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 9 - Commentators of Caraka Samhita

1. Bhattara Haricandra:

Bhattara Haricandra was a versatile genius who made a name in the literary as well as the medical world. That he was a famous literateur is proved by a reference to him in the beginning of Harsa-carita by the great poet Bana.

[Harṣacarita Prathama-ucchavāsa śloka 12]

“The charming diction and style and the beauty of assonance of Bhattara Haricandra give him a sovereign place among writers of prose”

Another tribute to his literary genius is paid by Vakpati (Vākpati) in his Prakrita work called Gaudavaha (Gauḍavaha):


“Who takes delight in reading Bhasa, Agnimitra, Kuntideva and Kalidasa, as also in diction and style of Subandhu and Haricandra”

Unfortunately the literary world has become the poorer by the non-availability of his works in this sphere. He was equally adept in the so called prosaic medical compositions. His is the oldest commentary on Caraka Samhita named Caraka-nyasa (Carakanyāsa). This statement is supported by the fact that he is quoted by all other known commentators of the Caraka Samhita. But mere antiquity is not the only merit of his commentary, it is considered to be the best by many an authority like Indu, Tisata (Tīsaṭa) and Maheshvara (Maheśvara).


“The ignorant one who attempts to expound the doctrine of Caraka without consulting the commentary of Haricandra verily attempts to drink up the whole ocean”.


“As there exist the commentaries of Haricandra and the learned Jejjata, it is sheer presumptuousness for any one else to attempt to comment on the texts of Ayurveda.” (Tīsaṭācārya)

[? Viśvapakāśakoṣa... śloka 5]

“Bhattara Haricandra of effulgent character like the moon, that adorned the office of the court-physician in unrivalled splendour of the king Sahasanka has composed this excellent commentary on the treatise of Caraka.” (Maheśvara)

The verse just quoted throws an interesting light on the period of Bhattara Haricandra. He is the contemporary of king Sahasanka whose date has been fairly well established as 375-413 A. D. The king Sahasanka is very often identified with Vikrama or Candragupta II. But the identification is not justified. The traditional hero of Aryavarta, Vikrama was a predecessor of Sahasanka, There is no mention of Bhattara among the Nine Gems of the court of Vikrama A person of so high a repute as that of Bhattara would surely have found a place among the Nine Gems. Thus the date of Sahasanka, viz., 5th century A D., i. e after Vikrama is the date of our Bhattara Haricandra That he must have flourished before the 8th or 7th century A. D. is proved by references to him by Bana and Vakpati quoted above who flourished in the 7th and 8th centuries respectively. That he flourished before the time of Vagbhata is amply proved by the fact that Tisata, the son of Vagbhata quotes Bhattara Haricandra (Quotation given above). Candrata (Candraṭa) wrote a commentary after seeing Jejjata’s commentary.


Now Candrata was the grandson of Vagbhata and son of Tisata.

Jejjata was the pupil of Vagbhata and naturally his contemporary. We find that Jejjata has quoted Bhattara Haricandra.


“This chapter written by the great preceptor is well expounded by Bhattara Haricandra.”

This can lead to but one conclusion that Bhattara Haricandra flourished before the time of Vagbhata. Besides this the commentary of Cakrapani corroborates our statement. It says (“haricandramatānusārī vāgbhaṭa”) Vagbhata follows the opinion of Haricandra. Bhattara Haricandra has also written a commentary on Kharanada Samhita (Kharanādasaṃhitā) which was redacted later on by Indu. This Samhita was a living force till the time of Arunadatta and Hemadri. Haricandra’s commentary Caraka-nyasa (Carakanyāsa) is only partially available i.e., we get only 1, 2, 3, and 5 chapters of Sutra-sthana A manuscript copy of this commentary is lying in the Madras Government library.

2. Swami Kumara:

Very little is known about this commentator of Caraka Samhita. All we know about him is that he was later than Bhattara Haricandra as he quotes the latter frequently. His commentary is known as Panjika (Pañjikā) and only the portion upto the fifth chapter of Sutra-sthana is available. The manuscript belongs to the Madras Government library.

