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Modi govt to promote Tibetan healing system with AIIMS-like Sowa-Rigpa hospital in Leh

Practised widely in Sikkim, Arunachal, Darjeeling, Himachal & Ladakh, Sowa-Rigpa is a Tibetan medicinal system that translates as the ‘science of healing’.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is set to build a 100-bed national-level hospital in Leh that will provide treatment in one of the oldest surviving medicinal systems in the world, Sowa-Rigpa. The facility will replace a 10-bed Sowa-Rigpa indoor hospital that was constructed in 2013.

Practised widely in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, West Bengal’s Darjeeling, and Dharamshala and Lahaul-Spiti in Himachal, Sowa-Rigpa — the Tibetan medicinal system that literally translates as the ‘science of healing’ — is known to have similarities to India’s ancient medicinal system, Ayurveda. 

As ThePrint reported in October, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is extremely keen on promoting the system.  

On 20 November, the Union Cabinet approved the upgrading of the National Research Institute of Sowa-Rigpa (NRISR) into a full-fledged National Institute of Sowa-Rigpa (NISR). The 100-bed hospital will be part of the institute, which will function as an autonomous organisation under the AYUSH ministry. 

It is among the first decisions that Cabinet has taken on the development of Ladakh since the region began functioning as a union territory from 31 October following the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir.

Apart from the 100-bed hospital, the NISR, which will come up on 15 acres of land, will also house an undergraduate and postgraduate college, hostels and a research centre. 

“The setting up of NISR Leh will be a landmark step in the direction of a scientific AYUSH education system,” Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, secretary, AYUSH Ministry, told ThePrint. “It will carry out various research activities in the field of Sowa-Rigpa and serve as a model for the hospital.”  

“We are planning to construct it as a 200 to 300-bed facility but the initial proposal is to start with 100 beds,” Kotecha added. “The idea is to make it ‘an AIIMS-like’ premier hospital for Sowa-Rigpa in India.”  

Also read: These are the top states where Ayushman Bharat patients rush for treatment 

How Modi government plans to promote Sowa-Rigpa in India

As the government has decided to upgrade the NRISR, its staff and infrastructure will be merged with the NISR within a period of three years.

With the given budget of a little over Rs 47.25 crore for the next three years, the proposed institute will require “36 posts for the initial three years and total of 151 posts once it becomes fully operational”, according to the Ministry of Ayush plan reviewed by ThePrint.  

Also, the existing two institutes  for Sowa-Rigpa — the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (CIHTS), Sarnath, Varanasi, and Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (CIBS), Leh — under the Ministry of Culture will be coordinated with the NISR “preferably within one year”, according to the ministry’s plan document.  

Illustration: Soham Sen


Sowa-Rigpa — Indian or Chinese? 

India and China are at odds over the legacy of Sowa-Rigpa. 

“While India has asked for UNESCO recognition of the system as its ‘intangible cultural heritage,” China has objected to the move,”  a senior official from the ministry said.   

“The literature in Sowa-Rigpa is a translation of Astanga hridaya — one of the three oldest literature of Ayurveda,” the official added. “We have given our inputs to ministry of culture and ministry of external affairs who are representing us.” 

According to the ministry of AYUSH, the system is based on indigenous medicine of Tibet enriched with Ayurveda, Chinese and Greek medicine.  

The Modi government had last year incorporated Sowa-Rigpa into the acronym of AYUSH where the alphabet ‘S’ represents both — Siddha and Sowa-Rigpa. The other alphabets Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, and Homeopathy. 

Also read: Coming soon: More than 750 inspectors & technicians to regulate medical devices in India


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