Jats and ancient medicine
"Several Indian tribes like Jats (Zutt) settled down in Arabia even
before the beginning of Islam and were well-versed in different
branches of ancient Indian traditional medicine. Many of them were
using their clinical proficiency to cure the patients. Even some of
the Indians are also said to have been in the company of the Prophet.
The wife of the Prophet was cured by an Indian Jat physician of Medina."
Ayurveda: the Traditional Indian Medicine System and its Global
by D.P. Agrawal & Lalit Tiwari
This essay provides an introduction to the ancient Indian medicine
system of Ayurveda and its rise in popularity throughout the world.
�This dissemination began with the Buddhist monks who spread Ayurveda
throughout Tibet and China. �Thus, many Chinese scholars visited India
and even studied in the ancient Indian universities. �During the
period of the Arab Caliphs in the medieval times, the Arab world
became a hub of international science and medicine. �In its
institutes, such as the Medical Academy at Jundishapur, both Greek and
Indian savants taught and translated major medical works. Details
about the Indo-Arab contacts during this period will be discussed
further in this discourse.
It is probably accurate to say that almost all life forms are
afflicted with some type of disease. �Disease continues to be the most
basic problem faced by humans since the prehistoric times. �Evidence
for the existence of a well-organized system of medicine in India can
be traced back to the archaeological remains of Harappa and
Mohenjodaro. Ayurveda is the oldest Indian indigenous medicine system.
�Its roots probably originate in the Indus Civilization. �
The term Ayus means duration or span of life and the term veda means
unimpeachable knowledge. �Ayurveda is commonly translated as the
'science of life'. �Author Kris Morgan says that Ayurveda literally
means the 'science of longevity', but because of its divine origin, it
is also called the 'medicine of the God'. �Tradition says that Brahma
(the creator) was the divine source of this science, which was brought
into existence before the creation of mankind. �Brahma passed this
knowledge to the god Daksapati, who then passed it to the two
celestial physicians (the twins Asvina and Kumaras), later to Indra
the god king, and finally to Bharadvaja, the semi-divine sage. �Such
traditions need not be taken literally although they do indicate the
great antiquity of Ayurveda.
The earliest-recorded knowledge about Ayurveda is found in the Rigveda
and the Atharvaveda, both written in the second millennium BC. �The
Atreya Samhita is perhaps the oldest medical book in the world; it
survives from Taksashila University, which dates back to the middle of
the first Millennium BC. �The Atharvaveda lists eight divisions of
Ayurveda: internal medicine, surgery of head and neck, ophthalmology,
surgery, toxicology, psychiatry, pediatrics, gerontology or science of
rejuvenation, and fertility. At about 500 BC in the University of
Banaras, Susruta, a surgeon who developed the operative techniques of
rhinoplasty (plastic surgery), wrote the Susruta Samhita, which
describes the highly developed surgery. �The physician Caraka revised
and supplemented the Atreya Samhita with his book Carak Samhita, which
is a vast work on internal medicine.
Susruta Samhita: �According to Susruta Samhita, the purpose of
Ayurveda is not only to cure illness and affliction, but also to
preserve health and ensure a long happy life. Susruta Samhita deals
especially with the therapeutic branch of Ayurveda. �It contains 120
chapters, distributed into five divisions: �Sutrasthana (fundamental
postulates cover 46 chapters), Nidanasthana (pathology covers 16
chapters), Sarirasthana (embryology and anatomy cover 10 chapters),
Cikitsasthana (medical treatment covers 40 chapters), Kalpasthana
(toxicology covers 8 chapters) and Uttaratantra (specialized knowledge
covers 66 chapters).
Caraka Samhita: �Caraka Samhita is an exhaustive work on medicine. �It
is said that Caraka's original work was entitled Samhita of Agnivesa.
�Agnivesa was a disciple of the medical sage Atreya. �Long passages in
the Caraka Samhita are in the form of questions and answers between
Atreya and Agnivesa. �Caraka is a class title of a school of
physicians, which existed in Vedic times, and also the personal title
of a physician in the court of King Kaniska. �There is no unanimity
about Caraka's date yet. �The subject matter of the Caraka Samhita has
been divided into 8 sections and 120 chapters. The total number of
chapters probably refers to the maximum life span of man because the
ultimate object of treatise is to promote longevity.
More then 600 drugs of animal, plant, and mineral origins are used in
the Caraka and about 650 in the Susruta Samhita. �Susruta mentions
more than 300 different operations employing 42 different surgical
processes and 121 different types of instruments. �The Samhitas divide
Ayurveda into 8 different branches: Salyatantra (surgical knowledge),
Salakyatantra (treatment of diseases of the ears, nose, eye, tongue,
oral cavity, and throat), Bhutavidya (knowledge of mental diseases and
diseases with supernatural origins), Kaumarabhrtya (care of children
and infantile disorders), Agadatantra (toxicology), Rasayanatantra
(syrup and tonic knowledge) and Vajikaranatantra (knowledge of virility).
