Hindu superiority: An Attempt to Determine the Position of the Hindu Race in the Scale of Nations By Har Bilas Sarda, B. A., F. R. S. L

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Bhagwat Gita has for centuries moulded the thoughts and the conduct of a large section of the Hindu nation. Bhagwat Gita is essentially a work on the Vedanta philosophy, and appears to have been composed to correct a misconception of that noble system. Owing to a misunderstanding of the teachings of this sublime philoso-

phy, men began to neglect their duties and responsibilities, since there was only one Brahma and all else was illusion. This alarmed all good and thoughtful men, and as an antidote this excellent book, Bhagwat Gita, was written. It is skilfully introduced as an episode in the Mahabharata, but it is clearly out of place there. The battle-field is hardly the fittest place to hold protracted discussions on such sublime metaphysical questions as the book contains. Whatever may be the raison d’être of the book, it has not only fascinated the minds of Hindus but has charmed Europeans, who speak in rapturous terms of this celebrated poem.

Mrs. Manning says: “Bhagwat Gita is one of the most remarkable compositions in the Sanskrit language.”

Professor Heeren says: “The poem certainly abounds in sublime passages, which remind one of the Orphic hymn to Jupiter quoted by Stoboms.”

Mr. Elphinstone2 says: “Bhagwat Gita deserves high praise for the kill with which it is adapted to the general Epic, and the tenderness and elegance of the narative by means of which it is introduced.”

iHistorical Researches, Vol. 11, p. 198, ?History of. India, p. 159.



A wise physician, slzill’d our wounds to heal,

Is more than armies to the public weal.

—Po PE.

TilE science of medicine, like all other sciences, was carried to a very high degree of perfection by the ancient Hindus. Their great powers of observation, generalization and analysis, combined with patient labour in a country of boundless resources, whose fertility for herbs and plants is most remarkable, placed them in an exceptionally favourable position to prosecute their study of this great science. Owing, however, to the destruction of a great part of Sanskrit literature, it is impossible to form an accurate estimate of the ‘high proficiency attained by the Hindus in this important science. Unlike philosophy and grammar, on which subjects ancient works still extant furnish sufficient material to enable one to form a correct judgment of their preeminence in those branches of learning, medicine is a practical science which has long been neglected owing to a variety of causes,.

Lord Ampthill recently (February 1905) said at Madras :—” Now we are beginning to find out that the Hindu Shastras also contain a Sanitary Code no less correct in principal, and that the great law-giver, Manu, was one of the greatest sanitary reformers the world has ever seen.”

Professor Wilson says: “The Ancient Hindus attained as thorough a proficiency in medicine and surgery as any people whose acquisitions are recorded. This might be expected, because their patient attention and natural shrewdness would render them excellent observers, whilst the extent and fertility of their native country would furnish them with many valuable drugs and medicaments. Their diagnosis is said, in consequence, to define and distinguish symptoms with great accuracy, and their Materia Medica is most voluniinous,”1

Sir William Hunter has the following on the scope of Indian medicine :—” Indian medicine dealt with the whole area of the science. It described the structure of the body, its organs, ligaments, muscles, vessels and tissues. The Materia Medica of the Hindus embraces a vast collection of drugs belonging to the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, many of which have now been adopted by European physicians. Their pharmacy contained ingenious processes of preparation, with elaborate directions for the administration and classification of medicines. Much attention was devoted to hygiene, regimen of the body, and diet.”2

Mr. Weber says: “The number of medical works and authors is extraordinarily large.”7

The Ayur Veda is the oldest system of medicine, and is said to have been revealed by the great Hindu

Wilson’s Works, Vol, III, p. 269. “ Moteria Medica,” says Weber, “generally appears to have been handled with great predileetion.”--Indian Literature, p. 270.

2Imperial Indian Gazetteer, “India,” p. 220.

physician, Dhanwantari,1 to his pupil Susruta. Charaka states that “ originally the contents of his own works were communicated by Atreya Muni to Agnivesa, and by him to Charaka, who condensed where it was too prolix and expanded where it was too brief.” Susruta and Charaka are now the two most important and well-known works on Hindu medicine.

