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'spells'in metrical form, as hymns and prayers addressed to the gods. Many of the Atharvan ceremonies were exorcistic in character (Kauś., xxv, 22-36). Many substances were believed to have magical powers when brought in contact with the patient, by inhalation or fumigation, as the smoke from burning wood for expelling demons (ib., xxv, 23; xxxi, 19, 22), and for worms (ib., xxvii, 17, 20). Cure of disease is effected by the laying-on of hands in connection with expelling hymns (ib., xxvi, 6; xxxii, 18), and a ring of magic powder is drawn around the house to prevent the return of the demon (ib., xxviii, 11). A trap appears to be laid for the demon by making an offering in a fire surrounded by a ditch containing hot water (ib., xxxi, 3). Poison is driven out by rubbing the patient from head to foot (ib., xxxii, 23). External applications, as of ointments, must be made downward to drive the trouble where it will do the least harm, and finally out of the feet (Rigveda, X, lx, 11-12). Diseases are charmed forth (Atharva., IX, viii). Amulets were 'god-born,' and many substances were worn, as of the vegetable kingdom, metals, stones, strings, and knots, to ward off evil influences from the person." "Indra placed thee [a plant] upon his arm in order to overcome the asuras" (ib., II, xxvii, 3). Amulets are worn against disease in general (Kauś., xxvi, 37); for the cure of excessive discharges (ib., xxv, 6); for kṣetriya (chronic or hereditary disease) (ib., xxvi, 43); for constipation or retention of urine (ib., xxv, 10); and for diseases conceived as due to possession by demons (ib., xxvii, 5). Man is released from demons by an amulet of ten kinds of holy wood (Atharva., II, ix, 1). Demons are slain by amulets (Kauś., xlii, 23); sorcery is repelled (ib., xxxix, 1); and triumph is gained over human enemies (ib., xlviii, 3). Gold worn as an amulet confers longevity (Atharva., XIX, xxvi, 1). Charms

14 G. M. Bolling, "Charms and Amulets (Vedic),” in ERE iii, 470.

against disease are also mentioned in the Rigveda (X, lvii-lx, clxi, clxiii), and against poisons (ib., VII, 1).


Physicians were recognized as constituting a profession (Vājasaneyi Samhitā, xxx, 10), and the Atharvaveda recognizes physicians as well as priests as agents for the ceremonial cure of disease (e.g., V, xxix, 1; VI, xxiv, 2; VIII, vii, 26). Under the Brahmans, a certain number of priests pledged themselves to the exclusive study of healing and formed a second brotherhood, ranking below the sages, who were occupied solely with metaphysics and theology. Later, the kṣatriyas ('warriors') devoted themselves to medicine, and shortly thereafter the profession of healing declined in rank to the castes of vaisyas (merchants, etc.) and sūdras (conquered races). All these acted as, and assumed to be, physician-priests practicing theurgic medicine with ceremonies and sacrifices, magic arts and sorcery, and often descending to shamanism.15 These classes came to be despised by the priests and warriors and they were excluded from all ceremonies sacred to the manes and to the gods. According to the Taittiriya Samhita (VI, iv, 93), "a Brahman must not perform healing," this prohibition being due, at least in part, to the defilement of his caste by being brought into contact with all sorts of men (Maitrāyaṇi Samhita, IV, vi, 2), and for this reason the Aśvins were excluded from the sacrifice. Offerings presented to a Brahman acting as a physician became pus and blood (Mahābhārata, XIII, xc, 14). So, too, a physician must be avoided at a sacrifice (Manu, iii, 152) and must not be invited to one (Vasiṣṭha Dharma Sutra, lxxxii, 9); neither may his food be eaten (Apastamba Dharma Sutra, I, vi, 1821; xix15).

15 Bruzon, La Médecine et les religions, p. 13; also Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, ii, 104-106.

Neither Buddhist nor Jain monks may be physicians (Uttaradhyayana, xv, 8; Aṭṭhakavajja, xiv, 13; Tevijja Sutta, ii, 7).


