Atharvaveda and Charaka Samhita

by Laxmi Maji | 2021 | 143,541 words

This page relates ‘History of Ayurveda’ found in the study on diseases and remedies found in the Atharvaveda and Charaka-samhita. These texts deal with Ayurveda—the ancient Indian Science of life—which lays down the principles for keeping a sound health involving the use of herbs, roots and leaves. The Atharvaveda refers to one of the four Vedas (ancient Sanskrit texts encompassing all kinds of knowledge and science) containing many details on Ayurveda, which is here taken up for study.

History of Āyurveda

Estimation of the time of history of Āyurveda since its origin is not possible exactly because the recorded history is available only from the Buddha period (600 B.C). Based on collected pieces of evidence like Vedic literature, archaeological excavations, reports of scientists, geologists etc. the history can be framed, estimated and classified as follows–

1. A) Prehistoric period (stone age civilization)
a. Paleolithic age (old stone age civilization)–2 million years to 13000 years BC.
b. Mesolithic age (middle stone age civilization)–13000-10000 years BC.
c. Neolithic age (new stone age civilization)–10000-6000 years BC.
B) Pre-Vedic period–6000-5000 BC or 6000-2700 BC. , or Aryan civilization.
C) Vedic period-approximately 5000 years BC.
D) Post-Vedic period–5000 years BC. To till date.

Prehistoric period–The existence of man on earth is regarded from more than I lakh years BC. The history can be divided as prehistoric (before the period of written documentation of history) and the historic period.

The prehistoric period ranges from stone age civilization to the historic period.

The primitive age or stone-age civilization can be grouped into their stages as follows–

Palaeolithic age (Ole stone civilization, 200000 to 13000 years BC. )–In this period the man was a wandering hunter, he used to hunt animals with stones and eat raw flesh. He did not know about shelter and wearing clothes, he used to live in burrows and cover his body with leather or bark of trees.

Mesolithic age (Middle stone civilization, 13000 to 10000 years BC. )–In this period the man developed up to some extent. He used to hunt the animals with sharp stones, he started to cover the body with leaves and bark of trees, he learned to produce fire and developed the art of cooking.

Neolithic age (New stone civilization, 10000 to 6000 years BC. )–In this period the man started to prepare the instruments to hunt the animals like stone, wood, bone, ivory then afterwards with the bronze and copper. He used to wear clothes made up of leather, leaves, bark etc. He invented fire, learned cooking, realized the importance of living with cooperation, tamed the animals and developed the skill of agriculture. They worshipped mother, goddess and various minor deities.

The historians identified 3 regions by excavations–

At the banks of the Nile river (Egypt civilization existed).

The area between Euphrates and Tigris river (summer and Babylonian civilizations existed).

At Sindh region (the Indus valley civilization existed). It is the oldest civilization among them all.

Pre Vedic periods–It is the period existing between the new stone age civilization and Vedic period. It might be the period of Aryan civilization. The Aryans landed at Sapta 30

Saindhava region (Punjab) between 2700-500 years BC. (Some scholars mentioned the period as 6000-5000 years BC). The Aryans originated at Denuv, Hungary and reached India via Jordan and Iran.

The Aryans used to live on the banks of rivers, they obeyed the orders of the head of the family (father), the mother was given freedom in the house, they used to pray the natural elements like Agni, Varuṇa etc. they used to follow the divine therapies, used to drink soma rasa as the choice, have the tradition of Guru-Śiṣya-Paramparā type of educated and used to do agriculture and cattle rearing[1].

Karavīrya was one of the disciples of Divodāsa Dhanvantari, co-student of Suśruta and the author of Karavīrya-Saṃhitā on Śalya cikitsā which is not available now. In Purāṇa we find the description of Karavīrapura and Dṛṣdvatī is famous in Veda. He might live at Karavīrapura on the banks of river Dṛṣdvatī[2]. The word meaning of Karavīra skill in practicing surgery. In Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, it is stated that he was an expert in surgery. His reference was quoted in Madhukośa commentary on Mādhava Nidāna, Atisāra Prakaraṇa[3].

