HISTORY OF INDIAN PLASTIC SURGERY
Just as the Sun rises in the East, the science of plastic surgery first dawned in the ancient Indian civilization.
The first detailed description of plastic surgical procedures is found in the clinical text on Indian surgery, the 'Sushruta Samhita' (circa 600 B.C.). Atharva Veda, the root of Ayurveda , the classical text of Indian medical knowledge includes two seminal texts, Charaka Samhita on medicinal aspects and Sushruta Samhita which incorporates details of surgical tools and operative techniques. Sushruta wrote this treatise based on the lectures of his teacher, the famous surgeon king, Devadas ('incarnation of Dhanwantari , the divine physician). In fourth century A.D. Vagbhat , an Indian physician recounted the plastic surgical procedures with more details than provided in Sushruta Samhita. In his book,'Ashtanga Hridyans Samhita' he credits the techniques to Maharishi Atreya. It is interesting to find mention of plastic surgical procedures such as rhinoplasty, otoplasty, tissue grafting, organ transplants, transfer of embryo, cross-grafting of head and re-attachment of limbs etc. in these ancient Indian Medical Treatises and Puranic Literature.
This golden era of Hindu Surgery began its gradual decline from the time of Buddha (562- 472 B.C.). Buddhist scripture Mahavagga Jataka enforced strict prohibition on surgeons and Manusmriti prescribed special rituals for purification of surgeons. Contemporary teaching that time was basically medicinal i.e. Ayurveda, which forbade surgery, as contact with blood and pus was considered polluting. Hence, during this period, these great surgical skills were delegated to lower castes like 'Koomars' or potters who were known for their manual dexterity. They kept alive this valuable knowledge and passed it from father to son as a family secret. In fact India and Egypt are considered as the fountain-heads from which the stream of knowledge flowed to the middle east, eventually to reach Mediterranean civilization; the Greeks and the Romans. The ancient Indian medical knowledge was carried into Greece and Arabia by Buddhist Missionaries. The German, French and English surgeons were introduced to the older Indian method. During that period, certain German scholars who studied the original text in Sanskrit, British surgeons and French travelers, who saw for themselves the rhinoplasty operations performed in India, revealed the wonders and practical possibilities of this speciality to the Western world. It was, however, the discovery of anaesthesia (Morton, Long and Wells) and anti-sepsis (Lord Lister) which revolutionised the practice of surgery and made it painless and infection free.
Modern plastic surgery in India started after World War II. During the war, there were couple of British Maxillo-facial Surgery Units and a special mention was made about them by Mr. Tom Gibson (Canniesburn Hospital) at Bangalore and by Mr. E.W. Peet at Pune, during their visits to India. This kindled the interest in Plastic surgery among a few young Indian surgeons working then with the armed forces as "temporary commissioned officers". After the war, two of them i.e. Dr. C. Balakrishnan and Dr. R.N.Sinha specialised in Plastic Surgery, while Major Sukh continued his interest in the speciality as a pioneer in the field of plastic surgery at the Armed Forces Medical College and Hospital, Pune. There was no existence of plastic surgery as a recognised speciality in the country.The first independent Department of Plastic Surgery in the country was finally created at the M.C.Hospital, Nagpur, in 1958.