This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007


Indigenous belief system and its linkages with mental and physical health

Prof. Ajit K Dalal — University of Allahabad, Allahabad


Study of indigenous beliefs about health is emerging as a popular area of research in recent times. Rooted in scriptures, religious faith, local customs, practices and social structures, these beliefs form the very basis of traditional health care services in India. Legends, myths and folklores also play important role in shaping what people believe about their health and illness. Many of the indigenous beliefs have survived in the long history and remained integral to the larger belief system of the society. They still determine how do people understand their own disease, make treatment related decisions and appraise recovery. These beliefs serve various self, social and spiritual functions for people who are facing health crises. The paper also discusses the studies conducted by this author and his colleagues to examine indigenous health beliefs and their consequences for physical and mental health. These studies considered health beliefs in terms of causal attributions, as facilitators of recovery, as narrative construal and as legends and mythology. Using diverse methodologies these studies have attempted to examine the process through which indigenous beliefs and health status are causally interrelated. The conceptual and methodological issues emerging from these studies were discussed.


Email the author, Dr. Ajit Dalal, at