Nursing in Mughal Period

Introduction to Nursing In Mughal Period

The Mughal dynasty, ruled over the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to 19th centuries, this period was known for its rich cultural heritage and significant contributions to various fields. The Mughals were known for their refined ideas and innovative practices, that greatly impacted traditional nursing during their times. Nursing in Mughal period was an integral part of the healthcare system that played a pivotal role in the well-being of individuals. The Mughal Empire had a sophisticated healthcare system that included varied aspects of medical and nursing care. During those times, nursing was primarily carried out by women, who were frequently referred to as “Dais” or midwives.

These experienced women were responsible for delivering care and support to women during gestation, labor, and postpartum. They were well-acquainted with traditional herbal remedies and ways that helped to relieve pain during normal deliveries. In addition to their work in labor, nurses in the Mughal period also provided care for the sick and injured people of wars. They were adept in wound dressing, administering herbal medicines, and providing comfort to sick and injured people. These nurses worked closely with physicians and other healthcare providers to ensure the best possible care for their patients.

Nursing in Mughal period wasn’t limited to hospitals or healthcare establishments. Nurses also delivered care in the homes of individuals who were incapable to travel or access medical facilities in the cities. This home-based care was particularly important for those living in remote areas or during times of war when access to medical facilities was limited. The Mughal Empire also had a strong emphasis on hygiene and cleanliness. Nurses were expected to maintain a high degree of cleanliness by following strict protocols to prevent the spread of infections. They were also trained in first aid measures and emergency response to give immediate care to those in need.

Education and Training of Nurses in the Mughal Period

During the Mughal period in India, the education and training of nurses weren’t as well-established as it is in contemporary times. However, certain practices and traditions contributed to the development of nursing skills among women during this period. Women in the Mughal period were expected to possess basic knowledge of healthcare delivery and nursing care, as it was considered a part of their household duties. They would learn various home remedies and ways from their mothers and grandmothers. In addition to informal education at home, some women were fortunate enough to take formal training in healthcare practices from the notable physicians called “Hakims”.

The Mughal emperors, especially Akbar the Great, were known for their patronage of arts and pearls of wisdom. As a result, they established institutions similar to hospitals known as “Dar-ul-Shifa” and educational institutes where women could receive education about health and nursing care. These institutions provided training in areas like basic medical knowledge, hygiene, midwifery, and herbal medicine.

Likewise, wealthy families frequently employed nurses in their homes to take care of sick and elderly family members. Although these women were traditional nurses, they were supposed to receive on-the-job training and learn from skilled practitioners. They were expected to acquire practical experience in wound dressing, administering medications, and providing comfort to patients.

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Healthcare Practices and Treatments in the Mughal Period

The Mughals placed great emphasis on the health and well-being of their people; as a result, they established a comprehensive healthcare system. The Mughal physicians were greatly experienced and knowledgeable, regarding a rich tradition of medical knowledge from both India and Persia. One of the crucial healthcare practices in the Mughal times was the use of herbal medicine.

a mughal physician healing a patient

Mughal physicians were well-versed in the properties of various herbs and plants, which they usually applied to treat a wide range of conditions. Herbal remedies were frequently prepared in the form of decoctions or powders and were used to treat common conditions like fever, digestive disorders, and skin diseases.

In addition to herbal remedies, the Mughal physicians also exercised surgical procedures. They had a good understanding of anatomy and physiology to perform multiple surgeries for various disorders, including hernias, and fractures. The Mughal surgeons were skilled in using instruments like scalpels, forceps, and needles, and they used approaches such as cauterization and suturing. The Mughals also concentrated on preventive healthcare measures. They emphasized the significance of maintaining particular hygiene and cleanliness to prevent diseases.

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Healthcare Facilities in the Mughal Empire

Healthcare facilities during the Mughal Empire were a testament to the empire’s commitment to public health and well-being. The Mughals established a good healthcare system, which was moderately advanced for its time. The Mughal emperors believed in the ideology of taking care of their people, healthcare delivery was one of the crucial areas they focused on for the benefit of people.

The Mughal emperors had established hospitals called’ Dar- ul- Shifas’ which were equipped with facilities for treatment of various conditions and injuries. These hospitals were often attached to mosques and other religious institutions, emphasizing the spiritual aspect of healing. The healthcare system in the Mughal dynasty offered free treatment to everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status.

The Hakims were greatly experienced and knowledgeable physicians in various fields of medicine including surgery, pharmacology, and general medicine. They used a combination of traditional Ayurvedic drugs and Unani medicines, an ancient form of Greek medicine. Mughals also emphasized precautionary healthcare practices. They constructed gardens and parks for their people to enjoy fresh air and exercise, realizing the significance of a healthy atmosphere for the overall well-being of people.

