History of Indian Medicine (and Ayurveda)

by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society | 1949 | 162,724 words | ISBN-13: 9788176370813

The History of Indian medicine and Ayurveda (i.e., the science of life) represents the introductory pages of the Charaka Samhita composed of six large sections dealing with every facet of Medicine in ancient India in a Socio-Historical context. Caraka is regarded as one of the pioneers in the field of scientific healthcare. As an important final a...

Chapter 7 - The Story of Dridhabala

Dridhabala the redactor of the Caraka Samhita was as he himself informs in a passage at the end of the last section of the treatise, a native of Pancanadapura (Pañcanadapura). Verses in the Samhita furnish historical data regarding his father’s name, his residence and the supplementary redaction which he did.

He also explanis the significance of the term redaction and says,

[Carakasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 30.281-280]

“The seventeen chapters and the sections on pharmaceutics and success in treatment in the treatise composed by Agnivesha and revised by Caraka have not been found. These Dridhabala the son of Kapilabala reconsructed, thus bringing faithfully to completion, the great aim of this treatise”.

[Carakasaṃhitā Siddhisthāna A. 12.36-40]

“The redactor enlarges what is concise and abbreviates what is very prolix and in this manner brings an ancient work up-to date. Thus, this best of all treatises, which is replete with truth and wisdom and which has been redacted by the extremely enlightened scholar Caraka is now available only in three quarters of the original extent Accordingly, in order to make the treatise complete, Dridhabala, born in the town of Pancanada restored the lost portion, having propitiated God Shiva, the Lord of creatures. He added seventeen chapters in the section on Therapeutics as also the two sections on Pharmaceutics and Success in Treatment in entirety, by culling his data from various treatises on the science. Thus, this treatise is not deficient either in respect of diction or in respect of content, and is free from any blemishes besetting a scientific treatise and is embellished with the thirty-six canons of exposition”.

Thus we are on more definite grounds in the case of Dridhabala but in identifying his native place the ancient practice of calling any sacred place where five streams conjoin by the name of Pancanada, presents great difficulties

In India any confluence of streams is as a sacred place of pilgrimage and as a consequence we find several such places which go by the name of Pancanada.

(1) According to Hoernle one such place seems to have existed in Kashmir near the confluence of the rivers Jhelum (Vitastā) and Sindhu. This place is now indicated by the modern village of Pantzinor or five channels, which lies close to what was the original site of that confluence before its change to the present site, in the latter half of the 9th century in the reign of King Avantivarman, Pandit Jiyalalji Vaidya of Kashmir says—

“Pancanadapura, now known as Panjnor is situated about 7 miles to the north of Shrinagar, the capital of Kashmir not far away from the confluence of the five streams, known as the Trigama, Vitasta (the Jhelum), the Sindhu (Indus), the Ksirabhavani and Ancara”

There is also a reference to the Kashmirian Pancanada in Rajatarangini (4th canto 246-250)


“By him was invited the womb-brother of Kankanavarsa named Cankuna skilled in alchemy from the Bhuhkhara country who was exalted by virtue. He by his alchemy having brought much gold into the treasury, proved a benefactor of the king like the lotus-pool of the lotus. Obstructed in the Pancanada, on one occasion by the confluence of rivers which were difficult to cross, the king whose army was held up on the bank, fell into anxiety for a while.”

It is this Kashmirian Pancanada which probably was the home of Dridhabala. This theory is supported by the fact that the early commentators Cakrapanidatta and Vijayaraksita often refer to the Kashmirian recession (Kashmira Pātha) when commenting, on passages of the earlier portion of the treatise. The probability is that in all these cases the reference is to Dridhabala’s redaction of the Caraka Samhita, for in reference to the concluding portion of the treatise Dridhabala is, as a rule, quoted by name as its author. It seems clear from their method of quotation that the medical writers of that period were fully aware of the exact share which Dridhabala had in Caraka’s redaction of Agnivesha’s original text. The references are clear indications of Kashmir being Dridbabala’s home. The Punjab (lit. Pañca Ap, or land of five waters) is often erroneously taken to be Pancanada, but this according to Hoernle is untenable on Dridhabala’s own authority, as he clearly indicates a town (3^) and not a country as his home Benares is also sometimes identified with Pancanada Gangadhara. in his commentary on Caraka says: “Dridhabala lived in Kashi, Pancanadapura’. Tirtha is often applied to this city, it being the sacred place of pilgrimage where five rivers the Kirana, the Dhutapapa, the Sarasvati, the Ganges and the Jumna meet. But as we have seen, the references to the Kashmirian recensions by earlier commentators reduce the claims of Benares as the home of Dridhabala to nullity

