Applied Research: Indigenous Healing Practices in Select States of North East Region Supported by Indira Gandhi National Center for Art and Culture (IGNCA)

Plurality of healing systems is universal across cultures. Though Biomedicine is predominant and is state patronized across the world, in India it is followed by recent recognition of AYUSH which are codified systems. The expansion of professionalized, biomedical systems, in the capitalist world, with ever-expanding biomedical markets, are expensive and out of reach for most people. Most people in the rural and tribal reach out to non-codified traditional healing systems (based on oral traditions, folk lores). There has been minimal efforts to document, preserve, conserve and integrate indigenous healing systems, the ‘non-codified systems’ in an integrated manner.


The tribal communities have been using various natural resources as medicines since the time immemorial. The classic ethnographic and anthropological works focus on the shamanic and magico-religious healing practices, along with many studies on the etiology of diseases, the role of healers among the tribes. Subsequent studies on indigenous healing practices also continued this tradition in one way or the other to study the shamanistic and magico-religious practices.  There are debates over science and superstitions, rights and recognition, autonomy and accreditations when it comes to tribal medicines. The tribal medicines have experienced a systematic avoidance, and the legitimacy of tribal medicinal practitioners is undermined and questioned.


Objectives of the Project 

  • The importance of Tribal healers and their traditional/ indigenous knowledge systems.
  • The healing practices benefitting the communities for different ailments.
  • Challenges faced by the healers in practicing their healing systems like dwindling flora fauna and mineral resources in the locality.
  • Challenges in providing autonomy, legitimacy and intellectual property rights to the healers.
  • Challenges in knowledge transmission, integration into mainstream health care.



  • Ethnographic researcher will be carried out using different methods of data collection from the folk healers and key informants. Visual anthropological methods like Audio-visual documentation, with observation in natural settings will be carried out simultaneously.
  • Well known traditional healers of in each state, with varying practices of healing, including men and women healers will be covered. Thereby ensuring the representation of the healers, covering the geographical areas of each state.



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