Namaskar, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen!
I am happy to be present here for the inaugural function of the Vision Conclave as a part of the Global Ayurveda Festival organized in God’s own country - Kerala.
Kerala is the hub of traditional Ayurveda. This is not only due to the long, uninterrupted practice of Ayurveda in this state, but also due to the global popularity of its authentic medicines and therapies, and now, the vast, fast growing network of health resorts and hospitals of Ayurveda.
I have been informed that the five-day Global Ayurveda Festival has turned out to be excellent in terms of participation and projection of the various facets of Ayurveda.
It is heartening to note that foreign delegates in large numbers have come from various countries to participate in the Ayurveda festival. I am sure their participation in this festival will provide a lot of impetus to the spread of Ayurveda.
In India we have had a long great tradition of saints and hermits who evolved our own indigenous systems of healthcare, like Ayurveda, Yoga and Siddha.
Over time, we also interacted with different civilizations and assimilated other systems of medicine as well.
All these systems were based on the philosophy of “सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिन, सर्वे सन्तु निरामयः”. That is: All should remain happy, all should remain healthy.
Ayurveda is generally defined as ‘Science of life’ by translating ‘Ayuh(r)’ as life and ‘Veda’ as science. Sushruta defines health as:
Samdosha, samagni, samdhatu malakriyah Prasannatma, indriyas manah swath abhidayate.
This means that health is balanced when all three doshas or bioenergy and agni or metabolic process are balanced, and excretions are in proper order. When atman or soul, senses, manah or intellect are in harmony with internal peace, svastha or optimal health is achieved.
Compare this with the definition of health that the World Health Organization uses: health is a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. So we see how strongly the principles of Ayurveda are aligned with the definition of health propagated by the WHO.
Health is the complete state of well being and not the absence of disease.
Today, Ayurveda is relevant globally because of its holistic and comprehensive approach to health.
The Ayurvedic 'dincharya' or daily schedule helps to bring about peace and harmony in one's life. Ayurvedic daily life routines are meant to enhance the total health of a human being, both mental and physical.
What are the great health challenges that the world is facing today? Non-communicable diseases, lifestyle related diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and cancers have become the greatest health challenges. WHO estimates that non-communicable diseases kill about 38 million people each year and almost three quarters of NCD deaths, that is 28 million, occur in low and middle-income countries. It is in managing these that Ayurveda offers solutions.
The long tradition of saints and hermits who created Indian systems of healthcare like Ayurveda, yoga and siddha believes in a harmonious relationship with nature.
These systems try to create balance and preserve health through eco-friendly practices and sustainable sourcing of medicinal herbs.
Unfortunately, the real potential of Ayurveda is untapped because of many reasons. Most importantly because of inadequate scientific scrutiny and concerns regarding standards and quality.
If these issues are addressed properly, I am sure Ayurveda can provide solutions to many health problems. India can be a leader in making affordable, holistic health care available to the world.
What can we do, and what are we doing to address these issues?
Our government is fully committed to promotion of Ayurveda and traditional systems of medicine. As soon as this government was formed, the Department of AYUSH was upgraded to the status of a full Ministry in the Government of India.
The National AYUSH Mission has been started to promote AYUSH medical systems through cost effective AYUSH services, strengthening of educational systems, facilitating the enforcement of quality control of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani & Homoeopathy drugs and sustainable availability of raw-materials.
For quality control of AYUSH drugs, steps are being taken to bring regulatory amendments for effective enforcement and strengthening the regulatory framework at the Central and State levels.
Creating a vertical structure for AYUSH drugs in Central Drug Standards Control Organization, control over misleading advertisements and extension of financial support to the States under National AYUSH Mission for quality control activities are important initiatives that are underway.
To ensure credibility of knowledge and skills of yoga experts, a Scheme for Voluntary Certification of Yoga Professionals has been launched on 22nd June last year during the “International Conference on Yoga for Holistic Health”.
Our policy regarding Ayurveda and other Indian systems of medicine is already aligned with the Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 of WHO, which has been adopted in the World Health Assembly for implementation by 192 member countries of WHO.
