Ayurveda has been globally accepted as a scientific discipline. This was not the case a century ago. It was on the verge of extinction at that time. There were many reasons for the decline. The most important among them was the official apathy of the colonial rulers. In their enthusiasm to promote allopathy they condemned everything indigenous as fake and fraud. Another reason was the nonavailability of quality medicines. Patients had to prepare the medicines themselves which led to many spurious practices. The third reason for the decline was the lack of proper training to the physicians. Many practitioners did not have the requisite qualification or experience.
The struggle for independence brought a new awakening in the Indian psyche. Indians became conscious of their identity. This led to a search for their roots. They began to bring back the lost traditions. The first decade of the last century saw the efforts for the revitalization of Ayurveda ail through the country. The All India Ayurvedic Congress was established in 1907 in the city of Nasik. Several institutions came up during this period. It was the dawn of renaisance of Ayurveda.
His highest concern was the quality of education. He attempts to introduce a scientific system of education for Ayurveda and to achieve this, he started an Ayurvedapathasala in 1917. He prepared, with the help of his fellow physicians, a scheme and syllabus which provided ample space for new ideas. It was then that he felt the inadequacy of proper text books in Ayurveda. He also found that anatomy was a weak spot in the classical texts. To meet this challenge he started writing a scientific text book. He had three aims in writing a new book.
I. Description of the ancient principles in comparison with modern knowledge. II. Clarification of doubtful portions in the light of new discoveries. III. Elaboration of topics not detailed in the original texts. The course at the end of which the students were awarded the title of 'Aryavaidyan' was described as modified according to the needs of time - kalanusrta pariskarapurvakam. His effort was to enrich the existing knowledge with the flow of new ideas.
He started writing an exhaustive text; Brhaccharlrarp in 1920. In the meanwhile his friends advised him to condense it for the benefit of students. Thus he wrote a Laghusarlra, also called Astangasarira and published it in 1925. The 16th conference of All India Ayurvedic Congress held at Jaipur hailed the work and awarded a certificate of merit to the author. The second edition of it came up in 1961.
It was fifteen years ago, when I visited Kottakkal, for the first time, to preside over the 39th session of the All India Ayurvedic Congress to which the Arya Vaidya Sala had played a generous host, that I had first come across Shri P. S. Varier's Sanskrit treatise on Anatomy, "Brihacchareeram". As I went through its pages I was struck by the thoroughness and excellence of the work. Anatomy, unlike fiction, poetry, philosophy, or popular science, does not offer a fascinating reading by itself. Nor is Sanskrit a language which, considering contemporary linguistic movements and trends, among different States of India, towards according official as well as classical status to every provincial language in the country, can command a readership large enough to encourage or inspire an author to use it as a vehicle of expression with the object of popularising the treatise.
And yet the aptness of the diction, the lucidity of the expression, the simplicity of the language and the clarity of the style, used throughout the work, made for an interesting reading of the contents originally intended to be merely instructive. I should not forget to mention four more desirable factors: the illustrations are profuse and clear, the type is bold, the paper, printing and the general get-up are very good. Above all the coinage of the new terms reveals a pleasing accuracy which masterfully conveys the intended anatomical picture to the mind of the reader.
I will place this book among the best of its class in India, worthy of being prescribed as a Standard Text Book of Anatomy for the Ayurvedic Colleges in the country.
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