacea for the pandemic.

The gathering clouds of covid was a godsend for Ramdev to take the bull by the horns. Persistently humiliated by the allopathy brigade he had good reason to. Memories of the way in which the police dispersed his supporters at Ramlila Maidan in June 2011 during a mass fast against corruption still festers.

What is recalled is his escape in womanly attire but not the utter brazenness of the act. It was sanctioned by the UPA precisely because of his strong Hindu credentials. The regime would not have dared broken an agitation of Muslims or Christians. Sadder still is that attitudes have not changed much even under the Modi regime.

Anyone acquainted with Ramdev’s rusticity know his penchant for hyperbole. So, when he said, “Lakhs of people died after taking allopathic medicines [in the pandemic],” what he intended was to give a sense of the harm its prescriptions have caused and the rampant corrupt practices of Big Pharma.

Critics were overjoyed when he retracted his statement on being upbraided by Union health minister Harshvardhan but the purpose of his outburst was served. It rattled the allopathists used to looking askance at Traditional Systems of Medicines (TSMs) like osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture and herbalism.

Ayurveda has much in common with other herbal traditions found in ancient Chinese medicine and African herbalism. Plants such as mulethi, neem, and giloy are integral to each.

Allopath doctors dismiss homeopathy as a placebo when crores continue to benefit from the formulations of the German Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Ayurveda, on its part, is abjured for lack of evidence, little realizing that those who understand its ancient formulations don’t write in leading medical journals like Lancet or rhapsodize its achievements.

Committed ayurvedic doctors are not attracted by the wiles of the world. A sattvic disposition is an essential pre-requisite for ayurvedic practice. Hence, the paucity of good vaids and the deluge of MBBS trainees where character, habits, and upbringing are not factors.

Johnrose Jaylal’s tirade

Predictably enough, neither Harshvardhan nor anybody else from the government had the spine to haul over the coals the president of the Indian Medical Association, Johnrose Austin Jaylal, for using the platform as a pulpit to proselytize and preach the Gospel of Jesus.

Ideally, the bozo ought to have been sacked by the body he heads which is no more than a trade union of allopathic doctors. None of its members dared to cross swords over his proselytizing to protect their selfish professional interests. This encouraged Jaylal to tell the government that if their faith in allopathy had slackened, the practice ought to be shut down failing which a sedition case be filed against the yoga guru.

Downright offensive, even anti-national, were the remarks he made in an interview to the fundamentalist Christian charity organization, Haggai International. The body, which boasts the motto “Ending poverty starts with Jesus”, quoted him as saying that the “Hindu Nationalist government” wants to destroy modern medicine…If everything goes their way, we will not have pure modern medicine courses in India by 2030…

“They want to make it one nation, one system of medicine, and then one religion. This too is based on the Sanskrit language, which is traditionally based on Hindu principles. It is an indirect way for the government to foist Sanskrit, the language of Hindutva …”

Jaylal also went hammer and tongs at the government in his interview to Christianity Today. He told the magazine that it was the Church that took care of the poor, thereby insinuating that the government did not. The evangelizing doctor claimed his cronies and he had been organizing hunger strikes, protests, and petitioning the Supreme Court against non-allopathic medicine. Christian doctors, he felt, should be engaged in both physical and spiritual healing. Secular institutions and medical colleges need more of them.

What was the government’s response to Jaylal’s verbal blizzard? — a deafening silence. Which is why not much can be expected to come out from the complaint lodged against him by a legal activism group with the Union Home Ministry on the charge of using the pandemic to expedite conversions.


The government’s diffidence to defend ayurveda is the main reason why Ramdev needs to be propped up. He is the lone crusader holding up the mirror to the ills of allopathy. Seven years is a long time for a putatively pro-Hindu regime to have sown the seeds of a no-holds barred revival of an iconic and indigenous life sustaining science, the best that was — and is.

Establishing a Ministry of Ayush with an allocation of not more than three per cent of the health budget and that too divvied up between yoga, naturopathy, unani, and siddha is just not enough to revive ayurveda. The ‘A’ must be separated from the ‘YUSH’ to accord it the stature of allopathy which rules the roost.

But this cannot happen unless the entire system of ayurvedic education and training is overhauled. You cannot have ayurveda graduates being churned out like their allopathic brethren. Many feel that what most ayurvedic institutes deliver every four years are low to medium grade allopathic doctors with their minds focused on the moolah. This is no difference in their attitude and values. An ayurvedic practitioner who drinks, smokes, and gorges on meat is an insult to his profession.

The real challenge is finding committed teachers to impart their knowledge. Greater circumspection needs to be exercised in the selection of students. Interest in ayurveda alone cannot suffice. Equal attention needs to be paid on their background and sanskaar.

Like Ramdev every student of ayurveda should be imbued with the ambition of doing what he told his biographer, Priyanka Pathak-Narain, during a yoga camp in 2016:

“Making foreign companies do the sirshasana (headstand) within five years and put Mother India on the throne of the world. Kitna maza aayega!” (Source: Godman To Tycoon: The Untold Story Of Baba Ramdev, 2017)

To realize this dream you need an irrepressible Ramdev in every district.

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Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh is an independent journalist who has worked in senior editorial positions in the Times Of India, Asian Age, Pioneer, and the Statesman. Also a sometime stage and film actor who has worked with iconic directors like Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha.


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