From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia


The world acknowledges the most ancient and fundamental book on the Medicine of India as 'Caraka' or the 'Caraka Samhita'. The early Arabic writers on medicine refer to Caraka as an authority due to which Caraka was completely translated to Arabic language for the princes of the house of Barmicides.[1] Tibetan, Chinese and other languages existing in the northwest neighborhood of India may also contain either translation of or references to Caraka. One such reference to Caraka[2] in the Chinese Tripataka, led the orientalist Sylvain Levi to infer that the author of the Caraka Samhita is identical with the court physicians of Kautska.

Origin of the Name Caraka

The name of Caraka, as per the ancient sacred literature of India, refers to in many different ways. It varies in its many application with the meaning it connotes like:

  • The adherents of a branch of the Veda
  • The teacher of a kind of acrobatic dance
  • A gusto
  • Etc.

It seems to be a honorific term indicating the profession of the peripatetic teacher.

References About Caraka

The religious and philosophical teachers called themselves the Parivrajakas. Mostly these were the men who had renounced the world and were at the prime of their religious life. The Agnivesa tantra was the first literature of its kind to be studied for many centuries. It was redacted by Caraka which is referred to the scholars, commentators, translators and other such institutions till date. It has added to the sanctity and authority of Caraka's name.

  • Bhattaar Haricandra and Jejjata named their commentaries after his name. They are known as Caraka Vyaakhyaana and Carakaanyaasa respectively.
  • In the seventh century the great Sanskrit prose writer Baana Bhatta mentions Caraka in one of his passages containing double entrance.
  • Santi-raksita refers to Caraka in relation to co-ordination as one of the Pramaanas or means of knowledge.
  • During the seventh, eighth and the ninth centuries, when Arabic scholarship was at its highest peak and Islam was spreading in the west till the shores of the Atlantic, Caraka was a revered authority in the Saracen and Latin world of science and scholarship.
  • Jayanta Bhatta in his work on logic called Nyaya-manjari refers to Caraka as an example of those authoritative wise men who have the whole of time-space in their ken.
  • Alberuni says that the Hindus have a book called by the name of it's author, 'Caraka', which they consider as the best of their whole literature on medicine. According to their belief, Caraka was a Rsi in the last Dwapara-yuga when his name was Agnivesa, but afterwards he was called Caraka which means 'the intelligent one'.[3]

Significance of Caraka

  • Cakrapani, the popular commentator on Caraka of the 11th century is well known as Bhanumati.
  • The commentary on Susruta refers to Caraka during the same period. Vijajya-raksita and Srikantha of the 13th century, Vacaspati and Kanthadatta and Sivadasa of the 14th and 15th centuries respectively as well as Bhavamisra of the 16th century refer to Caraka as the gear medical authority.
  • In the twentieth century there was a club of medical scholars in America, named after Caraka. It is known as the Caraka Club of America.

Thus throughout these twenty or more centuries after he edited his great work, his name has been held in high esteem and as the highest authority on Hindu medicine.

History of Word Caraka

The word or name Caraka has been used to denote many and various individuals or schools of thought. The equivalent term to this term was perhaps used to distinguish the secular peripatetic teacher from the religious background named as Sanyasi. Ramanuja, Madhava and such many other innumerable peripathetic religious teachers were known as Parivrajakacaryas. Similarly the teacher of the secular wisdom, particularly of medicine, who went about disseminating his skill and theories must have called himself Caraka.

It is necessary to check why any school of peripatetic teacher either religious or secular came into existence. When a new school has come into being, or when an old school is trying to reassert itself against the claims of a new one, then there is a need felt for either the establishment of new tenets or the re-establishment of old ones which are refuting or opposing a newer school of thought.

We have an example of the black school of Yajurveda whose adherents or propagating sections were known as Carakas. As this black or the older schools had to meet the challenge of a new school propagated by a schismatic section of the followers of Yajnavalkya, who broke away from the old school and founded their own branch known as the white Yajurveda. The older school must have felt the need to re-establish its authority or defend its decree against the inroads of the new and hence went about the country intending to the preservation and dissemination of it's doctrine.

