Talk:Hospitals and Equipments of Ancient Times

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Hospitals and Equipments


One of the greatest fictions of modern times is the belief that the institution of hospital is a gift of the modern civilization. This fiction is the result of gross ignorance of the history of ancient Indian institutions and neglect of the study of Indo-Aryan culture. A researcher in the history of ancient Indian institutions would, soon after he has waded through the darkness of historical material resulting from the depredations of foreign invaders, find that institutions of hospitals had a very early development in India. We have ample proofs of the existence and development of hospitals in the Puranas, medical works, inscriptions and foreign travellers memoirs.


In Nandi Purana we find the following reference:


Good health is means of acquiring religious merit, wealth, pleasure and spiritual emancipation, and so the man who bestows cure on the sick as also he who endows a hospital fully equipped with good medicaments, dressing material, learned physicians, servants and dwelling space, gain these results. The physician should be we versed in the science, experienced, familiar with the actions of drugs, expert in the knowledge of the colour of the roots of herb an well acquainted with the proper season in which to cull them from the ground, well versed in the qualities of the juices, their strength and actions), of Sail rice, meat and medicaments, trained in compounding medicines, expert in intelligent penetration into the secret of a man's constitution, learned in the knowledge of body-elements, dietetics and pathology, free from indolence, well versed in the understanding of the premonitory symptoms and in after-treatment, proficient in the knowledge of time and place, well read in the medical text books of Ayurveda in all its eight divisions and an expert in Posology".


The same Purana further describes the merits accruing from establishing a hospital in the following verses:


�The pious man who erects such a hospital in which the services of a good physician of this nature are retained, and thus establishes charitable institution, in which the good physician cures even a single patient of his maladies by means of medicines, oleaginous remedies and compounds of medicinal decoctions, goes after death to Brahma�s residence taking with him seven generations of the ancestors. If the rich and the poor were to get treatment in proportion to the riches they�������� possess and can spend,��������� where would the poor man get a hospital��������� and a young physician to cure his diseases. Any man that cures the sick by the use of roots or by

massage and other methods also, reaches these eternal realms mentioned above. He who cures the sick suffering from discordance of the three Dosas or Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, by simple remedies, he too goes to such blessed regions (after death) as are secured by those who performed many religious sacrifices �(yajnas).


Again in the Skandapurana we find similar references.


�Hear, what amount of religious merit accrues to a man who erects a hospital equipped with all the necessary elements beginning with eminent physicians. As good health is the means of attaining religious merit, wealth, pleasure and spiritual emancipation, therefore, does one, by giving health, gives all these four blessings.


By curing learned man of his sickness such merit is acquired as is eternal and indestructible. He too who cures a sick man who is reposeful and absorbed in meditation and in the worship of Siva, attains virtue equal to that which results from all kinds of alms-giving Brahma, Visnu, all the minor gods, diseases, relatives and kings, all these are obstacles to Yoga and are thus diseases, but not to the Yogi. Whatever merit can be obtained by the great, by supporting the ailing Brahmans (priest), Ksatriyas (warriors) and Vits (cultivators) and Sudras (servants) cannot be obtained by the performances of all the great Yajnas (religious sacrifices). As even the gods cannot reach the end of the firmament, likewise is there no end to the merit accruing from the gift of healing. By this merit, the man reaching realm of Siva enjoys himself by soaring in celestial cars and attaining all his desires. Along with twenty-one genera�tions of his ancestors and surrounded by his servants, he stays in Siva�s realm until the great destruction at the end of the cycle. Thereafter by the residual part of his merit, and by his devoted service to Rudra, he acquires knowledge of truth.

Renouncing this world as a result of knowledge, and dedicating hiraeif to the worship of Siva and casting away this body sorrows like a straw, he reaches beyond the limits of sorrows. Being freed from all and becoming pure, all knowing and self-sufficient and absorbed in his own self, he is called the liberated one. Therefore for the sake of heaven as well as liberation, the sick should be well nursed and treated. The great sages given to Yoga should be especially attended to even at the cost of one�s life and riches. The wise must never cause annoyance to the weak patients but should be attended to like one�s own preceptor. This is the path of virtue. He who knows himself to be well-circumstanced in life should relieve the sick by taking them under bis care, and thus reach the other bank of this ocean of life.�

Construction of or an endowment for a hospital was considered to be an act of great merit as is evinced by the following quotations.