3. Shivadasa Sen:

Shivadasa Sen’s commentary on Caraka Samhita is known as Tattva-candrika (Tattvacandrikā) Only a portion of it (Sūtra 1-27) is available. The manuscript belongs to the Bombay Royal Asiatic Society Library.

Regarding his history, all we can gather is that he was born in the Vaidya guild, his father’s name was Ananta Sen, his birth place was Malancika (Mālañcikā), a village in Bengal and that the then ruler of Gauda Bengal was Barbaka Saha who ruled over Bengal from 1456 to 1474 A.D.


That he belonged to Bengal is also evident from his name ending viz., Sen. He was a Vaisnavite in spite of his name Shivadasa Sen.

The following works stand in his name—

  1. [Tattvacandrikā]
  2. [Dravyaguṇasaṃgrahavyākhyā]
  3. [Tattvapadīpikā (Carakaṭīkā)]
  4. [Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayatattvavodhavyākhyā (Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayatattvabodhavyākhyā?)]

His commentary written in 1448 A D. is available in parts.

4. Jejjata:

Next to Bhattara Haricandra among the commentators of Caraka Samhita comes Jejjata in point of time. It is established that he was a pupil of Vagbhata ([iti vāgbhaṭaśiṣyasya jejjaṭasya kṛṭau nirantarapadavyākhāyām]) and hence we find no difficulty in fixing his period in the 9th century A D. He wrote a commentary on Sushruta also which is the oldest known commentary on the work Dalhana, a later commentator on Sushruta quotes from Jejjata’s commentary and so does Candrata (Candraṭa) the grandson of Vagbhata (according to Aufrecht the author of Catalogus Catalogorum), and so it must have been available upto Dalhana’s and Candrata’s time. A revised edition of his commentary copied from Madras Government Oriental Library has been published. The revision was done by Haridatta.

His commentary on Caraka is known as Nirantarapada-vyakhya (Nirantarapadavyākhyā) and only the following sections of his commentary are not available at present.

Cikitsa 5-71 to Cikitsa 23-160, Kalpa 1-5, Siddhi 2, Siddhi 7-32 to end.

Some people believe that he was the son of Kaiyata (Kaiyaṭa) This belief seems to have sprung from the fact that Kaiyata had a son named Jaiyata and the letters “ja” and “ya” and are phonetically interchangeable but this Jaiyata and Jejjata were not the same person and the identification rests on no surer foundation than a similarity of sounds, which again is based on the interchangeability of sounds during the Prakrita formation period.

Jejjata may be a Kashmirian as is suggested by the (“ṭa”) ending of his name which was common among the Kashmirians e.g., Kaiyata, Mammata and others. But more probably he was an inhabitant of Sind, as he studied under Vagbhata, though nothing could have prevented an ardent Kashmirian to undertake the hazards of travel to Sind to have the privilege of studying under so famous a preceptor as Vagbhata.

5. Cakrapani:

Cakrapani is the most famous among the commentators of Caraka Shamhita. His commentary is in its entirety. It has been printed at many places.

We learn from his own statements at the end of his Ayurveda-dipika (Āyurvedadīpikā) and Cikitsa-sangraha and also from Sivadasa, the commentator of Cikitsa-sangraha that Cakrapani’s father’s name was Narayana and his elder brother’s name was Bhanudatta. Both his father and brother were in the service of the Gauda king, Nayapala. His preceptor’s name was Naradatta. Historians have fixed Nayapala’s time as 1040-1070 A D. i.e. the middle of the 11th century.


Thus the period of this most popular of Caraka commentators is easily fixed. He was a native of Bengal. This statement is supported by many references internal as well as external.

Jayadeva says—


“This Cakrapani is reputed to be a resident of Birbhum district of Bengal. There exists even a temple dedicated to the deity called Cakrapanishvara, built by Cakrapani”

From the benedictory opening verses of Cakra-sangraha, we learn that several epithets like Vaidya, Mahamahopadhyaya and Shivabhakta are applied to him.

Besides his unrivalled commentary on Caraka three other works are ascribed to his pen viz,

  1. [Bhānumatīvyākhyā on Suśruta (Sūtrasthāna only)]
  2. [Cakradattasaṃgraha or Cikitsāsaṃgraha]
  3. [Dravyaguṇasaṃgraha]

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