Evolution in Ancient Medical Field

It is probable that there arose a situation of great evolution in medical thoughts and practices either as the result of various schools of medical theories coming into being or due to the confusion regarding the rival schools claiming to represent the ancient and authoritative tradition. Perhaps due to the wealth of accumulated data of experience and experiment waiting to be properly blended with and incorporated into the original body of the ancient science.

Each or every one of these conditions is entirely probable when we commemorate that between the original compilation of the Agnivesa-tantra presented to the assembly of sages, even the political supremacy existed. Pusya-mitra, the commander-in-chief, usurped the throne of Magadha by assassinating his ruler belonging to the Buddhistic persuasion. This was the culmination of the Vedic reassertion and Pusya-mitra performed the horse sacrifice in the ancient Hindu emperor manner and proclaimed himself the champion and renovator of Vedic traditions.

Hence we presume that the various systems of Indian philosophical thought owe their origin into this period. Similarly it is in this period that the codification and edition and re-organization of the medical thought and traditions of the land took place based on the experience and accumulated data of the whole period between the time of the sage promulgators like Atreya and Agnivesa. It was the time of the new progress and resurrection, when Buddhism was on the wane.

Caraka was aware of the Sakas, Yavanas and the Cinas. He knows their habits and dietetic peculiarities. During the days of the Magadha empire, India loomed large among the nations of the world. Her wealth, her arts and sciences received international admiration. Conquerors, adventurers, Savants and pilgrims turned their eyes towards India in quest of her wealth, knowledge and holiness. The philosophers of the Nyaya and Vaisesika schools expounded their theories of reality, substance and quality. The Sankhyas formulated their theory of evolution of the world by the interaction of matter and consciousness and established the scientific postulates on which positive sciences could be built.

The popular religion still retained the devotion to Vedic gods, rites and the Atharvavedic rituals e. g. Santipaustika, Bali, Mangala and Homa are prescribed in the Caraka Samhita as aids to somatic medicine. All these circumstances point persuasively to a time when there was an upsurge of ancient Vedic thoughts and rituals and when India was the meeting ground of the world's peoples and their thought. We can deduce Caraka to this period which is about the second century B. C.

Ancestral Origin of Caraka

It is not possible to know with any degree of precision who Caraka was or his parentage, when and where he lived and redacted the work, whether this was the personal name of the author or of a school to which he belonged or a title he assumed for himself or which was conferred on him by his contemporaries. Several theories have become current regarding the identity and the time of this famous redactor. Before we examine any of these it is necessary to remember that the book itself affords no clue to the nature and time or other circumstances of the redactor. There is just a bare mention of his name in the colophon of each chapter as the redactor of the treatise compiled by Agnivesa.

Whether even this colophon is the original feature of his work or appended to it by the later redactor, Drdhabala, who claims to have completed the work by reconstructing and restoring the last forty-one chapters of the treatise ascribed to Agnivesa, is also a matter for conjecture. Before we can formulate any views regarding the person and time of Caraka, let us consider why any person, be he known as Caraka or by any other name, should have felt called upon to redact a work like the Agnivesa-tantra which had received the commendation of the great sages as the best embodiment or Atreya's teaching. It would be very informative if we could have the Agnivesa tantra as it was before redacted by Caraka.

Emanation of Caraka Samhita

The Bhela and Harita tantras, which were written at the same time by the co-students of Agnivesa, are still available but the Agnivesa tantra is unfortunately not available now. The only available literature now is the redacted form of Caraka-Samhita. Due to many progressive materials written thereafter, the original version would have undergone many mutilations and spurious amendations and interpolations. Thus the need for verification and reconstruction of the parallel compilation and text with more accurateness must have arisen with course of time which was from a great scholar with comprehensive vision and learning. After a lapse of a few centuries after the compilation by Agnivesa, this need envisaged above was fulfilled by a scholar-physician whom we know as Caraka.

