Dr.Rajkumar Academy for Civil Services

Medicine under Gupta Empire

Medicine under Gupta Empire: – The Charaka samhita and the Sushruta samhita by Charaka and Susruta were the most important works of medicine. Their conclusions are presented in the Ashtanga Sangraha by Vagbhatta I. Charaka and Susruta placed very high ideals for a physician. A physician is supposed to be a yogi, noble in character and supporter of mankind. He was not to charge high for the medicines he prescribes. He should not distinguish between the rich and the poor. The government and the public provided for the establishment and maintenance of hospitals where men and animals both were looked after. Nagarjuna had discovered the process of distillation and use of disinfectants. Vaccination for small pox was also known to the Indians. Indian medicine dealt with the whole area of the science. The structure of the body, its organs, ligaments, muscles, vessels and tissues were described in detail. Vast collections of drugs belonging to the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms are mentioned in the Hindu books of medicine. Hygiene, regimen of the body and diet was paid more attention. Doctors had conducted amputations and operations as well as improved deformed ears and noses. Surgical instruments were also carefully made. Susruta describes around 120 surgical instruments. The Bower manuscript was discovered by Lt. H. Bower in a Buddhist stupa in Kashgar in 1890. Out of the seven works discovered by Bower three deal with medicine. The manuscript on the basis of palaeographical grounds has been dated to the second half of the fourth century A.D. The manuscript deals with such subjects as the use of garlic in curing diseases, digestion, and eye diseases. A book named Navanitaka deals with different kinds of powders, decoctions, oils, elixirs and children’s diseases. The only familiar name of a medical authority referred to in the Bower manuscript is that of Susruta.

Astrology under Gupta Empire: – The Vriddha Garga Samhita is the only work on astrology prior to Varahamihira’s Brihat samhita, which is a collection of ancient Indian learning and sciences. Besides the sections on astrology in the Brihat samhita, Varahamihira also composed four other works on astrology, which deal with auspicious muhurtas for marriage, auspicious portents for the expeditions of kings and the time of man’s birth, and its influence on his future.

Chemistry and Metallurgy under Gupta Empire: –In the Gupta age no books dealing with Chemistry and metallurgy are found. Nagarjuna is mentioned as a great chemist. The famous Iron Pillar near the Qutub-Minar stands as a silent witness to assert the striking metallurgical skill of the Hindus. This pillar has not yet been rusted or corroded despite it being exposed to rain and sun for the last 1500 years. The use of mercury and iron in medicine shows that chemistry must have been practiced. Varahamihira was a scientist who was comfortable in dealing with astronomy, mathematics, astrology, metallurgy, chemistry, jewellery, botany, zoology, civil engineering, water-divining and meteorology.

Science was cultivated with enthusiasm in ancient India and many important discoveries were made which were passed on to Europe by the Greeks and the Arabs. The Gupta period is popularly known as the Golden age, as it has seen huge developments in science, literature, and arts in India.