Sushruta Samhita, volume 3: Sharirasthana

by Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhishagratna | 1911 | 36,821 words

This current book, the Sharira-sthana (english translation), deals with anatomy, the human body, cosmology, embryology and various other subjects. The Sushruta Samhita is the most representative work of the Hindu system of medicine. It embraces all that can possibly appertain to the science of medicine. Susruta-samhita is recognized as the first a...

Chapter VII - Description of Sira (vascular system)

Now we shall discourse on the Sharira which treats of the description and classification of Sira or vascular system[1] (Sira-Varnana-Vibhaktinama Sharira).

There are seven hundred Siras (vessels) in the human organism (except those which cannot be counted for their extremely attenuated size). The vessels (Siras) by their contractibility and expansibility etc. sustain and nourish the organism in the same manner as streamlets and canals serve to keep a field or a garden moist and fruitful. From the principal or central trunk hundreds of small and minute vessels branch off and spread all over the body, just as small or minute fibres are found to emanate from the large central vein of the leaf of a plant. They originate from the umbilical region and thence they spread all over the body upwards and downwards and obliquely. 2.

Memorable Verses:—

All the Siras (vessels) that are found in the organisms of created beings, originate from the umbilical region (Nabhi)[2] and thence they spread all over their bodies. The life of an organic animal is seated in the vessels surrounding its navel which forms their starting point. The navel in its turn rests on or is attached to the Pranas (the life-carrying vessels—nerves attached to it) in the same  manner as the nave of a wheel supports the spokes, and the spokes in their turn support the nave. 3-4.

Principal Siras:—

Of these Siras (vessels), forty are principal ones, of which ten are Vayu-carrying Siras (nerves), ten are Pitta-carrying Siras (veins), ten convey Kapha (lymphatic vessels?) and ten are bloodcarrying Siras (arteries). Of these the Vayu-carrying Siras, situated in the specific receptacle of that bodily principle (Vata), are again found to branch out in one hundred and seventy five smaller branches (ramifications). Similarly, each of the remaining Pitta-carrying, Kaphacarrying and blood-carrying vessels (Siras) situated in their specific receptacles, (i.e.), in the receptacles of Pitta, Kapha and spleen and liver respectively) are found to branch out in as many numbers (one hundred and seventy-five),—thus making a total of seven hundred in all. 5.

Their Specific Locations:—

There are twenty-five Vayu-carrying Siras (nerves) in one leg and the same count applies to the other. Similarly there are twenty five Vayu-carrying Siras (vessels) in each of the hands. There are thirty-four Vayu-carrying vessels in the Koshtha (trunk); of these eight occur in the pelvic regions attached with the anus and the penis; two in each of the sides, six in the back, six in the Udara (cavity of the abdomen), and ten in the region of the chest. There are forty-one Vayu-carrying Sira’s (vessels) situated in the region above the clavicles. Of these fourteen occur in the neck; four in the two ears; nine in the tongue; six in the nose and eight in the two eyes. Thus we have finished the description of the one hundred and seventy-five Siras that carry Vayu. 6.

What has been said of these Vayu-carrying vessels (Siras) will also hold good to the rest (in blood-carrying), Pitta-carrying and Kapha-carrying channels in the respective regions of the body), with the exception that in these three cases, (Pitta, Kapha and blood) ten occur in the eyes and two in the ears in lieu of eight and four respectively, as in the case of Vayu-carrying Siras (vessels). Thus we have described the seven hundred Siras with their branches. 7.

Memorable Verses:—

The Vayu-carrying Siras:—The Vayu in its normal state and coursing through its specific Siras (vessels) helps the unobstructed performance of its specific functions viz., expansion, contraction, speech, etc., and produces the clearness and non-illusiveness of Buddhi (intellect) and the sense- organs, whereas a coursing of the said Vayu in a deranged condition through the aforesaid Siras (vessels), gives rise to a host of such diseases as are due to the derangement of Vayu. 8.

The Pitta-carrying Siras:—

The Pitta in its normal state and coursing through its specific Siras (vessels) produces the healthy glow of complexion, relish for food, kindling of the appetite, healthfulness and other good effects, characteristic of the Pitta, which however being aggravated and coursing through them gives rise to a host of Pittaja diseases. 9.

The Kapha-conveying Siras:—

The Kapha in its normal state and coursing through its specific Siras (vessels) smoothes and contributes to the firmness of the limbs and joints, improves the strength and produces all other good effects specially belonging to it, whereas the same Kapha, flowing through them in an aggravated condition, ushers in a large number of the Kaphaja distempers of the body. 10.

The Rakta-carrying Siras:—

The blood in its normal state and flowing through its specific Siras (vessels) strengthens the other fundamental principles (Dhatus) of the body, improves the complexion, aids the organ of touch in the proper performance of its functions and produces other functions characteristic of it in the body. Flowing through them in a vitiated condition, it begets diseases which are due to the derangement of the blood. 11.

There is not a single Sira (vessel) in the body which carries either the Vayu, or the Pitta or the Kapha alone. Hence each of the vessels should be regarded as affording an opportunity for conveying all kinds of the Doshas of the body, for as soon as they are deranged and aggravated they seem to flow through all the Siras promiscuously. Hence they are called Sarva- vahah. 12.