Mughal Emperors and Their Interest in Nursing

The Mughal emperors themselves displayed a keen interest in nursing care and childcare during their times. They recognized the significance of proper care and nutrition for infants and children. Akbar, one of the most influential Mughal emperors, established the regulations to secure the well-being of children in the selection of suitable wet nurses. He encouraged the involvement of fathers in the raising of their children and insisted on the role of wet nurses in providing essential nourishment. The Mughal emperors’ interest in nursing care and childcare set a precedent for future generations and helped to shape the practices of nursing in Mughal period.

picture of of a Mughl emperor

The Mughal Emperors weren’t just known for their architectural sensations and opulent cultures, but also for their deep-seated interest in healthcare delivery. Historically, it can be noted that the Mughal Emperor’s interest in nursing care was a significant aspect of their reign. They realized the importance of healthcare and hygiene; this was reflected in their policies and the structure they developed for the well-being of their people. The Mughal Emperors’ interest in healthcare wasn’t just limited to the establishment of hospitals and dispensaries but also extended to the cultivation of medicinal plants and herbs. The royal physicians weren’t just responsible for treating the royal families but also for training nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Moreover, the Mughal Emperor’s interest in nursing care was also apparent in their court culture. They encouraged scholarly conversations on health and hygiene, promoted the exploration of drugs, and invited foreign medical experts to share their knowledge with local physicians. This commitment towards healthcare demonstrated their understanding of a productive society.

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Mughal Women and their Role in Nursing Care

Mughal women played a pivotal role in nursing in Mughal period. They weren’t only involved in caring for their own families but also contributed to the wider community. While men were generally involved in political and military affairs, women took charge of the healthcare requirements of the Mughal Empire.

Mughal woman providing care to an injured soldier

Mughal women were trained in nursing skills and were assiduously involved in delivering medical care to the sick and injured. Their proficiency in traditional medicine, including the use of herbs and natural remedies, made them invaluable assets in the healthcare system of the Mughal period.

The Mughal empresses and royal princesses were patrons of hospitals and dispensaries, providing monetary support and overseeing the administration of healthcare establishments. They diligently participated in the training and education of nurses, ensuring that skillful healthcare professionals were available to serve the demands of the empire. Mughal women also played a significant role in the care of women and children, particularly during labor.

Unani Medicine the Foundation of Mughal Healthcare System

The Mughals had a deep appreciation for the healing arts, and one of the crucial foundations of their healthcare practices was Unani Medicine. This system of medicine that originated in ancient Greece was brought to India by the Mughals and became an integral part of their healthcare system.

Unani Medicine emphasizes the balance of the four humors- blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile- for overall well-being. The Mughals believed in the power of herbal remedies, diet, and lifestyle modifications to maintain good health. They also valued the use of natural substances like herbs, minerals, and animal products in their medicinal preparations. The Mughals embraced this holistic approach to healthcare and integrated it into their healthcare practices. Unani Medicine played a pivotal role in shaping the understanding of diseases and treatments.

Hamdard Medicine: A Mughal Contribution to Healthcare

Hamdard Medicine, a system of medicine that combines principles of Unani Medicine and Ayurveda, was another remarkable contribution of the Mughals to the healthcare system. Hakeem Muhammad Saeed, a famous scholar and physician, revived the ancient knowledge of Unani Medicine and established Hamdard Laboratories in 1948.

herbal medicine

The heritage of Hamdard Medicine can be traced back to the Mughal period when it flourished under the patronage of the Mughal emperors. The Mughal dynasty’s preference for Unani Medicine laid the foundation for the development of Hamdard Medicine. The Mughals recognized the effectiveness of Unani Medicine and promoted its practice, leading to its everlasting influence on healthcare in India and beyond.

Hamdard Medicine continues to thrive in contemporary healthcare practices. Today, Hamdard Laboratories play a significant job in delivering natural and herbal remedies for various diseases, following the age-old wisdom of the Mughals. The continuing influence of Hamdard Medicine in the healthcare system serves as evidence of the pioneering ideas and contributions of the Mughal dynasty.

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The Practice of Wet Nursing in Mughal Period

Wet nursing held great significance in Mughal society. Wet nursing refers to the practice of breastfeeding another woman’s child. In Mughal culture, the job of the wet nurse was highly reputed and considered an honorable profession. Wet nursing allowed aristocratic women to delegate the task of breastfeeding their children to trusted and experienced nurses.

