photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
environmental knowledge
traditional skills

community activities
culture and customs
employment and income
family life
food security
justice and crime
livelihood strategies
social change
social institutions
social relationships
spiritual beliefs
traditional skills

introducing the area


 quotes about health
 key testimonies featuring health

Several narrators say that people aren't as healthy as they used to be due to changes in diet, especially the reduced consumption of dairy produce and "natural and pure" traditional foods. "Coarse" grains such as millet have been replaced by wheat and rice, as these are seen as signs of "progress". There is, however, a consensus that some of the worst diseases of the past - cholera and typhoid are mentioned - are now rare. Others such as chicken pox, measles and malaria have been brought "under control" by modern methods, though this narrator (India 7), like others, feels "some strange diseases are coming up, which did not exist in our times." India 15 is not alone in blaming diet: "Food in the old days was better since it was pure. They had pure oil and food grains. Nobody fell sick. The food grains that came from the lower area brought diseases that did not exist earlier."

Another change is that people no longer rely solely on their indigenous health traditions, which take full advantage of the abundance and variety of medicinal plants produced by the Himalaya's many ecosystems. Modern medicines and methods are seen as effective for certain conditions, and most agree that they have significantly improved women's reproductive health and experiences of childbirth. However, several argue that while allopathic medicine provides fast relief, it is temporary; and that slower, more permanent cures come only from the use of Ayurvedic medicine, which "root out the disease" (India 9). While traditional healing methods continue to be well used, several say younger people's knowledge of them is diminishing fast, as certain plants disappear from the environment and the older practitioners die, taking their specialist knowledge with them. Some of the preference over forms of health treatment is split along generational lines, but there are elderly narrators who praise modern facilities. "I am 80 years old. now the women go to hospitals.where deliveries are conducted with ease and comfort. The mother and child.are well looked after by doctors, nurses. They are given medicines free of cost.The government is educating people through television, radio and newspapers. Our old methods should be stopped and new techniques should be adopted." (India 18)

Quite a few people talk about how they used to cure people by praying to the deities, and the comfort this provided to the sick. There's some disagreement over the value and appropriateness of family planning, with some women expressing unease on religious grounds. Several say how much healthier a mountain environment is than the plains, especially in the cooler, higher pastures where there are no mosquitoes.

quotes about health

"In those days people had the knowledge of wild, local medicinal plants and roots. They used to treat others with these. The people got well. Valuable medicinal plants are found here in plenty... I know more than 200 wild roots and plants of medical value."
Mohan, M/60, ayurvedic physician, India 8

".the English (allopathic) medicines are there for quick cures. They suppress the illness immediately. But.another comes up in its place."
Sudesha, F/50s, activist/farmer, India 1

"The main problem we have to face here is pregnancy. If a problem arises during natural childbirth in some remote areas, the woman dies without medical aid. To avoid this, maternity centres should be opened at a short distances."
Mohan, M/60, ayurvedic physician, India 8

"We arrange for the [birth] in the obara (lower storey). The lower room is warm and the floor is plastered with mud. many women of our village are midwives. They have plenty of experience. No one from the younger generation has any knowledge of how to do this work. No one from among them will be able to take over as the local midwife."
Prabha, F/54, India 36

"In our times cholera was a dreaded disease which used to finish off village after village. People have no options at such times, except to worship their gods and goddesses and utter no word. Only mint and onion was given to patients. Now the government has almost controlled the epidemic."
Tegh, M/74, farmer, India 7

key testimonies featuring health

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   1   Sudesha   female/50   activist/farmer   Rampur village, Henwal valley, Tehri Garhwal  
Summary Transcript   17   Ram   female/67   farmer   Krabha village, Nichar, Sutlej valley, Kinnaur  
Summary Transcript   18   Lakupati   Female/80   Farmer   Chaura village, Nichar, Sutlej valley, Kinnaur  
Summary Transcript   22   Hira   female/53   weaver/farmer   Vauna and Ghamsali, Nandakini valley, Chamoli  
Summary Transcript   28   Vijay   male/41   activist/farmer   Jardhargoan, Henval valley, Tehri Garhwal  
Summary Transcript   34   Bachandei   Female/70   Farmer   Dharwal village, Bhagirathi valley, Tehri Garhwal  
Summary Transcript   36   Prabha   Female/54      Nagthat village, Yamuna valley, Dehra Dun  
Summary Transcript   7   Tegh   male/74   farmer   Bilog village, Bhagirathi valley, Uttarkashi  
Summary Transcript   8   Mohan   male/60   ayurvedic physician   Chamba, Henval valley, Tehri Garhwal  
Summary Transcript   9   Satye   male/45   farmer/waged work   Goni village, Alaknanda valley, Tehri Garhwal