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Ayurveda > Shalya Tantra

By Dr. Satish Kulkarni

We have seen in the last article that Ashtanga Ayurved means an eight-branched tree, which collectively constitutes treatment of different problems, the human body may face. The details of these eight specialized branches are elaborately given in three ancient ayurvedic text books viz. Charak sanhita, Sushrut sanhita and Vagbhata’s Ashtang hrudaya.

Ayurved believes that our body is created of five universal factors. These are Earth (pruthvi), Water (aap), Divine Fire (tej), Air (vayu) and Universal Space (aakash). These five factors are called the panchmahabhootas, which ultimately create three basic constituents, treedoshas (tree = three, doshas = basic components or organizations) vaat-pitta and kafa. These three constituents govern our body, a miraculous creation of nature. When there is imbalance in one/two/all of these three we enter in area called illness.

Ayurved has described medicinal way of treatment, which is called Kaya chikitsa. But at times disease crosses this limit and surgical intervention becomes inevitable. These surgical methods, which are pioneered by ayurved in ancient Indian time, are known by the name Shalya tantra. Literary meaning of Shalya tantra is removal of irritating factor from human body. Shalya means cause, which produces pain, or factor, which induces irritation and tantra means technique by which this cause/factor is removed.

In Sushrut sanhita, one of the famous ayurvedic textbooks Shalya tantra is described in detail. In fact Sushrut was more of a surgeon than physician. In his magnum opus work, Sushrut sanhita he gives a detailed account of surgical interventions in different surgery needed conditions. It’s really interesting to read these techniques from the original book i.e. Sushrut sanhita and one will be amazed to read that thousand of years ago surgical techniques were available and widely practiced in India.

The original text of Sushrut sanhita describes in details about many surgical methods including removal of foreign objects from the human body. Sushrut sanhita tells us how to deal with Arbuda (different types of tumors), Aghata (trauma injuries), dushta vrana (non healing wounds), Udar (ascitis), Asthi bhang (Fractures of bones) etc. In addition Sushruta and his followers have suggested procedures, which deal with complications during pregnancy and labour. Sushrut sanhita gives directive principles in case of obstruction in intestinal loop. And to our surprise this famous surgical school talks about cosmetic surgery also.

The surgical instruments were derived from natural substances like branches of trees, broad leaves etc. For ligatures a creeper i.e. a climbing plant was sometimes used.

Sushrut says, Shalya tantra is needed when problem is beyond capacity of medical treatment. Shalya tantra should be used to give faster relief in certain conditions where Kaya chikitsa will fall short. For Arbuda (abscesses, cysts), for Gandamala (enlarged lymph nodes), for Mul- vyadhi (hemorrhoids), for Gud-bransh (prolapse rectum), for Ashmari (stones), for Mutravaodh (retention of urine) and for stanarog (breast diseases) Shalya tantra is treatment of choice that’s what Sushrut comments.

The major draw back of Shalya tantra was lack of proper aseptic precautions at that time. In addition the instruments in use were crude and their use was painful.

To summerize, we can see seeds of modern surgery in Sushrut sanhita. Sushrut was the first Indian surgeon who discussed surgical techniques which was a bold step towards relief of pain for mankind. If we will read these techniques considering the very fact that they were in practice before 1000 years we will definitely appreciate this valuable work of ancient time.



Ayurvedic Milestones
Ayurvedic Thought
 Vaat, Pitta, Kafa, Dosh
 Dhatu, Mala, Fire
Pathology - Ama
 Ashtang Ayurved
 Agad Tantra
 Kaumar Bhrutya Tantra
 Shalya Tantra
 Shalakya tantra

Actual Case Notes
 Asthmatic Bronchitis
 Bleeding per anum
 Hair Loss
 Pregnancy Care
 Senile Debility
 Solution To Baldness
 Vaat Related Fever

Academic References
Ayurvedic Herbs


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