Description of human body parts and its components in Indian medicine is an extension of the early descriptions found in vedic literature.

▪ An exploration of classical literature and articles brings out a frame of Earliest anatomy known to human from the reference and expressions relating to human organs and structures in the Veda brahmana, Upanishad etc, Srimad Bhagavatam etc.

▪ From the account given in various vedic texts, we can form an idea of the anatomical knowledge of the following parts of the body.

1) Shiras

The Atharva veda [Atharvana Veda.10.2.8] refers to three parts of head –

a) Lalata (brow)
b) Kakatika
c) Kapala

▪ The number of skull bone comprising the skull is Eight according to Atharva veda [Atharvana Veda.10.13.22] and the Shatapatha Bramhana [Shapatha Bramhana.3.4.5], and four in the Sankhya aranyanka[Sankya aranyaka 2.2] the upper skull bones are stated to be attached to the other skull bones in the shatpad bhramhan [Shatpad bhramhan].

▪ The Upper skull bone should probably be the cranium. The number of skull bones in modern anatomy is Eight.

▪ The shatpad bhramhan [Shatpad bhramhan] describes the human head as made of skin, bone, and the brain. The gopath bhraman [Gopath bramhan 1.5.3] mentions marrow in addition to these three.

▪ The Atharva veda [Atharvana Veda 10.2.7] further describes the head as having seven apertures (khani) – two ears, two eyes, two nostrils and the mouth.

2) Griva (neck)

▪ The  structure of the neck as described in the vedic especially in the vedic samhitas [Rig veda 10.163.2;2.11.8;Atharvana Veda.,2.33.2; 10.2.4;2.12.7;6.25.1] and in bhramhanas[ Shatapath bramhan; Gopath bramhan 1.5.3] consists of the following parts of the neck:

Posterior part – the posterior part of the neck is made of

a) One strong bone (virya) with 14 karukaras (lateral processes) on the two sides of the vertebral column.

b) Two vertebral arteries carrying the blood upwards (Rig veda 10.163.2 . Atharvana Veda 11.32.2)- Vertebral Arteries.

c) Eight manyas (carotid arteries)

Anterior part – the anterior part of the neck is the throat (kanta)- in which their lies a dhamani (should be the wind pipe in this context).

▪ The structure given in the vedic texts probably refers to the cervical column  i.e griva with 7 karukaras [posterior] and to the windpipe anterior in light of modern knowledge.

The exact number of cervical bones according to modern observation is not 14 but seven. Hoernle [Hoernle pp 156,158] comments : the two transverse process to each vertebral are counted as separate bones so the number they counted as 14.

3)Hanu (jaw)

▪ The atharva veda [Atharvana Veda 10. 2.8] mentions the jaw as a complete organ. The expression found in the av is Hanu-cityaa. The term citya indicates piling which in a sense refer to the structure arranging with different bones. Hoernle [Hoernle pp 177] suggests that this term hanu-citya suggests alveolar process jaw – bone and two rami.

4)Akshi (eyes)

▪ The structure of eyes is also mentioned in vedic samhitas [Shatpath bramhan 12.9.15;; Gopath bramhan 1.5.3] And The position of the eyeball (mandalas) is also mentioned in the bhramhanas.

▪ Two passages of Shatpath bramhan [Shatpath bramhan] and Bruhat aranyaka upanishad [Bruhat Aranyaka Upanishad 2.2.1] give elaborate description of eye as follows:

a) First Lohini-raji (red arteries and red veins of the white part of eye)
b) Then Aapa (vitreous humours)
c) Then Kaninika (pupil)
d) Then mandal (eye ball)
e) Then Krishna (iris)
f) Then Sukra or sukla (white part of eye ball)
g) Lastly the eyelashes in the upper and lower part of the eye.

▪ In the Maître upanishad [Maître Upanishad 7.11] mention is made of the two arteries (nadis ) of the eye, which extend to the heart and provide nourishment to the eye by carrying blood from the heart.

5) Vaksha (thorax):

▪ The shatpath bramhan [Shatpath Bramhan;] through the analogy of chandas (metres) describes the chest of the human body beautifully.

There are four sides of the chest:

a) kikasa (thoracic vertebrae)
b) parshvas (two sides)
c) uras (Sternum)
d) sixteen jatrus (costal cartilages)

▪ The number of costal cartilages given in this text are not in accordance with modern anatomy and the reason would be the different pattern of counting the cartilages of false rib and flotating ribs. Even hoernle [Hoernle pp143] considers that Indian anatomists counted the costal cartilages as either eight or seven.