Ayurveda deals with medical subjects such as genetics, gynaecology,
aetiology, surgery, physiology, biology, diet, ethics, personal
hygiene, social medicine, allied subjects like animal biology, botany,
cultivation, pharmacognosy, chemistry, and cosmology.
Ayurvedic Concept of Ideal Health
According to the philosophical concepts on which Ayurveda is based,
all bodies � material, living, conscious and unconscious - are evolved
out of Prakrti (the ultimate ground) by the subtle influence of the
Purusa, the absolute or the primal self conscious principle. �Every
component of the human organism is created out of the tattvas
(fundamental compounds) as evolved out of Prakrti. �When all the
eleven indriyas (the mind, the five sense organs, and the five organs
of motion and action), the three dosas (the air, radiant energy, and
water), the agni (digestive fire), the malas (excretions), the kriyas
(like sleep, elimination, respiratory, etc.), and the seven dhatus
(elementary stuff) are in a normal state and in equilibrium, then
one�s health is in an ideal state. �The two main aims of Ayurveda are
maintenance of this equilibrium and its repair in case of any
imbalance and derangement. �Ayurveda attempts these maintenance and
repair processes by the application of all spiritual and material
resources available to man.
Philosophy of Ayurveda
There is a remarkable theory in Ayurveda to the effect that man is a
miniature form of the universe: �a 'microcosm' of the macrocosm. �The
material contents of man and universe are constituted of the same five
primal elements: �prthvi (earth, solid component), apas (water,
liquid), tejas (radient energy, body heat, digestive fire), vayu
(air), and akasa (orifices and empty spaces inside the body).
Ayurvedic Definition of Health
In Ayurvedic medicine, health is defined as the soundness of sarira
(body), manas (mind), and atman (self). �Each of these must be
nurtured if an individual is to have good health.
Concept of Disease
Ayurveda is basically a humeral medical system and conceives of three
essential humors, which cause disease if they become imbalanced. These
three humours are: vayu (air), pitta (bile), and kapha (phlegm).
�Occasionally, in surgical tradition, a fourth humor, blood, was also
Vayu: �Vayu is self-begotten, eternal, all pervading, and all-powerful
in its action and control over all space. �It controls the creation,
growth, and disintegration of all living organisms. �It has five key
functions: prana vayu (maintain the breath, transmit food), udana vayu
(vocal sound, song and speech depend upon it), samana vayu (causes
digestion), vyana vayu (causes perspiration) and apana vayu (causes
the downward movement of stool, urine, semen, and menses).
Pitta: �Pitta is the cosmic fiery principle. It is responsible for the
creation of heat and all forms of radiant energy in the body. �It is
also responsible for the pumping action of heart, the skin�s
temperature, and the vitality of blood. �In the body, pitta is of five
types: ranjaka pitta (color producing fire), pacaka pitta (digestive
fire), sadhaka pitta (motion giving fire), alocaka pitta (vision
giving fire), and bhrajaka pitta (lustre giving fire).
Kapha: �Kapha supplies the placid and cooling principles to the body.
�Kapha is of five kinds: kladaka (supply mucous to the system),
avalambaka (transport the blood fluids), vodhaka (tasting agent),
tarpaka (irrigating agent), and slesmaka (binding agent).
Vyadhis (diseases) are caused by the derangement of one or more of the
three humors and blood. �According to the Samhitas, vyadhi may be of
four types: agantuja (extraneous), sarira (internal), manasa (mental),
and svabhavika (natural).
Concept of Treatment
Direct observation is the most remarkable feature of Ayurveda but
sometimes it is correlated with metaphysics. �The Samhitas accept this
view and write that of all types of evidence, the most dependable ones
are those that are directly observed by the eyes. In the Ayurvedic
viewpoint, successful medical treatment depends on four factors: the
physician, substances (diet and drugs), the nurse, and the patient.
�The Samhitas described these four factors properly. �The physician
should have the following qualifications: �a clear grasp of the
theoretical content of the science, a wide range of experience, the
necessary practical skills, and cleanliness. �The necessary qualities
of the drugs and/or substances are: �abundance, applicability,
multiple uses, and richness in efficacy. �The nursing attendant should
be: knowledgeable of nursing techniques, practically skilled, attached
to the patient, and clean. �And the essential qualifications of the
patient are: good memory, obedience of the instructions given by the
doctors, courage, and the ability to describe the symptoms.
