Welcome to the blog of the ERC-funded research project "Medicine, Immortality, Mokṣa: Entangled Histories of Ayurveda, Yoga and Alchemy in South Asia"!
The focuses of our enquiry are health, rejuvenation and longevity practices, the so-called ‘rasāyana’ practices. In the context of ayurveda, the Sanskrit term ‘rasāyana’ is used to describe a sub-discipline of medicine; the therapies that together constitute this sub-discipline; and finally, the medical formulations used in these therapies. Broadly speaking, rasāyana therapies and medicines are meant to prolong life, restore youthfulness and promote physical health and mental acuity, and the formulations could therefore perhaps be generally termed ‘tonics’. However, the various medical authors present a wide variety of approaches to the subject. Some rasāyana formulations are presented as medicines for specific diseases, others as a means to achieve enlightenment, yet others as charms that confer special powers or as elixirs of immortality. Practices with a similar range of aims also occur in both alchemical and yoga literature. It is our aim to explore the patterns of how these practices are understood in the three disciplines; to show if or how these are connected to each other; and finally, to analyse what these connections can tell us about the changing nature of the disciplines over time.
Our time-frame is wide and spans the tenth century to the present. The tenth century is when rasaśāstra literature emerged, closely followed by medieval yoga literature. It is also the beginning of remarkable changes in ayurveda, a time when new technologies and ways of processing drugs were introduced to the existing canon of medicine. All three, ayurveda, yoga and rasaśāstra, are still practised today and are connected in various ways in their contemporary forms. We aim to trace how past encounters and cross-fertilizations encouraged the development of hybrid forms in the modern evolution of yoga, ayurveda and rasaśāstra.
This blog will inform you about the various steps in our research, the questions that arise, the challenges we meet and our responses to them. We look forward to an exciting period of research and discussion and hope you will take an interest in our work as it proceeds.