Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita

by Nayana Sharma | 2015 | 139,725 words

This page relates ‘Indra receives the knowledge of Ayurveda’ of the study on the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita, both important and authentic Sanskrit texts belonging to Ayurveda: the ancient Indian science of medicine and nature. The text anaylsis its medical and social aspects, and various topics such as diseases and health-care, the physician, their training and specialisation, interaction with society, educational training, etc.

Indra receives the knowledge of Āyurveda

According to the medical texts, it is from the Aśvin twins that Indra receives the knowledge of Āyurveda. Indra in the Ṛg Veda is a formidable warrior and undisputedly the greatest leader of the Aryans. The poets know him as a demon slayer who wins cattle and wealth and releases the waters and light but instances of his healing power are not unknown. Prayers are offered to Indra for bestowal of long life and strength,[1] cure of consumption[2] and protection of embryos and infants. A blind man obtained his sight and a lame person received his strength from Indra.[3] He rescued Agru’s blind son Parāvṛkta from an anthill, restored his vision and revived his limbs that had been attacked by ants.[4] Indra is invoked with Agni in a couple of Ṛgvedic and Atharvavedic hymns to cure diseases and protect health.[5] Prayers are addressed to him to drive away demons of āsrāva (excessive discharge) by his thunderbolt,[6] to destroy worms,[7] and to offer protection from insanity.[8] He also has expertise in the science of snakes and scorpions.[9]

There is also the story of Apālā who pleased Indra by offering him the Soma juice and earned three boons from the deity. According to Sāyana, Atri’s daughter Apālā was afflicted with a skin disease and was rejected by her husband. She performed a long penance in her father’s hermitage to rid her of this affliction and addressed herself chiefly to Indra.[10] Indra cured Apālā’s father of baldness, restored hair on her private parts, and he cleansed her skin made it “like (the colour of) the sun”.[11] From this narrative it is evident that the Vedic people prayed to Indra to cure them of diseases. Indra and Agni are entreated to free individuals of grāhi (seizures).[12] A minor surgical feat is also attributed to him in the Ṛgveda. Indra sutured an incision on the neck without applying a tourniquet, and before bleeding could occur, he repaired the wound perfectly.[13]

In the medical texts, Indra occupies an important position as a teacher of medical knowledge to the sages. He is given the epithet amaraguru (teacher of the gods)[14] which is usually reserved for Bṛhaspati.[15] He imparts the knowledge not once but twice as the sages lost it and had to be instructed again. He first imparted Āyurveda to Bharadvāja,[16] and the second time to a group consisting of Bhṛgu, Angiras and others.[17] Indra invoked at child birth especially during difficult delivery in the medical texts[18] and for cure of fever.[19]

Indra gradually loses his eminence from the time of the composition of the Brāhmaṇas, and the medical Saṃhitās also reflects this deterioration when he is placed after the A vins in the chain of transmission of medical science. The post-Vedic Indra is primarily a god of fertility. He gives children and crops. He has a particular interest in the welfare of children of unmarried girls. He is associated with the Maruts who bring healing medicines from waters and mountains.[20] However, he retains his position as devarāja (king of the gods) reigning in Amarāvati and remained a cult-god for a long time.[21]

Footnotes and references:


Ṛgveda I.53.11; VI.24.10; Atharvaveda III.11.4.


Ṛgveda X.161.


Ṛgveda IV.30.19.


Ṛgveda IV.19.9.


Ṛgveda X.161; I.53.11; 104.6, 8; VI.39.5; VIII.40.12; Atharvaveda III.11.


Atharvaveda II.3.


Atharvaveda V.23.1.


Atharvaveda VI.111.4.


Atharvaveda X.4.


Ortel, H., “Contributions from the Jāiminīya Brāhmaṇa to the History of Brāhmaṇa Literature, Part 2, Indra Cures Apālā”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 18 (First Half), 1897, pp. 26-31.


Ṛgveda VIII. 91(80).


Atharvaveda III.11.1.


Ṛgveda VIII.1.12.


Monier-Williams, p.80.


Caraka Saṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 1:4.3-5.


Suśruta Saṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 15.7.


Caraka Saṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 3.312.


Hopkins, E.W., “Indra as God of Fertility”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 36, 1916, pp. 242-266.


S. Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony, p.275.

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