It is a matter of great interest that Rhinoplasty – now performed largely for aesthetic requirements, was performed as far back as 500 BC by an Ayurvedic Surgeon named Sushruta.


Sushruta and his works would perhaps never have come to light, if it hadn’t been for an event that took place in 1793, when a bullock-cart driver called Cowasjee, who worked for the British Army, went in search of treatment for his nose, which had been cut off by Tipu Sultan as a warning to traitors.


It is said that two British surgeons, James Findlay and Thomas Cruso, were approached by Cowasjee, but they had no idea how to reconstruct a nose. To their utter amazement, an Indian potter was brought in to do the job, while the two British Surgeons witnessed the entire operation. They later published an account of the surgery in the Madras Gazette, with ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs of Cowasjee.


The successful Rhinoplasty performed on Cowasjee led to further investigations on how the anonymous Indian Potter came by such a skill, unknown at the time, and raised more questions, particularly about the identity of the original inventor of the technique in India.


It took another encounter to unravel the mystery of how the Indian Potter could reconstruct the nose of the bullock-cart driver Cowasjee. This was when a man of Turkish origin, in the village of Kuchar at the foot of the Tian Shan mountains, met British Intelligence Expert Hamilton Bower, who was investigating the murder of a Scottish merchant, believed to be a British Spy.   The man showed Bower a birch bark manuscript written in a script that Bower could not decipher. Recognising that the manuscript was valuable, he bought it, and later presented it to the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal.


Once deciphered, the manuscript was found to contain references to an ancient Indian surgical and medical expert by the name of Sushruta.  This led to the unveiling of a Sanskrit manuscript called the Sushruta-Samhita, attributed to Sushruta, containing an astounding array of surgical techniques. A reading of Sushruta's manuscripts reveals diagrams and descriptions of more than one hundred different kinds of surgical instruments, and descriptions of complicated cataract surgeries. The book also reveals Sushruta's ingenuity in acquiring knowledge of Anatomy.


Most importantly, the book contains techniques for reconstructing missing or deformed earlobes and for nose reconstruction, similar to the technique employed by the potter-surgeon who performed Rhinoplasty on Cowasji!