Sushruta Samhita, volume 4: Cikitsasthana

by Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhishagratna | 1911 | 123,229 words

This current book, the Chikitsa-sthana (english translation), deals with therapeutics, surgical emergencies, geriatrics, aphrodisiacs and various other subjects. The Sushruta Samhita is the most representative work of the Hindu system of medicine. It embraces all that can possibly appertain to the science of medicine. Susruta-samhita is recognized...

Chapter XXIX - Elixirs (rasayana) for the prevention of death and decay

Now we shall discourse on the restorative and on the constructive agents (Rasayana) which arrest innate morbific tendencies and decay[1] (Svabhavika-Vyadhi Pratishedhaniya Rasayana). 1.

Metrical Text:—

In the days of yore the gods such as Brahma, etc created a kind of Amrita ambrosia) which is known by the epithet of Soma, for the prevention of death[2] and decay of the body. We shall now deal with the mode of using this (ambrosia). 2.

The one and the same divine Soma plant may be classified into twenty-four species according to the difference of their habitats, structures, epithets and potencies. They are as follows:—Amshuman, Munjavan, Candramah, Rajataprabha, Durua Soma, Kaniyan, Shvetaksha, Kanakaprabha, Pratanavan, Tala vrinta, Karavira, Amshavan, Svayani-prabha, Maha-soma, Garudahrita, Gayatrya, Traishtubha, Pamkta, Jagata, Shamkara, Agnishtoma, Raivata, Yathokta and Udupati. All these kinds of Soma secure for the user a mastery of the Gayatri (and hence in the Vedas), and are known by the above auspicious names mentioned in the Vedas[3] Their virtues and methods of using them are identical with each other and are described below. 34.

Mode of using the Soma:—

A room or an inner chamber (agara) in a commendable site protected with three walls on each side and provided with all kinds of accessories and attendants, should be first secured before taking (the expressed juice of) any of the aforesaid Soma plants. Then at an auspicious hour on an auspicious day marked by favourable astral combinations and lunar phase, the person desirous of using the Soma should enter the inner or central Chamber after having had his system cleansed (with the proper emetics, purgatives, etc) and having had his diet in the proper order (of Peya, etc.). A (whole) plant of the Amshuman (or of any other kind of) Soma should be procured in the manner to be observed at the time of collecting the Soma for an (Agni-shtoma) sacrifice and (all) the (preliminary) rites of Homa should be performed (in the usual orthodox way). After that the bulb (of the Soma plant) should be pricked with a golden needle and a quantity of the secreted milky exudation should be collected in a golden vessel. The patient (with the auspicious rites of protection, etc., done unto him) should drink off an Anjali (Kudava) measure of the secreted juice at a draught without tasting it, and the remainder, if any, should be cast into water. He should then wash and rinse his mouth with water in the manner of Achamana. Then having controlled his mind and speech with the vows of Yama (paramount duties)[4] and Niyama (minor duties)[5] should stay in the protected inner chamber surrounded by his friends. 5.

Metrical Text:—

After having drunk the Rasayana (Elixir) one should reside in a windless (prescribed) chamber, spend his time in perfect control over his senses, sitting, standing or walking about in his chamber in a holy spirit and by no means indulging in sleep (which is injurious under the circumstances). 6.

Or the patient may, after taking his meal in the evening and hearing the benedictory words, lie down on a mattress of Kusha-grass covered with black-deer skin and thus pass the night among his friends and may take cold water when thirsty. Then having got out of his bed in the morning he should hear the benedictory words recited and have the benedictory rites performed unto him. He should then touch the body of a cow and sit down in the same manner (in his chamber). Vomitings mark the digestion of the Soma-juice and after vomiting the blood-streaked worm-infested matter, milk boiled and cooled should be given him in the evening. Worm-infested stools follow on the third day (of its use) which help the system in purging off all filth and obnoxious matter (accumulated in the organism) through errors in diet and conduct, etc. The patient should in that case bathe in the evening and take cold boiled milk as before and lie down on a piece of Kshauma cloth stretched over (the aforesaid mattress). Swellings appear on the body on the fourth day (of its use) and worms are found to creep out from all parts of the body. The patient should He down that day on a bed strewn over with dust and in the evening, he should be made to drink a potion of milk as before. He should pass the fifth and sixth day in the same manner, but milk should be given him in the morning and in the evening (instead of only in the evening). The muscles become withered by this time and on the seventh day the patient is found to be a mere skeleton covered with a skin only and left with bare animation, the vital spark being retained by the potency of Soma. The body should be washed with tepid milk on that day and plastered with a paste of sesamum, Yashti- madhu and sandal wood, and milk (only) should be given him to drink. 7-A.

