Kashmir's contribution to the field of Medicine

We have been listening, telling, reading and writing about Kashmir’s contribution to the world in the field of literature, art, architecture, music, dance, drama, language, culture, philosophy, history, civilization, religion, spirituality and tradition.

Some important contributions made by Kashmir could not be articulated in an organised manner due to various reasons in the past. One such area remains as the field of medicine and surgery.

The Indian contribution in the field of 3Ms (Music, Medicine and Mathematics) to the world is well researched and documented, however, in the overall Indian contributions, Kashmir’s contribution forms an important part. Medicine and surgery are the two important fields that require more research and study in the modern context.

The cherished history and tradition of Bharatvarsha throws light on the great luminaries belonging to the field of medicine and surgery. It includes the names of Lord Dhanvantri, Ashwani Kumars, Atreya, Agnivesa, Sushruta, Charaka and Vagabhat. Many believe that Sushruta was born in Kashmir but there is no conclusive evidence to that effect till date.

Sushruta is considered as the great and the first surgeon of the world. He was born in India 600 BC. He is recognized as the ‘Father of Surgery’ worldwide. His contributions are immense for the mankind.  Sushruta was an ancient Indian physician and a surgeon specialist.

His textbooks had 134 chapters describing 1120 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants and 64 mineral preparations. He did many procedures such as incision, probing, surgery of hemorrhoids and fistulae, as well as cataract surgery.

He is also known as the “father of plastic surgery”. His contribution includes the fields of physiology, aetiology, embryology, metabolism and immunity. Sushruta is the pioneer of three hundred different types of operations and he described 125 surgical instruments including the endoscope and an instrument that would cut a hair vertically. One would feel proud to see Sushruta’s statue installed in the Royal College of Surgery, Melbourne-Australia.

It is unfortunate that the British sponsored education system in India kept these important aspects of Indian history under the carpet all along in India. The works of Sushruta are known as “Sushrutsamhita”.

Born in 300 BC in Kashmir, Acharya Charaka is recognised as a great luminary in the field of Ayurveda. His renowned work, the “Charak Samhita”, is considered as an encyclopedia of Ayurveda. His principles, diagnoses, treatment and cures retain their potency and truth even after two thousand years.

When the science of anatomy was confused with different theories in the world, Acharya Charaka made known through his genius and enquiries the facts on human anatomy, embryology, pharmacology, blood circulation and diseases like diabetes, tuberculosis, heart disease, etc. He is considered to have diagnosed diabetes for the first time in the world.

Under the guidance of the ancient physician Atreya, Agnivesa had written an encyclopedic treatise in the eighth century B.C. However, it was only when Charaka revised this treatise that it gained popularity and came to be known as ‘Charakasamhita’.

His standard work on the subject was translated into many foreign languages, including English, Arabic and Latin. He had established his Ashram in Himalayas (presently Charekh village, Kotdwara district in Uttrakhand). There is also a strong tradition of belief in the village Charekh that Acharya Charaka belonged to Kashmir.

The Kashmir born Acharya Charaka says: “A physician who fails to enter the body of a patient with the lamp of knowledge and understanding can never treat diseases.

He should first study all the factors, including environment, which influence a patient’s disease, and then prescribe treatment. It is more important to prevent the occurrence of disease than to seek a cure!”

It is a pleasure to be informed that Dr. Abhijeet Saraf, a young Maharashtrian Ayurveda professor, based at Nasik created history by doing his Phd. on Charaka some years before.

He accomplished his research and documented the huge work in Sanskrit. He is presently a practicing doctor in Nasik and is regularly contributing in his field by his write-ups, lectures and debates on the subject. He has also a special love for the birth land of Charaka -Kashmir.

Dr. Saraf, besides his Phd. on Kashmir-born Acharya Charak and Charaksamhita has also a lot of works to his credit. The Gold medalist doctor gives the names of a series of ancient Vaidhacharyas of Kashmir who had immense contribution in the field of Surgery and Medicine.

His research gives a list of such luminaries of Kashmir along with their works.

Some of the names along with their works include: Chikitsalika by Tisat, Sushrutpathshudi by Chandrat-son of Tisat, Charaksamhitasampurn by Yogratan Samuchya Dradhbal, Ashtanghirdeyteeka and Padarthchandrika by Chandranandan, Sidhavaidh by Ravinandan, Shashilekhateeka on Ashtanghahridey and Ashtangasangrah by Indu, Gadnigrah and Gunsangrah by Shodhal, Sangeetratnakar and Adhyatamvivek by Sharangdev, Vitastatatey Kushpurnivasi gudharthadeepika on Vaidhjeevan by Goswami Harinath,  Rajnighantu by Narhari Pandit and Kashmir key Mahaan Vaidh by Ishwarsuri.

