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Medicine in India

Surgery

Surgery had a different history from the other parts of traditional medicine. The compendium of Sushruta includes many chapters on the training and practice of surgeons. The early date of this treatise and the great accuracy, insight, and detail of the surgical descriptions are most impressive. One can infer that the surgical profession had developed over several generations at least and had arrived at an advanced stage. Surgeons were thought of as a separate group of practitioners from the more normative herbal healers, yet for some unknown reason, their tradition was recorded in the Sanskrit language and integrated into the medical corpus. This legacy was then passed down the centuries as part of ayurveda. However, the actual practice of surgery did not survive in the same way. The early and medieval historical sources of India gives us almost no evidence of advanced surgery being practiced. By the time foreign observers from China, and later Afghanistan and Europe, begin to describe India, Sushruta's surgery had all but vanished. A few barber-surgeon practitioners preserved limited skills in couching for cataract and bone-setting, and even in types of plastic surgery, but these were no longer integrated into the learned practice of classical Indian medicine. Early European surgeons were in much demand in India from their arrival in the sixteenth century onward, although by contrast European physicians were not sought after, and the flow of knowledge about simples and drugs was from East to West.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Mathematics to Methanal trimerMedicine in India - Systematic Medicine, Medical Concepts And Therapies, Surgery, Modernization And Globalization, Bibliography