India needs its Ayurveda graduates, including surgeons, to improve the common man’s access to decent health care
In 2014, while speaking at the inauguration of a hospital in Mumbai, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extolled the virtues of India’s medical heritage. “How else would Shiva have grafted an elephant head on Ganesha after having beheaded the boy,” he asked to thunderous applause from an audience of senior doctors and very important persons. Shiva as a surgeon is of course mythology. But we know about Sushruta and his surgical dexterity at a time when the world had not yet woken up to the art and the science of surgery. There are detailed descriptions in the Sushruta Samhita, the ancient Sanskrit text on medicine and surgery, of procedures such as rhinoplasty where the nose is reconstructed with tissue from the cheek. It was thousands of years later that modern plastic surgeons described this procedure.