So much for the history of Vedic Surgery. It is in the Su-shruta Samhita that we first come across a systematic method of arranging the surgical experiences of the older surgeons, and of collecting the scattered facts of the science from the vast range of Vedic literature. Sushruta had no desire of abandoning the Vedas in the darkness and pushing on an independent voyage of discovery. The crude methods and the still cruder implements of incision such as, bits of glass, bamboo skins etc., laid down and described in the Samhita, may be the relics of a primitive instrumentalogy which found favour with our ancestors long before the hymnisation of any Rik verse. Practical surgery requires a good knowledge of practical anatomy. The quartered animals at the Vedic sacrifices afforded excellent materials for the framing of a comparative anatomy (2). Sushruta devoted his whole life to the pursuit of surgery proper, to which he brought a mind stored with luminous analogies from the lower animals. It was he who first classified all surgical operations into five different kinds, and grouped them under heads such as Aharya (extractions of solid bodies), Bhedya (excising), Chhedya (incising), Eshya (probing), Lekhya (scarifying), Sivya (suturing), Vedhya (puncturing) and Visravaniya (evacuating fluids). The surgery of Sushruta recognises a hundred and twenty-five different instruments, constructed after the shape of beasts and birds, and authorises the surgeon to devise new instruments according to the exigencies of each case. The qualifications and equipments of a surgeon are practically the same as are recommended at the present time. A light refreshment is enjoined to be given to the patient before a surgical operation, while abdominal operations, and operations in the mouth are advised to be performed while the patient is fasting. Sushruta enjoins the sick room to be fumigated with the vapours of white mustard, bdellium, Nimva leaves, and resinous gums of Shala trees, etc., which foreshadows the antiseptic (bacilli) theory of modern times. The number of surgical implements described in the Samhita is decidedly small in comparison with the almost inexhaustible resources of western surgery, and one may be naturally led to suspect the authenticity of the glorious achievements claimed to have been performed by the surgeons of yore; but then their knowledge of the properties and virtues of drugs were so great that cases, which are reckoned as surgical nowadays, were cured with the help of medicines internally applied. "Surgery," says Tantram, is mutilation not doctoring (I). It should only be employed when the affected vital energy is not Strang enough to alone effect the cure that the surgeon is justified to handle his knife. We find in the Samhita that ophthalmic, obstetric and other operations were performed with the utmost skill and caution.
Rik Samhita. X M. 145 S. I. (2) Vide Aitareya Brahmana I, 2. II, 12. III, 37.