Indian Insanity and the Local-Colonial Contest for its Treatment

  • Sarah Ann Pinto
Part of the Mental Health in Historical Perspective book series (MHHP)


This chapter presents a brief history of Indian perceptions and treatment of mental illness from ancient times to the colonial period. Local communities adhered to an integrated spiritual-somatic approach towards insanity. This chapter argues that the establishment of asylums necessitated a colonial construction of the Indian understanding of mental illness and its treatment as entirely spiritual and consequently ‘superstitious’. Colonial agencies used this narrative to justify the establishment of the asylum and promote its use. Along with asserting the superiority of western medicine, they undermined local agencies that traditionally provided treatment and care to those who suffered from mental illness. Furthermore, the chapter contends that the asylum, which was a response to Victorian society’s capitalist–individualistic ideals, remained peripheral to the life-worlds of Indian communities that were essentially collectivistic in nature.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Ann Pinto
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ScholarWellingtonNew Zealand

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