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History of Medicine in Ancient India ~ Part - 2



Pioneers of Medical Education -[Surgery]

Sage Susruta
Performing plastic surgery -- Ear lobe reconstuction

Sage Susruta -- @600 B.C.

Both Sages Atreya and Susruta practiced around 600 B.C., nearly 150 years before Hippocrates. Buddhist folklore indicates the existence of two great schools in India during Vedic period where medicine, astronomy, mathematics and philosophy were taught. East of the River Ganga was city Varanasi [Kasi] where Sage Susruta headed the medical department. Having learned anatomy from Sage Atreya, Susruta points out in his treatise, Susruta Samhita, the differences between his techniques and Atreya's. The treatise on surgery indicates that he was probably the first surgeon to perform a rhinoplasty and ear lobe reconstruction.

Advances in Medical Education in Ancient India

Another great contributor to the ancient medical system was Sage Charaka, a philosophr, Astronomer and physician in the second century B.C.. As the physician of King Kanishka, Charaka edited and revised the Atreya Samhita. Charaka's contributions, in 120 chapters, deals with the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the heart, chest, abdomen, genital organs and extremities. Charaka's wide range of knowledge was evident from his instructions on building hospitals, maintaining hygenic atmosphere for patients and in details like providing toys for children.

A detailed code of medical ethics was already well-evolved in India by 600 B.C. In essence, the code required medical practitioners to lead a life dedicated to caring for the sick and maintaining patient confidentiality. Cultural conducts while treating patients were also presented in detail. A physician who desires success in his practice, profit, a good name, and finally, a place in heaven, must pray daily for all living creatures.


Sushruta Samhita, a Unique Encyclopedia of Surgery
Acharya Sushruta is a genius who has been glowingly recognized in the annals of medical science. Born to Sage Vishwamitra, Acharya Sushruta details the first ever surgery procedures in "Sushruta Samhita," a unique encyclopedia of surgery. He is venerated as the father of plastic surgery and the science of anesthesia. When surgery was in its infancy in Europe, Acharya Sushruta was performing Rhinoplasty (restoration of a damaged nose) and other challenging operations. In the "Sushruta Samhita," he prescribes treatment for twelve types of fractures and six types of dislocations. His details on human embryology are simply amazing. Acharya Sushruta used 125 types of surgical instruments including scalpels, lancets, needles, catheters and rectal speculums; mostly designed from the jaws of animals and birds. He has also described a number of stitching methods, the use of horse's hair and fibers of bark as thread in the "Sushruta Samhita". In the "Sushruta Samhita," he details 300 types of operations. The ancient Indians were the pioneers in amputation, caesarian and cranial surgeries. Acharya Sushruta was a giant in the arena of medical science.

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