The chief distinction of the modern European science of medicine is surgery. But even in surgery, as will be clear from the following quotations, the ancient Hindus attained a proficiency yet unsurpassed by the advanced medical science of the present day.

Mr. Weber says: “In surgery, too, the Indians seem to have attained a special proficiency, and in this department, European surgeons might, perhaps, even at the present day still learn something from them, as indeed they have already borrowed from them the operation of rhinoplasty.” 2

“Their surgery,” says Elphinstone, “is as remarkable as their medicine.”3 Mrs. Manning says: “The surgical instruments of the Hindus were sufficiently sharp, indeed, as to be capable of dividing a hair longitudinally.” 4

Dr. Sir W. W. Hunter says: “The surgery of the ancient Indian physicians was bold and skilful.

1The name of this great man, Dhanwantari, has become a bye-word for an “ adept.” His name is always pronounced before taking medicine in Rajputana, in consequence of the popular belief that his prescriptions are infallible.

2 Weber’s Indian Literature, p. 270.

3 History of India, p. 145.

4Ancient and Medieval India, Vol. II, p, 346..

They conducted amputations, arresting the bleeding by pressure, a cup-shaped bandage and boiling oil; practised lithotomy; performed operations in the abdomen and uterus; cured hernia, fistula, piles; set broken bones and dislocations; and were dexterous in the extraction of foreign substances from the body. A special branch of surgery was devoted to rhinoplasty, or operation for improving deformed ears and noses and forming new ones, a useful operation which European surgeons have now borrowed. The ancient Indian surgeons also mention a cure for neuralgia, analogous to the modern cutting of the fifth nerve above the eyebrow. They devoted great care to the making of surgical instruments, and to the training of students by means of operations performed on wax spread on a board or on the tissues and cells of the vegetable kingdom, and upon dead animals. They were expert in midwifery, not shrinking from the most critical operations, and in the diseases of women and children. Their practice of physic embraced the classifications, causes, symptoms and treatment of diseases, diagnosis and prognosis. Considerable advances were also made in veterinary science, and monographs exist on the diseases of horses, elephants, etc.”‘

The author of the History of Hindu Chemistry says: “According to Susruta, the dissection of dead bodies is a sine qua non to the student of surgery, and this high authority lays’ particular stress on knowledge gained from experiment and observation.”2

A word with regard to the Veterinary Science. Mr. H. M. Elliot says: “There is in the Royal library

‘Indian Gazetteer, “India,” p. 220. See also Weber’s Indian Literature-, p. 270.

History of Hindu Chemistry, Vol. I, Li. 105,

Alt WINE. 305

at Lakhnow a work on the veterinary art, which was translated from the Sanskrit by order of Ghayas-ud-din Mohamed Shah Khilji.

This rare book, called Kurrat-ul-mulk , was translated as early as A.H. 783=1381 A.D., from an original, styled Salotar, which is the name of an Indian who is said to have been a Brahman, and the tutor of Susruta. The Preface says that the translation was made “ froth the barbarous Hindi into the refined Persian, in order that there may be no more need of a reference to infidels.” The book is divided into eleven chapters and

thirty Sections. 4 sections.

Chapter I. On the breeds and names of horses ... 4 17

II. On their odour, on riding, and breeding 2 „

III. On stable management, and on wasps 2 „

building nests in a stable ... 3 77

IV. On colour and its varieties ...

V. On their blemishes...


77 VI. On their limbs ... .., 2 .,

17 VII. On sickness and its remedies... ... 4 „

VI1I, Oa bleeding ... 4 „

77 IX. On food and diet ... ... 2 „

11 X. On feeding for the purpose of fattening... 2 „

77 XI. On ascertaining the age by the teeth ... 1 „

The precise age of this work is doubtful, because, although it is plainly stated to have been translated in A.H. 783, yet the reigning prince is called Sultan Ghaias-ud-din Mohamed Shah, son of Mahmud Shah, and there is no king so named whose reign corresponds with that date. If Sultan Ghaias-ud-din Toghlak be meant, it should date sixty years earlier, and if the king of Malwa, who bore that -name, be meant, it should be dated one hundred years later; either way, it very much precedes the reign of Akber.1