Comments on Caraka

As we don't have any definite time assigned to Caraka, we cannot know the time between the period of Caraka and Drdhabala, the second redactor who claims to have restored the lost portions of Agnivesa-tantra as redacted by Caraka. Even the redacted version of Caraka would have been lost already at the time of Drdhabala, makes one conclude that Caraka was quite ancient even at the time of Drdhabala. Drdhabala however never concerns himself regarding the time or identity of Caraka. Except giving him an epithet of Atibuddhi, the highly intelligent one, he never gave either his view of the Man or of his times or place.

We derive no help even from Vagbhata, who based his work on these two ancient compilations of Caraka and Susruta. He only mentions that these two are preferred to the works of Bhela and other sages due to their excellence and precision in the field.

Available Theories Regarding Caraka

To help us to arrive at a definite conclusion, we shall review the theories on Caraka's time and identity. They are:

  1. Caraka is a Rsi of the Pre-Panini age.
  2. Caraka is Patanjali, the commentator on Panini's grammar and also the author of the Yogasutras.
  3. He is a sage born as the incarnation of Sesa, the serpent king and servant of Visnu.
  4. He is the court physician of the king Kaniska.

In this connection we can cite the very erudite and elaborate argument advanced by the editor of the Kasyapa Samhita, the Nepal Rajguru Sri Hemaraja Sarma setting forth the pros and cons in each of these theories and also a general inquiry of the meaning and usage of the word 'Caraka, in the ancient books.

Caraka, Author of Pre-Panini period

Caraka and others are the perseveres of the efficacy of the substances in their combinations and singleness relative to the variation of clime, season, individual characteristics and stage. In this connection, some scholars have propounded that Caraka is anterior even to Panini as in one of the Sutras of the Panini, he refers to the name Caraka. But the Caraka referred to in that Sutra is prefixed by the word Kathā and as it is with reference to the discussion of Carana Vyuha, a vedic text. The person referred to here must be a seer of the Vedic hymns of the Samhita which is available in print now. Caraka has been referred to in connection with significance of the vedic intonation in another sutra of Panini. Hence, we can conclude that the name Caraka belongs to the person of the Vedic line and not of the medical Caraka who must be of post vedic era.

Connection of Caraka and Patanjali

Some scholars have held on the basis of statements made by Nagesa and Cakrapanidatta supported by Vijnanabhiksu, Bhoja, Bhavamisra and others that Caraka was identical with Patanjali, the author of the Vyakarana Mahabhasya, the commentary on Panini.

Patanjali has been regarded as a contemporary of Pusya mitra who followed Asoka as the ruler of Saketa and who drove back the Creeks from India. He has been placed about two centuries earlier than Vikrama era, i.e. 175 B.C. Bhandarkar also assign him the same date after investigation into the Mahābhāsya, the Purifying and historical records of western scholars. Thus if Caraka is inferred to be much earlier than 175 B. C., his identity with Patanjali can not be held to be valid.

If on the basis of the Tripitaka, he is taken to be as the contemporary of Kaniska, there being a difference of more than two hundred years between the times of Pusyamitra and Kaniska, the identity of Caraka with Patanjali is still less probable. If the identity were true, there was no mention of the name of Patanjali in the medical treatise going by the name of Caraka, while in both the works on Yoga and grammar the authorship is explicitly in the name of Panjali. In the commentary on grammar, the author explains his other name of Ganardiya, meaning the citizen of the country.

Known as Gonarda, which is explained in a Sutra as the eastern country, which is the modern Gond according to Bhandarkar. There is another view regarding Gonarda that as in the ancient history of Kashmir there is a mention of a king of Gonarda, the latter must be situated in Kashmir. If the commentator on grammar is a citizen of Gonarda and if he is identical with Caraka, why does he not mention the Gonarda region in his medical treatise?

Incarnation of Sesa

It is clear that the name of Caraka is identified with the snake-god who is credited with supreme wisdom owing to his proximity to Visnu. In every age the close ally and assistant of the incarnation of Visnu, has been known as an Avatara of Sesa. Thus Rama's brother Laksmana and Baladeva brother of Kisna, were regarded as Avataras of Sesa. In each age there have been prophets and teachers who wanted to establish their supremacy by claiming to be the Avataras of Sesa. Ramanuja who opposed the monism of Sankara claimed to be the Avatara of Sesa.