Besides these great names of Vaidhacharyas of the ancient times, there are some very famous names of Kashmir who achieved brilliance during the medieval times and the modern times as well.

The ancient and the medieval luminaries in this field would be called “Bhats”.  Sirya Bhat or Acharya Shribhat is one such name of the medieval times who achieved brilliance in the field of medicine and surgery. He also played a key role in the field of politics and governance.

He cured King Zainulabidin who suffered due to deep and chronic ulcers. In recent times, Hakim Shyam Bhat and Jia Lal Kakroo (Vaidhji) of Habbakadal-Srinagar are a few great names who achieved both excellence and popularity in the Vale of Kashmir. While Vaidhji’s diagnoses were exceptional, Hakim Shyam Bhat’s treatment had no parallel.

Over the last one century, when modern system of medicine and surgery crept in, Kashmir produced a strong battery of brilliant doctors, academicians and celebrities in this field.

Their diagnoses, treatment, study and research have brought laurels to the Jammu and Kashmir State and also to the Indian nation. The brilliant names from Kashmir in the Allopathic system of cure and medicine made their mark not only at a regional and national level but also at an international level.

Dr. Gwash Lal Kaul MRCP was a renowned physician of the early era of the last century. He is considered as the father of the modern medical lineage of the Kashmir valley.

He was closely followed by Dr. Shambhu Nath Peshin FRCS and KP leader who established National Hospital in Srinagar.  Dr. Jia Lal Ogra, Dr. S.N.Ghassi, Dr. (Col) Saligram Kaul MD, FRCP, first Principal GMC, Srinagar, Dr. Gopi Nath Wali, Dr. Sri Kanth Shangloo and  Dr. Pran Nath Kaul, Chest Specialist were the household names for half  a century in the Kashmir valley. Dr. Ali Muhammad. Jan MRCP, Dr. Allaqband MRCP, Dr. Ghulam Rasool FRCS, Dr. Syed Naseer Ahmed Shah FRCP and Dr. (Capt.) Ali Mohammad. gave a great meaning to the profession of Medicine and Surgery.

Some of the medical practitioners and academicians earned great name outside the valley as well. Dr. Roshan Lal Wakhloo, Afzal Wani, Neuro Surgeon, Dr. Nazeer Khan, Surgeon, Dr. Amar Nath Safaya, Anatomist (AIIMS), Dr. Shiban Warikoo, Dr. Tej Krishen Mattoo, Nephrology, Dr. Hira Lal Kaul, Anasthesist and Resuscitation Specialist, Dr. Tej Nath Kaul, Dr. Prana Bhat, Dr. Raj Nath Bhat MRCP FRCP and Dr. G.L. Kaw were/are the leading lights of Kashmir.

The lady doctors who earned their place in the then male dominated society of the Kashmir valley included Dr. Jahan Aara Naqshbandi, Dr. Girija Dhar FRCS, DRCOG, Dr. Mahmooda Khan and Dr. Shakti Bhan followed by a number of specialist doctors from the fair sex.

The turn of events  in 1990 in Kashmir did not deter the medical leading lights to spread their radiance in the tough times.

The medical fraternity in the displaced community of Kashmir threw up wonderful names that came forward in the difficult situations and made their mark over the last three decades of exiled life. Dr. K.L.Chaudhary MD, Physician Specialist and prominent writer-activist,  Dr. Sushil Razdan, Neurologist, Dr. P.K.Hak, ENT Specialist, Dr. R.L.Chaudhary, Physician Specialist, Dr. R.K.Saproo, Physician Specialist, Dr. R. K. Chrungoo MS FICS, Laparoscopic Surgeon Specialist, Dr. A.K. Chandra, Pathologist, Dr. Shiban Razdan,    Dr. Durga Nath Bhat, Surgeon, Dr. Mohan Lal Bhat and  Dr. Chand Ji Tikoo, Pathologists became household names.

The quest for brilliance and excellence will continue so will be the quest for service and dedication to the mankind and humanity. As long as the quest continues, gems will also continue to be produced in and from the land of Kashyap –the Kashmir valley.

The field of medicine and surgery will also thrive such gems, and their noble contribution will bloom and blossom that is unheard in the history and fairy tales both. With this will also the journey of Acharya Sushruta and Acharya Charaka continue to inspire the world thousands of years following them.