To the Indian mind the enquiry into the nature of reality and the quest for order and beauty are inseparable. The metaphors of thought and action that are swiftly overtaking man today have led to a fragmentation of science and art, technology and well-being, utility and value. The traditions of enquiry and action indigenous to India have sought to discover a balance and harmony between man and nature, between the inner and the outer. The last few centuries have seen the steady decline and erosion of this tradition.

RASAM is a group of people who will work for the renewal and rejuvenation of the indigenous streams of enquiry, discovery, creativity and knowledge - a group that will apply this knowledge and understanding to dealing with today's reality.

Why are we creating this group?

In the present context the teachers and men of traditional wisdom live and work in a stream widely separated from the educational processes of school and colleges that produce professionals. This has marginalized the holders of traditional wisdom and forced them to struggle for dignity, relevance and respect. The professionally educated persons on the other hand experience and alienation from belonging and continuity. Their training leaves them skilled but neither feeling wholesome nor in touch with the spirit of the land.

RASAM is born of these individual struggles. A space where these two streams meet. A place from which they will explore new action alternatives together.

The dream India was boom with...

During the course of our national freedom movement a dream was set into motion. The dream was one of re-building the Indian society, of restoring to the Indian people their dignity, creativity and sense of well being. In order to do this it would have been essential for the Indian state to remodel itself and all its efforts so as to suit the genius and preferences of the Indian people.

The dream turns sour

The newly formed government, chose to follow a policy of "modernization" in response to the constraints, imperatives and challenges that it faced - a policy of continuing with the structures, organization, institutions and direction initiated by the British rulers. During the last forty years, our planners, intellectuals, academics, scientists, technologists and other professionals have toyed with very similar ideas and ideals.

While we appreciate that this has resulted in some gains for the nation, the price paid by us and the price we continue to pay is enormous. The euphoria of gaining freedom has evaporated (and the grim realities of finding new and relevant beginnings for nation-building remain. The structures and institutions that we inherited from the British rule were designed to serve an altogether alien purpose, often one of keeping indigenous initiative in check. We have therefore stagnated, and failed to seed anything of lasting significance or satisfaction. We continue to import the 'latest' technologies, the 'most sophisticated' management techniques i.e., continue to run behind the tails of the advanced nations. It is becoming clear that the problem of development is not going to be solved in ‘this way.

Where has this left us?

The price we have paid in 1 following this direction has been the impoverishment, marginalization and decay of the indigenous traditions of learning and a consequent attrition in the quality and numbers of people keeping the traditions alive and striving to find innovative and creative ways of responding to today's challenges. The few who take it up have an awesome and uphill, task ahead of them.

The crippling metaphor

To many of us, it is very easy, to show evidence of Indian glory, richness and excellence of craft. In terms of a contemporary response, we have fallen prey to the metaphor "India has a glorious spiritual tradition, on the one band, but a blindly superstitious and crude primitive on the other hand.-In neither of these can we find anything of value in the modern or everyday world; in neither of them can we find an energy that can answer today's challenges in a creative way". This metaphor allows us an empty pride in the .ancient glory" or a crippling shame in the inheritance we are born with. A metaphor that communicates that we must quickly museums our heritage, surgically remove all traces of its havenless and vibrancy in ourselves so that we can march to the "twenty-first century" (lobotomized and lame?). This is clearly impossible.

We must therefore, reflect, delve deep into' ourselves and find out relevant, creative and indigenous responses to today's challenges. We do not believe that revivalism or glorification of the past will provide any meaningful directions, but, we also believe that India cannot grow into a viable and respectable nation by "running behind the tails of the west".

Reinvestment and regeneration

We believe that one has to go back to one's roots, integrate with it, discover its essence, discover the creative forces and innovative responses inherent in it and engage with the world from this foundation. We have done this before. When our culture has been under threat, we have assimilated, evolved, experimented and grown. Until the 18th Century our science, technology, art and social reality were the envy of the world.

We have started looking at this need to renew ourselves again. But we seem to have fallen into the trap of fragmenting art and culture from science. Dance, music and theater have come back from the brinks of total destruction. But their space is on the stage. The indigenous sciences and technologies such as ayurveda, nyaya, ganita and sthapathya along with the visual arts have not been so fortunate. The modern institutions of learning which train people in medicine, science, technology and art are totally alienated from the tradition.

An Indian today will find the idea of preserving music or dance through mere recording and documentation totally unacceptable. But he feels proud that by preserving old temples, buildings, sculpture he has preserved culture.

