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How Allopathy won the war with Ayurveda?

Allopathy has its roots in the Heroic medicine system which was used to treat George Washington, US president. It was the cause of his death. But with the advent of British rule in India, slowly Ayurveda fell out of favor and the British government supported Allopathy.

Historical Context

[Sources: Source 1 & Source 2]

The years between 1780 – 1820, the British were trying to understand the various institutions of India like Gurukul system, Ayurveda, etc. But as the first industrial revolution drew towards its end (1750 – 1820) things started to change drastically.

Initially, classes in Ayurveda were also given at the Sanskrit College, using the works of Caraka and Susruta,while for Muslim students classes in Unani medicine were held in Urdu at the Calcutta Madrassa. A similar pattern of translation and vernacular instruction was followed at Bombay.

After the passing of Indian Education act of 1835, the tide started to turn away from the control of vernacularists & orientalists (who wanted to impart education in local languages) and in the favor of anglicists (who wanted to impart education of European sciences in European languages especially English) . Please don’t confuse one as better than the other. Both had same end goal, it was just that they employed different tools to attain their goals.

When the Calcutta Institution closed in 1835 it brought to an end an era of `peaceful’ cooperation and`friendly’ coexistence between the Western and Indian systems and signified the replacement of a benign Orientalist policy of patronising and learning from indigenous medicine for an intolerant Anglicist one, withdisastrous consequence for the subsequent history of indigenous medicine. Main difference between the twowas that `Orientalists advocated syncretic schemes for self-help to one’s own value system, whereas Anglicistswere less sympathetic to traditional values and more convinced that no real change was possible withoutradical assimilation to the British style of life.

The function of the Calcutta Native Medical Institution was never to promote indigenous medicine(which anyway formed a secondary part of the curriculum) as an equal or alternative to the Western system,but to `train up a class of native practitioners who would employ suitable native medicines with skill’. Offering instruction in Ayurveda and Unani medicine was also a ploy to attract recruits from the Vaidyas and othercommunities with a tradition of medical practice. Once recruited, it was assumed that they would come torecognise the superiority of Western medicine, even if they used cheap `native remedies’ instead of costlyimported drugs in their professional work.

In Bengal in 1833 the Governor-General, Lord Bentinck, appointed a committee for the purpose of`improving the constitution and extending the benefits’ of the Native Medical Institution and creating a systemof management and education better suited to official needs. The committee advised the abolition of theInstitution and in 1835 the Native Medical Institution was replaced by the New Medical College.

In 1909, after decades of trying to marginalize and do away with native Indian healthcare practices, the British government, pressured by the Western medical system, made a move to disbar Ayurvedic doctors. British persistence resulted in the Bombay Medical Registration Act of 1912, which moved to disqualify any medical practitioners who were not exclusively trained in Western medicine, holding a license or degree from a government medical college or school. Thus, Dr. Popat’s academic institution, which operated on a foundation of convergence between the Ayurvedic and allopathic schools of thought, was rendered illegal.


As Europe moved toward industrial production of pharmaceuticals, Western practitioners increasingly used drugs with a single “active ingredient,” distancing themselves from the traditional Indian preference for the whole herb or mineral.