Sushruta Samhita is one of the oldest texts that explain the ancient surgery tradition in Indian medicine. It is thought of as one of the most exceptional gems as far as Indian medical literature is concerned. This work consists of detailed descriptions of not only teachings but practice of the marvelous ancient surgeon Sushruta as well. Sushruta has remarkable surgical knowledge which is of relevance even today!
Sushruta Samhita comprises of the key surgical text that belonged to the Vedas and is believed to be the most complex and advanced compilation of surgical practices of those times. Sushruta Samhita consists of the teaching with regards to plastic surgery as well as consists of composite teachings of surgery including all its allied branches such as midwifery, eventually making it an extensive treatise on the whole medical discipline.
Sushruta strongly believed that understanding of surgery as well as medicine is crucial to be a good doctor. Otherwise, Sushruta states that he or she is a bird with only one wing. Well, Sushruta stressed in his work that unless one has sufficient knowledge of relevant branches of learning, it is not possible for one to achieve proficiency in his or her own subject of study.
Sushruta states that anyone that wishes to get complete knowledge of anatomy should prepare a corpse and observe it carefully and examine all the parts. His method of study involved submerging the body in water and allowing it to decompose. This was followed by detailed examination of the decomposing body at regular intervals to learn each structure, layer by layer, as and when it gets exposed following decomposition. Well, the most significant point one should note here is that dissection was done without using a knife or any other object!
The exact period of this great scholar Sushruta is not clear; however, most scholars consider that he may have lived between 600 and 1000 BC. Sushruta is believed to have lived, taught and practiced the art of surgery in the area which presently corresponds to Varanasi (also called kashi and Benares) in the northern part of India. Varanasi is located on the banks of the holy river Ganges and is one of the sacred places in India. Besides, the city is home of Ayurveda and Buddhism.
Saushrutas was the name given to those who were followers of Sushruta. A new student must study for minimum six years. Prior to starting his training, he or she has to take a serious oath that can be compared to Hippocrates’ solemn oath. Sushruta taught surgical skills and techniques to his students via a number of experimental modules, for example, probing on wood eaten by worms, incision on vegetables such as cucumber and water melon, etc., thus preceding the current day workshops by over 2600 years!
The accuracy, insight and detail of the various surgical descriptions provided in Sushruta Samhita are very impressive. The book has 184 chapters and 1120 conditions are registered which includes illnesses and injuries linked to mental illness and ageing. The treatise also includes a number of chapters on surgeons’ training and practice. Additionally, the Sushruta Samhita explains more than 120 surgical instruments and 300 surgical procedures. Moreover, it categorizes human surgery into 8 segments.
According to Sushruta, health is a state of both physical and mental well-being that is a result of and which is preserved by maintaining a good sense of humour, proper nutrition, appropriate elimination of waste and a nice harmony of both the body and mind.