To derive maximum productivity the translation should be incisive meticulous and reflect the merits and the vigour of the original. For this purpose a special system of what is referred to as an interpretive translation has been developed and meticulously followed thorough out. This would productively highlight the specialties and also bring into proper relief quite a few advanced thinkings in the field as available here. This is so despite the great age of the work an usual criticism is that his text is too general and nonspecific enough care is taken to disprove this statement and show instead that it is quite specific and adequately detailed within its own framework. Infact it is better treated as a special work written more to the practitioners and has some emphasis on neurology. An-other specialty of the attempt is that it heavily leans on the vyutpatti or the etymology of the Sanskrit technical terms utilized. For this is rather a more reliable key to the original thinkers in the field. This is particularly useful in suggesting the botianical equivalents of the Ayurvedic plants of this Samhita.
The present editions of the Bhelasamhita are based on a single manuscript in Telugu script preserved in the Saraswati Mahal Library, Tanjore. It was first published by the Calcutta University (1921) followed by Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi (1959). The latest edition is brought out by C.C.R.I.M. & H. U 977) duly edited by VS. Venkatasubrahmania Shastri and C. Raja Rajeswara Sharma. Even in this edition, in spite of the tall claims made by the editors, consequential discrepancies could not be avoided because of being based on a single manuscript.
Planning and arrangement of the subject matter in the Bhelasamhita is similar to those in the Carakasamhita but the former is incomplete in many respects. However, the present text of the Bhelasamhita has also many ideas common with the Surutasarnhita. Apart from this, it has a number of peculiar ideas which give originality to the work. Bifurcation of Alocakägni, position of cakras in pigataka, hrdaya and nabhi and graphic setting of jaharagni like a lamp within a gourd- shell floating on water (representing the role of väta, pitta and kapha in digestion) are some of the ideas which seem to be original and more developed. Framing of the definition of Kayacikitasaka popularly quoted nowadays goes to the unique credit of Bhela.
As regards the date of Bhela the scholars would naturally like to place him at the time of Agniveda who was contemporary to him.
Though three editions of the Bhelasamhita came out successively they all lacked any commentary or translation with the result that the text remained out of the reach of non Sanskrit knowing readers. it is gratifying to note that first time if is coming out with English translation by Dr. K.H. Krishnamurthy who has done the job quite efficiently. No other scholar could have been more befitting for this than Dr. K.H. Krishnamurthy who is a rare combination of sanskritist Ayurveda and other subjects. I congratulate him for providing easy access to the Bhelasamhita through his English translation which is equally accurate faithful and comprehensible publishers also deserve thanks for the nice presentation.
The art and science of Medicine as cultivated in India with their unmistakable roots in the Vedas go by the name of Ayurveda or the knowledge of life and its span. Quite soon from then on speicalised compilatiosn called Samhitas were prepared by the Rsis of yore. These great classics from then onwards went on getting expanded redacted and commented upon by many later day authors to accommodate the growing knowledge as well as to acclamatise the ancient learning to their own contemporary times. We thus have here an unbroken grantha santati or a genealogy of written works with many a lacunae no doubt caused by varied accidents of history. Any bibliophile would love to fill in these details and also attempt tracing on his own the full course of the ramifications of thought and expertise that these works reflect. It is in such a background that a modernistic presentation of Bhela Samhita whose ancient age is vouchsafed by no less an authority than Caraka himself assumes an unusual significance.
The present author therefore very much welcomed the kind invitation extended to him for such an undertaking by the renowned publishers in this field M/s Chaukhambha Vishabharati, Varanai. An important objective kept in view in this attempt is to render this exposition of Bhela Samhita in English retain as much force of the original Sanskrit as possible to the non Sanskrit knowing readers of the text in English. It is for this purpose a special and self sufficient method of presentation has been developed and meticulously adhered to. It is the hope of the author that this will be found suitable to such readers but will not militate simultaneously the susceptibilities of the traditional scholars of Sanskrit and Ayurveda in anyway.
It will still be the pleasant concern of the author however to receive critical remarks of the sahrdaya readers of this work with all the attention they deserve and also keep them in view for future attempts in this line.
Studying works on Science in Ancient India specially on Medicine which is an Art as well as a Science has many lessons to convey. If we mean by science an organised knowledge on wholly rational grounds that also has verifiable and valid consequences of practical applicability, these works are well suited to be called as the really scientific works of a long past, developed and perfected on their own and purely indigenous on the philosophical basis, as well. The chief difference a modern student of science would find here compared to what he finds in the treatises of his own fields of the present day can be easily identified. He would miss here the highly discursive style of his own treatises which set forth the principles, the experimental proofs and the conclusions - all on wholly rational and mostly 'self sufficient grounds- expressed in an advanced technicality, very highly diversified terminology, and displayed with many diagrams, tables and the like. However if he is prepared to presume that this obvious fact stems also from the difference in the style of working of these ancient Texts that was due to the constraints of their age, the specific intention of their authors and the extreme conciseness that their language of Sanskrit does afford, he would find something refreshingly new.
