Classical Sanskrit literature has been studied and analysed by
several scholars for the light it throws on contemporary cultural
conditions and the history of the different branches of thought
and learning in ancient India. Literature mirrors up life as a
whole and while the work of a great poet like Kalidasa isespe-
clally rich in such cultural material imbedded in it, that of bana
in prose is, in this respect, a veritable encyclopaedia. The
correlation of general literature with the technical texts of a
branch of knowledge is necessary in the study of that branch. I
have emphasised the value of this 'contextual' study elsewhere.
For scientific and technical branches, such a study of general
literature is more important than for other subjects. It is there-
fore a fruitful line of work that Dr. Priya Vrata Sharma has taken
up in the present work of his entitled 'Indian Medicine in the
Dr. Sharma, an Acarya in Ayurveda and Snhitya and also M.
A., is now Head of the Dravya-Guna Department of the Institute
of Medical Sciences and Ex-Director of the Post-Graduate Institute
of Indian Medicine in the Banaras Hindu University. He has
done special work on Ayurvedic texts particularly Nighantus bear-
ing on materia medica.
Although the present volume is not large in size, it makes a
detailed analysis of leading Sanskrit classics, prominently those of
Bana,and brings together all the data bearing on the place of
Ayurveda in the curriculum of studies, its branches, the practice of
medicine, economic and other conditions of medical men in court
and society, charitable dispensaries, basic concepts of Ayur.
veda, the hnman system according to it, preventive medicine and
health, materia medica, and preparation of medicines. There
are two sections one on the Indian Medicine in General and other
on the list of drugs mentioned in different texts. The Sanskrit passa-
ges which are pressed into service are quoted in the footnotes to
help verification. I am sure, students studying 'Ayurveda on the one
hand and on the other, those interested in cultural history will
find the book useful and interesting.
'Indian Medicine in the classical age' is intended to depict
the status and condition of various branches of Indian Medi-
cine popularly known as Ayurveda during the period called
as classical age. This age covers the Gupta and Post-Gupta
periods extending somewhat beyond that. In figures it is
taken from 320 A. D., the date of the foundation of the Gupta
empire, to 740 A. D. when Yasovarman of Kanauja died.
During this period the Indian culture was in its full bloom and
was not polluted by Mohammedan invasion.
Gupta period is regarded as the golden age of the Indian
history in which almost every branch of Indian learning was
enriched by fresh works having new outlook. There was
synthesis of old and new with the spirit of investigation for
truth. The old concepts which did not stand the test were
discarded and the new ones which were reasonable were
adopted. In a sense, there was revival of human potentia-
lities which pervaded all fields of human activities. Human
victories were described as those of the gods and common
emotions and passions were seen in gods and human beings.
In this way, Man was exalted to the position of god.
In such a period it was but natural that superb literary
works appeared on the horizon of Indian scholarship. For
instance, Kalidasa, Aryasura, Visakhadatta, Subandhu, Bana-
bhatta, Sudraka, Bharavi, Sriharsa, Dandi, Magha, Vakpatiraja
and Bhavabhuti came up in the field of Poetry while Varaha
Mihira and Vagbhata were in the sphere of Astronomy and
Medicine. In other fields, Kasika (Grammer), Amarakosa
( Lexicon ), Vatsyayana's Kamasutra ( Sexology) Nyayavartika
and Prasastapada Bhasya (Philosophy), Yajnavalkya Smrti
( Moral and legal code) are important works' of this period.
There is some difference of opinion regarding date of Kau-
tilya's Arthasastra. Some scholars place it in Maurya's period
while others put it in Gupta period. Following the latter
scholars I have utilised this work here. Puranas are also
said to have compiled and given a finishing touch during this
period. Particularly Shrimadbhagwata, Visnu, Vayu, Mar-
kandeya, Matsya, Brahmanda and Visnu Dharmottera Puranas
represent this age fully. Kumarila and Sankara stand at
the other edge of this period illuminating the glorious past.
