History of Rhinoplasty (nose surgery)

The roots of ancient Indian surgery go back to more than 4000 years ago. The historical evidences suggest that plastic surgery originated in India more than two thousand years ago and the oldest plastic surgery operation probably relate to nose reconstruction.

The nose in Indian society has remained a symbol of dignity and respect throughout centuries. In ancient times, amputation of nose was frequently done as a punishment for criminals, war prisoners or people indulged in adultery. The practice of rhinoplasty slowly started as a result of the need to reconstruct the external nose and later developed to the full fledged science.

Aacharya Sushruta - Father of Indian Plastic surgeryAacharya Sushruta, one of the earliest surgeons of recorded history (600 B.C.) is believed to be the first individual in the world to describe rhinoplasty (nose reconstruction).

Aacharya Sushruta (also known as the “Father of Indian surgery” and “Father of Indian Plastic surgery”) has written famous book “Sushruta Samhita”. In this book, he has emphasized all the basic principles of plastic surgery and described numerous operations in various fields of surgery and orthopedics.

The Sanskrit text of “Sushruta Samhita” was later translated in Arabic. The knowledge of rhinoplasty spread from India to Arabia and Persia and from there to Egypt. However, it took centuries for the principles and the technique of rhinoplasty to travel to Europe and other parts of the world. The traditional method of rhinoplasty was kept a secret for centuries in India, and it was exclusively practiced by certain Marathas of Pune (Maharashtra), Some Nepali families and Kanghairas of Kangra (Himachal Pradesh).

Mysore war of 1792 During Mysore war of 1792 between Tipu Sultan and the Britishers, a cart driver named Cowasjee was punished by the Sultan’s soldiers. His nose and one hand were cut off by the Mysore army as he was found spying for the Britishers. After a year without a nose, he underwent an operation for nose reconstruction. The operation was witnessed by Thomas Crusoe and James Findlay, surgeons at the British residency, Pune. They drew the diagrams of the procedure and wrote an elaborate description of the nose reconstruction operation. A photo feature on this sensational surgical story was published in the Madras Gazette. Subsequently, the details of this surgery with its diagram were reprinted in the October 1794 issue of the Gentleman’s magazine of London, England.

This story encouraged Joseph Carpue, a young British surgeon to study the details of the operation and soon he recognized the advantage of this operation. Carpue successfully performed the first rhinoplasty operation of Europe on October 23, 1814. Subsequently, the Indian rhinoplasty technique gained popularity amongst British and European surgeons. These rhinoplasty (nose reconstruction) surgeries were widely appreciated as the Indian rhinoplasty and they generated tremendous interest in rhinoplasty amongst surgeons in Europe, United States and other parts of the world.

Another Indian name credited with excellent work in rhinoplasty is Dr.Tribhovandas Motichand Shah from Junagadh, Gujarat. In as early as 1889, Dr.Tribhovandas published a book titled “A short description of 100 cases of rhinoplasty”. An interesting fact behind this book is as follows. During that era in Junagadh, there was one famous dacoit named Kadu Makrani. He was taking revenge against Junagadh state by punishing the informers of the state. As a popular method of punishment, he used to cut the noses of these people. Dr.Tribhovandas used to reconstruct these cut noses by Indian method of rhinoplasty. So, there was one dictum famous then, “Kadu cuts and Tribhovan Joins”.

Though today the technique of rhinoplasty (nose reconstruction) has undergone few modifications, the basic principle mentioned by Aacharya Sushruta before 2600 years still remains true.