Talk:Caraka samhita a redacted treatise

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia


It is very difficult to mark out the verses, because we do not have any clue from the index of the chapters. Although the numbers and headings of the chapters have been given, there is no mention of the number of verses in each chapter. The absence of this enumeration of verses in each chapter might have encouraged interpolators to introduce their own verses and pass them on as the original ones. This subject is a matter for deep and arduous but interesting research for future scholars.

Chapters of Caraka Samhita

The available 79 chapters are distributed in the different sections as under:

  1. There are 8 sections on the General Principles.
  2. There are 8 sections on Pathology.
  3. There are 8 sections on Specific Determination.
  4. There are 8 sections on Human Embodiment.
  5. There are 12 sections on Sensory Prognosis.
  6. There are 12 sections on Therapeutics.

But the remaining 41 chapters end with the addition to the above quoted epilogue. These 41 chapters are distributed in the different sections as under:

  1. There are 17 sections on Therapeutics.
  2. There are 12 sections on Pharmaceutics.
  3. There are 12 sections on Success in Treatment.

In this the text or portion not acquired is not found. This indicates that the text of the 79 chapters is the portion expounded by Agnivesa and redacted by Caraka, while the text of the remaining 41 chapters is the portion expounded by Agnivesa as restored by Drdhabala in the place of the unavailable portions of Caraka's redaction.

Treatise by Atreya

According to the textual history of Ayurveda, we learn that Bhagawan Atreya expounded the whole science to six pupils. Each of them tried to write a systematic treatise according to his grasp and intelligence. The treatise of Agnivesa was the outstanding one among these and it received the sanction and authorization of the committee of the learned sages.

Out of the six treatises of the pupils of Atreya, only two are at present available. They are:

  1. Agnivesa Tantra - This being an outstanding work out of all the six, received the attention of the redactors who corporated into the body the progress achieved from time to time.
  2. Bhela Samhita - It is available only in fragments and hence it is incomplete. It is a very short and concise form though greatly similar to Agnivesa's treatise in the treatment of subject, order of arrangement, classification etc , which leads to the conclusion that both received their instructions from the same preceptor.

Glorious Span of Ayurveda

The period from Atreya to Drdhabala covers at least 1000 years. This was the golden period of Ayurveda and the science was continually progressive. This original text of Agnivesa might have been reviewed and redacted very often to assimilate the features of progressive science and to adapt it to the circumstances of the period, but only two redactions are known at present.

A vast field for research work lies unexplored in these treatises. The subject for research was the preachings by Atreya, description by Agnivesa, which was done by Caraka while redacting it by way of alterations and additions. Drdhbala decided that what portion was to be modified or completed or reconstructed and what were the other redactions, when were these redactions made etc. The researchers will have to resort to general history, records etc, but the efforts were worth for. When properly explored this quest would not only tell about the history of medicine, but it would also enlighten us on the general history of Aryan civilization from various points of view.

Explication of Redaction

Now let us see what a redaction is. According to Drdhbala, the redactor enlarges what is concise and abbreviates what is very prolix and in this manner brings an ancient work up-to-date.

Redaction is also defined as under: Redaction is the method by which an author correlates and supplements a work by corresponding facts and statements found in other treatises specially bearing on a subject. Thus we see that in a redacted work the terse portions in the original treatise is made lucid by elaboration and the portion treated too proliferately is abridged.

Methods of Redaction

There are two methods of redaction.

  1. Sangraha and Vigraha Method - It was defined by Drdhbala. Caraka was believed to follow this method.
  2. Avapodwapa method - This method changes the construction and system of the whole work altogether and makes radical alterations changing the essence of the work.

Similarities between Caraka Samhita and Bhela Samhita

If we compare Caraka Samhita with Bhela Samhita we find striking similarities, all pointing to one common source.

