Entangled Histories of Yoga, Ayurveda and Alchemy in South Asia

Entangled Histories of Yoga, Ayurveda and Alchemy in South Asia

The project examines the histories of yoga, ayurveda and rasaśāstra (Indian alchemy and iatrochemistry) from the tenth century to the present, focussing on the disciplines' health, rejuvenation and longevity practices. The goals of the project are to reveal the entanglements of these historical traditions, and to trace the trajectories of their evolution as components of today's global healthcare and personal development industries.

Our hypothesis is that practices aimed at achieving longevity, physical rejuvenation and transmutation constitute a key area of exchange between the three disciplines, preparing the grounds for a series of important pharmaceutical and technological innovations and also profoundly influencing the discourses of today's medicalized forms of globalized yoga as well as of contemporary institutionalized forms of ayurveda and rasaśāstra.

Drawing upon the primary historical sources of each respective tradition as well as on fieldwork data, the research team is exploring the shared terminology, praxis and theory of these three disciplines. We are examining why, when and how health, rejuvenation and longevity practices were employed; how each discipline’s discourse and practical applications relates to those of the others; and how past encounters and cross-fertilizations impact on contemporary health-related practices in yogic, ayurvedic and alchemists’ milieus.

The five-year ERC-funded project is based at the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at Vienna University and at Inform at the London School of Economics.

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