Indian System of Medicine a torch bearer to the Humanity


History of Ancient Indian System of Medicine

The science of Indian System of Medicine, like other sciences, was carried to a very high degree of perfection by the ancient Hindus. This is evident even today in various ayurvedic medicines.

Their great power of observation, generalization, and analysis, combined with patient labor in a country of boundless resources, whose fertility for herbs and plants is most remarkable, place them in an exceptionally favorable position to prosecute their study of this great science.


Indian Medicine


Lord Ampthill, British Governor, (February 1905) said at Madras: “Now we are beginning to find out that the Hindu Sastras also contain a Sanitary Code no less correct in principle, and that the great law-giver, Manu, was one of the greatest sanitary reformers the world has ever seen!”


Sir William Jones (1746-1794) came to India as a judge of the Supreme Court at Calcutta. He said with prophetic warning ” Infinite advantage may be derived by Europeans from the various medical books in Sanskrit, which contain the names and descriptions of Indian plants and minerals, with their uses, discovered by experience, in curing disorders.”


Horace Hyman Wilson (1786-1860) says: “The Ancients attained a thorough proficiency in Indian System of Medicine and surgery as any people whose acquaintance are recorded. This might be expected because their patient attention and natural shrewdness would render them excellent observers, whilst the extent and fertility of their native country would furnish them with many valuable drugs and medicaments. Their diagnosis is said, in consequence, to define and distinguish symptoms with accuracy, and their Materia Medica is most voluminous.”


Albrecht Weber (1825-1901) writes: “The number of medicinal works and authors is extraordinarily large.”


Indian System of Medicine appears to have been the oldest Indian science, its roots going back to Yoga practices, which stress a holistic approach to health, based primarily on proper diet and exercise. Ancient Indian texts on physiology, identified three body “humours” wind, gall, and mucus – with which are associated the sattva, (true or good), rajas (strong), and tamas, (dark or evil) “strands” of behavior, as primary causal factors in determining good or ill health. Indian System of Medicine, popular as Ayurveda focused on longevity, honey and garlic were often prescribed. A wide variety of herbs were listed in ancient India’s pharmacopeia. Some of these medicinal herbs or plant oil have been indeed proved to be cures for specific diseases. Oil from the bark of chaulmugra trees remains the most effective treatment for leprosy. India’s oldest medical texts were far superior to most subsequent works in the field.


Anatomy and physiology, like some aspects of chemistry, were by-products of medicine. As far back as the sixth century B.C. Indian physicians described ligaments, sutures, lymphatics, nerve plexus, facia, adipoe and vascular tissues, mucous and synovial membranes, and many more muscles than any modern cadaver is able to show. They understood remarkably well the process of digestion – the different functions of the gastric juices, the conversion of chyme, into chyle, and of this into the blood.


Anticipating Weismann by 2400 years Atreya (ca 500 B.C.) held that the parental seed is independent of the parent’s body, and contains in itself, in miniature, the whole parental organism.


Examination for virility was recommended as a prerequisite for marriage in men; and the Code of Manu warned against marrying mates affected with tuberculosis, epilepsy, leprosy, chronic dyspepsia, piles, or loquacity. Birth control in the latest theological fashion was suggested by the Indian medical schools of 500 B.C. in the theory that during the twelve days of the menstrual cycle impregnation is impossible. Foetal development was described with considerable accuracy; it was noted that the sex of the fetus remains for a time undetermined, and it was claimed that in some cases the sex of the embryo could be influenced by food or drugs.


The records of Indian System of Medicine begin with the Arthava-Veda; here embedded in incantation, is a list of diseases with their symptoms. Appended to the Atharva-veda is the Ayur-Veda (“The Science of Longevity”). In this oldest system of Indian System of Medicine, illness is attributed to disorder in one of the four senses of humor (air, water phlegm, and blood), and treatment is recommended with herbs. Many of its diagnoses and cures are still used in India, with a success that is sometimes the envy of Western physicians. The Rig-Veda names over a thousand such herbs, and advocates water as the best cure for most diseases. Even in Vedic times, physicians and surgeons lived in houses surrounded by gardens in which they cultivated medicinal plants.


