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Completion of Medical Studies

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

The passing of the final test marked the completion of studies. At the end, the student was given a ceremonial bath and then he became a Snataka or the Graduate. Great importance was given to this period of the student's life. It was the period when the graduate was on the threshold of a new life. He was called as thrice born. On the completion of his studies, the physician is said to be reborn and acquires the title of a physician. No person can be entitled as physician by birth. On the completion of his studies, the spirit of revelation or of inspiration of the truth descends into the student. Due to this initiation procedure, the physician is called a Trija or a thrice-born one.

The word thrice born is explained thus:

The first birth is from the womb of the mother, the second birth at the time of the sacred-thread ceremony and the third birth is at the conclusion of the medical study and when he has acquired a comprehensive insight into the science. Hence is he called a thrice born one.


Remuneration to the Preceptor[edit]

On being initiated as a graduate, the student requested the Guru to name the Guru Daksina which he may pay immediately or later. After paying the final respects he took the permission to go home. He would remember the Guru throughout his life and ever offer respects to him.

Post-Graduate Training[edit]

Graduation did not mark the total end of education. Nearly every student who completed his study, underwent postgraduate training. The necessity of getting postgraduate training is very clearly emphasized both in Caraka Samhita and Susruta Samhita. Having received the knowledge of science, the student should, for the sake of strengthening his understanding, strive constantly and well to perfect himself in his grasp of nomenclature, the interpretation of their meaning and power of exposition. Having finished the study of the science, one must strive to get the ability for exposition, fuller grasp of the meanings, boldness, dexterity in practice, its constant study and success in treatment.

Naisthika Brahmacari[edit]

Antaga is the word used to signify literally one who has gone to the end of the routine courses. Besides these ordinary post-graduates, there was a class of students who avowed to be life-long students. This class was called Naisthika Brahmacari. They were the real research scholars.

Continuous Upgradation for Physician[edit]

Even the post-graduate studies was not the end. Medical science being endless and ever progressive, the physician was enjoined to keep himself ever-attentive to maintain his knowledge with ever changing medical researches. Therefore the intelligent person who is aspiring to be a good physician should always persevere to his best in the acquisition of the true qualities of a physician, so that he may be a real giver of life to people. Thou shalt act always with a view to the acquisition of knowledge and the fullness of equipment. The art of surgery necessitated daily practice if one wanted to achieve success in the profession. Success always attends a physician who is expert at practice. Hence he should constantly handle the instruments to keep up his efficiency.


Travelling was considered an essential part of education. There were plenty of occasions in which travelling became an absolute necessity. They were:

  1. For joining the universities.
  2. Accompanying the teacher on his travels during the period of training.
  3. For acquiring post-graduate learning or special knowledge.
  4. For attending the medical conferences.
  5. In the course of practice and missionary tours.
  6. When called for consultations.

Considering the scanty means of communications of those days, when travelling to a distant place took months and it was tedious on account of the length of the period taken and even it was risky in the absence of adequate protection during the journey due to the lack of modern amenities, it was creditable for royal and wealthy families who sent their children at the tender age of around 16 for the prosecution of higher studies at places hundreds of miles away.

Taxila and Benares were the two main centers of learning in those days and students from all parts of the country went there to acquire higher qualifications just as the students of today go to Europe and America. It was difficult for the boys to return only at the end of the examination which did not take less than 5 to 7 years. As narrated in Jatakas, parents considered themselves lucky if they could live to see their sons back home after finishing their studies. There is a vivid description of how the parents became happy when their son returned home from Taxila after graduation.

Account of Caraka Samhita[edit]

The text of Caraka Samhita begins with the description of Bharadwaja volunteering to travel to the abode of Indra for the acquisition of the science of life. Bharadwaja, the mighty ascetic, in search of the science of longevity approached Indra, having deemed him worthy of suit. This shows that the student was willing to undertake the hazard of adventurous travel for the sake of knowledge.

Caraka says:

The entire world is the teacher to the intelligent and the foe to the unintelligent. Hence, knowing this well should listen and act according to the words of instruction of even an unfriendly person, when they are worthy and such as bring fame to you and long life, and are capable of giving you strength and prosperity.

Caraka Samhita begins with Bharadwaja going to a distant country to attain the desired knowledge. Though the Aryans may have differentiated themselves from others in other respects and in the general routine of life, as regards to the domain of knowledge they honored equally the Aryan as well as the non-Aryan, provided he possessed knowledge.

From the Caraka Samhita it is evident that the great teacher Punarvasu Atreya was in the habit of touring in the company of his disciples, through the neighboring regions of Pancala, the woodlands of Caitraratha, Pancaganga, the environs of the home of Dhanesa, Kailasa, the northern slopes of the Himalayas, Trivistapa etc, for the sake of healing the sick and the dissemination of the science of Ayurveda and also for the sake of enlarging his own knowledge of the medicinal herbs and plants.

This shows that during the course of studies, the whole class Guru and pupils, traveled in the land of the basins of the Indus and the Ganges and the area round about the Himalayan mountains. Learned scholars attended these classes, scholars from distant places, Kankayana from Bahlika, the modern Balkh in the north-west, Nimi Videha from the east and Vamaka from Kasi.

Benefits of Travelling[edit]

These tours greatly enhanced the practical knowledge in botany, climatology, constitutional studies of the peoples of the various countries and of clinical discussions. After the completion of the studies, the student was enjoined to travel to give a finishing touch to his training at the university, as theoretical as well as practical knowledge was essential in the medical science. The spirit of education has always been universal. It has never known the barriers of caste, creed or country. There is no word like foreign in the realm of knowledge.

Exchange of Students[edit]

Historical records show that a number of students from middle Asia, Persia, Assyria, Greece, China, Tibet, Ceylon etc. visited India either for study or to take part in the assemblies or conferences of learned people. Similarly records are found from which we learn that Indian scholars visited Persia, Greece, Alexandria, Tibet, Burma, Siam, Java, East Indian Archipelago, Ceylon, China etc, mostly to disseminate the knowledge they had obtained or to act as missionaries of the science of physical and spiritual health.

The spread of Buddhism played a great part in giving the stimulus to the learned scholars to visit various countries as missionaries. From the available Chinese records, we find that more than 100 Indian scholars of medicine and philosophy visited China beginning from the 1st to the 5th century A. D. In the 5th to the 8th century A. D, Vaidyas were called to Jundishapur and Baghdad for consultations as well as for service. This is the spirit of universality that is imbibed by the students in the university education. Aryan civilization has emphasized the importance of this spirit in clear terms.


  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India