The Hindu traditions which ascribe the origin of Ayurveda to the creator Brahma himself mention about the sage Atreya Punarvasu and his brilliant disciple Agnivesa. Cakara is said to be the disciple of Agnivesa. Since his name has been mentioned in the epic Mahabharata, some scholars assign him to the period 1400 B.C. Other however opine that Caraka was the court physician of Kaniska (3rd cent. A.D.), the Kusana king.
His work Caraka Samhita, as it has come down to us today, is undoubtedly a much revised edition. Drdhabala, a prominent writer (of Ayurveda), is said to have edited the earlier work and added several sections since the original was incomplete. It consists of eight prakaranas or sections divided into thirty chapters. It is exclusively a book of medicine and not of surgery.
The contents of the eight prakaranas, very briefly, are as follows:
1. Sutrasthana: origin of medicines; duties of the physician; use of medicines; cure of diseases; materia medica; diet.
2. Nidanasthana: curing of diseases like fever, tumours, diabetes, leprosy, tuberculosis, manias and epilepsy.
3. Vimanasthana: epidemics; nature of food; symptoms and diagnosis of diseases; use of medicines; peculiarities of the fluids of the body.
4. Sarirasthana: nature of the soul; conception; varieties of species; qualities of elements; description of the body; connection of body and the soul.
5. Indriyasthana: organs of senses and their diseases; loss of strength and death.
6. Cikitsasthana: diseases like dropsy, swelling, piles, jaundice, asthma, dysentery and effects of poisons; means of improving health and enjoying long life.
7. Kalpasthana: emetics, purgatives, antidotes and medical charms.
8. Siddhisthana: evacuating medicines, injections, abscesses and other topics.
It is a remarkable work written in the campu (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.
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