Looking back to the pre vedic era we find that the primitive man was terrified by the world around and described diseases as supernatural malevolent forces. The age has perhaps even yet no entirely passed away. As a matter of fact the medical man represents the oldest professional class of which we have record. The oldest surgical operation of which we have evidence is the opening of skull.
There is a mention of revival of the lost eye sight and lost hearing by great physician/surgeons Ashvini Kumaras and Lord Indra in Rigveda the oldest and the first treatise of the world.
This is perhaps the first evidence of flourished medical knowledge and the treatment of the eye and ear diseases of which we have record in the history of human race. Further in the Ken Sutra of Atharvaveda we find the description of sensory organs seven apertures of the skull and location of the eye in the skull. Not only this we find sufficient use of antimony in eye disorders as well.
There is another treatise Netropanishad which speaks about different parts of the eye. Others like Aranyakopanishad tell us the greater details about the anatomy and physiology of eye including blood vessels, iris, pupils, lacrimation eye, lids. Etc.
It is important to note that the era of samhitas gets the credit for preserving shaping organizing Ayurveda as a separate branch. In addition during this period the science of ayurveda has been specified into different sections i.e. Ashtang Ayurveda as such this type of division, has been followed and considered to be necessary by the contemporary medical sciences of the day very recently.
The importance of the development of Shalakya Tantra as a whole was upheld to its maximum when we look into the written documents on the subject, i.e. Videha Tantra, Ninii Tantra, Gargya and (lalava Tantras, as well as, the Satyiki Tantra; who was the first to invent the couching system.
To our surprise, the only branch of Ayurveda—Shalakya Tantra could develop a new tradition to mention the disorders affecting individual structures of the eye. Almost all diseases of the eye which we come across today have been described by Sushruta.
Another important fact which Sushruta has indicated for local use in the eye is snake poison-venom and fat as well as flesh and vasa of vulture (Sushruta, Uttar Tantra 17.35) to check the development of cataractltimira in the eye. No other medical system speaks about such type of treatment. Hence, it is a unique and original contribution of Sushruta. Another significant contribution of Sushruta that needs a word of appreciation is the use of spleen and liver as food for the remedy of night blindness. (Sushruta, Uttar Tan u-a 17.24).
Sushruta also speaks about the errors of refraction, but he has not mentioned the use of spectacles. This fact can be taken as a guarantee that all such diseases must have cured with the help of medicines.
Similarly, while describing the surgical procedures in eye diseases, Sushruta mentions trephining for the cure of staphyloma and acute glaucoma.
In addition, it may not be an exaggeration to mention that the description of macula and pupil are in support of an apparatus which Sushruta must have been using to see the interior of the eye.
I am happy to note that Dr. Udaya Shankar, Madikeri has gone through all the literature while writing this book. Further, Dr. Udaya Shankar, being a Post Graduate student of mine. I could see the sincerity and dedication towards his studies and care of the patients.
This work on Shalakya Tantra will definitely be useful to medical students in the U.G. as well as PG. disciplines as will prove to be a good asset to them, who intend to have an understanding of the basic principles of the science and art of Shanakya Tantra. Similarly, this book will be of value for several practitioners in the field of Shalakya as well as those who wish to keep pace with the rapidly advancing knowledge in the diseases of Shalakya Tantra.
Compared to Kaya Chikitsa and Shalya Tantra, this specialty branch Shalakya Tantra seems to be lagging behind in clinical practice. To overcome it Central Council of Indian Medicine has formulated a new syllabus after brain storming sessions. This text book, based on this new syllabus, is intended to provide practical methods of Shalakya Tantra to treat the diseases of head and neck.
Some of the features that make this book distinct are:
• Proper illustrations of eye conditions are necessary than descriptive words. Hence maximum number of color photographs are presented for easy understanding of signs of eye diseases. It is for the first time, color images of most of the Netra rogas of classical texts are provided here.
• Original statements of Bhagawan Nimi (Videha) are scattered in the vast literary sources. They are compiled here to provide a comprehensive view of every eye disease. The teachings of Sushruta, Vagbhata and Nimi and quotations of Parahita Samhita, Kapali netra roga, Chakshusyena, Satyaki tantra etc., are also presented.
• Opinions of commentators like Dalbana, Indu, Arunadatta, Chandranandana, Vijaya rakshita, Adhamalla, Srikanta datta and other scholars are included while discussing the features of the diseases.
• While explaining the local eye treatments like Kriya kalpas, specific drug compounds are reviewed depending upon the ailment.
• Ayurvedic management of new generation diseases like Degenerative pathologies of eye are discussed based on practical experience and views of the contemporary scholars.
• Several clinical study reports are included while describing the treatment of Netra Rogas. As this data is incomplete, I hereby request the researchers to send the summary of their clinical trials, so as to include them in the forthcoming editions of Shalakya Tantra.
• Some of the descriptions in this book are based on the proceedings of the national seminars on Netra Rogas and internet sites. Few images are copied from well known medical sites. I am indebted to all those contributors.