Influence of Ayurveda on East and West
By 400 AD, Ayurvedic works were translated into Chinese and by 700 AD,
Chinese scholars were studying medicine in India at Nalanda
University. �Indian thought greatly influenced Chinese medicine and
herbology through Ayurveda. �In 800 AD, Ayurvedic works were
translated into Arabic. �In the 16th century in Europe, Paracelsus,
who is known as the father of modern Western medicine, practiced and
propagated a system of medicine, which borrowed heavily from Ayurveda.
India�s cultural and trade relations with Mesopotamia, the Gulf
countries, and Iran date back to the third millennium BC. �Seals of
Bahrain have been found in Lothal, a Harappan town in Gujarat.
�India's scientific and cultural relationship with the Arabic
countries dates back to prehistory. �During the medieval times such
relations intensified a great deal.
No doubt Alexander's annexation of the Gandhara region led to closer
ties between Greece and India, but the mutual contacts go beyond to
the Persian kings (Cyrus, Darius, etc) of mid-first millennium BCE.
�These Persian kings employed both Greek and Indian scholars and
physicians. �Quoting Fillozat, Sharma (1992) suggests that both Plato
and Hippocrates were influenced by Indian thought and concepts.
�Indian Wootz steel was equally popular with the Persian kings for
both its hardness and rust-free properties (Tripathi 2001).
Contacts with China and Tibet
India was in contact with China even during the Kushana times.
�Bahlika was an important center where traders from China, India, and
West Asia met and exchanged ideas and goods. �During the Gupta period,
the links between India and China were firmly established. �Chinese
scholars like Fahiyan, Ywan Chwang, and Itsing, were great cultural
ambassadors between the two countries. �The University of Nalanda,
established during the reign of Kumaragupta, attracted a large number
of scholars and students from China. �Several Ayurvedic texts were
translated into Chinese (Sharma 1992).
The Bower Manuscript, which is named after its discoverer, Lieutenant
H. Bower, was founded in 1890 in Kuchar, Turkestan, on the great
caravan route of China. �It was then sent to Colonel J. Waterhouse,
who was then the President of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, where the
famous Indologist Hoernle edited it. �Detailed studies of the
manuscript indicated to Hoernle that the writers of Parts I-III and
Parts V-VII were Indian Buddhist monks. �The manuscript is written in
Indian Gupta script. �The use of birch-bark for writing shows that
they must have come from Kashmir or Udyana. �Hoernle thinks that they
passed the manuscript into the hands of a native of Eastern Turkestan
or China who wrote Part IV. �But the ultimate owner of the whole
series of manuscripts, Yasomitra, must have held a prominent position
in that monastery. �This collective manuscript was contained in the
relic chamber of the memorial stupa at the Ming-oi of Qum Tura, which
was built in Yasomitra�s honor. �The large medical treatise called
Navanitaka forms the second part of the Bower manuscript dated to
about the second half of the fourth century AD. �The Chinese medicine
system has several parallels with the Indian system. �The Chinese
concept of Ying and Yang is comparable to Indian Prakriti and Purusa.
�So also the five basic elements of the Chinese and Indian systems are
similar. �It seems that the pulse reading system in India was derived
from the Chinese.
The Tibetan and Indian medicine systems also had close relations. �The
most popular Tibetan medical text is Rgyud bzi (meaning Catus-tantra,
four treatises). �It is based on Amrta Hrdaya Astanga Guhyopadesa
Tantra. �In the 8th Century AD Vairochana, a Tibetan scholar,
translated it into Tibetan (Dash 1992). The Tibetan medicine system
was greatly influenced by Ayurveda, but it is an integral part of
Buddhism. Their materia-medica could provide many cures for the
obstinate and incurable diseases.
Contacts with West Asia
Rhazes (865-965 AD) and Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980-1037 AD) were great
scholars of Arabic medicine who influenced global medical literature
for a long time. �The canon of Avicenna was translated into Latin in
the 12th Century AD and was a textbook in European medical institutes
for an extended period of time. �
The names of several Indian products such as the Indian sword, the
Indian spices, and aloes-wood are often found even in pre-Islamic
poetry. �Names of the Indian drugs, like Kafur (Karp�ra), Misk
(Muska), Zanjabil (Srhgavera), and ud (Aguru) occur even in the Qur'an
and the Prophet's traditions (Ahadith-i-Nabawi). Probably the Arabic
words like Faniz, T�tia, Narjil, Bish and Sandal have probably been
derived from Sanskrit language. Varma (1992) in his detailed article,
"Indo-Arab Relations in Medical Sciences", provides several
well-documented instances of such contacts.