Specific colours of the Siras:—

The vessels which carry the bodily Vayu (nerves) have a vermilion (yellowish red) hue and seem to be stuffed with Vayu. The Pitta-carrying vessels (veins) are coloured blue and felt warm to the touch. The Kaphacarrying vessels are hard, cold to the touch and white- coloured. The blood-carrying vessels (arteries) are red and neither too hot, nor too cold. 13.

Now we shall describe the Siras (veins) which a surgeon should not pierce or open, inasmuch as it may result in death, or bodily deformity. An intelligent surgeon shall always bear in mind that sixteen out of the four hundred vessels in the extremeties, thirty-two out of the hundred and thirty-six vessels in the trunk and fifty out of the sixty-four vessels in the region above the clavicles, should not be opened or bled on any account. 14–15.

Of the one hundred vessels in a single leg, the one Jaladhara (which is attached to the connective tissue of the Kurcca-Sira) as well as the three internal ones, of which two are known as the Urvi-veins and the other as the Lohitaksha, together with the corresponding ones in the other leg and in the two hands, thus making sixteen in all, which are situated in the upper and lower extremeties, should be held unfit for opening. Of the thirty-two veins in the pelvic region (Shroni), eight such, known as (the four) Vitapas (two on each side of the testicles) and the four known as the Katika-tarun as (two on each side) should be considered unfit for bleeding or opening. Of the sixteen veins (eight on each side) at the sides, the one which coursesupward from each of the two sides and is attached to the Marma known as the Parshva- Sandhi, should be considered unfit for similar purposes. Of the twenty-four Siras which are found in either side of the spinal column, an incision should not be made into any of the two Siras (on each side) known as the Vrihati and which run upward along either side of it (spinal column). Similarly of the twenty-four Siras in the abdomen, the two along each of the two sides of symphis pubis should be held unfit for opening or bleeding. Of the forty veins in the chest, the two in the heart, two in the root of each breast and two in each of the Stana-rohita (muscle of the breast) and one in each of the Apastambhas and Apalapas, making fourteen in all, should not be opened. Thus thirty-two Siras in the regions of the back (i.e., the sides and the pelvic regions), the abdomen and the chest should be regarded as unfit for opening or other surgical purposes. 16–21.

There are one hundred and sixty-four Siras in the region above the clavicles. Of these the eight and four (making twelve and respectively known as the eight Matrikas, the two Nilas and the two Manyas) out of the fifty-six in the neck and the throat, should be regarded as unfit for opening. Similarly the two veins in the two Krikatikas and two in the two Vidhuras, should be held unfit for similar purposes; thus making sixteen in all in the neck. Of the sixteen vessels (eight on each side) of the Hanus (Jaws), the two Siras about each of the joint of the jaw-bones should never be opened. 22.

Of the thirty-six[3] vessels in the tongue, sixteen are situated in the under-surface of that organ and twenty in the upper surface; of these the two speech-carrying and the two taste-carrying ones should be held unfit for venesection. Of the twenty-four vessels in the nose, the four adjacent to the nose proper and the one running into the soft palate should be held unfit for similar purposes. Of the thirty-eight vessels in the two eyes, the one situated at each Apanga should not be opened. Of the ten vessels in the two ears, the soundcarrying one in either ear should not be opened. Of the sixty vessels of the nose and eyes coursing through the region of the forehead, the four vessels adjacent to the sculp proper and the Avarta-Marma should be held unfit for opening or bleeding. One vessel (Sira) in each of the two Avartas and the one in the Sthapani-marma should not be opened (on any account). Of the ten vessels in the temple, the one about each temple-joint should be held unfit for opening or bleeding. Of the twelve vessels in the head, the one in each of the two Utkshepa-Marmas, one in each of the (five) Simanta-Marmas and one in the Adhipati-Marma, should be held unfit for the purpose. No incision or opening should be made into any of these fifty vessels situated in the region above the clavicles. 23-31.

Memorable verses:—

As the stem and leaves etc., of a lotus plant, originated from its bulb, spread over the whole surface of a pool or tank (lit: water), so the vessels emanating from the umbilicus of a man spread over his whole organism. 32.


Thus ends the seventh Chapter of the Sharira Sthana in the Suhruta Samhita which treats of the description and classification of Siras (vessels).

Footnotes and references:


The Sanskrita term Sira denotes veins, nerves, arteries and lymphatic vessels as well. Some read Sira-varna (different colours of the Siras) in lieu of Sira-varnana (description of Siras).


Most probably the idea is derived from the appearance of the Siras in their fetal state.


Gayi asserts that there are eight each of the Vayu-carrying, Pittacarrying, Kapha-carrying and blood-carrying Siras in the region of the neck, thus making a total of 32 in place of 36 of the text.

He also holds that there are 28 in place of 36 Siras in the tongue, 16 in place of 24 in the nose, 24 in place of 38 in the eyes, 16 in place of 10 in the ears and 8 in place of 10 in the temple. In the counting of the Siras situate in the other parts of the body, he, however, does not differ from the text.

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