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Thursday, January 04, 2007

History of Indian Medicine

One usually hears lot of things about Indian Medicine - snickering from westernized Indians to complete faith and admiration for the medical science by large number of people.

Now there is actually the entire history of Indian Medicine in a multiple volume book (via IndiaArchaeology group):

G. JAN MEULENBELD: A History of Indian Medical Literature. (Groningen Oriental Studies Volume XV/I–III.) Groningen: Egbert Forsten (Ia and Ib) 1999; (IIa and IIb) 2000; (III) 2002. Ia: 1 frontispiece, xvii, 699 pp.; Ib: 1 frontispiece, vi, 774 pp.; IIa: 1 frontispiece, viii, 839 pp. (in addition: reprint of 19 pages defective in Ia); IIb: 1 frontispiece, viii, 1018 pp.; III (Indexes):1 frontispiece, ii, 549 pp. 600.

With a total of 4,020 pages with 36,600 footnotes in five volumes, G. Jan Meulenbeld produced A History of Indian Medical Literature.

Dominik Wujastyk, while reviewing the book, says, "A colleague working on tantric sources recently sent me an email that is typical of responses to HIML: 'To say that it's a goldmine, awesome, etc. is an understatement. I can hardly conceive of one person doing all that work in one lifetime'. "

Interesting points in the review:

Volumes Ia (text) and Ib (footnotes) are dedicated to the foundation works of ayurveda, the CarakasamD hitar, the SusarutasamD hitar, the AsD t D arndgahr D dayasamD hitar and the AsD t D arndgasamD graha....The identities and roles of the key contributors to the text of the CarakasamD hitar, A¯ treya, Agnives´a, Caraka and DrDdDhabala, are discussed at length. The persons called Susaruta and their identities are examined, as well Dhanvantari, Divodarsa, and the problem of the later revision and expansion of the SusarutasamD hitar, including the role, if any, of a Nargarrjuna in this process, are all detailed....He examines and rejects the opinion of Hilgenberg and Kirfel that the SamD graha is an enlarged version of the Hr D daya,...

The early compendia called ‘the great triad (br D hattrayi)’—those ascribed to Caraka, Susaruta and VargbhatDa—are works that at least most Indologists have heard of, if not studied. But volumes IIa and IIb of HIML will reveal to many for the first time the staggering volume and diversity of scientific literary production in the post-classical period. They survey the thousands of Indian medical works written from about AD 600 up to the present....

Volume II opens up a vast new arena for research. And while all periods produced unique and important works, it is particularly fascinating to see that the rate of literary production in no way diminished in the later periods. Authors in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries produced a rich and important crop of diverse medical treatises, often describing new diseases, new theories, new treatments, and new medicines. These facts decisively contradict the two common opinions that post-classical Indian medicine was static and unchanging, and that medical creativity entered a dark age after VargbhatDa.

...Meulenbeld makes the point that HIML is not and does not seek to be a ‘continuous history of Indian medical literature’ in the sense of providing what one might call a ‘story’...But Meulenbeld notes that with the publication of HIML, it is now possible for someone else to ‘take upon himself the duty of composing a readable, yet accurate and detached, history of Indian medicine and its literature’. ...

Almost every page of HIML contains nuggets of cultural and historical gold. For example, when Meulenbeld is discussing the KalyarnD akarraka by the Deccani Jaina author Ugrarditya he notes that ‘The developed state of alchemy in a [South Indian] treatise from the ninth century can only be explained by assuming that this science originated in Southern India and spread from here to the northern parts of the country much later’ (IIa, 155). Such incidental remarks, arising out of the close scrutiny of particular texts, can be expected gradually but profoundly to affect the alignment of many other aspects of Indian literary and cultural history. (Bold mine)

And the bibliography is online:

Volume IIa is completed by a bibliography, the most substantial ever published for ayurveda. This bibliography has also now appeared as a database available for consultation on the Internet. An Annotated Bibliography of the History of Indian Medicine is (in 2003–04) at the address http://www.ub.rug.nl/indianmedicine/. It contains some 10,000 entries, and is due to be updated as new publications appear: submissions are invited. The online bibliography is
searchable in various ways, including keyword, adding greatly to its value as a research tool.