The knowledge system developed by the early Indian scientific thought process attained limelight rather late. Fortunately however, many of the myths and misconceptions have now been exploded and perceptive analysis of early Indian texts are providing handles to reassess our scientific heritage.
The spectrum of this anthology encompasses substantive dimensions of, medical heritage of early India. It endeavours to provide critical insights into multifacets of early Indian thought process even if it is difficult to maintain a chronological sequence. In these essays intellectual nuances of the ancient Indian medical system can also be deciphered. In short, it is an attempt to expand existing frames for reviewing Indian culture.
This book will interest scholars and students of ancient Indian history and culture, particularly those engaged with history of medicine.
Dr. Sukla Das, former professor of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Her works Crime and Punishment in Ancient India (1977), Socio-Economic Life of Northern India C 550 A.D.-C 650 A. D. (1980) and Fabric Art Heritage of India (Abhinav Publications, New Delhi 1992) have carved out a niche for them among the publications on Indology.
She has to her credit a number of research papers published in various journals, edited books, felicitation and commemorative volumes.
Her areas of research include ancient Indian history and culture, gender studies, environment, history of textile art and history of medicine.
Medical discipline is one of the great domains of study for understanding the history of thought in early India. Though it is difficult to maintain a chronological sequence of the process, this survey intends to locate the salient features in the evolution of India's medical heritage from magico-religious therapeutics to a rational system.
Historical pathology or history of diseases was more or less alien to the usual humanistic slant of• historical research. An effort has been made in this study to incorporate early Indian experiences in which one can decipher a reflection of some diseases affecting the Indian sub-continent even today.
India has inherited a vast legacy of medical knowledge from several ancient texts of which the Caraka and Susruta Samhitas form an outstanding genre. It will be historically inaccurate to treat these medical texts as mere documentation of herbal lore and surgical processes only. The core contents of these two treatises bear testimony to scientific research, patient investigation and experimentation and the knowledge embodied in them was transmitted to different parts of the world including China and the Arab countries. The texts were even translated into Arabic under the name of Sarag and Sasrud. This study has made an extensive use of these two classical texts to pinpoint that early Indian experiences, experiments and strategies for enhancing quality of life have not yet been outmoded and their core contents are still relevant in the present medical perspective.
The present volume is fundamentally a collection of research papers presented at different seminars and conferences and some published in various research journals and edited volumes at different points of time. Considering their thematic and methodological unity an attempt has been made to integrate these essays into a volume. Hence unavoidably there is some repetition in source materials and sporadic overlap of matters. But they have been kept intact so that the essays do not appear truncated as editorial pruning often disfigures the original. Each piece therefore will stand or collapse on its own merit, a judgment best left to the readers.
This is an endeavour to make this anthology a varied presentation of the theme, but a separate bibliography has consciously been omitted here because references cited in the essays are comprehensive. Index to this volume too has been deliberately left out.
Some pertinent issues have received here extra focus which were hitherto been cursorily dealt with for which I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my father Professor (Dr.) Hirendranath Das, himself a medical academic who inducted me to scientific thought, without whose steering the rich medical heritage and philosophy of early India would have remained unknown to me.
My indebtedness to my teacher Professor Sachindra Kumar Maity, a favourite disciple of the eminent indologist Professor A.L. Basham has also no bounds. In fact he gave me a vision defined and initiated me to the process of exploration of hidden corners with the searchlight of history.
I acknowledge my debt of gratefulness to my students whose critical appreciation of our past traditions and searching queries centred round multifacets of early Indian history and culture and massive support have made my teaching and research at Jadavpur University truly enjoyable.
I earnestly thank all my respondents who shared their experiences and approaches to my pursuits and provided necessary and valuable information as well as guidelines. I am also indebted to the authors of all previous studies on the subject and allied streams.
I am indebted to the faculty members of the department of History, Jadavpur University Kolkata and the department of Ancient Indian History and Culture, University of Calcutta for their critical appreciation which has enriched my vision during my quest and for providing me inspiring platform for expressing my views.
I express my deep debt of gratitude to the authorities of the University of Calcutta for inviting me to deliver the Swami Nirlepananda Lectureship for the year 2006 on Early Indian Medical Heritage.
I must record my sincere thanks to the staff members of the following libraries: Jadavpur University, National Library, The Asiatic Society, The Indian Museum and The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, all in Kolkata for their generous help.
The book would not have seen the light but for the persuasive request of Dr Sukta Das, Dr Subhra Mukherji, Sri Suvir Mukherji, Sri Gautam Bandyopadhyay, Sm. Gopa Basu Mallick, Dr Mira Roy, Dr Mallar Mitra, Professor Chitrarekha Gupta and Professor Debarchana Sarkar who wanted to remain nameless here but whose faith in me has given me the faith in myself which I fondly want to document.
I wish to express my hearlfelt thanks to Dr Gayatri Sen Majumdar and Dr Shyamalkanti Chakravarti for untiring encouragement, support and co-operation. Sri D. L. S. Jayawardana, proprietor of the Maha Bodhi Book Agency, Kolkata deserves my special thanks for accepting this anthology for publication.
This volume is dedicated to my parents Sm. Chitra Das and Professor (Dr.) Hirendranath Das for their unfailing love, patience, trust and encouragement.
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