Metrical Texts

I shall presently describe the measures, which a physician in the king's service should adopt with a view to protect the life of his royal master, specially from acts of secret poisoning, while mobilizing his armies to invade the territory of a neighbouring monarch accompanied by his chiefs and ministers.

A common practice of the enemy under such circumstances is to poison the wells on the roadside, the articles of food, the shades of trees (shadowy places) and the fuel and forage for cattle; hence it is incumbent on a physician marching with the troops, to inspect, examine and purify these before using any of them, in case they be poisoned. The symptoms and medical treatment will be fully described and discussed later on in the part, entitled the Kalpa Sthanam.

Men, learned in the lore of the Atharva Veda, hold that death may be attributed to a hundred and one different causes, (lit: deaths of a hundred and one kinds) of which one (which is that of an old man naturally and spontaneously expiring) is called natural, while the rest are unnatural or traumatic in their origin. Physicians conversant with the curative virtues of drugs and minerals, and priests well versed in the Vedic Mantras, should jointly protect the king from death, whether due to idiopathic (Doshaja) or extrinsic causes.

The god Brahma disclosed to the world the Atharva Veda together with the eight allied branches of Vedic literature and the science of medicine. And since a priest (Brahmana) is well-versed in the aforesaid branches of study, a physician should act subserviently and occupy a subordinate position to the priest. The death of a king usually leads to a political revolution or to popular disturbances and brings about a confusion among the vocations of the different orders of society. The growth of population markedly suffers through such catastrophies.

As the external features of a king resemble those of a common person, while his (king's) commanding majesty, sacrifice, forbearance and fortune are super-human (in their nature and intensity), therefore a man should, who is prudent and seeks his own good, think reverentially of his king, and propitiate him with tokens of loyalty and allegiance as if he were a deity. A physician, fully equipped with a supply of medicine, should live in a camp not remote from the royal pavilion, and there the persons wounded by shafts of arrows or any other war projectiles, or suffering from the effects of any imbibed poison, should resort to him (the physician), conspicuous like a triumphant ensign for his fame and professional success. A physician, well versed in his own technical science, and commanding a fair knowledge of other allied branches of study as well, is glorified by his king and the Brahmanas, and is like a banner of victory an ennobling ornament to the state.

The physician, the patient, the medicine, and the attendants (nurses) are the four essential factors of a course of medical treatment. Even a dangerous disease is readily cured, or it may be expected to run a speedy course in the event of the preceding four factors being respectively found to be (qualified, self-controlled, genuine and intelligently watchful).

In the absence of a qualified physician the three remaining factors of treatment will prove abortive like a religious sacrifice performed with the help of an Udgatri, * a Hotri,† and a Brahmana, in the absence of an Adhvaryam.‡ A qualified physician is alone capable of relieving the pain of many a suffering patient, just as only a helmsman is capable of taking his boat across a river even without the help and co-operation of a single oarsman.


One of the four principal priests at a sacrifice, who chants the hymns of the Sama Veda.

† Hotri - A priest, who recites the (Riks) prayers of the Rik Veda at a religious sacrifice.

‡ Adhvaryyu - A priest of the Vayur Veda, whose duty is to cast the sacrificial beast into the fire.

Qualities Of A Physician

A physician, who is well versed in the science of medicine and has attended to the demonstrations of surgery and medicine, and who himself practises the healing art, and is clean, courageous, light-handed, fully equipped with supplies of medicine, surgical instruments and appliances, and who is intelligent, well read, and is a man of ready resources, and one commands a decent practice, and is further endowed with all moral virtues, is alone fit to be called a physician.


The patient, who believes in a kind and all-merciful Providence, and possesses an unshakable fortitude and strong vital energy, and who is laid up with a curable form of disease, and is not greedy, and who further commands all the necessary articles at his disposal, and firmly adheres to the advice of his physician, is a patient of the proper or commendable type.


The (proper) medicine is that which consists of drugs grown in countries most congenial to their growth, collected under the auspices of proper lunar phases and asterisms, and compounded in proper measures and proportions, and which is pleasing (exhilarating to the mind) and has the property of subduing the deranged bodily humours without creating any discomfort to the patient, and which is harmless even in an overdose, and is judiciously administered at the opportune moment.


That person alone is fit to nurse or to attend the bedside of a patient, who is cool-headed and pleasant in his demeanour, does not speak ill of any body, is strong and attentive to the requirements of the sick, and strictly and indefatigably follows the instructions of the physician.

Thus ends the ihirty-fourth Chapter of the Sutrasthanam in the Sushruta Samhita, which treats of preserving the life of a king whose soldiers are on march.