Abu Sa'id, a companion of the Prophet, has related that an Indian Raja
had sent an earthen jar containing dried ginger (Zanjabil) to the
Prophet who distributed it among all his companions to eat. �Al
Tabari, the author of the first comprehensive Arabic book, entitled
'Firdaus-ul-Hikmat' (Paradise of Wisdom) (c.850 AD) mentions, "If a
person takes seven pieces of Zanjabil (dried ginger) in the form of
jam, particularly prepared in honey, for seven days in a month for
some time, he would be protected from phlegmatic ailments like
paralysis, rheumatism, etc., it would also sooth the stomach. �It is a
help in old age. �Due to its medicinal properties, its use is very
common not only in food preparations but also in Unani medicine and
Ayurveda. �The Prophet used to burn Aloes-wood ('Ud-Hindi) with
camphor. Said the Prophet, 'In Aloes-wood, there are seven remedies'.
�As a snuff, it is good for the disease called al-Ghudrah. �It is also
efficacious for cases of pleurisy."
Several Indian tribes like Jats (Zutt) settled down in Arabia even
before the beginning of Islam and were well-versed in different
branches of ancient Indian traditional medicine. Many of them were
using their clinical proficiency to cure the patients. �Even some of
the Indians are also said to have been in the company of the Prophet.
�The wife of the Prophet was cured by an Indian Jat physician of
Medina. �It is also recorded that Harith bin Kalada, the Hakim of the
Prophet, studied in the medical school of Jundishapur (in Khuzistan,
in South-West Iran) where Indian vaidyas and philosophers also taught
the sciences. At the end of his studies and before returning to Mecca,
Harith traveled through India in search of more information about
different branches of Indian medicine. �It is also mentioned that an
Indian physician named Birzantin Hindi, had migrated to Yemen and
settled there presumably during Anusherwan's reign (530-580 AD). �He
had a fair knowledge of Indian medicine and specialized in treating
different diseases by administering Indian herbs, particularly hemp
(Cannabis indica Linn). �He is responsible for introducing Indian hemp
to cure various ailments and received fame due to new mode of
treatment in that area.
Zubayr (1960) says that a Chinese monarch sent a gift in the form of a
book to the first Ummayyad Caliph (660-680 AD). �The book contained
secrets and wisdom of Indian medicine, alchemy, and astronomy. �The
same book was received by his grand son, Abu Hashimn Khalid bin Yazid,
who took a keen interest in the acquisition of scientific knowledge
from different countries. �It is therefore believed that he might have
extracted and assimilated a considerable amount of material on medical
sciences and other subjects of Indian origin. �It is stated that after
conquering Sindh, 'Abdullah bin Sawwar' Abdi (667 AD), the Governor of
Sindh, sent a number of rare gifts to the Caliph on behalf of Raja
Gigan (Qiqan). �Al Tabari (c. 850 AD) mentions that Indian hair dye
(al-Khidab ul-Hindi) was also exported to Arabia and was very popular
with the Arabs due to its peculiar quality for retaining the bright
dark texture of the hair for minimum period of about a year. It was
also used by the Arab caliphs like Hashim bin 'Abdu'l Malik (742 AD).
In this context, Al Tabari mentions, "Many persons had told me about a
wonderful thing for retaining black texture of hair forever, quoting
their ancestors. According to them, the buccal sucking of one piece of
black chibulic myroba1 of Kabul (famous Indian drug) daily,
continuously for one year was advised to retain permanent black
texture of hair."
All the 'Abbasid caliphs from al-Mansur (754-773 AD) to al-Mutawakkil
(847-886 AD) were patrons of the arts and sciences. �Al-Mansur, the
second 'Abbasid caliph, received embassies from Sindh, one of which
included Indian pandits who presented him with two Indian books on
astronomy. These books, �the Brahmasiddhanta and the Khandakhadyaka,
were translated into Arabic by Ibrahim al-Fazari (786-806 A.D). Caliph
Harun al-Rashid's (763-809 AD) is well known for his literary and
scientific interest. �He established his famous Bait-ul-Hikmat (House
of Wisdom), a combination of library, academy, and translation bureau
which in many respects, proved to be the most important educational
center since the foundation of the Alexandrian museum in the first
half of the third century BC. �When the Arabs realized the high
quality and value of Ayurveda and Indian culture, they got interested
in translating Indian medical and other scientific works from Sanskrit
into Arabic. �Thus works of Caraka-samhita and Susruta-samhita etc.
were rendered into Arabic. �The Arabic translation of these Samhitas
highly impressed the Arabs and they assimilated an enormous material
in their Tibbi medical treatises.
The Barmecide (Barmaki or Barmak, after the Sanskrit word Pramukh,
high priest) rose to the most influential position during the 'Abb�sid
period, particularly in the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid. As a
physician Barmak's claim to fame is the pill Habb-i-Barmakim, which
was named after him. �It was recommended by Ibn Sina (980-1037 AD) and
later Hakims. �Yahya bin Khalid, the Barmecide (c. 805 AD), the vizier
of the Caliph Mahdi, and the tutor of Harun al-Rashid, sent an Arab
scholar to India to study and bring back the Indian drugs and herbs.