Aurabhra was one of the disciples of Divodāsa Dhanvantari and contemporary of Suśruta. He wrote a treatise named. Aurabhra Tantra on Śalya tantra which is not available now. The word Aurabhra seems to have originated from the word ‘urabhrasyāpatyam’or ‘urabhre bhavaḥ’ and the meaning person or country[4]. As per the history concerned, he might have belonged to urabhradeśa or might have lived near Urnavathi river[5]. It is also known from ‘Cikitsākalikā’ that Aupadhenava and Aurabhra were proficient in the art of surgery. Suśruta, Ḍalhaṇa, Gaṇanātha Sen, Indu etc., mentioned his name as a surgeon.

Aupadhenava was one of the disciples of Divodāsa Dhanvantari and contemporary of Suśruta. He wrote a treatise named Aupadhenava-Śalya-Tantra which is not available now[6]. ‘upadhenorapatyam’–the word Aupadhenava is derived from this etymology. Ācārya of this name is not found elsewhere. But in this example of the Pāniṇīya Sūtra, the Mahābhāṣyakāra has referred to the word ‘Aupagava’ as an offspring of ‘Upagu’. It is known that he might be the son of Aurabhra[7]. There is no definite information regarding the place and birth of Aupadhenava. Ḍalhaṇa stated the in Suśruta Uttarastana thirtyninth chapter the śloka “doṣo-alpo ahita sambhūtaḥ” was as per Aupadhenava. It is known from ‘Cikitsā Kalikā’ that the Aupadhenava and Aurabhra were proficient in the art of surgery.

Vaitaraṇa was one of the disciples of Divodāsa Dhanvantari, co-student of Suśruta the author or Vaitaraṇa Saṃhitā on Śalya tantra which is not available now.

Ganatha Sen in his Pratyakṣa Śarīra mentioned that Vaitaraṇa Saṃhitā was even bigger than Suśruta Saṃhitā (surgical techniques bandages which are not in Suśruta were mentioned in Vaitaraṇa Saṃhitā). Ḍalhaṇa quoted in his commentary the concept of Vaitaraṇa while discussing the surgical treatments of Aśmarī. Cakrapāṇi Daṭṭa also quoted the references and surgical techniques of Vaitaraṇa[8].

Pauṣkalāvata was one of the disciples of Divodāsa Dhanvantari Co-student of Suśruta and the author of Pauṣkalāva Tantra which is not available now. The ancient Ācāryas were often named after their mothers, fathers, Ācāryas, genus, and other attributes. The word Puṣkalabadha was probably a symbol of this. As per the Ḍalhaṇa the “tadagninā rañjitaṃ raktatvaṃ pratipadyate |” was the concept of Pauṣkalāvata. Indu, Suśruta, Ḍalhaṇa and Cakrapāṇi etc., mentioned him as the author of Śalya-tantra. Gopurarakṣita was one the disciples of Divodāsa Dhanvatari, co-student of Suśruta and the author of Gopurarakṣita-tantra which is not available now. His name might be given for protecting temples from invaders, Gopura (temples), Rakṣita (protecting). Ḍalhaṇa considered Gopura and Rakṣita as two persons but others rejected it. He was also mentioned in Tatva-Candrikā. Ḍalhaṇa, Cakrapāṇi, Śrīkaṇṭhadatta and Vijayakṣita quoted Bhāluki-tantra references in their treatises[9].

Bhoja was a contemporary of Suśruta. Bhoja-Saṃhitā was famous among the texts on Śalya-tantra. He is very ancient and different from king Bhoja. Many references related to Bhoja-Saṃhitā are available; few of them are as follows -Suśruta-Sūtra 8th chapter (Śāstra Parimāṇa); Mādhava Nidāna (Rājayakṣmā) etc.

