Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 387–407 | Cite as

Swapnaushadhi: The Embedded Logic of Dreams and Medical Innovation in Bengal

  • Projit Bihari Mukharji
Original Paper


Numerous medicines in South Asia have their origins in dreams. Deities, saints and other supernatural beings frequently appear in dreams to instruct dreamers about specific remedies, therapeutic techniques, modes of care etc. These therapies challenge available models of historicising dreams. Once we overcome these challenges and unearth the embedded logic of these dreams, we begin to discern in them a dynamic institution that enabled and sustained therapeutic change within a ‘traditional’ medical milieu.


Folk medicine Habitus Oneiromancy Dream-land Subaltern therapeutics 



I am grateful to Laurent Pordié and Harish Naraindas for encouraging me to write this up and then waiting patiently despite repeated delays. Comments from the anonymous referees were enormously helpful in fleshing out the arguments made here. Conversations with David Hardiman gave me confidence that dreams could be historicized. Finally, Manjita Mukharji patiently heard, challenged and helped improve each of the myriad versions of the argument from its inception through to maturity.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of the History and Sociology of ScienceUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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