Yahya also invited Indian vaidyas and philosophers westwards so that
he might learn from them. �Harun al-Rashid was afflicted with a
serious disease which could not be cured by his own physicians. �He
sent for Manaka (Mankhaor Minikya) who came to Baghdad and cured the
royal patient for which the caliph granted him a handsome pension and
Manaka was proficient in Ayurveda and other Indian sciences and had a
sound knowledge of Indian and Persian languages. �He was deputed as
Chief of the Royal Hospital at Baghdad and translated several books
from Sanskrit into Persian or Arabic. Ibn Dhan (Dhanya or short form
of Dhanvantari) was another competent Indian vaidya who lived in
Baghdad at the same time when Manaka was there. �He was called there
by Yahya bin Khalid, the Barmecid vizier and was appointed as the
Director of his (Barmecid) hospital at Baghdad. �At his behest, Ibn
Dhan also rendered a few Sanskrit texts into Persian or Arabic. �Saleh
bin Behla was another competent practitioner of Ayurveda, though he
does not seem to have any official position. �He is known to have
cured Ibrahim bin Saleh of apoplexy, even though he was declared dead
by the Caliph's own physicians. �After the advice of S�leh, the royal
patient was removed out of his coffin, bathed, and put in his usual
dress. �Then the Indian vaidya ordered to bring a blowing pipe and
blew some snuff prepared of Kundush (Verartilum album) with the
instrument into his nose. �After about ten minutes his body quivered,
he sneezed, he sat up in front of the caliph, and he kissed his hands.
The caliph was much impressed by the clinical acumen of Indian doctor
and rewarded him handsomely.
D�ban was the last and fourth Indian vaidya who was mentioned by
Maulana Shill Nu mani, the well-known Indian orientalist, in one of
his scholarly monographs entitled 'A1-Ma'mun'. �Duban was sent by an
Indian Raja to the court of Caliph al-Ma'mun' in Baghdad. �It seems
clear that Burzoe, the well-known minister of Nausherwan (530-580 AD),
came to India at the command of his king to collect more information
on Indian arts and science. �He brought Indian scientists and experts
of Ayurveda along with books on different subjects of India. �Most of
them were deputed to impart Indian medical education. �Other scholars
were appointed for rendering scientific books in Pehlavi language in
the medical academy and the translation bureau of Jundishapur.
�Besides the above mentioned four well-known Indian vaidyas several
other Indian medical men must have been at Baghdad although no
information about them is available.
The Arab scholars were also acquainted with some other Indian vaidyas
and masters of other allied sciences. These are:
Kanka (Ganga):� Kanka was one of the most learned Indian scientists
who also knew the art of healing and drug sciences. �According to some
Arab writers, Kanka was accepted by all the Indian savants to be the
greatest authority in astronomy in ancient India. �He is probably the
author of the following books: (a) Kitab-ul Namudar fil-'Amar (The
Book of Horoscopes of Lives); (b) Kitab-ul Asr�ri'l Mawalid (The Book
of the Secrets of Births): (c) Kitab-ul Qiranat (The Book of
Conjuctions); (d) Kitab fi 'llm-ul-Tibb (The Book on Medical Science);
(e) Kitab fi'lm- Tawahhum (The Book on Mania); and (f) Kitab fi'l
Ahdathi'Alamii fi l'Qirdn (The Book on the Incidents that May Happen
in the World Under Certain Conjunctions of Stars).
Sanjhal: �Sanjhal was the most learned man of India who wrote a book
on nativity entitled, Kitab-ul-Mawalid (The Book of Nativities).
Shanaq (Canakya): Canakya was one of the ablest vaidyas of India. �He
had versatile knowledge of various branches of science and philosophy.
�He excelled in astronomy and occupied a high position in the courts
of Indian kings of his time. �Varma thinks that Shanaq al-Hindi is to
be identified as Canakya, Candragupta's minister, also called
Kautilya. �It is known to have been translated into Persian from an
Indian language by Manaka. �Then, it was translated into Arabic by Abu
I (9th Century AD). �Shanaq was known to be author of the Fihrist, Ibn
al-Nadim, and also of other books on the conduct of life, the
management of war, and cultural studies. �His works mentioned by Ibn
abi Usaibi'ya are on the stars, lapidary crafts, and on veterinary
Abu Hatim of Balkh who translated books from Persian into Arabic is
known only as a contemporary of Manaka and a translator who worked for
Yahya bin Khalid the Barmecide. �Another translation of Shanaq's work
was carried out by al-'Abb�s ibn Sa'id al-Jauharil, a contemporary of
al-Ma'm�n, and a well-known Islamic astronomer and commentator on the
Elements of Euclid. �Shanaq divided his book into five chapters. �The
first deals mainly with poisons; the second is on veterinary science;
the third is on astronomy; the fourth book was meant for the guidance
of a certain king; and the fifth is the book of nativities.
