Monday May 28, 2018

Acharya Charaka: Indian father Of Medicine, Author of Charaka Samhita “scince of Ayurveda”

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Acharya Charaka
Acharya Charaka: Indian father of medicine
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By Gaurav Sharma

Who is Acharya Charaka:

Acharya Charaka, contributors to Ayurveda, a system of medicine and lifestyle developed in Ancient India. Most people regard Hippocrates (460-377 BC) as the father of medicine, but only a few are aware of the novel contributions made by a man named Charaka “Indian father of Medicine” in the way the human anatomy and physiology is perceived to function.

Long before the birth of Hippocrates in the early centuries of the common era, Charaka authored a medical treatise called Charaka Samhita or the compendium of Charaka.

The ancient medical manual “charaka samhita”, regarded by many in the West as an ‘Alternative Medicine’ manuscript, is a guide on how to live a healthy life. Simply put, the Charaka Samhita is a guidebook of preventive medicine.

The compilation of medical treatise enshrined in the Samhita, also forms a foundational text for the ancient science of Ayurveda or the ‘knowledge of long life.’

Widely respected and translated in the traditional medical field (particularly during the Arab and the Roman empire), Ayurveda is the best known among the three medical traditions of the Indian sub-continent, the other being the Unani and Siddha schools.

The Ayurveda lays down a well-structured and well-defined view of medicine by segregating it into a series of eight disciplines, namely:

  • Surgery (Shailya Chikitsa)
  • Head, eye and throat medicine (Shaakalya Chikitsa)
  • Mental health (Kaaya Chikitsa)
  • Pediatrics (Kaumarbhrtya Chikitsa)
  • Toxicology (Aganda Tantra)
  • Pharmacology (Raasayana Tantra)
  • Reproductive Medicine (Vaajikarana Tantra).

Such is the immense wealth of health information expounded in the Ayurveda, that it is sometimes compared to the works of Galileo, Archimedes, and Euclid in their respective  fields.

Ayurveda is one of the invisible pillars, which balances the dysfunctional public health system of India. It has become an important part of the government policy, with an independent ministry known as AYUSH, dedicated to the research and education of Ayurvedic healthcare.

Apart from modern western healthcare centers, a revolution of tele-ayurvedic-health centers has taken India by storm.

Comprising of hired tele-operators, these traditional health centers essentially come in the shape of a village house with divisions of mud walls and bamboo sticks.

Those inflicted with diseases call up the center, the staff listens to their problems, and after consulting the Charaka Samhita, they prescribe ayurvedic medications to the patients.

The emphasis on listening to the patients rather than sending them off for pathological tests is based on Charaka’s philosophy of medical examination, that of finding the root cause of disorder through a series of questions and answers, reminiscent of a dialogue between the teacher and a disciple.

These traditional health-centers exemplify the efficient use of modern technology and communication networks to popularize the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is still, however,  poles apart from how modern medicine visualizes the human body and the way it functions.

The operating principles of Ayurveda utilise the concept of the body’s basic doshas or humors. These include the element of movement through Vita or bile, transformation in the form of Pitta or phlegm and stability and lubrication via Kapha or wind.

Disturbing these elements from their proper location means inviting an illness to follow suit. To prevent such a calamity from happening, Charaka prescribes some practical yet deeply meaningful metaphysical strictures.

The practice of mindfulness, exercising good judgment, calming the senses, being aware of time, place and the self apart from inculcating a good lifestyle are some of the tips that Charaka postulates for imbibing good health.

The notion of Deha-Prakriti, which means ‘the nature of the body,’ distinguishes Charaka’s Ayurveda as a highly personalised medical discipline.

Each person at the time of conception is thought to be endowed with a particular nature (Prakriti), which determines his predisposition to diseases. This justifies the immense emphasis paid on the history of a person while prescribing medication.

The nature of wisdom and its exercise is another factor that is central to Charaka’s concept of good health. For this reason, as much for the practical aspects of his encyclopedic work, Charaka become quite popular during the early 19th Century.

Charaka mania fueled the circle of doctors in New York to establish a Charaka Club. This inexplicably filtered to the educated nationalist Indian elite who were searching and yearning to discover their historical roots.

Lately, however, Charaka’s popularity has declined to a great extent.

Irrespective of the such drifting upheavals, what sets Charaka’s monumental work uniquely apart from modern medical science and indeed from the medical profession itself, is its farsightedness to visualize the body as a part of a vast, natural and cosmic system of causality.

Urban India, with its concomitant stress and competition, can find solace by embracing Charaka’s teachings on healthy living, and thereby avoid the sight of a medical complex for good.

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)