We need not consider the claims of panjpir or hill of five Pirs an isolated ridge in the Yusufzai plains NNW of Attock. The claim can be summarily dismissed as it is a mohammedan place of pilgrimage and the claim is the result of a superficial similarity of sounds and the natural inability of some western scholars to distinguish the essential difference. Thus the theory of Pantzinor ([...]) being the home of Dridhabala is fairly well established

We are thankful to Dridhabala for giving us the historical data of his lineage and residence, but regarding the period in which he flourished, he leaves us in the dark. In order to arrive at a definite conclusion regarding his period, we have to rely on external evidence, such as reference to him in works of the authors of known date and thus establish his priority to those and the negative evidence on the absence of references to him in works which may be placed anterior to his period. In this we can come as near to historical exactitude as is possible regarding his time.

On scrutinizing the text of the Caraka Samhita and Vagbhata’s Astangahridaya (Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya) and Astangasangraha (Aṣṭāṅgasaṃgraha) we find that Vagbhata is indebted to the Caraka Samhita to an appreciable degree while Dridhabala has not taken anything from Vagbhata. Vagbhata has summarized important portions of both Caraka and Sushruta and the descriptions of Pandu (pāṇḍu) and Udara and other chapters have been largely drawn from Caraka and Susruta. In other chapters, the prose portion of Caraka redacted by Dridhabala is versified ad verbatim. These facts go to show that Dridhabala flourished before Vagbhata

Although the whole of the commentary on Caraka by Jejjata is not available, some of the available portions definitely relate to Dridhabala’s redaction. Now Jejjata was a pupil, and hence a contemporary of Vagbhata. This establishes that Dridhabala was anterior to Vagbhata.

Although very little data is available regarding Dridhabala’s period we are on surer ground regarding Vagbhata’s period. It-sing the Chinese traveller, visited India between 675 and 685 A.D. and in his memoirs we find references to Vagbhata. This places Vagbhata somewhere before the 7th century and this is supported by the fact that Madhava, the author of Madhavanidana quotes Vagbhata. This work was translated into Arabic by the orders of Haroun-al-Raschid in the 8th century (750-850 A. D). Hence if we put the period of the composition of Madhavamdana in the 7th century, Vagbhata’s period recedes by about a century i.e. to the 6th century. We find quotations from Vagbhata in the Kandarpika a chapter of Varahamihira who lived in the 5th century and so Vagbhata will have to be placed before this period. Another medical author Bhattara Haricandra (Bhaṭṭāra Haricandra) was a contemporary of Vagbhata. As Bhattara Haricandra flourished during the reign of king Sahasanka (Sāhasāṅka—375-413 A.D.), Vagbhata cannot be later than the 4th century. The negative evidence of any reference to Dridhabala or his work in Navanitaka (Nāvanītaka) which was composed in the first part of the 4th century, provides the upper limit to Dridhabala’s period and hence we can put Dridhabala fairly somewhere between the end of the 3rd century and beginning of the 4th century. Now the question is regarding what part Dridhabala played in the redaction whether he redacted the whole work or only 41 chapters.

We are informed by the text that all the 12 chapters of Kalpa-sthana, all the 12 chapters of Siddhi-sthana and 17 Chapters of Cikitsa-sthana of the Agnivesha-tantra as redacted by Caraka were not available at Dridhabala’s time.

[Carakasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 30.289-290]

“The seventeen chapters and the Sections on pharmaceutics and Success in Treatment in the treatise compiled by Agnivesha and revised by Caraka have not been found. These Dridhbala, the son of Kapilabala has reconstructed, thus bringing faithfully to completion, the great aim of tins treatise”

As there are 30 chapters in Cikitsa-sthana, it would be interesting to try to find out which are the 17 chapters that were missing but were reconstructed by Dridhabala.

We find that there are two orders of the Chapters of Cikitsa-sthana available One is the order which is given in this text. In the other order, chapters nos 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 are substituted by nos. 14, 19, 21, 24, and 25 respectively while the Chapters 9 to 30 are re-numbered as 14 to 30, the chapters 14, 19, 21, 24 and 25 being promoted.

In order to make it more clear the chapters are given in a tabular form thus:—

Cikitsa Sthana chapters, two orders

The first 8 chapters preserve their order in both the traditional arrangements and hence their order or authorship is not under dispute or doubt They also conform to the order given in the Nidana-sthana. They are indisputably Caraka’s Similarly, the last five chapters are the same in both the traditional orders

Vijayaraksita, the commentator on Madhava-nidana (Mādhavanidāna) quotes Nos 26, 27, 28 in the name of Dridhabala and hence they are definitely of Dridhabala’s authorship So it is the intermediate chapters that require careful scrutiny and investigation.