  1. The text is divided in eight Sthanas out of which Vimana Indriya and Sidhi are the new words with specific meanings used only in Caraka, Kasyapa and Bhela Samhitas and these new words are not found in Susruta or later medical works.
  2. The word Kalpa is somewhat used in a different meaning than the denotation used in Susruta or later medical works.
  3. The prevalent system in those days seems to be to have 120 chapters in all in medical text books. We find 120 chapters in caraka, Bhela, Kasyap, Susruta and Vagbhata, the last named author makes 120 chapters with the addition of an extra section Uttaratantra. Thus, though the total number of 120 is maintained, the number of chapters in each section varies in Caraka, Susruta and Vaghbhata but it remains the same in Caraka, Bhela and Kasyapa.
  4. The titles of chapters are very often the same in the Caraka and Bhela Samhitas. Caraka adopts the following method of nomenclature of chapters.
  5. There are quite many similarities according to the subject.
  6. According to the first word or phrase in the chapter, a greater resemblance is found between the Caraka Samhita and Bhela Samhita which will be evident from the following examples. In the above instances we find that the first five are quite similar in both Caraka and Bhela. Hence, both have given the same titles to the chapters in their works. Though the first lines differ in a considerable degree yet we find that the titles of the chapters in both the works are the same.
  7. Besides this resemblance of titles, we come across many concepts and descriptions which are common to both, Caraka and Bhela.

Significance of Caraka Samhita

There is a school of thought which ascribes the entire work to Caraka. It says that it was only a vague nucleus in the form of common medical knowledge round which Caraka reconstructed a grand edifice. But such a conclusion is precluded by the very text of the colophon.

Undoubtedly there is much that has been added, abridged or expanded. Yet that Caraka merely redacted the old work cannot be denied. Caraka never claims the authorship for the work. Internal evidence also corroborates the same view point. Even the Drdhabala, the restorer and redactor of the last portions, based his work on the original treatise and its parallel treatises.

Thus this best of all treatises which is replete with truth and wisdom and which has been redacted by the extremely enlightened scholar Caraka, is now available only in three quarters of the original extent. He has memorized the compendium of these twelve thousand verses which were known as the science of therapeutics, compounded by Agnivesa for the well being of the healthy and the ailing.

Thus he confirms that Agnivesa was the author of the treatise consisting of twelve thousand verses. The credit of the authorship and the popular title of Caraka Samhita are probably due to the fact that Caraka in his missionary zeal for propagating this master piece medical work, traveled extensively for research, lectures, propagation and experimentation and gamed the nickname of Caraka which means the one who moves constantly. His name has got precedence over the original title of the work as Agnivesa-tantra and the work has ever since been named after Caraka in the world.

Caraka's contribution

That Caraka merely revised and redacted an old treatise does not detract from his greatness. The ingenious method of redaction he adopted has lent a touch of freshness and originality. Even though Caraka is technically only a redactor, he must be given credit for modifying the old work and transforming it by his magic touch, into a work of unrivaled merits, which has stood the test of 2000 years.

Viewing the Caraka Samhita with this orientation, we find that Caraka has contributed much that is original.

  1. The theory of Vada-nyaya found in Caraka Samhita belongs to that stage of thought development to which belonged Carakas.
  2. In sudation chapter, Bhela Samhita enumerates only eight kinds while Caraka adds five more bringing the total to thirteen. In Kasyapa Samhita also we find 8 kinds. This leads us to the conclusion that old works knew only eight kinds and that Caraka has contributed five kinds more.
  3. Palakapya in his Hasti Ayurveda refers to Agnivesa's methods of sudation and there the additional kinds of sudation are mentioned. Thus those varieties described in Caraka Samhita are Caraka's own contribution.
  4. The Bhela Samhita has only one chapter, Caraka also has the same chapter propounding a similar theory. But later on in Caraka's work, we find a chapter in which the subject treated shows an unmistakable flavor of later thought developments.


Thus we see that Atreya Samhita was the seed which was watered by Agnivesa and nurtured by Caraka. It became the medical inheritance of the race, though it underwent changes, with the accretions of the thought and experience of the succeeding centuries. According to the definition of redaction given by Drdhabala, the redaction adds much that is new and deletes much that is old.

Thus Caraka, although he is a redactor only, there is much that he has added as his original contribution and it would indeed be a very interesting research work for scholars to find out what exactly his contribution was.


  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India