Ayurveda “The Science of Life”
In 1670, when war broke out between the Mughals and the Aadilshah of Bijapur, some Mughal soldiers committed depredations in the Bijapur villages. They were captured and, as a punishment, their noses were cut off. However, after some days all of them received new noses. How ? Describing the treatment of the native surgeons, Niccolao Manucci, the Italian traveller who was in India in those days, says :
“The surgeons belonging to the country cut the skin of the forehead above the eyebrows, and made it fall down over the wounds on the nose. Then, giving a twist so that a live flesh might meet the other live surface, by healing applications, they fashioned for them other imperfect noses. There is left above, between the eyebrows, a small hole, caused by the twist given to the skin to bring the two live surfaces together. In a short time the wounds heal up, some obstacle being placed beneath to allow of respiration. I saw many persons with such noses, and they were not so disfigured as they would have been without any nose at all.” (Storia do Mogor or Mogul India, 1653-1708 AD). This is, perhaps, the earliest description of Indian plastic surgery of the nose given by an European.
Ayurveda, “Science of Life,” is the science of Indian medicine. Holistic system of medicine that uses natural herbs and plants to cure diseases. Dhanvantari is an avatar of Vishnu and God of Ayurvedic medicine. Based on Vedic traditions, he is regarded as the source of Ayurveda. He perfected many herbal based cures and natural remedies and was credited with the discovery of the antiseptic properties of turmeric and the preservative properties of salt which he incorporated in his cures.
Aims of Ayurveda :
Health is achieved by balancing energies (especially the doshas – bodily humors) at all level of being, subtle and gross, through inumerable methods, selected according to individual’s constitution, lifestyle and nature.
Ayus (long life) and Arogya (diseaselessness), which facilitate progress towards ultimate spiritual goals
Ayurveada has no beginning and no end.Ayurveda dose not relates to any region. Ayurveda is very near to nature. Ayurveda has no side effects but it has side benefits. Ayurveda treats the whole body, mind and soul together.Sources and Teachers
Ayurveda traces its origins to the Vedas, Atharvaveda in particular. Sushruta is one of the pioneer of Ayurveda.The most authentic compilation of Sushruta’s teachings and work is presently available in a treatise called Sushruta Samhita. This contains 184 chapters and description of 1,120 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources and 57 preparations based on animal sources.
The Charaka Samhita text is arguably the principal classic reference. It gives emphasis to the triune nature of each person: body care, mental regulation, and spiritual/consciousness refinement.
Ayureveda Covers :
- Chikitsa (general medicine)
- Salya (surgery)
- Dehavritti (physiology)
- Nidana (diagnosis)
- Dravyavidya (medicine and pharmacology)
- Agada Tantra (antidote method)
- Stritantra (gynecology)
- Pasu Vidya (veternary science)
- Kaumara Bhritya (pediatrics)
- Urdhvanga (diseases of the organs of the head)
- Rasayana (tonics and rejuvenation)
- Vajikarana (sexual rejuvenation)
Underwood & Rhodes (2008) hold that this early phase of traditional Indian medicine identified ‘fever (takman), cough, consumption, diarrhea, dropsy, abscesses, seizures, tumours, and skin diseases (including leprosy)’. Treatment of complex ailments, including angina pectoris, diabetes, hypertension, and stones, also ensued during this period. Plastic surgery, cataract surgery, puncturing to release fluids in the abdomen, extraction of foreign elements, treatment of anal fistulas, treating fractures, amputations, cesarean sections, and stitching of wounds were known. The use of herbs and surgical instruments became widespread.
Cataract surgery was known to the physician Sushruta and was performed with a special tool called the Jabamukhi Salaka, a curved needle used to loosen the lens and push the cataract out of the field of vision. The eye would later be soaked with warm butter and then bandaged.
Ancient Rishis’ Contributions to Medicine
- Sushruta : Sushruta Samhita 600 BC : Sushruta performed plastic surgery Mentions over 120 surgical instruments Describes over 300 surgical procedures Classifies human surgery in 8 categories
- Charaka : Charka Samhita, 500 BC (Handbook of the Physician): Anatomy of the human body with methods of diagnosis, and treatment. Listing of plant, mineral and animal substances required for the preparation of medicines
- Jaluka Prayog : Agni Karma Vidhi Describes method for purifying blood Use of heat and light rays as a treatment that eliminates the need for surgeryChanakya : Arthashastra : describes post mortems.
- Bhoja Prabandha : describes brain surgery successfully performed in 927 AD
The Chinese pilgrim Fa Hsien (ca. 337 – 422 AD) wrote about the health care system of the Gupta empire (320 – 550 AD) and described the institutional approach of Indian medicine, also visible in the works of Charaka, who mentions a clinic and how it should be equipped. Madhava (700 AD), Sarngadhara (1300 AD), and Bhavamisra (1500 AD) compiled works on Indian medicine. The medical works of both Sushruta and Charaka were translated into the Arabic language during the Abbasid Caliphate (750 AD). These Arabic works made their way into Europe via intermediaries. In Italy, the Branca family of Sicily and Gaspare Tagliacozzi (Bologna) became familiar with the techniques of Sushruta.
Here we have just introduced Ayurveda. However, watch out this column for more information, also pertaining to your own health.
Author: Shivananda Sen
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