India History


Sushruta is thought to have been living in Northern India by the Ganges River, to the Indian medical profession is known as the father of surgery. He can certainly be called the father of workshop surgery as it is widely believed he had his students practice on pots and fruit before tackling the patient proper.

The Collection of Sushruta mentioned on the previous page, also lists various surgical procedures including amongst others, caesarean section and rhinoplasty. Though this work is mainly devoted to surgery, it also includes medicine, pathology, anatomy, midwifery, biology, ophthalmology, hygiene and a little psychology and understanding of what would today be called the bedside manner.
Here is an excerpt from the manuscript by Sushruta, it tell of the operation of Rhinoplasty

“The portion of the nose to be covered should be first measured with a leaf. Then a piece of skin of the required size should be dissected from the living skin of the cheek, and turned back to cover the nose, keeping a small pedicle attached to the cheek. The part of the nose to which the skin is to be attached should be made raw by cutting the nasal stump with a knife. The physician then should place the skin on the nose and stitch the two parts swiftly, keeping the skin properly elevated by inserting two tubes of eranda (the castor-oil plant) in the position of the nostrils, so that the new nosegets proper shape. The skin thus properly adjusted, it should then be sprinkled with a powder of liquorice, red sandal-wood and barberry plant. Finally, it should be covered with cotton, and clean sesame oil should be constantly applied. When the skin has united and granulated, if the nose is too short or too long, the middle of the flap should be divided and an endeavour made to enlarge or shorten it.”71

It has always been argued that the absence of powerful anaesthetics, how this Indian surgeon carried out such major operations. Sushruta suggest that strong alcohol should be used

“wine should be used before operation to produce insensibility to pain.”

He again remarks:

“The patient who has been fed, does not faint, and he who is rendered intoxicated, does not feel the pain of the operation.”

I would suggest that he also mixed herbs with the wine to increase the effectiveness of the "anaesthetic"
Sushruta also recommended using leeches to keep wounds free of blood clots. This has only recently been rediscovered and is now used, especially in plastic surgery, to help reduce congestion in tissues, especially in wounds and in flaps used for reconstructing body parts. 

Sushruta attempted to arrange systematically the experiences of older surgeons, collect-scattered facts about medicine into workable series of lectures or manuscripts.
The accuracy of Sushruta’s descriptions and classifications of diseases is remarkable.
Ancient Indian doctors were obsessed with classification of diseases Surgery was described and was divided into incision, excision, scraping, puncturing, probing, extraction, provoking secretion, and suturing.71
It was Islam that brought new ideas to India, mainly translating the Galen ideas into Indian society.


"When a lot of remedies for a disease are suggested, it generally means it cannot be cured." 72




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The History of Surgery and Anaesthesia was created as a free resource to educate Students or indeed anyone wishing to understand the beginings of surgery and Anaesthesia.

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