Atreya introduced the science of healing while Caraka redacted the original tantra of sage Agniveṣa. Kṛṣṇa Atreya's teachings on the discipline of medicine was recorded by Agniveṣa. Agniveṣa codified the knowledge and arranged it in the form of a Treatise which forms the basis of the "Caraka Samhitā". Kṛṣna Atreya expounded the science of Kāyā-Cikitsā to his six pupils among whom Agniveṣa was one of them. Kṛṣṇa Ātreya's six disciples were:
Agniveṣa's intellect was believed to be superior to his fellow-students and his treatise was acknowledged by the sages as the most authoritative. He was equally adept in the field of war along with medicine. He studied archery under Bhāradwāja and Agastya. Bhāradwaja gave him a weapon named 'Agneyāstra' which Agniveṣa gave to his pupil Droṇa. This Astra was called Brahmaśirah.
Significance of the Sage Agniveṣa in Compilation of Medical Science
Agniveṣa became the foremost compiler of the science which also received the approval of the committee of experts that declared it to be the best of all. Over the period of time it also became an authoritative text-book on the science of healing. The book penned by Agniveṣa is called Agniveṣa Tantra which still continues to be a reference book for the Ayurvedic doctors of present time.
Agniveṣa-tantra originally consisted of 12,000 verses but at present it is not available in it's entire form. It is likely that he finished the monograph, as there are references available mentioning it in Caraka Samhita. There is a controversy regarding some commentators like Indukāra who don't believe that he finished the treatise. There are a few contradictory statements throughout the text that have furthered this confusion. For example, in Siddhisthāna, Dṛḍhabala describes the meeting of the learned sages under the guidance of Atreya implying that the Agniveṣa-tantra was available in Drdhabala's time. However, a few statements of Dṛdhabala also leads one to the conclusion that Agniveṣa-tantra was not available in his time.
Redaction of the Agniveṣa Tantra
The original seventeen chapters and the sections on Pharmaceutics and Success in treatment, in the treatise composed by Agniveṣa and revised by Caraka have not been found. However, Dṛḍhabala added seventeen chapters in the section on therapeutics and also two sections on Pharmaceutics and Success in Treatment in Caraka Samhita by extracting his data from various treatises on the science. Dṛḍhabala was a redactor, not a commentator. He consulted all the available treatises in order to revise and up-date the text as accurate as possible. It is a common practice not to name basic text which was being redacted as it is taken as the foundation for the dissertation. Hence it can be concluded that whether these seventeen chapters are based on Agniveṣa Tantra or not is uncertain.
Evaluations and interpretations of the redacted text and detailed inspection of all the possibly available evidence indicates that the original text of Agniveṣa existed as the basic text for Dṛḍhabala. The style and language of the original texts of Agniveṣa, Caraka and Dṛḍhabala can be distinguished on minute examination of the text. There is a mixture of the styles and diction in nearly all the chapters implying that Agniveṣa-tantra did exist in the time of Dṛḍhabala. The fact that Agniveṣa tantra existed even after Vāgbhatta is supported by various facts. For example:
- Jejjata, a pupil of Vāgbhatta quotes some verses from Agnivesa tantra. These verses are not from Caraka Samhitā and hence he must have quoted it from the original Agniveṣa tantra.
- Tisata, son of Vighbala, in his Cikitsā mentions Agniveṣa as a distinct authority which implies that the Agniveṣa-tantra existed in his time.
- Cakrapāṇi, the commentator of Caraka Samhitā who existed in the 11th century CE cites pharmaceutical preparations which are found in the Agniveṣa Tantra and not Caraka Samhitā.
- Sodhala lived in 12th Century CE mentioned a few recipes of Vandya from Agniveṣa-tantra.
- Kanṭhadatta, the commentator on Vrnda's Siddhayoga who lived in the 13th century A. D., has stated few verses which are not from Caraka Samhita and hence it can be presumed that they have been taken directly from the Agniveṣa-tantra.
- Śivadāsa Sen, who lived in the I5th century CE, quotes Agniveṣa-tantra.
- After that period no more citations from the Agniveṣa-tantra are available except one suggestive reference by Gangādhar Śāstri in the 19th century CE.
Different Names of Agniveṣa
Agniveṣa was also known as Hutasa, Hutasavesā, Vāhniveśa Hutasa and Vahni. Later authors used one or more of these names for the purpose of variation. The commentator Cakrapāṇi, while beginning the benedictory verse refers to Agniveṣa by one of these alternative names. Name Vāhniveśa has been used in Charaka Samhitā.
Besides the elite work on Ayurveda, several other works have been penned by Agniveṣa:
- Anjana Nidāna, a treatise on diseases of the eye is written by sage Agniveṣa. He is also quoted by Vāgbhatta, Bhāvamiṣra, Tisata, Rudra-bhallā and other authors. There are two or three commentaries written on this book.
- Nidānasthāna, a treatise on pathology, is authored by Agniveṣa.
Agniveṣa, Son of Satyaka
One other person named Agniveṣa, son of Satyaka, is mentioned in Majjham Nikāya. He had taken part in the philosophical debate with Gautama Buddha. He was the pupil of Ātreya, hence we can conclude that he existed during the Śathapaṭha period. Points supporting this belief places him in Śathapaṭha period, apart from the argument of his contemporaneity with Ātreya.
- He lived before Pāṇini as we find references to Taxila in Paṇiṇi, while reference of Taxila is absent in Agniveṣa Samhita. No author of the versatility of Agniveṣa could afford to neglect mentioning Taxila if it were a flourishing center of medical learning in his time.
- In the Pāṇini Sutra, Jātukarṇa, Parāśara and Agniveṣa are all the names of physicians that occur together indicating that Agniveṣa lived before Pāṇini's period. Jātukarṇa and Parāśara were fellow-students of Agniveṣa.
- Hemādulakṣana, the last Ayurvedic author, quotes from Silhotra. He mentions that Agniveṣa, Harita, Kṣarapani and Jātukarṇa were fellow-students.
- Śathapaṭha Brāhmana refers to the descendants of Agniveṣa.
- He is also known as Punarvasu.
- The weapon Brahmaśirah is also called as Brahmāstra.
- Indukara was a commentator of Astānga Sangraha
- 4th chapter of the Caraka Samita
- It is a verse that is not found in Caraka Samhitā.
- In Siddhisthān 12th chapter, verse 53 Agniveṣa is referred to as Vāhniveśa
- Śathapaṭha means stupor.
- Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India