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April 2018

The Vedic View of Vitiligo

Author Affiliations
  • 1 Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, New Jersey
  • 2 New York College of Podiatric Medicine, New York
  • 3 Department of Medicine, Division of Dermatology, Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(4):434. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.0364

Throughout antiquity, many causes of leukoderma, including vitiligo and leprosy, were thought to be the negative result of a prior action in life. In the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, “white spots” were arguably considered as a punishment by God for having committed a mortal sin, and the consequence for that was to be an outcaste.1 Around the same time period, in his book Clio, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote “if a Persian has leprosy or white sickness he is not allowed to enter into a city or to have dealings with other Persians [for] he must have sinned against the sun.”1 This all-too-familiar theme appeared again a thousand years later in the ancient Hindu texts, the Puranas, when Samba, the son of Lord Krishna, is cursed with “white leprosy” by the sage Durvasa for mocking him,2 or, depending on which version of the Puranas you read, is cursed by Lord Krishna for lack of propriety.3 Regardless of the inciting insult, all versions of the Puranas note that Samba was cured of “white leprosy” after he worshipped the sun god, Surya.2,3 Although it is impossible to be certain, it is likely that the Persian “white sickness” and Hindu “white leprosy” refer to vitiligo.