Sushruta Samhita, Volume 5: Kalpasthana

by Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhishagratna | 1911 | 24,963 words

This current book, the Kalpa-sthana (english translation), deals with the nature of poisons, the management of poisons, toxicology 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...

Chapter I - Preserving food and drink from poison

Now we shall discourse on the mode of preserving food and drink from the effects of poison (Anna- pana-Raksha-Kalpa). 1.

Dhanvantari, the King of Kashi, the foremost in virtue and religion and whose commands brook no disobedience or contradiction, instructed his disciples, Sushruta and others (in the following words). 2.

Powerful enemies and even the servants and relations of the sovereign in a fit of anger to avenge themselves on the sovereign sometimes concoct poisonous compounds and administer the same to him, powerful though he may be, by taking advantage of any defect or weak point in him. Sometimes the ladies (of the royal house-hold) are found to administer to the king various preparations (of food and drink), which often prove to be poisonous, from a foolish motive of securing his affection and good graces thereby, and sometimes it is found that by the embrace of a poisoned girl (Visha-Kanya),[1] he dies almost instantaneously. Hence it is the imperative duty of a royal physician to guard the person of the king against poisoning. 3.

The minds of men are restless and uncontrollable like an unbroken horse. Faith is a rare thing in the human society and hence a crowned head should never believe any one[2] in this world. 4.

The necessary Qualifications of a Superintendent of the Royal Kitchen:—

A king should appoint a physician for the royal kitchen (to superintend the preparations of the royal fare). He should be well-paid and possess the following qualifications. He should come of a respectable family, should be virtuous in conduct, fondly attached to the person of his sovereign, and always watchful of the health of the king. He should be greedless, straight-forward, god-fearing, grateful, of handsome features, and devoid of irascibility, roughness, vanity, arrogance and laziness. He should be forbearing, self-controlled, cleanly, compassionate, well- behaved, intelligent, capable of bearing fatigue, well- meaning, devoted, of good address, clever, skilful, smart, artless, energetic and marked with all the necessary qualifications (of a physician; as described before. He should be fully provided with all kinds of medicine and be highly esteemed by the members of his profession. 5.

The necessary features of a Royal kitchen:—

The Royal kitchen should be a spacious chamber occupying an auspicious (south-east) corner of the royal mansion and built on a commendable site. The vessels and utensils (to be used in a royal kitchen) should be kept scrupulously clean. The kitchen should be kept clean, well lighted by means of a large number of windows and guarded with nets and fret works (against the intrusion of crows, etc.). None but the trusted and proved friends and relatives should have access to the royal kitchen, or hold any appointment therein. Highly inflammable articles (such as hay, straw, etc.) should not be stacked in the royal kitchen whose ceiling should be covered with a canopy. The Fire-god should be (daily) worshipped therein. The head or managar (manager) of the royal cooks should generally possess the same qualifications as those of a physician. The bearers and cooks in the royal kitchen should have their nails and hair clipped off and should bear turbans. They should be cleanly, civil, clever, obedient, good-looking, each charged with separate duties, good-tempered, composed in their behaviour, well-bathed, greedless, determined, and prompt in executing the orders of their superiors. A physician of the royal kitchen should be very cautious and circumspect in the discharge of his duties, since food is the main stay of life, and the sole contributor to the safe continuance of the body. Every one employed in a royal kitchen such as, bearers, servers, cooks, soup- makers, cake-makers (confectioners), should be placed under the direct control and supervision of the physician of the kitchen. 6.

Characteristic features of a poisoner:—

An intelligent physician well qualified to ascertain the true state of one’s feelings from the speech, conduct, demeanour and distortions of the face, would be able to discover the true culprit (poisoner) from the following external indications. A giver of poison does not speak nor does he answer when a question is put to him. He swoons or breaks off suddenly in the middle of his statement, and talks incoherently and indistinctly like a fool. He is found suddenly and listlessly to press the joints of his fingers or to scratch the earth, to laugh and to shiver. He will look frightened at the sight of others (indifferently), and will cut (straw or hay) with his fingernails, and his colour changes constantly. He will scratch his head in an agonised and confused state, and will look this way and that, trying to slip away by a back or side door, thus betraying his guilty conscience by his confusion. 7.

