Ayurvedic medicine
AYURVEDIC MEDICINEHealth workers from the Ministry of AYUSH hand out Ayurvedic medicine to people gathered to give swab samples for Covid-19 testing at John Hall, on May 7, 2020, in Gurugram, India.PHOTOGRAPH BY PARVEEN KUMAR, HINDUSTAN TIMES VIA GETTY IMAGES

As India struggles with one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks, thousands of doctors across the nation fighting to save patients amid shortages of oxygen, medicine, and vaccines wore black armbands on June 1 to call for the arrest of India’s most popular yoga televangelist. Baba Ramdev, founder of a traditional medicine empire, is peddling unproven herbal pills and yoga cures for COVID-19, while calling modern drugs “stupid” and blaming the country’s hundreds of thousands of coronavirus deaths on modern medicine.

But far from being fringe, Ramdev has close ties to India’s Hindu nationalist government and has enjoyed the support of the health minister. Since the pandemic began last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been aggressively promoting Ayurveda—a traditional system of medicine with deep links to Hinduism that originated 5,000 years ago and is still widely practiced by hundreds of millions of Indians. 


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