This practice enabled them to actively participate in social and political affairs without compromising the health and nourishment of their infants. The Mughal emperors, such as Akbar, realized the significance of wet nurses and indeed supported the involvement of the biological fathers in the selection and care of wet nurses. The Mughal period saw advancements in wet nursing practices, with the introduction of regulations and policies to guard the rights and health of both wet nurses and infants.

The Process of Becoming a Wet Nurse in the Mughal Period

In the Mughal period, becoming a wet nurse wasn’t a simple task. It involved a careful selection process to guarantee the well-being and nourishment of the child. The prospective wet nurse had to undergo a thorough examination of her physical health and breast milk quality. Character and social status were also taken into consideration while selecting a wet nurse.

mughal wet nurses

Once chosen, the wet nurse was fully responsible for providing care and breastfeeding of the child, usually till the age of two or three years. The Mughals recognized the significance of a healthy and reliable wet nurse, as the child’s well-being and future development depended on it.

Mughal Emperors and Their Views on Wet Nursing

The Mughal emperors held varying views on the practice of wet nursing. While some emperors believed in the benefits of wet nursing and diligently encouraged it, others raised concerns about the implicit hazards and impact on child health. Emperor Akbar, known for his progressive ideas, supported the involvement of fathers in the selection and care of wet nurses. He believed that fathers should have a vote in choosing a suitable wet nurse for their child.

This approach reflected the Mughals’ commitment to ensuring the well-being of both the child and the parents, as they recognized the significance of a positive and nurturing environment for the child’s parenting.

Challenges and Advancements of Nursing in Mughal Period

The Mughal period was a period of significant challenges and advancements in the field of healthcare. This period witnessed the development of the healthcare system and medicine under the influence of Persian and Arabic knowledge, shaping nursing practices that were deeply embedded in empathy, compassion, and holistic care. One of the major challenges during this period was the lack of formal education and training for nurses. Most of the nursing practices rested on traditional knowledge and experimental learning. This lack of structured education frequently led to inconsistencies in healthcare delivery. Furthermore, societal constraints and gender discrimination posed substantial obstacles for women who wanted to pursue nursing, these factors were leading to a shortage of professional caregivers in those times.

Despite these challenges, the Mughal period also saw notable advancements in nursing and healthcare delivery. The introduction of Unani medicine, influenced by Greek philosophy, led to an increased understanding of disease processes and treatments. Hospitals known as’ Bimaristans’ were established, providing a platform for nurses to care for the sick and injured people. These institutions became the foundation for organized healthcare delivery and nursing practice. Moreover, the Mughal period witnessed an emphasis on humane treatment and holistic care. Nurses weren’t only responsible for the physical care of patients but also their emotional and spiritual well-being. This approach marked a significant advancement in patient care, emphasizing the value of empathy in nursing.

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Conclusion: The Lasting Impact of Mughal Ideas on Nursing

The Mughal dynasty left an everlasting impact on healthcare practices and nursing in Mughal period. Their advancement of Unani Medicine, the active involvement of Mughal women in healthcare delivery, the practice of wet nursing in Mughal period, and the legacy of Hamdard Medicine all contributed to the development of nursing as a reputed profession. The Mughals’ pioneering ideas continue to influence the modern healthcare system, reminding us of the rich cultural heritage and advancements made by ancient societies.

As we reflect on the enduring impact of nursing in Mughal period, we appreciate the contributions made by this remarkable dynasty in shaping the field of healthcare. By exploring the Mughal influence on nursing, we gain a deeper understanding of the rich history and development of nursing as a profession. The enduring impact of nursing in Mughal period serves as a testament to their innovative ideas and contributions to healthcare.

References:

  1. Shivram, B. (2022) Imperial wet nurses in the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar: Journal of the royal asiatic society, Cambridge Core. Available at: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-the-royal-asiatic-society/article/abs/imperial-wet-nurses-in-the-reign-of-mughal-emperor-akbar/0244483442949AB64A15670E8F6FE122 (Accessed: 07 October 2023).
  2. AA;, A. (no date) Development of unani medicine during Mughal period, Bulletin of the Indian Institute of History of Medicine (Hyderabad). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11609027/ (Accessed: 07 October 2023).
  3. (No date) Medical culture in transition: Mughal – JSTOR. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/20488046.pdf?ab_segments=&initiator= (Accessed: 07 October 2023).
  4. Ijraset (no date) IJRASET Journal for Research in Applied Science and Engineering Technology, Role of Women in the Mughal Empire. Available at: https://www.ijraset.com/research-paper/role-of-women-in-the-mughal-empire (Accessed: 07 October 2023).

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