The Growth of Greco-Arabian Medicine in Mughal India.
Dr. Ravi Shankar Kumar Choudhary
Guest Faculty, Deptt of History, S. M. College
Post Doctoral Fellow, Univ. Deptt. of History
T. M. Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur.
Dr. Kamal Shivkant Hari
Scholar, University Deptt. of History
T. M. Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur.
The Growth of Greco-Arabian Medicine in Mughal India.
The first Battle of Panipat mounted Babar on the throne of Delhi and he laid the foundation-stone of Mughal dynasty in India. During this period medical services were well organized and well extended. In the capital and large cities there were regular hospitals with salaried staff. It is noted that Babar was interested in medical art and had a number of expert physicians in his court. One of his nobles, Mir Khalifa, was a great thinker, a good scholar and also a competent physician. Amir-Abul-Baqa was also his physician.
Topmost and well-known physician, who flourished during the age of Babar hand his successor Himayu, was Yusuf Bin Md. Bin Yusuf, whose versatile games led him to closely investigate various branches of Medicine. He then collected all the available materials from Indian System of Medicine regarding Hyena, general principles, diseases, diagnosis and treatment and composed memorable work in prose and poetry. Thus, he was the pioneer Persian research scholar who amalgamated the Greco-Arabian and Indian medical thought and produced a composite and integrated medical system. He wrote many books, most of which have survived of his strictly medical works, the best known are
1. Jami-ul fawaid (collection of benefits) in which there is a discussion of chancre (Generally refers to the initial lession of syphilis)
2. Fawaid-ul-Akhyar (benefits of the best) in A. D. 1507.
3. His poem on the preservation of health, which is called the Qasida fi Hifz-ul-sihhat, appeared in A. D. 1530 and
4. Riyaz-ul-Adwiya (gardens of remedies) in A. D. 1539, both being dedicated to his patron. Besides these, he composed Tibb-e-Yusufi (medicine of Joseph) and the ‘Ilaj-ul-Amraj’1
During the reign of Humayun no remarkable contribution was made in traditional medicine may be because the ruler had to flee to Persia and had no rest for some time, yet some physicians migrated to India during this period and left their marks in the medical history of India forever.
It appears that the surgeons used to perform plastic operations during that period as it evident from the historical event quoted below :
“In the narration of events of A. D. 1542, it is recorded that at Umarkot Kaufer was ordered to cut the end of Husyn’s ear as a punishment for his treachery (of hiding ingots of pure gold). Kaufer misunderstanding the orer out off the whole ear. On seeing this the king was very angry, sent for a surgeon and had the ear soon on again. The Emperor himself assisted in the operation of Husyan and apologized to the sufferer.”2
Sher Shah had appointed a physician in every guest-house which he established throughout his dominion.
After Humayun’s death, his illustrious son, Akbar the Great, ascended the throne. He was a great patron of scholars and placed a grand premium on intellectual merit and distinction. Abul Fazl gives a list of 29 physicians (Hindus and Muslims both) who were paid out of the royal treasury, some of them were bestowed mansab. During Akbar’s period, besides the government hospitals, most of the physicians run clinics of their won, which were always open to the needy without distinction of caste and creed. Professor Shri Ram Sharma states that Kavi Chandra, Vidyaraja, Todarmal and Nila Kantha composed treatises on medicine.
1. Hakim Ali Husain Gilani was undoubtedly the most eminent physician of his time. He wrote a commentary on Avicenna’s Codnon and a treatise on his clinical experiments and tested cures known as Mujarrabat-e-Aligilani. Besides his medical works, he also constructed the wonderful reservoir which is often mentioned by Mughal historians.
2. Hakim Humam, one of the nine ‘gems’ of Akbar’s court, was the brother of Abdul Fateh. He was the physician of the King’s Harem. He was also a personal friend of Akbar and possessed a great influence. Akbar often said that he did not enjoy his meals during Humam’s absence, which was due to his being sent as an ambassador to Teheran.3
3. Hakim Abul Fateh Gilani, who acquired a high and responsible position in Akbar’s court within a short time wrote
a. Fattahi (Commentary on Canon)
b. Qyasiya (Commentary on Akhlaq-e-Nasiri)
c. Char Bagh and
d. Sharh Qanooncha.