An innocent man, unjustly arraigned before the royal tribunal might from fear or precipation, become (confused and) liable to make untrue statements (and thus be unjustly convicted). Hence the king should first of all test the sincerity and fidelity of his servants ascertaining the non-poisonous character of the boiled rice, drink, tooth-twigs, unguents, combs, cosmetics, infusions, washes, anointments (with sandal pastes, etc.), garlands (of flowers, etc.), clothes, bedding, armour, ornaments, shoes, foot cushions, the backs of horses and elephants and snuff’s (Nasya), Dhuma (tobacco smoking), collyrium and such other things (reserved for the use of the king). 8-9.

Indications of poisoned food and drink, etc.:—

The indications by which the poisonous character of food, drink, etc. (to be used by a king) may be detected are described first and the medical treatment is dealt with secondly. A portion of the food prepared for the royal use should be first given to crows and flies and its poisonous character should be presumed, if they instantaneously die on partaking of the same. Poisoned food burns making loud cracks, and when cast into the fire it assumes the Colour of a peacock’s throat, becomes unbearable, burns in severed and disjointed flames and emits irritating fumes and it cannot be speedily extinguished. The eyes of a Chakora bird are instantaneously affected by looking at such poisoned food and a Jivajivaka dies under a similar condition. The note of the cuckoo becomes hoarse and a Krauncha (heron) becomes excited. A peacock moves about and becomes sprightly, and a Shuka and a Sarika scream (in fear). A swan cackles violently and a Bhringaraja (of the swallow class) raises its inarticutate voice. A Prishata (a species of spotted deer) sheds tears and a monkey passes stools. Hence these birds and animals should be kept in the royal palace for show and entertainment as well as for the protection of the sovereign master. 10.

The vapours arising from poisoned food when served for use give rise to a pain in the cardiac region and produce headache and restlessness of the eyes. As an antidote, a preparation of Kushtha, Ramatha (asafetida), Nalada and honey mixed together should be used as an Anjana (along the eye-lids) and a medical compound of the same drugs should be snuffed into the nostrils. A plaster composed of Shirisha, turmeric, and sandal pasted together or simply a sandal paste should be used over the region of the heart in such cases 11.

A poison affecting the palms of the hands, produces a burning sensation in them and leads to the falling off of the finger-nails. The remedy in such cases consists in applying a plaster of Shyama[3], Indra, Gopa soma and Utpala pasted together. 12.

Poisoned food partaken of through ignorance or folly, produces a stone-like swelling and numbness of the tongue, a loss of the faculty of taste and a pricking burning pain in that organ attended with copious mucous salivation. The measures and remedies already laid down in connection with the treatment of cases of poisonous vapours as well as those to be hereinafter described in connection with the use of a poisoned tooth twig should be adopted. 13.

Food mixed with poison, when it reaches the Amashaya (stomach), gives rise to epileptic fits, vomiting, dysenteric stools (Atisara), distention of the abdomen, a burning sensation, shivering and a derangement of the sense-organs. Under such circumstances an emetic consisting of Madana, Alavu, Vimbi and Koshataki pasted together and administered through the medium of milk, curd and Udasvit (Takra) or with rice-washings should be understood as the proper remedy. 14.

Food mixed with poison, if it reaches the Pakvashaya (intestines), gives rise to a burning sensation (in the body), epileptic fits, dysenteric stools (Atisara), derangements of the organs of sense-perception, rumbling sounds in the abdomen and emaciation, and makes the complexion (of the sufferer) yellow. In such a case a purgative composed of clarified butter and Nilini fruits should be the first remedy. As an alternative, remedies to be described lateron (in the next chapter) in connection with the effects of Dushi-Visha (slow chemical poison) should be adopted and used, saturated with milk-curd (Dadhi) or honey. 15.

All liquid substances such as wine, milk, water, etc., if anywise poisoned, are found to be marked with variegated stripes on their[4] surface and become covered over with froth and bubbles. Shadows are not reflected in such (poisoned) liquids and if they ever are, they look doubled, net-like (porous) thin and distorted. 16.

Preparations of potherbs, soups, boiled rice and cooked meat are instantaneously decomposed, and become putrid, tasteless and omit little odour when in contact with poison. All kinds of food become tasteless, smellless and colourless when in contact with poison. Ripe fruit, under such conditions, is speedily decomposed and the unripe ones are found to get prematurely ripe. 17–18.

