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...

The most obvious feature of any stage of social advancement is the dress and clothing represented by it. In the time delineated in the Caraka Samhita, there is already in use a surprising variety of clothing both for purposes of therapeusis and general habiliment Both in the Caraka and Sushruta Samhitas the material used in dress and in bandaging of wounds is drawn from skins, silk, linen and other vegetable fibres, bark cloth, woollen cloth etc.

[Suśrutasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 18.16]

[Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 6.15]

All cloth was classified into two categories that which is of a hot potency and that which is of cold potency. Skins, wool etc., were regarded as of hot potency while silk, cotton and linen etc., were of cold potency. We give below the words used to represent the various kinds of fabric used in clothing.

  1. Kṣauma—Linen.
  2. Kārpāsa—Cotton cloth.
  3. Āvika—Wool, cloth.
  4. Dukūla—Bark fabric
  5. Kauśeya—Silk cloth.
  6. Patrorṇa—Plant-wool.
  7. Cīnapaṭṭa—China silk.
  8. Carma—Skin.
  9. Antarvalka—Inner bark or pith.
  10. Tūlaphala—Silk cotton etc.
  11. Prāvāra—Rugs etc.
  12. PraveṇīJute and other fibres.

All clothing was also classified as light and heavy and utilised suitably to the needs of therapeusis as well as of habiliment in accordance with season and circumstance We find also that garments were coloured in accordance with the prescriptions of religion and social convention. Thus a general practitioner of medicine was always required to wear clean and white raiment while the student who went to a preceptor to be initiated into the science was required to wear a brown-colored garment.

[Suśrutasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 10.3]

[Ci. Vi. 8.9]

The Kuthaka is a woollen blanket of variegated colors. The arts of weaving and dyeing were already highly developed though there is no mention of tailored clothing. There is mention of sewing in the sense of mending torn cloth ([...—Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 5.12])

The mendicant is expected to carry housewife for mending his blanket. As regards the mode of dressing, it is evident there was generally a two-piece suit, one lower cloth and one upper cloth. Though a man may divest himself of the upper garment in the course of his daily avocations, yet when he is in society or approaches his preceptor for study or when he performs religious and sacrificial ceremonies, he must wear the upper garment.

[Suśrutasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 3.54]

The following may be regarded as the general items of dress prevalent then

  1. Kaupīna—Underwear or the genital strip.
  2. Kaṭīveṣṭana—The waist cloth or the nether garment.
  3. Uttarīya—The upper garment.
  4. Kanthā—A thick cloth folded and worn on the shoulder specially by mendicants.
  5. Śiroveṣṭana—Turban or head-covering.

The physician, of course, was required to carry a stick and to wear shoes in addition to the sartorial equipment. (Suśrutasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 10.3)

The use of skins of animals to sit upon was a common usage in those times. Even the scriptural texts prescribe the deer skin for the Brahmin and other animal skins of lesser gradation for the Ksatnya and Vaishya. But on special occasions such as celebrating the birth of a son, Caraka prescribes special skins for seating. He prescribes the white bull-skin for the Brahmin, the skin of a tiger or other ferocious animal for the Ksatriya and the skin of a spotted deer (ruru) or sheep for the Vaishya. (Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 8.10)

As regards the preference in colors, pure white was the color of general dress of all classes. The yellow or the brown colors were prescribed on special and ceremonial occasions and on persons under religious vows such as the Brahmacari student and the Samn-yasi (the recluse). The red color is conspicuous by its absence in daily life. It was regarded as inauspicious. Its appearance in life or in dreams was regarded as an ill omen. (Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 4.8; I. 5.10-11)

There was seasonal variation in the dress. Thin cotton and silk fabric being worn in the hot months while thick cloth of wool, skin or other warm material was worn in the cold months.

Tailoring as an art had not yet made its appearance, for there is no mention anywhere in these Samhitas in question of tight fitting garments such as came into vogue in later days.

But cleanliness in dress and person was greatly valued and one is warned not to use the garments used by another. Besides, after a bath one should not put on the discarded garments again nor wipe the head or body with the cloth which one has tied while bathing.

[Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 8.19]

Thus it is evident that a high degree of sanitary sense was prevalent then as regards the use of clothing, combined with an aesthetic appreciation of sartorial form and color

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