From Witchcraft to Allopathy: Uninterrupted Journey of Medical Science

19 Aug, 2006


  1. The survival of spurious medical disciplines in India, both indigenous and modern, is rooted in the total disarray in public healthcare. 

  2. Many factors hindered the advancement of Ayurveda, such as a Brahmanical culture that circumscribed the transmission of knowledge, feudalism and the tendency of practitioners to focus on treating obscure diseases.  

  3. The modern healthcare system, introduced during the colonial era, comprised primary health centres in villages, large size hospitals in district headquarters and even bigger hospitals in cities, in addition to medical schools attached to major hospitals.

  4. As India set up more medical colleges, including some for indigenous medicine, it allowed for the total collapse of a free healthcare system in favour of highly modern, profit-making hospitals in major cities that catered to the rich. 

  5. Around 85 per cent of healthcare is provided by these moneymaking institutions to 15 per cent of the population, while 85 per cent of the population must rely on dismal health services. 

    (Factoids and Focus compiled by Vedika Inamdar.)


This article from the Economic and Political Weekly, a peer-reviewed journal, traces the history and development of medical science in India, ranging from systems of witchcraft to allopathy. The author also compares the Chinese, Greek and Egyptian systems of medicine to Ayurveda and outlines their similarities. He discusses the growth of modern medicine and the dismal state of the public healthcare system in India. The article concludes that the country’s poor healthcare structure can be attributed to its strong feudal culture, which promoted both rational and irrational medical practices.


Daya R. Varma