A Portuguese youth presented a to tobacco-pipe to Akbar and extolled its virtues greatly, Akbar smoked a while but was attacked with a fit of coughing. Hakim Gilani suggested that the smoke of tabacco be first passed through a small receptacle of water and the smoke thus purified, cooled and rendered harmless be then inhaled. The invention of the hubble-bubble was thus perfected by Hakim Gilani (Kausar).
4. Muzaffar bin Muhammad al-Husayni al-Shifai4 is probably the best known of the pharmacists of the time of the time of ‘Shah Abbas Safari’ who composed a pharmacopoeia, which a called after himself Tibb-e-Shifai5 (medicine of shiafai), which was composed in 1556, besides his other works. Drugs are mentioned in alphabetical order and the arrangement of the subject-matter closely resembles the works of al-Ansari (I Khtiyaral-e-badie). This book is important because in fact informed the foundation of the Pharmacopoeia a Perciea6 ladd from script of Fr. Angelus, the first European to make a study of Persian medicine7. It is difficult to say in which period he left Isphahan for and what was his main object behind it, but Abdul-Fazl mentioned his name in the list of physicians of Akbar’s court.
When Jahangir ascended the ancestral throne, he issued his famous twelve ordinances, one of which reads as follow :
Hospitals were to be built in large cities and physicians were to be appointed to attend the sick. The expenses were to be paid from the royal treasury.8
As we turn over the pages of his Tuzuk, we come across a few descriptions of medical science, such as rabies, rats being the carriers of plague and technique of preparation of rose-scent, etc. with regard to the anatomy of the gallbladder in animals, he states as follows :
“Mirza Rustam had killed a male wolf. He wished to see whether its gall-bladder was in its liver like that of a tiger or outside the liver that of a tiger or outside the liver as in other animals. After examination it was found that the gall-bladder of this animal also happens to be inside the liver.9
The following experiment was made to test the pharmacological action of Momiyai (Bitumen). However, he comments in the following manner :
I had much from physicians, but when I tried it, no result was apparent. I do not know whether physicians have exaggerated its effects, or whether its efficacy had been by its being stale. At any rate, I gave it to a fowl with a broken leg to drink in large quantity that they said and in the manner laid down by physicians and rubbed some on the place where it was broken and kept it there for three days, through it was sufficient to keep it from morning till evening. But after I had examined it, no effect was produced and the broken leg remained as it was.10
The above descriptions show that Jahangir was deeply interested in medicine and had keen sense of observation.
The physicians of those days, Ruh-Ullah was the most distinguished Hakim. Even Jahangir wrote about him in Tuzuk as follow :
Nurjahan was suffering from a certain disease since long, all the Muslim and Non-Muslim physicians, who were attached to the court, failed to cure her. Then Rul-Ullah came and treated the queen. She recovered her health completely in a very short time.11
During his period, Hakim Aman-Ullah (son of Mahabat Khan) took an active part in composing medical compilations. He compiled the following books :
1. Ganj Badaward is a copious treasury of simple and compound drugs. The book is an encyclopedia pharmacopoeia which presents the pharmacological techniques, practices and experiences of the Greco-Arbian physicians together with those of the Indian Vaidyas.
2. Ummul-Ilaj covers all the principles and laws governing ‘evacuation’ and ‘mat uration’.
3. Dastur-ul-Hind is a persian translation of the Sanskrit treatise known as Madan Nabad.
Shah Jahan was equally enthusiastic about Medical facilities for the common man. The country was equipped with hospital through the length and breadth of the country. According to the author of Badshahnama, Shah Jahan had set up a bit hospital on the northern and the southern corners of the famous Jami Masjid (of Delhi), in which distinguished physicians were posted. The medicine were distributed among the patients without any distinction. It was erected probably in A. D. 1650 (A. H. 1060). We have found two eminent physicians, who raised the level of medicine during Shahjaha’s reign. The Mughal court gave asylum to Persian scientists who fled to India to India during the seventeenth or eighteenth century. Among the famous of these refugees was Hakim Ain-ul-Mulk Shirazi who was the personal physician to Dara Shikoh (son of Shajahan). He was a famous oculist and was well versed in surgery. His best known work is Alfaz-ul-Adwiya (the Vocabulary of drugs) which he composed in 1628-29 for Shah Jahan. Elgood states that this is the only Persian work on general therapeutics that has been translated in to English.