Particularly the Bhasya of Sankaracarya on Brahmasutra,
Bhagwadgita and Upanisads deserves special mention. Three
Chinese travellers came to India during this period and left
their valuable records. They were -Fahian, Yuan Chwang and
ltsing. There are also epigraphical evidences.
In this work, all the informations relating to Medicine
have been collected from the above sources and arranged in a
systematic manner according to different branches of Indian
Medicine. Section I is devoted to Indian Medicine in general
and Section II on materials relating to plant science and
vegetable and other drugs.
Bana Bhatta, who was attached to the court of King
Harsavardhana (606-648 A. D.) has been the main source.
His monumental works, Harsacarita and Kadambari, apart from
being literary samples are important historical documents
depicting the cultural condition of that period. Bana travelled
from one corner to another and had wide experience of nature
and society. Therefore, it is also a valuable source for
knowing the condition of Indian Medicine at that time. Some
later works like Rajasekhara's Kavyamimansa and Prabandha-
cintamani have also been utilised for comparison and additional
In Appendix I to IV Drugs mentioned in the works of
Kalidasa, Varahamihira, Amara Singh and Bana Bhatta have
Panca Tantra is said to be one of the works belonging to
the Gupta Period. In this work, Vatsyayana ( 1. 88, 89 ),
Varahamihira (1. 101), Magha (1. 113; 3. 7, 20) and Sali-
hotra ( 5. 57, 61) have been quoted and as such it may be
placed after Magha, this work could not be utilised in the
text, hence the relevant material has been given in a seperate
Medicine is a permanent companion of man from the
very beginning. It has taken the responsibility of protecting
him from various ravages and thus regulated his life, habits
and customs, daily routine, food etc. accordingly so as to
enable him to adjust to environment properly. In this way
it becomes a part and parcel of the culture of the people. It
also influences the thinking of the scholars and is projected
in their writings. The poets and writers were also expected
to have knowledge of other branches of learning like Medi-
cine and Astronomy. Therefore, the status and condition of
Medicine of any age is better known by non-medical sources.
So in this work, only non-medical sources have been utilised.
The classical age is important from the point of view of
development of medicine in theory as well as practice. Now
the Sun of learning was rising and shining in the East. The
University of Taksasila had waned and the University of
Nalanda was founded during the reign of Kumiiragupta I and
was in full bloom during the reign of Harsa Vardhana.
Medicine was a compulsory subject in the curriculum there.
The network of hospitals and dispensaries initiated by Asoka
was greatly expanded in the Gupta empire. In Kumrahara
excavations ( Patna), there is a site of Arogyavihara with a
competent technical and nursing staff. There was trade of
medicinal substances inside' and outside the country. All
branches of Ayurveda developed to a great extent. Particular
mention may be made of Rasa Sastra which is said to have
beginning during this period. Like other classics, the old
medical literature was redacted and renovated while other
treatises like Astanga Samgraha and Astanga Hrdaya were
written suited to the needs of that time. In this work an
attempt has been made to highlight all these achievements.
This study may also be helpful in identification of some
medicinal plants and thus in resolving the existing con-
troversy regarding them. With this idea botanical names
of most of the plants have been given alongwith the original
I hope, this work will be of use not only to scholars of
Indian Medicine but also .to those working in the field of
Indian culture, Botany and Agriculture.
I express my sincere gratitude to Dr. V. Raghavan, a
pioneer in the field of Sanskrit and Culture, for writing the
foreword of this book. I am also thankful to the publishers;
the Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series. Varanasi for bringing out
this publication. Thanks are also due to my colleagues Dr.
Damodar Joshi and Dr. Jharkhande Ojha who assisted me'
in translation of some portion and collection of some material
respectively. Shri Sankatha Prasad and Shri Deva Nandan
Mishra have taken great pains in preparing the Press Copy
for which I am very much thankful to them.
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