Now, out of these 17 chapters under investigation, we can definitely ascribe five chapters viz. 15th, 16th, 17th, 22nd and 23rd of the ‘A’ order or 19th, 20th, 21st. 24th and 25th of the ‘B’ order to Dridhabala as they are cited by later medical authors as emanating from Dridhabala’s pen.

Arunadatta (Aruṇadatta) the commentator on Astangahidaya, quotes Dridhabala ascribing the 15th chapter (19th of the ‘B’ order) to Dridhabala.


The other four viz, (Pāṇḍu, Śvāsa, Tṛṣṇā and [Viṣa??]) 16th, 17th 22nd and 23rd of the A order (20, 21, 24. 25. of the B order) are quoted by the commentator Vijayaraksita and have been ascribed to Dridhabala.


[(1) Pandu—(16A-20A)]

[??.?? 8.2—Ṭīkā]

[(2) Hikka-shvasa—(17A-21B)]

[Carakasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna? 17]

[(3) Trishna—(22A-24B)]

[(4) Murccha (Viṣa?)—(23A-25B)]

[Mādhavanidāna 17.15—Ṭīkā]

Now we have only 12 chapters whose authorship remains to be ascertain. Out of these 12, three chapters viz., (arśa, atisāra, visarpa) 14th, 19th and 2lst respectively of the A order (9th, 10th, 11th of the B order) arc quoted in Navanitaka (Nāvanītaka) whose date has been established as being anterior in time to Dridhabala and hence these three can unhesitatingly be ascribed to Caraka

The chapters 24th, 25th of the A order (sadātyaya) and (dvivraṇīya) (12th and 13th of the B order), are ascribed to Caraka by the commentator Jejjata in his commentary Nirantarapadavyakhya (Nirantarapadavyākhyā).



The only plausible reason for making the above statements by the commentator seems to be to distinguish these chapters from others, marking them to be the redactions of the venerable Caraka.

So these five chapters belong to Caraka A glance at the B order will show that Someone has taken out these five chapters scattered at random in the A order and has promoted them to the top of these 17 chapters in order to re-align them with the first 8 chapters, thus bringing together the work of Caraka in 13 consecutive chapters

This leaves us with bare 7 chapters the authorship of which is doubtful and which remain a subject of research. It seems the order was preserved upto Cakrapani’s time, and later on, some one changed the order, probably to group together the 13 chapters redacted by Caraka and separate them from the 17 chapters redacted by Dridhabala. Caraka must have redacted all the 30 chapters of Cikitsa-sthana and the last 17 chapters must have been lost and thus Dridhabala must have supplied the redaction

The Part Played by Dridhabala in Caraka Samhita—

Apart from the Kalpa and Siddhisthanas and the 17 chapters of Cikitsa-sthana which are from the pen of Dridhabala, it is very difficult to say whether Dridhabala touched upon any other portion of the Caraka Samhita. This question would provide an interesting and fruitful matter for research scholars. It is possible to distinguish and differentiate the styles of Agnivesha, Caraka and Dridhabala. In addition to this, new concepts, medical as well as general, might have gradually crept in and if these can be sifted apart, an interesting light would be thrown on the development and history of medical science and its concept and thus the interpolations, additions and redactions can be marked out and assigned to different persons or periods Some scholars are of the opinion that even small surgical references given in various chapters in Caraka Samhita were imported by Dridhabala. This argument on minute scrutiny will not hold good as the detailed descriptions of surgical operations are confined to the chapters which were restored and redacted by Dridhabala himself

In some chapters, we find that there are some verses which though running concurrently with the subject of the chapter are not quite in tune with the matter taken as a whole, e.g. description of children and patients in Sutra XI, 56 63 and some verses in Vimana III, (40-44, 46-48) with the exception of the first instance (i.e. curds) the matter contained in these verses is not found in the summary or the recapitulatory verses given at the end of the chapters, and hence some may be led to conclude that these are from Dridhabala or even later interpolations though nothing conclusive can be said about these. It is very difficult to mark out such verses, for we do not get any clue from the index of chapters Although the numbers and headings of the chapters have beeu given, there is no mention of the number of verses in each chapter. The absence of this enumeration of verses in each chapter might have encouraged interpolators to introduce their own verses and pass them on as the original ones. This subject is a matter for deep and laborious but interesting research for future scholars.

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