The great name in the science of Indian System of Medicine are those of Sushruta in the fifth century B.C. and Charaka in the second century A.D. Sushrata professor of medicine at the University of Benares, wrote down in Sanskrit a system of diagnosis and therapy whose elements had descended to him from his teacher Dhanwantari. His book dealt at length with surgery, obstetrics, diet, bathing, drugs, infant feeding and hygiene, and medical education. Charaka composed a Samhita (or encyclopedia) of medicine, which is still used in India, and gave to his followers an almost Hippocratic conception of their calling: “Not for self, not for the fulfilment of any earthly desire of gain, but solely for the good of suffering humanity should you treat your patients, and so excel all.” Only less illustrious than these are Vaghata (625 A.D.), who prepared a medical compendium in prose and verse, and Bhava Misra (1550 A.D), whose voluminous work on anatomy, physiology and medicine mentioned, a hundred years before Harvey, the circulation of blood, and prescribed mercury for that novel disease, syphilis, which had recently been brought in by the Portuguese as part of Europe’s heritage to India.”


Indian Medicine Tools
Medical Instruments of the Hindu Scriptures – Susruta (1000 B.C.E) 
enumerates 125 sharp and blunt instruments Surgical instruments 
Courtesy: Institute of History and Medicine – Hyderabad, India.


Sushruta described many surgical operations – cataract, hernia, lithotomy, Caesarian section, etc – and 121 surgical instruments, including lancets, sounds forceps, catheters, and rectal and vaginal speculums. Despite Brahmanical prohibitions, he advocated the dissection of dead bodies as indispensable in the training of surgeons. He was the first to graft upon a torn ear portions of skin taken from another part of the body; and from him and his Indian successor’s rhinoplasty- the surgical reconstruction of the nose-descended into modern medicine. “The ancient Hindus,” says F. H. Garrison, “performed almost every major operation except ligation of the arteries.” Limbs were amputated, abdominal sections were performed, fractures were set, hemorrhoids and fistulas were removed.
Mrs. Charlotte Manning says: “The surgical instruments of the Hindus were sufficiently sharp, indeed, as to be capable of dividing a hair longitudinally.” “Greek physicians have done much to preserve and diffuse the medicinal science of India. We find, for instance, that the Greek physician, Actuarius, celebrates the Hindu medicine, called Triphala. He mentions the peculiar products of India, of which it is composed, by their Sanskrit name, Myrobalans.”


Sushruta laid down elaborate rules for preparing an operation, and his suggestion that the wound is sterilized by fumigation is one of the earliest known efforts at antiseptic surgery. Both Sushruta and Charaka mention the use of medicinal liquors to produce insensibility to pain. In 927 A.D. two surgeons trepanned the skull of a king and made him insensitive to the operation by administering a drug called Samohini. For the detection of the 1120 diseases he enumerated, Sushruta recommended diagnosis by inspection, palpation, and auscultation. Taking the pulse was described in a treatise dating 1300 A.D. Urinalysis was a favorite method of diagnosis.


In the time of Yuan Chwang Indian medical treatment began with a seven-day fast; in this interval, the patient often recovered; if the illness continued drugs were at last employed. Even then drugs were used very sparingly; reliance was placed largely upon diet, baths, inhalations, urethral, and vaginal injections. Indian physicians were especially skilled in concocting antidotes for poison.


William Ward (1769-1823) notes: “Inoculation for small pox seems to have been known among the Hindoos from time immemorial.” The method of introducing the virus is made by incision just above the wrist, on the right arm of the male, and the left of the female. At the time of inoculation, and during the progress of the disease, the parents daily employ a brahmin to worship Sheetula, the goddess who presides over the disease.”


Vaccination, unknown to Europe before the eighteenth century, was known in India as early as 550 A.D. if we may judge from a text attributed to Dhanwantari, one of the earliest Hindu physicians. “Take the fluid of the pock on the udder of the cow…upon the point of a lancer, and lance with it the arms between the shoulders and elbows until the blood appears; then, mixing the fluid with the blood, the fever of the small-pox will be produced.”