If the tooth-twig be anyway charged with poison its brush-like end is withered and shattered and if used gives rise to a swelling of the lips and the tongue and about the gums. In such a case, the swollen part should be first rubbed (with any leaf of rough fibre) and then gently rubbed with a plaster composed of Dhataki flowers, Pathya, stones of Jambuline (black-berry) and honey pasted together. As an alternative, the pait should be gently rubbed and dusted over with a plaster of powdered Amkotha roots or Sapta-ccada bark or seeds of Shirisha, pasted together with honey. The same remedies should be applied in the cases of affections due to the use of a poisoned tongue-cleanser or a poisoned gargle (Kavala). 12–20.

Poisoned articles for Abhyanga (oils and unguents) look thick, slimy or discoloured and produce, when used, eruptions on the skin which suppurate and exude a characteristic secretion attended with pain, perspiration, fever and bursting of the flesh. The remedy in such a case consists in sprinkling cold water over the body of the patient and in applying a plaster of sandal wood, Tagara, Kushtha, Ushira, Venu-patrika (leaves of bamboo), Soma-valli, Amrita, Shveta-padma (lotus), Kaliyaka and cardamom pasted together (with cold water). A potion of the same drugs mixed with the urine of a cow and the expressed juice of Kapittha is equally commended in the present instance. Symptoms which mark the use of poisoned armour, garments, bedding, cosmetic, washes, infusions, anointments, etc. and the remedies for these are identical with those consequent upon the use of poisoned unguents. 21-22.

A poisoned plaster (if applied to the head) leads to the falling off of the hair and to violent headache, bleeding through the mouth and the nostrils, etc., and the appearance of glands on the head. The remedy in such a case consists in the application of a plaster made of black earth treated (Bhavita) several times with the bile of a Rishya (a species of deer), clarified butter and the expressed juice of Shyama, Palindi (Trivrit) and Tandu- liyaka (in succession). The expressed juice of Malati (flower) or of Mushika-parni, fluid-secretions of fresh cow-dung and house soot as external applications are also beneficial in such cases. 23.

In cases of poisoning through head-unguents or through a poisoned turban, cap garland of flowers, or bathing water, measures and remedies as laid down in connection with a case of poisoned Anulepana should be adopted and applied. In a case of poisoning through cosmetics applied to the face, the local skin assumes a bluish or tawny brown colour covered with eruptions like those in cases of Padmini-kantaka and the symptoms peculiar to a case of using a poisoned unguent become manifest. The remedy in such a case consists in the application of a plaster composed of (white) sandal wood, clarified butter, Payasya, Yashti madhu, Phanji, (Bhargi), Vandhujiva and Panarnava. A potion of honey and clarified butter is also beneficial in this case. 24-25.

A poisoned elephant usually exhibits such symptoms as restlessness, copious salivation and redness of the eyes. The buttocks, the penis, the anal region and the scrotum of its rider coming in contact with the body of such an elephant are marked by eruptions. Under such conditions both the animal and its rider should be medically treated with the remedies laid down in the treatment of poisoning through an unguent. 26.

A poisoned snuff (Nasya) or poisoned smoke (Dhuma) produces bleeding from the mouth and nose, etc., pain in the head, a discharge of mucus and a derangement of the functions of the sense-organs. The remedy in such cases consists in drinking and snuffing[5] a potion of clarified butter duly cooked with the milk of a cow or such other animal together with Ativisha, Vaca and Mallika flower (as Kalka). A poisoned garland (of flowers) is characterised by the loss of odour and by the fading and discolouring of its natural colour, and when smelt produces headache and lachrymation. Remedies laid down under the heads of poisoning through vapour (Dhuma) and through cosmetics for the face (Mukha-lepa) should be used and applied. 27-28.

The act of applying poisoned oil into the cavity of the ears impairs the faculty of hearing and gives rise to swelling and pain in that locality and to the secretion (of pus) from the affected organs. The filling up of the cavity of the ears with a compound of clarified butter, honey and the expressed juice of Vahuputra (Shatavari)[6] or with the juice of Soma-valka in a cold state prove curative in such cases. 29.

The use of a poisoned Anjana (collyrium) to the eyes is attended with copious lachrymation, deposit of an increased quantity of waxy mucus (in the corners of the eyes), a burning sensation, pain (in the affected organs), impairment of the sight and even blindness. In such a case the patient should be made to drink a potion of fresh clarified butter (Sadyo-ghrita)[7] alone or with pasted Pippali which would act as a Tarpana (soother). Anjana prepared with the expressed juice of Mesha shringi, Varuna- bark, Mushkaka or Ajakama or with Samudra-phena pasted with the bile (Pitta) of a cow should be applied to the eyes, or the one prepared with the (expressed juice of the) flower of Kapittha, Mesha-shringi, Bhallataka, Bandhuka and Amkotha separately. 30.

