Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan today claimed that modern medicine originated in India and that Indians had practiced inoculation against small pox even before the vaccine for the disease was invented by Edward Jenner.
Dr Vardhan, who is himself an ENT surgeon, said that most of what is taken to be modern medicine had come back to India through the "American route" after being first translated into Arabic and Persian in 9 AD and, from that, into the European languages in the 17th century.
"When I studied the history of Ayurveda or what you can call Hindu medicine... I found that in the ninth century, the Caliph of Baghdad got all our knowledge of Ayurveda translated into the Arabic and Persian languages.
"The same knowledge was again translated into the European languages in the 17th century and all that great knowledge has come back to us and it's explained to us as modern medicine that has come through the route of the Americas.
"But the origin of all this knowledge, if you go into the depth of this, was basically in India," Dr Vardhan said at an international conference on the Vedas in New Delhi.
The minister claimed that India had known immunization against small pox even before Edward Jenner invented the vaccine for the same in 1798.
The minister further said that even before the Hippocratic oath begun to be administered to medical professionals, Sushruta and Ashwini, the surgeons of ancient India, told people to practise the same.
"Much before the Hippocratic oath was given to people in the field of medicine, our people here... whether it was Sushruta or Ashwini or others, they had talked about the oath where they had said that medical people should act with compassion... should not practice for gaining money or things like that.
"Sushruta and all great surgeons taught to the whole world plastic surgery of nose. I have read in my own literature that surgical instruments were so precise, they split the hair into two," the minister said.