Aspiring physiotherapists will have to study Indian epics and Hindu scriptures as part of their bachelor’s programme under a university syllabus prepared by a panel headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s yoga guru.
The syllabus approved by the Ayush ministry includes epics such Ramayana and Mahabharata, the religious treatise Bhagavad Gita and Narad Bhakti Sutras, a collection of religious discourses by the mythological sage Narada.
The Smriti Irani-led human resource development ministry has also asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to look into the possibility of giving preference in admission to graduate courses in physiotherapy to students who have requisite expertise in yoga.
The government’s move could potentially invite a backlash by critics who accuse the BJP regime at the Centre of trying to saffronise education.
Ever since coming to power in May last year, the BJP-led NDA government has set about what it calls a reform of the education system by focusing on India’s culture and heritage instead of eulogising people which it considers invaders.
The opposition led by the Congress accuses the Modi government of attempting to introduce Hindutva ideology in textbooks and also of vitiating scientific temper by highlighting myths and legends.
The new syllabus has been uploaded on the website of the Ayush ministry, set up by the BJP government to promote ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy.
Sources said the human resource development ministry and University Grants Commission (UGC) have asked all universities to include the new syllabus prepared by a panel headed by HR Nagendra, Modi’s yoga guru. The UGC has also asked all universities to include yoga training in the curriculum on physiotherapy from this academic session.
The HRD ministry spokesperson did not respond to HT’s calls while a UGC official said they have merely followed the syllabus provided by the Ayush ministry. The template of the syllabus uploaded by Ayush ministry states that first semester students should be taught, “Brief to Upanishads and yoga in principal Upanishads, yogic perspective of epics; Ramayana, Adhyatma Ramayana and Mahabharata; yogic perspective: Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vasishtha, Narada Bhakti Sutras”.
UGC wrote to all central universities in May stating that the syllabus should be incorporated in their existing physiotherapy courses run by them and their affiliated colleges.
The move has already started generating political heat.
“@Smritiirani changes syllabus of physiotherapy and ads yoga as a subject and non medical contents which has no relation with medical science,” Jitendra Awhad, an NCP MLA wrote on Twitter.
“Syllabus includes Narad Bhakti Sutras, Puranas, Concept of ishvar.. Ramayana/Mahabharata .. It’s a joke not a remedy. Can all this cure any remedy?” he said in another tweet.
The HRD ministry set up the yoga committee in January following a consultative meeting chaired by Irani. The committee had suggested that six courses at various levels — including certificate, diploma, degree, post-graduate degree/diploma and research — be launched at all central universities.
Noting that varsities currently slot yoga under various disciplines such as sports, philosophy and education, it also recommended that a separate faculty — called yogic art and science — be created for it.