Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Anandayya, true representative of ancient medicine

By now, Krishnapatnam Anandayya is well known not only in the two Telugu States but also across the whole country. The medicine made by Anandayya at Krishnapatnam in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh and distributed to thousands of people had become the talk of the entire nation. There have been arguments and counter arguments on Ayurveda and Allopath medical systems. Some contended that Ayurveda alone is great while some others rejected the argument saying it is unscientific. In fact, for every country there would be a system of medicine which has been inculcated over centuries according to the times and needs of the  people. India also had such a system. That is called Ayurveda, siddha medicine and herbal medicine. It has so many other names. However, these systems did not make any progress. They can be said to have frozen where Anandayyas stopped. The Allopath or modern medicine or western medicine has developed worldwide by leaps and bounds. It is making the man an eternal being defying death. Whatever may be individual opinions about the systems of medicine, Allopath has taken the human being to top of the world.

Also read: What Anandayya of Andhra Pradesh has done many can do in India

I don’t, however, wish to brand the present Ayurveda, siddha and herbal medicines as unscientific. Their progress and attainment were stopped by our own society. We killed our own system of medicine. It is like killing one’s own mother. If we dig deeper into history we would find the most valuable and extremely useful medicinal practices buried deep under numerous layers of earth.

Also read: Anandayya’s drug distribution from June 7

Greeks invented modern medicine

Greek physician-philosopher Hyppocrates is called father of modern medicine. Democritus, known for his rudimentary atomic theory, was Hyppocrates’ mentor. Hyppocrates belong to 400 BCE. Till then human being was dependent on prayers to God. There was no scientific methods or medical systems in vogue. Man changed all this and worked very hard to find out diseases, their causation, cure and wellbeing. Today’s allopath medicine stands enormously developed on the foundation laid by the Greeks.  The system or modern medicine also found vaccines to cure epidemics from time to time and saved the humanity.

Also read: Anandayya’s drug:Only production,no distribution at Krishnapatnam

But this system has become commerce and used as a tool by the corporate companies with investment of thousands of crores rupees to loot the people. This is not the fault of the medical system. The fault lies with the corporates which turned the system into unprincipled business. The governments which are standing by the exploiting companies are also at fault.

Then, why our own national medical system stopped in its tracks long ago? Why is it not able to answer the medical needs of the people? There is need to reflect on this aspect.

Buddhist monks practised ancient medicine

Even before the Greeks took the preliminary steps in the process of  developing modern medicine, Charaka, known as grandfather of Ayurveda, in 3rd century BCE wrote a treatise called ‘Charaka Samhita’ (Charaka’s comprehensive treatise). This theory was in eight books and 120 chapters. It is the foundational treatise of Indian classical medicine. It says disease and death are not predetermined and diseases can be cured by human effort. There were details in this treatise of disease, food, cleanliness, prevention of the disease, treatment, medicines, doctor, nurse, patient and the overall relationship between them. The treatise was the result of a great study in detail. We should remember that the book was written after Buddhism came into being. There was medical system during Buddha’s time. Buddhist literatures refers to Jeevakudu, the physician. There was a reference which says Buddha himself was a physician. Buddhist monasteries, besides doing all other things connected with Buddhism, also functioned as health centres. Buddhist monks followed medicine.  Till then the Brahmin purohit class of Vaidika religion did not think about medicine. They were relying on Vedas, chants and miracles. Moreover, they socially boycotted the people who were practising classical medicine. The reason was that in order to cure the disease the doctors have to touch the patients and they might contact the disease in the process. They thought by touching the patients the doctors become infected. As long as Buddhism had its sway, the purohit class could not do anything. Pushyamitra, a Brahmin warrior, killed Brihadradha, grandson of Mauryan emperor Ashoka, the great. He founded Sunga dynasty. It was followed by another Brahmin dynasty of Kanva. These two dynasties ruined Buddhism and revised the systems that were in vogue during pre-Buddhist era. Part of this was the controversial Manudharma Shashtra. This smriti considers physicians as mean people. They were not supposed to participate in any holy activities like Yagnyas, If they were  given food it is as good as blood and mucus. 152 and 180 rules of third chapter in Manudharma Shashtra stipulate these conditions. The 212 and 220 rules contained in the fourth chapter ordain that the physician should not be given food and no food offered by him should be accepted. This was a first major blow to the ancient medicine in India.

Also read: Anandayya’s drug : AP govt. gives green signal

Brahmins kept it secret

While converting Vaidika dharma into Brahminism, they owned up the same Ayurveda system of medicine which they earlier detested. However, they took precaution not to let other caste people know of the Ayurvedic secrets. Thus the system was completely confined to Brahmins. But people of other castes made use of the knowledge they acquired  from Buddhists and developed their own medical systems.  In those days people from barber (Nai Brahmins) community were considered as great physicians.  Women of this community worked as midwives helping in innumerable deliveries. Even physicians or midwives of this community did not show interest in attending to the medical needs of Malas and Madigas. That was how the Pambala and Bindla communities, adept at curing diseases, came into being out of sheer need.

Product of the tradition

Anandayya’s family has been involved in herbal treatment for generations. His two sons are into Information Technology, though. Anandayya is from shepherd community. People of this community used to go to forests to feed their sheep. They observed plants that were not touched by sheep. They recognized them as medicinal plants out of their experience. Anandayya is a product of that tradition. No Ayurvedic specialist examined the medicines that have been prepared by Anandayya’s family members over the decades. There was no research. There are lakhs of Anandayyas across the country. The castes system and the Brahmin domination became a curse and a death knell to the ancient medicine.  Our system of medicine has been buried in our own country. Even now It is not too late. We still have an opportunity before us to comprehensively study the ancient medicine and integrate it with modern medicine and select the most practical cure which is suitable to our conditions and needs. History might pardon us if we cleanse ourselves of the old sins and lay foundation for a new and equitable societal order.  

Also read: Anandayya becomes Bodhidharma

Laxmaiah Mallepalli
Mallepalli Lakshmaiah is a special officer of Buddhavanam project and founder chairman, Centre for Dalit Studies. He writes a weekly column for Sakshi, a Telugu daily. He is a Dalit intellectual, Ambedkarite and a Buddhist.

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