1” It is curious, that without any allusion to this work, another on the veterinary art, styled Salotari, and said to comprise in the Sanskrit


The translator makes no mention in it of the work on the same subject, which had been previously translated from the Sanskrit into Arabic at Baghdad, under the name of Kitab-ul-Baitarat.’

Professor Weber says: “In the Vedic period, animal anatomy was evidently thoroughly understood, as each part had its own distinctive name.” He also says: “The chapter of Amarkosha on the human body and its diseases certainly presupposes an advanced cultivation of medical science.”2

Professor Wilson says: “There is a very large body of medical literature in Sanskrit, and some of the principal works are named by Arabic writers as having been known and translated at Baghdad in the ninth century. These works comprise all the branches of medical science, surgery included, and contain numerous instances of accurate observation and judicious treatment.”

The Hindus have, through this branch of knowledge, as through many others, been the benefactors of humanity; for, Hindu medicine is the foundation upon which the building of the European medical science has been constructed. His Excellency Lord Ampthill, the late Governor of Madras, while declaring open the Madras

original 16,000 slokas, was translated in the reign of Shahjahan, “when there were many learned men who knew Sanskrit,” by Sayyid Abdullah Khan Bahadur Firoz Jung, who had found it among some other Sanskrit books, which during his expedition against Mewar, in the reign of Jehangir, had been plundered from Amar Singh, Rana of Chitor. It is divided into twelve chapters, and is more than double the size of the other.”

iElhot’s Historians of India, Part I, pp. 263, 64.

2 Weber’s Indian Literature, p. 267.

King Institute of Preventive Medicine, said: “The people Of India should be gratefnl to him (Col. King) for having pointed out to them that they can lay claim to have been acquainted with the main principles of curative and preventive medicine at a time when Europe was still immersed in ignorant savagery. I am not sure whether it is generally known that the science of medicine originated in India, but this is the case, and the science was first exported from India to Arabia and thence to Europe. Down to the close of the seventeenth century, European physicians learnt the science from the works of Arabic doctors; while the Arabic doctors many centuries before had obtained their knowledge from the works of great Indian physicians such as Dhanwantri, Charaka and Susruta. It is a strange circumstance in the world’s progress that the centre of enlightenment and knowledge should have travelled from East to West, leaving but little permanent trace of its former existence in the East.”

Sir W. Hunter says: “The Hindu medicine is an independent development. Arab medicine was founded on the translations from the Sanskrit’ treatises made by command of the Khalif of Baghdad (950-960 A.D.). European medicine down to the 17th century was based upon the Arabic, and the name of the Indian physician, Charaka, repeatedly occurs in Latin translations of Avicenna (Abu Sina), Rhazes (Abu Rasi), and Serapion (Abu Sirabi).

Mrs. .Manning says: “The medical works of India. had already attained worldwide celebrity when , the

1 Cscma de K.oros was the first to announce that the Thibetan Tunjur contains among others translations of the Charaka„ the Susruta, and the Vagabhata.

Khalif of Baghdad collected the greatest works and summoned the most learned scientific men of their era to give brilliancy to Baghdad as a seat of learning. She adds: “It is impossible to exhibit India’s ancient science to Europeans unacquainted with Sanskrit or not having access to the native medical libraries, in which we understand many medical works are strictly withheld from Europeans.”‘

In support of the fact that Hindu medical works were largely translated by the Arabs, and that these translations formed the nucleus of their science, and that after being translated into European languages they formed the backbone of the European science of medicine, the following facts may be cited :—

Barzouhyeh, a contemporary of the celebrated Sassanian king, Noshirevan (A.D. 531-572), visited India to acquire proficiency in the Indian sciences.2

According to Professor Sachau, the learned translator of Alberuni, “ some of the books that had been translated under the first A bbaside Caliphs were extant in the library of Alberuni, when he wrote his ‘ India,’ the Brahma Siddhanta or Sind-hind, the Charaka in the edition of Ali Ibn Zain and the Panchatantra, or Kalila Damna.”

