Categorizing "madness" in classical and contemporary Āyurveda - a traditional category of mental disease in historical perspective
(University of Heidelberg)
Paper short abstract:
In the classical literature of Āyurveda, a traditional scholarly medical system of South Asia, unmāda (“madness”) is a distinct disease-category with its own etiology and symptomatology. How this disease is described in classical and contemporary Āyurveda forms the theme of this paper.
Paper long abstract:
Āyurveda, a classical learned medical system of South Asia, looks back at a vast specialized literature spanning two millennia. Starting from the oldest layer of extant āyurvedic literature unmāda (literally "madness") forms a distinct disease-category. In this paper symptomatology, etiology and classification of unmāda in four seminal texts of classical Āyurveda from the first centuries CE (Caraka-Saṃhitā, Suśruta-Saṃhitā, Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā. Mādhavanidāna) will first be described in their context. Generally speaking one finds etiological classifications on the basis of a humoral pathology side by side with the idea of possession (graha) by supernatural beings (bhūta). The short historical survey of these concepts in the classical texts will be completed by a passing glance at the role and interpretation of unmāda in contemporary Āyurveda where this classical disease-category is most often equated with the modern category of "psychosis". The idea of "possession" is often disputed by modern āyurvedic authors or the term for "supernatural beings" is interpreted to mean pathogenic microorganisms.
Collaboration between psychiatry and anthropology: nosological and etiological challenges