Ayurveda is one of the Upa Vedas (subsidiary Vedas), A and in the Mahabharata it is described as the fifth Veda. Literally the term Ayurveda means the science of life. Prescriptions for the different parts of the day are called ‘dinacharya’, for the different parts of the night - 'ratri charya’ and for the different seasons are called ‘ritu charya.’
Based on herbs and roots, Ayurveda is one of the oldest systems of medicine (3000 B.C.), and is said to have been revealed by Dhanwantari to his pupil Susruta. The history of medicinal plants goes back to the Rig-Veda, perhaps the oldest repository of human knowledge. Charaka (300 B.C.) and Susruta, two famous scientists, wrote treatises which are named after them, and are now the two most important works on Indian medicine.
India has 20,000 botanical species, and from time immemorial the Himalayas are rightly considered the greatest treasure house of all kinds of plants and, trees. In fact the world’s first ever medicinal plants symposium was held on the slopes of the Himalayas in 700 B .C, and was preserved over by the sage Bharadwaja. Experts came from all over to discuss the science of longevity and lectures were given by ‘vaidyas’ (Ayurvedic physicians) on experiments they had carried out with the various herbs to cure chronic diseases.
Ayurveda is still considered very useful and the Indian government has financed and opened Ayurvedic colleges all over India. It is considered safer to use Ayurvedic drugs as, being natural based, they do not have any side effects. Its popularity in the i sent day society can be gauged from the fact that the ayurvedic centres are opening up all over the world. Very recently, the Soviet Research Centre for Preventive Medicine has opened one in Moscow. Many Indian ayurvedic companies are exporting medicines in large quantities to the Western world.
Surgery (Shalya Kriya)
“Their (Hindu) surgery, says Elphinstone “is as remarkable as their medicine. The sage Susita is considered the father of surgery, in the ancient times there were more than 127 different types of surgical instruments in common usage .d some of them were sharp enough to divide a hair. They included scalpels, lancets, bone-nippers, scoops, forceps, etc.
There were fourteen different types of bandages. The favourite form of splint was made of thin strips of bamboo bound together with string and cut to the length required, This splint was adopted by the British army under the name of the ‘patent rattan—cane splint.
The ancient surgeons conducted amputations and stopped the bleeding by applying pressure and using a cup shaped bandage and boiling oil. They practiced dichotomy; performed operations in the abdomen and the uterus; cured hernia, fistula and piles; set broken bones and dislocations; and were experts in the extraction of foreign substances from the body.
Surgery for cataract of the eye and major brain operations were clone regularly. A special branch of surgery was devoted to rhinoplasty, or operation for improving deformed nose and ear and forming new ones. They cured neuralgia and were experts in midwifery and in diseases of women and children.
Surgery was conducted under the following heads:
• Chhedya (excision)
• Lekhya (scarification)
• Aharya (extraction)
• Esya (exploration)
• Vedhya (puncturing)
• Visraya (evacuation)
Students practised on tissues and cells of vegetables and upon dead animals. Dissection of dead bodies was also done. Also a classification of over 300 bones in the human body had been done at that time.