At RASAM this is the question that concerns us deeply. That part of the heritage that deals with technology science and daily life is removed from the realm of practice and called philosophy. And in our conviction, this is the foundation of our culture. .Will the tree that is starting to flower again sustains, regenerate and grow mighty without nourishing this core? While the performing arts live in M.S.Subbalakshrai, Bismillah Khan, Pandit Jasraj, Ravikiran, Zakir Hussain, Shankaran Nambudhiri and Srinivas, Kelucharan Mahapatra, Alarmetvalli .... are we content to have a few pieces of sculpture, a few temples, old texts on nyaya, ganita etc represent the vital core of the culture?

Where do we start?

The Vaastu tradition is the technology of India. The Viswakarma Community that has held this learning and continuity over thousands of years are the metallurgists, architects, builders, makers of war implements, alchemists, goldsmiths, sculptors and artists of the land.

Mayan the father of the Vaastu tradition was a prodigious intellect. He speaks about paramanus, the origin of matter, the laws of formation of substances, language, grammar, origin of words, sculpture, architecture, town planning, technology, mathematics, the mystery of Brahmam, music,... the list is endless. The most remarkable aspect of his work is that the sacred and the practical are contained within a holistic matrix. The texts are not sectarian or limited to. a particular faith,- nor does the work deviate from logical incisive enquiry at any point It is the work of a great Vijnani.

Its relevance for today

This in itself promises to be an exciting area of study in its application of the knowledge. The focus on human well-being is never lost. This metaphor of using science and technology is of great relevance in the present context.

The most compelling reason for basing our work on the Vaastu tradition is also that the Vishwakarma community has in the last few decades seeded its development from within. Shri Vaidyanatha Sthapathi and his son Shri Ganapaty Sthapathi have put in great effort and given a new lease of life to the tradition. Shri Vaidyanatha Sthapati in his foresight and wisdom, provided his son with1 a school and college education apart from the traditional training as a Sthapati. Therefore, Shri Ganapati Sthapati is not only a master of his vocation but also conversant with the modern idiom. In him we have a person who can bridge the two worlds.

A study of the Vaastu tradition will also be immediately applicable in solving architectural and construction problems. This demonstration of applicability of the tradition, its ability to adapt and work with the newer tools and techniques of building provided by modern technology, will dispel the idea that ours is a dead tradition, an impractical metaphysical tradition etc.

RASAM will:

1. Conduct research into the scientific and technological tradition of India.

2. Apply this knowledge in appropriate fields and work in the contemporary context using the basis of the traditional knowledge.

3. Disseminate the knowledge and wisdom of this tradition.

4. Engage in research and study of such areas and fields that will help understand the movement of the Indian scientific and technological tradition.

Author:Sri. Raghu Anantharaman


The Lok Swasthya Parampara Samvardhan Samiti (LSPSS) is a network of organizations involved in the task of revitalization of Lok Swasthya Paramparas that is people's health traditions. The LSPSS is guided by the understanding that there exists a symbiotic relationship between various local traditions of health and the indigenous systems of medicine (ISM) such as the Ayurveda, Siddha and the Unani systems. It is understood that the ISM are born out of the varied local traditions and they represent the scientific basis for these local health practices. Hence a major component of the revitalization work has consisted of promoting exchanges and interaction between the local health practitioners and the Acharyas of ISM.

A pioneering effort in this direction had been carried out by the Academy of Development Science in the Karjat taluk of Maharashtra. A systematic scientific evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses in the local health traditions among the tribals in Karjat Taluk had been undertaken by the Academy in the light of the science of Ayurveda since 1982. This evaluation revealed that the local health traditions were far more comprehensive in their scope than the modern package on primary health care. In December 1985 a meeting was convened in Karjat where over thirty organizations from all over India were invited to Karjat to share their experiences and findings in this field. It was on this occasion that the LSPSS was formed as a national network of organizations promoting local health traditions. It has now born registered as a society with Sri Aware Guruji as President, Sri Darshan Shankar (of the Academy of Development Science) as Chairman and Vaidya Gangadharan (formerly of the Rural Health Centre, Coimbatore) as Secretary. Sri Aware Guruji who is a tribal medical practitioner from Nasik has been actively involved for over twenty years in exploring his community's tradition of health care.

Recently a meeting was held in Pune where the Samiti discussed the program me of action for the next few years. Many activities are being planned by various field groups individually as well as certain coordinated regional/national level programmers. Support for five such programmers is being provided by a grant from the Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology (CAPART). The following is a brief summary of the activities planned by the 11 field groups to be involved in this of the five major programmers.


