Back of the Book
Caraka, the master physician, is believed to have lived in the first century AD. The Samhita composed by him forms the bedrock of ayurvedic practice today. His contribution to India's cultural inheritance was profound.
Caraka Samhita was, in fact, a revision of an older text Agnivesa Tantra, which was written several centuries before Caraka's time. Caraka's revision became so popular that it was translated into Tibetan, Arabic, English and many Indian languages. The Legacy of Caraka retells the Samhita in a new format. Instead of adhering to the sequence of the Sthanas in the original, the author has retold the Samhita through thematically structured chapter, in contemporary idiom. The retelling has involved some degree of restructuring and condensation but ha ensured that whatever is stated can be traced back to the original. In a detailed introduction, the author has commented on specific of view of modern medicine.
This book will be special interest to students of Ayurveda, medicine and other sciences, and those interested in the history of science in India.
About the Author
A native of Kerala, Dr. MS Valiathan received his medical education in India and subsequent training in surgery and cardiac surgery in the UK and USA. During a career spanning three decades as a cardiac surgeon and investigator, his major interests were cardiac surgery in children, studies on a tropical heart muscle disease and the development of cardiovascular devices. His contributions in these areas are embodied in a monograph and many scientific papers. A Vice-Chancellorship followed before he took up the study of the Caraka Samhita as Homi Bhabha Senior Fellow at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Karnataka, India.
Dr. Valiathan is married to Ashima, an orthodontist. They have a daughter, Manna, and a son Manish.
This book had its origin in the Gandhi Memorial Lecture I was privileged to give at the Raman Research Institute, Bangalore. I had heard of Caraka from my school days but to read his Samhita many years later was to come under the spell of a master physician whose contribution to India's cultural inheritance was profound. I was tempted to retell Caraka Samhita in a format which, I thought, would appeal to the students of ayurveda, medicine and other sciences at the college level and all others interested in the history of science in India. The hesitation I had in an ayurvedic excursion was overcome by the encouragement I received from Sri Raghavan Thirumulpad - a renowned savant of Kerala - who never spared himself in guiding me during my two year journey through Caraka country. In the large body of Car aka literature I consulted, the commentary of Cakrapani and translation by Prof PV Sharma were of utmost help to me. However, instead of adhering to the sequence of Sthanas in the original, I have retold the Samhita through thematically structured chapters which, one hopes, would be easier on modern readers. The retelling has involved some degree of restructuring and condensation but has ensured that whatever is stated can be traced back to the original and that no chapter in the eight Sthanas of the original has been left out. In the introduction, I have commented on some aspects of Caraka's philosophy, concepts and practice which could be of interest to the academic community in the present context.
I am grateful to Dr PM Unnikrishnan of the Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions, Bangalore for reading my manuscript and not only suggesting emendations and refinements but also assisting in the preparation of a glossary. Professor KV Sarma, whose studies on ancient science texts in Sanskrit are models of scholarship, has laid me under an obligation by making an index for this volume. It is a pleasure to acknowledge the assistance of Dr Indira Balachandran of the Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal for checking the botanical names of plants (see Botanical Names). The identification and terminology of plants mentioned by Caraka are beset with great difficulties and any errors which persist are entirely mine. I am grateful to Mr Abraham Joy for preparing the illustrations and drawing inspiration for his work from the carvings of the Kusana period when Caraka is believed to have lived. The rich collection of photographs of the sculptures of the Kusana period in the American Institute of Indian Studies, Delhi, provided the material for introducing authenticity into the drawings of Mr Joy. For estimating the number of references to various disorders, 1 was generously supplied a digitised version of the Caraka Samhita by Prof Yamashita of the Kyoto University. My sincere thanks are due to him and to my daughter and a pathologist, Manna, who carried out the computer search for references. I am indebted to Prof PSVN Sharma of, the Kasturba Medical College, Manipal for facilitating my search for modern psychiatric resonance in Caraka's description of insanity I must also place on record a debt of gratitude to my family who have ungrudgingly stood by me through my busy surgical decades and subsequent digressions into unrelated territories.
I was honoured by the Homi Bhabha Council who awarded me a Senior Fellowship, and would convey my sincere thanks to the Trustees for their support. 1 am beholden to Dr Ramdas M Pai, President of the Manipal Academy of Higher Education for the facilities given 1'0 me [or carrying out the study in Manipal. It is a pleasure to extend my sincere thanks to Ms Usha Kamath for preparing the manuscript with great care and admirable efficiency and Ms. Padmaja Anant of Orient Longman Private Limited for her editorial thoroughness and excellence. If the book succeeds in drawing wider attention to the theme of Caraka's legacy, its pages will have amply rewarded one of my best hopes.
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