Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Science of Healing in the Vedic Age

Three-headed Rudra

(2nd Century AD) 

The practice of medicine had become a profession in India more than 5000 years ago, during the Vedic age. The cures being provided in this age could have been based on the research and experience of the medical professionals, and on their religious and philosophical beliefs. 

Numerous references to healing powers of the bhishaj, the Gods and sages who possess the knowledge of medicinal herbs, can be found in the Rig Veda, and the later Vedic samhitas, the Atharva Veda in particular. Among the Gods, Rudra (Shiva), the Ashvins, and Varuna have been depicted as the bhishaj in the Vedic texts. The healing powers of the Ashvins are legendary—they can bring sight to the blind, heal the lame, and replace a lost limb with a metal limb. 

The mandala 10, hymn 97, of the Rig Veda has a discussion of the bhishaj, the herbs with healing power, and various physical and mental ailments. Here’s a translation of two verses (verses 7 and 8 from Mandala 10, Hymn 97):

“He who hath store of Herbs at hand like Kings amid a crowd of men,-
     Physician/Vaidya is that Bipra/sage's name, fiend-slayer, chaser of disease.”

“Herbs rich in Soma, rich in steeds, in nourishments, in strengthening power,-
     All these have I provided here, that this man may be whole again.”

The Atharva Veda contains references to the plants and herbs that can be used to cure certain diseases. The curative power of these plants and herbs can be enhanced through the chanting of hymns. Some hymns in the Atharva Veda suggest that water has curative powers, and that fire has the power to cure by driving away the pishachas and rakshasas (evil spirits and demons) that are often the cause of diseases.

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