The term Urdhavanga is the combination of two words: Urdhava + Anga, in which Urdhava refers to above and Anga refers to the parts, so Urdhavanga refers to parts of the body which are present above the supraclavicular region i.e. brain, eye, ear, nose, mouth and neck. The tantra which deals with the diseases and treatment of urdhavanga is known as Shalakya tantra.
Like the other branches of Ayurveda, Shalakya tantra is also having ancient and traditional stories embedded in literature of cultural heritage. Shalakya tantra has its own important place among eight divisions of Ayurveda. Although the term shalakya tantra is present in both charaka and sushruta samhita but its detailed description is found specifically in sushruta samhita :
“Shalakyam nam-urdhavajatrugtanam rogardam shravan vadan nayan gharanadisansritanam vyadhinam upasamnartham”
Which implies that the science which deals with the diseases which have occurred in ears, eyes, mouth, nose etc (the parts which are above the clavicular region) is known to be Shalakya Tantra.
The literal meaning of shalakya is not found anywhere but the commentator of sushruta samhita, acharya Dalhana had given the phrase-
“Shalakayah karma shlakayam, ttah (तत्) pradhanam tantram shalakayam”
This implies that when the work is done with the help of shalaka i.e. rod like structure [Shalaka is a structure in the form of a varying length rod which is made of different kinds of material], this is known as shalakya, And this science which deals with this type of work is reffered to shalakya tantra.
The definition of the term Shalakya clearly explains that basically this science deals with the diseases of eye, ear, nose, mouth and brain. Acharya sushruta have described these diseases in the last volume (Uttar tantra) of his Samhita.
Sushruta samhita contains the description of Shalakya but its independent Samhitas/Tantras are also available. A lot of content of Shalakya is found in different vedas. The innovator of Shalakya tantra are Nimi and Janaka. The most ancient Vaidya Ashwini kumar had performed many miracles in the field of Shalakya. The knowledge of eye’s anatomy, its different parts and the treatment of eye diseases were described in detail. Eye surgeries were also described. The invention of different treatment regimen for eye diseases like seka, vidalaka, purana, anjana, varti etc. was done. In the same way the description of ear, nose, mouth and neck is also available. Dental science was also familiar at that period.
An attempt is made to show the contribution of various Scholars of Ayurveda in the field of Shalakya, with the help of following table :
This was all in the topic of today. We will get back with the description of the topic in further details soon. Stay tuned for more. Thank you.