"Ancient India produced medical teachings and practices that were codified and passed from master to student. Written in Sanskrit, the canonical texts of Ayurvedic medicine, the Caraka Samhita and the Susruta Samhita, date from the early Christian era but claim to represent teachings from the distant past. They provide extensive information on disease causation, treatment, surgical techniques and materia medica, as well as incantations (mantras), omens and injunctions about physicians’ behaviour.
Page from Ayurvedic Textbook
A page of text from the Susrutasamhita, an ayurvedic textbook, on various surgical procedures and surgical instruments. The text presents itself as the teachings of Dhanvantari, King of Kasi (Benares) to his pupil Susruta and is said to be by Susruta.
The Caraka Samhita also had an oath of initiation similar to the Hippocratic Oath, but there were some differences in India:
A pupil in Ayurvedic medicine had to vow to be celibate, to speak the truth, to adhere to a vegetarian diet, to be free of envy, and never to carry weapons. He was to obey his master and pledge himself to the relief of his patients, never abandoning or taking sexual advantage of them. He was not to treat enemies of the king or wicked people, and had to desist from treating women unattended by their husbands or guardians. The student had to visit the patient’s home properly chaperoned, and respect the confidentiality of all privileged information pertaining to the patient and his or her household.
As taboos against treating people outside one’s social class intensified, the practices of Brahmin class vaidyas (good physicians) were limited to their own caste to protect their ritual purity. For other castes, home remedies, folk healers, astrology and religious faith provided succour during periods of pestilence, famine and other natural disasters. But Hindu principles of “respect for all life and the virtues of honesty, generosity, and hospitality” provided a firm ethical foundation for medical practice."