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 15 - Kampilya as a Centre of Learning

An unimposing hamlet called Kampila on the banks of the Ganges 20 miles N. E. of Fatehgarh in the district of Farrukabad (79.37 E, 27.33 N) seldom noticed by a passer-by was once a city teeming with population. It was a capital city and a seat of a famous university possessing an international reputation. It covered an area of 28 to 30 miles. Excavations have unearthed many a gold coin and statues bearing testimony to a highly civilized and flourishing city in its halcyon days.

During the Mahabharata period, the city was at its zenith. It was the capital of the Pancala Desha ruled over by king Drupada, the father of Draupadi, the pivotal character round whom the giant epic of Mahabharata evolved. It is narrated in the epic that Drupada and Drona were co-students, but when Drupada succeeded to his fathers throne he denounced this friendship with Drona, who was but a poor Brahmin, on the ground of inequality of status Drona then became the preceptor of Kaurava and Pandava princes in the military science and when their education was complete, he asked the princes in his Gurudaksina to defeat Drupada and bring him as a captive. First Kauravas tried their hands and failed. Then the Pandava princes invaded and succeeded in bringing Drupada as a captive at the feet of their preceptor Drona Drona reproachfully reminded king Drupada of the present reversal of status of each of them. He further added that as he wanted to revive the old friendship, and friendship can be maintained only if there is equal status of both, he would merciiully give Drupada half the territories now conquered by him.

And thus accordingly he kept the northern half of Pancala with Ahiksetra as his capital and returned the southern half to Drupada with Kampilya as the capital.

[Mahābhārata, Ādiparva, A. 138.67-72]

“Because in childhood you have played with me in the hermitage, O best among Ksatriyas! our mutual love and affection have developed.

O lord of men, I desire friendship with you again and so I give you a boon, O king that you should get half of the kingdom.

O Yajnasena! As a king cannot be a friend with one who is not a king, I have tried to put you on the throne

You shall be a king on the southern bank of the Bhagirathi and I on the northern one O Pancala, if you agree, consider me to be your friend”.

Drupada said, “O Brahman, there is no wonder for such a thing with regard to powerful great souls! I am pleased with you and I expect perpetual love of you.”

Vaishampayana said, “Having told him thus, O Bharata, that Drona made him free, and being pleased he honoured him and gave him half of the kingdom.

He occupied the territory of Makandi with a thousand villages on the bank of the Ganges; and the other with humiliated mind occupied the southern Pancalas upto the river Carmanvati, with Kampilya, the best among cities”.

It was at Kampilya that the Svayamvara ceremony of Draupadi took place and even today women recite this episode in the wedding. A stray tourist who cares to pay a visit to this forgotten place is proudly shown the ruins of the palace of Drupada and the spot where the Svayamvara of Draupadi took place.

Even in the Ramayana period, centuries older than the Mahabharata period we find that Kampilya was a city of note During that period it was ruled by a king named Pravahana Jaibali who, like Janaka Videhi, was a scholar-king.. Competetive disputations often took place betwen scholars of (Mithilā) and (Kāmpilya) and the king was also a preceptor at the university of Kampilya an event probably unparalleled anywhere in the world.

[Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad 3.1.1]

“Om. Janaka, Emperor of Videha, performed a sacrifice in which gifts were freely distributed. Vedic scholars from Kuru and Pancala were assembled there”.

[Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad 6.2.1]

Shvetaketu, the grandson of Aruna, came to the assembly of the Pancalas. He approached Pravahana, the son of Jivala, who was being waited on (by his servants)”.

We can trace the glory of Kampilya even further. Even in the Vedic times it was a prosperous and well -known city. In Yajurveda (23.18) we find a reference to Kampilya stating that beautiful and highly educated ladies resided there.

[Yaju. 23.18]

Amba! Ambika! Ambalika’ No one is taking me away. The sorry horse will lie beside another, as Subhadra, the dweller in Kampila”.


Puranas say that Parvati, the wife of lord Shiva, made Kampilya her residence when there was a family quarrel with her husband.

Shrimad Bhagavata states that there was once a powerful king named Bharmyashva. He had five sons among whom one was Kampilya after whom the capital was named Kampilya, and the country is called Pancala Desha

[Śrīmadbhāgavata, Skanda 9, A. 29.31-32]

“His son was Bharmyashva. He had five sons, Mudgala and others—Yavinara, Brihadisu, Kampilya and Srinjaya. They were called Pancalas because Bharmyashva said, ‘These sons of mine are able enough to protect my five dominions.”

There are also five rivers in the Pancala Desha viz., the Ganges; the Kalindi (Kālindī), the Jumna, the Chambal and the Ramganga (Rāmagaṅgā). May be these five rivers also contributed to the nomenclature of the country through which they flowed. Draupadi is very often referred to as Pancali as she hailed from Pancala.

Jain literature is full of references to Kampilya. It was this city that was selected by the Jain’s first Tirthankara Rishabhadevaji as his preaching centre. When the Bahubali the son of Rishabhadevaji renounced the world, the prince of Pancala also followed suit. Vimalnath the thirteenth Tirthankara was born at Kampilya and he made it his headquarters till his old age His birth, his penance, his preachings are associated with Kampilya and hence Jain pilgrims make it a point to visit this holy place. Vimalnath was not an ordinary citizen. He was the son of king Kritavarma and queen Jayashyama of Kampilya who ruled over it long before Drupada. While once on hunting expedition he saw snow in the lake melting and this reminded him of the short-livedness and meaninglessness of life. From that day onwards he resorted to penance and. made himself immortal by his preachings of truth.

Mahavira Swami the last and 24th Tirthankara also stayed and preached here for a considerable time. Jain literature is also full of references to Draupadi and her Svayamvara.

Some scholars ascribe to Kampilya the honour of being the birth-place of Kapila Muni, the propounder of Sankhya philosophy. Panini the great grammarian refers to Kampilya and Pancala.

[Pāṇini Siddhāntakaumudī 1.2.52]

“The Pancalas are beautiful. The Pancalas are a country”.

He mentions Sankashya (Sāṅkāśya) along with Kampilya. Probably Sankashya was a suburb of Kampilya, set up and created in honour of Sankasha (saṃkāśa), a prominent citizen.

[... 4.2.121]

In the Mahidhara commentary of Brihajjataka we find an area of Kampilya referred to as Kapitthika. Thus Kampilya, Sankashya and Kapitthika are more or less the same place. The very place which was referred to as Sankashya by the Chinese traveller Fa-hi-en in the 7th century A.D. was referred to as Kapitthika by Hu-en-tsang, another Chinese traveller in the 8th century. Even today we have Sankisa (Sānkāśya) and Kathiya (Kapitthika), hardly twenty miles apart. This easily leads us to conclude that upto the 8th century of the Christian Era, Kampilya, though shorn of its greater glory, preserved its unity as one city.

To the list of luminaries that Kampilya produced or attracted can be added the name of Maharsi Atreya, the propounder of the medical knowledge which has descended to us as Caraka Samhita, which makes a specific mention of Kampilya and Pancala.

[Carakasaṃhitā Vimānasthāna 3.3]

The Samasa-pradhana method of Pancala was a reputed method in literature. The great astronomer Varahamihira is another gift of Kampilya to the world. Great scholar graduates of Kampilya like Agnivesha, Bhela, Jatukarna, Parashara, Harita, Ksharapani, Kankayana, Kumarashira, Varyovida of Kashi and a host of others carried the fame of Kampilya to the four corners of the world and proved its claim to be the alma mater of universal fame before the days of Taxila.

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