The WHO strategy contains methodologies for harnessing the potential contribution of Traditional and Complementary Medicine to health, wellness and person-centered healthcare.
In the words of Swami Vivekananda, therefore, we shall- "COMBINE THE BEST OF EAST WITH THAT OF THE WEST".
Modern systems of medicine have strong and effective diagnostic tools that allow us to screen and detect disease early. The use of technology in healthcare has the potential to reduce barriers to accessing care, and improve our understanding of disease patterns.
However, we do need to look beyond. We need to look beyond providing healthcare and engage in the pursuit of good health, a combination of physical and mental well being.
The escalating costs of treatment, the side effects of medicines have prompted medical experts to think of widening their horizons to traditional systems of medicine.
We are committed to promote the use of traditional medicine in our Public Health System through regulation of research and appropriate integration of quality products, practices, and practitioners into the health system.
Our efforts are to tap the real potential of Ayurveda and other AYUSH systems in imparting preventive, promotive and holistic healthcare to the people.
We will maximize the utilization of Ayurveda and Yoga and other traditions of healing in accordance with their genius and acumen and help promotion of integrative medical facilities. Young entrepreneurs who are planning a start-up could find a lot of opportunities in holistic healthcare.
In the context of health sector planning, while we think of the utility and contemporary relevance of Ayurveda and other traditional medical systems, it is also important to ponder over the realities and the challenges faced by these systems.
Traditional medicine is affordable to many of the rural people. It is locally available to the communities, time-tested for its safety and efficacy. Above all, it imbibes the culture and eco-system of the communities within which it grows.
In many parts of developing countries, traditional medical practices are the only resources of healthcare within the physical and financial reach of the poor people.
It is therefore even more important that we ensure the quality of these systems.
All stakeholders of Ayurveda gathered here must agree that it is important for us to address the issues of safety, efficacy, quality, access and rational use of our traditional medical knowledge of Ayurveda. We should also move closely with the emerging trends in the areas of bio-medicine, health technology and information technology.
I know that there have been great efforts in China to develop and establish policies and regulations for promoting the safe use of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which comprises a large chunk of the international trade of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
We will learn from the experience of other countries, and ensure that Ayurveda and other Indian systems are propagated and popularised.
I am also told that the Delhi Declaration on Traditional Medicine adopted by the South East Asian Countries in February 2013 and later resolved by the WHO Regional Committee seeks member countries to follow harmonized approaches for developmental activities of Traditional Medicine.
I hope, proper implementation of articles of the Delhi Declaration will help to achieve systematic development of traditional medicine including Ayurveda as well at national, regional and global level.
We would like to offer our institutions as referral centres for training, capacity building and information & technology exchange programs in Ayurveda and other AYUSH systems.
Our leadership on these fronts can be sustained only with concerted efforts for rendering quality healthcare and education and by producing competent professionals.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as you are well aware, India has a long history and rich heritage of Ayurveda and Yoga. The multi-cultural origins of Ayurvedic knowledge are revealed in the classical texts themselves. Both Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita urge physicians to seek the help of cowherds, hunters and forest-dwellers for procuring medicinal plants.
In the Charaka Samhita, we notice the participation and contribution of a Central Asian physician in one of the assemblies of scholars gathered to formulate the principles of Ayurveda.
The three major classical texts give importance to Buddhist moral values. Vagbhata, who is said to be the author of one of the classical texts Ashtangahridayam, was a Buddhist.
It is evident, therefore, that these traditions grew by sharing knowledge, both locally as well as across cultures. They learnt from the most humble as well as those with arcane knowledge.
We will continue this effort. We will share the knowledge of our systems with the world, and continue to enrich our traditions by learning from other systems.
The Global Ayurveda Festival takes this vision forward.
I wish the Vision Conclave as well as Global Ayurveda Festival a grand success. I trust that the deliberations will focus on the crucial issues important for the global positioning of Ayurveda.
I will end with words from Ashtangahridayam, one of the most famous texts of Ayurveda.
The poor, those suffering from disease and those afflicted by sorrow should be helped. Even insects and ants should be treated with compassion, just as one's own self.
This is the guiding spirit of Ayurveda. Let this be the guiding spirit for all of us.