Almansur or Almanzar, who removed his seat from Damascus to Baghdad between 753 and 774 A.D., caused translations to be made from the Sanskrit of medical scientific works, among which we find particularised

Xueient and Medimval India, Vol. I, pp. 353, 54. 2History of Hindu Chemistry, Introduction, p. 76, 3Alberuni’s India by Professor Saeliaa.

a tract upon poisons by Shank (meaning Charaka) and a treatise on medicine by Shashrudl ( meaning Susruta).

Mrs. Manning says: “Later Greeks at Baghdad are found to have been acquainted with the medical works of the Hindus, and to have availed themselves of their medicaments.”2 We learn with interest that Serapion, one of the earliest of the Arab writers, mentions the Indian Charaka, praising him as an authority in medicine, and referring to the myrabalans as forming part of Charaka’s descriptions.” 3

Rhazes was a greater physician than Serapion. He lived at Baghdad with Al Mansur. He wrote twelve books on chemistry. On two occasions, Rhazes refers to the “Indian Charaka” as an authority for statements on plants or drugs.4

Another celebrated medical man is Avicinna (Abu Ali Sina), called Sheikh Rais, or the prince of physicians, who succeded Rhazes. He was the most famous physician of his time. He translated the works of. Aristotle, and died in 1036 A.D. In treating of leeches,, Avicinna begins by a reference to what “the Indians say,” and then gives nearly the very words of Susruta,

I Colebrooke’s Algebra of the Hindus, Vol, II, p. 512. That Charaka should be changed by Arabic writers into Sarak, Susruta into Susrud, Nidana into Badan, Astanga into Asankar, and so forth, need not at all surprise us. Such transformations can well be explained on phonetic principles. Moreover, one must remember that the Indian works translated into Arabic were sometimes derived from pre-existing Phelvi versions, and in the Migrations through successive languages the names often got frightfully disfigured.

2Ancient and Niedifflval India, Vol. I, p. 359.

aRoyle’s Ancient Hindu Medicine, p. 36.

4See Royle; p. 38.

describing the six poisonous leeches, amongst which are “those called krishna or black, the hairy leech, that which is variegated like a rainbow, etc.”‘

Emperor Firoz Shah, after capturing Nagarkot, had the Sanskrit medical works translated into Arabic by Ayazuddin Khalid.2

In the reign of Harun-ul-Rashed, the Hindu medicine was not only valued by the Arabs, but Hindu physicians were actually invited to Bagdad, who went and resided in his court. For this information we are indebted to Abu Osaiba, whose biographies are quoted by Prof. Deitz in his Analecta Medica,3 Wustenfeld, Rev. W. Cureton,4 Flit Muller.

Aim Osaiba states that Hanka was a Hindu, emin- ent in the art of medicine and learned in -Sanskrit litera- ture.. He made a journey from India to Iraq, cured the Khalif Harun-ul I tasheed of an illness, and translated a work on poison by Charaka from Sanskrit into Per- sian. Another Hindu doctor named Saleh has also been eulogised by Abu Osaiba. He was, it is said, one of the most learned amongst the Hindus, and greatly skilled in curing diseases according to the Indian mode. He lived ill Iraq during Harun’s reign. He travelled to Egypt and Palestine, and was buried when he died in Egypt. Gabriel Bactishna, a Syrian, became one of the trans- lators of works on medicine from Sanskrit into Arabic.5

1Royle’s Ancient Hindu Medicine, p. 38.

2Max Muller’s Science of Language, p. 167.

