Ancient India saw great advancements in medical science. Some of these fields were dental surgery, cataract extraction and plastic surgery. It is amazing that even in the absence of anesthesia some of the complex operations are performed. Around 800 B. C the first instances of surgery were recorded. It was considered as one of the eight branches of Ayurveda. Shushruta- Samhita is the oldest treatise dealing with surgery. The main medical practitioners were Atraya, Charaka and Shusruta.
Shushruta studied human anatomy with an aid of a dead body. He had described in great detail surgery in eight parts which included chedya,lekhya,vedhya,esya,ahrya,vsraya and sivya. He excelled in plastic surgery and ophthalmology (removing cataracts). The restoration of mutilated nose or rhinoplasty was one of the greatest contributions of Shushruta. The success rate was very high attracting people from all the country and outside. He meticulously carried out the operation almost similar to the steps followed by modern day plastic surgeons.
Medical tradition goes back to Vedic period when Dhanvantari was worshipped as God of medicine and Ashwin Kumars were given divine status. Ayurvedawas an indigenous system of medicine meaning the science of longevity. It constitutes information about diseases, their diagnosis and expected cures. Charaka was a noted Ayurveda practitioner who wrote that physician who fails to enter the body of a patient with the lamp of knowledge and understanding can never treat diseases. He put more emphasis on prevention rather than cure.
He made these remarks in his famous treatise Charaka Samahita which are held in great reverence even today. The other notable fields were physiology, etiology and embryology. He also wrote extensively on digestion, metabolism and immune system. He wrote that body functions as it contains three dosha- bile, phlegm and wind. These are produced when dhatus – blood, flesh and marrow act on food consumed. The body becomes sick when there is imbalance between three doshas. He prescribed drugs to restore this balance.
Charaka also wrote about genetics like the factors responsible for sex of a child. Agnivesa another famous physician wrote an encyclopedic treatise in the eighth- century B. C. Ayurveda as an art of healing was treated with respect in ancient period. The knowledge was systemized being considered at par with Vedas. This body of knowledge was spread among sages, hermits and other religious men who moved from one place to another. Those who solely practiced this were known as Vaidyas belonging to Brahmin caste. The treatises of ayurveda were passed from generations to generations.