B.G. Gokulan

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1994
This description of B.G. Gokulan's work was prepared when B.G. Gokulan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994 .


"Gokulan," as he is known, is improving the access to and quality of ophthalmology in India by re-introducing traditional preventive eye care methods.

The New Idea

Gokulan, who possesses a thorough knowledge of both traditional and modern medical practices, is creating a new field of health care in India by providing accessible, location specific, and cost-effective eye care.

Dr. Gokulan, whose title was earned through seven years of study of the ancient discipline of ayurvedic medicine, is demonstrating ways to avoid expensive diagnostic, treatment, and surgical procedures by using ayurvedic ophthalmologic preventative and curative practices. These practices can halt the progression of cataracts and other common eye ailments without resorting to surgery or expensive medical treatments.

Dr. Gokulan is systematically documenting and reviving a broader range of ayurvedic methods than is currently used, while training motivated and interested students and graduates of both ayurvedic and modern medicine in these cost-effective methods. This training enables poor and disadvantaged communities to access primary eye care for conditions such as night blindness, conjunctivitis and myopia, as well as cataracts.

The Problem

In India, there is a great need to supplement modern medical practices with ones that emphasize preventive care and that do not depend on high technology inputs, specialized practitioners, and costly intervention techniques. The high cost of surgery or treatment for eye disease is prohibitive to most Indians, especially to those in rural areas and small communities where specialized medical personnel are not available to treat these patients.

Ayurvedic medicine, which is low-cost and accessible, has fallen into disuse with the rise of modern medicine and doctors are often suspicious of these practices. None of the formal medical schools offers ayurvedic training as a part of its curriculum. Unfortunately, many components of the ayurvedic method of treatment have been lost over the years, and few documented case studies on the efficacy of ayurvedic medicine have been disseminated or published.

The Strategy

Dr. Gokulan is first working to collect and document many of the traditional texts on ayurvedic ophthalmology. This research provides him with material to present to his medical colleagues, as well as serving as a more developed resource base for ayurvedic practitioners.

As the second part of his strategy, Dr. Gokulan is using these texts and his practical experience to train para-medical practitioners and doctors in regenerative and preventive ayurvedic eye care. These doctors and practitioners from around the country then help spread his methodology to other communities.

He is further building a network of health and social service organizations in rural areas that help create an awareness of the ayurvedic alternative for health care. These organizations help to carry out public education programs in schools and villages that made ayurvedic methods accessible and attractive to the general population.

The Person

Encouraged by his mother, who was a practitioner of traditional medicine, Dr. Gokulan became interested in this field at a very early age. After studying the field for seven years, he chose to specialize in the area of traditional ophthalmology, continuing his studies under one of the very few remaining practitioners in this field. He has also studied modern diagnostics with a prominent ophthalmologist.