A Little Story of Ancient Indian Surgery

Ancient India and Medicine

In ancient India, Ayurveda and medical science were divided into two major traditions. Atreya School located in Taxila near Peshawar and Dhanvantari School located in Banaras.

The Atreya school gave more prominence to the practice of medicine and their primary text was the Charaka Samhita. Whereas the Dhanvantari school gave more prominence to surgery and referred to the Sushruta Samhita.

Sushruta Samhita

Written in Sanskrit, the Sushruta Samhita dates back to pre-Christian times and is one of the oldest works in the field of medicine. It is the foundation of the ancient Hindu system of medicine known as Ayurveda and is regarded as the ‘great treatise of Ayurvedic medicine’.

The Sushruta Samhita gave instructions for the etiology of more than 1,100 diseases, the use of hundreds of medicinal plants, and scores of surgical procedures – including three types of skin grafts and nasal reconstruction.

Sage Sushruta

Sushruta was a physician in ancient India. He is known today as the “Father of Indian System of Medicine” and “Father of Plastic Surgery” for his invention and development of surgical procedures. He has given the whole account of this in Sushruta Samhita.

Sage Sushruta was a medical practitioner and teacher. Who is believed to have lived in Kashi (Benaras) around 5th-6th century BCE. However, it is difficult to tell the exact dates.

According to the great surgeon Sushruta,

A person who has courage, has a mind, whose hands do not tremble and who has a good grasp of instruments. So he will definitely be successful in doing a surgery. The patient may also look at his parents, brothers and relatives with suspicion, but he never doubts the doctor. Therefore it is the duty of the doctor also to take care and treat the patient like his son.”

2600 years ago Maharishi Sushruta along with his colleagues performed various complex surgeries like caesareans, prostheses, cataracts, urinary stones, fractures and especially plastic surgeries.

Sushruta’s method of healing

Sushruta has described about 1,100 surgical and medicinal plants in the Sushruta Samhita. Since anesthesia was not invented in those days. Therefore the patient was given alcohol in the required quantity before the surgery. So that the patient does not feel pain during the surgery.

Origin of Rhinoplasty

Rhinoplasty, meaning related to the nose, what do we do with the nose? Or to correct the nose. such as:

To improve nasal breathing.

To improve the cosmetic look of the nose.

Rhinoplasty procedure written by Sushruta

In which, he mentioned that a patient had come to him. Whose nose was cut off and only the nostrils were open. The procedure is done like this “First the patient is given the required amount of alcohol until he is unconscious. Then the length of the nasal cavity is measured with a leaf.

A piece of skin the size of a nose is removed from any part of the body. The piece of skin is now molded into the exact shape and stitched along the cheekbones. Thus the skin is properly adjusted.

Powder of sandalwood and barberry plant is sprinkled on it. Finally it is covered with cotton and clean sesame oil is continuously applied.

On the tenth day, a piece of soft cloth is inserted into the nostril to keep it open enough. This process is always successful even today.

The above procedure written by Sushruta shows how well the ancient Indian system of medicine was. This is the reason that even today many countries use these procedures written in the Sushruta Samhita.

A great surgeon sushruta

Through Sushruta’s irrelevances, the unmistakable picture of a great surgeon shines. He certainly attacked disease and deformity by reasoned and logical means. Even when there was no way, he would make some way or the other.

According to Sushruta, “Anyone, who wishes to acquire in-depth knowledge of anatomy. He must work on a dead body and carefully inspect all its parts.”

He believed that optimum health could be achieved only through harmony of mind and body. This body can be maintained through proper nutrition, exercise, and rational thought.

For him, in fact, surgery was the best in medicine because it could produce the most positive results compared to other methods of treatment.

Other contributions by Sushruta

In addition to the trauma associated with general surgery, Sushruta described in depth the treatment of 12 types of fractures and six types of dislocations. It continues to fascinate orthopedic surgeons even today.

He outlined the principles of traction, manipulation, appeasement, immobilization, and postoperative physiotherapy.

Sushruta also gave tips on how to grow lost hair and remove unwanted hair.

Why not accepted as the father of medicine on the international stage?

The English translation of the Sushruta Samhita was translated between 1907 and 1916 in three volumes, by the scholar Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhisgratna. By this time, of course, the world at large had accepted Hippocrates as the father of medicine. Bhishgratna’s translation did not get the kind of international attention it deserved. Sushruta’s name remained relatively unknown until Ayurvedic systems of medicine were more widely accepted. He has begun to gain recognition for his extensive contributions to the field of medicine in general and surgical practice in particular.

Qualified Teacher

Apart from being a great surgeon, Sushruta was also an able teacher. He told his disciples many methods for the promotion of surgery. He used effigies of fruits, vegetables and wax in his early stages to teach his students about surgery. So that his disciples should not be ignorant, he used to get them done experiments on dead bodies.

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