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Indian Medicine in The Classical Age

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Indian Medicine in The Classical Age
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Item Code: IDF234
Author: Dr. P.V. Sharma
Publisher: Chaukhamba Amarabharati Prakashan
Language: English
Edition: 2000
Pages: 273
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.8" X 5.4"
weight of the book: 315 gms

Classical Sanskrit literature has been studied and analysed by several scholars for the light it throws on contemporary cultural conditions and the history of the different branches of thought and learning in ancient India. Literature mirrors up life as a whole and while the work of a great poet like Kalidasa isespe- clally rich in such cultural material imbedded in it, that of bana in prose is, in this respect, a veritable encyclopaedia. The correlation of general literature with the technical texts of a branch of knowledge is necessary in the study of that branch. I have emphasised the value of this 'contextual' study elsewhere. For scientific and technical branches, such a study of general literature is more important than for other subjects. It is there- fore a fruitful line of work that Dr. Priya Vrata Sharma has taken up in the present work of his entitled 'Indian Medicine in the Classical Age'.

Dr. Sharma, an Acarya in Ayurveda and Snhitya and also M. A., is now Head of the Dravya-Guna Department of the Institute of Medical Sciences and Ex-Director of the Post-Graduate Institute of Indian Medicine in the Banaras Hindu University. He has done special work on Ayurvedic texts particularly Nighantus bear- ing on materia medica.

Although the present volume is not large in size, it makes a detailed analysis of leading Sanskrit classics, prominently those of Bana,and brings together all the data bearing on the place of Ayurveda in the curriculum of studies, its branches, the practice of medicine, economic and other conditions of medical men in court and society, charitable dispensaries, basic concepts of Ayur. veda, the hnman system according to it, preventive medicine and health, materia medica, and preparation of medicines. There are two sections one on the Indian Medicine in General and other on the list of drugs mentioned in different texts. The Sanskrit passa- ges which are pressed into service are quoted in the footnotes to help verification. I am sure, students studying 'Ayurveda on the one hand and on the other, those interested in cultural history will find the book useful and interesting.


'Indian Medicine in the classical age' is intended to depict the status and condition of various branches of Indian Medi- cine popularly known as Ayurveda during the period called as classical age. This age covers the Gupta and Post-Gupta periods extending somewhat beyond that. In figures it is taken from 320 A. D., the date of the foundation of the Gupta empire, to 740 A. D. when Yasovarman of Kanauja died. During this period the Indian culture was in its full bloom and was not polluted by Mohammedan invasion.

Gupta period is regarded as the golden age of the Indian history in which almost every branch of Indian learning was enriched by fresh works having new outlook. There was synthesis of old and new with the spirit of investigation for truth. The old concepts which did not stand the test were discarded and the new ones which were reasonable were adopted. In a sense, there was revival of human potentia- lities which pervaded all fields of human activities. Human victories were described as those of the gods and common emotions and passions were seen in gods and human beings. In this way, Man was exalted to the position of god.

In such a period it was but natural that superb literary works appeared on the horizon of Indian scholarship. For instance, Kalidasa, Aryasura, Visakhadatta, Subandhu, Bana- bhatta, Sudraka, Bharavi, Sriharsa, Dandi, Magha, Vakpatiraja and Bhavabhuti came up in the field of Poetry while Varaha Mihira and Vagbhata were in the sphere of Astronomy and Medicine. In other fields, Kasika (Grammer), Amarakosa ( Lexicon ), Vatsyayana's Kamasutra ( Sexology) Nyayavartika and Prasastapada Bhasya (Philosophy), Yajnavalkya Smrti ( Moral and legal code) are important works' of this period. There is some difference of opinion regarding date of Kau- tilya's Arthasastra. Some scholars place it in Maurya's period while others put it in Gupta period. Following the latter scholars I have utilised this work here. Puranas are also said to have compiled and given a finishing touch during this period. Particularly Shrimadbhagwata, Visnu, Vayu, Mar- kandeya, Matsya, Brahmanda and Visnu Dharmottera Puranas represent this age fully. Kumarila and Sankara stand at the other edge of this period illuminating the glorious past. Particularly the Bhasya of Sankaracarya on Brahmasutra, Bhagwadgita and Upanisads deserves special mention. Three Chinese travellers came to India during this period and left their valuable records. They were -Fahian, Yuan Chwang and ltsing. There are also epigraphical evidences.

In this work, all the informations relating to Medicine have been collected from the above sources and arranged in a systematic manner according to different branches of Indian Medicine. Section I is devoted to Indian Medicine in general and Section II on materials relating to plant science and vegetable and other drugs.

