Season 1, Rerun

An Ancient Pandemic Story

A Sanskrit scholar narrates a pandemic story from a far-seeing Ayurveda text warning of environmental degradation

Atreya, the renowned teacher of Ayurveda, is walking with his pupils on the banks of the river Ganga in Kampilya. Ominous signs of an epidemic shadow the grandeur of the ancient kingdom. Atreya explains to his students how an epidemic arises from degraded environmental conditions. And he points to their cause: the unrighteous actions of a particular group of citizens.

Sanskrit scholar Dominik Wujastyk of the University of Alberta in Canada, narrates this compelling pandemic story from one of the oldest Ayurvedic texts. It’s a story of surprising resonance with our current global situation.

Time Markers (mins:sec)

  • 0:34 Two major encyclopedias of Ayurveda
    1:23 Learning Sanskrit from eminent pandit in Pune
    2:30 Reciting first part of story in Sanskrit
    3:41 How Ayurveda views the human body
    4:30 The Charaka samhita
    4:55 Atreya’s story
    6:58 How Ayurveda explains an epidemic
    7:20 Descriptions of corrupted environmental conditions
    8:26 Atreya’s story continues
    8:50 What causes environmental corruption
    9:44 Greed and the environment
    10:24 Ancient texts are based on observation
    10:53 A golden opportunity

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Reading List

Wujastyk, Dominik. The Roots of Āyurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings, Penguin Classics (London, New York: Penguin Group). Third revised edition,pp.xlviii, 361. 2003

Wujastyk, Dominik and Conrad, Lawrence I. Contagion: Perspectives from Pre-modern Societies. (Ashgate Publishing: Aldershot, Burlington USA, Singapore, Sydney). 2000

Wujastyk, Dominik (2017). ‘Models of Disease in Ayurvedic Medicine’. In: The Routledge History of Disease. Ed. by Mark Jackson. Abingdon: Routledge. Chap. 3, pp. 38–53.


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