Besides the above ancient Indian scientists, there are many others
mentioned by Ibn Nadim and Ibn abi Usaibi'ya, but it is not possible
to identify them definitely. �The following names of the Indian
scientists have been mentioned:� (1) Bakhar, (2) Raha (or Raja), (3)
Dahir, (4) Saka, (5) Aikab, (6) Zankal, (7) Jabari, (8) Indi, (9)
Jahar, (10) Ank�, and (11) Manjhal. �Qazi Athar Mubarakpuri has
further added these names: (1) Vaidya Behla, (2) Qalbarqal, and (3)
Khatif Hindii. �They were also invited by Yahya bin Kh�lid, the
Barmecide, during Harun al-Rashild's time.
The following Indian medical works were rendered into Arabic from
Sanskrit or Hindi during the Abbasid Caliphate:
Caraka-Samhita: ��Caraka-Samhita was translated into Persian (Pehlavi)
probably by Manaka Hindi and it was then rendered into Arabic by Abdu
Susruta-Samhita: �Susruta Samhita (susrud); Astanghrdaya; Nidana;
Siddhyoga; the book of poisons; the book on treatment of pregnant
women; the book on female diseases; the book on snake bites and
incantations; there are other books on intoxicants, diseases, drugs etc.
Firdaus-ul-Hikmat: �Firdaus-ul-Hikmat (Paradise of Wisdom) was
composed by Abu 'Ali bin Rabban al-Tabari (c. 850 AD). �Al-Tabari
divided the book into a number of discourses. �Its last and fourth
discourse has discussed the different branches of ancient medicine
(Tibb-i-Vaidik) that is in 36 chapters. �Its first chapter starts with
the genesis of Ayurvedic medicine as follows, "When I was about to
complete this book, I thought it fit to add another discourse to it,
with separate chapters describing the merits of medical works of
Indians and their reputed medicaments. I hope it will increase the
knowledge of the student because when he comes to know where these two
great nations (Greeks and Indians) agree and where they differ, he
will naturally come to know the advantages and disadvantages of Hindu
medicine. Out of these topics which I have written here very many
things agree with what the Greek Hakims have mentioned, but most of
the things do not."
Regarding the origin and transmission of Ayurvedic medicine, Al-Tabari
further adds, "They say that, in remote antiquity, the earth was
always bright, fertile, clean and its five fundamental sources or
elements i.e. Mahabhuta's natures were moderate. �These were counted
as five, with the addition of a kind of air, i.e. Ether (Akash) to the
other four, namely (1) Earth (2) Water (3) Air and (4) Fire. The
people lived in harmony and love with each other. �They had no greed,
anger, jealousy or anything else which made their body and soul sick.
�But, later on, when jealousy arose among them, when they became
greedy, they needed to find out the tricks and means to hoard up the
riches,�grievances, scheming, weariness, causing pain to others,
corrupted the community." �Al-Tabari's account is however ambiguous
and misleading on the subject and does not correspond with the modern
texts of Caraka-Samhita. �This may be due to the fact that Al-Tabari's
studies were presumably based upon the defective Arabic translation of
Caraka-Samhita by 'Al bin Zain of Tabaristan rendered during the days
of Caliph Harun al-Rashid. �The Atreya School of Medicine believes
that the first mortal who received the Ayurvedic Medicine was
Bharadv�ja. �But the South Indian traditions credit Rsi Agastya,
popularly known as Kundamalai Siddhar, to have been the first mortal
to receive Ayurvedic science from the gods.
Among the simple and compound medicaments, al-Tabari described are (1)
Jauz Hindi (cononut), (2) Tamar Hindi (tamarind), (3) Ud 'Hindi
(aloewood), (4) Mileh Hindi (Indian salt), (5) Kammun Hindi (Indian
cumin), (6) Shitraj Hindi (Indian lepidium), (7) Qust Hindi(Costus
indica), (8) Halelaj (chebulic myrobalan), (9) Balalaj (belleric
myrobalan), (10) Amlaj (Emblic myrobalan), (11) Saddhij Hindi
(Malabathrum indica) and (12) Hirq-ul- Dhahab (calces/bhasma of iron,
silver and gold). �It is presumed that this is the first Arabic
comprehensive book which contains the description of Ayurvedic
medicine along with the mode of calces preparation of different
metals. �Another prescription used for improving memory was to take
pieces of al-Wajj (Vaca, Calamus asiaticus) dipped in cow butter-oil
in a green container for some time and burn them in a heap of barley
for at least twenty days. �The medicine thus prepared should be taken
in a dose of one small piece daily. �According to an Indian scholar, a
member of his family used it for some time and his memory was so
sharpened that he recollected those incidents of his life which had
happened fifty years ago and had been forgotten by him.
