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a glimpse of ancient veterinary knowledge of india

a glimpse of ancient veterinary knowledge of india

hinduism is responsible for much of the knowledge in the practical sciences of veterinary medicine and animal husbandry found in ancient india. the correlation between the religion and these sciences is due to the significance of the cow in hindu tradition. the cow was considered family in ancient india and to kill a cow was considered blasphemy and punishable by death . the high status of cows meant they were treated with the same respect as humans and medical care was often practiced on sick or injured cattle. ancient indian medical treatises such as the charaka samhita and susruta samhita contain chapters that reference not only the treatment of ill animals but also discuss the proper care of healthy animals.

furthermore, a number of contributions were made to agricultural animal science during the mauryan age (322 - 232 b.c.). the indians developed the concept of feeding both green and dry fodder to their animals to improve the health. a diet that switches from green to dry fodder is still common practice in the cattle industry today. another important concept established during the mauryan period was proper milking procedures for dairy cattle. milking was done only in the morning during the summer and spring months, and done once in the morning and once in the evening at all other times of the year.

due to the recent discovery and dating of coins in pakistan depicting a man riding an elephant, the domestication of elephants in ancient times can be traced to the late 3rd or early 2nd millennium b.c. the reason for such early domestication is the elephant is a fairly easy animal to tame once captured. one of the earliest uses of the elephant in india was in warfare as part of the cavalry. the elephant is even mentioned as one of the four divisions of the army in the indian treatise sama vidhana brahmana. furthermore, elephants were described as indispensible army components in the nikayas and the vinayas which predate the brahmanas.

aside from the warring use of elephants in indian culture, it was also an important part of royal grandeur during peace time. kings and princes often rode on the backs of elephants to display their status in society. during peace time there is also mention of the elephant as an important animal in plowing fields and clearing land for crops. the wide use of elephants in society led to improvements in the scientific fields of animal behavior and veterinary medicine. in the majjhima nikaya there are detailed accounts of how trackers studies the behaviors of elephants in order to capture them for domestication. while the reason for such studies was for practical use it is still an important development in animal behavioral science. furthermore, ancient indian ‘scholar’ palakapya wrote a treatise dealing with veterinary elephant care entitled gaja ayurveda. this work was split into four sections including (1) major diseases and treatments, (2) minor diseases and treatment, (3) surgery, and (4) diet. the gaja ayurveda also contained details on the anatomy, training, and classification of elephants.

snake venom

desert black cobra (walterinnesia aegyptia)

in addition to the use of animals in agricultural subsistence and warfare, the ancient civilization of india had medicinal exploits for animal products. in rasa granthas there is mention of the use of snake venom as medicine. two such examples of this are the suchikabharana and ardhanarisvara rasa concoctions. both of these medicines involved the use of black cobra venom and treated a variety of ailments ranging from the plague and tuberculosis to something as common as a fever. the descriptions of these medicines can be found below.


suchikabharana was made by mixing equal parts of cobra venom, mercury, sulfur, lead and aconite. the concoction was then soaked in another mixture of rohu fish, wild boar, peacock, buffalo, and goat biles. afterwards, the mixture was dried and crushed into a fine powder. the powder was given to patients in extremely small (needle-point) doses and was considered effective in treating plague, coma, tuberculosis, fever, etc.

ardhanarisvara rasa

ardhanarisvara rasa was made by mixing and triturating one part each of mercury, sulfur, aconite root, and borax. the concoction was then placed into the mouth of a black cobra and closed with mud. the head of the snake was then covered with salt and placed into a clay pot. the pot was again covered with mud and heat was applied constantly for 12 hours. after this the mixture was again triturated into a fine powder and was administered nasally. it was claimed to cure fevers that would not break by other means.

cow therapy

another holistic treatment that was developed in ancient india was called panchgavya or “cow therapy”. cow therapy involved the use of five substances derived from cows including milk, curd, ghee, urine, and dung. one such remedy involving the use of cow urine was known as kamdhenu ark. current scientific research shows this medicine derived from cow urine is an effective treatment in kidney diseases and diabetes mellitus. also, cow dung was used to treat skin diseases, and curd and buttermilk kept digestive systems regular due to the pro-biotic bacteria they contain.

source - wikipedia

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