Talk:/Medical Institutions in ancient india/Vaidyas/The Vaidya and Society

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The Vaidya and Society

 

It is a truism to state that the degree of honor accorded to the learned professions represents the degree of the refinement of the civilization of a people. Among the learned professions, that of the healer, the medical man stands supreme, being vital to the health, happiness and survival of the race. From the earliest history of man the healer has donned the robes variously of the priest, prophet and physician, as befitted the spirit and degree of refinement of the age.

In the early dawn of human history when the eye of man beheld spirits, gods and demons who were credited with making trees, waters and rocks and hills their habitation and with powers for good or bad to exercise over man, religion and medicine were scarcely distingui�shable from each other.

 

Every ill-humor of the body or the mind was attributed to the evil influence of some invisible spirit, and exor�cism or propitiatory rite was all the therapeusis demanded. The priest, naturally, was the right dispenser of healing and healing formed an integral part of the ritual of religious worship.

In the Rgveda, the earliest available records of civilized human life, the knowledge of healing, as a science comprising both religions and lay forms of therapeusis, had reached a high degree of progress. Besides the healer and the healing science were already developed as an institution and the healer, the Bhisak or the physi�cian was held in high honor among the gods as well as among men. The hierarchical order of the gods in the tradition of a race sents the hierarchical order among its men. Already patients, second of human history the gods had their priests and the announce before cians. The Aswins were twins and expert in medicine and thing. They healed and mended the injuries to the gods in tKment by�fc 11 conflict with the demons There grew up m human society that terparts of the divine healers and the sect called Atharvar\ ma\ce f after Atharvana, the seer and founder of the Atharvaveda, wel^a| | lar as healers and exorcists in the Vedic and post-Vedic times -jo

The Aswins though originally minor gods were later raised to the high status of the other gods and regarded worthy of being offered oblation in sacrifices by virtue of their proven powers in the healing art.

'The Aswins, who are the physicians of the gods are celeb�rated as the resuscitators of sacrifice, for it is they that reunited the severed head of sacrifice. It is these two, again, that successfully treated Pusan when his teeth had become loosened, Bhaga when he had lost his eyesight and Indra when his arm had become stiffened. These two, moreover, cured Soma the Moon-god of consumption and restored him to his happiness when he bad fallen from his state of good health. When Cyavana, the son of Bhrgu, had become decrepit with loss of voice and body lustre, as the result of old age, but drunkered still for sense pleasures, it is the Aswin-pair that made.

 

On account of these and many other miracles of ��These two, the greatest of physicians came to be regarded it is by great personages such as Indra and others."

 

phy, for Charaka Samhita recites their wonderful feats and even Dhanvantari known as the God of medicine, the Aswin gjft the real gods and originators of the Science of Medicine of honor accorded to them in the Vedas and the number of proposed and sung in their honor are indications of the __tatus accorded in Vedic society to their mortal counterparts

 

The period succeeding the Vedic one, retained its respect for the healer though by then already, impostors known by the name of Kuvaidyas or Kuhakas from which the modern term �Quack" is derived had made their appearance in society and were increasing in their number. The Caraka Samhita which belongs to that period between the Vedas and the Smrti and Mababharata devotes a lot of attention to drawing the distinction between the real physician and the pretentious quack. It accords the greatest homage to the real one known as the bringer of life and condemns in elaborate manner the destroyers of life, whose ways and manners are fully described in impressive words in a whole chapter (C. Sutra. XXIX).

That reflects the true conditions obtaining by then in society. By then, the profession of the healer must have become attractive, lucrative and enviable one of social distinction. Caraka offers sincere and respectful obeisance to the true physician, the bringer of life. Having described the two kinds of medical practitioners the true and the false, Caraka concludes thus.

That reflects the true conditions obtaining by then in society. By then, the profession of the healer must have become attractive, lucrative and enviable one of social distinction. Caraka offers sincere and respectful obeisance to the true physician, the bringer of life. Having described the two kinds of medical practitioners the true and the false, Caraka concludes thus.

 

"Those who, putting on the garbs of the physician, thus their patients just as the bird-catchers in the forest (gull) by camouflaging themselves in nets, such persons, outcastes befor -rs\ science of healing, both theoretical and practical, of timeLj ^^mg 1 measure, are to be shunned, for they are the messengers t bySt n] on earth The discriminating patient should avoid these ufib^irit } laureates, who put on the airs of physicians for the sake of agice ' they are like serpents that have gorged on air But salutakj constantly proffered to those others who are learned m the scieh^ skilful, pure, expert in performance, practised of hand and self- controlled.�

The stress laid on the avoidance of the cases which showed symptoms of incurability indicates the dread of failure in treatments that the medical man entertained in that age. Loss of reputation, loss of monetary emoluments and worse results such as perhaps the censure and punishment by the State where death was recognised to be due to wrong methods of treatment, must have loomed large in the minds of medical practitioners. This gave rise to an elaborate science of diagnosis and investigation in the light of the patients dreams and premonitory symptoms and of the casual circumstances attending upon, surroundings of the patient, the messenger he sends to fetch the physician and such other conditions like omens on the physician�s path. This is elaborately described in the whole section devoted to it known as 'prognostics�. Throughout as well as at the outset of the treatise Caraka insists on avoiding the under�taking of cases showing symptoms of Incurability. Such cases are known as 'Pratyakhyeya� those that deserve to be refused. Not that incurable cases were refused treatment absolutely, on the other hand we find the physician declaring the patient before his relatives to be incurable and with the permission of the state and his relations, heroic measures were resorted to, to alleviate the disease.

 

He mentions that declaring certain cases to be such yet the physician may undertake to treat them with view to alleviate the evil, so as perhaps to assuage the pain or prolong the life as long as possible.

'The patient suffering from cough born of consumption with all the symptoms of consumption fully developed and who is debilit�ated should be considered incurable but if the cough is of recent origin and the patient is strong the treatment should be undertaken despite declaring it to be of the incurable type�. �'When the abdo�minal disease due to the gathering of fluid has gone beyond the stage of treatment or if the humoral tri-discordance has not got subdued, the physician should summon the patient�s kinsmen, well-wishers, wives, Brahmins, state authorities, the caste and elders and speak to them about the precarious condition of the patient. If not treated, the patient s death is certain. But if treated by poison therapy he may have a chance to survive. Having spoken thus and being permitted by the patient�s well-wishers to proceed, (he must administer poison.

There is nothing more reasonable perhaps that even the modern counterpart of the old time Vaidya can do under such circumstances.