‘Persian, Tibetan style influenced India’s medical drawings’

Kolkata, Feb 1 (IANS) The development of Indian medicine had “powerful influences” from Persia and Tibet in its anatomical drawings and illustrations, says the project head of Medicine Corner, an ongoing three-city exhibition exploring India’s plurality of cultures of medicine.

“Though India had a vast body of medical literature, there are very very few anatomical illustrations in any of the classic indigenous medical texts. It is deeply textual and the tradition of anatomical illustrations comes from abroad,” the Britain-based Ratan Vaswani told IANS here during the Kolkata edition of the event.

Christened “Jeevanchakraa” (Akar Prakar Gallery, Kolkata) and “Tabiyat” at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) in Mumbai, the programme is an initiative of Britain’s Wellcome Collection, a global health charity.

Exhibits include sculptures, clothing, textiles, decorative wrestling clubs, manuscripts, intimate personal items such as combs and foot scrubbers, medical instruments, domestic utensils, oil paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, plaques and board games (including a snakes and ladders board from the late 18th century – the game has Indian roots).

“There are very powerful Persian and Muslim influences in the development of Indian medicine,” said Vaswani.

As an example, he highlighted a 14th century Persian work called “Tasrih-i-Mansuri” and its 18th century western Indian copy that fuses Persian and Indian styles.

“The Hindu copy takes the anatomical model- Persian style of circular hand and hands on thigh squatting pose – and adds on to it the Chakra. So it’s a fusion of the physical view in Muslim style with Indian metaphysical view,” said Vaswani, who curated “Tabiyat”.

In addition, as for the trans-Himalayan influence, the “The Ayurvedic Man” is evidence of the corresponding drawing styles.

“It is the only known historical illustration of the human anatomy as understood in Ayurveda. What India takes from Tibet is the drawing style and what Tibet takes from India is its Ayurvedic theory… it takes the theoretical basis of Indian medicine,” added Vaswani.

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