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

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Susruta Samhita


Contemporary with Caraka, another great man arose at Bena�res who did the same 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 that was necessary 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 in addition to description of medicine and surgery, the description of anatomy, physiology, toxicology, psycho-therapy and personal hygiene, medical ethics and many other things which may be useful for a medical practitioner. Each can be considered an encyclopedia of medical literature of the times.


Caraka and Susruta stabilised the floating mass of medical knowledge so to say of the times and supplanted all other works Caraka and Susruta are not the first books in medicine. But the reason why we do not come across any book on the subject of prior date is that these master-pieces eclipsed all other books which gradually faded out of existence.


These two memorable works appear at about the beginning of what may be called 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 Universities like the well known ones of Taxila, Benares and Nalanda, for dissemination and exchange of knowledge There were great Acaryas (Professors) of different subjects and those who keenly desired to learn at their feet travelled long distances like true devotees of Saraswatl and sought their Asramas. During this period of intense intellectual activity it is but natural that the science of life and healing should attract 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 vari�ety of climate and geographical conditions We have altitudes ranging up to 5 miles. We have almost rainless region to those having 500 inches a year. We have coldest and hottest possible region We have six clear-cut periodical seasons each producing its distinctive vegetation. All these climatic and geographical variations affected bodily condition and its reaction to attacks of disease and to differ�ent kinds of medicines. The country with such enormous variabilities of climate and with such wonderful range of mountains as the Himalayas the Vindhyas and the Ghats 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 find a place in these books. There is no doubt that they represent not a local system of medicine but one which was recognised throu�ghout India.

Many authors specializing in one or the other of the branches, wrote on their specialized subject as is evident from the following extracts.

"Many treatises of medicine are current in the world."

�Thereafter, Bhela and the rest made each his compilation of the science and these talented ones read them out 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 unfor�tunately most of the works are lost into oblivion and are not availa�ble at present. We only hope that extensive researches of the future may enable us to find this lost treasure.


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.