Indian medicine has come a long way over the years. It has its roots in a few of the oldest forms of medicine. Being a hub of medical tourism, tourists across the world come to visit India to avail healthcare facilities. This National Doctor’s Day, let us have a look at the rich history of Indian medicine.
The earliest concepts of Indian medicine came from the Vedas, particularly Atharvaveda. This form of Vedic Medicine was later recognised as Ayurveda. It was a rational and methodical form of medicine that came into existence, around 600 BCE. Ayurveda was indeed the beginning of a new era in Indian medicine and it literally means the Science of Life!
The Vedic period of medicine lasted till about 800 BCE. This is when the golden age of medicine dawned in our country. The time period of 800 BCE to 1000 BCE was marked by the production of medical treatises known as the Charaka-Samhita and Sushruta-Samhita, attributed respectively to Charaka, a physician, and Sushruta, a surgeon.
The Indian medicine at that time prohibited the cutting of a body, hence anatomy was not their strong suit. They followed a somewhat crude method to study the anatomical features of the human body. The focus was on muscles, joints, bones, etc. The inner body parts like nerves, internal organs were less studied.
It was believed that the body is composed of 3 basic elements which represent the universe. These were the spirit(air), phlegm, and bile. The balance between these three elements was a symbol of good health.
The physicians of ancient times employed all 5 senses to make their diagnosis, including hearing. One such example could be to listen carefully to the nature of breathing. This could probably culminate in diagnosing some respiratory diseases. The treatment was mainly focused on dietary changes. Both Charaka and Sushruta included several medicinal plants in their form of medicinal practice. A lot of importance was given to personal hygiene as well. This included bathing, cleaning of teeth, use of eyewashes, etc.
Hindu medicine reached its pinnacle in the field of surgery. Operations including stitching of wounds, amputations and even cesarean were being performed by surgeons. Removal of stones from the bladder and plastic surgery were some of the noteworthy operations of that time.
Indian medicine has evolved tremendously over the years. Today, the entire world recognises the efforts and tremendous calibre of Indian physicians. Let us celebrate this National Doctor’s Day by keeping just that in mind.
1. History of medicine – Traditional medicine and surgery in Asia Available at https://www.britannica.com/science/history-of-medicine/Traditional-medicine-and-surgery-in-Asia Accessed on 1 July 2021
2. Saini A. Physicians of ancient India. J Family Med Prim Care. 2016 Apr-Jun;5(2):254-258.