Sharngadhara Samhita

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The earliest Indian medical treatise to mention of nadi-pariksha (pulse examinations) is of the twelfth century. Written in the 13th century, Sharangadhara Samhita describes different types of pulse in different disease conditions.

Sharangadhara Samhita is not a tantric treatise though the author devotes the "Madhya khanda" to a detailed description of metals and their purification, mercury and the methods of 'swooning', 'killing' and fixing of mercury. It follows the orthodox system of therapeutics of the ancient classical authorities, but admits into the Indian pharmocopoeia, important drugs like mercury and opium, and utilizes them in therapy.

It also marks certain important advances in the physiology of respiration, in medical diagnosis and therapeutics. Sharangadhara Samhita was translated into Hindi, Gujrati, Bengali and Marathi; this shows that it was very popular.
Two commentaries on Sharangadhara Samhita were written: one by Adhamalla called Dipika in the thirteenth century, the second by Kashiram called Gurartha dipika in the sixteenth century.

To the middle of the sixteenth century belongs Bhava Misra whose treatise Bhavaprakasha is an important medical work. Bhava Misra is the last of the great men of Indian Medicine. He was the son o fLataka Misra and lived at Varanasi in the year A.D. 1550. He was considered as "a jewel among the physicians" and the best of the scholars of his time. He is said to have taught and trained at least 400 students in medicine.

In his important and voluminous treatise called Bhavaprakasha he describes the best of the available material of the previous authors and sets forth his own views and experiences. It is also divided into three khandas (parts) : purva, madhya and uttara. In it the author systematically deals with the origin of Indian medicine, cosmology, human anatomy, embryology, physiology, pathology, medicine, diseases of the children, surgery, Materia Medica, therapeutics, dietetics, rejuvenants and elixirs to prolong life. His clear style and excellent arrangement of the subject matter has thrown a flood of light on many obscure and disputed views of the ancient writers. He describes nadi-pariksha (examination of the pulse) and also the use of mercury and opium.
By the time of Bhava Misra, foreigners from European countries, particularly Portuguese, had started pouring into India to enrich themselves by commercial pursuits. Many of them, however, were suffering from syphilis and so passed on the .disease to the Indian population also. Indian physicians were quite unfamiliar with this scourge and all their previous medical treatises were silent on this subject, even though they did describe other diseases of the genital organs. A new name was needed for this malady and as this disease was brought into the country by the Portuguese, it was called Phiranga roga. Mercury in the form of calomel, catechu, Spilanthese oleracea and honey in certain proportions are the recommended medicines. Certain other recipes are also mentioned.

Bhava Misra's Bhavaprakasha is still popular and is consulted by Ayurvedic physicians in India. He composed another small pharmacological work called Gunaratnamala. It mentions China root called Tobchini in the vernacular, as a remedy of "phiranga roga." He was the first to mention certain drugs of foreign countries as badhkashani naspasi, khorabani and parasika vacha (Acorus calamus), sulemani kharjura (date fruit of Suleman) and opium. Surgery is mentioned only in brief.
A copy of Bhavaprakasha dated 1558, according to Jolly, was available in Tubingen.
*Source: A Concise History of Science, Atma Ram & Sons.














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