Talk:Sushruta Samhita

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fix talk[edit]

Thanks very much to whoever wrote the bulk of this imformative and well-written article . It was an eye-opener for me . —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:02, 16 February 2008 (UTC)

sorry for removing the "artist's impression", but I am afraid it was just too much involuntary comedy for a serious topic of Sanskrit philology. --dab (𒁳) 13:36, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

dating the Sushruta[edit]

Sources agree that dating the Shushtra is problematic the article needs to reflect this. J8079s (talk) 14:14, 20 October 2014 (UTC)

Name in title[edit]

Two names are given in the title - the correct transliteration is Suśrutasamhitā, and the simpler one is Sushruta Samhita. Please do not change this. Jose Mathew (talk) 12:48, 9 January 2016 (UTC)

January 2016 updates[edit]

@Wujastyk: Thank you for updating this article. Some different references you added were named the same ":1", which generated reference sections errors, and made verification difficult. I separated them and assigned new names, please double check. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 08:44, 24 January 2016 (UTC)

Thanks very much for fixing this! I was aware of the problem, and intended to go back and fix it, but haven't had time recently. Most grateful. Wujastyk 17:49, 29 January 2016 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wujastyk (talkcontribs)

January 2016 updates and modern scholarship[edit]

Dear colleagues, Jose Mathew and others, I notice with dismay that my recent edits to this page have largely been reverted without discussion. Please follow the Wikipedia guidelines, and discuss revisions here before reverting them wholesale. My own fairly extensive edits were carefully referenced to the latest research, and are designed to reflect the current opinion of the professional research literature in the history of medicine. This is a field in which I am a professional participant. Early versions of this article on Suśruta are mainly based on obsolete or amateur literature, and it badly needs to be brought into line with current knowledge. If this is your main research area, and you can reference your edits to the current research literature, then by all means do so. But please don't just revert references to up-to-date research back to obsolete, nineteenth-century materials or amateur references in secondary literature.

How shall we proceed from here? It is important that this page gives accurate information. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wujastyk (talkcontribs) 18:46, 29 January 2016 (UTC)

@Wujastyk: I saw the back and forth good faith edits between @Jose Mathew and you. Indeed significant parts of this article are unreferenced or from obsolete and amateur literature. See "contents" and "surgical procedures described" sections, for example. Every line, or significant fact/conclusion, ideally should be referenced to WP:RS, preferably recent. Further, given wikipedia's AGF policy that invites anyone to edit, it is likely that this article will see people reinserting the same obsolete literature in this article in future. One way to reduce instances of reverts or such reinsertions is to acknowledge the obsolete source, followed by a statement that this is obsolete according to XYZ (with recent reliable source added). I would cheer if we would add WP:RS to the "contents" and "surgical procedures described" sections, cleanup the remaining sections. Let us work on WP:LEAD last. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 21:26, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
Dear Wujastyk, are you talking about the edits made on 9 Jan or 26 Jan? The latter was because you said "The best modern English translation ... ". This may be true, but unfortunately Wikipedia cannot make a value-based judgement. It cannot, therefore, say that a particular version is better than another. Of course, if an authority on this field has called it the best translation, s/he can be quoted as saying so. I made many changes on 9 Jan, so if you can please point out which ones you were referring to, I will give an explanation. And yes, many refs are old. But please do not remove them, it is better to just add newer data. That way, readers can see not only what is right, but also what is wrong. Thanks. Jose Mathew (talk) 10:33, 30 January 2016 (UTC)
Thank you both, @Ms Sarah Welch and @Jose Mathew, for responding. I'm really glad we can discuss things here, calmly. (The "ayurveda" page has been a nightmare, for quite different reasons.) I can't attend now, but I will get back to your queries and the page very soon. Just to mention, Suśruta is one of my principal research areas, so I find it hard to be patient about citations of literature by non-specialists (by which I mean physicians writing general history of medicine, who themselves are unacquainted with Indian history, and do not know Indian languages and have never read the source texts even in translation). It is also hard to be patient with citations of literature that is a century old, on topics that have been the subject of continuous research since then. That wouldn't normally be tolerated in Physics or Mathematics, why should we have lower standards? <end rant :-) > More later. Wujastyk 17:45, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

February 2016 updates and modern scholarship[edit]

For most of the twentieth century, the study of Indian medicine was dominated by a very small number of serious studies. These included the works of Lietard, Cordier, Hoernle (before the wars) and Jolly and Filliozat after the wars. These scholars did valiant work, considering that many works had not previously been printed, let alone studied historically. They were pioneers, the first generation.

