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Human Anatomy in Ancient Stone Sculptures and Epigraphy as Evidence of Human Health Care Science in Ancient India
By Deepak Bhattacharya 1; L M Mukherjee 2


One is called Bhringi 17 & the other is called Chamunda 19.

As per Hindu religious mythology both are ardent followers of Saivism ( Hindu super deity Lord Siva being the icon ). Interesting & informative lore are associated with these two mythic / religious characters14. While the art of Bhringi is rare, the art of Chamunda fulminates in Orissa till late middle ages. Both also known as cult images.

Sculpture No. 1 ( Bhringi )
Sculpture No. 1 ( Bhringi ) 16 & 17

Crowned or head band wearing human figure, bent, on knee, looking at something held with right hand, head turned backward - up, in other hand ( L ) a crooked human phallus ( linga ), which has interesting multi made interpretations, 15. Skeletal bones other than skull are humerus ( forearm ), radius and ulna which appear superimposed ( arm below the elbow ), exact eleven ribs of the thoracic cage ( chest ), with ( exact ) seven numbers of ribs joining the sternum ( breast bone ), an ossified xiphoid process ( indicative of - age ), a flattish or strong femur ( thigh bone ), suggestive depiction of knee joint with patella ( Knee cap ) drawn up almost correctly, one bone of lower leg ( as if superimposed ), a prominent tarsal ( heel bone ) exhibited with deliberate twist of the ankle joint but for this ( twist ) such part ( large Tarsal ) of the anatomy could not have been presented. Joints and muscles are almost alike as in dissected human body. Functional position of the joints and muscles in respect to posture is much in tune with actuality 8,9.

Sculpture No.2 ( Chamunda )
Sculpture No.2 ( Chamunda ) 18 & 19

The art is in bass relief inscribed in a medallion & measures approx. 8 inches in dia.

The human figure here is fully developed and part by part comparable to the present day human anatomy. The figure is sitting upright on ground, left arm and fore arm straight, fully stretched palm pressed against ground. Fully developed deltoid, extensor, triceps ( fore arm muscles ), pollicis ( thumb muscles ) which grips tightly a weapon. Both upper limbs reveals the gross impression of musculature. 8,9.

The Skeletal picture indicates a single bone in right hand ( may be visual effect ) while in the left both radius and ulna are shown. The impression of a single ( thigh bone ) femur is clear while the lower leg portion does not clearly depict the fibula ( calf bone ). Nevertheless, the gastrocnemius ( calf-muscles ) are flexed and intact, thus obstructing the fibula ( which is normally narrow ). The skull and the cranium needs closer examination ( in situ ). Veins, and the gut are conspicuous by absence +. Seven ribs joins the sternum ( breast bone ) while five are shown below, The clavicle shown distinctly 8,9. Although marginally erroneous, a impression of extreme ageing is conjured by the beholder.

Ganesha Cave; Rock Inscription [ Udaigiri ]
Ganesha Cave; Rock Inscription [ Udaigiri ]
Dhauli Cave; Rock Inscription
Dhauli Cave; Rock Inscription
The Cave at Dhauli
The Cave at Dhauli

The sculpture is in a panel, in bass relief & measures approx. 10 inches in height.

+. In the art of later period the blood vessels are boldly & vividly reproduced.


In kimbadanti ( tradition / mythology ) it is unambiguously stated that Hindu goddess Parvati being vexed with Bhringi curses him to loose all muscles; as a result Bhringi looses his ability to stand erect !

This piece of information surely is precise & cannot be without methodic & learned observation. The ancients have utilised this information in mythic or religious story telling as well, which is a logical lateral step.


In the above we have presented archaeological evidence in the form of stone art ( durable plastic ) & hinted about the corroborating kimbadanti ( tradition / mythology ). In India epigraphy followed art. Epigraphy ( the science of historical inscription ) as noted in Orissa provides us the following consonant material.

1 - In the world famous cave complex at Udayagiri ( SW of Bhubaneswar ) in the Ganesha Gumpha ( Ganesha cave ) is a inscription in Sanskrit verse, Brahmi characters that talks about a Vesaka ( physician ) named Bhimata ,s/o Ijya ( mother ) & Nannata ( father ). Experts have read it as “Bhimata the physician, who was born of the womb of Ijya and s/o Nannata was a resident of Biraja ( modern Jajpur )..” Historians, archaeologists & epigraphists have dated this to 9th AD 24.

2 - At the world famous site of Dhauli in another cave, is another inscription, self dated to 9th AD, which has been read as “.In the regnal yr.93 of Sri Santikara deva ( Kara dynasty ) a / the monastery called Arghya - Varati was constructed by ( possibly ) one Bhatta Loyomaka for Vesaka ( surgeon ) Bhimata who was born of the womb of Ijya & Vaidya ( physician ) Nannata .” 25; ( Bhatta = Brahmin, while Loyomaka = name of that Brahmin ).

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