Caliph Harun 'al Rashid used to levy heavy taxes on various kinds of
Indian articles including spices and drugs. �Caliph al-Ma'mun (813-33
AD) was also interested in different sciences. �So, he brought many
scientists to his court from Jundishap�r where a large number of
Indian scientists had brought their sciences and wisdom from the
Indian subcontinent. �After his return from India, Ibrahim bin Fazarun
brought a great amount of information about Indian drugs, Ayurveda,
its teaching and texts. �Among the gifts sent by Indian rajas to the
Caliph al-Ma'm�n was a special mat made of dragon's skin which, when
used for sleeping or sitting, was supposed to prevent and cure
pulmonary tuberculosis or phthisis. �Indian kings used to send rare
and wonderful Indian gifts to Arab caliphs, which consisted of
aloe-wood, musk, camphor, dried ginger, kostos, amber, fresh myrobalan
of Kabul, and precious stones.
In addition to references to Shanaq, abstracts from other Indian books
on poisons were borrowed and assimilated by Ibn Wahashiya (9th cent.
AD) in his Arabic text, entitled Kitab ul-Sum�m wa'l-Tiryaqat (The
Book of Poisons and Their Antidotes). �Reference was also made to two
Indian experts on the subject, Tammashah and Bahlindad, and their
medical treatises in his Arabic work. �Another Indian vaidya, called
Bal, Nai, or Tai, is mentioned in the medical literature, but his
treatise is not extant currently.
Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Zakariya al-R�zi (850-923 AD), the well-known
and distinguished pupil of al-Tabari, also quoted Indian Ayurvedic
works in many of his medical treatises particularly in his al- Hawi.
The famous Ibn Sin� (980-1037 AD), the Prince of Physicians, wrote the
Canon of Medicine (al-Qanun-fil-Tibb), which has been used for the
centuries as the authoritative text on Unani medicine. �It is
comprised of five parts. �In this text, Ibn Sin� expresses his
indebtedness to the Indian doctors and quotes verbatim from Ayurvedic
treatises on leeches and the combination of various articles of food.
�He says that sour foods and fish should be consumed with milk.� The
result of mixing such foods may lead to various types of diseases such
as leprosy. �In their opinion, curd should not be taken with radish
nor bird's meat. �Similarly, fat-oil stored in copper utensils should
not be used for cooking purposes. �Kababs barbecued on charcoal of
castor-wood should not be eaten. According to Indian vaidyas, some
leeches are poisonous.
Ibn Sin� described 792 simple drugs in his a1-Q�nun. �Among these, 49
have been stated to be of Indian origin. �Out of these, Avicenna
designated several of Indian origin but their identity can not be
ascertained. �In Kitab ul-Saidana fi'l- Tibb (The Book of Pharmacology
in Medical Science), Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973-1051 AD) referred to
the skill and wisdom of the Indian physicians and the marvelous cures
which they achieved by using aconite to treat the cases of hemorrhoids.
It may be concluded that the Arabs developed great respect and love
for Indian medical scholars and their products, as is evident from
many historical references and panegyrics (Qasida) composed in reply
to the carping of a critic by an Arab of Indian origin, Abu Dila'
Sindhi (9th Century AD). His following word will conclude this section:
"When India and its arrows were admired in the battlefield my friends
disliked it, but this was not proper;
By my life, it is a land where, when rain falls, it turns into pearls
and ruby for those who have no ornaments;
From here come musk, camphor, amber and aloe-wood, and various kinds
of perfumes for those who require them;
Here grow all kinds of sweet-smelling substances and nutmeg, and
Here are found ivory and jaiphal, and aloes-wood, and sandal and here
is found in abundance the mineral Tutia;
Here are found the lions, the leopards, the elephants, and the bears;
And here are found the cranes, and the parrots and the peacocks and
And here grow the coconut tree and the ebony tree and the pepper plant;
And here are made the unparallel swords which need not be polished,
and the lances which when wielded, large armies are routed;
Who can deny the excellence of such a land except a fool?"
Today, Ayurveda is increasingly popular because it speaks of those
elementary concepts of (1) contact with nature, (2) holism, and (3) we
are what we eat. �Ayurveda forms an integral part of the daily regimen
of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.�� Its principles are
utilized, not only to treat individuals who are ill, but also to
prepare balanced meals and construct harmonious environments.