During the last twenty years, there have been huge strides forward in the understanding of the history of Indian medicine. These began with Chatopadhyaya's Science and Society in Ancient India, Emmerick's publication and studies of Ravigupta's Siddhasāra, Zysk's Medicine in the Veda and then his critically important Asceticism and Healing: Medicine in the Buddhist Monastery, and interpretative works like Zimmermann's The Jungle and the Aroma of Meats. The many books and studies of Priya Vrat Sharma have opened up many historical questions and answered many questions. My own Roots of Ayurveda (Penguin Classics) has also contributed to a wider understanding of Ayurveda. But above all, the pathbreaking researches of Meulenbeld, at first expressed in his articles and his book The Mādhavanidāna. But then, Meulenbeld's publication of A History of Indian Medical Literature (HIML) in five volumes (1999-2002) has created a major revolution in ayurveda studies. HIML is a vast reference work that summarizes all the previous scholarship on Indian medical history, and offers fresh clarity and certainty for the dating and interpretation of literally hundreds of ayurvedic works. There is a problem, however. HIML is a big book, and is marketed by Brill, who currently charge over €600 for the five volumes. This means that the book has not reached a wide audience in India or amongst physicians who write amateur studies about Indian medicine. Specialist libraries like the Wellcome Library in London have the book, obviously, and other university libraries that support serious historical work on Indian science and medicine. But the book's price mean that it is poorly distributed and as not had the impact it deserves on current public writing about Indian medicine and its history. In short, the study of Indian medical history has gone through major professionalization during the last couple of decades. Much of the public writing about Indian medicine offered by non-specialists relies on obsolete secondary literature. Additionally, amateur scholars, including some retired doctors and other authors not trained in Sanskrit and Indian historical methodology, feel a false sense of confidence in writing about Indian medical history, remaining unaware of the profound advances that have been made by recent scholarship. Physicists writing after 1905 would hesitate to engage seriously with theories of an absolute ether. Similarly, current scholars of ayurveda would never propose that Suśruta lived in 600 BCE (an obsolete dating proposed by Hoernle a century ago). I have provided an annotated overview of contemporary ayurveda research in my entry Indian Medicine in the Oxford Bibliographies Online (also [1]) I therefore call on my fellow Wikipedia authors interested in the history of medicine in India to write and edit in the light of the current professional scholarship on the subject. Wujastyk 17:09, 3 February 2016 (UTC)


  1. ^ Wujastyk, Dominik. "Indian Medicine". Retrieved 3 February 2016. 

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @Wujastyk:: Please continue your edits. A few comments: [1] The main article, particularly Contents and Surgical procedures sections remain mostly without source. Your contributions there, with citations, will significantly improve this article. [2] Any conclusions/interpretation/theories about this text in the lead should have a discussion in the main, per WP:LEAD. [3] We need to avoid taking sides, and summarize all sides, particularly if multiple recent peer-reviewed scholarly reliable sources state something that you personally disagree with. That will be the NPOV. [4] A section summarizing various scholarly sides on the text's association, or lack thereof, with Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism would improve this article. [5] The "Date/Text Dating/Chronology" section should be separate, and it should not be entirely in the lead, as it then dominates the lead. See WP:UNDUE and WP:LEAD. [6] The lead would be better if it includes a few more summary sentences on what the text contains in its 184 chapters. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 18:30, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

