South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Selling ‘Ayurveda’ in Colonial Bengal: C.K Sen & Co.

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Jacaranda I, First Floor

It is indeed a paradox to note, that while the historical role of C.K Sen and Co has universally been acknowledged by leading experts on Ayurveda in colonial Bengal/India, practically no inclusive histories of this firm exist. This paper traces the early history of the firm primarily through a comprehensive study of advertisements and shows through a case study of this firm, the transformation traditional (Hindu) medical houses were undergoing in response to colonialism. The study tries to explain why, in spite of his ideological reluctance to publicize his business, the founder of this firm, Chandra Kishore Sen, ultimately adopted the modern method of commercial publicity to create one of leading indigenous firms dealing with traditional medical and wellness products in Bengal. The study thus tries to understand the justifications for this major shift by a traditional house of physicians towards what has been referred to as the ‘commercialisation’ and ‘commoditization’ of Ayurvedic products and discuss why the firm resorted to large-scale publicity towards that end. The study thus engages in a debate over whether the response of the firm was a necessity for survival or part of an overall challenge accepted and inspired by ‘Swadeshism’ or both. By looking into these issues the arguments presented here are an intervention not only in scholarship involved with traditional medicine, visual and commodity culture but also entrepreneurship, business history, vernacular capitalism and Swadeshi-nationalism.

Prithwiraj Biswas

Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira , India

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