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Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

Baby steps to understanding Nepal

Ayurveda: ayu –>  life (saanskrit),  veda –> science (saanskrit)

Western definition : an alternative form of medicine, heavily reliant on local culture, belief, and spirituality. Very little is based on rational/scientific evidence. No proof of promoting effective medicinal treatment.

Here are a couple facts I found on the subject:

1)It’s been around for over 5000 years, accumulating local herbal and observational knowledge all along, giving it one of the most extensive and knowledgeable backgrounds in history.

2)About 80% of Nepal uses Ayurveda as the principal form of treatment and it is widely popular in the south Indian continent

3)It makes use of diluted forms of herbal supplements as well as diet to promote balance between the body and the mind.

Thesis: Aryuveda is based on an immense collection of evidence that, although it’s explained in a non-rational/provable manner, puts forward real remedies.


Basically, I argue that Ayurveda is very much a scientific and legitimate form of medicine because it is based on concrete evidence of patients recovering due to particular remedies. Although its background is experimental, its been collecting real world, observational knowledge for thousands of years. The ideas of doshas (humors) and elementary building blocks may conflict with the western explanation but that should not deny the fact that the result in most cases are the same. Much like how a math problem can be solved in different ways, Ayurveda presents its explanation in a different language, one with ties to spirituality and culture, but still arrives to the same conclusion. In this way I find Ayurveda to be beautiful, incorporating spiritual belief and custom which both promotes a healthy lifestyle and preserves the undeniable intricacies of Nepali culture.

Accepting that a non-western form of medicine was not only valid but at times more legitimate took convincing. I don’t think I came completely came to this conclusion until our ISP presentations came around, and I was forced to analyze what we had learned thoughtfully in order to present it articulately. The way I see it, Science is the integral structure of my mind, I consider incoming information through that lens and dismiss that which does not present a logical explanation. Much of what I have seen in Lalitpur (Patan) has been received this way, including, at first, my lessons on Ayurveda, and yet today I feel as though I may be able to accept more because I realize that I’ve been dismissing beliefs too easily.

In the next few weeks I wish to put this new awareness to use and look for the truth that lingers in every source of local knowledge. The key is to not bring myself to analyze the piece with my own bias. I speak a different language than the thanka paintings and the many pujas that frequent my Nepali home. In an effort to being a global citizen I must put even my most integral biases away to observe and hopefully learn the language of Nepal.