1. Academy of Development Science (Karjat, Maharashtra)

A systematic scientific evaluation of the strengths and weakness in local health traditions of the tribals in Karjat taluka, has been carried out by the Academy. It has been involved in this work since 1982. The evaluation carried out by the Academy revealed that the local health tradition is far more comprehensive in its scope than the official package of primary Health Care. In December 1985, the Academy shared its experiences and findings with 30 rural organizations from various states. The Academy has capability in training health workers in: (a) Identification, properties and uses of medicinal plants, (b) Processing techniques (c) Diagnostics for treatment of common ailments, (d) Mother and (child care (e) Home remedies.

2. Jan-Seva Mandal (Dhulia, Maharashtra)

Dr.Marie D'Souza the coordinator of this field Centre has been an active rural (community health worker for more than 10 years. For a number of years, she has been observing the tribal traditions of health care in Nandurbar Taluk in Dhulia district and has been advocating herbal medicines used by the tribals, which she has herself found to the clinically effective. Since December, 1985, Jan-Seva Mandal has begun a more systematic study of the local health traditions with the conviction that the local practices aired rooted in our traditional sciences.

3. Vigpyan Shiksha Kendra (Banda U.P)

The VSK has been, involved in community health work for the last five years. Realizing the limitations and inappropriateness of the allopathic model of public health care VSK has been searching for alternatives'. During the last few years, it has become aware of the widespread existence of local health traditions. Since December 1985, VSK has begun a systematic study of local health traditions and has developed the conviction that revitalization of these traditions! is the best way for contributing to self-reliance in community health.

4. Ankuran (Hazaribagh, Bihar)

Ankuran has been involved since the last five years in community health work based on the indigenous' systems. They have experience in training community health workers in the use of herbal medicines for primary healthcare problems.

5. Jagrut Bahubandi Sanghatana (Pathras, Maharashtra)

The JBS has been involved in organizing rural women for basic needs like employment, wages, housing, water and health care. For the last four years, JBS has been organizing (raining camps for tribal house-wives on home-remedies using locally available. herbs.

6. Rural Health Centre (Patanjalipuri, Coimbatore)

The RHC has a young team of six ayurveda and siddha scientists, who have been trying to develop a field model of primary health care based on indigenous science, for the last three years. The RHC is situated in the campus of ayurvedic college - the AVR educational Foundation of Ayurveda. It has capabilities of training health workers from other organizations in all the technical aspects of this work.

7. Surya Community Centre (Palgarh, Thana Dist, Maharashtra)

The SCC has been involved in community health work based on allopathic system for the last five years. Since the last three years, they have started studying the rich local tribal tradition of the Warli's. The Palgarh taluka is a semi-forested area and is rich in medicinal plants.

8. Aware Guruji, Jungle Kampar Society (Path, Nasik)

Sri Aware Guruji, is a tribal naturalist. For the last 20 years, he has been actively exploring his own community's traditions of medical knowledge of the tribe of the Dings, which covers the uses of 700 plants, He also has an intimate ethnic knowledge of the local fauna. Aware Guruji is also a practicing traditional healer, and is seriously committed to the Samvardhan of the local health traditions in the Path tensile.

9. Paramparagat Aushadi Sanshobdhan Vikas Kendra (Gadchiroli, Maharashtra)

Sri Mohan Mutzalwar of the Kendra is a pharmacologist who has been studying tribal medicines in the jungles of Gadchiroli district (on the border with Bastar). Initially his idea was to learn about medicines with a view that he could exploit it commercially as a pharmacologist. However, the last three years of study and interaction with tribals has won him over to the cause of helping to strengthen the rich heritage of the local community.

10. Progressive Friends Circle (Nanded Dist, Maharashtra)
The PFC is located on the border of Maharashtra and Andhra. It has been doing active work amongst the banjara, a nomadic tribal community, for the last 8 years. Sri Chauhan is a traditional healer involved in Vish Chikitsa Parampara. For the last 3 years, he has been actively involved in organizing the folk practitioners, in his community and strengthening the local traditions. He has documented the entire local flora (over ISO plants) and is the convenor of the association of traditional practitioners in Mukhed Taluka.

11. Academy of Young Scientists (Health Policy Group at Lucknow)

The AYS has been involved in several field projects in the area of non-conventioaal energy sources and habitat in several parts of the country in the past five years. It lias conducted several field studies in these areas with the financial help of central and state governments as well as those from semi-government and non-government sources. While its health policy group has hitherto been largely involved in policy studies with students of medicine, health workers and others, it has over the last year or two taken up initiating Lok Swasthya Parampara Samvardhan work around some rural areas between Sitapur and Lucknow. It has now constituted a team of indigenous practitioners and scientists who will be involved in this work.


