"Since the eight branches of Ayurveda have been described in a lucid manner without prolixity and presented in on easily undertandable and systematic way, there is no doubt that Susrutasamhita is more useful to the physicians than other treatises of Ayurveda.
Though there were so many other works of his time, the book written by Susruta has become more popular due to its practicable contents. Leaving Caraka Samhita and Susruta Samhita, all other such treatises composed around that time are not available to us in complete form due to many reasons. Carakasamhita has emphasized on management of diseases through internal medicine while Susrutasamhita gave more importance to surgical management since the later felt that was need of the hour in cases of diseases which occur suddenly like- inflammations, wounds, cuts, fractures etc. Also because these occur accidentally and need emergency care without which they can be fatal.
This treatise is said to be composed by Susruta, son of Visvamitra from the preachings of Lord Dhanvanteri who is from the lineage of rulers of Kasi kingdom, who is also considered as the incarnation of Dhanvantari, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu originated during the churning of the milky ocean. The referances from great epics like Mahabharata, Bhagavata etc., puranas like Yisnupurana, Agnipurana, Vayupurana, Brahmanda purana etc., upanisads, Harivamsa and so on confirm the existance of Dhanvantari as originating from the milky ocean bearing the sacred vessal containing nectar.
The lineage of Dhanvantari is clearly mentioned in Harivamsa. The foremost known king of Kasi was Kasa, Dirghatapa was his son; Dhanva was the son of Dirghatapa and Dhanvantari was the son of Dhanva. This Dhanvantari was the great grandfather of Divodasa who has contributed considerably for the spread of Ayurvedic practice. He was said to be rebuilding the Varanasi with all aminities. His name is found in four contexts in Mahabharata. He being a kingly individual, had full knowledge of warfare and the consequences of war in the form of injuries and emergency conditions. He was also referred to as Divodasa Dhanvantari having imbibed all the qualities of Dhanvantari. It appears that he had decided to spread the knowledge of Ayurveda in a systematic way and in that pursuit, established a hermit where he trained many students on regular basis. As Susruta puts it in the treatise, Divodasa Dhanvantari had accepted, with compassion, desciples from all castes, keeping in view, the health needs of all human beings.
The author of Carakasamhita gives due importance to the followers of Dhanvantari and suggests surgical intervention by the experts for Dhanvantara school of Ayurvedic practice in deserving cases. Susrutasamhita has more practical approach among all treaties of its contemporary times. This text contains one hundred and twenty chapters in total distributed in five sthanas, viz., Sutrasthana-46 chapters, Nidanasthana-16, Sarirasthana-10, Cikitsasthana-40 and Kalpasthana containing 8 chapters. It appears that Uttaratantra was added at a later period which contains 66 chapters furnishing the details of E.N.T. and Eye diseases, paediatrics, internal medicine and demonology. The basic concepts of Ayurveda, drugs and their properties are given in Sutrasthana while Rejuvenative and aphrodisiac therapies are detailed in cikitsasthana. The toxicology is discussed in Kalpsthana. The surgical procedures are given importance and detailed almost in all sthanas. Thus, it can be said that Susrutasamhita is treatise that gives complete description of eight branched Ayurveda with more emphasis on the techniques of surgery.
Susruta is called "Father of Surgery". The systematic description of cadaver dissection is seen only in this book. The Marma- The vital points in the body and the consequences of these being injured, finds prominent place in this text. The description of bodily parts in the sarira with minute details of their origination in the womb and form and functions in every stage of life astonishes even the modem-day anatomists and surgeons. The surgical procedures which are necessiated in cases of during war-fare, accidents, fights etc., are practicable even today with adoptation of modem surgical instruments. The surgical intervention in certain diseases like piles, fistula, lithiasis, ascitis, cataract and so on adopted in this work is helpful in removing the agony faster. The rhinoplasty is a remarkable contribution as also the conjoining of cut lip. Thus it can be clearly understood that the emergency medicine has seen its peak during Susrutasamhita period. Rakta, the blood has been given the status of Dosa as it can influence the other tissues and the balance of physiological system in certain conditions. Thus the followers of Dhanvantari Sampradaya and consequently the Susrutasamhita are considered as distinct Ayurvedic practitioners with more practical approach in healing the ailing humanity. Susruta also hints at the utility of Mercurial medicine when he says that the Rasa expert and the mantra expert should be always alert in saving the king from the two kinds of death i.e., coused by Dosas and sudden reasons.
Susruta, the ablest of all desciples of Dhanvantari, seems to have lived during fourth and fifth centuries A. D. as confirmed by many historians. He was the son of sage Visvamitra. As stated by Yadavji, this Yisvamitra is identified as belonging to Kasyapatreya gotra, born after the incarnation of Lord Srikrsna and not to be confused with sage Yisvamitra of sri Rama’s times.
Dalhana's Nibandhasangraha is the essence of all commentaries on this work. Dalhana incorporated all his knowledge acquired by touring to varieres places and consulting various experts in the field of Ayurveda. He clearly mentioned the opinion of other commentators like sri Brahmadeva, Jejjata and Gayadasa, whom the indearingly refers to as Gayi. It is my fortune that I took up the translation of nibandhasangraha commentary along with that of the main text. This helps in understanding Susrutasamhita in a better manner.
There has been a growing curiosity among many of the other systems of medicine towards these treatises which have been taking care of the human health needs since ages. Having gained confidence from the translation of Sarngadhara- samhita and Madhavanidana into English, I have ventured this project encouraged by Shri Brijmohan Das Gupta of Chowkhambha Sanskrit series office, Varanasi. It is hoped that this will serve as a ready reckoner to the students and researchers. During this task, more than ever, I enjoyed the moral support of my wife-Padmaja, my daughter-Sivapriya, my son-in-law Dr. Jayakrishna, my son-Chayanath and my daughter-in-law-Anuradha, I wish them good health and prosperity.
I request the learned to give their valuable opinion about betterment of this presentation if necessary, which will be adopted in future editions.