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Jivaka the Greatest Physician and Surgeon of India

Hello everyone, today we are going to talk about Jivaka the physician and surgeon of ancient India and we would look into all his works and contributions. He is considered one the greatest scholars also spelled as ‘Jeevak’.

Jivaka was considered to be a healer for a lot of kings, Gautam Buddha, all the monks, and all the people from all around the world. There is quite a good amount of literature in different languages of Chinese, Tibetan, Pali, and Sanskrit which has described the life of Jivaka, his works, and contributions.

But still, there are considerable variations in the accounts. Jivaka’s practice in medicine in his lifetime has made some exceptional contributions to surgery. The story of Jivaka’s life is a countable one as in the west he has largely remained an unknown figure.

Birth of Jivaka the physician and surgeon

Jivaka the physician and surgeon was born in Rajagriha, Magadha and was born of a courtesan named Amrapali from the Republic of Vaishali, and in some other texts, she has been named Salavati. Amrapali’s beauty and love affairs were very known at that time and she was also very truthful towards her children.

She used to dump her newborn and unwanted in the garbage outside Ratnagiri which was near the kingdom of Magadha. Jivaka the physician and surgeon were also known as Komarbaccha because Kumar or Prince Abhaya who was the son of Prince Bimbisara found the newborn alive in very harsh circumstances and saved him and named him “Jivaka” which meant “Life” as he was alive in such bad condition.

The early life of Jivaka

Prince Abhaya treated Jivaka as his son and in his childhood, he got royal education with all the other princes and it was to be found that Jivaka was an extraordinarily sensitive, intelligent, and sharp-minded child.

When Jivaka the physician and surgeon was in his teenage he got to know about how he was not the royal birth of Prince Abhaya (in texts it is mentioned that it was unknown to him and others) and after getting to know about this Jivaka felt ashamed of himself and felt indebted towards the prince.

Then he found a profession where he could get independent and earn money and repay the prince for his upbringing. While the medication of the city built an interest in Jivaka, he felt that the treatments weren’t quality efficient.

This is the story of how Jivaka in those times got into the greatest University of Taxila which was in the northwestern part of India. He got entry into that university by passing the test of deductive reasoning, and his excellence was also tested under the great Guru of India Atreya Punarvasu. Jivaka studied and got himself trained for seven years to prove that he was worthy of his Guru.

Once his master gave Jivaka a test of finding a herb or a plant that didn’t have any medical value to test his skills. With all the strength Jivaka checked all the plants and herbs in that area with all the benefits and uses each plant had and he concluded to his master that there wasn’t any such plant or herb that didn’t have any medical value.

Jivaka the physician and surgeon according to him said “everything on this planet is medicine and nothing else”.

Read more: Kalidas, Mahāvīra, Bhaskara 1

The Healer in Medicine

After performing a lot of surgical and therapeutic sessions on his way as he returned to Magadha. Jivaka the physician and surgeon made quite a good amount of money through his services from the rich patients.

The money he earned he tried to give to Prince Abhaya his father but his father neither accepted the money and in return, he built an infirmary for Jivaka his son to give a much better treatment to the patients.

With time he became the most known and trusted gynecologist and surgeon of that period and a lot of people traveled from long distances just to get treated by Jivaka the physician and surgeon. It also documented Jivaka through a magic tree stick he used to see into the body like an X-ray or ultrasound.

King Bimbisara who was a follower of Gautam Buddha Jiavaka became the physician for the King, through all the medical treatments for infectious diseases, body problems, pediatrics did by Jivaka was been spread all over through which Jivaka gained a lot of fame and popularity and became the greatest physician and surgeon.

Healer for Buddhism

As the Buddha was the healer of humanity Jivaka the physician and surgeon became the healer for the physical body of Buddha. Jivaka treated all the monks (Bhikkhus), all the followers of the spiritual guru of Prince Abhaya Mahavira Jain. Jivaka remained to be the follower of Buddha but he contributed a lot to the lives of monks.

Once a grateful King gave Jivaka a very expensive shawl for his successful treatments and Jivaka wanted to give that shawl to Buddha so that it can be used in cold weather. Buddha did accept the gift but he has torn the shawl in rags and sewn it again so that it can look worthless in the eyes of society.

Jivaka was influential and spread Buddhism around the world. He also influenced Buddha and asked him to tell the monks to do exercises for their bodies to keep the body away from diseases like metabolism due to the unhealthy eating lifestyle.

Steps for Surgery

Just like Sushruta before him Jivaka believed in these three stages or steps of surgery which plays an important role:

  1. First was the preoperative methods “Purva Karma” Jivaka the physician and surgeon found the most important part of the stage in surgery which was to make a careful observation, write down the proper diagnosis, and put down the proper course of action.
  2. Second part by Jivaka the physician and surgeon said was the procedure or the operation itself “Pradhan Karma” which meant that there is always an audience watching the operation. Which now in the West is known as ‘Operation Theatre’ the most wow part.
  3. The Third stage was Postoperative care “Pashchatya Karma” this stage is mostly confining the relatives or family members of the patients. And all the outcome after the surgery depends upon postoperative care which is now also equally important.

Legacy of Jivaka the physician and surgeon

The process through which time passes has caused history to become the legend and give respect to someone on a deeper level. “Jivaka”, this name over centuries and decades, had become the “miracle man”.

In India all the therapies which didn’t even exist at a time when originally the Chinese practice of inserting needles through the skin at specific points to cure diseases or relieve the pain was done. Later it was Jivaka the physician and surgeon who contributed.

In Thailand all the massage therapists considered Jivaka to be the father of “Thai Massage” and Jivaka is regarded as the greatest physician of ancient times by the Chinese.

The remains of his vihara in the city of Rajgir Jivaka the physician and surgeon are still visited by hundreds of people from all over the world. All the scholars had said that eventually, Jivaka had become the “Arahant” which means one who has gained nirvana being alive.

It is also considered that he is one of the sixteen Arahants who are protecting all kinds of teachings of Buddha for the time being till the arrival of the next Buddha.

Conclusion

Considered the most regarded and greatest physician and surgeon of Indian ancient times along with Sushruta. It also said Jivaka the physician and surgeon is still living somewhere on a mountain peak between India and Sri Lanka. The legend seems to be waiting for his healer.

And the article comes to an end, this was all about the great physician and surgeon Jivaka and his life, contributions, and works. Thank you!

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