Early Civilization of the Hindus


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

Editor's note: We have retained the word Aryan in this chapter to denotes its original meaning as the noble men of the land of Aryavarta (India) and as a synonym for the Hindus, which was originally a geographical term used to refer to the people who lived in the Indian subcontinent.

THE history of Aryan Medicine forms an inseparable chapter of the history of Aryan civilisation. The word 'Aryan' is here used in what the Hindus believe to be the original and only proper sense. It has been customary of late years to give it a much wider meaning, so as to make it denote the supposed original people, from whom, according to the Western Ethnologists, Celts and Teutons, Italians and Greeks, Persians and Hindus, are all descended.

The similarities which modern science has discovered between such outlying members of a supposed original stock as the Celts and the Hindus, have led certain scholars to believe ​that the ancestors of these nations were first living together in the Caucasus, but afterwards separated, the Hindus migrating into India, where they settled with their families after conquering the aboriginal tribes. This theory is European in its conception, and is not accepted by the Indians in general, who call themselves autochthonous.

The Indian Savants adduce internal and external evidence to show that, far from being outsiders, it was possible for the early Hindus to have sent colonies beyond the frontiers. It is no part of our present purpose to attempt to compose this controversy. It is enough to note at starting that throughout these pages the term 'Aryan' is used to designate the 'Hindus,' to whom alone it is applied both in common parlance and in their sacred books.

The Hindus call their country 'Aryavarta,' or the abode of the Aryans. Manu, the ancient law-giver, applies the name to the tract of land between the Himalaya and the Vindhya ranges, from the eastern to the western sea and teaches that the Brahmans born within that tract are suitable teachers of the several usages of men. Latterly the whole country from the Himalayas ​to Cape Comorin, and from the Irawady and the Bay of Bengal to the Indus and the Western sea, came to be recognised as Aryavarta. It is a beautiful country with natural boundaries. It enjoys the six seasons of the year, and the position of its mountains and its seas gives it a variety of climate, inasmuch as it possesses the hottest, coolest, and the most temperate places of resort.

The country was a cradle of learning for the whole world, and history bears witness to the fact that many a nation that now walks with its head erect would have been nowhere had it not borrowed considerably from the intellectual storehouse of the ancient Hindus. This country was at the pinnacle of glory when other nations were either not in existence or were wallowing in crass ignorance. Most of the sciences, which the present century boasts of so much, were not unknown to the ancient Hindus and one has but to look into their writings to see whether the truths propounded by them some thousands of years ago do not still endure in their natural freshness.

The Hindus were the first to cultivate Astronomical Science (Jyotisha). All modern astronomers admit the great antiquity of their ​observations. Cassini, Bailly, and Playfair have stated that observations taken by Hindu Astronomers upwards of 3000 years before Christ are still extant, and prove a considerable degree of progress already made at that period. The ancient Hindus fixed the Calendar, observed and predicted the eclipses, and were acquainted with the phases of the moon and the motions of the several planets. According to Mr Cole-brooke, they were more correct than Ptolemy in their notions regarding the precession of the equinoxes.

In Mathematics (Ganita) the Hindus had attained a high degree of proficiency. They invented the decimal system, the differential, integral and infinitesimal calculi. The world owes to them the invention of numerical symbols. They also discovered Geometry (Bhoomiti) and Trigonometry (Triconamiti), in both which sciences they made great advances. Most of the credit given to Pythagoras for the discovery of mathematical truths properly belongs to the ancient Hindus.

Their knowledge of Chemistry was not meagre. They were familiar with the preparation of sulphuric, nitric, and muriatic acids the oxides of ​copper, iron, lead, tin, and zinc as well as many chlorides, nitrates, sulphates, and carbonates.

The sage Panini was the first to teach the formative principles of words, and his system of Grammar, called Ashtadhyayi — the first in the world — is the admiration of Western and Eastern scholars. Lexicography was known to the Aryans long before its acquaintance was made by any other nation in the world. In the Vedic Literature it is treated under the head of Nighantu.

Music appears to have been cultivated to the highest pitch of perfection by the Aryans, who were the first to invent the Gamut. Their music is systematic and refined.

