Talk:Veterinary Science in Ancient India

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

Introduction

The comprehensive nature of Ayurveda is evident from the definition of the science. It is the science of life in its widest sense of the term and not in its circumscribed and narrow sense containing only the highest evolved form of life i. e human beings, who form only an insignificant number among the host of living creatures. The universal sense of Ayurveda has accounted even the mute living creatures. It has given the veterinary science designation at par with the science that deals with ailments of man.

The birds, the animal kingdom and the vegetable kingdom, all these are the different forms of the divine spark called life. Ayurveda has many voluminous treatises on the vegetable kingdom, horses, elephants, bovine species, Hawks etc. as it has on the science of human life. Besides these special treatises we find that the general books on medicine almost always included some portions dealing with this special branch of veterinary science.

Father of Veterinary Science

Thus we learn that elementary knowledge of veterinary science formed a part of general medical education. The humane spirit of Ayurveda was not enough by providing a niche for veterinary science in the vast structure of the healing lore. Veterinary science produced specialists and their treatises, as said before, as elaborate and scientific as those meant chiefly for human treatment. Salihotra is described as the Father of the veterinary science. Caraka and Susruta also establishes the same kind of medical science in the veterinary branch. It's treatise is known as Hayayurveda or Turangama-sastra or the science of horses.

Duties of a Veterinary Doctor

For the welfare and health of these animals which were useful to the human being in many ways, veterinary physicians were engaged to treat the animals in their illness save the society from infection and keep the animals fit. These physicians took every precaution against epidemics among the cattle and tried preventive as well as curative medicines. Physicians were also kept ready on the battlefield for treating the animals wounded in the war. Elephant doctors shall administer necessary medicines to elephants which while making a journey, happen to suffer from disease, overwork, rut or old age.

Supervisors of Cattle

A few instances culled from our vast veterinary science and its ethics will suffice to show how meticulous the injunctions were. The superintendent of cows shall apply remedies to calves or aged cows or cows suffering from the diseases. The superintendent of horses should take care of them in the same manner. Once in six months sheep and other animals shall be shorn of their wool. The same rule shall apply to herds of horses, asses camels and hogs.

All the superintendents, watchmen, sweepers, cooks and others shall receive one Prastha of cooked rice, a handful of oil and two pales of sugar and salt. The doctor would receive 10 Palas of flesh. Animals were scrupulously cared for while on journey.

Pinjrapoles

It was owing to the utility coupled with the helpless condition of these dumb animals that humanitarian princes like Asoka organised hospitals for animals and passed orders against cruelty to them. Our modern Pinjarapoles are but the poor and dilapidated relics of these hospitals organised on humane principles. These Pinjarapoles are the reminders of the glory that was once borne by the country.

Law Regulations

These physicians inspected the animals which were for sale in the market in order to prevent the spread of infection. Meat for sale in the market was also inspected and the sale of putrid or diseased flesh was strictly forbidden by means of severe punishment for such offences. The state not only took such measures for the health of the people and the animals in this way, but it imposed fines on the physicians in charge of the animals if they committed a mistake in the treatment by carelessness or by any other reason. Ill treatment to animals or even to the vegetation was not tolerated and fines and punishment were imposed on the miscreants. Any one who sterilized animals without state permission was severely dealt with.

Visnu Samhita and Parasara Samhita lay down expiatory ceremonies and injunctions for crimes against animals. Punishment was meted out in proportion to the degree of heinousness of the crime e. g. the blood of the killed cow was to be carefully examined and tested in order to ascertain whether she was lean or diseased when alive, as the nature of punishment varied according to the state of the cow's health at the time of her death. Hence the testing was to be done very carefully.[1]

When one is found guilty of carelessness in the treatment, the disease becomes intense, a fine or twice the cost of the treatment shall be imposed and when owing to defects in medicine, or not administering it the result becomes quite the reverse, a fine equal to the value of the animal shall be imposed. Every possible measure was taken by the state and the society for protecting their animals from thieves, carnivorous beasts, snakes, pythons, crocodiles and infectious diseases.

Different Referential Sources

In the Caraka Samhita, we find Veterinary science referred to in Siddhisthana verses.[2] In Harita Samhita also we find the references about fever. It says that fever is an unrivaled diseases which affects all the creatures such as the horses, elephants, men, beasts, deer, buffaloes, asses, camels, forest trees, creepers, shrubs, mountains, serpents, birds and mice. This disease which is difficult of cure and destroys life is called fever in this world.

Similarity in Samhitas

The original Sailhotra-Samhita consists of 12000 verses. Salihotra made this treatise on horses consisting of 12000 verses. We also have the same number of verses in Agnivesa Samhita. The similarity does not end with the number of verses. Just as Ayurveda is divided into 8 sections, this science also has been Astanga i. e. divided into eight sections. The treatise of Salihotra gained currency due to its excellence and we find that Agni Purana quotes Salihotra, Matsya, Garuda Puranas and Hayayurveda also. This Salihotra-samhita has been translated into Persian, Arabic, Tibetan and English the Persian translation dating as early as 1387 A D. The fame of this work spread into the near East, that in Persian and Urdu the word Salotri stands for the horse doctor in their lexicons.

Samhitas on Different Animals

Samhita on Horses

The veterinary science was not just a subject for the professional practitioners. The horse was a very useful animal in the wars and princes took pains to acquire mastery in the science. We have several instances of scions of royal dynasties who were famous for their learning in this field. King Nala was so well-versed in the science of horses that he earned the name of Asvavid. Nakula and Sahadeva, the twin sons of Madri, acquired the science from Drona Guru.

Palakapya Samhita

The horse was not however the only animal which received the attention of medical authors. Elephants and cows received equal attention. We have the Palakapya Samhita devoted solely to elephants. It is divided into 4 sections with 152 chapters in total. It comprises more than 10000 verses or 20000 lines and it is almost as big as Caraka Samhita. Such an elaborate treatise gives detailed information about the anatomy, surgery, physiology, pathology, major and minor diseases, diet and the drugs for elephants. We read in the descriptions of the wars of the ancient times that besides horses there were thousands of elephants on the battlefield and that was how the whole literature Hasti-Ayurveda came into existence.

Govaidyaka

Govaidyaka, treatment of the bovine species, is another branch of the veterinary science and this too has received full attention in Ayurveda. Similarly, goats and sheep, donkeys and camels, and even hawks were not neglected and we find special branches of treatises on these subjects.

Conclusion

With the ancients the animals were not merely useful, but also were treated in the same spirit as family members and well looked after. The interdependence of human beings and animals with regards to the mutual welfare demands of us that we should take every possible care of animals in health and disease. It behaves us to spare no pains in establishing and organizing our efficient service in order to alleviate the ailment of animals. Present day Panjarapoles should be revived on scientific lines. Only then shall the duty towards the civilization as a whole will be fulfilled. This is the base of our ideal of Jiva-daya i. e. Compassion towards all the living creatures for which the country has always stood supreme.

References

  1. Parasara Samhita 9,50
  2. Siddhisthana Chapter 11 19-26.
  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India