AYURVEDA AS THE FORERUNNER OF MODERN MEDICAL SCIENCE
The Term “Ayurveda’ denotes the fact that it deals with life and living long, free from any illness. Its chief aim is to cure illness and in the case of healthy persons, to preserve that state. Chakra, Sushrutha and other Acharyas of Ayurveda declare this to be an Upaveda to the Atharvaveda, because of the close connection between the two. Kasyapa Samhita and Brahma Vaivarta Purana hold Ayurveda as the fifth Veda.
In fact it is extolled by Sushrutha that the term Veda by itself means only Ayurveda.
It is familiar to us that Vedas refer to illnesses cured by Mantra,Tantra,Yagna and Devapujas etc. But the Atharva Veda speaks also of illness, the medicinal herbs to be used for curing them and the ways to be adopted for this. We can realise rom this that the system of Ayurveda had begun even in the early Vedic period. Scholars know that the influnence of Ayurveda is to be seen in other Vedas as well.
THE INFLUENCE OF AYURVEDA IN THE FOUR VEDAS
Ashwini Kumaras are specified as the celestial physicians. The Rig-Veda narrates the wonderful achievements of these physicians (i) the head of Dadicha was cut off replacing it by the head of a horse and again the original head was restored; (ii) the Broken leg of a princes was set right by the use of an iron leg; (iii) Katchivan was cured of his blindness and deafness; (iv) Pusha’s broken tooth was replaced by a new one; (v) Youthfulness and long life were given to old Chyavana ; and Vatrimati was cured of barenness. It is also recorded how Indra cured Abala of a skin ailment, the lameness of Srora and the eye-ailment of Paramarja. All these cures were effected by medicinal ways and not by mantra and tantras. The Ashwini Devas too should have done likewise; there is no mention at all of cures effected by the power of tapas (austerities); on the other hand details of medicines are given. It is astonishing to find that plastic surgery also was practiced by the Ashwinis.
The Rig-Veda speaks of three fundamental disorders-wind(vata),bile ( pitha ) and phlegm (kappa) – and gives them the name “Tridhatu” – special to Ayurveda.
(b) Shukla – Yajurveda
In this Veda (Taittriya Samhita) are recorded cures by medicines of leprosy and heart ailments (cardiac disorders); there are also mantras pertaining to lunacy, tuberculosis and the three basic disorders.
(c) Atharva – veda
This veda is the prime source for the development of Ayurveda thousands of mantras testify to this. There are detailed expositions of illnesses, medicines, herbs, the Tridoshasiddhanta, names of the main diseases with their sub-divisions, the cures for them, anatomy (parts of the body) and Ashtanga treatment, special to Ayurveda. In short, it may be said that the chief aim of the Atharva-veda is the exposition of Ayurvedic treatment.
THE WAY (PANCHAKARMA ) PRACTISED BY BUDDHA IN HIS TIME.
There are five methods in Ayurveda that is used to eject impurities from all parts
of the body, stomach, and head etc. They are known as:
1.Panchakarma Vamanal- Inducing vomiting (emetics)
2.Virochana - Purging (purgatives)
3.Nasyam - Administering medicines through the nose (nasal drops)
4.Vasti - Passing oil mixtures through the anus
5.Raktamokshanam- Drawing out impure blood through the agency of mongoose or leach
As a preliminary to these, inducing perspiration from the different limbs and making them oily (Sveta and Sneha) have to be done. Ayurveda’s basic claim is that all diseases can be cured by these five methods alone. All Ayurvedic texts proclaim this.
Charaka has in his work dealt with this more elaborately and in details with several suggestions than others. “vinayapitaka”, the Buddist monk indicates that Buddha resorted to Panchakarma for curing illness and taught this to others. There is also a story that one Vilindavasa was cured of a wind-ailment (vaata) by inducing profuse perspiration. In the same work, four methods for inducing perspiration are indicated.
Making the oil-smeared patient sit in a pit dug in the ground filled with fire and etc.