Viswamitra says here:

�There does not exist a gift greater than the gift of health, hence one should attempt to give health to the ailing for the attainment of one�s own welfare. One who gives to the patient medicine, wholesome articles, meals, oil massage and consolation is ever free from the clutches of any disease".


Samvarta says:

�One who gives medicine, oil and meals for the cure of the patient is himself ever free from any disease and is happy and long-lived�.


Agastya says:

�Those who give meals and medicine live happily and without disease

All the above three references are cited by Hemadri and they go to prove the early development of hospitals in India, at a time when the West could not even dream of them.

The earliest medical and surgical works like Susruta abound in references to, hospitals, usually known as ________________ etc.


The edict No II of Asoka shows that charitable institutions were common in India during his reign. The edict runs as follows:


Everywhere in the kingdom of the king Piyadasi, beloved of the gods, and also of the nations who live in the frontiers such as the Cholas, the Pandyas, the realms of Satyaputra and Keralaputia, as far as Tambapani and in the kingdom of Antiochus, king of the Greeks and of the kings who are his neighbours, everywhere the king Piyadasi, beloved of the gods, has provided hospitals of two sorts: hospitals for men and hospitals for animals.

Wherever plants useful either for men or for animals were wanting they have been imported and planted. Wherever roots and fruits were wanting they have been imported and planted And long public roads have been dug for the use of animals and men.�


Descriptions of Chinese travellers who toured India in the 5th and 7th centuries fully corroborate the fact of hospitals being an established institution in India of those days.


Fa hien (405-11-A D) who was a contemporary of Chand�ragupta Vikramaditya describes the charitable dispensaries of Pataliputra thus, �The nobles and householders of this country have founded hospitals within the city to which the poor of all countries, the destitute, the cripple and the diseased may repair. They receive every kind of requisite help gratuitously. Physicians inspect their diseases and according to their cases order them food and drink and medicines, oi decoctions, everything in fact that may contribute to their ease Wo on cured, they depart at their convenience�.


Vincent smith remarks:

"No such foundation was to be seen elsewhere in the world at this date, and its existence anticipating the deeds of modern Christian charity speaks well both for the character of the citizens who endowed it and for the genius of the great Asoka whose teach�ing bore such wholesome fruit many centuries after his decease. The earliest hospital in Europe, the Maison Dieu of Paris, is said to have been opened in the 7th century."

Upatisso, Son of Buddha Das, built hospitals for cripples, for pregnant women and for the blind and diseased. �Dhatushera built hospitals for cripples and sick. Buddha Das himself ordained a physician, for every ten villages on the high road, and built assylums for the crippled, deformed and destitutes.


We learn from Huen Tsang�s account that Siladitya II was inclined towards Buddhism and in all the high ways of the towns and villages throughout India, he created hospitals, provided with food and drink, and stationed there physicians with medicines for travellers and poor persons round about, to be given without any stint.


Speaking of the father of Bikkhu Srutavimsatikoli, Huen Tsang says, "From his house to the snowy mountains, he had established a succession of rest-houses from which his servants continually went from one to the others. Whatever valuable medicines were wanted they communicated the same to each other in order, and so procured them without loss of time, so rich was the family�.


In his account there is mention of charitable institutions called �Punyasalas�� as common in India. There were formerly in this country many houses of charity (goodness or happiness, Punyasalas) for keeping the poor and the unfortunate. They provided for them medicines and food and clothing and necessaries so that travellers were never badly off�. Again he says, "Benevolent kings have founded here a house of mercy, his foundation is endowed with funds for procuring choice food and medicines, to bestow the charity on widows and bereaved persons, on orphans and the destitute. A similar Punyasala or hospital was in K-ei-p-an-to. While describing Multan he says, �They have founded a house of mercy, in which they provide food and drink and medicines for the poor and sick, affording succour and sustenance." O Siladitya he says, � Every year is assembled the Sramanas from all countries and on the third and seventh days he bestowed on them in charity four things of alms viz, food, drink, medicine and clothing."

Ceylonese records furnish a lot of information in how the kings took up the erection and maintenance of hospitals as their chief duty. From Mahavansa we gather that in 437 B. C. King Pandukabhya constructed a residence for the Ajivakas, a hall for the worshippers of Brahma, (another for those) of Siva as well as a hospital.


