Forest Ecosystem and Wellbeing: A Tribal Community in Transition

By Chinmayi Sarma

This paper tries to trace indigenous health and well being practices prevalent among the Rabhas of Assam, who share a symbiotic relationship with their forest ecosystem. The role of religion in perpetuating the belief that the forest holds key to most ailments is unique. For Rabhas ethno-medicine does not merely mean meticulous mixing of various forest produce but a belief system, which each insider must adhere to. The social role of forest in promoting well-being and health is the key proposition. However in the neo-liberal period it is felt that such perception is getting eroded, as the state makes inroads into the forest economy making provisions for modern medicine. The erstwhile holism is gradually being replaced by a medical gaze. Alienation of the community from its ecosystem is bringing in new diseases and their past resilience is being compromised.

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