Thus Sesa, throughout the ages has been credited with supreme wisdom as the first servant of Visnu. But this is purely a Puranic tradition where visnu reclines on the Adisesa and floats on the milky ocean at the beginning of each creation. It is significant to note that the Greeks, the Hebrews as well as the Hindus held the serpent as a symbol of wisdom.

Asculepius holds in his hand the wand around which serpent is entwined. The Hebrew prophets did the same In India, the great Patanjali with his science of Yogic breathing was identified with Sesa because the serpent is known for its hissing and is credited to live on mere air for long periods. It is known as Vayu-bhuk. Caraka also was regarded as seen from the story of Bhavamisra, as the incarnation of the serpent-god. In Hindu tradition the serpent is the symbol of time i. e. eternity and is believed to be the longest-lived of creatures. It is perhaps due to this that medicine, holding long life as its goal, has taken the serpent-god for its teacher.

Apprehension Regarding Court Physician

There are many adverse factors in conflict with the view that Caraka, the court physician to Kaniska, was the author of the work under review, whether he was of the second century A. D. or the first century A. D. or even of the latter date 78 A. D. assigned by the Cambridge History of India.[4] Kaniska's reign is associated with names like Nagarjuna, Asvaghosa and Vasumitra and the Buddhist influence was still predominant in the court and Kaniska himself is reputed to have been a zealous follower of the Buddha. As a redactor, Caraka would have incorporated the spirit of the days or the influence of his contemporary viz. the great expert in mercurial science Nagarjuna and the scholar poet and mendicant Asvaghosa.

There is nothing in the internal evidence of the work to warrant the view that Caraka the author was a court physician to a Buddhist ruler like Kaniska. As his name indicates, he is more likely to have been a free and independent scholar, not under the patronage of any prince. He was a roaming scholar, teacher and a healer. On the other hand, there are few references for believing that he was a physician popular in India, particularly in the north-west of India in the 2nd century B. C.

The Parthian invader Mittradates invaded and annexed the country between the Indus and the Jhelum i. e . the kingdom of Taxilla towards the close of his reign.[5] He was very much afraid of being poisoned by his enemies and he spent considerable time in the study of antidotes and toxicology. He is reputed to have had as his court physician a certain Crateuas who developed materia medica and was known as a wise author of important works. This Crateuas might be an outlandish form given to Caraka, the author under review. It is a hazardous conjecture and until more evidence is available must remain so.

Usage of Word Caraka

With regards to Caraka, the redactor of the text of Agnivesa-samhita, we find the word Caraka in several works used in various contexts. But it is not possible to determine from these references that there existed a teacher of medicine by that name or it is referred to a person that a certain person among those referred to is the medical teacher.

As per Bhavaprakasa

We find the story of Caraka in Bhavaprakasa. He was denoted to be the history of medical teachers like Sesa, the king of serpents, who is versed in the Vedas and in the Ayurveda which is a sub-Veda of the Atharvaveda. It is believed that he took birth as the son of a sage versed in the Vedas and the sciences and went about as a peripatetic teacher. Thus from the word cara which means a perigrinator, he came to be known as Caraka, the last syllable being added without altering the sense. He took up the text of the teaching of Atreya, as codified by Agnivesa, redacted it and made it popular in the world. Thus is told the story of Caraka, the author of the work going by the name of Caraka Samhita.

