Envis Centre on Medicinal Plants

Projects & Activities

Medicinal Manuscripts Program

The Indian medical heritage has been extremely productive. India has one of the largest collections of medical manuscripts of any civilization in the world. While there is no precise enumeration of the number of manuscripts, estimates vary widely, putting it in the region of 20000 to 100,000 manuscripts. Several of these manuscripts are now in institutions such as – Oriental Manuscripts Libraries, Indological Research Institutions, Universities, Mutts and Archives and many are still in private collections. Manuscripts are also available in foreign libraries in U.K., France, Germany & USA and in Asian countries. It is based on this rich medical heritage that the Indian Medial Systems, especially Ayurveda is established. TDU-FRLHT has, out of its own vision and concern, undertaken a pioneering and exhaustive programme for the preservation of the Indian Medical heritage by accomplishing the following tasks:

  • Cataloguing - physical and e-cataloguing

    Though the Indian Medical Heritage, is very rich, having more than a hundred thousand works on its different aspects, proper cataloguing has not been done either that will help in identifying or accessing these most important treatises. Manuscripts in general and the medical manuscripts in particular form a precious part of India's cultural heritage. The urgency for initiating a program for conservation of medical manuscripts is firstly because there exists a real danger of losing a large number of manuscripts due to neglect. Realizing this great risk, and also recognizing the drawbacks in currently available catalogues of manuscripts in general and medical manuscripts in particular the IAIM has undertaken the difficult task of cataloguing all the Medical manuscripts available today. Apart from developing a physical catalogue of all medical manuscripts, it has also developed an electronic Descriptive catalogue that will soon be hosted on its website that will give comprehensive information about any medical manuscripts anywhere in the world, at the click of a button.

  • Training in Medical Manuscriptology

    The medical manuscripts that form the bedrock of Indian Medical Heritage are in forms of palm-leaf, old hand made paper and birch-bark. These manuscripts have been written in ancient scripts like Grantha, Sharada, Nandi Nagari and so on, that too in a cryptic style. Even scholars well versed in the Indian Medical systems are unable to even decipher the text of these manuscripts. This poses another major risk of the valuable information being lost to us. Unless human resources are developed to decipher, transcribe and edit these medical manuscripts, this risk cannot be overcome. For this purpose, TDU-FRLHT conducts comprehensive training programmes concerning all aspects medical manuscriptology where scholars and practitioners of Ayurveda are trained in deciphering, digitizing, cataloguing and editing Medical manuscripts. The TDU-FRLHT has also published a book called Handbook of Medical Manuscriptology for this purpose. The most recent programme was spread over 7 weeks and was well-received by the participants.

  • Digital Library of Medical Manuscripts

    To ensure that the valuable information housed in the rather brittle medical mss that are made of ancient palm leaves and birch barks, the CTF of TDU-FRLHT also has a programme to acquire and preserve the digital copies of such important medical mss. Since the mss are digitized using high-end digital cameras and stored in DVDs, even if the original mss are lost due to various reasons, the digital copies of the same will remain intact for many centuries to come and they can be deciphered, edited and published at one’s own pace. This is another important initiative undertaken by the CTF in the preservation and propagation of the ancient texts dealing with Indian Medical Heritage.

  • Publication of unpublished / important medical mss with translations etc

    As the next logical step of cataloguing medical mss and training personnel in deciphering medical mss, TDU-FRLHT has also undertaken the mammoth of publishing with translations into English (and in due course, other Indian languages), all the unpublished medical mss with valuable appendices. For this purpose it has identified the areas of Dietetics and ‘Nadi Vijnana’ on priority and is seriously working in this direction. Till date, it has brought out a valuable work on dietetics called ‘Kshemakutuhalam’ and Bhojanakutuhalam with English translation and annotations. Many more such valuable works are in the pipeline.

Programme for Strengthening of theoretical Foundation

The Indian Knowledge systems that have been in vogue for the last many millenniums, regard Ayurveda as one of the Upa-Veda-s (minor Veda-s), of the Rig-Veda. Ayurveda, being an Upa-Veda it has played a very significant role in the lives of people in the Indian sub-continent for many millenniums, catering to the health needs of all sections of the society. Each of the Indian philosophical systems has contributed to the evolution and practice of Ayurveda in its own unique and extensive manner. This was well known to the old practitioners of Ayurveda, for whom learning Sanskrit Language and some works of the Indian philosophical systems was mandatory. However in Ayurvedic educational institutions established after 1947, not much research has been conducted into this aspect so far. No documentation, as such, is available with regard to the part played by the Indian philosophical systems in the various subjects pertaining to Ayurveda. This has resulted in the theoretical foundations of Ayurveda being neglected to a very great extent.

