Concluding Remarks About Indian Medicine


H.H. Sir Bhagvat Singh Jee

|| Index || Chapter 1 || Chapter 2 || Chapter 3 || Chapter 4 || Chapter 5 || Chapter 6 || Chapter 7 || Chapter 8 || Chapter 9 || Chapter 10 || Chapter 11 || Concluding Remarks || Bibliography

MUCH of the misconception on both sides will disappear if the Hindus care to remember that the English are one of the most progressive nations in the world and the Englishmen bear in mind the words of Sir Monier Monier-Williams, who says :

"We are, in our Eastern Empire, not brought into contact with savage tribes who melt away before the superior force and intelligence of Europeans. Rather are we placed in the midst of great and ancient peoples who attained a high degree of civilisation when our forefathers were barbarians, and had a polished language, a cultivated literature, and abstruse system of philosophy, centuries before English existed even in name."

If the question be approached with an open mind, without bias or prejudice, it will no doubt be ​found that the West, far more advanced though it be, may yet have something new to learn from the East. Those who have the advantage of being acquainted with both the systems are of opinion that, divested of all the exaggerations in which the Indians are prone to indulge, and of their tendency to consecrate all their sciences, and apotheosise their great men, the Hindu system of medicine can, on the whole, bear comparison with the Western.

There are many things in which both agree, and if in certain points they seem to differ, they often differ only to agree in the end. For instance, the wind- diseases of the Hindus are mostly treated by the Western writers as diseases of the respiratory system the bile-diseases generally correspond with the diseases of the circulatory system, and the disorders of the phlegm are analogous to the diseases of the alimentary system. The demoniacal diseases of the Hindus are but other words for hysteria, epilepsy, dancing mania, and other disorders of the nervous system.

It is also asserted by those who have had opportunities of learning and practising medicine, both on the Eastern and the Western principles, that Indian medical science has reached its highest standard ​of excellence in Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Hygiene, while the Western science is far more accurate and far superior in Chemistry, Anatomy, Physiology, and Surgery. The Indian science may well be proud of its symptomatology, diagnosis, and prognosis and the Western science of its Pathology and ^Etiology. The popular be- lief is, that in acute diseases European medicines are more effective than the Indian ones, but that in chronic cases the latter are more fficacious.

In Legal Medicine the process of detecting poison by chemical analysis, resorted to by European toxicologists with great accuracy, is unknown to the Indians. In the preparation and administration of mineral drugs, the Hindus claim to have a long experience. There is a striking resemblance between the two systems as regards the treatment of several diseases, such as diarrhoea, piles, asthma, consumption, paralysis, etc. It is but a truism to say that in some respects the Indian mode of treating certain diseases, peculiar to tropical climates, is more suitable and rational than any other.

A close study of the science will convince an impartial reader that it contains germs of some of the modern discoveries in the healing art. A few of them, such as circulation ​of the blood, postural treatment, massage, and anaesthetics, have been referred, to. A reference may also be made to the use of the magnet in therapeutics. Cures by animal magnetism were common in India long before they were recognised by Mesmer in Germany, and subsequently by John Elliotson in England.

In the medical works of the Hindus, doctors curing diseases by hypnotism are styled "Siddha" (en-dowed with supernatural power) those curing by means of mineral drugs "Daivi" (divine) those curing by vegetable preparations "Manushi" (human) and those by surgical operations "Rakshasi" (demoniacal). The names indicate the degree of estimation in which each class was held : and when Manu in his Ordinances directs his followers to "avoid the food of the doctor" (that is, to avoid eating with, or any food touched by a doctor), he evidently refers to the surgeons, and not to the other classes of physicians. The degenerate state to which Indian Surgery is now reduced is chiefly due to this popular prejudice.

The Indian writers have described the medicinal properties of waters of the principal rivers, lakes, wells, and mineral springs of the country, ​and their power to cure various diseases. This clearly shows that hydrotherapy was known in India long before it was dreamt of in Europe. It will thus appear that the Indian medicine does not deserve to be condemned off-hand. It has its faults, and its imperfections may be many, but it has also its good parts, few though they be.

The aim and object of the two systems are the same. In the words of Charaka, "That is the true medicine, and that the true physician, that can cure and eradicate disease." Let the Western and the Eastern Schools of Medicine then join hands and reconcile themselves to each other wherever possible. Let them meet as friends, and not as foes or rivals. Under present circumstances, the East has much to learn from the West, but the West, too, may have something to acquire from the East, if it so chooses.

If the Medical Science of India, in its palmy days, has directly or indirectly assisted the early growth of the Medical Science of Europe, it is but fair that the latter should show its gratitude by rendering all possible help to the former, old as it is, and almost dying for want of nourishment.

The Indian Medicine deserves preservation and investigation. It is the business of all seekers after truth—be they ​Europeans or Hindus — to take up the question in the spirit of fairness and sympathy. The revival of such a spirit will, it is hoped, lead at no distant date to a juster appreciation of Aryan Medical Science.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Source: A Short History Of Aryan Medical Science By H.H. Sir Bhagvat Singh Jee, K.C.I.E. M.D., D.C.L., Ll.D., F.R.C.P.E. Thakore Saheb Of Gondal With Ten Plates, London Macmillan And Co., Ltd. New York : The Macmillan Company 1896. This was previously edited by Rajasekhar, 1961, and was reformatted and reorganized for the web edition by Jayaram V in 2019. The title of the work has also been changed to A Short History Of Indian Medical Science to reflect the current theories of the early history of India and adjoining areas.

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