Talk:State and Medicine of Ancient Times

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

Preface

As the food, water and clothes become the primary necessity of every individual, so also the healthful living occupies a very important place. Now as the public health depends upon every individual, it is not less dependent on the state also. Therefore the medical aid forms an essential part in the administration of the State.

For the preservation of health, the State has first to look after the sanitation of the country by laying down rules as to where the rubbish of garbage should be thrown, where and how the gutters and the drainage system should work, where and how the quality of food, drink as well as of vegetables should be preserved and how the infections should be avoided.

Kautilya suggests eight kinds of providential visitations. They are:

  1. Fire
  2. Floods
  3. Pestilential diseases
  4. Famine
  5. Rats
  6. Tigers
  7. Serpents
  8. Demons

Measures to Avoid Pandemic

The duty of the king was to protects his people from the above mentioned quacks. Whoever throws dirt in the street shall be punished with a fine of one-eighth of a Pana; whoever causes mire or water to collect in the street shall be fined one-fourth of a Pana. Whoever commits the above offences in the king's road shall be punished with double the above fines. Whoever excretes feces in places of pilgrimage, reservoir of water and royal buildings shall be punished with fines rising from one Pana and upwards in the order of offences.

From each house a water course of sufficient slope at a distance of 3 Padas or 1-1/2 Alratnis from the neighboring site shall be so constructed that water shall either flow from it in a continuous line or fall from it into the drain. Violation of this rule shall be punished with a fine of 54 Panas. If a pit, steps, water-course, ladder, dung-hill or any other parts of a house offer or cause annoyance to outsiders or in any way obstruct the enjoyment of others or cause water to collect and thereby injure the wall of neighboring house, the owner shall be punished with a fine of 12 Panas. If the annoyance is the voidance of feces and urine, the fine shall be double of the stated above. The water course or gutter shall offer free passage for water, other wise the fine shall be 12 Panas. When a person sells rotten flesh, he shall either have his two legs and one hand cut off or pay a fine of 900 Panas.

Such remedial measures were taken at that time to avoid pestilences. Physicians with their medicines, ascetics and prophets with their auspicious and purification ceremonials shall also overcome pestilences. The same remedial measures shall be taken against epidemics. With regard to cattle diseases, not only the ceremony of waving lights in cow-sheds shall be half done but also the same procedure is done in front of family gods.

Corrective Measures

General Measures

The above mentioned subject point out the preventive precautions but the state has to pay attention to the curative measures for this purpose. It has to establish and maintain hospitals, provide physicians civil, military and veterinary doctors and surgeons along with the nurses and midwives. The health of animals was equally important to the state as that of the people and for that purpose, every effort was made to render medical aid to them also. There were hospitals for the aged, the poor and the helpless, children, animals and maternity hospitals for the pregnant women. The king provided the orphans, the aged, the infirm, the afflicted and the helpless with proper shelter and food. He shall also provide subsistence to helpless women when they are pregnant and even after giving birth to the babies.

Penalties for Harming Animals & Plants

The state made immense efforts in growing, preserving and dispensing medicinal herbs. Severe punishments were inflicted on those who injured or showed cruelty towards plants or animals. For causing pain with sticks etc, to minor quadrupeds, one or two Pan was to be levied and for causing bleeding to the same, the fine shall be doubled. For cutting off the tender sprouts of fruit trees, flower trees or shady trees in the parks near a city, a fine of 6 Panas was imposed. For cutting off the minor branches of the same tree, 2 Panas and for cutting off the big branches 24 Panas was the fine inflicted. Cutting off the trunks of the same, the person was punished, with water, reinforcement and felling the same shall be punished with equal intensity as the punishment incurred from other major damages. Every protection was offered to men, animals, carnivorous animals and serpents.

Autopsy Procedures for Deciding Crime

State protects agriculture from the molestation of oppressive fines, free labor and taxes, herds of cattle from thieves, tigers, poisonous creatures and cattle disease. The state enacted laws for the sale of drugs, spirit and liquor and for the postmortem examinations and for the sexual contacts. On special occasions, people shall be allowed to manufacture white liquor and other kinds of liquor. Arista is a type of while liquor used in diseases. In death due to poison, the undigested portion of meal may be examined in milk. The food extracted from the belly of the dead man is also thrown in the fire. If it makes crta-crta sound and assumes the rainbow color, it can be declared as poisoned. In the cases when the belly does gets burnt, although the rest of the body is reduced to ashes, the dead man's servants were examined as to any violent and cruel treatments they may have received by the hands of the dead.

Reproductive Measures

If many or all of the wives are at the menses, he shall lie with that woman among them after the menstrual bath whom he married earlier or who has a living son. In case of his concealing the fact of her being in menses or neglecting to lie with any of them after her menses, he shall pay a fine of 96 Panas. Women who either have sons or are pious or infertile or bring forth only a dead child or are beyond the age of menstruation, none shall be associated with against her liking. If a man has no inclination, he may not lie with his wife who is either afflicted with leprosy or is a lunatic. But if a woman is desirous of having sons, she may lie with men suffering from such disease.

Other Regulations

The state levied tax on herbs and drugs and prescribed grave punishments for abortion, poisoning, rape and sexual crimes. Those that trade in cotton threads, clothes, copper, brass, bronze, sandal, medicines and liquor shall pay 40 Karas. No man can have sexual intercourse with any woman against her will. When a senseless man has sexual intercourse with beasts he shall be fined 12 Panas, when he commits the same act with idols of goddesses he shall be fined twice as much.

Conclusion

Even the kings honored the medical profession and according to circumstances they gave presents to the physicians and nurses and rewarded them in cash or other required kind after long and serious illness, after victory in a battle and even after a happy delivery. Thus Physician and his profession was considered to be the most respectable profession even during ancient times. The study of the ancient literature on this has thus contributed and uplifted towards the enhancement and enlightening of the state laws over the medical conditions.

References

  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India