Ancient Art of Body Preservation: King Dashrath’s Tale

In the realm of ancient practices, the preservation of bodies has always held a significant place. One such intriguing instance hails from Palaswari, Bangladesh, where a remarkable plaque was discovered. This article delves into the story behind the plaque, shedding light on the unique preservation methods employed in the past and the significance they held in medical studies.

The Story of King Dashrath, Shri Ram’s Father:

The plaque received from Palaswari, Bangladesh, presents a captivating narrative centered around King Dashrath. In the Hindu Scripture Ramayan, Rishi Valmiki describes that –“Within the panel, the lifeless body of King Dashrath is depicted resting in an oil-filled box, a “Droni.” This is called Tail droni, Tail means oil and Droni means a basin in Sanskrit.

King Dashrath, upon his demise, did not have all his sons by his side, so to safeguard his mortal remains it was decided by his minister that his body should be protected by immersing it in oil within the Droni, ensuring its preservation for an extended period till his sons reached.

King Dashrath had four sons– Shri Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan.

The North Gupta Brahmi Script:

Accompanying the artwork on the plaque is an inscription in the North Gupta Brahmi script, which reads, “Raja Dashrath Taildroni.” This inscription serves as a historical testament, documenting the events depicted in the panel and further validating the significance of King Dashrath’s preservation.

Acharya Shushruta and the Pursuit of Knowledge:

To comprehend the motivation behind such preservation techniques, we turn to Acharya Shushruta, often revered as the father of surgery. Acharya Shushruta dedicated his efforts to studying and describing the anatomical structures of the human body. His pursuit of knowledge led him to develop techniques for preserving cadavers, thus enabling the exploration of the intricacies of the human form.

Read more on Acharya Sushrata Nose-job, the ancient Indian way

Embalming and its Purpose:

Embalming, the process of preserving a deceased body, has a long-standing history. Its primary objective is to delay the natural breakdown of cells that occurs after death. In ancient times, bodies were often preserved to facilitate public and private viewings during funeral ceremonies or for medical purposes in anatomical laboratories.

Shav Sanrakshan Vidhi:

In the context of preserving cadavers, it is crucial to employ appropriate methods. Historically, various techniques have been employed, and King Dashrath’s preservation in the taildroni serves as a remarkable example. Taildroni refers to immersing the body in oil, a practice akin to the ritualistic Abhyanga, or oil massage, which holds significance in Ayurveda. The use of medicated oil for massages, known as Abhyanga, was a common practice, both for daily routines and therapeutic purposes. The picture below shows droni.

Droni, a present day wooden table for oil massage in Ayurveda centers, pic credit: Kalari Ayurveda center and saranya ayurveda

In present day, droni is a wooden table made of a single piece of medicinal wood, such as Neem tree. With proper care, a table can endure and remain sturdy for many centuries. The design of this table enables the application of abundant Ayurvedic herbal oil during treatments. As time passes, the oils gradually penetrate the table, making it an integral part of the healing experience itself. In Kerala, many Ayurveda shala (Ayurveda treatment centers) still use such droni.

Preservation Throughout History:

The tale of King Dashrath is just one example of cadaver preservation throughout history. Various cultures and civilizations have employed unique techniques to ensure the longevity of mortal remains, allowing for extended study and exploration. These preservation methods have contributed to the advancement of medical knowledge and anatomical understanding.

The plaque depicting the preserved body of King Dashrath provides a glimpse into the ancient practices of body preservation. It highlights the importance placed on practical knowledge in medical studies, as demonstrated by Acharya Shushruta’s pursuit of understanding human anatomy. The use of oil-filled boxes and the inscription on the plaque serve as testaments to the intricate art of preserving the deceased for the sake of knowledge and exploration.

Ancient Hindu scriptures, be it Ramayan or Mahabharat, both have myriads of references to Ayurvedic medicines. Another famous incident mentioned in Ramayan is that of Sanjeevani-booti, a herb that was used by Shri Ram to resuscitate his brother during his ongoing war with Raavan. Such historical practices continue to intrigue and inspire, showcasing the timeless quest for understanding the complexities of the human body.

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