3Leipsic Edition of 1833, p. 124.

4Journal of the R. A. Society, VI, pp. 105-115.

5See Deitz’s Analecta Medica. Dr. Furnell, Dy. Surgeon-General and Sanitary Commissioner, Madras, in his lecture delivered on the 1st April 1882, most vigorously supported the claims of Hiudu medicine as one of the most ancient and the most advanced sciences ever

Professor Sanchau says: “What India has contributed reached Baghdad by two different roads. Part has come directly in translations from the Sanskrit, part has travelled through Iran, having originally been translated from Sanskrit (Pali? Prakrit ?) into Persian, and farther from Persian into Arabic. In this way, e.

the fables of Kalila and Dimna have been communicated to the Arabs, and a book on medicine, probably the famous Charaka.—of Fihrist, p. 303.

“In this communication between India and Bagdad we must not only distinguish between two different roads, but also between two different periods.

“As Sindh was under the actual rule of the Khalif Mansur (A. D. 753-774), there came embassies from that part of India to Baghdad, and among them scholars, who brought along with them two books, the Brahmasidhanta of Brahmagupta (Sindhind), and his Khandakhadyaka (Arkand). With the help of these pandits, Alfazari, perhaps also Yakub Ibn Tarik, translated them. Both works have been largely used, and have exercised a great influence. It was on this occassion that the Arabs first became acquainted with a scientific system of astronomy, They learned from Brahmagupta earlier than from Ptolemy.

cultivated in the world. Speaking of the importance of drinking unpolluted water, he said that “as the ancient Hindus were superior to all others in other respects, so also were they superior to the others in recognising the importance and value of water, as well as in insisting upon preserving the water from filth of any kind whatever.” He added that in his address to the Convocation in 1879 he had said that the Hindu physicians were unrivalled in all branches of medicine at the time when the Britons were savages and used to go about cjilite naked. He then described the instructions contained in the Hindu medical works with regard to the use of water, which he said were most remarkable,

“Another influx of Hindu learning took place under Harun, A.D. 786-808. The ministerial family Barmak, then at the zenith of their power, had come with the ruling dynasty from Balkh, where an ancestor of theirs had been an official in the Buddhistic temple, Naubehar, i.e., navavihara, the new temple (or monastery). The name Barmak is said to be of Indian descent, meaning paramaka, i.e., the superior (abbot of the vihara ?). Of course the Barmak family had been converted, but their contemporaries never thought much of their profession of Islam, nor regarded it as genuine. Induced probably by family traditions, they sent scholars to India, there to study medicine and pharmacology. Besides, they engaged. Hindu scholars to come to Baghdad, made them the chief physicians of their hospitals and ordered them to translate from Sanskrit into Arabic, books on medicine, pharmacology, toxicology, philosophy, astrology and other subjects. Still in later centuries, Muslim scholars sometimes travelled for the same purposes as the emissaries of the Barmak, e.g., Almuwaffak, not long before Alberuni’s time.’”

Mrs. Manning says: “Greek physicians have done much to preserve and diffuse the medical science of India. We find, for instance, that the Greek physician Actuarius celebrates the Hindu medicine called triphala. He mentions the peculiar products of India, of which it is composed, by their Sanskrit name 1l1yrobalans.2 .Etius, who was a native of Amida in Mesopotamia, and studied at Alexandria in the fifth century, not

1Sachau’s Translation of Alberuni’s India. Ancient and Medieval India, Vol.

only speaks of the Hyrobalans, but mentions them as the proper cure for the disease called , elephantiasis.”

Among the ancient Hindu physicians of note may be mentioned (1) Atreya, Agnivesa, Charaka, Dhanwantri, Sashruta, Bharadvaja, Kapishthala, Bhe]a, Latukarna, PAr6sara, Harita, Kash raparu, Asavalyana, Badarayana, Katyayana, Baijvapi, Krisa, Sam-k rityayana, Babb ravya K rishnatreya, A uddalaki, S veta - keta, Pandhala, Gpnardiya, Gonikaputra, Sabandhu, Samkara, Kankayana.