India is the home of architectural beauty. Domes, cupolas, minarets, and many ingenious works of architecture which have stood the tempest of time, testify to this fact in silent eloquence and the ancient Greeks, who are praised for their skill in this particular art, owed not a little to the Hindus. Dr W. W. Hunter supposes that Alexander the Great left artists in India to copy the Indian style of architecture, who imported it into their mother country.

Dhanur-Veda is an old science which treats ​of the art of war, and mentions different kinds of weapons classified under four heads : (1) Mukta (missive), as the discus, etc, (2) Amukta (non-missive), as the sword, etc. (3) Muktamukta (both missive and non-missive), as the javelin, etc. (4) Yantra-mukta (machine-projectile), as the arrow, etc. The army consisted of infantry, cavalry, car-fighters and warriors fighting on elephants. They were known by the name of Padati, Ashvarudha, Ratharudha, and Gajarudha respectively. The Hindus have had from a primeval period a fighting class called the Kshatriyas.

Hindu Law is as old as their religion. Manu is the oldest of Hindu writers on Law and his book of Institutes still forms the basis of the Hindu social fabric. It is an important record of Hindu society at least three thousand years old. Other writers on Law, like Yajnavalkya, Parashara, etc., are also held in great reverence, and are still quoted as high authorities in deciding subtle points of dispute.

India out-distances all the countries in the world in the domain of Philosophy. There are six systems of Indian Philosophy, called Darshanas, or ' Mirrors of Knowledge.' These are ​Nyaya or logical, Sankhya or discriminative, Vaisheshika or atomic, Yoga or contemplative, Mimansa or ritual, and Vedanta or the end of knowledge. The aim and object of these schools is to solve the problem of Creation.

The Hindus have a passion for philosophy, and have given their best energies to the better understanding of the subject. They were the first nation to distinguish between matter and spirit. While the world at large has been busy confining its attention to dead matter and its properties, the Hindu from the very dawn of history has devoted himself staunchly to the study of the spirit. Professor Max Muller justly observes that the Indian Aryan lives this life with a full consciousness of his being a temporary sojourner, who has no permanent interest whatever in the things of this world. Being given to spiritual pursuits rather than to earthly comforts, he is by nature better fitted to solve the problem of existence which puzzles many a thinker and metaphysician of our age.

All these branches of learning take their origin from the book of religion called the Veda (Knowledge), from Sanskrit vid (Latin, videre), to know. This the Indians believe to be the ​Knowledge of the Universal Spirit, as distinguished from the knowledge of an individual mortal. They believe that the creation has a maker, who is eternal and is without a cause, and who, as He has evolved the Universe out of His inner consciousness, is a Knowing Being, and, being Knowing and Eternal, is all Happiness which knows no diminution.

The Veda is supposed to be His revealed knowledge. Knowledge, they believe, is acquired and not created. If knowledge could be created, instruction, they argue, would, as a rule, become futile. From time immemorial it is being handed down from father to son, from preceptor to disciple. The Indians therefore trace all knowledge under the sun from the Supreme High, who is the fountain-head of learning, Ishanas sarvavidyanam (Yajur Ved), i.e., Lord of all kinds of knowledge, the source from which all knowledge flows. So they will never accept a statement unless it is supported by the testimony of what has been revealed to them in their Scriptures, or by the testimony of bygone ages. Their line of investigation thus essentially differs from that followed by the modern investigators, who are solely guided by their intelligence in establishing ​a truth, which must remain under trial until Science in its progressive course has reached its goal.

The Vedas are four in number, viz. : — Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda. We will not pause to discuss the various points by which the Brahmans, who are the custodians of the sacred lore of India, try to establish the eternity of their inspired writings. Suffice it to say, that in computing time by regular divisions and assigning dates to events of antiquity, the ideas of the Eastern and the Western people widely differ. Some Western authorities assert that man did not exist on the surface of the earth prior to B.C. 3000 while in Indian cosmogony deeds are recorded of persons said to have flourished in the previous Yugas or cycles of time thus divided : —

  1. Krita Yuga lasted for 1,728,000 years.
  2. Treta Yuga lasted for 1,296,000 years.
  3. Dvapara Yuga lasted for 864,000 years.
  4. Kali Yuga will last for 432,000 years.