It has been seen that the ancient gods of the Indians were not strictly specialized. The function of healing pertained to a number of deities who are mentioned in the hymns and the epics as physicians, but (with the possible exception of Dhanvantari) as an incident to their more important duties of directing the various forces of nature. They appear as working cures in a detached and sporadic fashion rather than as a matter of devotion to the sick and suffering. The chief Indian deities who are mentioned in the Vedic hymns, the epics, and the myths, as exercising their divine powers for the healing of mankind, though not healers in the larger, specific sense, are the following:17

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16 For additional information and Vedic references to the healing deities of ancient India, see Mukhopadhyāya, History of Indian Medi


17 Several other deities of minor rank are mentioned in the Vedas in connection with medicine, and ancient sages, often referred to as divine, are referred to in Indian literature. Rākā, Sinivāli, Guñgu, and Anumati were goddesses associated with procreation and child-birth (Rigveda, II, xxxii, 6-8; X, clxxxiv, 2). Other references to Anumati will be found in Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, v, 346, 398. Trita Aptya is


THE ADITYAS were a group of deities who varied widely, not only in number (sometimes three, six, seven, eight, or twelve), but also in name (Mitra, Aryaman, Bhaga, Varuna, Dakṣa, and Aṁśa; or Mitra, Varuņa, Aryaman, Amśa, Bhaga, Dhātṛ, Indra, and Vivasvant, etc.). Their appellation shows that they were 'children of Aditi' (the 'Boundless One'), and some of them are solar deities (e.g., Mitra) or sky-gods (e.g., Varuņa). They are manyeyed, and sleepless; they are blameless, pure, and holy. They see what is good and evil in men's hearts and distinguish the honest from the deceitful. From Varuna they have received the moral duty of punishing sin and rewarding virtue. They bestow light, long life, offspring, and guidance; and are celestial deities who ward off sickness and distress (Rigveda, VIII, xviii, 10), though the reference to the latter function is only of the most general character.18


AGNI ('Fire') was one of the great original deities of the Rigveda, just as fire was a principal divinity of other Indo-European peoples-Iranians, Greeks, Latins, and Balto-Slavs. In later speculation Agni symbolizes the immaterial fire of divine intelligence and is the conservator of the world. He is the divinity of sacrificial fire, Gṛhapati, the 'lord of the home,' the 'closest friend,' whom the people keep always at their hearth-side. He is the god of priests and the priest of the gods. He changes his form at will, and one of his great deeds was to burn the rākṣasas who infested the sacrifice. He inspires men

referred to as a divine healer (Keith, op. cit., p. 56) but the authority for this statement is not entirely reliable. Bharādvāja and Ātreya are examples of ancient sages reverenced as divine.

18 A. A. Macdonell, "Vedic Mythology," in GIPA, 1897, pp. 43-45; also Bergaigne, La Religion védique, iii, 98-110.

and protects them from evil (Rigveda, I, lxxxix). In the Atharvaveda, he is the divine 'physician, a maker of remedies' (V, xxix, 1), who is invoked to restore to the sick man the flesh eaten away by the piśāchas (vv. 4-5, 12-13). He burns away the poison of snakes just as in the Vedas he burns goblins (ib., VII, 1), and he is invoked to give relief in insanity (Atharva., VI, cxi). The invocation to the fire-god for snake bites and skin disease (? cancer) is suggestive of the possible use of the actual cautery. The principal Agni sacrificial rite against possession by demons was the burning of fragrant substances and fumigation. Agni is invoked in prayer chiefly to protect the body, the sight (Vājasaneyi Saṁhitā, iii, 17), the hearing, to quicken the mind and prolong life (Atharva., III, xi, 4), and his healing functions occupy a relatively unimportant place in the myths told concerning him."o


APAḤ represented the 'Waters,' divine mothers who abide on high, cleanse from moral guilt and purify. They are remedial, they grant remedies for healing, long life, and immortality (Rigveda, I, xxiii, 19-21; VI, 1, 7; X, ix, 5-7), and in the house they watch over man's health (Hiranyakesi Gṛhya Sūtra, II, iv, 5). In the Atharvaveda they are besought for procreative vigor (I, v, 3); they heal heart-burn (VI, xxiv, 1); they bring health and medicine, drive disease away, and cure all maladies (VI, xci, 3; cf. III, vii, 5); they are better healers than physicians (XIX, ii, 3). Likewise, in the White Yajurveda, they contain healing medicine (ix, 6), and are besought to flow with health and strength for their worshippers (xxxvi, 12).20

19 Macdonell, op. cit., pp. 88-100; Bergaigne, op. cit., i, 11-148; Hopkins, Epic Mythology, pp. 97-107; Muir, op. cit., v, 199-223. 20 Macdonell, op. cit., pp. 85-86.

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