Modern European physicians believe that caste separateness was prescribed because of the Brahmin belief in invisible agents transmitting disease; many of the laws of sanitation enjoined by Sushruta and “Manu” seem to take for granted what we moderns, who love new words for old things, call the germ theory of disease. Hypnotism as therapy seems to have originated among Indians, who often took their sick to the temples to be cured by hypnotic suggestion. The Englishmen who introduced hypnotherapy into England-Braid Esdaile and Elliotson- “undoubtedly got their ideas, and some of their experience, from contact with India.”


Susruta calls surgery, “the first and best of medical sciences.” He insisted that those who intend to practice it must have actual experimental knowledge of the subject. He says: “No accurate account of any part of the body, including even its skin, can be rendered without a knowledge of anatomy, hence anyone who wishes to acquire a thorough knowledge of anatomy must prepare a dead body, and carefully examine all its parts.” For preliminary training, students were taught how to handle their instruments by operating on pumpkins or cucumbers, and they were made to practice on pieces of cloth or skin in order to learn how to sew up wounds. Major operations, as described by Sushruta, included amputations, grafting, the setting of fractures, removal of a fetus and operation of the bladder for removal of gallstones. The operating room, he declares should be disinfected with cleaning vapors. He describes 127 different instruments used for such purposes as cutting, inoculations, puncturing, probing and sounding. Cutting instruments, Susruta maintains, should be of “bright handsome polished metal, and sharp enough to divide a hair lengthwise.”


“The specific diseases whose names occur in Panini’s grammar indicates that medical studies had made great progress before his time (350 B.C.). The chapter on the human body in the earliest Sanskrit dictionary, the Amara-kosha presupposes a systematic cultivation of the science. The works of the great traditional Indian physicians, Charaka, and Susruta were translated into Arabic not later than the 8th century. The chief seat of the science was at Benares. The name of Charaka repeatedly occurs in the Latin translations of Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Rhazes (Al Rasi), and Serapion (Ibn Serabi).


Indian System of Medicine dealt with the whole area of the science. It described the structure of the body, its organs, ligaments, muscles, vessels, and tissues. The materia medica of the Hindus embraces a vast collection of drugs belonging to the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdom, many of which have been adopted by the European physicians. Their pharmacy contained ingenious processes of preparation, with elaborate directions for the administration and classification of Indian System of Medicine. Much attention was devoted to hygiene, to the regimen of the body and to diet.


The surgery of the ancient Indian physicians appears to have been bold and skillful. They conducted amputations, arresting the bleeding by pressure, a cup-shaped bandage, and boiling oil. They practiced lithotomy; performed operations in the abdomen and uterus; cured hernia, fistula, piles; set broken bones and dislocations; and were dexterous in the extraction of foreign substances from the body. A special branch of surgery was devoted to rhinoplasty, or operations for improving deformed ears and noses, and forming new ones. They devoted great care to the making of surgical instruments, and to the training of students by means of operations performed on wax spread out on a board, or on the tissues and cells of the vegetable kingdom, and upon dead animals. Considerable advances were also made in veterinary science, and monographs exist on the diseases of horses and elephants. “


Ancient India possessed advanced medical knowledge. Her doctors knew about metabolism, the circulatory system, genetics, and the nervous system as well as the transmission of specific characteristics by heredity. Vedic physicians understood medical ways to counteract the effects of poison gas, performed Caesarean sections and brain operations, and used anesthetics.


Sushruta (5th century BC) listed the diagnosis of 1,120 diseases. He described 121 surgical instruments and was the first to experiment in plastic surgery.


Sushruta (5th century BC) listed the diagnosis of 1,120 diseases. He described 121 surgical instruments and was the first to experiment in plastic surgery.