Other Usages

  • Some are of opinion that the word Caraka has the connotation of a physician.
  • There are a few usages of the word with reference to some individuals.
  • If in the lexicons it were found that the word was given as a synonym for physician, it should have been applied to Susruta and others but this reference has not yet been found anywhere. Therefore it is natural to conclude that it applies only to the author of the work in question. If this appellation is used for other persons like few present words like Kali Bhima or modern Samson or modern Hippocrates etc, then only we can deduce that it was a common appellation for other sages as well.
  • The importance of Atharvaveda as assigned in the Caraka, Kasyapa and Susruta Samhitas is denoted to be the source of Ayurveda. In any ways it does not go against the supposition that Caraka signifies the section of the Veda going by that name.
  • It may also happen to be the author's Gotra or clan name, just as Atreya is the one belonging to the clan of Atri.
  • It even may be his personal name or a person born in western India where the Naga race was living. He was called an incarnation of the serpent god by the author of Bhavaprakasa.
  • It is also probable that as Rudra, the commentator on the Brhajjataka writes that any learned physician who went about as a mendicant from place to place was thus known as Caraka, the peregrinating mendicant.
  • The Lalita Vistara also supports the usage of this term.

Other Significances

In whatever way he may have become popular as Caraka, it is certain that by his erudition and skill in the science of Medicine, he had been regarded as a great teacher from the earliest times, so that we find that even Vagbhatta and others refer to him with respect as the Preceptor Caraka. Ayanta Bhatta also refers to him with great respect in his Nyaya Manjari.

As per Visvarupacarya

Visvarupacarya, in his commentary on the Yajnavalkya Smriti, cites a passage which says about the Carakas. Though the context is entirely medical, because the passage is in connection with the knowledge of the Aswinis in the medical science. It states that honey in exigencies may be compatible with Brahmacarya, yet there is a citation of the Vajasaneyas or the followers of Samaveda in line with the Carakas. It is clear that Caraka here refers to the Caraka School of Veda. According to the Kasika Vrtti, Vaisampaayana[6] was known as Caraka and his school of Veda as the Caraka School.

As per Yajurveda

In the 30th chapter of Yajurveda, 18th hymn is in the context of human-sacrifice. In that there is a chant saying to the wicked teacher Caraka, Mr. Misra who Comments on this in Hindi. It says that the teacher Caraka referred to is the medical teacher Caraka. Based on this, some are of the opinion that Caraka is a very ancient person. But what ground is there to interpret that word to mean the name of a particular individual Mahidhara interprets it as meaning the 'Guru of the Carakas i.e. the followers of the Caraka School of Veda. But in the context in which the word is found, we think that it is irrelevant that the Caraka was a branch of the Vedas. There is a hint in the passage with reference to the various persons belonging to particular classes and occupations for whom oblations are offered. It does not denote any particular individual by name nor any followers of any particular branch of Veda. In the same hymn there is a reference about men of low character, gamblers and other wicked people who offered oblations for the propitiation of similar evids. Therefore, Carakacarya who is given offerings in the name of one evil god, should necessarily be a low and sinful person.

As per Other References

The authors of the Jnanakosa are of the opinion that this word refers to the teacher of the Caraka school of Veda and this context denotes a denunciation of the Caraka school. But in the Satapatha Brahmana, though there are numerous occurrences of the word Caraka, the references are only to the peculiar usages of that branch and never any denunciation of it is meant. Even in the Taittiriya Brahmana there occurs the denotation of the sinful Caraka, where Sayana interprets it as meaning the teacher of the art of walking on bamboo poles, a kind of dance-teacher. There is no reference to the teachers of the Caraka school of Veda.

It does not seem relevant to the usage of the word in the Taittiriya Samhita which owns the Caraka school itself, the interpretation offered by Sayana seems to be applicable here too, meaning some person belonging to a low trade. In the same sense, in which the word has been used in the Naisadhiya Carita, wherein Caraka is used to mean a spy, a secret walker. Here also Carkacarya may mean the head of the spies. Then the relevancy of the context, the presence of the sinful man and the offering of things in the name of an evil god, all these agree completely. Dayananda Swami the author of a commentary on the Yajurveda interprets the word as meaning the teacher of the caters of gluttons. This may be according to the meaning of the verb car to eat.

