Dhanvantari is said to be one of the fourteen symbols
which appeared when all the gods and demons churned
the milky ocean to extract the 'elixir of immortality'
(amrita). He is regarded as a part of Vishnu, the
maintainer of the Universe, and a disciple of Siva,
the conqueror of the king of death.
||It is said that Dhanvantari
was born to Sages Galvana and Virabhadra. Virabhadra saved
the life of Sage Galvana by giving water, when the sage
was in fatigue and thirsty. The sage blessed her to be
the mother of a worthy son. Dhanvantari is said to have
married the three daughters of Aswni Kumara and became
the father of fourteen sons. 'He taught Susruta and many
The name of Dhanvantari does not appear in the Vedas.,
He was the God of Classical Indian medicine and is still
respected. In the modern period, an Ayurvedic physician
is given the title of Dhanvantari, when he attains highest
Charaka Samhita tells us how Bharadwaja obtained the knowledge
of ayurveda from God Indra and then expounded it into
the other sages.
According to Charaka Samhita and other sources, Bharadwaja
was the first man to have known and taught Ayurvedic medicine.
Bharadwaja lived around 800 B.C. It was his disciple Atreya
who had originally composed the Charaka Samhita, around
Bharadwaja lived a long life, equal to three generations
of men. Many traditional and mythological stories speak
about him as a great sage and learned teacher and practitioner
of Ayurvedic medicine in ancient India. There are some
drug recipes which still bear his name.
expounder of Agnivesa tantra.
|Amongst the disciples of Bharadwaja,
Punarvasu became very popular. He was commonly known
Atreya classifies diseases as curable and incurable
; curable by charms and those scarcely possible
to cure. He distinguishes patients on whom physicians
must attend from those to whom they must refuse
He describes the influence of winds, soil and seasons
on age and temper. He enumerates six tastes such
as sweet, astringent, bitter, sour, salty and pungent
and talks of the influence of each on the human
He describes the medical qualities of different kinds
of water and the use of hot and cold water in various
diseases, the physical and medical properties of various
milks, sugarcane, sour gruel, infusions from rice, barley
and other grains, oils, fruits, herbs, alcoholic liquors
made from molasses, honey etc.
He discusses the properties of the flesh of various animals,
birds, fishes, snakes and gives rules and principles of
diet. Of dreams, he describes the lucky and the unlucky
symptoms and foreboding.
He deals with moral causes of diseases and describes various
diseases in detail, such as fevers, diarrheas, dysentery,
consumption, hemorrhage, etc. and also their treatment.
He also deals with various antidotes against poisons.
The beginning of Ayurvedic Medicine can be attributed
to Atreya. Though the concepts of controlling the forces
of the body are contained in Vedic literature, yet it
is to Atreya that Ayurvedic medicine owes its full elaboration
of 'Tridosa' concepts. The fundamental concepts of the
various factors causing diseases and the action of drugs
in Charaka Samhita, belong to Atreya. As a teacher of
Ayurvedic Medicine, Atreya is known to be unsurpassed.
|Jeevaka was a famous physician of
India in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. Buddhist
works mention much of him and his patients included
the Buddha, the Emperors and the common people.
Jeevaka was the son of Salavati, a courtesan of
Rajagnha (modem Patria), which was the capital of
the Magadha empire in the reign of Bimbisara. He
was thrown after his birth on a dust heap where
people noticed that he was still alive (Jivati).
This was informed to Prince Abhaya, the son of Bimbisara.
The prince named him Jivaka and brought him up.
He is also known as Jeevaka Kumarabwla (the one
brought up by the Prince).
Brain surgery on
king Bhoja by Jeevaka-a famous nuero surgeon
and personal physician to Lord Bhudha.
When he grew up, he came to know his antecedents and left
for Taxila, a famous Indian center of learning near Rawalpindi,
without informing anybody. There he studied medicine for
Jeevaka is said to have performed surgical operations.
Jeevaka was declared by Buddha as the chief amongst his
lay-followers. He also included in the list of good men
who had been assured of the realization of immortality.
Buddha enjoined upon monks to take exercise to protect
health at the requisition of Jeevaka.
