In what could be seen as another attempt to push mythological beliefs as scientific knowledge, Madhya Pradesh higher and technical education minister Umashankar Gupta said on Thursday that ancient Indians had the medicine ('sanjeevani buti') that could bring the dead back to life.
Gupta further said research should be conducted to revive such indigenous knowledge for the benefit of masses. The minister was speaking at the inaugural session of a workshop on ‘research methodology’ at Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) in which about 150 researchers, academicians and experts from different fields participated.
He also went on to say that over centuries, invaders trivialised indigenous discoveries and medicinal knowledge in India and gradually the knowledge was forgotten or lost. Thus, modern research should focus on reviving such knowledge.
Later, when the minister was asked over the phone whether he believed that ‘sanjeevani buti’ existed, Gupta said there was a clear reference to the herb in Ramayana in context of bringing back Laxmana to life.
He added that earlier people did not even believe in Lord Rama or existence of related structures like Ram Setu. However, after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) came out with proof, people had to believe in it.
"Ancient India had a high level of medicinal knowledge and I said during the workshop that research should be conducted to revive knowledge that already existed in the country," the minister said.
However, SR Azad of Bharat Vigyan Sabha, an organisation promoting science and scientific temper, said scientific ancient Ayurvedic texts such as the Charak Samhita, which tabulates more than 1,500 medicinal plants, herbs and formulations, had no reference to any herb that could bring the dead back to life.
"India really had rich knowledge of herbal/ayurvedic medicines but such unverified statements belittle this knowledge and hampers the image of the country," Azad said.
Coordinator of the BMHRC workshop Manisha Shrivastava, however, said the minister’s comments were in reference to the need of pushing indigenous research in all the fields, particularly medicine because that would ensure cheaper drugs and diagnostics.