The most remarkable part of Charaka’s work is his classification of remedies drawn from vegetable, mineral and animal sources. Over two thousand vegetable preparations, derived from the roots, bark, flowers, fruits, seeds or sap of plants and trees, are described by Charaka, who also gives the correct time of year for gathering these materials and the method for preparing and administering them. Charaka sounds surprisingly modern. He devotes a good deal of attention to children’s diseases and discusses proper feeding and hours of sleep. He stresses the care of the teeth and the necessity of cleaning them. The universal custom among Hindus of using a medicinal stick to clean the teeth and of rinsing the mouth thoroughly after every meal is so firmly established that it must go back to very ancient times. Diagnosis in Charaka’s time was primarily based on careful study of the pulse, and that Charaka had a good idea of blood circulation is apparent from this passage in his treatise: “From that great center (the heart) emanate the vessels carrying blood into all part of the body – the element which nourishes the life of all animals and without which it would be extinct.”


Charaka’s treatise was based on the teaching of Atreya, whose date has been assigned to the sixth century B.C. Previous to Atreya, Indian System of Medicine, popularly known as Ayurveda, “the science of life” was one of the recognized Vedic studies. High ethical standards which should be maintained by medical profession were also stressed by Charaka. He says: “Not for money nor for any earthly objects should one treat his patients. In this, the physician’s work excels all vocations. Those who sell treatment as a merchandise neglect the true measure of gold in search of mere dust.”


Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860) Eminent Orientalist, observed:
“That in medicine, or the astronomy and metaphysics, the Hindus have kept pace with the most enlightened nations of the world: and that they attained as thorough a proficiency in medicine and surgery as any people whose acquisitions are recorded.” He says further: “It would easily be supposed that their patient attention and national shrewdness would render the Hindus excellent observers.”


The great picture of Indian System of Medicine is one of rapid development in the Vedic and Buddhist period, followed by centuries of slow and cautious improvement. In the time of Alexander, says Garrison, “Hindu physicians and surgeons enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for superior knowledge and skill,” and even Aristotle is believed by some students to have been indebted to them. So too with the Persians and Arabs.


We find Persians and Arabs translating into their languages, in the eighth century A.D., the thousand-year-old compendia of Sushruta and Charaka. The great Caliph Haroun-al-Rashid accepted the preeminence of Indian System of Medicine and scholarship, and imported Indian physicians to organize hospitals and medical schools in Baghdad.

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Lord Amphill concludes that medieval and modern Europe owes its system of medicine directly to the Arabs, and through them to India.


Dorothea Chaplin mentions in her book, Matter, myth, and Spirit or Keltic and Hindu Links (pp 168-9), “Long before the year 460 B.C., in which Hippocrates, the father of European medicine was born, the Hindus had built an extensive pharmacopoeia and had elaborate treatises on a variety of medical and surgical subjects….The Hindus’ wonderful knowledge on a variety of Indian System of Medicine has for some considerable time led them away from surgical methods as working destruction on the nervous system, which their scientific medical system is able to Obliviate, producing a cure even without a preliminary crisis.”


The practice of Indian System of Medicine, like all other sciences, was regulated by a code of social ethics. A physician (Vaidya) was to be devoted to the service of the sick. Charaka’s advice to his students contained the gist of the professional ethics: “If you want success in your practice, wealth, and fame, and heaven after your death, you must pray every day on rising and going to bed for the welfare of all beings and you must strive with all your soul for the health of the sick. You must not betray your patients, even at the cost of your own life. You must not get drunk, or commit evil, or have evil companions. You must be pleasant, of speech and thoughtful, always striving to improve your knowledge.” Free hospitals were maintained by the kings and merchants. Nursing and attending the sick was considered to be one of the highest services to dharma.


Ancient Hospitals:

The Hindus were the first nation to establish hospitals, and for centuries they were the only people in the world who maintained them. The Chinese traveler, Fa-hien, speaking of a hospital he visited in Pataliputra says: “Hither come all poor and helpless patients suffering from all kinds of infirmities. They are well taken care of, and a doctor attends them; food and medicine being supplied according to their wants. Thus they are made quite comfortable, and when they are well, they may go away.”


“The earliest hospital in Europe,” says historian Vincent A. Smith, “is said to have been opened in the tenth century.”


