Author: Dr Ranjeet Singh
The monumental works of Charaka, Sushruta, Vagbhata, Sharangdhara, Dhanvantari and few others from the strong foundation of Ayurveda, which has evidently been taken advantage of by the industrious Western world in developing the Allopathic system of medicine.
The Western scholars like Wilson, Weber, Max Mueller, Hunter, Johnson and Smithcors have acknowledged the antiquities of Ayurvedic system of medicine. Hunter has even gone to the extent of estabilishing conclusively that the Arabic system of medicine was founded on the basis of translations from Sanskrit in the 8th century (A.D.) and that the European physicians followed the Arabic system till the 17th Century. There is evidence to show that from 8th to 15th century, medical publications in Europe cited quotations from Charaka. It is claimed that the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377B.C.) was also much indebted to Ayurveda.
Ashtangika (8-Winged) Ayurveda is exhaustive and encompasses almost all the branches, e.g. Medicine (kayachikitsa), Surgery (shalya chikitsa), Hygiene (swasthavtrita), Gynaecology and Obstetrics (Stri and prasuti tantra), Toxicology (agada tantra), Pediatrics ( Kaumarbhritya), Diseases of head and Neck (shalakya tantra) and Diagnosis (nidana shastra). Classical treatises on Medicine by Charaka, Dhanvantari, Sharangadhara, Bhavprakash contain unique and effective combinations of several drugs of vegetable (herbal) origin (Kasth aushadhi) as well as of inorganic origin (Rasa- aushadhi). Shaligram nighantu (material media) codified valuable information on Indian herbs along with their indications.
Sushruta’s treatise on surgery dwells upon the principles and practice of surgery that existed in the ancient past giving adequate illustrations of instruments used in surgical operations. Some of the techniques used then are still known as Indian surgery in Allopathy.
Rudolph Virchow has said that “between animal and human medicine there is no dividing line, nor should there be”. Ample evidence exits to show that the Indian system of veterinary medicine (veterinary Ayurveda) is older than that of other ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greece and that the Vedic and ancient people of India worshipping cow as mother and treating horses and elephants as sacred, did not lag behind in taking care of them and developing a system of medicine for their ailments.
In the Rigveda, there is mention of prayers have been offered to Ashwani Kumar to remove sterility and to increase milk production of cows. During Mahabharata period, Nakul and Sahadev respectively known for their specialised ability to treat horses and cattle. Chapters dealing with animal husbandry like management and feeding appear in ancient books like skanda Skandapurana, Devipurana, Haritha and others. Palkapya (1000 B.C.) and Shalihotra (2350 B.C.) were famous veterinarians specialising in the treatment of elephants and horses, both in peace and war since times immemorial.
From Vedic period to the advent of Mughals, ample classic literature exists dealing with Veterinary medicine during the Puranic period notibaly, Mastyapurana, Brahmandpurana, Lingapurana purana, Agnipurana and Gurudapurana furnishing several prescriptions for treatment of animal diseases with easily available medicinal herbs numbering about 2000, which were easily administered in powder form or as decoction. Some of these were used for promoting health and increasing milk production. Arsenic and Mercury are still being used for tonic of hair and skin and have been taken in Allopathic Pharmacopeia.
As late as the Ashoka (250 B.C.) and Harshavardhana’s period (750 A.D.) there existed a chain of human and veterinary hospitals in India. In the famous universities of Takshila and Nalanda foreign students used to come to study both Medical and Veterinary Ayurveda. Undisputed evidence is available pertaining to firing, blistering, cautery, bloodletting, castration, fractures , dislocation etc. in support of practice of surgery in ancient India.