atharva vEda and caraka samhita

Reference The Legacy of Caraka by M.S. Valiathan : Ayurveda – 1 

First Posted by me here:

Atharva Veda is the first veda as we know from the Srimad Bhagavatham. (Atharva Veda : The First Veda : The Brahma Veda : atharvan, angIrA and brahmA were among the rishis.)

It has 6000 sukthas and 1000 prose lines, a significant part of which are devoted to medicine and the human body. It also dealt with brahma vidyA, Atma vidyA and yOga vidyA.

There used to be a rescension of the Atharva Veda called cAraNa vidyA, the knowledge of the cAraNAs.

Devout people know Chaaranaas (cAraNAs), as a class of people like siddhAs and gaNAs who worship Siva and Vinayaka. They are wandering (celestial) singers. (See : {Interestingly there were s’araNAs, in the lingAyat bhakti movement in karNAtaka}.

This Chaarana vidya, now lost is considered the forerunner of many ayurvedic texts.

The system of medicine preserved in the Atharva Veda, included chants and amulets along with herbs, precious stones and touching the patients. The idea was to cure the patient, physically, mentally and spiritually.

Ancient observers  noticed that sick animals and birds chose to eat selected plants that they did not eat when they were well. Those ancient creepers were invoked by mantras to protect humans also. Such knowledge of herbs and customs were also present with shepherds and forest dwellers.

The Atharva Veda anticipated the tridOSa system of carakA’s time. Charaka also used the medicinal plants listed in 25 sukthas of the atharva veda in his formulations and referred to the academic discussions of  Kanva and Agastya, as well as to their medical formulations.

Baffling fevers were traced to Rudra in caraka samhita and to the Devas in general in the Atharva Veda. The effect of seasons on some of the diseases were discussed in both texts as well as hereditary diseases. Some treatment rituals given in the kaus’ika sUtra of the atharva vEda are still in vogue in folk medicine., eg applying oil on bleeding wounds, tying a rope of munja grass and drinking water with soil from an anthill. An iron needle was used to open a blocked urinary channel.

By Charaka‘s time, the role of hymns, amulets and rituals had declined a lot (now it is almost completely gone!) and the focus was on restoring the balance among the dOSAs.

The kEna sUkta of Atharva Veda lists the body parts and bones of the human body and finally asks …

Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula

Reference :  The Legacy of Caraka by M.S. Valiathan : Ayurveda – 1 




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