Ancient India Hospital

Smallpox inoculation started in India before the West. Smallpox inoculation is an ancient Indian tradition and was practiced in India before the West. In ancient times in India smallpox was prevented through the tika (inoculation). Kurt Pollak (1968) writes, “preventive inoculation against smallpox, which was practiced in China from the 11th century, apparently came from India”. This inoculation process was generally practiced in large part of Northern and Southern India, but around 1803-04 the British government banned this process. It’s banning, undoubtedly, was done in the name of ‘humanity’, and justified by the Superintendent General of Vaccine (manufactured by Dr. E. Jenner from the cow for use in the inoculation against smallpox).


Dharmapala has quoted British sources to prove that inoculation in India was practiced before the British did. In the seventeenth century, smallpox inoculation (tika) was practiced in India. A particular sect of Brahmins employed a sharp iron needle to carry out these practices. In 1731, Coult was in Bengal and he observed it and wrote (Operation of inoculation of smallpox as performed in Bengal from Re. Coult to Dr. Oliver Coult in ‘An account of the diseases of Bengal’ Calcutta, dated February 10, 1731):


“The operation of inoculation called by the natives Tika has been known in the kingdom of Bengal as near as I can learn, about 150 years and according to the Bahamian records was first performed by one Dununtary, a physician of Champanagar, a small town on the side of the Ganges about half way to Cossimbazar whose memory in now holden in great esteem as being through the another of this operation, which secret, say they, he had immediately of God in a dream.’


English physician Jenner is credited with discovering vaccination on a scientific basis with his studies on small pox in 1796. A group of Fellows of the Royal Society had earlier studied the method of inoculating people in India and submitted its report in the 1760s. Dr. J. Z. Holwell, one of the members who was in the Bengal Province for more than ten years to study the Indian vaccination method, lectured at the London Royal College of Physicians in 1767 “that nearly the same salutary method, now so happily pursued in England,… has the sanction of remotest antiquity (in India), illustrating the propriety of present practice”.


Dr. J. Z. Holwell writes the most detailed account for the college of Physicians in London in 1767 (An account of the manner of inoculating for smallpox in the East Indies, by J. Z. Holwell, F.R.S. addressed to the President and Members of the College of Physicians in London). He wrote:


“Inoculation is performed in Indostan by a particular tribe of Bramins, who are delegated annually for this service from the different Colleges of Bindoobund, Eleabas, Benares, & c. over all the distant provinces: dividing themselves into small parties, of three or four each, they plan their traveling circuits in such wise as to arrive at the places of the operation consists only in abstaining for a month from fish, milk, and ghee (a kind of butter made generally of buffalo’s milk). When the Bramins begin to inoculate, they pass from house to house and operate at the door, refusing to inoculate any who have not, on a strict scrutiny, duly observed the preparatory course enjoined them. It is no uncommon thing for them to ask the parents how many picks they choose their children should have.”


On the efficacy of this practice Holwell has the following to say: “When the before recited treatment of the inoculated is strictly followed, it is next to a miracle to hear, that one in a million fails of receiving the infection, or of one that miscarries under it. Since, therefore, this practice of the East has been followed without variation, and with uniform success from the remotest unknown times, it is but justice to conclude, it must have been originally founded on the basis of rational principle and experiment.”


Holwell’s detailed account, not only describes inoculation but also shows that the Indians knew that microbes caused such diseases.

The Sactya Grantham – ancient Brahman medical text ~ 3,500 years old describing brain surgery and anesthetics, contains the following passages giving instructions on small pox vaccination: “Take on the tip of a knife the contents of the inflammation, inject it into the arm of the man, mixing it with his blood. A fever will follow but the malady will pass very easily and will create no complications.”  Edward Jenner (1749-1823) is credited with the discovery of vaccination but it appears that ancient India has a prior claim!”


The Brahmins had a theory of their operations. They believed the atmosphere abounded with imperceptible animalcule (refined to bacteria within a larger context today). They distinguished two types of these: those that are harmful and those not so. The Brahmins, therefore, believed that their treatment in inoculating the person expelled the immediate cause of the disease. How effective was the inoculation? According to Dr. J. Z. Holwell, FRS, who had addressed the College of Physicians in London: “When the before recited treatment of the inoculation is strictly followed, it is next to a miracle to hear, that one in a million fails to receiving the infection, or of one that miscarries under it.”