6) Hrdaya
▪ The idea of heart was also well developed in the vedic samhitas. In the description of human body in somewhat allegorical way, the pundarikam navadvara is found to occur in the atharva veda [Atharvana Veda 10.8.43]. According to commentator sayana it indicates the lotus shaped heart with nine openings.

▪ In the Upanishad period the hrdaya is described and is stated there as made up of flesh and four chambers with a network structure [Bruhad aranyaka Upanishad 4.2.4; Subala Upanishad 4.1 ]. Puritat the coating of the heart has been mention in the text of the vajasaneyi samhita [Vajasaneyi samhita. 39.10 ]. Moreover in the same text [Vajasaneyi samhita 39.9 ] there occurs the mention of two lump of flesh(kosi)of the hrday.

▪ In the Upanishad [Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.6 ] the heart is conceived of as the wheel of a chariot in which the arteries emanating from the heart are described as the spokes of the wheel. The numbers of vessels in the heart stated in different Upanishads differ. According to some the number is 101 whereas in Brhat Aranyaka upanishad [Bruhad aranyaka Upanishad 2.2.19; Prasanopanishad 3.6 ] and other Upanishad the number of vessels with its branches and sub branches are 72000.

▪ The weight of heart is stated in the garbha upanishad [Garbha Upanishad SI. 21 ] as eight pala

7) Parshva (sides)

▪ The shatapath bramhan [Shatapath bramhan] gives the following account of the structure of the two sides. The two sides of the body are formed by 26 parsus or parisavas (ribs). Theses ribs are joined at either end to the thoracic vertebrae (kikasa) in the back and jatru (costal cartilage) in the front. These ribs are attached to the andaparisus ( which should mean globular end of the rib)

8) Pristi (vertebral or vertical column)

▪ The shatapath bramhan [Shatapath bramhana ] refers to the three division of the vertical column.

a) Griva (cervical)
b) Amuka (thoracic)
c) Udara (lumbar)

▪ In the thoracic portion of the vertebral column there are 32 pristi kundalas or karukaras (vertebra). The lumbaric portion (udara) is statedas consisted of 20 kuntapas

9) Vasti (Bladder)
▪ The Atharva veda [Atharvana Veda 1.6-2 ] describes it as the size of a bow. The urine is conveyed to the bladder by the two Gavini. To the bladder is attached the vasti –bila (bladder-orifice) and mehana or vartam (urinary duct).

10) Upper limbs

▪ From the account given in the vedic text we can form an idea of the component parts of the upper limbs. These are shoulder (amsa) and the hands, the arms (bahu), forearm (doshan) and palm (pani).

Amsa (shoulder) – the Atharva veda[Atharvana Veda 10.2.7] mentions of two parts of shoulder consisting of aksha (collar bone) and kaphoda (shoulder blades). According to the shatpath bramhan [Shatapath bramhan ] the shoulder blade (phalaka) are very small bones. Besides these the Atharva veda [Atharvana Veda 10.2.4 ] further mentions the shoulder bones in construction of the shoulder.

Bahu (hands) = the hands are joined to the trunk by means of the collar bones [Atharvana Veda 10.2.8 ] .They are made up of three parts [Sankhayana aranyanka 2.4 ].The name of the three parts are known as bahu (arm), doshan (forearm) and pani (palm).

▪ The palm consist of two parts – ucchalankhas (long bones) and in midst of the hand and the angulis each with three joints. [Atharvana Veda 10.2.1 ]

11) The lower limb

▪ From the description given in Atharva veda [Atharvana Veda 10.2.1] and Shatapath bramhan [Shatapath bramhan;] the following idea about the structre of lower limb can be made.

▪ The lower limb are connected to the trunk by means of shroni (hip). Vankshana (groin) is a joint connecting the thigh with the belly. There are three parts of the leg

a) Uru (thigh)
b) Jagana(lower part of the leg)
c)  Pada (foot)

The knee resemble a ‘fourfold frame’ for joining thigh with the lower part of leg. The foot consists of five parts

a) Parsni (the heel)
b) Gulpha (ankle )
c) Ucchalamkha (meta tarsal)
d) Prastista (base – carpus)
e) Anguli (digits)

▪ From the account given in Vedas and vedangas it may be concluded that the practice of dissecting of human bodies was followed during vedic age.

▪ Otherwise it would have been extremely difficult and almost impossible to make such an elaborate description. In this connection reference may be made to the dissection of horse’s body described in rigveda [Rigveda 1..162.13]

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