Ayurveda in Modern Times

Modern-day Ayurveda, as practised in India today, is based on a resurgence that occurred around the 17th century. One cause of this may be the increased competition that Ayurveda faced by the coming of the Moghuls and the rise in use of Unani medicine. Another may be the new energy in Ayurveda from the synthesis that occurred between Ayurveda and yogic-tantric thought. Two fundamental new techniques that arose from this synthesis were the introduction of pulse diagnosis and the use of new mineral remedies. They are both central to the practice of contemporary Ayurveda. Pulse-taking seems to have arisen from the Shaiva yogic tradition that thrived in South India under the guidance of the Tamil Siddhas. It later arose in North India, with such works as the Sarnagadhara Samhita , Nadivijnana and Nadicakra adding to this theoretical base (Meulenbeld 2001). The Unani hakims were also useful teachers in the art of pulse-taking. The mineral remedies (mercury, gold, silver ashes) are very potent and revolutionised the ayurvedic pharmacopoeia. These additional techniques greatly enhanced the efficacy of Ayurveda and this gave impetus to its resurgence.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw a further revival with the building of new ayurvedic colleges(approximately 100 in 1983), the creation of the Central Council for Ayurveda in 1970 to oversee standards and practice, and the establishment of ayurvedic pharmaceutical companies. Its patron-age by the Indian government now gives Ayurveda some form of nationally recognized status but this really needs to be more proactive and supportive. The 21st century really is a time of challenges and opportunities for Ayurveda. As Ayurveda spreads throughout the world it is facing many challenges to the traditional way in which it has been practiced. There are legislative, environmental, educational, clinical, and cultural challenges that are facing the ayurvedic community. It is a time to act or be acted upon, meaning that the ayurvedic community must unite and speak up to express its needs or will face legislation on which it has had no influence. How Ayurveda meets these challenges will steer its fate in the future.