Making the patient lie on a bed of leaves inducing perspiration
Bathing the patient in a tub of hot water
Giving a leaf concoction
A fifth method of making the patient sit in a smoky room is also indicated (Aindakasvedam). (Charaka also has referred to this by the same term.).It is said that Bhagvan Buddha cured Vilindavasa suffering from wind and blood pressure ailments by letting out blood by piercing with a sharp instrument – (Raktamokshnam). The book-Vaidyajivaka, which narrates many stories in Buddha’s time, indicates some cures a ruler living in Sakata cured his wife of a chronic head-ache through nasal drops (Nasyam); a ruler of Ujjain named Pradbodha was given ghee as an emetic and in the case of the ruler’s servant, a medicinal emetic was used. It is also narrated that Buddha was given nasal drops to cure an ailment of the head. Thus it is clear that Buddha and his followers practiced Ayurvedic treatment and that Jivaka stories were long in vogue among the people.
THE MEDICAL COUNCIL CONSTITUTED BY CHARAKA
Charaka was the first to put forth the basic principles of Ayurveda based on argumentation in a logical manner on a research basis. He has established the research on Ayurveda in a scientific manner. He only has depicted /described the variations of the soil / land and its properties as the root-cause for the diseases. He was much concerned to perceive a method for curing diseases based on temporal aspect by shedding superstition. The credit goes only to him for being the first to put forward in Ayurveda system that by forming expert committee to illustrate wisdom by giving them opportunity to express their opinion on the basis of critical or scientific enquiry or investigation and to make straight forward decisions (devoid of superstitions) finally. Based on this, it is seen in many places in Charaka Samhitha that Aathreyapunarvasu has presided over the said committee, heard the arguments of many sages based on critical enquiry/investigation, then gave decisions and thus determined medical techniques. It is seen that just because a sage had put forth something, it was not accepted even in those days, but it was perceived /valued on the basis of critical enquiry/investigation. Today we see the formation of a medical team, consisting of several doctors, engaged to treat a rich man based on their unanimous and collective opinion. This serves to remind us of the period of Charaka. It was his opinion that the mental state of a person must also be analysed along with his physical condition while determining his diseases i.e. during diagnosis. He has mentioned several expedient / conducive methods for the people to live longer even in those days. Charaka has firmly asserted even in those days that prime importance should be given to nature in medical treatment. This work, which contains several distinctive features of this sort, is fast becoming a harmonious bridge between the ancient and the modern medical system.
AYURVEDA IN TAMIL LITERATURE
In the 95th chapter of Thirukkural’s second part of the four divisions of subjects namely “Medicine” it is said that the high or low state of flatulence (vaatha) bile (pitha) and phlegm (kappa) are considered to be the diseases by the Ayurveda experts and in Silappathikaram, especially in the chapter dealing with the town that celebrated Indra festival, it is said that in a town called ‘Pugar’ there existed a street exclusively inhabited by physicians, similar to that of peasants and astrologers. Hence it is very clear through the above mentioned references that Ayurveda Medical System was in vogue in Tamizh Naadu even in the ancient times. No indication / sign of siddha medical system, which originated in Tamizh Naadu is traced even in the cities ruled by Tamizh kings. Hence it is felt that Siddha Medical System was not popular in Tamizh Naadu in those days.
CHARAKA’S PRESCRIPTION OF SNAKE VENOM AS MEDICINE
In Charaka Samhita, Chikithsa Sthaanam Chapter 13 , it is said that the physician who could not prevent a patient suffering from dropsy / flatulence, also known as big belly, becoming severe despite serious treatment methods , should explain the situation to the patient’s relatives and use cobra’s venom as medicine for the same. The venom of the annoyed cobra, which would have been emitted while biting some fruit should be given for consumption of the patient.
Ayurveda enunciates that the snake venom can be used for the chronic diseases like bilious and anal disorders. By following only this, the modern medical practitioners are using the snake venom as medicine for chronic diseases. Hence it is believed today that the ancient Indian sages alone were the guide for the use of the use of snake venom as medicine.