Thanks for your response. We were writing here at the same moment, so I have re-inserted my passage below that was bumped by your last save. I completely agree with your point [1], but it's a big job to fix that section. I will get to it, if someone else doesn't first. Re [2], I'm not sure what you mean. But should we transfer part of what I've written above into the main article somewhere? I'll go and read what WP:LEAD means. [3] Yes, the POV issue. This is tricky, and I agree that some sort of statements and orientations are needed, otherwise people will just keep reverting and counter-reverting. It's an issue about the history of scholarship too, as I've tried to explain above. Wikipedia entries on Astronomy don't keep justifying that they don't put the earth at the centre of the solar system, because there is a consensus amongst working professionals that the planets revolve around the sun. It's the same with the history of medicine. People professionally involved in the field are not spending all their time combating points of view that were current in 1900. The field has moved on. The trouble is, with ayurveda there's a lot of literature out there, including in peer-reviewed journals, that is written by people who are not themselves historians or specialists in Sanskrit literature. They are still putting the earth in the middle. It's a problem, in spite of the fact that there's abundant good historical literature out there on the subject. One of my approaches in writing for WP has been to support assertions with citations from original Sanskrit sources as often as possible, and refer to the original Sanskrit text editions on, where they exist. [4] and [5], agree completely. Wujastyk 19:28, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
@ Wujastyk: On [3], your "earth at the centre of the solar system" is a good example. You can't find a non-fringe, peer reviewed scholarly paper in last 50+ years that asserts that. But you acknowledge, rightly, "the trouble is, with ayurveda there's a lot of literature out there, including in peer-reviewed journals" with different views. We can't right great wrongs in wikipedia. We can only summarize that "which is verifiable from reliable and secondary sources, giving appropriate weight to the balance of informed opinion". If we don't present all sides, people in good faith will do so, because they just read or remember something. I suggest you add just a sentence or two about each incorrect theory on Susruta Samhita, followed by why that is outdated, citing reliable sources. On quoting Sanskrit texts as well, yes please do. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 22:10, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

"Hindu" and other changes on 3 Feb 2016[edit]

I have reverted the removal of the adjective "Hindu" in the main characterization of the work. While the introductory passages of the Suśrutasaṃhitā locates it within a lineage of ancient Indian sages, the term "Hindu" was not used 2000 years ago. Religious practitioners characterized themselves in different ways at that time. Further, such few religious materials as exist in the text of the Suśrutasaṃhitā are not prominent enough to warrant characterizing it specifically as a religious text or by religious affiliation. Copernicus' De Revolutionibus is not described as a Christian text, and likewise the ayurvedic classics are works on science and medicine, not religion. Further, the studies of Chattopadhyaya, Zysk and others have shown that the medical traditions originating in the ascetic milieu (known from Jaina and Buddhist literature) were particularly important as sources for the medical system later called "ayurveda." And some later ayurvedic authors were Jains and Buddhists. For example the great synthesizer of ayurveda, probably it's most important author, Vāgbhaṭa venerated the Buddha explicitly in the opening verses of his Aṣṭāṅgasaṅgraha (Sanskrit: buddhāya tasmai namaḥ, "I bow to the Buddha, who ..."). Meulenbeld's History of Indian Medical Literature discusses at length the many different philosophical and religious elements that contributed to the work, including the Buddhist and the materialist. Wujastyk 19:29, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

