Traditional Medicine

Traditional Kalmyk medicine comprises knowledge, skills, and practices based on beliefs, worldviews, observations, and experiences and have been used by the Kalmyks for generations in the maintenance of health, as well as in the treatment of physical, mental, and spiritual illnesses. Such medicine includes treatment with various plants, food (milk products, soup and the flesh of various animals), objects (bones, stones, coins, religious artefacts), and metals (silver, lead), accompanied, as a rule, by various incantations and rituals pertaining to both shamanism and Buddhism. In this sense, it can be said that Kalmyk traditional medicine developed by incorporating folk medicine, shamanic healing practices, and Buddhist medical traditions adopted from Tibet.

Compared with Kalmyk folk medicine and magical practices pertaining to shamanism, which have generally been transmitted orally, the Tibetan tradition is based on written texts. In 1741 the Russian Empress Elizabeth officially recognized Tibetan Buddhism along with its medical tradition, which gave impetus to its further development and acceptance in Russia. Thus by the beginning of the 19th century Tibetan medicine had already been widely practised among the Buddhist peoples of Russia, the Kalmyks, the Buryats, and the Tuvinians. The Kalmyk lamaist doctors, who mastered diagnostic techniques such as Tawa, Regpa, and Driwa, used all the main medical classics – including the famous Atlas of Tibetan Medicine, Dzudshi, and others – that had been published in Russia by the beginning of the 20th century. With the repression of religious specialists and the destruction of monasteries, at the end of the 1930's Tibetan medicine ceased to exist in Kalmykia as an institution, although some folk healers and former lamas continued to practise it in secrecy along with folk medicine and shamanic healing practices. From the beginning of the 1990s, traditional medicine has been revived in Kalmykia, and today lamaist doctors at the Central Monastery in Elista, who were trained in Tibetan monasteries in India, receive patients daily. Almost every settlement in Kalmykia has folk healers, or medlegchis, who practise a mix of shamanic and Buddhist medicine.

Here you can view videos and listen to stories both by and about folk healers and lamaist doctors, as well as their methods and techniques.

Video Collections