His most important work is Tibb-e-Dara Shikohi. It deserves further study. A few years ago it was customary to attribute this work to Dara Shikoh’s pen. But, apart from the improbability that a royal prince would have sufficient medical knowledge to write such a work, a study of its early Chapters shows that it is to Ain-ul Mulk that the authorship must be assigned. According to leclerc, ‘Surgery is scarcely discussed in this work, even cataract, here is treated with drugs. A long chapter on syphilis is of great interest.’12
An important feature of the book is that after stating causes and symptom under each disease, the author adds his personal experiences and views.
According to the author of Bad Shah Namah, when the emperor (Shah Jahan) came to know the medical ability and popularity of Hakim Mir Muhammad Hashim, he appointed him as the supervisor of the hospital at Ahmadabad. He wrote marginal notes of Hashia of Tafsir-e-Baizawiy (which the author dedicated to the emperor) and Asbab-e-Alamat of Najib-ul-Din Samarqandi. Aurangzed conferred upon him the rank (Mansab) of ‘three thousands’ and bestowed upon him the title of Masih-ul-Zaman Khan Bahadur.
Hakim Muhammad Dawad Taqarrub Khan was also amongst the eminent physicians of those days. ‘Once the king himself suffered from retention of urine. After its treatment he developed the complaint of in continence of Urine and Constipation. A number of physicians treated him. But there was no relief at all. When Hakim Taqurrub Khan began his treatment, he added Shir Khisht in the prescription. The king felt great relief and appointed him to a high rank and made him a commander of five thousands.’13
It appears from the historical facts of those days that the surgery was not confined to the class of barbers as it came to be in later times. It may not have been so developed as medicine but we find references to some difficult and interesting operations and cures that they performed. Manucci tells us about the surgeons of Bijapur who cut the skin of the forehead about the eye brows and provided artificial noses to those who had been disfigured by the Mughal soldiers. It can be safely inferred that the knowledge of plastic surgery had fairly advanced in the field of medical science during the medieval period.
Shah Jahan’s reign had an added luster in the person of an illustrious woman physician, Sati-un-Nisa Khanam. She was also a good nurse. If anybody fell ill in the royal place Sati was there to look after him or her.
Many hospital devoted to the service of the sick were established in the capital and the out lying cities during the reign of Aurangzeb. Many wealthey persons had also started hospital and dispensaries at their own expense. For example, there was a good hospital at Etawah, founded by Nawab Khair-Andesh Khan, a well experienced physician and a good writer. He composed a book on medical science which is known as Khair-ul-Tajarib (the best of the experiences). The author states in the preface of this book as follows :
This poor sinner named as Muhammad Khan and entitled as Khair-Andesh Khan for the sake of the divine recompense founded a hospital in the town of Etowah and appointed several physicians like Abdul Razzaq, Neshpuri, Abdul Majid Isphahani, Mirza Muhammad Ali Bukhari, Muhammad Adil and Muhammad Azam from among the practitioners of Greek system of Medicine and Kanwal Nayn, Sukanand and Nayn Sukh from among the Indian Vaidyas, who are my old friends, so that they might keep in it valuable and easily available medicines of all kinds together with necessary diet and food for the poor patients. They should also keep in it everything else that might e required for the proper treatment and attendance of the patients. The hospital by the irale of God, is working according to my desire.14
Mention must be made of another physician, Muhammad Akbar Arzani, who left Shiraz for the court of Aurangzeb. He began to write about A. D. 1700 and produced several Persian medical compilations :
4. Mufrith-ul-Qulub. (also known as Mufarrih-ul-Qulub)
7. Hudnd-ul-Amraz and
The last mentioned one specially deals with the drugs of Indian System of medicine. In his Mufrih-ul-Qulub, he records his own experiment about an unusual method of treatment adopted by him, to relieve the burning and throbbing sensation of the vesicles of the small pox. Thus he writes as follows :
Muhammad Shukrullah, son of this humble servant, became ill with malignant type of small box. The eruption had been filled with discharge, burning was very serve and was extremely restless. I had up to now never advised anyone to incise the vesicles, as it was not the custom in India. So I hesitated to undertake such a procedure. But being completed by necessity, and inspite of the opposition of the old women, I at last pricked the vesicles of my son with gold needles. And the discharge was drained out of them, immediately relief was felt by the patient. Working slowly and patiently for three pahars (nearly nine hours), I pricked all the vesicles and complete relief was the result of this procedure, I have, since, repeated this technique in several such cases and found it to be entirely satisfactory.15
The reign of Alamgir is especially noteworthy is respect of composing and compiling of medical book. Most of the standard works on tibb were translated into Persian. This was a highly propitious time for the Unani Medicine. Among the other physicians of this age, Muhammad Mahdi was well versed and experienced. He had shown marvelous skill in the treatmentof prince Muhammad Azam and was consequently rewarded with promotion and a title of Hakim-ul-Mulk.