1. Field Projects

Field programmers will be organized in eleven tahsils located in Maharashtra, Bihar, U.P. and Tamil Nadu and, where LSPSS groups are active. In all these field centres, the common thrust will be on organizing the following types of activities in the villages:-


Organizing training camps for the local traditional health practitioners on subjects like (i) plant identification and properties and uses of medicinal plants (ii) basic technology of processing medicinal plants to prepare medicines in the form of kshara, satva, ghana, arka, taila, vati, arishta, chuVna etc. (iii) diagnosis and treatment of common ailments (iv) food and nutrition, based on local resources (v) mother and child care (vi) home-remedies.

The training is essentially an interaction between the local traditions and the organized health sciences of the Indian tradition, namely, Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani. LSPSS members I are fully aware of the autonomous and self-reliant nature of the local health traditions; They are aware that for thousands of years and even today the local traditional health workers, have not been employees of any state or private organization but are supported directly by the village communities. They are aware that the local health traditions Mo not function with a commercial ethos but are guided essentially by values held sacred. The traditional knowledge has been passed down the ages by word of mouth from teacher to student following initiation of the sishya into a code of conduct by the guru. In the light of the above LSPSS has, as a conscious policy decided to take great care and 'in no way disrespect or disturb this self-reliant nature of the local health traditions or its cultural ethos. In the field programmers, the field groups will intervene in the local situation only by way of providing informal training to traditional practitioners with the express intention of revitalizing weakened traditional practices. They will be involved in' the task of 'samvardhan of the existing lok swasthya paramparas' and will not attempt, in the name of expediency, to try and coopt the traditional practitioners as field workers or paid employees etc. Creative ways will have to be found to introduce suitable initiation ceremonies at these training programmers so that the non-commercial values that guide the code of conduct of the local traditions are not lost.

Herbal Gardens

The second thrust area is the creation of herbal gardens in the taluks. The importance of creating herbal gardens and raising nurseries of medicinal plants cannot be sufficiently emphasized. Today, firstly due to deforestation and secondly due to the free access that government has given to pharmaceutical companies to collect herbs from local forests, the local population faces a great scarcity of medicinal plants essential for its own primary health care needs. Whereas' on one hand LSPSS groups will actively engage in propagation of selected medicinal plants for local use (and not for commerce), they also propose to prepare lists of medicinal plants essential for primary health care purposes and to urge the government to restrict the trade of plants outside of the respective local environs.

2 Creation of Special training facilities for folk practitioners in specialized areas

The art and technique of bone setting and the treatment of poisons are examples of two areas where many local health traditions have become very weak and are urgently in need of support. Particularly in these two areas, the villager who needs medical help is put to great hardships when competent help is not available from within the local tradition. There are however very competent traditional centers for bone-setting and vishachUdtsa in certain parts of the country. In Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala, there are strong traditional centers for bone setting, and for Vishachuatsa, there are centers in Kerala. Under this activity LSPSS proposes to carefully identify traditional centers of excellence in such specialized fields and make arrangements for framing of a few folk practitioners from other regions on a regular basis at the centers. LSPSS may for instance be required to create simple hostels at some of these centers, if it is so desired by the traditional 'guru', or arrange some pieces of equipment, or provide some form of dashing to the guru in order to make the training arrangements possible and feasible.

3. Fellowship Schemes

One of the most crucial tasks for the Lok Swasthya Parampara Samvardhan work, is to identify and remove the weakness which exists in the local health traditions. The local health traditions are 'oral* traditions. A serious question that is to be squarely faced in every local tradition is how can on oral tradition once weakened revitalize itself? One possible solution is to seek help from outside the weakened local tradition from a source of knowledge that is compatible with the local traditional knowledge.

There is sufficient evidence to establish that most of the oral, folk and tribal traditions of health care, have a definite relationship with the science of Ayurveda. There is also sufficient evidence to suggest that the science of Ayurveda has its empirical roots in folk traditions. It may be proper to view Ayurveda (and similarly Siddha) as but the scientific expression or synthesis of numerous folk traditions. In this sense, the science of Ayurveda or Siddha can be seen to belong to (and born out of) folk and tribal traditions. This organic and symbiotic link needs to be only reestablished. The above understanding of the relationship between folk traditions and Ayurveda and Siddha guides the design of the LSPSS fellowship scheme.