On the morning of the eighth day, the body should be washed with milk, and plastered with sandal paste, and potions of milk should be prescribed for him after which the patient should be advised to leave his bed of dust and lie down on one covered with a piece of Kshauma cloth. From now the muscles of the body begin to show signs of fresh and vigorous growth, the skin becomes cracked, and the teeth, nails and hair begin to fall off. On and from the ninth day the medicinal oil known as Anu-Taila should be used to anoint (the body) and the decoction of Soma-valka for bathing (Pari sheka). The same should be prescribed on the tenth day, and from thence the skin becomes firm. The eleventh and twelfth day should be passed in the same way. From the thirteenth till the sixteenth day (both the days inclusive) the body should be washed with the decoction of Soma-valka. New teeth well- formed, symmetrical, strong, hard and as clear as a diamond or crystal or ruby would appear on the seventeenth and eighteenth days. Gruels (Yavagu) prepared with old Shali-rice and milk should form his diet till the twenty-fifth day. After that period well boiled Shali rice should be taken in the morning and evening with milk. Fixed, glossy and coral-coloured fingernails resembling the new rising sun in lusture and possessed of auspicious marks would be found to be growing after the lapse of that period and hair begin to grow, the skin would assume the soft hue of a blue lotus (Nilotpala), Atasi flower or of a ruby stone. After a month the hair should be shaved and a plaster composed of Ushira, Chandana and black sesamum applied to the scalp, and the patient should take a milk-bath. This would lead to the growth of deep bee-black curls of hair in the course of a week. 7-B.

Then the patient should be allowed to stir out from the inmost chamber only to re-enter it again after a stay of a Muhurta (forty-eight minutes) in the outer chamber. Thenceforth Vala taila (described before) should be used in anointing (Abhyanga) his body; pasted barley in rubbing (Udvartana); tepid milk in washing (Parisheka) it; and a decoction of Aja-karna in rubbing (Utsadana) the dirt of. Similarly well water (scented) with Ushira should be used for the purpose of bathing (Snana); Sandal pastes as unguents (Anulepana) and the expressed juice of the Amalaka should be invariably mixed with any kind of Yusha or supa (he may take). Soup and black sesamum seeds boiled with milk and Yashti-madhu should be used (in the preparation of the food). These rules of diet and conduct should be observed for ten consecutive days. 7 C.

The patient should stay in the second (outer) chamber for a second ten days. Then he should be made to come out and enter the third (outmost) chamber (veranda) and to remain there for ten days with a quiet control over the mind and should be allowed to take a short exposure to the sun and wind during this period (of ten days). He should then be made to reenter again the inner compartment. 7 D.

The patient should not contemplate himself in a mirror during this time owing to his enhanced personal beauty and renounce all passions and anger for a further period of ten days. This rule holds good in respect of all kinds of Soma; but there is this distinction that the Soma plants which are found to trail upon the ground or grow as small shrubs or in bushes should (themselves) be taken (instead of their expressed juice being drunk) and a dose of these would be four Mushtis[6] and a half. 7.

The expressed juice of the Amshuman (Soma) should be pressed and taken in a golden pot and that of the Candramah (Soma) in a silver one. By its use a man is sure to develop the eight godly powers[7] and is thus able to imitate the god Ishana. The expressed juice of a Soma plant belonging to any other species should be taken in a copper or an earthen pot or in a (pot prepared of a) piece of red-coloured and stretched skin. A member of any of the three twice-born castes but none of the Shudra class is privileged to drink this ambrosial elixir (Soma). In the fourth month (of taking it) and under the auspices of a full moon a Soma-drinker should be allowed to stir out of his chamber with the auspicious rites done unto him and to resume the daily avocations of his life after he had worshipped the Brahmanas in a holy place. 8.

Metrical Texts:—

The use of the (expressed juice of a) Soma plant, the lord of all medicinal herbs is followed by rejuvenation of the system of its user and enables him to witness ten thousand summers on earth in the full enjoyment of a new (youthful) body. Such a person bears a charmed life against fire, water, poison and weapon and develops a muscular energy in his limbs which would be in no way inferior to the combined strength of a thousand excited (rutted) elephants, of the Bhadra class (which are the most ferocious and irresistible) in their sixtieth year. Equipped with such an excellent physique, he can easily and without any opposition cross the Kshiroda (ocean) and go up to the abode of Shakra (the king of the gods) and roam to the extreme confines of Uttara (northern) Kuru or to any other place he likes. He is invested with a beauty of frame which belongs to Kandarpa (the god of love) and his complexion (lustre) vies with the beams of the full moon. The presence of such a beautiful man gladdens the hearts of all, and the entire Veda with all their allied branches[8] of knowledge instinctively dawn upon his consciousness. Like the gods, he knows no failure in life and roams about in the world in the full glory of divine majesty. 9.