According ancient Indian medicine, Vagbhata, Atreya and
Susruta are considered as the three medical authorities
(Vriddha Trayi or old Triad). Vagbhata composed two medical
treatises, viz., Ashtanga Sangraha (summary of Octopartite
Science) and Ashtanga Hrudaya Samhita (Heart of the essence
of Octopartite science). Both these works describe him
as the son of Simhagupta and he was bom in the country
of Sindhu. He was the disciple of a Buddhist teacher named
Ashtanga Sangraha is still studied all over India, especially
in the South. It is composed of a combination of verse
and prose form. It gathers more or less conflicting medical
systems of that time especially of the Charaka and Susruta
Samhitas, and harmonizes them into a whole. It contains
independent material also.
It contains six sections and 150 chapters. The six sections
are the practice of Medicine, human anatomy, the causes
and pathology of various conditions, purging and vomiting,
taking care of children and diseases of children.
Ashtanga Hrudaya Samhita contains six sections of 120
chapters. It is mainly based on Ashtanga Sangraha. It
gives a lucid description of the whole of Ayurvedic medicine
with special reference to surgery as given in Susruta
Madhavakar or Madhavacharya is the exponent of pathology
and diagnosis. For this contribution, he is equal to the
rank of the 'Ancient Triad'. Raghuvamshaya is his special
contribution, which is also called as Madhavanidnana or
He is the son of Indukar. He was born in Kishkinda, now
called Golconda, in South India. Madhava's brother is
Sayana who wrote a commentary on Rig Veda. Madhavakar
is said to have contributed to this. He composed many
works on Hindu philosophy, religion and astronomy.
Madhavananda deals exclusively and exhaustively with pathology
and diagnosis of diseases. The description of the causes,
symptoms and complications of the important diseases set
an example for the future authors, viz., Vrinda, Varyasena
and Chakrapani. The description in this shows an advancement
over Charaka and Susruta Samhitas. It devotes a special
chapter on small-pox. It also borrows from Charaka and
Susruta. There is a unanimous opinion whether he existed
in 9th or 10 th century A.D. Numerous commentaries were
written on Nidana which clearly show his fame and popularity.
The most famous of these commentaries are by Vijayarakshita
and Shrikantha Datta in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Vrinda composed a medico-chemical treatise called Siddha
Yoga. Siddha Yoga though it incorporates much of the material
from the works of famous scholars, describes in detail
various diseases, their treatment and also the rejuvenants
and elixirs to prolong life and general hygiene. It also
describes the methods for the preparation of various metallic
compounds, which were used as medicines. Mercury is mentioned
as a constituent or a formula to be applied externally
for exterminating disease. It also describes methods for
preparing sulphides of copper and mercury. Srikantha Datta
writes on Siddha Yoga in later times.
Dridhabala was one among the great ayurvedic physicians
from Kashmir, who probably lived around 9th century A.D.
His father was Kakilabala. He reconstructed and re-edited
the great ayurvedic medical treatise of Charaka Samhita.
This work embodies the teaching of Atreya. The present
form of Charaka Samhita was given by Dridhabala in 9th
century AD. He completed the treatise of Charaka by adding
17 chapters in Therapeutics (Chikitsa Sthana) and also
2 complete sections of Pharmaceutics (Kalpasthana) and
success in treatment (Siddha Sthana) by collecting data
from various treatises on Ayurvedic medicine.
It is possible that Charaka Samhita some of whose portion
had been lost by the time of Dridhabala would have been
completely lost to posterity, if Dridhabala had not reconstructed
it in time.
Charaka, the famous physician of Ayurvedic medicine, lived
before 175 BC. In ancient medicine, he is looked upon
as an incarnation of Ananthasesha, the giant cosmic serpent,
which is believed to support the universe. Charaka Samhita
was composed originally by Agnivesha, the disciple of
Atreya, who lived around 7th-8th century BC.
Charaka Samhita describes the various aspects of Ayurvedic
medicine which gives an insight into the state of medicine
in ancient India. Charaka, in his work elaborately deals
with foetal generation and development, anatomy of the
human body, function and malfunction of the body, viz.,
vayu, pitha and kapha, etiology, classification, prognosis,
treatment of various diseases and the science of rejuvenation
of the body.
To Charaka, a human body consists of 360 bones totally,
which includes teeth and nails. Muscles the body are first
mentioned as fleshy masses. The heart has only one cavity
in it and 10 vessels run from it to the different parts
of the body.
