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Title: The Healing Hand: Missionaries and their Medicines in the Khasi Hills (1879-1899)
Authors: Sen, Arpita
Keywords: Khasi
brahmo dharma
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Vidyasagar University , Midnapore , West Bengal , India
Series/Report no.: Vidyasagar University Journal of History;2013-2014
Abstract: This article proposes to study the role of the missionaries in regard to health and medicine in the Khasi Hills (Meghalaya) within a time frame of twenty years (1879-1899). By missionaries it refers to the activities and works of the Welsh missionary doctor belonging to the Welsh Presbyterian Church. Dr. Griffith Griffiths, who was an allopathic doctor and surgeon and arrived in the Khasi Hills in December 1878, to begin practice in 1879 and also to a Brahmo missionary Nilmoni Chakraborty, who by his own admission was not a trained homeopathic doctor but was compelled to take up the practice of homeopathy when he came to the Khasi Hills in June 1889, after seeing the desperate plight of the Khasis who were plagued by various diseases –cholera, malaria, dysentery, tuberculosis etcetera. This article argues that apart from humanitarian reasons the purpose of both the missionaries was to attract the Khasi people to their respective religions which they were successfully able to do to some extent by capitalizing on the Khasi indigenous belief that medicinal practice and healing were closely related to religion. Illnesses, according to the Khasis were caused by evil spirits and remedies or cures could only be found through divination ceremonies followed by sacrifices, something which with the passage of time increasingly failed under the onslaught of allopathic and homeopathic medicines. This article argues that the recovery from various diseases and better health under the ministrations of the missionaries was attributed to the Healing Hand of a Christian Godhead or a Brahmo God in the context of which Khasi methods of healing became redundant and some of them, at least, gradually inclined towards Christianity and the Brahmo Dharma. The Khasi superstitions and religious beliefs, their resistance to modern medicines, the obstacles which the missionaries encountered in the course of their work and the extent of success of allopathic treatment and surgery as counterpoised to homeopathy are some of the aspects this article looks into
ISSN: 2321-0834
Appears in Collections:Vidyasagar University Journal of History Vol 2 [2013-2014]

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