The Kali Yuga is the present age of the world, and is said to have begun on Friday, the 18th February, B.C. 3102. These cycles go on ​revolving like the wheel on its axle, and bear some resemblance to the golden, silver, brazen and iron ages of the Greeks. Even the European chronologists, who, according to the Hindus, are always disposed to modernise events, admit that the Vedas must have been composed about 4000 years ago. It has not been shown that any specific book was extant at a time when the Vedas were not in existence. This, at any rate, makes the Vedas older than any other writing on the surface of the earth. In the works of Manu and Panini who, according to the Western Orientalists flourished in B.C. 800 (Wilson) and B.C. 600 (Goldstiicker) respectively, the Vedas are described as eternal (Anadi).

Thus in point of antiquity the Vedas stand pre-eminently the first. Some European scholars, attempting to translate portions of the Hindu Scriptures by the help of grammar and dictionary, but failing to grasp the real meaning, have — and no wonder — succeeded in belittling the sublime ideas therein contained. For the true interpretation of an extremely old and esoteric work, taught and learnt by the initiates only, must be acquired from those who have from generations past studied it systematically with the help of the key they possess.

Still, ​according to the showing of these very scholars, the civilisation of the Veclic period can compare favourably with the civilisation of our modern times. The Vedic Aryan cultivated his land (vide Rig Veda, iii. 8, which says : "Let the bullocks carry the load and the cultivators till the ground let the plough cut up the earth well"), and lived in neat and handsome mansions (vide Rig Veda, i. 2 : "0 Earth, give us large and habitable palaces ! "). He wore neck ornaments and ear rings. The patriarch considered it his sacred duty to be a warrior, and he attended military classes for his education. He was protected by his armour {Rig Veda, i.); musicians were employed to chant hymns. Elephants were trained, and horses were gorgeously caparisoned. Artisans were liberally patronised for their manufactures.

The Yajur Veda mentions weavers, sculptors, carpenters and other artisans, besides almost all the articles of manufacture generally used by a refined society. Women were well dressed, and held a high social position. The people had advanced in political condition. The Krishna Yajur Veda (i. 2-9) mentions kings, queens, commanders-in-chief, coach-drivers, magistrates (puradhyaksha), village officers, treasurers, ​revenue collectors (bhagadugh), and other accessories of an established government. Honesty in mercantile transactions is referred to in Rig Veda, iii. 6, wherein also are mentioned stone-built cities. Other references might be given representing the Vedic Aryan as well versed in war and politics, bright, clever, merciful, righteous and devoted to the protection of his family.

Some Western scholars have hazarded an opinion that the Vedic Aryans were not acquainted with the art of writing;. But this statement is not supported by evidence. On the contrary, we meet both in the Rig Veda and the Yajur Veda with such expressions as likhitam (written), khurbhuj (pen), vacham pashyan (seeing the words, i.e., reading) and so forth. The religion and philosophy inculcated in the Veda are acknowledged to be of the sublimest character. All this unmistakably proves that the Aryans were the most enlightened race in the dawn of history.

Such a state of civilisation, which exercises a potent influence on Indian society even to this date, could not have been attained in a day. It must have required a long course of training, and must take the nation back to the remotest antiquity. When the state of civilisation was so ​perfect, and when all sorts of useful sciences were regularly studied, there should be no wonder if the science of Medicine too received its share of attention. This Science forms part of the Vedas, and is called "Ayur Veda" or the "Science of Life."

It is based on Rig Veda in so far as it relates to the knowledge of medicine, while the surgery it treats of seems to have derived its origin from the Atharva Veda. Though an Upa Veda or Supplemental Veda, the science is considered to be co-existent with the "First Teacher," who is the "primary cause" of the whole universe. The science has passed through various vicissitudes. It will not therefore be out of place to trace its origin and development as succinctly as possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rajasekhar1961

Suggestions for Further Reading

Source: Chapter 1, 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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