Why Fellowships

Based on the understanding that village traditions of health care simply cannot be revitalized without the aid of the organized science and technology of indigenous health sciences, just as the sciences themselves need contact with a wider practical field in order to breathe more life into their theories, LSPSS has decided to launch a scheme of scholarships in order to inspire and encourage selected young scientists of these traditions to specially devote their studies, to those aspects of indigenous science and technology as are relevant in the context of local level samvardhan work to be undertaken by field groups, is not merely an organizational or ethno-data collection program. It has an essentially live scientific component. Each locality and environment has its own variety of flora. It is this local flora that has to be evaluated scientifically and used creatively in the local situation (application of dnaya-gunasastra).

Today there is a serious need to evaluate the. traditional uses of the local flora, confirm those uses' which are sound, add to diem tested new uses if incomplete and reject what may prove to be distorted. In many cases field clinical trials will have to be carried out to establish the best processed form and combination of plants for preparing a medicine. The diagnostic ability of local practitioners also needs to be strengthened. All this and more is involved in 'samvardhan' of local health traditions. It is this work that will need sustained and given scientific support.

The Scheme

The scholarship scheme has two thrusts. In the first, the LSPSS will offer 5 scholarships every year* of R&30GY- p-m for 3 years to students of Ayurveda, Siddha or Unani who have 3 more years to complete their medical degree. These students will be selected from institutions’ where a competent teacher* who supports LSPSS objectives is available. Even during their 3 years studies, certain co-curricular projects will be assigned to students, so as to prepare them for the samvardhan work. A condition will also be set that these students spend onto one month every year during the vacation with a field group, so that they get a 'feel' of the local situation, in which they will be expected to serve.

The second thrust of the fellowship program me will be aimed at fresh graduates of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani.1 Here again 5 fellowships are to be offered each year. The scheme envisages that the selected physicians are first offered the opportunity of spending one year in training with a very experienced physician, during which period they will be offered a full fellowship of Rs.L20Q/- per . and after one year of this apprenticeship they will be expected to spend 3 years on a full time basis with field groups of the LSPSS. The LSPSS has started identifying 'traditional centers of excellence' where the young physicians will be sent for one year internship. The opportunity to learn from experienced traditional physicians is a very rare opportunity and can provide a young physician with knowledge, skills and insight that may serve a life-time.

4. Science Conventions

LSPSS proposes to hold annual science conventions in various states where its groups are active. LSPSS believes that the organization of these conferences is a very important function of the samiti, in the context of the 'samvardhan' of Lok Swasthya Paramparas. Such conventions provide a forum for serious exchange of scientific and technical experiences’ amongst folk practitioners and the indigenous systems of medicine. A forum is needed because NO FORUM has so for been provided to these folk and tribal science and technology field workers, despite the richness of their traditional knowledge.

National Conventions:

The Lok Paramparas function in the social context of the health needs of the millions. However, the mainstream activity in Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha, shows hardly any awareness about their social responsibility for the Samvardhan of the village Lok Swasthya Paramparas and the big scientific that is involved in the revitalization of these traditions. In December 1986 the LSPSS groups came together in a 7 day national convention of Ayurvedic scientists as well as scientists and field workers trained in the Western medical sciences on the subject of the Indigenous Science of Nutrition''. The main idea behind organizing this National convention was to draw the attention of Indigenous scientists towards their social role in explaining to western trained medical workers, the scientific basis behind local traditions of diet and nutrition, practiced by millions of Indian households, particularly in rural areas where diet patterns are still traditional. Today the so called trained medical workers are inadvertently destroying many sound dietary and nutritional concepts and practices of village people, simply because the terms like Datum, Vita, Pita, Ushant, Seetabala etc are not understood by those who are trained solely in terms of western nutrition science categories. The mainstream indigenous scientists who could defend the Lok Swasthya Parampara's, do not in fact do so, because they are not keenly aware of their social responsibilities, at this historical juncture of our society's development.

The December 1986 convention was attended by about 35 ayurvedic scientists and students from various southern states and about 100 persons trained in Western medical sciences. Many important decisions which will support the strengthening of local traditions in food and nutrition were taken and efforts for implementing them have begun.

LSPSS wishes to create a tradition for hosting such a national convention every year. Each annual convention would focus on a major theme of relevance to Lok Swasthya Parampara Samvardhan. The theme chosen for 1988 is "Mother and Child care".

5. Publications

Two series of regular publications are being planned - one is a series of popular booklets aimed at the general reader to be brought in English , Hindi and Tamil Another would be a series of technical monographs aimed at the folk practitioners as well as health workers and scientists from the modern sector who wish to understand the scientific basis for the Lok Swasthya Paramparas.

Author:Vaidya Gangadharan & A-V.Balasnbramanian

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