A later estimate by the Superintendent General of Vaccine in 1804 noted that fatalities among the inoculated counted one in 200 among the Indian population and one in 60 to 70 among the Europeans. There is an explanation for this divergence. Most of the Europeans objected to the inoculation on theological grounds.


Small pox has a long history in India; it is discussed in the Hindu scriptures and even has a goddess (Sitala, literally “the cool one”) devoted exclusively to its cause. It seems therefore almost natural to expect an Indian medical response to the disease. The inoculation treatment against it was carried out by a particular caste of Brahmins from the different medical colleges in the area. These Brahmins circulated in the villages in groups of three or four to perform their task.


Small Pox in India


The person to be inoculated was obliged to follow a certain dietary regime; he had particularly to abstain from fish, milk, and ghee, which, it was held, aggravated the fever that resulted after the treatment. The method the Brahmins followed is similar to the one followed in our own time in certain aspects. They punctured the space between the elbow and the wrist with a sharp instrument and then proceeded to introduce into the abrasion “various matter” prepared from inoculated pustules from the preceding year. The purpose was to induce the disease itself, albeit in a mild form; after it left the body, the person was rendered immune to smallpox for life.


The Brahmins had a theory of their operations. They believed the atmosphere abounded with imperceptible animalcule. They distinguished two types of these: those harmful and those not so. The universality of this practices ceased to obtain with the arrival of the British. Like many specialists in India, including teachers, the Brahmin doctors had been maintained through public revenues. With British rule, this fiscal system was disrupted and the inoculators left to fend for themselves.


Two of the more important medical arts of India – plastic surgery and inoculations against small pox. Both were indigenously evolved and the accounts we have, come from Westerners sent out to study them. One of these curious facts was the inoculation against small pox disease, practiced in both north and south India till it was banned or disrupted by the English authorities in 1802-3. The ban was pronounced on “humanitarian” grounds by the Superintendent General of Vaccine.


European colonists from the sixteenth century onwards gained knowledge of plants, diseases and surgical techniques that were unknown in the West. One such example is Rauwolfia serpentine, a plant used in traditional Indian System of Medicine. The active ingredient is today used to treat hypertension and anxiety in the West.


Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone has written: “Their use of these Indian System of Medicine seems to have been very bold. They were the first nation who employed minerals internally, and they not only gave mercury in that manner but arsenic and arsenious acid, which was remedies in intermittent. They have long used Cinnabar for fumigations, by which they produced a speedy and safe salivation. They have long practiced inoculation.”


“They cut the stone, couched for the cataract, and extracted the fetus from the womb, and in their early works enumerate not less than 127 sorts of surgical instruments!” “Their acquaintance with Indian System of Medicine seems to have been very extensive. We are not surprised at their knowledge of simples, in which they gave early lessons to Europe, and more recently taught us the benefit of smoking datura in asthma and the use of cowitch against worms.”


The Englishman (a Calcutta Daily), in a lead story in 1880, said: “No one can read the rules contained in great Sanskrit medical works without coming the conclusion that in point of knowledge, the ancient Hindus were in this respect very far in advance not only to the Greek and Romans but also to Medieval Europe.”


Indian System of Medicine or Ayurveda or the Veda of Longevity:

Indian System of Medicine, popularly known as Ayurveda is a 3,000- to the 5,000-year-old holistic healthcare system, which looks at the individual, addresses diet, lifestyle, and spirit, and strives for balance in each person. It focuses on prevention, and sees, many illnesses not as a collection of symptoms but as imbalances within the body, mind or spirit that, once the balance is restored, eats disease at its root.


“The science of Indian System of Medicine was cultivated early in India and modern researchers have disclosed the fact that the Materia Medica of the Greeks, even of Hippocrates the “Father of Medicine,” is based on the older Materia Medica of the Hindus…. Charaka’s work is divided into eight books, describing various diseases and their treatment; and Sushruta’s work has six parts, and especially treats of surgery and operations which are considered difficult even in modern times. Various chemical processes were known to the Hindus. Oxides, sulphates, and sulphurets of various metals were prepared, and metallic substances were administered internally in India long before the Arabs borrowed the practice from them, and introduced it in Europe in the Middle Ages.”


