The exhibition comprised over a hundred exhibits arranged in sections relating to four generic locations.

The Clinic

Places specifically equipped to treat the sick have existed in India since antiquity. Religious tradition argued that identifying oneself with one's physical body is spiritually inhibiting. Set against it, rational scientific enquiry led to early, advanced medical knowledge and practice.

Surgical operations requiring detailed, practical knowledge of anatomy are described in ancient manuscripts, but without illustration. In later history, illustrators adopted styles of anatomical drawing based on the body as seen both by Indian and other civilisations. The quest continues in India to develop innovative medical care for the nation and humanity.

The Shrine

India is dense with places dedicated to God, deities or holy people said to have power over illness.

Making peace with deities associated with diseases or with danger reflects Indian realities. As historically common causes of death, the awesome potencies of smallpox and snakes have been both feared and worshipped. 

Amulets are objects believed to have divine or supernatural power. Indians have always worn them. They have taken many forms, from simple lockets to ornate jewellery and whole garments. Usually worn or carried as general protection from injury or harm, they may also be prescribed for specific illnesses. 

The Home

India's traditional systems set medical treatment within a larger view of health and the lifecycle. Tabiyat, the resilience of individual bodies and minds, begins at home.

Diet is paramount in Indian thinking about health. Across India, hundreds of medicinal plants are used domestically. Exercise is concerned not only with physical fitness but also has a contemplative aspect. Hygienic rituals are concerned not only with physical cleanliness but also with spiritual purity. Personal grooming matters not only for appearance but also as the performance of duty.

As lives begin and end, bodies change and household dynamics shift. Childbirth is full of promise, but also jeopardy for mind and body. Death is full of sorrow, but also release. Life’s transitions are marked by distinctive and evolving cultural practices. 

The Street

Health issues and health commerce loom large on India's streets. In poor settlements insanitary conditions threaten individual and public health. To relieve tough working lives, millions use a narcotic masticant, paan.

Bonesetters are one of a great variety of health-related occupations in a vast street economy. In North India they are associated with wrestlers, who learnt how to treat dislocations and sprains.

Over the past century, as pockets of affluence have grown, traditional medicine has been commodified and marketed in extraordinary new ways.