[1] Your argument is on a slippery slope. If Hindu term did not exist 2000 years ago, then note that the word Christian is not traceable before about ~16th-century. There is some evidence that the word Hindu was used in Mesopotamia, quite possibly for Indians, about 2000 years ago. Nomenclature follows, never leads history. You are standing against all those scholars who call numerous 2000+ year old texts as Hindu text. We can't call a 1000+ year old or 2000+ year old or 3000+ year old text a Hindu text (e.g. Atharvaveda, Rigveda, etc) when we study law or sociology or women rights in ancient India 'because it does not matter whether the term "Hindu" was or was not used 2000 years ago', and then turn around and claim the same text is not a Hindu text when it is about surgery or medicine or music or arts or yoga or philosophy 'because the term "Hindu" was not used 2000 years ago'.
[2] We need to avoid OR and picking sides. Just summarize the sources. If multiple peer reviewed recent sources, secondary and tertiary, from scholars are calling a text as a Hindu text, or a Buddhist text, or a Jaina text, we should so state, even if you disagree. In this case, multiple recent peer reviewed WP:RS call Sushruta Samhita as a Hindu text.[1][2][3][4] If there are sources that state it is not a Hindu text, please add that too. If there are recent reliable sources that state Sushruta Samhita is a Jaina/Buddhist text, please add that too.
[3] Monk/asceticism has been a strong part of Hinduism as much as Buddhism and Jainism, from BCE times. See the two recent books published by Patrick Olivelle through Oxford University Press.
[4] This is not an article on Ayurveda or Aṣṭāṅgasaṅgraha. I agree with you there though.
[5] It would improve this article if we could summarize the role of major Hindu / Buddhist / Jaina contributors to Sushruta Samhita, from Meulenbeld for example.
I am glad you are helping to improve this article. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 20:11, 3 February 2016 (UTC)


  1. ^ Sarah Boslaugh (2007), Encyclopedia of Epidemiology, Volume 1, SAGE Publications, ISBN 978-1412928168, page 547, Quote: "The Hindu text known as Sushruta Samhita (600 AD) is possibly the earliest effort to classify diseases and injuries".
  2. ^ Loukas, M; et al. (2010). "Anatomy in ancient India: A focus on the Susruta Samhita". Journal of Anatomy. 217 (6): 646. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7580.2010.01294.x. Quote: Susruta's Samhita emphasized surgical matters, including the use of specific instruments and types of operations. It is in his work that one finds significant anatomical considerations of the ancient Hindu. 
  3. ^ Raveenthiran, Venkatachalam (2011). "Knowledge of ancient Hindu surgeons on Hirschsprung disease: evidence from Sushruta Samhita of circa 1200-600 bc". Journal of Pediatric Surgery. Elsevier BV. 46 (11): 2204–2208. doi:10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2011.07.007. 
  4. ^ E. Schultheisz (1981), History of Physiology, Pergamon Press, ISBN 978-0080273426, page 60-61, Quote: "(...) the Charaka Samhita and the Susruta Samhita, both being recensions of two ancient traditions of the Hindu medicine".

I think Wujastyk's point was that a book on medicine cannot be a Hindu book or a Christian book, any more than it can be a Typed-in-Times-New-Roman book or a Published-in-London book. The religion of the writer is immaterial for a book on a secular subject. Jose Mathew (talk) 10:12, 6 February 2016 (UTC)

@Jose Mathew: We just need to summarize what the reliable sources are stating, not push one or other side's POV, or our own. The text mentions Hindu gods in many chapters (e.g. in Śarira Sthana), uses Hindu terminology traceable to Vedic/post-Vedic era Hindu texts (e.g. in Samkhya/Vedanta), asks the patient to "constantly study the Vedas" (e.g. in Chikitsa Sthana), and such. If you can read Sanskrit it would be obvious why many scholars call Sushruta Samhita a Hindu text. As I explained above it is a slippery slope to ignore multiple scholarly sources after making forum-y argument that we do so 'because the term "Hindu" was not used 2000 years ago'. That will lead us to cherry picking and WP:OR in this article (and in many other articles by the same rationale). Let us stick with summarizing recent reliable sources without picking a side. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 11:12, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
I think Ms Sarah Welch is on solid ground here because multiple reliable sources call it a `Hindu' text. "Hindu" does not necessarily mean it was religious. There was no strict separation of the religious and the secular in the ancient times. Let us say that it was part of the "Hindu civilisation," a term that has been in use for a long time, e.g., [1], [2]. - Kautilya3 (talk) 19:20, 6 February 2016 (UTC)
My argument was not whether Sushrutha Samhita is from the Hindu Civilisation. It was whether the point is relevent. Books can be classified in many ways. It makes sense to say that Sushrutha Samhita is a book on medicine, or a Sanskrit work. But the religion of the writer is not relevant for a secular work. If the book talks about a treatment he used on a patient in Varanasi, would you include this book among the list of books that are about Varanasi? One does not call Gray's Anatomy a Christian book because Henry Gray was a Christian. Jose Mathew (talk) 11:59, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
@Jose Mathew: The religion of the writer is not why it is called a Hindu text by scholars. Why then, you may wonder, but that is forum-y discussion/argument, not the purpose of article talk pages. See WP:TPNO. We need to stick to summarizing the WP:RS. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 20:27, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Sources by @Wujastyk[edit]