The case which is incidental to the use of a paste of poisoned sandals, is marked by a swelling in the legs, secretion from the affected organs, complete anesthesia of the diseased locality and the appearance of vesciles thereon. Those due to the use of poisoned shoes or foot-stools exhibit symptoms identical with those of the above case and the medical treatment in all of these cases should be one and the same. Ornaments charged with poison lose their former lustre and give rise to swelling, suppuration and the cracking of the parts they are worn on. The treatment in these cases due to the use of poisoned sandals and ornaments should be similar to the one advised in connection with that due to the use of poisoned unguents (Abhyanga). 31-32.

General Treatment:—

The symptoms which characterise cases of poisoning commencing with “poisoning through poisoned smoke" and ending with that due to the use of “poisoned ornaments” should be remedied with an eye to each of the specific and characteristic indications, and the medicine known as the Maha-sugandhi Agada to be described hereafter should be administered as drink, unguent, snuff and Anjana. Purgatives or emetics should be exhibited and even strong venesection should be speedily resorted to in cases where bleeding would be beneficial. 33–34.

The drugs known as Mushika and Ajaruha should be tied round the wrists of a king as prophylactics to guard against the effects of poisoned food, since either of these two drugs (in virtue of their specific properties) tends to neutralise the operativeness of the poison. A king surrounded by his devoted friends shall cover his chest (with drugs of heart-protecting virtues) and shall drink those preparations of clarified butter, which are respectively known as the Ajeya and the Amrita Ghritas[8]. He should drink regularly every day such wholesome cordials as honey, clarified butter, curd, milk and cold water and use in his food the meat and soup of the flesh of a peacock, mungoose, Godha (a species of lizard), or Prishata deer. 35–A.

The mode of preparing the Soup:—

The flesh of a Godha, mungoose, or deer should be cooked and spiced with pasted Palindi (Trivrit), Yashtimadhu and sugar. The flesh of a peacock should be similarly cooked and spiced with sugar, Ativisha and Shunthi and that of a Prishata deer with Pippali and Shunthi. The soup of Shimbi taken with honey

and clarified butter should, similarly, be deemed beneficial (as being possessed of similar antitoxic properties). An intelligent king should always use food and drink of poison-destroying properties. In a case of imbibed poison, the heart should be protected (with a covering of anti-poisonous drugs) and the patient should be made to vomit (the contents of his stomach) with a potion composed of sugar, Pippali, Yashti-madhu, honey and the expressed juice of sugar-cane dissolved in water. 35-36.


Thus ends the first Chapter of the Kalpa-sthana in the Sushruta Samhita which deals with the mode of protecting food and drink (from the effect of poison).

Footnotes and references:


A girl slowly habituated to taking poison or poisoned food is called a Visha-Kanyā, such a girl presented to a king by a pretending friend of the state often managed to hug her royal victim into her fatal embrace. The poison operates through the perspiration, proving almost instantaneously fatal through the act of dalliance.


A Royal Physician is an honourable exception in this respect.


Some explain “Śyāmā” as “Śyāmā-latā; others explain it as “Priyangu”. Dallana explains “Indra” to mean “Indra-Vāruni”, “Gopa” to mean “Sārivā” and “Soma” to mean “Guduci”. Others, however, take “Indra-Gopa” as one word and explain it to mean a kind of insect known by that name, and they take “Soma” to mean “Soma-latā” in the ordinary sense of the word.


The colours of the different poisoned articles vary in each case and this is elaborately described by Vāgbhata in his Samhitā.


Dallana explains this couplet to mean that clarified butter cooked with milk and Ativishā should be given for drink, and that cooked with Vaca and Mālati flower as an errhine.


Dallana says that some read “vahupatnāyāḥ” and explain “vahupatrā (vahupannā?)” to mean “mayūraśikhā |”


Some are inclined to take “sadyaḥ” as an adverb meaning “instantly” and modifying “peyam” meaning thereby that clarified butter should be instantly taken.


See Kalpa-Sthāna, Chapter II. Para 27, and Chapter VII. para 5, respectively.

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