Talk:/Medical Institutions in ancient india/textbooks of medicine/Susruta Samhita

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

Significance of Caraka and Susruta

Contemporary with Caraka, another learned sage who contributed in the same manner for surgical knowledge as Caraka did for the medical. He compiled the Susruta Samhita. Caraka and Susruta Samhitas are written with clearness, conciseness and simplicity of arrangement and may be regarded as compendiums of the knowledge of medicine possessed at the time.

All the necessary knowledge for an ordinary medical practitioner was collected in one volume, Caraka's being a volume of study for the physician and Susruta's for the surgeon. Each book contains the following topics:

  • Description of medicine and surgery
  • Description of anatomy
  • Detailing on physiology
  • Summary on toxicology
  • Report on psycho-therapy
  • Details on personal hygiene
  • Medical ethics
  • Other things important for a medical practitioner

Each can be considered an encyclopedia of medical literature of the times. Caraka and Susruta stabilized all the medical knowledge available at that time. That is the reason why we do not come across any book on the subject of prior date.

Period of Caraka and Susruta

These two memorable works appear at the beginning of the golden age of Indian culture. This age may roughly be said to be from 2700 B. C. to 600 A. D. During this period, the true scientific spirit was abroad in the land. The quest for knowledge had taken different directions. Philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, trigonometry, music and administration were among the branches of knowledge whose foundation was laid in this period and also considerably developed. There were well known Universities located at Taxila, Benares and Nalanda for dissemination and exchange of knowledge.

There were great Acaryas[1] of different subjects and those who keenly desired to learn, traveled long distances like true devotees of Saraswati and sought their Asramas. During this period of intense intellectual activity, the science of life and healing attracted the greatest attention. Ayurveda is a product of that golden age of Indian History. The Caraka and Susruta collections prove that a vast amount of scientific research, patient investigation and experimentation must have gone before the conclusions embodied in them. These must have covered a very wide range as the vast country provided a variety of climate and geographical conditions.

Analysis of Diseases

Diverse climatic and geographical variations affected bodily condition and its reaction to the attacks of disease and different kinds of medicines. The country with such enormous varieties of climate was a rich nursery for the growth of all kinds of vegetable life.

It provided a vast field for botanical research. Thousands of medicinal herbs or their products growing in diverse parts of the country in different climates are mentioned in Caraka and Susruta. Diseases peculiar to different localities and seasons are mentioned in these books. They don't represent a particular local system of medicine recognized throughout the country.

Other Literatures

Many authors specializing in one or the other branches, wrote on their specialized subject is evident from the following extracts. Many treatises of medicine are current in the world. Thereafter, Bhela and the rest made his compilation of the science and these talented ones read them to Atreya and the assembly of sages. The Salya-tantra of Upadhenu, Urabhra, Susruta and Puskalavata are the sources of the other Salya-tantras.

In the extracts cited above and from many other sources we learn the names of several authors on the various branches but unfortunately most of the works are lost into oblivion and are not available at present. The list of the names of the then extant works in each subject as referred to in later works is as under. Many more names are likely to be unearthed by the efforts of research workers in the field.
  1. They were the Professors of ancient times.