Distinctive features of the Soma Plants:—

A Soma plant of whatever species is furnished with fifteen leaves which wax and wane with the waxing and the waning of the moon. Thus one leaf grows every day in the lighted fortnight attaining the greatest number (fifteen) in the night of the full moon and then the leaves begin to decrease in number dropping one by one every day till the bare stem of the creeper is left on the night of the new moon. 10.

Their description:—

The Amshuman species of the Soma is characterised by a smell like that of clarified butter and has a bulb, while the Rajata-prabha is possessed of a bulb resembling a plantain in shape. The Munjavan puts forth leaves like those of a garlic while the Candramah species is possessed of a golden colour and is aquatic in its habitat. The Garudahrita and Shvetaksha species are yellowish (Pandura) and look like the cast-off skins of a snake and are usually found to be pendent from the boughs of trees 11.

All other species are marked with parti-coloured circular rings. Possession of fifteen leaves of variegated colours, a bulb, a creeper-like appearance, and secretion of milky juice are the general characteristics of all the Soma plants. 12-A.

Their habitats:—

The Himalayas, the Arvuda, the Sahya, the Mahendra, the Malaya, the Shri-Parvata, the Deva-giri, the Deva-saha, the Paripatra, the Vindhya mountains and lake Devasunda are the habitats of the Soma plants. Somas, of the Candramah species are often found to be floating here and there on the mighty stream of the river Sindhu (Indus) which flows down at the foot of the five large mountains lying to the north bank beyond the Vitasta (river). The Munjavan and the Amshuman species may also be likewise found in the same locality while those known as the Gayatri, Traishtubha Pamkta, Jagata, Shamkara, and others looking as beautiful as the moon are found to float on the surface of the divine lake known as the little Manasa in Kashmir. 12-B.

The Soma plants are invisible to the impious or to the ungrateful as well to the unbeliever in the curative virtues of medicine and to those spiteful to the Brahmanas. 12.


Thus ends the Twenty-ninth Chapter of the Chikitsita Sthana in the Sushruta Samhita which deals with the Prophylactic elixirs for the innate maladies.

Footnotes and references:


These are decrepitude, death, hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.


Here death may mean, accordirg to some authorities, the death of tissues as well.


The whole of the hymns in the 9th Book of the Rig-veda, besides a few in other places, are dedicated to the honour of Soma, but these twenty- four names do not occur there. The plant is there represented as a god, and his worship must at one time have attained a remarkable popularity. The extraordinary properties of the exhilarating juice of the Soma are frequently mentioned in the Rig-veda and the language throughout in which it is behymned could not be more eulogistic.

As an instance of this we might refer to Rig-veda VIII. 48.3 which has been metrically translated by Muir as follows:—

We’ve quaffed the Soma bright,
And are immortal grown;
We’ve entered into light,
And all the gods have known.
What mortal now can harm,
Or foeman vex us more?
Through thee, beyond alarm,
Immortal god, we soar.

It should be mentioned, however, that as far as our knowledge goes, this Soma is now-a-days not within our reach.—Ed.


Patanjali, the propounder of the Yoga system of Philosophy, enumerates the Yamas as follows:—

  1. ahiṃsa” (harmlessness), (truthfulness),
  2. asteya” (abstinence from stealing),
  3. brahmacarya” (continence)
  4. and “aparigraha” (non-acceptance of offerings except in prescribed cases).


The Niyamas, according to the same authority, are:—

  1. śauca” (purity—external or internal),
  2. santoṣa” (contentment)
  3. tapaḥ” (penance),
  4. svadhyaya” (religious study)
  5. and “īśvara-praṇidhana” (meditation of the Divine Being).


A Mushti measure is equal to eight Tolas.


The eight godly powers, according to some authorities, are:—

aṇima ladhima vyaptiḥ prakamyaṃ mahima tatha |
īshitvañca vashitvañca tatha kamavasayita ||


The allied branches of the study of the Vedas are six in num They are:—

shikṣa kalpo vyakaraṇaṃ niruktaṃ candasaṃ cayaḥ |
jyotiṣamayanañcaiva bedaṅgani ṣadeva tu ||


The eight godly powers, according to some authorities, are:—

aṇima ladhima vyaptiḥ prakamyaṃ mahima tatha |
īśitvañca vaśitvañca tatha kamavasayita ||


The allied branches of the study of the Vedas are six in num They are:—

śikṣa kalpo vyakaraṇaṃ niruktaṃ candasaṃ cayaḥ |
jyotiṣamayanañcaiva bedaṅgani ṣadeva tu ||

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