Glory of Bharath  »  Scientists of Bharath - Part Nine
Acharya Sushruta

Sushruta is a genius who has been glowingly recognized in the annals of medical science. Born to sage Vishwamitra, Acharya Sushruta details the first ever surgery procedures in "Sushruta Samhita," a unique encyclopedia of surgery. He is venerated as the father of plastic surgery and the science of anesthesia. When surgery was in its infancy in Europe, Sushruta was performing Rhinoplasty (restoration of a damaged nose) and other challenging operations.

In the "Sushruta Samhita," he prescribes treatment for twelve types of fractures and six types of dislocations. His details on human embryology are simply amazing. Sushruta used 125 types of surgical instruments including scalpels, lancets, needles, catheter and rectal speculums; mostly designed from the jaws of animals and birds. He has also described a number of stitching methods; the use of horse's hair as thread and fibers of bark. In the "Sushruta Samhita," he details 300 types of operations. The ancient Indians were the pioneers in amputation, caesarian and cranial surgeries. Acharya Sushruta was a giant in the arena of medical science.

Sushruta was a great surgeon of ancient times. It is also regarded as one of the four principal books on surgery. In his book, Sushruta samhitha, he also describes the methods of Panchakarma. Surgery is an anga (branch) of Ashtanga (eight-branched) Ayurveda and is named Shalya Tantra or Shalakya Tantra. Dhanvatary, who is considered the god of medicine and surgery, is believed to hand over the knowledge of surgery to Sushruta. In the ancient times, physicians practicing surgery were known as Dhanwantareyans, because of their perceived connection with Lord Dhanwantary.
Sushruta says there are 76 conditions that affect eyes. He prescribes accurate surgical methods for 51 of them. Sushruta also describes the sastras (weapons) to use for surgery. The weapons are sharp, with long handles and have striking similarities with modern surgical equipments. He lists weapons to make deep but sharply targeted cuts, remove or replace tiny parts, needles to sew severed flesh and muscles together, etc. He also suggests hygienically cleansing the room, weapons, hands of the surgeons, etc by smoking appropriate herbs, washing the weapons in boiled water and with appropriate herbal additions.

The Indian names of surgery are sastrakriya or sastra karma. Both mean an action with a weapon. Sushruta recommends surgery only for situations where medicines are incapable of curing the condition. In addition to details of surgery, Sushruta Samhita also describes more than a thousand diseases and conditions, problems associated with aging and mental illnesses. He also tells in detail about prasoothi tantra or Ayurvedic midwifery.

Sushruta Samhita lists 700 medicinal herbs. He also tells the methods of preparation of medicines.

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