Kāṅkāyana was a reputed physician of Bāhlika. His name appears in Atharva-Veda as a composer of Mantras. He participated in the debate about Rasa-saṃkhyā. He mentioned that the Rasa are innumerable. He participated in the debate on the origin of man and disease. He opined that Prajāpati is the cause for both. He participated in the debate on the development of fetal organs. He opined that Hṛdaya developed first because it is the seat of consciousness and life. He was the disciple of Dhanvatari along with Aupadhenava, Aurabhra etc.

Varyovid was the king of Kāśi, a great scholar of Āyurveda, a contemporary of Ātreya, Kāśyapa etc. Kāśyapa taught pediatrics to the king Varyovid. As per Caraka-Saṃhitā, a discussion between Kāśyapa and Varyovid occurred about the merits and demerits of Vāta. It is believed that Punarvasu Ātreya and Kṛṣṇātreya are one and same but some people identify them as different. He participated in the debates of the sages with other saints. As per Śrīkaṇṭhadatta and Śivadās Sen he was a specialist in Śālākya. Many formulations are described to him, like Nagarādi Cūrṇa.

Nimi was the Ācārya of Śālākya-Tantra who learned the Āyurveda from Indra. Ācārya Nimi was the first man who composed a treatise on Śālākya-Tantra which is also known as Nimitantra or Videha-Tantra. The word Nimi, Videha, Janaka etc. appears to be synonyms. The original book of Nimitantra is not available. As per Ḍalhaṇa Nimi was one of the twelve disciples of Divodāsa Dhanvatari.

Gārgya was a famous scholar of Sanskrit and Nirukta. He lived before Pāṇini and was a contemporary of Nimi, Kāṅkāyana etc. In Hasti-Āyurveda of Pālakāpya ṛṣi, it is stated that he was present in the meeting of Romapāda, a friend of Daśaratha. Harishastri Paradkar, the editor of Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdaya said that he wrote a treatise on Śālākya-Tantra. He was a participant in the conference of sages held at the slopes of Himālayas. He was the son of saint Garga who belonged to Gargagotra[10].

Ḍalhaṇa mentioned Sātyaki as the author of Śālākya text. He introduced the couching technique for the treatment of cataract. Even now this method is being practiced by some people in north India. The tradition is known as Sātyakīya Sampradāya. He was the brother of Lord Kṛṣṇa and friend of Arjuna.

The original book of Bhṛgu-Tantra is not available but his preparation is available in Śālākya literature for the treatment of Timira, Kacha, Śukra etc.

Texts on Kaumārbhṛtya of Ancient time are Kāśyapa Saṃhitā, Vṛddha Jīvaka Tantraṃ, Bindaka Tantraṃ, Parvataka Tantraṃ etc. At present Kāśyapa Saṃhitā or Vṛddha Jīvaka Tantraṃ only remained as the reference book for Kaumārbhṛtya. Jīvaka belongs to the Kāśyapa tradition and he was an expert in Kaumārbhṛtya. Three Jīvakas are found in history. They are as follows–

Jīvaka-I -Vṛddha Jīvaka, son of sage Rucika, of Bhṛgu genealogy and disciple of Kāśyapa learned Āyurveda from Indra. He was the real Pediatrician and the disciple of Kāśyapa who belonged to the period of Kāśyapa i.e., 1500–1000 BC. He wrote as Vṛddha Jīvaka Tantraṃ. First Jīvaka was the Kaumārbhṛtya Ācārya and the disciple of Kāśyapa.

Jīvaka-II -Jīvaka of Buddha period 600 BC–Jīvaka was considered as the eminent physician to Buddha. He was born to a call girl and was rejected by his mother, then bought up by the prince Abhaya to the Royal Palace and so-called Kumāra Bāccā. He learned the Āyurveda from the renowned scholar, Ātreya at Takṣaśīlā University for seven years. He was appointed as royal physician to King Bimbisāra. Second Jīvaka was a Physician and surgeon of Buddha Period. Miracles did by Jīvaka i.e.–The relieved headache of Sāketa with Nasyakarma. Treated fistula in Anus of king Bimbisāra, etc.