Difference in Caraka Samhita and Mahābhāsya

In the Caraka Samhita there is mention of the regions of Pancala, Pancanada and Kampilya but nowhere Gonarda. How can Gonardiya or Caraka, the author of Mahābhāsya could ever forget to mention a synonym of his name even once. Thus the enquiry into the subject of the time, name and place helps only to confirm the distinctness of these two persons. Patanjali's Mahabhasya is full of proverbial maxims, expositions in extenso and varied in scope difficult to grasp immediately.

But in the Caraka Samhita, the parts whose redactorship is assigned to Caraka, though they contain passages of deep import are yet composed in an easily intelligible style which is delightful to read and understand and which is uniform in its structure and course. Thus, from the point of view of style too, these two works show different authorship. Besides being an independent and original author, writing a new and comprehensive treatise on grammar and a foremost Sutra-composition of a masterly type on the Yoga, how could Patanjali have found pleasure in the work merely redacting the text of author's authorship, as it is in the case of the Caraka Samhita.

Period of Caraka as per Sylvan Levi

With this regards, the view that Caraka was the the court physician to Kaniska, the theory originated from the French orientalist Sylvan Levi who discovered the name Caraka in the Chinese Tripitaka. Thus his identity and period which is the same as that of Kaniska, the 2nd century A. D. are according to Sylvan Levi established. If this theory be sound, both the identity and the period of Caraka are easily established as a contemporary of Kaniska who belongs to the 2nd century A. D. Most of the scholars hold this to be the probable period and identity of Caraka, with the material available at present. In this connection, there is a contrary view expressed by the late Sir P. C. Ray in his History of Hindu Chemistry.

M. Sylvan Levi has recently unearthed from the Chinese Tripitaka, the name of a physician named Caraka, who was attached as spiritual guide to the Indo-Scythian king Kaniska who reigned in the second century A. D. The French Orientalist consider this Caraka as the author of the famous Hindu medical work. Specially, it offers an easy explanation of the supposed Greek influence discernible in it.

We do not completely comply with M. Levi's theory. If we are to go by name alone, we can claim a still higher antiquity for our author. The appellation of Caraka occurs in Vedic literature as patronymic in short, Panini felt it necessary to compose a special Sutra for deriving the Carakas i. e. the followers of Caraka. Then Patanjali, who is now generally admitted to have lived in the second century B. C. is known to have written a commentary on the medical work of Caraka, thus further proving the antiquity of our author and both Cakrapani and Bhoja agree in alluding to him as the redactor of Caraka. Indeed in such matters, we would comply with the native traditions. It would be beside our purpose, however, to enter into any lengthy discussion on the grounds on which we are inclined to place Caraka in the pre-Buddhistic era.[7]

Different perspectives of the Literary Works

With these various views at our disposal, we should like to consider the greater probabilities of any of these or of other circumstances implied in the material at our disposal. We should like to draw upon the internal evidence of the work itself in the absence of definite data from outside. As the Nepal Raj guru rightly observes in his preface to the Kasyapa-samhita, the non-mention of the names of the days of the week is a significant factor for assigning an ancient date to Caraka.

The concepts of Nyaya and Vaisesika are yet rudimentary and in a fluid state and the categories of the Sankhya had not grown into their theistic number of twenty-five as in the Mahabharata. The Sankhya of the most ancient form is represented in Caraka and if Caraka was either Patanjali, the author of the Yogasutras or a post-Mahabharata scholar, he would certainly have mentioned the twenty-fifth category of a supreme God, for the Sankhya of Patanjali holds Iswara the original guide and teacher and lord of the universe of souls. There is no sect of devotion to a supreme ruler of the universe, nor is there any mention of the incarnations of the deity and the names of the Puranic divinities.

If Caraka belonged to a time when these forms of worship were current he could not have failed to incorporate them along with the Vedic rites of Bali, Homa and Mangala. The facts point to a time when Caraka must have existed, anterior to that the Indoscythian, Buddhist king, Kaniska, by which time the classical literature of Sanskrit based on the Puranic legends and anecdotes was fully established in India. Since the time of the original Caraka, the redactor of Angivesa-tantra, the foremost in the medical profession, might have been conferred the title of Caraka. This would explain the Caraka of the court of Kaniska.

