Shedding light on Wellcome’s historical collections that relate to Ayurveda and Indian medicine and tracing how health narratives have been shaped by multiple cultural encounters.
This exhibition takes its title and inspiration from the ‘Ayurvedic Man’ – an 18th-century Nepali painting depicting the organs and vessels of the male body according to classical Ayurveda. Showcasing an exquisite range of material, including Sanskrit, Persian and Tibetan manuscripts, vibrant gouache paintings, erotic manuals and animal-shaped surgical tools from our collections, the exhibition includes a new commission by artist Ranjit Kandalgaonkar reimagining the Bombay plague epidemic of 1896 and a new film by Nilanjan Bhattacharya centred around two contemporary medicinal practitioners from India.
Ayurveda has been associated for thousands of years with a range of medical practices rooted in South Asia. Widely practised today in India and beyond, it has been transformed during exchanges with biomedicine and the global market of wellness. As Ayurveda evolves and objects are dispersed across museums, several questions remain: Who owns medical heritage? And what is the contemporary relevance of collections built from colonial encounters?
Ranjit Kandalgaonkar’s commission follows from his residency at Gasworks, London, which was supported by the Charles Wallace India Trust and Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation.