A controversy has broken out after the National Medical Commission replaced the national emblem of India with a coloured image of Hindu deity Dhanvantari and added the word “Bharat” to its official logo, The Hindu reported on Friday.

According to Hindu mythology, Dhanvantari is the god of Ayurveda.

Medicine practitioners and Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Thomas Isaac on Thursday criticised the changes in the National Medical Commission’s logo, saying this signals “the shameless entry of India into the inner circle of pseudoscience hell”.

The Indian Medical Association’s Kerala unit said that the move to introduce caste or religious thoughts into this field was not acceptable at all.

“The new logo gives wrong message and will harm the scientific and secular nature of the commission,” the association said. “Members of the profession have already raised their voice against this unacceptable move, and we strongly condemn the decision and demand immediate action.”

However, Yogendra Malik, a member of the ethics and medical registration board of the National Medical Commission, claimed that the logo had not been changed. “The image of Dhanvantari was in black and white, and when taking printouts, it was not clear,” he told PTI. “Now it’s in colour, and that’s the only difference. The national emblem was never the logo of NMC.”

He also insisted that the image of Dhanvantari had been on the logo for the past year.

The changed logo can be seen on the medical regulator’s official website but the old version featuring four lions is visible on the X social media platform.

BN Gangadhar, chairperson of the National Medical Commission, acknowledged that the logo now uses “Bharat” instead of India when referring to the country. “That is because the country has done so,” he told the Hindustan Times. “There is no other reason behind doing so.”

In September, a dinner invitation sent to G20 summit delegates from the president’s office introduced Droupadi Murmu as the “President of Bharat” instead of the usual “President of India”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s placard at the opening of the G20 summit also referred to India as “Bharat”, stirring speculation that the government may be about to change the country’s name.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced that the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres will now be renamed Ayushman Arogya Mandir (temple). The Centre sent a letter to states and Union Territories to implement the rebranding exercise by the end of this year, according to PTI.

The health ministry had asked state governments to upload photos of rebranded health centres on the official website.

Issac had described the move as “ultra nationalism at its worst”.