According to R. Faruqi, the two medical books were composed during this period :
1. Tuhfut-ul-Atibba, in which the essence of Avicenna’s Canon and its epitome have been versified in an inspiring manner, and,
2. Riyaz-e-Alamgiri, by Hakim Muhammad Raza Shirazi, were dedicated to Alamgir. There are two parts in the book and the second one entitled Riyaz-e-Manazir.
Although the degenerative stage of the Mughal empire had set in after the death of Aurangzeb, yet the Mughal emperors did not turn their face away from the health needs of this common people.
During the reign of Muhammad Shah, there was a big hospital in Delhi of which Hakim Qawam-ul-Din was the director and annual expenses of which was three lakhs of rupees.
Among the physicians of this age Mirza Muhammad Hashim Alawi Khan was an outstanding figure, who was bestowed upon the title of Mutamad-ul-Mulk by Muhammad Shah Hakim Alawi Khan composed :
4. Matab Alwai Khan.
5. Tuhfa-e-Muhammad Shahi.
6. Ahwal-e-Aza-ul-Nafs and
He achieved a remarkable success by compiling his Jami-ul-Jawami, a masterpiece embodying all the branches of medicine. This gigantic work, which he could not finish during his life time, was later completed by Muhammad Husain Khan, a member of his family.
During the rule of Ahmad Shah, Hakim Iskandar in Kurnool (South India) wrote a glossary of Syrian and Latin medical terms which had been in use in the west since the Middle Ages up to his time. This work is known as Qarabadin Hakim Iskandar.
In the time of Shah Alam II. Hakim Muhammad Sharif Khan occupied the high position of authority in tibbi circles. This veteran founder of the Sharifi family with his proficient knowledge, experience and clinical sagacity raised the level of Greek System of Medicine. He studied medicine under the guidance and supervision of Hakim ‘Abid Sarhandi (who wrote a commentary on Samarqandi’s ‘Asbad-e-Alamat’), Hakim Achhe Sahib and his respected father Hakim Akmal Khan. The Emperor appointed him as his court physician, granted him a specific Jagir and conferred upon him the little of Ashraf-ul-Hakama. He composed the following medical books :
5. Tuhfa-e-Alam Shahi and
6. Sharef Hummiyat-e-Qanoon.
His commentary on the Hummiyat-e-Qanoon and his Ilaj-ul-Amraz are glowing testimony to his acute reasoning. His work is almost the last effort in popularizing the Unani drugs in India and finding equivalent suitable Hindi terminology acceptable to the masses.16
The name of Hakim Shifai Khan Arshad, an eminent physician of Oudh who is considered to be a contemporary of Sharif Khan, needs to be mentioned here. The full details about his life and work are skill obscure. The recent researches (of Hakim Kausar Chandpuri) have confirmed that he wrote a medical book known as Shifa-ul-Jamil, which has already been referred to by the author of I Ksir-e-Azam . In his early life he was appointed in the court of Abdul Sattar Khan, son of Sadar Khan bin Habib Khan Kamal Ziyae. After the latter’s death, he was posted in the court of Asaf-ul-Daula of Lacknow, and he remained there till his death in A. D. 1814. (Hakim Sharif Khan expired in A. D. 1807)
In the field of medical researches in India, his greatest contribution in the prescription of Khamirs’I Abresham,17 (Hakim Arshad Wala)
The modern research made by Hamdard laboratories proved that the said Khamira is specifically a cordial tonic which acts on myocardium. It restores and controls the cordial functions by regulating and balancing the systolic and diastolic movements of the heart. It regulates arrhythmia and as such is of special value in cordial palpitation and its weakness.