Jīvaka-III -This Jīvaka was neither a physician nor a pediatrician. He was a king later promulgated Jainism and learned a Viṣahara Mantra from a Gandharva with the effect that Mantra and simple touch were capable of removing the toxic effects. Third Jīvaka was the propagator of Jainism[11].

Āyurveda had two traditions. The traditions of the Vedas are Lord Rudra or Śiva, the first Bhiṣak and the tradition of Āyurveda are Brahmā is the first advisor. Another part of Āyurveda is in the Rasaśāstra, Lord Śiva is considered to be the chief advisor. The Ṛgveda is the oldest in Vedic literature, dating to 4000 BC to 6000 BC. We find the first description of Āyurveda from Ṛgveda and were available in the form of short Mantra. Sāmaveda and Yajurveda were the descriptions of Āyurveda. We find the detail description of Āyurveda from the Atharvaveda. The relationship of Āyurveda is mainly with Atharvaveda and the Atharvaveda is called the Āyurvedic appendage. Āyurveda has been recognized as the fifth Veda along with the four Vedas in the Kāśyapa Saṃhitā. In the descent narrative of Āyurveda, the period from Brahma to Indra is the Vedic period and then the Saṃhitā period began. There are two Bhiṣak in Vedic literature like–Daivabhiṣak and Manuṣyabhiṣak. The name of Daivabhiṣak is Agni, Rudra, Varuṇa, Aśvin, Marut and Sarasvatī. The names of the sages of the Vedic mantra and the Āyurvedic mantra are found in the text of Sarvānukramanikā. Among them, there is the description of seventy-six sages like Atharvā, Atri, Atharvāṅgirā, aṅgirā, Bṛhaspati, Viśvāmitra, Manu, Gautama, Śauṇaka, Savitā etc. According to the Caraka- Saṃhitā in the Āyurvedic tradition, Bharadvāja received his knowledge of Āyurveda from Indra in a sage council organized during the time of Maharṣi Ātreya. According to Suśruta-Saṃhitā, Dhanvatari received his knowledge of Āyurveda from Indra. Vāgbhatta said that Punarvasu Ātreya, Dhanvatari, Bharadvāja, Nimi, Kāśyapa etc. Maharṣis, seeing that their families were suffering from diseases, learned Āyurveda from Indra. The ten sages received his knowledge of Āyurveda from Indra. Maharṣi Bhṛgu was the son of Brahmā. According to historians, Bhṛgu was a seer of many Atharvedic hymns. That is why another name of Atharvaveda is Bhṛgu-Aṅgirāveda. It is known from the “bhṛgupadiṣṭaṃhirasāyanaṃsyāt |”, mentioned in the commentary of Himādrī of Aṣṭāṅga-Hṛdaya that Bhṛgu must have known about Āyurveda. Bhṛgu is considered to be the first Prajāpati in the description of twenty-one Prajāpati. According to the lineage, Śukra or Kavi originated from his wife Divyā and Cyavana’s origin was from Paulamī.

Bhṛgu and Aṅgirā, the seers of some the sūktas of the Atharvaveda, are considered to be connected according to the Bṛhatsarvānukramaṇi. Aṅgirā is the mānasputra of Brahma’s. Aṅgirā’s lineage was very wide. Āyurvedic knowledge was gradually propagated in this dynasty, but in the text of Āyurveda is no found.

Pathogenesis and prognosis of some important diseases coming within the realm of Kāyacikitsā (inner medicine). The fourth section Cikitsāsthāna twenty-two chapters elaborating the methods of treatment of all major organic diseases, including efficacious medicinal recipes, diet and care of the patient. The fifth section Kalpa-siddhi sthāna has six chapters dealing with the preparation of recipes, administration of purificatory therapies and management of complications; and principles of pharmacy. The sixth and the last section Uttara sthāna is devoted to the remaining seven branches of Āyurveda. It has forty chapters in total; divided as follows, viz. three for Bāla Cikitsā or demonology psychiatry, seventeen for Vṛdhvāṅga-cikitsā or diseases of organs in the head, sub-divided again nine for Netracikitsā or ophthalmology, two for Karṇacikitsā or otology, two for Nāsācikitsā or rhinology, two for Mukhacikitsā or mouth, teeth and throat, and two for Śiraroga or diseases of the head. Śalya cikitsā or surgery has ten chapters; Daṃṣṭra or toxicology has four; Jaracikitsa or rasāyana or rejuvenation therapy, geriatrics and Vṛṣa or Vājīkaraṇa or vilification therapy or aphrodisiacs have one chapter each. The greater portion of the text being devoted to Kāyacikitsā or inner medicine is thus conspicuous.