Just as Sage Athreya taught the bodily medical treatment methods, which is a branch of Ayurveda, to his disciples like Charaka, Sage Dhanvanthari has outlined surgical treatment methods, which is yet another branch of Ayurveda, to his disciples like Susrutha, who learnt and wrote the same to be popularly known as Susrutha Samhita in honour of his name. This remains the prime text on surgical treatment just as Charaka’s Charaka Samhita is the prime text on bodily medical treatment,.
It is understood that Susrutha was the son of Viswamitra, as per its mention in 66th Chapter in Uttra Sthanam, 4th Chapter in Anusaasana Parva of Mahabharata, Garudapuram, etc. A person known as Thivodhasa, who was the king of Kasi was only called as Dhanvanthari. Hence Thivodhasa and Dhanvanthari were one and the same person. Susrutha, who has learnt Surgical treatment methods from him has created his work.
Even before the knowledge of man’s diseases, surgical treatment was rendered to Devas, who has been injured in their war against Derons and also during veda period, surgical treatment was used implatation of the cut head of persons like Yagnapurusa, Thathichi etc It is evident that only surgical treatment method was a Chief branch of Ayurveda. There is evidence to feel that Ayurveda means, It was considered by everyone, nothing but surgical treatment. Bodily medical treatement originated only later on. This opinion is further seen to emphasise the statement of a Sage Dhanvanthari in his work that he was born again as Dhanvanthari after eradicating old age, disease and death of the Devas, previously.
NEW DIVISION OF SEASONS BY SUSRUTHA
It is the tradition of the poet to divide seasons into six kinds. There is no difference of opinion on this. Susrtha has divided the same into only two kinds and thus introduced novelty in it. The first kind is the budding of leaves season (Spring I), milder hot season (Summer I), hot season (Summer II) cloudy (Rainy) season (Autumn I), Cold season (Autumn II) & evening dew season (Winter) and the second kind is cloudy (Rainy) season (Autumn I), Cold season (Autumn II) evening dew season (Winter), morning dew (Spring), milder hot season (Summer I) and hot season (Summer II). It is an innovating discovery of dividing winter season into two in the first part and the rainy (Cloudy) season into two in the second part. It is the opinion of the wise men that the first sub division will suit the Himalayan region which is North of Ganges and the second sub-divison will suit those regions that are south of Ganges.
Based on the gap between the two, in the mathematical method, a person named Akendranath Ghosh has stated that the first sub-division suits the period of Dhavanthari and the second sub-division suits the period of second Susrutha.
FOREIGNERS ACCLAIM INDIANS AS PIONEERS OF SCIENCE
While observing certain surgical treatment methods in Susrutha Samhita, it is felt that Susrutha had become renowned as the pioneer in the Scientific medical world for the fantastic achievements made to-day. A Britisher named Twhaple in his book entitled “The Story of the Wound Repair”, has acclaimed, by mentioning that “Susrutha was a pioneer in anaesthesia also”. Yet another Britisher named Weber in his book has mentioned that “Our modern surgeons have been able to borrow from them (Indians) the operations of rhinoplasty in plastic surgery”. It is explained vividly in the 16th chapter of the Suthra-Sthannam in Susrutha Samhitha that for the Plastic Surgery of the ear and the nose flesh from the cheeks had to be cut and used for the transplantation of the same. The same opinion has been given by Hireenberg, a britisher, in his remark ‘The Whole plastic surgery in Europe had taken its new flight, when these cunning devices of Indian workmen became known to us. “The transplating of the skin flaps is also essentially an Indian method”.
Foreigners like Hornele have praised Susrutha with astonishment for having explained in Anatomy, the method of preserving the Corpse to the extent of tracing very minute nerves etc.while dissecting the same. (Susrutha Samhita – Sareera Sthanna – Chapter-5).
Even Foreign experts like Keith, McDonald and others have explained that Indians are capable of critical / investigation of all the organs of the body – The Anatomy.