Bana Bhatta, who was attached to the court of King Harsavardhana (606-648 A. D.) has been the main source. His monumental works, Harsacarita and Kadambari, apart from being literary samples are important historical documents depicting the cultural condition of that period. Bana travelled from one corner to another and had wide experience of nature and society. Therefore, it is also a valuable source for knowing the condition of Indian Medicine at that time. Some later works like Rajasekhara's Kavyamimansa and Prabandha- cintamani have also been utilised for comparison and additional information.

In Appendix I to IV Drugs mentioned in the works of Kalidasa, Varahamihira, Amara Singh and Bana Bhatta have been given.

Panca Tantra is said to be one of the works belonging to the Gupta Period. In this work, Vatsyayana ( 1. 88, 89 ), Varahamihira (1. 101), Magha (1. 113; 3. 7, 20) and Sali- hotra ( 5. 57, 61) have been quoted and as such it may be placed after Magha, this work could not be utilised in the text, hence the relevant material has been given in a seperate appendix V.

Medicine is a permanent companion of man from the very beginning. It has taken the responsibility of protecting him from various ravages and thus regulated his life, habits and customs, daily routine, food etc. accordingly so as to enable him to adjust to environment properly. In this way it becomes a part and parcel of the culture of the people. It also influences the thinking of the scholars and is projected in their writings. The poets and writers were also expected to have knowledge of other branches of learning like Medi- cine and Astronomy. Therefore, the status and condition of Medicine of any age is better known by non-medical sources. So in this work, only non-medical sources have been utilised.

The classical age is important from the point of view of development of medicine in theory as well as practice. Now the Sun of learning was rising and shining in the East. The University of Taksasila had waned and the University of Nalanda was founded during the reign of Kumiiragupta I and was in full bloom during the reign of Harsa Vardhana. Medicine was a compulsory subject in the curriculum there. The network of hospitals and dispensaries initiated by Asoka was greatly expanded in the Gupta empire. In Kumrahara excavations ( Patna), there is a site of Arogyavihara with a competent technical and nursing staff. There was trade of medicinal substances inside' and outside the country. All branches of Ayurveda developed to a great extent. Particular mention may be made of Rasa Sastra which is said to have beginning during this period. Like other classics, the old medical literature was redacted and renovated while other treatises like Astanga Samgraha and Astanga Hrdaya were written suited to the needs of that time. In this work an attempt has been made to highlight all these achievements.

This study may also be helpful in identification of some medicinal plants and thus in resolving the existing con- troversy regarding them. With this idea botanical names of most of the plants have been given alongwith the original names.

I hope, this work will be of use not only to scholars of Indian Medicine but also .to those working in the field of Indian culture, Botany and Agriculture.

I express my sincere gratitude to Dr. V. Raghavan, a pioneer in the field of Sanskrit and Culture, for writing the foreword of this book. I am also thankful to the publishers; the Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series. Varanasi for bringing out this publication. Thanks are also due to my colleagues Dr. Damodar Joshi and Dr. Jharkhande Ojha who assisted me' in translation of some portion and collection of some material respectively. Shri Sankatha Prasad and Shri Deva Nandan Mishra have taken great pains in preparing the Press Copy for which I am very much thankful to them.

Indian Medicine in General
1. Ayurveda 5
2. Basic concepts 15
3. Dravyaguna (Material Medica) 32
4. Pharmacy and Rasa Sastra 40
5. Swastha Vrtta (Preventive and Social Medicine) 43
6. Kaya-Chikitsa (Medicine) 53
7. Salya (Surgery) 74
8. Salakya (diseases of Eye, Ear, Nose, throat etc.) 78
9. Prasuti Tantra (Obsterics and Gynaeoology) 81
10. Kaumarabhrtya (Pediatrics) 93
11. Agada Tantra 94
12. Bhuta Vidya 98
13. Rasayana (Gesitrics) 99
14. Vajikarana (Aphrodisiacs) 101
15. Ayurvedic Literature 102
1. Botanical observations 107
2. Plant drugs 134
3. Substance of animal origin 213
4. Minerals 217
5. Group of drugs 227
I. Plants and Drugs mentioned in the works of Kalidasa (4th Cent. A.D.) 235
II. Plants and Drugs mentioned in work of Varamihira (6th Cent. A.D.) 237
III. Plants and Drugs mentioned in Amarakosa (6th Cent. A.D.) 242
IV. Plants and Drugs mentioned in the works of Banabhatta (7th Cent. A.D.) 248
V. Ayurvedic Material in Panca Tantra (7th Cent. A.D.) 251
  INDEX 257
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