Mon, 6 Dec 2021

Do we need a new approach to Ayurveda education?

Posted on Monday, June 18, 2018

ing awareness about organic treatment and lifestyle has made Ayurveda an attractive career option for the new generation, but can it be at par with mainstream medical treatment, Rajlakshmi Ghosh finds out

While the need to study ayurveda may vary from student to student, the most compelling reason boils down to the fact it creates optimal health and reverses illness through a multimodality approach. Evoking a fresh surge of interest, thanks to its emphasis on overall wellness, Ayurveda is not really seen as a poor alternative to allopathic medicine any longer. However, the need is to revise and upgrade ayurvedic education which should be more in sync with international standards and research-oriented.

The rigours of this discipline ensure its practitioners work overtime, on weekends and nights if required, to meet the scheduling needs of patients. The method of diagnosis - essentially through visual and tactile observations and analysis of patients’ medical lifestyles and histories - have made ayurveda a sought-after calling.

Curing chronic ailments from root and core is by no means easy, but the results can be impressive, say practitioners in the field. “In Ayurveda, we treat the cause of disease (nidan) and also its symptoms, but in allopathy the focus is on treating the disease,” says Yamini Bhusan Tripathi, dean, Faculty of Ayurveda, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS), Banaras Hindu University (BHU).

He says both Ayurveda and modern medicine share the same principle of pharmacology. “Most allopathic medicines are isolated from medicinal plants and synthesised through molecular extraction. Ayurveda on the other hand, uses the total plant extract and is the go-to treatment for those who are not looking for instant results. “Since ayurveda addresses the patient’s physiology and psychology all at the same, its holistic approach has many takers.”

Agrees PK Prajapati, Dean, All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), New Delhi, “Ayurveda considers treating the patient and not the disease, hence, institutes need to take a holistic approach towards ayurvedic teaching and training.”

While ayurveda is often perceived as an archaic science, it is really a way of life treating chronic disorders such as hypertension, obesity and heart disease. “History describes Sushruta as the world’s first surgeon, elevating Ayurveda’s status as a modern science,” says Suchita Sharma, ayurvedic consultant.

“Its recent developments could be attributed to the awareness surrounding organic medicines and lifestyles. This has come as a blessing in disguise since we use whole drugs most of which are organic,” Sharma adds.

Why Ayurveda

According to WHO, 65% of India’s population in rural areas uses ayurvedic and herbal medicines for primary health care. “The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and internationally reputed research organisations are ready to collaborate with ayurvedic research institutes and academia for fostering research in health care, a ground for ayurveda’s wide proliferation,” says Prajapati. 

However, the absence of data and lack of scientific analysis and record has prevented ayurveda from being at par with mainstream medicine. Diagnosis should be based more on scientific rather than subjective parameters. 


Presently, there more than 200 recognised undergraduate and 33 postgraduate Ayurvedic colleges in India. The course-curriculum notified by the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) is followed all over the country though at BHU it is taught in comparison with principles of allopathic system of medicine at the UG and PG levels. “While North India follows the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita (ancient ayurvedic texts in medicine and surgery), down South, the Astanga Hridaya (an ancient Ayurvedic treatise involving eight sections of Ayurveda in areas such as internal medicine, surgery, gynaecology and paediatrics, rejuvenation therapy, aphrodisiac therapy, toxicology, psychiatry or spiritual healing and ENT) is pursued. The difference lies in the treatment schedule rather than teaching methodology,” says Kerala-based career guru PR Venkitaraman.

Students aspiring to study full-fledged Ayurvedic course need to enrol for a 5 ½ year Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) course inclusive of a year’s internship following which they can practice as ayurvedic physicians (Vaidyas).

For further specialisation, they need to opt for a three-year MD/MS (Ayurveda) course offered in as many as 22 specialties and later a PhD course. They also have the option of pursuing B Pharma, M Pharma (Ayurveda), MSc (Medicinal Plants) apart from 3-6 months certificate courses in ayurvedic dietetics, nutrition, D Pharma (Ayurveda), Ksharasutra course, Panchakarma technician course etc offered by universites. The curriculum is based on learning all the aspects of ayurveda through classical text books, more information of which is available on

While course delivery is dual in nature involving both theory and practice, it is taught essentially in English, Hindi and other regional languages. “Unfortunately, the teaching in Sanskrit-- the main script of Ayurvedic texts --is not too common since there are few teachers who are proficient in the language,” says Tripathi.


Students of Ayurveda have multiple career options, in the Ayurvedic hospitals, clinics and  government dispensaries or in academia as teachers in government and private colleges after postgraduation; practitioners can also find jobs as research officers in research councils of Ayurveda (under Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences-CCRAS), or even start their own clinic and panchakarma centre.

With the global demand of ayurveda rising due to the interest in gentler and plant-based treatments, and therapies like pachakarma and yoga doing their bit to boost medical tourism, ayurveda seems to be making its mark as a career of choice among those willing to heal through aahar (diet), vihar (lifestyle modification), and hetu parivartan (withdrawal from cause of illness).   




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