�Duttha Gamani feeling his earthly journey ending (161 BC) asked that records of his reign be read to him and among the last words the dying king heard was, "I have daily maintained at eighteen different places, hospitals provided with suitable diet and medicines prepared by physicians for the infirm.�


We quote below a few references from the Mahavansa part II by L. C Wijesinha Mudaliyar P 57 Chapt XLIX. ( King�s name Dappula III 827 A D.)


�And being a man of great compassion he built a hospital for the city of Pullatthi and another at Pandaviya with a fruitful village attached thereto. He built hospitals for the halt and the blind in diverse places�.


P. 67 chapter L. King's name Kassappi ( 929 AD). �He built a house for the sick on the western side of the city and gave alms of gruel and other victuals for the destitute�.


P 86 chap LIV Name of the king, Sena (955 A D.) "He furnished all the hospitals also with medicines and beds and caused rice to be given daily to the captives that were in prison."


P 194-195 Chap.IyXXIII King s name, ParakkamaBahu (1164 A D). And this ruler of men built further a large hall that could contain many hundreds of sick persons and provided with all things, that were needful as stated underneath. To every sick person he allowed a male and a female servant that they might minister to him by day and by night and furnish him with the physic that was necessary and with diverse kinds of foods. And many store house also did he build therein, filled with grain and other things, and with all things that were needful for medicine and he also made provision for the maintenance of wise and learned physicians who were versed in all knowledge and skilled in searching out the nature of disease. And he took care to discern the different wants of the sick, and caused the physicians to minister to them, as seemed necessary both the day and night. And it was his custom, on the four sabbaths of every month, to cast off his king's robes and after that he had solemnly undertaken to observe the precepts, to purify himself and put him on a clean garment, and visit that hall together with his ministers. And being endowed with a heart full of kindness, he would look at the sick with an eye of pity, and being eminent in wisdom and skilled in the art of healing, he would call before him the physicians that were employed there and inquire fully of the manner of their treatment. And if so be that it happened that the treatment that they had pursued was wrong the king who was the best of teachers, would point out wherein they had erred, and giving reasons therefor would make clear to them the course that they should have pursued according to science. Also, to some sick persons he would give physic with his own hands. In this manner indeed this merciful king free from diseases would himself cure the sick of their diverse diseases from year to year.�


In one of the temple inscriptions of the Chola period, we find a detailed description of a hospital. Besides the several references to hospitals in the Gupta period we get the following reference dating 600 years after the period Veer Rajendra Deva of the Cholas issued a commandment in 1067 A D which is inscribed on the walls of the inner sanctuary of the temple of Venkateshwar at Tirumakudal in the district of Chingleput. It provided for the expenses of the festivals of the diety and toge�ther with it a school and a hospital for the students. The hospital is described as under. It was named Shree Veer Choleshwar Hosp�ital containings 15 beds. There were a physician, a surgeon, two male and two female nurses, one servant, one gate-keeper, a washerman and a potter. Their salaries were also fixed. One Kodam Ramash- watham Bhattar was engaged as the physician and he was given his remuneration in kind (a certain amount of corn). Next in order the remuneration in kind was fixed for the surgeon, nurses and others. The male nurses duty was to bring herbs and firewood and to prepare medicines. The duty of female nurses was to administer, the doses, feed the patients and do the necessary cooking. The washerman�s duty was to wash the clothes of the patients and the potters duty was to prepare the necessary pottery for the hospital. The quantity of oil required to light the lamps at night was also fixed. Besides this set-up, there are instructions about special preparations also.


A later inscription dated 1262 A. D is found on stone-pillar of Malakapur in the Andhra country. It contains references to Kakatiya queen Rudramma and to her father Ganapati�s preceptor Vishwesh- wara s activities. This Vishweshwara was a Saivite preceptor of Gaud Desha and the inscription informs us that several villages to the south of the Krishna were donated to him by Kakatiya Ganapati and Rudramma. The income accruing from these villages was divided into three parts and Vishweshwara ear-marked one-third of it for mater�nity home, one-third for a hospital and the remaining for a school. It is not definitely known whether this maternity home and the hospital were built by Vishweshwara or his predecessors bat they were linked with the local Siva temple.


Now we shall quote a few verse from the earliest medical treatises of specialized hospitals and their management