Divergent Depositions of Other Authors

The theory of Caraka being Patanjali, the latter only the author of the commentary on grammar or of the Yogasutras or of both, is based on the misunderstanding of the verses of praise of Sesa the Serpent-God composed by Bhoja, Vijnanabhiksu and others.

  • Vijnanabhiksu makes obeisance to Patanjali for coming down to the mortal world in human form and purifying the mind by Yoga science and by the science of grammar human speech and the body by the science of medicine.
  • Cakrapani in his commentary on Caraka begins by making salutation to the snake-king whom he identifies with Patanjali and Caraka. This is because there is a tradition that Patanjali also made a compilation of the medical texts.
  • In the Patanjali Carita by Rama Bhadra Diksit, reference is made to such medical authorship of Patanjali.
  • Nagesa Bhatta also is of the same opinion, for when giving the definition of Apta, he quotes the passages from Caraka and says thus spake Patanjali in the Caraka Samhita taking Caraka to be identical with Patanjali.
  • Bhavamisra who must have been acquainted with the tradition of identifying the authors of the Yogasutras and the Mahabhasya on Panini and of Ayurveda with the serpent-god Sesa, gives the following account of the birth of Sesa in the mortal world as a peripatetic medical teacher.
  • Swami Kumara identifies Caraka with the authors of the Mahabhasya and the Yogasutras.

In any case all the foregoing circumstances and tales do not support the theory of identifying Caraka with Patanjali, the grammarian and the yoga-propounder but it only ascribes to each of these the Avatarship of Sesa the serpent, god. Thus one is left to one's own conjectures as to the identity and time of the author of the Caraka Samhita. It is clear from the reference given below that Caraka was acquainted with the Ksanika Vaada or the theory of life being a mere series of change without a substratum as propounded by the Buddhists.

Caraka and Buddhist Era

Caraka must have imported his Sankhya and the arguments against the Buddhistic tenets, into the original body of the text Buddhism was merely a schismatic school just making its way in the country a little before or a little after the time of Asoka when it became a state religion. He must have belonged to the period of Buddhism in India when it was on the wane and Vedic tradition was again on the rise. Thus he may be placed between the third and the second century B. C, the period of the greatest spiritual and intellectual upheaval in India. With the rise of Buddhism and the struggle of ancient Brahmanism to reassert itself, the great schools of Hindu philosophy, the upliftment of the sciences and the arts based on their fundamental concepts and with the general cultural reassertion, Ayurveda must have come into its own and found new exponents and enthusiasts.


The neglected and worn out texts were gathered again, systematized, restored and supplemented. And Caraka is either the personal or the assumed name of the great renovator of this science from its neglected condition. It is still hopeful that some more unearthed material will reveal to us the detailed identity of this illustrious name in the history of Indian Medicine. At present, he must remain incognito and we shall thank him as evidence at present warrants as Caraka, the reviver of the waning tradition of Ayurveda, somewhere in the first days of the renaissance of Vedic religion in India, the period of our greatest intellectual unrest when ancient Vedic tradition felt pulled at the very roots and reacted powerfully in reasserting its supremacy in the soil of its origin and growth.

Phenomena are never the same but are continually in a state of flow, whenever they are of a similar nature they are said to be the same, although, they are produced anew. The soul-less conglomeration of phenomena is said to constitute the organism. They do not believe in a self who is the doer and the enjoyer. Those who do not accept the existence of the self, preach in effect, that the effects of the actions of one are enjoyed by a new another who is similar. There is a reference also to Caitya and Stupas, These could not be the original texts of the Agnivesa Samhita.


  1. It is referred to as Alberunis India B\ E C Sachan.
  2. He was the court physician of Kaniska.
  3. Alberuni's India by E. C. Sachin
  4. Vol I page 583
  5. It refers to 171-136 B. C Smiths History of India'.
  6. He was a disciple of Vyasa and the receiver of Yajurveda from him.
  7. History of Hindu Chemistry by Prafulla Chandra Ray Kt. Pages. 13-23.
  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India