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20 Feb 2024

Plastic Surgery

Written by
The Logical Indian
Science and Wellbeing

Sushruta: The Father of Surgery

Sushruta, hailed as the Father of Surgery, was an ancient Indian surgeon who lived around 2000 years ago in Varanasi. His teachings, compiled in the Sushruta Samhita, laid the foundation for surgical practices. Sushruta performed groundbreaking surgeries such as rhinoplasty and emphasized the importance of overall health. His work included classifications of procedures, surgical instruments, and principles like precision. Sushruta's influence extended globally through translations, highlighting his pioneering role in shaping the field of surgery.

Vagbhat and the Dawn of Plastic Surgery

In the 4th century A.D., the eminent Indian physician Vagbhat significantly advanced the frontiers of surgical knowledge through his seminal work, the 'Ashtanga Hridayans Samhita.' Renowned as one of the primary ancient root texts of Ayurveda, this influential compilation stands as the essence of all the Eight Branches of Ayurveda. Crediting Maharishi Atreya, he delved into detailed accounts of plastic surgical procedures. 

Astonishingly, this ancient Indian medical repository, embedded in Puranic Literature, encompasses procedures like rhinoplasty, otoplasty, tissue grafting, organ transplants, embryo transfer, cross-grafting of heads, and reattachment of limbs.

Atharva Veda: The Root of Ayurveda

Indian medical knowledge has ancient roots in the Atharva Veda, leading to the development of Ayurveda. Two important texts, the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita, emerged from this tradition. Charaka focuses on medicines, while Sushruta delves into surgery. Sushruta, guided by his teacher Devadas, documented plastic surgical procedures, contributing to the rich heritage of surgical wisdom.

The Golden Era and Its Decline

The zenith of surgical prowess in ancient India, flourishing from 600 B.C. onwards, faced a gradual decline with the advent of Buddhism. Prohibitions imposed by the Mahavagga Jataka and purification rituals mandated by Manusmriti cast a shadow over surgical practices. Ayurveda, with its reservations towards surgery due to perceived pollution, relegated intricate surgical skills to lower castes, notably the 'Koomars' or potters, celebrated for their manual dexterity.

Transmission of Knowledge and Rebirth

Despite this decline, India and Egypt emerged as the wellspring from which knowledge flowed to the Middle East, reaching the Greeks and Romans. The transfer was facilitated by Buddhist missionaries, marking an epochal contribution to global medical history. The modern era witnessed a revival of plastic surgery in India post-World War II, spurred by the influence of British Maxillo-facial Surgery Units. Visionaries like Dr. C. Balakrishnan, Dr. R.N.Sinha, and Major Sukh played pivotal roles in shaping the trajectory of plastic surgery in the country.

Milestones and Recognition

In 1958, a significant milestone was etched with the establishment of the first independent Department of Plastic Surgery at M.C. Hospital in Nagpur. This formal recognition marked the evolution of plastic surgery as a specialized field in India, setting the stage for its continued growth and innovation.

Reflecting on the roots of plastic surgery in India, we are inspired by the brilliance of ancient scholars like Sushruta whose brilliance continues to inspire. Their legacy serves as a guiding beacon for modern practitioners, reaffirming that the pursuit of knowledge and healing is an enduring and timeless endeavor. India's gift of surgical wisdom has not only left an indelible mark on the world but continues to shape the narrative of medical excellence. Plastic surgery has evolved into a thriving industry, catering to diverse aesthetic and reconstructive needs. With technological advancements and increased accessibility, the field has witnessed exponential growth, addressing not only cosmetic desires but also playing a crucial role in enhancing individuals' physical and psychological well-being.

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Headquartered in Mumbai, IndiaFirst Life Insurance Company Limited (IndiaFirst Life), is one of the country's youngest life insurance companies. The Logical Indian is an independent and public-spirited digital media platform for Indian Millennials. IndiaFirst Life and The Logical Indian have come together to showcase India’s rich history of innovation in different fields of life which have made a significant mark on humanity and globally. Please note, The Logical Indian (5w1h Media) as an entity is responsible for source validation and fact-checking from credible sources of the articles posted on this page.