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Week 1 - Reading (A sort of concise history of medicine)

Week 1 - Reading (A sort of concise history of medicine) -...

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MYTHOLOGY AND MEDICINE From: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE S N KOTHARE and SANJAY A PAI HINDU MYTHOLOGY Ancient Indian medicine, in fact Hindu medicine, since Hinduism was the only religion existing those days in India, goes back to 6000 years B.C. or more. According to Hindu mythology, the creator of the Universe, Lord Brahma, was the first teacher to make a compilation of Ayurvedic texts which he later abridged into eight parts , with medicine ( Kayachiktsaya ) and surgery ( Shalya tantra ) as the main subjects. It is believed that Brahma propagated this knowledge through Daksha Prajapati who in turn taught this science to the Aswini Kumars ( the twin sons of the Sun God ). The Aswinis imparted the science to Indra. Upto this time, the knowledge of Ayurveda was known only to celestial personalities. It is believed that it was Lord Indra who passed on this knowledge of Ayurveda, the "science of life", to sages and rishis ( mortals ) , the first pupil being Bharadwaja. He, in turn, taught this subject to others including Atreya. He, it is believed, lived in the period 700 - 600 B.C. and became a renowned teacher at Taxila. Due to the profound depth of his teachings, Atreya has been reverentially been considered the "Father of Indian medicine". One of Atreya's disciples Charak, born in Varanasi some time in the year 320 B.C. subsequently migrated to Taxila, and became an illustrious personality like his guru. "Charak Samhita" is essentially a compilation of Atreya's teachings, covering the theory of drugs, diseases and their correlation. Lord Vishnu is also believed to have been associated with ancient medicine. It is said that several sages approached the Lord and begged of Him to help them save humanity from diseases and suffering. In response to their plight and prayers, he ordered the churning of the ocean of milk with the aid of " vasukis " and " asuras ". Dhanvantari then came out of the ocean with the pot of " amrita " in his hands. (There is a sculpture of Dhanvantari in the Somanathpur temple in Karnataka). According to another version, Lord Indra favoured and blessed him with knowledge in Ayurvedic medicine. Dhanvantari, in years to come, became a renowned teacher in the art of surgery and taught this subject to his disciples at Varanasi (Kashi). He was considered the "Patron Saint of Surgery" and later elevated to divinity of classical medical wisdom. He lived some time in the 6th century B.C. Sushruta, one of his disciples attained great proficiency in surgery and came to be known as the "Father of Indian Surgery". Ancient Indian medicine can conveniently be classified into three broad groups : a) the Pre-Vedic period ( from 6000 B.C. upto the Aryan invasion of India ,about 1500 B.C.,), (b) the Vedic period ( 4000 B.C.- 700 B.C. ), and (c) the Post -Vedic period ( 800 B.C. - 200 A.D. ).
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