A prestigious Indian university is offering a certificate course to teach doctors how to treat people who claim to see or be possessed by ghosts.
The six-month course at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in the northern city of Varanasi will start in January.
Officials say it will focus on psychosomatic disorders which are often confused with paranormal occurrences.
The course will be conducted by the faculty of Ayurveda, the ancient Hindu system of medicine and healing.
A BHU official told news agency IANS that a separate unit of Bhoot Vidya (Ghost Studies) had been set up in the university.
"Bhoot Vidya mainly deals with psychosomatic disorders, diseases caused by unknown reasons and diseases of mind or psychic conditions," Yamini Bhushan Tripathi, the Ayurveda faculty dean, said.
She added that the university was the first in the country to offer such a course which would teach doctors about "the Ayurvedic remedies to treat ghost-related ailments".
Ayurvedic therapies generally include herbal medicines, diet changes, massages, breathing and other forms of exercise.
According to a 2016 study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (Nimhans), nearly 14% of Indians are mentally ill. And in 2017, the WHO estimated that 20% of Indians might suffer from depression at some point in their lives.
But there are less than 4,000 mental health professionals in the country of 1.3 billion people and there is little awareness about these issues.
Also, because of widespread social stigma, few seek for professional help or care and many Indians, especially in rural and poorer areas, visit shamans and witch-doctors in the hope that they will help cure their mental illnesses.
The news that the government-run BHU will be starting a course in Bhoot Vidya has been questioned on social media by some who pointed out that medicine and rehab were more appropriate methods to deal with mental health issues:
BHU starting a course on BhootVidya.— Dr.Bhooshan Shukla MD (@docbhooshan) December 26, 2019
My take -
Severe and chronic mental illnesses are treated best with modern medicine and appropriate rehab. Early intervention by modern medicine is their only hope.
For many mild ailments of mind,heart and soul field is wide open for all.
Some wondered if the course could have been better named:
It's ayurvedic therapy cource of psychosomatic disorders, legitimate field of medicine. Problem is just the name 'Bhoot Vidya'.— vipul (@vipul_kp) December 25, 2019
But most ridiculed the announcement and some even used it to question Indian government's priorities:
So, Ghosts are real, Says BHU !https://t.co/X5BEf1Zeb8— चिकित्सक मित्र (@Medical_Mitra) December 24, 2019
Rest of the World: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning.— SG (@shrinivassg) December 26, 2019
India: "Bhoot Vidya" Course. pic.twitter.com/4lzLw5XCWn
National Priorities: India v/s China— Rajesh Sawhney (@rajeshsawhney) December 26, 2019
Two media reports caught my eye today
-China has commenced research in 6G technology ahead of 5G roll out in 2020
- BHU, a leading Indian university, offers 6 month certificate course in Bhoot Vidyahttps://t.co/jITQC4AVhi pic.twitter.com/6QJswr3rOh
6 months cert course in Bhoot Vidya In BHU.. With this kind of education we want t make India globally competitive? Best wishes Hindutwavadis https://t.co/Xs6qmLjNki— Col Ashok; Veteran (@ashokkmrsingh) December 26, 2019