The Englishman (a Calcutta daily), in a leader in 1880, said: “No one can read the rules contained in great Sanskrit medical works without coming to the conclusion that, in point of knowledge, the ancient Hindus were in this respect riTery far in advance not only of the Greeks and Romans, but of Mediawal Europe.”

Nearchas relates that the Greek physicians did not know how to cure snakebite. But the Hindu physicians cured it, and notified their ability to cure all who were afflicted with it, if they came to the court of Alexander the Greati

As regards their knowledge of the Science of Chemistry, Mr. Elphinstone says: “Their (Indian) chemical skill is a fact more striking and more unexpected.”

It is to be regretted that of the several works on chemistry’ quoted by Madhava, Rasarnava alone seems to have survived to our day.

I See Wise’s History of Medicine, p. 9.

A famous representative of this art (alchemy) was Nagarjuna, a native of Daihak, near Somnath. He excelled in it, and composed a book which contains the substance of the whole literature on this subject,:-and is very rare.”—IVstu’ yof Cheintiv, Vol, Z, p. 64.

The author of the History of Hindu Chemistry says: “While Rasaratnakarna and Rasarnava are Tantras pure and simple in which alchemy is incidentally dwelt upon, Rasaratana-samuchchaya (a modern work based on old Hindi medical works), is a systematic and comprehensive treatise on materia medica, pharmacy and medicine. Its methodical and scientific arrangement of the subject-matter would do credit to any modern work, and altogether it should be pronounced a production unique of its kind in Sanskrit literature.”1

Dr. Ray says: “We have only to refer our readers to the chapter on the preparation of caustic alkali, in the Susruta, with the direction that the strong lye is to be ‘preserved in an iron vessel,’ as a proof of the high degree of perfection in scientific pharmacy achieved by the Hindus. at an early age. It is absolutely free from any trace of quackery or charlatanism, and is a decided improvement upon the process prescribed by a Greek writer of the eleventh century, as unearthed by M. Berthelot. As regards dispensaries and hospitals, everyone knows. that Buddhistic India was studded with them.”2

In the European histories of chemistry, the credit of being the first to press chemical knowledge into the service of medicine and introduce the use of the internal administration of mercurial preparations, is given to

“Nagarjuna Bodhisatva was well practised in the art of compounding medicines; by taking a preparation (pill or cake), he nourished the years of life for many hundreds of years, so that neither the mind nor appearance decayed. Satvdha-Raja had partaken of this mysterious rocdicine.”—Beal’s Buddhist Records of the Western World, Vol. II, p. 212.

I History of Hindu Chemistry, Vol. I, p. L.

History of Hindu Chemistry, Vol. I, Introduction, p, viii.

Paracelsus (1493-1541). But, says the author of the History of Hindu Chemistry, “ we have, indeed, reason to suspect that Paracelsus got his ideas from the East.”‘

Dr. Ray says: “From the evidences we have adduced all along there can now be scarcely any question as regards the priority of the Hindus in making mercurial remedies a speciality; and they are entitled to claim originality in respect of the internal administration of metals generally, seeing that the Charaka and the Susruta, not to speak of the later Tantras, are eloquent over their virtues.”2

In Europe, however, the medicinal virtues of mercury do not appear to have been at all ascertained even in the days of Pliny the elder; that writer termed quicksilver the bane and poison of all things, and what would with more propriety be called death-silver.3

Mr. Elphinstone says: “They knew how to prepare sulphuric acid, nitric acid and muratic acid; the oxide of copper, iron, lead (of which they had both the red oxide and litharge), tin and zinc; the sulphuret of iron, copper, mercury, antimony, and arsenic; the sulphate of copper, zink and iron; and carbonates of lead and iron. Their modes of preparing these substances were sometimes peculiar.” 4

Their use of these Medicines seems to have been very bold. They were the first nation who employed minerals internally, and they not only gave mercury in

History of Hindu Chemistry, Vol. I, p. 60.