INDIANS WERE THE GUIDE TO PLASTIC SURGERY
In the year 1792, a British Coachman named Govarge and four more soldiers had lost their noses during the war between Tippu Sultan and the Britishers. They took Ayurveda treatment in pune from a medical expert of Maharastra and got their nose fixed again. This method was personally observed and understood by Britishers named Domas, Cruso, James and Pindley, who had started handling this method of plastic surgery after reaching England, and this news was published with Photographs in the Madras Gazette and in the Magazine called Gentleman’ in its issue dated October, 1974.
SUSRUTHA HAS SOWN THE SEED FOR MEDICAL SCIENCE
Susrutha enunciated in his work about the miraculous achievements like the abortion (Medical termination of pregnancy through surgery), delivery of the child through Caesarian operation during critical child birth erc. (15th Chaptter of the Chikithsa Sthannam in Susrutha Samhita). The method of contraception through Vasectomy is clearly seen in a part of Atharvaveda, a part of Ayurveda. The method of preventing pregnancy during coitus has been explained in Aaraniya Upanished. Alleviating pain thorugh treatment during abortion and the ways of begetting a male or female child as per the wish have been mentioned in the second part of Sareera Sthanna in Susrutha Samhita. Surgery should be avoided in 107 vital parts essential to life which are otherwise called the secret zones. Susrutha, while mentioning in his work, that utmost caution must be excercised during treatment, if surgery can’t be avoided, has also described about 120 instruments used in surgical operation.
The information given by Ramayana about the transplantation of goat’s testicle for the restoration of male virility to Indira, who last his testicle due to a curse by Gowthama, is almost like reminding the present modern medical system, wherein animal parts are transplanted.
ANATOMY AS ENUNCIATED BY SUSRUTHA
Susrutha in his Chikithsa Sthanna explains the method of performing surgery in about 200 parts/organs of the body, just like the performance of Surgery by the modern medical practioners in the present time. He elaborately explains in Sareera-Sthanna the important organs and the sub-divisions of the body implying that it is necessary to know extensively about the organs before performing surgery on them. This description of the body is known as ‘Anatomy’ in the present times. Susrutha remains a guide to modern medical system from 2000 years ago by enunciating the description of human organs termed as Anatomy which is being written and talked about by the modern medical practioners in a big way.
Similarly a medical practioner should understand the foetal development, since medical practice starts from there and continues upto the treatment of the developed organs. By keeping this in mind, Susrutha, in his Sareera-Sthana has mentioned about weekly and monthly development of the foetus by stages. The modern medical practitioners call only this as ‘Gyneaclogy’. Hence, is it not befitting to say that only Susrutha was the guide for the explanation of the foetal development, namely, Gynaecology, which is advanced to-day in the modern medicine.
SUSRUTHA AS THE FORERUNNER OF SURGICAL SCIENCE
Ayurvedic treasures brought to Tamil
A General misgiving about the ayurvedic system of treatment is whether it is scientific and whether its medicines have been subjected to laboratory tests as understood in the modern sense. The practioners of the system assert that it is a highly scientific one. As for laboratory tests for their medicines, they are a bit on the defensive. Either they aver that the preparations are from natural herbs and vegetarian suitable to humans and as such do not require to be tested or put a counter question: how could one come to the conclusion that they had not been tried out extensively before they came to be adopted on a regular basis? They further cite the survival of the system of treatment for so many centuries as a valid enough proof for its efficacy.
One of the reasons why the system of treatment, though native to the country, has not come to be appreciated to a large measure is that almost all its works are in Sanskrit, a language whose study is on the decline. However, an opportunity has now come to Tamils, not only to evaluate how scientific the Ayurvedic system is but test the properties of the medicinal herbs if they are so inclined. One of the basic works of this system of medicine – Charaka Samhita – has been translated into Tamil and the other – Susruta Samhita – is under translation.
The credit for conceiving the scheme to bring all the works in Ayurveda into Tamil goes to the late Chief Minister M. G. Ramachandran. He chose for the job Mr. S. N. Sriramadesikan, a Sanskrit scholar who has translated Sanskrit and Tamil works including Sangham literature into other language.
