Healing and Wellbeing: Culture, Practices and Role of Government of Sri Lanka


Nirekha De Silva

PhD defended at: 

Griffith University



Healing and Wellbeing: Practices, Culture and the Role of Government of Sri Lanka

This thesis argues that the recognition, support and regulation by the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (hereafter known as Sri Lanka) of healing and wellbeing practices play an important role in determining, promoting, protecting or destroying the traditional cultural aspects of healing. To make this argument this thesis looks into four aspects of healing and wellbeing in Sri Lanka. The first aspect the thesis examines is the diversity of healing and wellbeing practices in Sri Lanka. The second aspect is to consider how structured, formal healing systems, such as Western allopathic healing, Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Acupuncture and Homeopathy are more likely to be recognised, supported and regulated by the Government of Sri Lanka, while the informal healing systems such as inter-generational healing and cosmic healing practices are less likely to be recognised, supported and regulated. The third aspect this thesis focuses on is questioning the definitions of traditional knowledge in practical application in the Sri Lankan context, and, more broadly, the use of traditional knowledge as legal, social and cultural categories. The fourth aspect that is explored are the issues related to protecting the traditional cultural aspects of healing in the process of systematic regulation by discussing inter-generational and cosmic healing practices.

Taken together, this thesis highlights existing diverse forms of healing practices matter because of their value in health and wellbeing of the community. These practices also strongly contribute towards the intangible cultural heritage of the country. Yet, it is not always possible for the Sri Lankan Government to protect the traditional cultural aspects of all forms of healing practices by recognising, supporting and regulating the diverse forms of healing practices existing in the country. While recognising Government limitations in protecting some traditional cultural aspects of healing the thesis highlights the need of the existing regulatory mechanism to be sensitive to traditional cultural aspects of healing and broaden the scope of recognition and protection.

This argument is presented in 7 chapters. Chapter 1 examines the diversity of healing and wellbeing practices in Sri Lanka. Chapter 2 discusses the main regulatory frameworks, schemes and practices related to health and wellbeing applicable in Sri Lanka. Chapter 3 provides an overview of the research design and methodology used to answer the research question. My findings are presented in Chapters 4 to 6. Chapter 4 is an attempt to understand the complexities of living healing practices in Sri Lanka and questions the healing practices that are considered and used in Sri Lanka. Chapter 5 examines the history and nature of the Government recognition, support and regulation of traditional healing practices in the country. Chapter 6 examines inter-generational healing in Sri Lanka, and argues that this is facing the threat of loss of the cultural heritage aspects of healing due, in large part, to Government interventions in recognising, supporting and regulating healing practices. Chapter 7 is the conclusion of the thesis.

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