�Ayurveda brings to life the concepts of preventive health care and
health promotion. �The ultimate goal of Ayurveda is to help the
individual discover a personal knowledge of living.
Sources and Further Reading
A1-Biruni, Abu Rayhan. 1973. Al-Saidana fi'l-Tibb (Arabic). Rendered
into English by Hk. Muhd. Said, Hamdard, Karachi, Pakistan. Pp. 6,8.
Al-Suyuti, Jalal-ul-Din. 1962. Tibb-ul-Nabi (Arabic). Rendered into
English by C. Elgood, Osiris, vol. Quartum Decimum, Bruges (Belgium),
A1-Tabari, Abu'1 Hasan Ali bin Sahi Rabban (c. 850 AD).
Firdaus-ul-Hikmat (Arabic); edited by M.Z. Siddiqi, Berlin (W.
Germany), 1928, p. 105.
Bates, Don. (Ed.) 1995. Knowledge and the Scholarly Medical
Traditions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chattopadhyaya, D. 1982. Case for a critical analysis of the Carak
Samhita. In Studies in the History of Science in India (Ed. D.
Chattopadhyaya). Vol. 1. New Delhi: Editorial Enterprises.
Dash, Bhagwan. 1992. Tibetan Medicine. In Sharma, P.V. History of
Medicine in India. New Delhi: INSA.
DeWoskin, Kenneth J, 1983. (trans.). Doctors, Diviners, and Magician
of Ancient China: Biographies of Fang-shih. New York: Columbia
Elgood, C. 1951. Medical History of Persia and Eastern Caliphate.
Cambridge: Cambridge University. Press. p. 80.
Gordon, B.L. 1960. Medieval and Renaissance Medicine. London (U.K.),
pp. 88, 133.
Hoernle, A. F. R. 1909. The composition of the Caraka-Samita in the
light of the Bower Manuscript. Reprinted in Studies in the History of
Science in India. 1982. Vol. I. (Ed) Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya. New
Delhi: Editorial Enterprises. Pp. 141-174.
Jaggi, O.P. 2000. Medicine in India: Modern Period. New Delhi: Oxford
Kuriyama, Shigeshi. 1999. The Expressiveness of the Body and the
Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine. New York: Zone Books.
Lloyd, G.E.R. 1996. Adversaries and Authorities: Investigation into
Ancient Greek and Chinese Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Majumdar, R. C. 1971. Medicine. A Concise History of Science in India.
New Delhi: The National Commission for the Compilation of History of
Science in India, INSA. Pp.213-174.
Morgan Kris. Medicines of the Gods. Oxford: Mandrake. Pp. 209-236.
Needham, Joseph, Lu Gwei-djen and Nathan Sivin. 2000. Science and
Civilisation in China. Vol. 6, Part VI: Medicine. Cambridge: Cambridge
Ray, P, H. N. Gupta and M. Roy. 1980. Susruta Samhita: a Scientific
Synopsis. New Delhi: Indian National Commission for History of Science.
Sharma, P.V. 1997. Development of Ayurveda from antiquity to AD 300.
In Science, Philosophy and Culture (eds) D.P. Chattopadhyaya and R.
Kumar. New Delhi: PHISPC.
Shet Pankaj. 1995. On the Internet.
Siddiqi, M. Z. 1959. Studies in Persian and Arabic Medical Literature,
Calcutta, pp. 31-43.
Singh, R.H. 1997. Medical Techniques. In Bag, A.K. (Ed.). History of
Technology in India. New Delhi: INSA.
Tripathi, Vibha. 2001. The Age of Iron in South Asia � Legacy and
Traditions. New Delhi: Aryan Books International.
Verma, R.L. 1992. Indian-Arab relations in medical sciences. In
P.V.Sharma (Ed.) History of Medicine in India. New Delhi: Indian
National Science Academy. Pp. 465-484.
Zubayr, Rashid bin, Qazi.1960. Kitab-ul-Zakha'ir wal Tuhuf (Arabic),
Kuwait, P. 10.
For general history of medicine see:
Erwin Ackerknecht, A Short History of Medicine, rev. ed. (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982); Charles Singer and E. Ashworth
Underwood, A Short History of Medicine, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1951 [vol. 1] and 1961 [vol. 2]; Arturo Castiglioni,
A History of Medicine, 2d ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1947); Max
Neuburger, History of Medicine, 4th ed. (Philadelpia: W.B. Saunders,
1929); Benjamin Lee Gordon, Medicine Throughout Antiquity
(Philadelphia: F.A. Davis, 1949); John Hermann Bass, Outlines of the
History of Medicine and the Medical Profession, trans. H.E. Handerson
(New York: J.H. Vail, 1889).