@Wujastyk: I notice that with this edit you added your own book into this article, where you have financial interests. Does pitching your own book in wikipedia articles raise WP:COI issues? Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 03:30, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

I think it is allowed as per Wikipedia:SELFCITE. Said book has been published by Penguin, has 111 citations and may be viewed at Google Books ( Jose Mathew (talk) 14:43, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
@Ms Sarah Welch: Regarding financial interest, I do not receive royalties for this book, nor any financial return whatsoever. In about 2001, a license was issued for this UK edition by the original publishers of the 1998 edition in Delhi, under the terms of my contract with Penguin Delhi. From then on, the matter was out of my hands. The license was a one-time transfer of rights and included no author royalties. I wish the UK publisher would tell me how many copies they sell, because I'd be interested. But they don't answer letters, and they have no formal obligation to me. Regarding the 1998 Penguin India edition, last year I asked to be released from my contract and for Random House-Penguin India to stop publishing my book because I did not wish to be associated with the publisher who capitulated to the ideological attacks on another of their authors, Prof. Wendy Doniger. I believe that a publisher has a moral duty to defend their authors to the extent of the law, as Penguin UK famously did with Lady Chatterley's Lover, but Penguin India failed this test, drawing widespread criticism of their integrity and author-loyalty as a publishing house. I have dissociated myself from them (and their royalties). The 1998 and 2002 editions of my book are no longer in print. I trust this answers your question about financial interest.
However, it is hard to believe that you raise this point innocently. It is obviously not against WP rules for an author to cite their own work, especially if it is a work published by a reputable publisher and widely and positively reviewed in the academic press. It takes only seconds to confirm this: "Using material you have written or published is allowed within reason, but only if it is relevant, conforms to the content policies, including WP:SELFPUB, and is not excessive. Citations should be in the third person and should not place undue emphasis on your work." CITESELF[1]. Furthermore, this is widespread and normal practice on Wikipedia as in scholarship generally. Wujastyk 19:14, 26 February 2016 (UTC)

Kerala and Sushruta[edit]

@Jose Mathew: With this edit, you re-inserted "He is said to have been a physician, originally of Kerala". I checked the Datta source, and find no such mention on page 311. We don't know who Sushruta was, when he lived, so being able to identify "originally of Kerala" is strange, reads like amazing but incorrect original research. Did you see that in some other reliable source? Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 14:15, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

No, I just reverted an edit that removed it without explanation. As the edit had improved other parts, I did not use the revert button, but manually copy-pasted the original sentence. Jose Mathew (talk) 14:16, 10 February 2016 (UTC)

In any case, it is probably irrelevant. Jose Mathew (talk) 14:24, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
We have almost no evidence about the location or identity of the author Suśruta, beyond the internal evidence of the frame-narrative that locates the author and his teacher in Varanasi. See Meulenbeld, History of Indian Medical Literature, vol. IA, pp. 333-357. See also the opening chapter of the work itself, at
There do exist oral traditions in Kerala regarding the ayurvedic author Vāgbhaṭa, stating that he was from Kerala and even that he was a Muslim who converted to Hinduism. These legends have not been examined in the scholarly literature, and are of ethnographical interest. However, there is no question that the historical evidence places Vāgbhaṭa in Sind, not Kerala. Wujastyk 19:21, 26 February 2016 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Sushruta Samhita/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

I think that this article should be re-rated to at least a GA ( Good Article ) standard . Please discuss.

Last edited at 21:35, 16 February 2008 (UTC).

Substituted at 07:24, 30 April 2016 (UTC)