Caraka-saṁhitā

(‘compilation of Caraka’)

Caraka and Suśruta are the two brightest stars in the firmament of Āyurveda or the Science of Life. Due to several reasons including the destruction or plundering of valuable manuscripts by the various hordes, invading this country, it is very difficult to know about their period or original works.

The Hindu traditions which ascribe the origin of Āyurveda to the creator Brahmā himself mention about the sage Ātreya Punarvasu and his brilliant disciple Agniveśa. Caraka is said to be the disciple of Agniveśa. Since his name has been mentioned in the epic Mahābhārata, some scholars assign him to the period 1400 B.C. Others however opine that Caraka was the court physician of Kāniṣka (3rd cent. A.D.), the Kuśāna king.

His work Carakasaṁhitā, as it has come down to us today, is undoubtedly a much revised edition. Dṛḍhabala, a prominent writer (of Āyurveda), is said to have edited the earlier work and added several sections since the original was incomplete. It consists of eight prakaraṇas or sections divided into thirty chapters. It is exclusively a book of medicine and not of surgery.

The contents of the eight prakaraṇas, very briefly, are as follows:

  1. Sūtrasthāna: origin of medicines; duties of the physician; use of medicines; cure of diseases; materia medica; diet.
  2. Nidānasthāna: curing of diseases like fever, tumours, diabetes, leprosy, tuberculosis, manias and epilepsy.
  3. Vimānasthāna: epidemics; nature of food; symptoms and diagnosis of diseases; use of medicines; peculiarities of the fluids of the body.
  4. Śarīrasthāna: nature of the soul; conception; varieties of species; qualities of elements; description of the body; connection of body and the soul.
  5. Indriyasthāna: organs of senses and their diseases; loss of strength and death.
  6. Cikitsāsthāna: diseases like dropsy, swelling, piles, jaundice, asthma, dysentery and effects of poisons; means of improving health and enjoying long life.
  7. Kalpasthāna: emetics, purgatives, antidotes and medical charms.
  8. Siddhisthāna: evacuating medi-cines, injections, abscesses and other topics.

It is a remarkable work written in the campū (mixture of prose and poetry) style. Even mental illnesses and epidemic diseases have been dealt with in detail. It has been translated into Persian and Arabic languages in the 8th cent. A. D. There are 17 commentaries on it in Sanskrit.

See also ĀYURVEDA and SUŚRUTA-SAṀHITĀ.