Caraka Samhita

Charaka Samhita

The Charaka Samhita Sutra is an ancient Indian Ayurvedic text on internal medicine written by Charaka. It is believed to be the oldest of the three ancient treatises of Ayurveda. It is central to the modern-day practice of Ayurvedic medicine; and, along with the Sushruta Samhita it is now identified worldwide as an important early source of medical understanding and practice, independent of ancient Greece.


The text, written in Sanskrit, is the work of at least several authors and may represent the work of a school of thought. The term ‘Charaka’ (Caraka) is said to apply to ‘wandering scholars’ or ‘wandering physicians’; and ‘Samhita’ means ‘collected' or 'compendium’. The original source is identified as the Agnivesha Tantra based on the teachings of Punar-vasu; Charaka is said to have redacted this work; and later, another scholar Dridhabala extended it further. The work as extant dates to the Maurya period (roughly 3rd century BCE).


The text has 8 sections, totaling 120 chapters, starting with Sutrasthan which deals with fundamentals and basic principles of Ayurveda practice. Unique scientific contributions credited to the Charaka Samhita include:

  • a rational approach to the causation and cure of disease
  • introduction of objective methods of clinical examination

“Direct observation is the most remarkable feature of Ayurveda, though at times it is mixed up with metaphysics. The Samhita emphasises that of all types of evidence the most dependable ones are those that are directly observed by the eyes. In Ayurveda successful medical treatment crucially depends on four factors: the physician, substances (drugs or diets), nurse and patient. The qualifications of physician are: clear grasp of the theoretical content of the science, a wide range of experience, practical skill and cleanliness; qualities of drugs or substances are: abundance, applicability, multiple use and richness in efficacy; qualifications of the nursing attendant are: knowledge of nursing techniques, practical skill, attachment for the patient and cleanliness; and the essential qualifications of the patients are: good memory, obedience to the instructions of the doctors, courage and ability to describe the symptoms.”


"The Charaka (Vol I, Section xv) states these men should be, 'of good behavior, distinguished for purity, possessed of cleverness and skill, imbued with kindness, skilled in every service a patient may require, competent to cook food, skilled in bathing and washing the patient, rubbing and massaging the limbs, lifting and assisting him to walk about, well skilled in making and cleansing of beds, readying the patient and skillful in waiting upon one that is ailing and never unwilling to do anything that may be ordered.'"


External links

Further reading

  • Kaviratna, A.C. and P. Sharma, tr., 'The Caraka Samhita 5 Vols., Indian Medical Science Series, Sri Satguru Publications, a division of Indian Books Centre,Delhi 81-7030-471-7

  • Menon, I A and H F Haberman, Dermatological writings of ancient India Medical History. 1969 October; 13(4): 387–392. seen at The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London June 1, 2006

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