An Ayurveda translation wing in the Directorate of Indian Medicine and Homeopathy was created and Mr. Desikan was made its Special Officer. The translation wing has now four linguists, a practioner of Ayurveda, an Assistant Editor and general staff and has brought out, in its five and a half years of existence, two books – the Charaka Samhita (two volumes) and Vakbatar’s Ashtanga Sangraham – at a cost of Rs. Six lakhs.
The first volume of Charaka Samhita identifies the special methods of treatment, different kinds of ailments, herbal medicines, their good and bad effects and their use. The Second contains pictures of 200 rare herbs found in various parts of the country. This volume also gives a brief history of 215 rare medicinal herbs. The Vakbatar’s work (3,500 slokas) deals with both medicine and surgery. It contains pictures of ancient surgical instruments and deals with, to an extent ailments pertaining to eye, ear and nose besides explaining the various kinds of general ailments, their cure and four methods of preparation of the medicines – asavam, arishtam, lehya and basma.
How scientific the Ayurvedic system is can be discerned, Mr. Desikan says, from the Charaka is not known – scholars differ putting it between sixth century BC and second century AD – but the way he has handled the subject is marvellous and quite modern. He is the first to turn his face against dogmatic assertions on the causes for ailments or on their cures. He stresses the need for deliberations among experts before arriving at definite conclusions so that the system he is expounding could be free from superstition. He makes Atreya Punarvasu, one of his predecessors in the medicinal line, function as the Chairman of an Experts Committee where in free discussion is allowed. By the force of sheer logic he arrives at a conclusion which shows Ayurveda to be the best form of medicinal treatment. His full skill comes into evidence in the Chikitsa Sthana, comprising eight divisions - bodily treatment, treatment of children’s ailments (Paediatrics) propitiating rites (Shanti) for planetary malefaction, treatment of ear and nose ailments, surgery, cures for snake bites and rejuvenation and improvement of sexual potency. The Samhita of about 10,000 slokas has eight stahnas.
Again, it is Charaka who is the first to indicate the influence of regional variation and to emphasise how the mental condition of a patient should also be considered while treating him - concepts acceptable to modern science.
Though the work is named after Charaka, Mr. Desikan says, the Samhita is the result of the joint efforts of five authorities – Bharadwaja, Atreya Punarvasu, Agnivesha, Charaka and Dhridabala. Agnivesha was the first to come out with a work Agnivesha Samhita and Charaka improved upon it. But some portions of this improved work got lost and it was Dhridabala, who restored the lost portions and made it what it is now, before Bharadwaja, the science was in the celestial realm, the first propounder being none other than Lord Brahma Himself.
The Susruta Samhita, now being translated into Tamil, reveals, according to Mr. Desikan, that the modern plastic surgery and transplantation of organs are not unknown to the ancients in India. Modern Western scholars admire Susruta’s insistence that dissection of embalmed bodies of humans is essential to gain expertise in surgery and the methods expertise in surgery and the methods he has detailed to achieve this mastery. Susruta has explained eight types of surgery – excision, incision, scrapping, puncturing, probing, extraction, drainage and suturing. He has explained the different kinds of organs in the body, the type of surgery that is to be undertaken in them and has also identified 101 surgical instruments divided broadly into six categories (such as jointed, hinged forceps, spatular, tubular, probes-dialators and auxiliaries) and explained the surgical methods for ailments like fistulae, abscess, breast abscess, accidental injuries, swellings and fractures and dislocations.
For translation, the Charaka Samhita and Ashtanga Sanghraham were taken up first and completed as they provided not only a glimpse into the entire system of Ayurvedic medicine but the works also form part of syllabi to students of the five year degree course – B.A.M.S – in the Ayurveda colleges. It will take eight more months to get Susruta Samhita translated completely, Mr. Desikan says.
Both the Tamil Classics Thirukural and Silapadikaram refer to the practice of Ayurvedic system of medicine in the ancient Tamil land. With the demolition of the language barrier, the system is now open to more experimentation by Tamils and eventual spread of health care.
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Name of Operation
Rhinoplasty - Plastic Surgery of nose
Removal of stone from Urinary bladder
Surgical Treatment of Khapala Linranasa (Cataract)
Aparapatna Extracting placenta of still born child (Caesarian)