The term Shalyam is derived from the root "Shala" or Shvala" (to go swiftly) joined to the Unadi affix "Yat." Shalyas may be divided into two kinds according as they are extrinsic (Agantuka) or idiopathic (Sharira) in their origin.
A Shalyam usually serves to act as an impeding or obstructing agent to the entire organism, and, hence, the science which deals with its nature and characteristics is called the Shalya-Shastram (Surgery). An idiopathic (Sharira) Shalyam may be either a hair, nail, embolised blood (Dhatus)*, etc., excrements (Mala), or deranged humours of the body (Dosha), while an extrinsic Shalyam should be regarded as one which afflicts the body and is originated from a source other than any of the preceding ones, including particles of iron and bone, stems of grass, scrapings of bamboo, and bits of horns, etc. But an Agantuka (extrinsic) Shalyam specifically denotes an article of iron, inasmuch as it pre-eminently serves the purpose of killing and is the most irresistible of all metals. Since any amount of sharpness can be imparted to the point of an article made of iron and since it can be easily discharged from a distance, iron is the metal exclusively chosen in the construction of darts or arrows.
* Embolism and Thrombosis have been included within Shalyam by the Ayurvedic Pathologists.
Arrows (Shara) may be divided into two classes according as they are feathered or unfeathered; and their barbs are usually constructed in the shape of trees, leaves, flowers, or fruits, or are made to resemble the mouths of birds and wild and ferocious animals.
The flights or directions of an arrow (Shalyam) may be divided into five different kinds, such as the upward, the downward, the backward (coining from the back), the oblique and the straight. Either through its diminished momentum, or through any external resistance, an arrow may drop down and penetrate into the skin, arteries, or any internal channel of the body, or into any bone or its cavity, causing a wound or an ulcer (Vrana) at the spot of its penetration.
Now hear me describe the symptoms which are exhibited in connection with an arrow-wound (Shalya*-Vrana). These symptoms may be grouped under two sub-heads, such as the specific and the general. The general characteristics are as follows: - The ulcer, which is marked by pain and swelling and presents a raised or bloated aspect like a water bubble, assumes a dark brown hue and appears soft to the touch. The seat of the ulcer is seen to be studded over with pustular eruptions and a constant bleeding sets in from its inside. The specific symptoms, which mark a Shalyam lodged in the skin, are the hardness and extended character of the local swelling and the darkness (discolouring) of its skin.
* An arrow or an iron barb, from "Shala" to kill.
In a case where the arrow (Shalyam) is lodged in the flesh, the swelling increases in size and the incidental ulcer refuses to be healed and cannot bear the least pressure. Suppuration sets in and the ulcer is characterised by a sort of sucking pain. *
All the preceding symptoms, with the exception of swelling and sucking pain (thirst according to others), manifest themselves in a case where the arrow (Shalyam) has penetrated into a muscle. Similarly, the distension, aching and swelling of a vein mark a case of an arrow-lodged vein. An upheaval and swelling of its fibres together with intense pain characterise a case where the shaft (Shalyam) has lodged in a ligament. The internal passages or channels (Srota) of the body are choked up and become inoperative, when the shaft is lodged in any one of them. A flow of red and frothy blood with a gurgling sound, accompanied by thirst, nausea, and aching of the limbs, sets in when the arrow is lodged in an artery (Dhamani). Similarly, pain and swelling of diverse kinds mark a case where the shaft is embedded in a bone. The appearance of goose flesh on the skin, a stuffed sensation inside the cavity of the affected bone, and a violent piercing bone-ache, mark a case where the shaft has found a lodgment inside the cavity of a bone. A pierced joint exhibits the same symptoms as described in connection with an arrow-lodged bone, with the exception that the patient is incapable of flexing and expanding the affected joint. In a case where the shaft (Shalyam) has lodged in the abdomen (Koshtha), the bowels become constipated; the abdomen becomes distended with a rumbling in the intestines and the suppression of flatus and urine; and ingested food matter, as well as urine and feces are found to ooze out of the fissure or mouth of the ulcer. Symptoms, similar to those above described, manifest themselves when the arrow is lodged in any of the vital parts (Marmas) of the body. The preceding symptoms are but faintly exhibited in a case of superficial penetration.
* According to certain authorities the patient is tormented with a sort of unquenchable thirst.
An ulcer incidental to the penetration of an arrow (Shalyam), along the direction of the local hair, in * the throat, in any internal channel of the body, or in a vein, the skin, or a muscle, or into a cavity of the bone, and not in any way affected by the action of the deranged bodily humours, may speedily and spontaneously heal; but it may break open and become painful afresh if the bodily humours become deranged and aggravated by a blow or physical exercise.