Susruta Samhita, the Ayurvedic classic of Dhanvantai school though basically a study of surgical treatment, concerns in addition, origin of life, analysis of constituent elements of vegetable and animal substances taken as food as well as drugs, and theories and practices relating to origin of human diseases and their treatment.
The present monograph is an evaluation of the Susruta Samhita in two parts: texts and tables. Theories and practices mentioned in the original text have been analysed in the first part, tables contain relevant informations in details.
The Indian National Science Academy has had a long-standing interest in the promotion of the study of History of Sciences in India in an effort to promote the growth of natural knowledge including its practical application to the problems of national welfare. William Osler once said "In the continued remembrance of a glorious past, individuals and nation find their noblest aspirations". The history of medicine is both history and medicine and is a part of a history of civilization. What were the dominant diseases in the ancient past? How did people maintain and promote their health? What were the therapeutic and preventive measures available? In what ways did the socio-economic, religious, philosophical and political factors influence the pattern of health and disease? To these and other question, we must find reasonable answers so that we may have an understanding of the evolution of concepts of health and disease. Without a proper understanding of the past, there cannot be a proper conception of the present and no perception of the future.
Ayurveda, the science of life, has been on eof the areas of exploration by the Indian National Science Academy in its quest for construction a meaningful history of science in India. The Academy has already produced a volume on Caraka Samhita by Prof. Priyadaranja Ray. Prof. Ray well into the nineties in age, has performed a tour-de-force in producing this scholarly and monumental work on Susruta Samhita. The two works taken together will remain as permanent tributes to the scholarship of Prof. Ray and will at the same time lay a secure foundation on which the history of medical and health science of India can be reconstructed. The body and mind and an equilibrium between the two are recurring theme of Ayurveda which as Prof. Ray says is as much philosophy as Science. Ayurveda believes that the balance between the mind and the body is crucial for the attainment of self-realization and salvation. Susruta Samhita is one of the oldest known treatises on medical science and the Academy is glad to be able to produce an authentic version of this classic.
The most fascinating aspect of Susruta Samhita, essentially a surgical text, is how it projects the basic philosophy of Ayurveda as being preservation of health and ensuring a long, happy and useful life. In addition to knowledge dealing with surgical science such as preparations for surgery, various types of surgical instruments, the indications for the use of surgery, etc., the Samhita also deals with the teaching of surgical methods by actual demonstration and practical experiments. It discusses longevity, tastes and their physiological significance, urinary calculi and haemorrhoids and fistulas, care of the expectant mother and postnatal measures for the healthy growth, of the child, prophylactic measures for maintaining health, methods for increasing mental capacity and longevity etc. Susruta Samhita is therefore not merely a treatise on surgical practice. It reflects the whole ethos of Ayurveda and contemporary thinking on the habits, customs aspirations and philosophies of the society at that time. The academy hopes that the publication of this classic together with the authenticity that it has, provides an important source of information to all those scholars working both in medical sciences and in other forms of human endeavour, to picture the contribution of Ayurveda to the growth and development of thought on health and diseases and indeed on human life as a whole, on its purposes, fulfillment and destiny. I have very great pleasure in presenting this volume to the public and in doing so pay my tribute to Prof. Ray for a contribution of great significance to man-kind.
V. RamalingaswamiDirector-GeneralIndian council of Medical Research and PresidentIndian National Gallery of Modern Art
New Delhi,the July 17, 1980.
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