Anthony Cerulli (PhD, University of Chicago) is a religious historian. He is currently Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Asian Studies at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in New York State (USA). His research and teaching focus on Hinduism and the history of pre-Islamic Iran, as well as Sanskrit medical literature and the forms and functions of narratives (folktales) in Indian medical history. He recently published a book entitled Somatic Lessons: Narrating Patienthood and Illness in Indian Medical Literature (State University of New York Press, 2012). He is currently writing a book on the modern history of medical teaching in India, whereby he studies the evolution of the role of Sanskrit in Ayurvedic teaching and the pedagogical history of gurukula, in parallel with the development of a standardised medical studies programme in Ayurvedic schools, from the mid-19th century to the present.
Programme EURIAS à l’IEA de Paris
This project presents an ethnographic history of the south Indian gurukula (“family of the teacher”) as an institution for educating physicians of Ayurveda. It looks at the changing roles of Sanskrit language and medical literature in the development of a nationwide curriculum for ayurvedic colleges, focusing on the era of the British Raj (1858-1947) as the pivotal time when prominent ayurvedic physicians and indigenous medical groups publicly advocated for the integration of biomedical theory and practice in ayurvedic education. In rejecting traditional methods of Sanskrit-based instruction and medical treatment, while embracing English-based biomedical models of training and clinical practice, by the turn of the 20th century interest in gurukula medical education declined substantially in India. Positioned alongside biomedical education, medical instruction in the gurukula was perceived to be overly ritualistic and too reliant on outmoded Sanskrit sources. To explain the current and future roles of the gurukula in ayurvedic education, I analyze the changing perspectives about “texts” and “ritual” in the history of Indian medical education, drawing on fieldwork I conducted at two gurukulas in Kerala and among professors and students at ayurvedic colleges in Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamilnadu.