It can be acquainted about the medical services of the Chola kings from the inscriptions. A temple inscription of 11th century speaks in detail about a hospital functioned in the name of Vira Cholan Athura Salai. The hospital was founded in the name of king Vira Chola (1063-1069 AD). A Brahmin by the name of Savarna Kothandarama Aswathama Bhattan of Alampakkum was in charge of this hospital that had only fifteen beds. His title indicates he was also the chief consultant. The person who was second to the consultant is referred to as “the one who treats”. There were nurses (females) to assist him in caring the patients and administering medicine. An attendant was there to serve food and water purified by the addition of cardamom and the lamichcham (roots of Vetiveria zizanioides) From the salary particulars revealed by this inscription, it is clear that the surgeon received much less remuneration compared to that of the consultant or his second in command. As we have observed earlier the departments of medicine and surgery were taken care of by two different classes of people. The profession of surgery was considered inferior to general medicine and had been performed by people belonging to lower classes. This could explain the salary differences between the physician and the surgeon in this ancient hospital. The sculpture shown below depicts an event of surgery in ancient India. Persons belonging to various professions are involved in the process of surgery. Among them, the physician of the higher rank is seen with a turban, a bright aura around his head and a book in his hands. The person in the next rank is depicted here with a dull aura and without a turban but. The surgeon shown appears to be ordinary citizen as without any special feature to reflect his identity. He is neither wearing a turban nor any ornaments. The one who cares the patient is a female, probably a nurse or a relative to the patient. Though the surgeons were not respected and properly paid, there had been always a unique place for surgery in Ayurveda in the past. Previously cited temple inscription also provides a list of medicines stored in the Vira Chola’s hospital. The list includes the following. Vasa haritaki Dasamoola haritaki Bilvatha haritaki Bala eranda Taila Panchaka Taila Lasunathi eranda Taila Uthamkarnathi Taila Mandura Vadakam Sirovasthy Brahmium Kadumpuri Kandiram Vimalai Sunetri Tamrathi Vajrakalpam Kalyana lavanam Sanskrit Name Latin Name Vasa Adathoda vasica Haritaki Terminalia Chebula Bala sida cordifolia Lasuna Allium sativum Eranda Ricinus communis Bilva Eagle marmelos Ballathaka Semicarpus anacardium Mandura Ferric oxide Mandura means iron dust. Vadakam means dried medicinal balls. Maduram is the powder scattered while thrashing the iron rods in the iron smith workshops. This iron powder collected from soil, is mixed with cow’s urine and fried in a mud pan. This process is referred to as the purification of manduram (the iron dust). Pararajasekaram, a Tamil medical text written in Sri Lanka in the 16th century describes the process of preparing Mandura Vadakam as follows: “the purified iron dust is mixed with lime juice and boiled. When the mixture reaches the semi solid state, dried ginger, black pepper, long pepper and garlic are added to it. The final product is made into dry pills. Mandura vadakam thus prepared when consumed with cooked rice and buttermilk will cure anemia.” Vasa Haritaki, Dasamoola Haritaki and Bilvatha Haritaki are the medicines prepared with chebulic myrobalan. Ayurvedic texts often prescribe different kinds of Haritakii-based preparations to cure various diseases. Haritaki medicines are prepared by processing chebulic myrobalan by removing the seeds and inserting other herbal ingredients into it. Vasa Haritaki is a formulation that contains Adathoda vasica and Haritaki. Taila refers to the medicated oil used for external application. Butter or a vegetable oil, especially, the sesame oil is used in such preparations. When castor oil is used in place of sesame oil the preparation is called Eranda Taila. When the herb known as bala (Sida cordifolia)) is used as the main ingredient of this medicated oil, the preparation is called Bala eranda Thailam. This oil is used to treat neck cramp, facial paralysis, noise in the ears and headache. Lasunadi Eranda Taila is a medicated oil in which garlic is the main ingredient. It is clear that the Government sponsored hospitals of the Chola period (between 10th and 13th centuries) provided health care based on the traditional Ayurvedic system of medicine. At the same time, one cannot rule out the possibility of the existence of other local remedies as well as those prescribed by Yogis known as “Siddhars”.
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