  • Conducting of RoTP Programmes

    To overcome this lacunae, IAIM conducts Re-orientation Training Programmes (ROTPs) for lecturers of colleges of Ayurvedic colleges from all over India. These programmes are spread over a week’s time, and are residential in nature. Expert resource persons are invited to train the participants and the deliberations will be interactive in nature. Relevant study material is also provided to the participants.

  • Seminar of contribution of Indian philosophical systems to Ayurveda

    A National Seminar was organized the CTF of TDU-FRLHT on Contribution of Indian Philosophical Systems to Äyurveda, and held on the 6th and 7th of October 2007 at Choksi Hall, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The Seminar was aimed at improving the understanding of the theoretical foundations of Äyurveda. The seminar was sponsored by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi and co-sponsored by Himalaya Drug Company, Bangalore and Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, Coimbatore. Stalwart scholars from different parts of India participated in the seminar and deliberated on the topics of discussion. Post graduate students of Ayurveda from all over the country attended the seminar. Poster presentations were arranged to disseminate the salient aspects of the topics.

    The seminar ended with a panel discussion that stressed on the preparation the following for strengthening the theoretical foundations:

    • Necessity of graded language texts in order to teach Sanskrit. They should cover at least three levels of difficulty and should be designed using Äyurvedic terminologies, idioms and phrases. They must be based on Päëinian grammar.
    • Study of a Kävya text, at least one to two cantos of a Mahäkävya to be made compulsory. A small primer must be designed in order to introduce the students to the etymology of Äyurvedic terms.
    • Primers on Nyäya-Vaiçeñika philosophy must be designed keeping Äyurveda in focus

    The proceedings of the seminar which will serve as a handbook on the above subject have been published under the title ‘Ayurdarshanam’ and are available for sale at TDU-FRLHT.

  • Preparation of study material for strengthening the same

    As a sequel to the above, study material on the basics of the theoretical foundations has been prepared. This material is prepared in such a manner that even persons not familiar with the basic tenets of Indian philosophy or Ayurveda, but having basic education of the pre-university level would be able to understand the same without undergoing undue difficulty. It also focuses on the syllabus that is prescribed for the BAMS courses at the Graduate level.

Literary research and outreach programmes

  • Encyclopedia of Ayurveda

    Textual research is one of the most important aspects that is very much required to strengthen the theoretical foundations of Ayurveda. As on date, this is one of the most neglected aspects in the field of Ayurveda. Further, students and researchers of Ayurveda are not well-versed in Sanskrit and hence are greatly handicapped when it comes to understand the technical terminology used in the source works of Ayurveda. Many a times, they are totally at a loss in explaining the exact meaning of such terms. This is greatly hampering proper understanding and dissemination of the original texts. To overcome this problem the CTF of TDU-FRLHT has undertaken a very ambitious project of preparing Encyclopedia of Ayurveda both in print and electronic formats. This encyclopedia is a totally unique and mammoth one that gives extensive information about any technical word that is used principally in the Brihat Trayi and Laghu Trayi works of Ayurveda and other works also. Information about each word is given in about 20 fields, which will help the person referring to the encyclopedia to get a complete picture of the meaning of the word along with its connotations, and references from all important source works of Ayurveda. Till date information is collected, collated and presented for about 2000 words. The project has not continued for want of funds.

  • Preparation of e-books

    As a spin-off of the above project, TDU-FRLHT is also engaged in the developing e-books of important Ayurvedic texts. These e-books have extensive facility like searching the given texts for specific words, topics and so on. This will eliminate the need for physically carrying around heavy books and also facilitate searching and locating any required information at the click of a button. Presently one e-book having four important Ayurvedic works - Ashtanga hridaya and Ashtanga Sangraha with 2 commentaries each, and Bhava prakasha and Sarngadhara Samhita with search facility has been released for public use and many more are in the pipeline.

  • Project on Nadi-Vijnana

    Recently many efforts are being made to strengthen the Ancient Medical system of Ayurveda on the basis of Genomics. This is based on Nadi Vijnana which is an ancient science. There is sufficient proof for this in Vedic and allied literature. This is mainly based on study of the genetic changes that take place whenever there is a variation of any one of the Humors. Though the lineage of the practitioners of this science is almost lost, there is enormous amount of literature available on Nadi Vijnana belonging various periods. Presently, it is proposed to undertake first collect all the literature available, and after prioritizing them, publish the works one by one along with English translations. Based on these works, in due course, experiments will be designed and further, machines that can perform the task of Nadi experts will be manufactured.