The Atharvaveda describes four types of treatment. Namely Ātharvaṇī Cikitsā, Āṅgirasī Cikitsā, Daivī Cikitsā, and Mānavī Cikitsā. The Vedas describe ways to stay healthy, e.g., five healer element, consumption of pure and unblemished food, rules of eating, do not stop the velocity of stool urine, preventing Tridoṣaja disorders, adopt the Sāttvika ideas, be happy, avoiding sins and bad deeds, keep the body strong and getting up before sunrise. The ways to gain longevity are as follows–avoiding Rajoguṇa and Tamoguṇa; adopt the truth; restraint of life and Apāna śakti; relinquishment of anxiety; gain power from sun and wind; prāṇaśakti with fire; abandonment and misery; drug intake; sun, moon and medicines; renounce ignorance and adopt the path of knowledge; will power and spiritual force; use of pure water; and gem and gemstone holding[12].

Footnotes and references:


Dingari Lakshmana Chary, A Text Book of Padartha Vijnana Evam Ayurveda Itihasa, Delhi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017, pp. 300-303.


O. Bohtlingk and R. Roth, Sanskrit Worterbuch Vol. I., St. Petersburg, Buchdr. der K. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1864, p.112.


aupadhenavamaurabhraṃ sauśrutaṃ pauṣkalāvatam |
śeṣāṇāṃ śalyatantrāṇāṃ mūlānyetāni nirdiśet ||
(S. Sū. –4/8); Dr. Anant Ram Sharma (ed.), Suśruta Saṃhitā of Maharṣi Suśruta -Vol. I, Varanasi, Chaukhamba Surbharati Prakashan, 2018, p. 36.


adhvaryavo ya uraṇaṃ jaghāna nava cakhvāṃsaṃ navatiṃ ca bāhūn |
yo arbudamava nīcā babādhe tamindraṃ somasya bhṛthe hinota ||
(ṚV. -II/14/4); Acharya Vedanta Tirtha (ed.), Ṛgveda–Vol. 1, Delhi, Manoj Publication, 2012, p. 419.


E. A. Wallis Budge, Babilonian Life and History, New York, Dorset Press, 1991, pp. 221-223.


S. Sū. –1/9; Anant Ram Sharma (ed.), Suśruta Saṃhitā of Maharṣi Suśruta -Vol. I, Varanasi, Chaukhamba Surbharati Prakashan, 2018, p. 8.


aupagaveryūnaśchātrā aupagavīyāḥ |; Mahābhāṣya–4/1/6/90.


History of Indian Medicine–3 Volumes, Grindranath Mukhopadhyaya, Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Private Limited, 2003, p. 603


āsaptarātraṃ taruṇaṃ jvaramāhurmanīṣiṇaḥ |
madhyaṃ dvādaśarātraṃ tu purāṇamata uttaram ||
History of Indian Medicine–3 Volumes, Grindranath Mukhopadhyaya, Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Private Limited, 2003, p. 604.


Dingari Lakshmana Chary, A Text Book of Padartha Vijnana Evam Ayurveda Itihasa, Delhi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017, pp. 320-326.


Anup Kumar Gakkhara & Anil Gakkhara, Āyurveda Kā Itihāsa, Varanasi, Chaukhambha Publishers, 2016, pp. 83-84.


K. D. Dvivedi, Medical Science in the Vedas, Uttar Pradesh, Visvabharati Research Institute, 2018, pp. 7-15.

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