Scrolling down my newsfeed one lazy morning, I came across an article: “Starbucks has introduced a brand-new Latte with Turmeric”. My eyes rolled. Childhood memories of Mumma forcing hot turmeric milk (or “Haldi ka Doodh”) down my throat came rushing back to me. Apparently, “Haldi ka Doodh” (a common Ayurvedic medicine for cold used in Indian households) had become a rage in the West. It was praised as the “Golden Milk”.
I felt unsettled. Yet again, a slice of ancient Indian wisdom had gained popularity in the West, suddenly making my regular childhood beverage seem Instagramable. Upon reflection, I realized this was not an isolated event; it has become a trend. When our ancient wisdom, which we often conveniently neglect, gains currency in the West, we re-import it at a heftier price tag. (Maybe we haven’t moved much forward from our days of British Raj, I thought.)
The West has repackaged Turmeric, Yoga, coconut oil, etc. and now these local products are gathering steam in India again. But, why am I even talking about this? Can we really change the way things are? I have some good news: things are changing. India is stepping up!
India, as both the birthplace and breeding ground for the 5000-year old practice of Ayurveda, is now in a unique position to leverage its knowledge internationally. Currently, the world is gearing towards general wellness. This time, India is ready to capitalize on the trend! In his speech at United Nations General Assembly in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought India’s Vedic knowledge to the limelight by noting that “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition”.
Consequently, the world celebrated its first International Day of Yoga the very next year. Furthermore, Modi also expressed his intention to witness a health revolution centered at Ayurveda. He inaugurated the first National Ayurveda Divas on 28th October 2016.
Over the next five years, the government projects a “three-fold increase in Ayurveda facilities”. The cynic in me questioned: how can recognition of two fancy days help achieve a three-fold increase in Ayurveda facilities? To my surprise, much more is happening than the addition of red-circled days on Indian calendar.
To attract the global audience, India is trying out roadshows and “flood[ing] overseas markets with new promotional videos of yoga and Ayurveda”. Moreover, the ministry of AYUSH has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation in traditional medicine with several countries, such as Malaysia and Bangladesh. It has also opened AYUSH Informational Cells in 29 countries.
Global promotion is supplemented with local action. Ministry of AYUSH (formed in 2014) is invested in optimal development and propagation of AYUSH healthcare systems through education, research, policy and infrastructural developments. A noteworthy example of our progress is that 65 AYUSH Hospitals have been developed in about 3 years. All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), an apex institute under the Department of AYUSH, has been established with not only educational courses but also a state of the art research facilities.
These efforts are slowly bearing fruit. India is emerging as one of the most popular hubs for medical tourism. In 2017, India welcomed more than 1.4 million US tourists, which is 6% more than a year before. 40% of India’s wellness industry comprises of services, many of which are introducing medical packages with leisure, fun, and fitness. Even on a micro level, more and more individuals are reaping the benefits of Ayurvedic herbal medicine, Ayurvedic practices (yoga) and Vedic knowledge: the foundation of balanced, healthy living.
Noting the international and national efforts put in by the Indian government, Dr. Vaidya’s continues to be proudly Indian. The Vaidya family’s tryst with Ayurvedic medicine that started in Ahmedabad in the 1850s continues even today. Only this time, we are committed to bringing our ancient wisdom in the most convenient form to the modern you.
Author: Rupal Gupta, Guest Ayurveda Writer