In short, the recent experiment support the therapeutic usefulness of this preparation in Greek Systme of medicine in the treatment of Cordial diseases of arteriosclerotic origin.
A few good books on medicine were also written in the time of Tipu Sultan of Mysore, such as,
2. Bahr-ul-Munafi and
Unfortunately, these compilations did not enjoy popularity in the field of medical science.
During Asaf Jah’s period, there were many distinguished physicians, such as Hakim Abdul Husain Khan, Hakim Muhammad Amin-ul-Ishphahani, and others, who worked meticulously to raise the standard of Greco-Arabian medicine in India. An attempt will be made of made to throw light upon their works in due course.
Ø The Relations of Hakims and Vaidyas :
The above facts lead us to the conclusion that in the working of hospital established during Muslim rule in Medieval India, the Muslim Hakims and Hindu Vaidyas co-operated and work together and Unani and Ayurvedic System were followed simultaneously; no competition, enmity or rivalry were ever seen between these two groups and the people always had delight in deriving the benefits of good health from both system. It is sufficient to prove that in India there were, several kings and Nawabs among Hindus and Muslims but they were free from communal bids especially in the matter of health and ill health. The Muslim kings engaged distinguished and expert Hindu Vaidyas in their staff, such as Alaud-Din Husain Shah of Bengal (A. D. 1493-1519) employed as his personal physician a Hindu Vaidya, Mukunda Dass.18
Ø Contribution of Tibb-e-Unani to Indian Medicine :
But such interchange of ideas and knowledge had seldom been a one way traffic. The Hindus also learnt medicine from the Greeks and the Romans. The reciprocal contribution of Unani Medicine to Indian Systme of Medicine is stated here. Nearly 400 years ago Bharamisra described several drugs in his Bhava Drakasha. which were borrowed and assimilated from Unani System of medicine. Some of them are as follows :
1. Henbane (Ajuwain Khurasani)
2. China Root (Chob Chini)
3. Rhubard (Riward Chini) and
4. Opium (Afyun).etc.19
1. Elgood, C., A Medical History of Persian and Eastern Caliphak, Cambridge, pp.378-79 (1951).
2. Jauhar, Tazkir-ul-waqiat (Eng. Translation), Calcutta, pp.63-64 (1904).
3. Abul-fazl, Bin-i-Akbari (Eng. Translation), Delhi, pp.612-13.
4. But hisproper name is Hakim Sharf-ul-Din Hassan-Brown.
5. As far as I know, this book is known by the name of ‘Qarabadin-e-Shifai’ in India.
6. In 1678, Fr. Angelns left the East for his own Country and in 1680 he published in Paris his Pharmacopoeia Persica-Elgood.
7. Kansar, Ali, Atibbae Ehbe-Mughalia (Urdu), Karach, pp.110 (1960).
8. Jahangir, Nuru’d-Din, Tuzuk-e-Jahangir (Persian), Laucknow. pp.5.
9. Ibid., pp.179.
10. Rogers, Alexander, Memoirs of Jahangir (Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri), London, Vol. I. pp.838-39 (1909).
11. Jahangir Nuru’d-Din, Tuzuk-e-Jahangir (Persian), Lucknow, pp.225.
12. Jahangir Nuru’d-Din, Tuzuk-e-Jahangir (Persian), Lucknow, pp.374.
13. Faruqui, R. Islami Tibb (Urdu), Hyderbad, pp.III (1937).
14. Ref no
15. Arazani, Muhammad Akbar, Mufrih-ul-Qulab (Persian), Delhi, pp.572.
17. A semi liquid compound medicament.
18. Sarkar, J. N. (ed.), History of Bengal, Vol. II., pp.152, and But hisproper name is Hakim Sharf-ul-Din Hassan-Brown, ppp.XXXI