A tree resin used in Indian System of Medicine for 2,000 years as a folk remedy for a variety of ailments works to lower cholesterol in lab animals, and in a new way that might lead to the development of improved drugs for people, U.S.            researchers report. The tree is known in India as guggul or the myrrh shrub. It’s been used there since at least 600 BC to battle obesity and arthritis, among other ailments.


“Indian System of Medicine’s influence on Portugal was fairly wide. You had echoes of Indian or Ayurvedic practices that come into Portuguese usage. Tamarind, for example, is a plant widely used in Ayurveda. It is applied in Portuguese hospitals. It is used as a cooling agent, in combination with other medicinal plants to help the absorption of those plants and it is used in a poultice, placed on the skin.


“Hindu literature on anatomy and physiology as well as eugenics and embryology has been voluminous. The Hindus knew the exact osteology of the human body 2,000 years before Vesalius (c. 1545) and had some rough ideas of the circulation of blood long before Harvey (1628). the internal administration of mercury, iron and other powerful metallic drugs were practiced by the Hindu physicians at least 1,000 years before Paracelsus (1540). And they have written extensive treatises on these subjects.”


Indian System of Medicine or Ayurveda is a traditional healing system of India, with origins firmly rooted in the culture of the Indian subcontinent. Some 5000 years ago, the great rishis, or seers of ancient India, observed the fundamentals of life and organized them into a system. Ayurveda was their gift to us, an oral tradition passed down from generation to generation. Ayurvedic teachings were recorded as sutras, succinct poetical verses in Sanskrit, containing the essence of a topic and acting as aides-memoir for the students. Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, reflects the philosophy behind Ayurveda and the depth within it. Sanskrit has a wealth of words for aspects within and beyond consciousness.


A few treatises on Indian System of Medicine, also known as Ayurveda date from around 1000 B.C. The best known is Charaka Samhita, which concentrates on Indian System of Medicine. Many of today’s Ayurvedic physicians use Astanga Hrdayam, a more concise compilation written over 1000 years ago from the earlier texts.


US medical schools to teach Indian System of Medicine, Ayurveda:

American medical schools will teach students the goodness of Ayurveda with visiting Indian specialists offering a 12-hour crash course program on the medical system based on herbs. Schools in the United States are offering the course taught by Dr. Palep under the aegis of Indian System of Medicine and include topics like  Indian System of Medicine dealing Ayurveda philosophy, anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, clinical exam, and treatments. It also teaches Yoga, meditation and panchakarma therapy ( the process of detoxification and rejuvenation). Other systems of medicines like Homeopathy and Unani have been also in practice in India and schools in USA also focus upon these alternative systems of medicine.


Veterinary Science in Ancient India:

Since animals were regarded as a part of the same cosmos as humans, it is not surprising that animal life was keenly protected and veterinary medicine was a distinct branch of science with its own hospitals and scholars. Numerous texts, especially of the postclassical period, Visnudharmottara Mahapurana for example, mention veterinary medicine. Megasthenes refers to the kind of treatment which was later to be incorporated in Palakapyamuni’s Hastya Yur Veda and similar treatises. Salihotra was the most eminent authority on horse breeding and hippiatry. Juadudatta gives a detailed account of the medical treatment of cows in his Asva-Vaidyaka.


According to Stanley Wolpert, ” Veterinary science had developed into an Indian medical specialty by that early era, and India’s monarchs seem to have supported special hospitals for their horses as well as their elephants. Hindu faith in the sacrosanctity of animals as well as human souls, and belief in the partial divinity of cows and elephants helps explain perhaps what seems to be far better care lavished on such animals… A uniquely specialized branch of Indian System of Medicine was called Hastyaurveda (“The Science of Prolonging Elephant Life”).


Courtesy: An Introduction to India – By Stanley Wolpert
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