History of Indian Medicine (and Ayurveda)

by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society | 1949 | 162,724 words | ISBN-13: 9788176370813

The History of Indian medicine and Ayurveda (i.e., the science of life) represents the introductory pages of the Charaka Samhita composed of six large sections dealing with every facet of Medicine in ancient India in a Socio-Historical context. Caraka is regarded as one of the pioneers in the field of scientific healthcare. As an important final a...

Chapter 1 - The Ceremonials observed in Childhood

The man’s journey from cradle to grave consists of so many interesting stages of activity that a picture of this journey as it was in ancient India will give us a clear and connected view of life the ancients actually lived, the manners and customs and the ideas and ideals which motivated people s activities

Soon after the child was declared born into this world and he had passed through accoucheuse’s routine procedure of cleansing and the severing of the umbilical cord—the last connecting link of the fetus with the mother’s body, the first socio religious ceremony he had to pass through was Jatakarma (jātakarma) ceremony. (Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 8.46)

For the first ten or twelve days special precautionary and protective measures were taken including (śānti, svasti) etc., i.e., peace, benedictory rites etc., for the child as well as for the mother. (Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 8.47)

On the tenth day the naming ceremony or Namakarana-samskara (nāmakaraṇa-saṃskāra) was performed.

The procedure followed was as under:—

The mother and the new born child bathed in water treated with fragrant drugs; put on thin clean garments, light and variegated ornaments and received the blessing of Brahmins. After this the child was given two names by the father, one denoting the constellation under which it was born and the other of intended meaning. The name was not selected in a haphazard way but it had to conform to several prescribed rules, one of which being, the name conforming to the constellation at birth, was in order to enable to cast his horoscope from the mere name of the child. (Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 8.50)

After this ceremony a thorough examination was made of each individual part of the child’s body to determine the life-span of the child. This was based on the physiognomical and anthropological measurements.

Hair, skin, head, forhead, joints, ears, eye-brows, eyes nose, mouth, tongue, palate, voice, lips, jaws, neck, chest, collar, spine, breast, thighs, arms, fingers, navel, buttocks, wrist, ankles etc., were examined to arrive at the appraisement of the measure of the life span of the new born child. (Carakasaṃhitā Vimānasthāna 8.51)

The mother’s milk was considered to be the best for a child but human nature was not very different then from now and it seems the custom of having a wet-nurse (dhātrī) at least in the aristocratic class was prevalent. Great care was taken in selecting a wet-nurse A minute and thorough examination was carried out not only as regards the age, caste, colour, family, race, character etc, of the woman but even of the size and shape of the breasts and the nipples and of her milk.

The detailed care and attention they paid to the selection of the wet-nurse indicates the importance they attached to the influence of the nurture on the qualities of the future man

The life span is a continuously progressive process of development but for practical purposes it can be divided into fairly well-marked divisions Caraka describes three broad divisions of life viz, childhood (bālya), middle age (madhya) and senescence (jīrṇāvasthā). The first stage or chilhood (kumārāvasthā) lasts upto 16 years, followed by adolescent stage or (yauvana) lasting upto 30 years. The second is the middle or stage lasting for a period of 30 years from the age of 31 to 60 years. Then follows the third and the last stage of senescence or (jīrṇavasthā) which gradually carries the man to the grave.


In princely and aristocratic families special residential nursery quartets were devised. They were constructed to accommodate old and experienced people and medical men residing with the child in order to take care of his health and upbringing.

The nursery was provided with toys. Scrupulous cleanliness was observed regarding the bed, clothes etc. Fumigation was one of the means to ensure health and cleanliness and ventilation arrangements were not at all neglected. The child was to put on jewels (maṇi) or herbs on his body as a protective and prophylactic measure. The prevalence of the Atharva concepts and manners in the society of the period is clearly indicated by this practice of putting on talismans. (Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 8.62)

The articles worn by the child as talismans were gems tips of the right horns of a live rhinoceros, deer, gayal and bull, herbs like the Aindri etc, the herbs Jivaka and Rishabhaka, as also all such articles as the Brahmana, specialised in the Atharvaveda, recommended.

In addition to the utmost cleanliness prescribed for the child’s surroundings, extra care for perfect and healthy development of mind and body was taken Special branch of medicine was evolved to treat and take care of the child in health and disease. It was one of the parts of Octopartite Ayurveda (Aṣṭāṅga Āyurveda).

Special medications were prescribed to increase the resistence power and vitality of the child. (Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 8.66)

The child was not to be frightened by the elders in the name of imaginary goblins or ghosts.

The child was thus reared through childhood to youth under ideal conditions—physical and psychological

In the sixth or the seventh month after the child’s birth, the child had to undergo the ceremony of ear-boring, the ceremony of Karnavedha (karṇavedha).

This was an essential religious ceremony for both the male as well as the female child to undergo Sushruta describes the ceremony thus:

[Suśrutasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 16.3]

“In the sixth or the seventh month of the child’s age, in the bright fortnight, in an auspicious day, Karana, Muhurta and constellation, having performed the auspicious ceremonies of Mangala and benedictory rites, and seating the child on the lap of the father, the wet-nurse or other attendant, on pacifying and cheering the child by holding up to its view the toys and other play-things, the physician should bore the ear in the centre which is by nature meant for boring and which is revealed by the exposure to the sun’s rays. He must use a needle for a small hole and a probe for a larger one. The boy child must be bored in the right ear first, while the girl child should be bored in the left ear first.”

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