Medical Science and Hinduism
Hinduism is enriched with the knowledge of medical science. Sanatan Hindu scriptures are the sources of a lot of modern medicines and treatments. The Ayurveda, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. involve stories regarding different branches of medical science. I would like to present the relationship between medical science and Hinduism in this article.
Ayurveda which is rooted in Hinduism has been very popular method of medical treatment for thousands of years. The uses of Ayurvedic medicinal plants are also seen in mythological scriptures. Many herbal plants and plant products used in Ayurveda is being suggested by modern medical scientists now. The practice of Ayurveda has evolved in recent years to treat such modern health concerns such as addiction, stress, weight loss, hypertension, infertility etc.
Gender variance, changes of sex, homoerotic encouters and intersex or third gender characters etc. are often found in Sanatan Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas, Mahabharatha, Ramayana and Puranas. For example, the gender variance of the character named Ardhanarishwara (the merging of the god Shiva and his consort Parvati) are well known to us. Mohini, the female form of Lord Vishnu in the Bhagavata Purana is a mentionable character. Shikhandi, a minor but an attractive character in the Mahabhrata, represents the changes of sex. In the Purana, Samba, the son of Lord Krishna, is seen as a patron of eunuchs. Homosexual or bisexual activity also occurs between gods. Although married to the goddess Svaha, Agni is also shown as being part of a same-sex couple with Soma Deva (the god of the moon). Mitra and Varuna are gods great intimacy mentioned in the Vedic literature. The Ramayana involves a story of two queens who conceived a child together. This child was the king Bhagiratha who brought the Ganges down to the Earth. Thus a lot of examples regarding gender variance in the Hindu scriptures are related to the research of modern medical science.
Test tube baby and the growing of human fetuses outside the womb of a mother are heard nowadays. Sanatan Hindu scriptures include some of these examples. The birth of the Kauravas is the science of embryo splitting and growing human fetuses outside the body of a woman. Again, the birth story of Karna and the Pandavas resembles the modern test tube baby concept.
The replacement of different human organs are often done by modern surgeons. The replacement of Daksha’s head by a goat’s head and the replacement of Ganesha’s head by an elephant’s head in Sanatan mythology are linked to that field of modern medical science.
Some Hindu mythological and ancient personalities and their contributions to the field of medical science should be mentioned now. Dhanvantari, an avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, appears in the Vedas and Puranas as the physicians of gods and the god of the Ayurveda. The Hindu devotees worship him seeking his blessings for sound health. In Hindu scriptures. Gandharvas, a particular divine beings, are seen to have incomparable healing powers and are identified in the Rig Veda as the physicians of the gods. In the Ramayana, Sushena, the Lankan Royal Physician, advised Hanuman to fetch four Himalayan magical plants named Mruthasanjeevani (restorer of life), Vishalyakarani (remover of arrows), Sandhanakarani ( restorer of skin) and Savarnyakarani (restorer of colour) when Lakshnana, the younger brother of Rama, fell unconscious, near death, hit by an arrow from Ravana’s son Meghnad. In 600 BCE Acharya Charak, the father of medicine, contributed a lot to the world through his great work `Charak Samhita.’ It is called the encyclopedia of Ayurveda. He described the medicinal qualities and functions of 100,000 herbal plants in it. He emphasized on the influence of diet and activity on human mind and body. He also proved the correlation of spirituality and physical health contributed greatly to diagnostic and curative sciences. Another ancient giant of medical science was Acharya Sushrut, the father of plastic surgery. He was born to sage Vishwamitra. His great work, `Sushrut Samhita’ contains 184 chapters. These include descriptions of 1,120 illness, 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources and 57 preparations based on animal sources. `Sushrut Samhita’ also includes twelve types of fractures and six types of dislocations. Acharya Sushrut described three hundred types of operations in it. He used one hundred twenty types of surgical instrument including scalpels, lancets, needles, catheter and speculums mostly designed from the jaws of animals and birds. He also described some stitching methods using the horse’s hair and fibers of bark as thread. Besides, I would like to mention Yoga which is also associated with medical science. Yoga, a great invention of Acharya Patanjal, includes eighty four postures which effectively enhance the efficiency of the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, digestive and endocrine systems and many other organs of the body. It is mentionable that yoga is very popular to the modern health conscious people all over the world. An international day regarding Yoga has also been declared recently.
Sanatan devotees feel proud for their ancestors associated with the medical science. In fact, they were the masterminds behind the success of that field of knowledge. So, we owe to them forever. But we should realize that the greatest of all those great masterminds is the Almighty Himself. We make obeisance to Him again and again.