Contribution of Tribal Society to Modern Medicine – “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference)

Dr. Ivy Imogene Hansdak

Read the inaugural Speech by Dr. Ivy Hansdak: “Is tribal identity relevant in today’s world?” delivered during the conference titled “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” | Conference report | Video presentation “Tribes in Transition III” (September 2021): Inaugural Session & Keynote Speech by Prof. Anvita Abbi >>

Abstract 4: Contribution of Tribal Society to Modern Medicine

Paper presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi


Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


Tribal society still lives in the villages and large sections of this society have still not been exposed to allopathic medicines. Even today, while the government is growing and developing in areas where mineral extraction is limited to tribal areas, it is seen that diseases are still healed by the use of herbal medicine in these areas. Through these herbs it has been able to treat some of the Asagy diseases. Besides eating fruits and flowers, it is also used for the treatment of minor ailments. For example, the Adhul fruit-flowers provide great relief during abdominal pain. Despite the importance of these herbs, most of the flowers and trees are not considered suitable for scientific research. Yet, they continue to be used by tribal society. If scientific studies were made regarding these fruit-flowers, plants and trees, it could be very helpful in fighting diseases and drugs could be available at low cost to the public.

This paper will examine the role of the upcoming foreign markets in their research on indigenous medicine. In is unfortunate that forests containing these herbal plants are being destroyed by mining companies, hence indigenous knowledge, which is usually preserved in oral form, is also being destroyed and most people do not get to know the medicinal plants which are quite beneficial. Deviprasad Chattopadhyay in his book, Science and Society in Ancient India, rightly acknowledges that Ayurveda itself mentions that primitive tribes scattered in all corners of the world have knowledge of herbs as drugs for medical treatment. Hence, tribal knowledge of medicine which is found in a considerable amount of material availability in fauna is useful for therapy and healing.

BIONOTE: Arun Kumar Oraon is pursuing his PhD at the Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He may be contacted at the email ID:

Source: Book of Abstracts for the ICSSR-sponsored Two-Day National Conference Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative organised by The Department of English & Outreach Programme Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi, 27-28 February 2017)

Courtesy Dr. Ivy Hansdak, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia University New Delhi (email 4 October 2017)

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Photo © Indian Express

Companies keen on milking the country’s biodiversity must adhere to the law not only in letter but also in spirit | Read the full article in The telegraph (1 January 2019) >>

Fairness is integral to economic and political welfarism. It is only apt that those who provide a service are compensated adequately for their knowledge and labour. […]

The Uttarakhand High Court had to remind this ‘patriotic’ firm of the letter and the spirit of the legislation concerned. Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing of the Biological Diversity Act — it was passed in Parliament in 2002 — makes it clear that the nation’s biological capital must be shared in a manner so that the benefits accrue to all stakeholders. […]

Recognizing the traditional knowledge of indigenous people as a ‘property right’, the court stated that the nation is not the only legitimate owner of such resources; local and tribal communities, many of whom function as repositories of such ancient wisdom, have a valid claim on them. It is thus imperative for commercial enterprises, be they Indian or otherwise, to make payments in return for their right to make use of this knowledge and the resources. […]

Source: “Ayurveda and the narrow contours of nationalism: Companies keen on milking the country’s biodiversity must adhere to the law not only in letter but also in spirit”, Editorial, The Telegraph (Calcutta), 1 January 2019
Date visited: 22 May 2022

“The practice of religious rituals, ceremonies and sanctions by specific cultural groups allow such sacred landscapes to be maintained, emphasizing that humans are intrinsically part of the ecosystem. Taboos, codes and customs specific to activities and community members restrict access to most sacred groves. […] The inclusion of local people’s needs and interests in conservation planning is increasingly accepted as essential, both to promote the well-being of human populations, and to ensure that biodiversity and conservation needs are met in the long-term.” – Nazir A. Pala, Ajeet K. Neg and N.P. Todaria in “The Religious, Social and Cultural Significance of Forest Landscapes in Uttarakhand Himalaya, India” (International Journal of Conservation Science, Vol. 5, Issue 2, April-June 2014) | Sacred groves | Biodiversity and development – Himalaya >>

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