Charaka, while discussing on physiology, describes all
matter including food, as composed of five elemental entities
(bhutas), viz., earth, fire, wind and wind and ether.
These exist in the body in the form of substances (dhatus),
viz., rasa, blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow and semen.
The function of the food is to nourish these dhatus, maintain
their equilibrium and sustain the digestive function.
Food is first converted into rasa and this in to blood,
flesh and dhatus. During the process of digestion, a sweet
reaction sets in which gives rise to the production of
a foamy phlegm (kapha). A little later, when food is half
digested, reactions set in and from the food in the intestine
is produced a liquid substance called bile (pitha). Later,
down in the intestines, the digested food is converted
into a dry mass and during process a bitter and astringent
reaction sets in, which gives rise to the production of
wind (vayu). Thus, the three doshas are produced.
The role of Vayu is of five types, viz., inhalation and
exhalation of breath, speech, throwing out of urine and
faces. The bile helps digestion, provides heat to the
body and gives good eye-sight, good complexion, cheerfulness
of mind and intelligence. The phlegm gives normal oiliness
to the body, sprightliness to the joints and body, normal
weight, sexual power, strength, capacity to bear or endure.
These three may exist either in equilibrium or anyone
of them may predominate in a person. When Kapha dominates
one has a body which is smooth, delicate, clean and agreeable
to look at. When pitha predominates one will not bear
the heat. The body will be dry and delicate. When Vayu
dominates, one has a body which is dry, lean and small
sized. When all three are in equilibrium, it is an indication
of a healthy body.
Diseases are classified in various ways. Internal diseases
are due to the predominance of the tumors and these may
be curable, curable with difficulty and incurable. These
may be accidental, caused by demons, violent or mild.
Charaka's Materia Medica mainly consisted of vegetable
products though animal and earth products were also used.
These drugs are classified into 50 groups on the basis
of their action on the body. The drugs were given in various
forms such as powder, paste, infusion, decoction, pill,
confection, roast, fermented, distilled, medicated and
inhalants as well as injectives into the rectum, urethra
and female genital organs. The aim of these drugs is to
maintain the normalcy between dhatus and doshas.
It also describes the various categories of the practitioners
of healing art, specialization in different medical subjects,
nursing care, centers of medical learning, schools of
philosophy, such as Nyaya and Vaiseshika which formed
the basis of medical theories, medical botany, various
customs, traditions, legends, routine of daily life, habits
or smoking and drinking, dress and clothing of the people
of that era.
Susrutha, as a teacher, asked his pupils to try their
knives first on natural as well as artificial objects
resembling diseased parts of the body, before undertaking
the actual operations. The students practiced incision-making
on certain vegetables, dummies and dead animals.
of surgery-performing plastic surgery of
|It has been said that
Susrutha led a group of holy men and learnt Ayurvedic
medicine from Divadosa, the incarnation of Dhanvantati.
Susrutha, a descendant of Viswamitra, was the greatest
Indian surgeon of all times. His treatise on sin
gems, Susrutha-Salya-Tantra were composed about
6th century B.C. It has been revised by Nagarjuna
in the later part of 4th century B.C.
Susrutha stressed on both theoretical and practical training
and remarks that "the physician who has only the
book - knowledge (Sastras) but is unacquainted with the
practical methods of treatment' or who knows the practical
details of the treatment but from self confidence, does
not study the books, is unfit to practice his calling.
His major achievements, however, were in the field of
plastic surgery of the nose, operations on the abdomen,
on the eyes for cataract, on women during delivery and
on the removal of the urinary stones.
Susrutha explained the influence of various seasons on
various plants and human beings. Susruta elucidates the
influence of wind on the human body.
Susrutha classifies the animal kingdom into four. They
are (1) those that are born out of moisture and heat,
e.g., worms, insects and ants, (2) those with placenta
attached to them at birth, e.g., man and other animals
(3) those that are born out of egg, e.g., reptiles, birds
and (4) those that come out from the ground, e.g., frogs.
He classifies the worms that infest the human body into
20 categories. Before the end of the 8th century A.D.,
Susruta Samhita was translated into Arabic and was called
Kitab-Shaw-Shoon-Attindi or Kitab-i-Susurd. The famous
Arab physician, Rhazes calls him an authority on surgery
and mentions him by the term Sarad.