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By Rachel Berger (auth.)

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Additional info for Ayurveda Made Modern: Political Histories of Indigenous Medicine in North India, 1900–1955

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42 The rise in power of new social groups who formed alliances in the new spaces of modernity, like educational systems or social clubs, resulted in a formation of relationships outside of the context of kinship or jati, and also resulted in a reification of the ideals of modernity as a basis for forming community. Part of the performance of this new middle-class identity was participation in the public sphere through intellectual debates on the social issues of the time. The middle-class perspective therefore dominated the public sphere because the ‘project’ of making the middle class was heavily reliant on the evolution of the public sphere.

48 Abu Fazl, the Mughal emperor Akbar’s advisor and scribe, mentions Ayurveda at the beginning of the third volume of his impressive Ain-i-Akbari, included in a section on the 18 sciences of the Hindu belief system. Ayurveda is described as the 15th science, composed of ‘the science of anatomy, hygiene, nosology and therapeutics . . 51 Alter comments further on this distinction in a footnote, mentioning that he was using the works of Caraka and Susruta in contemporary translation, without paying heed to the criticisms that Sanskritists might lodge at him about the quality of the texts he chose.

As such, this chapter argues that, at the beginning of what was to become an era of experimental planning on a local, national and global scale, an intimate familiarity with Ayurveda itself became a designation of an attractively authentic and thoroughly modern understanding of the postcolonial Indian condition. Working through several genres of contrasted knowledge production about Ayurveda in the 1950s, this chapter reveals a plurality of stakeholders, ranging from federal politicians to state bureaucrats to educational instructors to lay authors, who scrambled to lay claim to an authoritative knowledge of Ayurveda, and who together formulated a politics of the possible for Ayurvedic medicine.

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