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Ayurvedic biology course at JNU

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) will offer a course in Ayurvedic biology, supported by the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH).

The course will span five years, integrating Ayurvedic principles of traditional medicine with allopathic medical science. In the words of the Union Ministry of Science and Technology’s Engineering Research Board, Ayurvedic biology is “concepts, procedures and products of Ayurveda in terms of modern sciences such as molecular biology, immunology and chemistry.” 

“If things go according to plans, we will have the first batch starting in July 2020,” explained JNU’s vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar. “It’s a new experiment in the country. Nowhere will you find science professors as concurrent faculty in any school of Sanskrit. There are many companies producing ayurvedic medicines and they require expertise. We hope our scholars will fill that gap.” 

The proposed Ayurvedic biology course is being termed a “first-of-its-kind” endeavour, incorporating biotechnology, life sciences, and molecular medicine professors as concurrent faculty of JNU’s School of Sanskrit and Indic Studies. The staffing will take the form of sixteen from life sciences; fifteen faculty members from the departments of computational linguistics, linguistics, Pali, philosophy, and Sanskrit studies; seven adjunct faculty members from different universities; and two from humanities and social sciences. 

Earlier this year, integrated health research was afforded a Rs 200 crore boon as efforts to promote alternative and traditional systems of medicine in India are underway. The announcement of the Rs 200 crore boost came on the heels of the launch of a national network of AYUSH centres, allowing laboratories and centres from across the country to share data and research. The Ayurvedic biology course at JNU is in-keeping with this trend of promotion of integrated health research and promotion of alternative medicine.

JNU’s Sanskrit Studies dean Girish Nath Jha said that the course “would propagate traditional scientific knowledge which is available in Sanskrit and further enrich it.” He expanded that “candidates will be selected through an entrance exam which will have sections on Sanskrit and the sciences, including physics, chemistry and biology. This is not a medicine course, and graduates would be able to seek employment in Ayurvedic product companies, research institutions and schools…Without understanding anatomy, physiology, pathology and botany, you cannot teach Ayurvedic Biology. Professional knowledge is required.”

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