2History of Hindu Chemistry, Vol. I, Introduction, p. (lxii,) 3Natural History, lib. 33.

4For further information, see Dr. Royle (p. 44 and on), who particularly refers to the processes for making calcine) and corrosive sublimate.

that manner but arsenic and arsenious acid, which were remedies in intermittents. They have long used cinnabar for fumigations, by which they produced a speedy and safe salivation. They have long practiced inoculation.

“ They cut for the stone, couched for the cataract and extracted the foetus from the womb, and in their early works enumerate not less than 127 sorts of surgical instruments.”‘

In the course of a lecture to the natives of Bengal on national universities in India, delivered at Calcutta, in January 1906, Mrs. Besant said: “In physics and chemistry you have advanced far more. In medicine you are still more advanced. In the West it is by no means a science but largely guess work. Indian medicine both of the Hindus and the illohamedans is superior to the medicine of the West.”

In order to give an idea of the advanced state of the Hindu science of medicine and hygiene, as well as of what we may yet expect from the continued researches of the learned in ancient Indian literature in the way of valuable additions to the modern European medical science, I cannot do better than quote the words of His Excellency Lord Ampthill, Governor of Madras, at the opening of the King Institute of Preventive Medicine, in February 1905: “The Mohamedan conquests brought back to India much of the medical knowledge which had been lost for centuries, and we have proofs that the Mughal rulers were great sanitary reformers in the magnificent

Elphinstone’s History of India, p, 145. The author also says: “Their acquaintance with medicines seems to have been very extensive. We are not surprised at their knowledge of simples, in which they gave early lessons to Europe andrnore recently taught us the benefit of smoking dhcittra in asthma and the use of cowitch against worm ?’

water works which still exist and perform their functions at various places in the north of India. Now, the British rulers of India have been bringing back yet more of the knowledge which emanated from this country centuries ago; and when we undertake municipal water supply schemes, with filter beds and hydraulic pressure, when we build hospitals and establish medical schools, when we promulgate regulations to check the spread of plague, or when we impose on local bodies the duty of watching over the health of the people, we are not introducing any modern innovations or European fads, but merely doing that which was done centuries ago, and again centuries before that, but which has long since been forgotten by all except the historian and the archeologist. The study of these questions brings out the truth of the old saying that there is nothing new in the world. Now, this saying is even true as regards preventive medicine, which we are all apt to regard as one of the most recent discoveries of modern science. Colonel King gives clear proof that the ancient caste injunctions of the Hindus were based on a belief in the existence of transmissible agents of disease, and that both Hindus and Mohamedans used inoculation by small-pox virus as a protection against small-pox; and certain it is that long before Jenner’s great discovery, or to be more correct, re-discovery of vaccination, this art of inoculation was used for a while in Europe, where it had been imported from Constantinople; and knowledge of medicine which flourished in the Near East at the commencement of the Christian era emanated, as I have already shown you, from India.”

His Excellency then added: “It is also very probable, so Colonel King assures me, that the ancient Hindus used animal vaccination secured by transmission of the small-pox virus through the cow, and he bases this interesting theory on a quotation from a writing by Dhanvantri, the greatest of the ancient Hindu physicians, which is so striking and so appropriate to the present occasion that I must take the liberty of reading it to you. It is as follows: Take the fluid of the pock on the udder of the cow or on the arm between the shoulder and elbow of a human subject on the point of a lancet, and lance with it the arms between the shoulders and elbows until the blood appears: then mixing the fluid with the blood the fever of the small-pox will be produced.’ This is vaccination pure and simple. It would seem from it that Jenner’s great discovery was actually forestalled by the ancient Hindoos.”

His Excellency further said: “I cannot refrain from mentioning yet another of Colonel King’s interesting discoveries, which is that the modern plague policy of evacuation and disinfection is not a wit different from that enjoined in ancient Hindu Shastras.”

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