• Medication or Magic? Mantras in Early Āyurveda

    Vitus Angermeier (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, Hinduisms, Indology, Medical Humanities
    Mantras, Medicine, Ayurvedic, Healing--Religious aspects, Demonology, Spirit possession, Traditional medicine, South Asia
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Mantras: Sound, Materiality, and the Body, 12-14 May 2022, Vienna
    Conf. Org.:
    Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Vienna, co-organized by the Center for Contemporary South Asia, Brown University and the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
    Conf. Loc.:
    Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Vienna
    Conf. Date:
    12-14 May 2022
    Ayurveda, History of Medicine, Indian medicine, mantra
    Permanent URL:
    The seminal 1989 study “Mantra in Ayurveda” by Kenneth G. Zysk1 describes four areas in which mantras were used in early Ayurveda: the treatment of wounds and swellings/tumours, of poisoning, of mental disorders, and the collection and preparation of certain medicines. Although this article is a highly important contribution to the study of the significance of Vedic concepts in Ayurvedic medicine, it leaves much room for further investigation into the role of mantras in early South Asian medical history. Mantras appear in many more contexts than those mentioned by Zysk. Vedic and post-Vedic mantras are also mentioned in prescriptions on general preventive measures, preparation of food, intake of medicines, after-care of surgical procedures, pregnancy, childbirth and childcare, initiation of medical students, and other topics. Apart from their mere appearance, their medical use raises several more concrete questions, such as: Who is in charge of pronouncing the mantras? Are they taken from the Vedic corpus or other sources, and are there original “Ayurvedic” mantras? To what extent and in what way are the prescribed mantras connected to the medical circumstances? In this talk, I would like to update and complement Zysk’s list, give an overview of the importance and prevalence of mantras in the various Ayurvedic schools and disciplines, and provide a perspective on what still needs to be done to thoroughly understand the role of mantras in Ayurveda.
    Last Updated:
    11 months ago


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