Many of these works of Medicine are called by their authors themselves as not original all-complete Texts, but as Samhitas. This means that they are compilations selected out by thier authors from a vaster body of knowledge that was existing then in the minds and practices of the experts. This knowledge was often unwritten or written down in works which are wholly lost now. As such, these Samhitas are to be evaluated now as pointers to. this vaster field and simultaneously one ought to be on the look out for the still to be discovered other works as well. Both Caraka and Susruta, the two great classical masters of Ayurveda give ample evidences in their own Samhitas for the presence of a large number of other Technical Treatises available as written down reading materials from out of which the prospective student could choose any Text he found most suitable to himself. Caraka beautifully summarises the criteria of such a Treatise and also gives clear guidelines to select the Teacher from whom he should take up such a study. Obviously there were many such Teachers then from whom the student was free to make his choice. That was the climate of the ancient educational system. A typical criticism that a modernist raises against their educational system itself is that this was essentially a mugging of the Text mechanically and blind belief. But it is important to note that the intention of the system was always to provide a readily available vast amount of tested knowledge in the mind of the student during his formative periods which he is invited to approach with a stand-point of sraddha or faith without which nothing works. But, he was also simultaneously given an injunction not to suspend his mind but use it to the best of his abilities to elaborate further, for which purpose he has a ready reference material well stored in the mind now. This is one of the reasons why most of these works are concise and almost mnemonic in style.
Some Ancient Works on Ayurveda
Ayurveda has had a long history, literally and not chauvinistically traceable to the Vedas whose age is roughly regarded of late as about 10,000 years back. There is no dispute in accepting these Vedas, specially Rgveda as the earliest documented and illustrious work of mankind as such. From the Caraka-samhita (SU. 1.31.33) it is known that the six disciples of Atreya Punarvasu-Agnivesa, Bhela, Jatukarna, Parasara, Harita and Ksarapani- composed their own treatises on medicine. Similarly, the disciples of Kasiraja Divodase also composed treatises on surgery, they were- Aupadhenava, Vaitarana, Aurabhra, Pauskalavata, Karavlya, Gopuraraksita and Susruta. Dalhana adds the following names to this list- Bhoja, Nimi, Kankayana, Gargya and Galava. In Salakya besides Nimi, Karala, Bhadrasamaka, Satyaki etc. are well known. In Kaumarabhrtya, treatises of Parvataka, Jivaka, Bandhaka etc. were popular. It is not known whether Jivaka is the same as Kasyapa, the author of the Kasyapa- Samhita. One Kasyapa-Samhita was also on toxicology. Besides, Bhaluki, Visvamitra, Vrddha Kasyapa, Vrddha Susruta, Alambayana, Vrddha Bhoja, Agastya and Caksusyena are referred to as authors of treatises on this basis. It would nor be unreasonable to think that there were a number of treatises on every anga of Ayurvada which took a long time to study all of them. This necessitated composition of a handy compendium which contained all; this was fulfilled by Vagbhata's Astangahrdaya. Thus it can be inferred that the above ancient Samhitas of Ayurveda existed and were studied at the time of Vagbhata (5-6 cent. A.D). Thereafter, the Brhattrayi, Caraka, Susruta and Vagbhata- became popular and the other Samhitas went into oblivion in course of time. They are known only from their small portions quoted in earlier commentaries of Jejjata, Cakrapani, Dalhana etc. Thus it seems that by 12-13 the cent. A.D. they might be existing though in fragmentary form.
Though Susruta and the others specify that Ayurveda was an upaveda of Atharvaveda, a Vedic Text Caranavyuha regards it as an upaveda of Rgveda. Susruta traces the lineage of Ayurvedic works from Brahma who first brought into light an Ayurvedic Text of one thousand chapters. Prajapati read this and from him, the twin divine physicians, the Asvinlkumaras. Indra learnt from the latter and Dhanvantari obtained his knowledge from Indra and later imparted it to Susruta. Susruta then wrote his work which is fortunately available to us now in full. It is very instructive to note that Brahma himself had divided his material into eight sections, every one called a Tantra i.e. a Technical field. These were Salya (surgery), Salakya (surgery of the regions of the head using a probe or a Salaka literally; the treatment of Ear, Nose, Mouth and the like), Kayacikitsa (medical in contrast to the previous surgical treatment of the body), Bhutavidya (dealing with mental disorders), Kaumara Bhrtya (paediatrics), Agadatantra (toxicology), Rasayana tantra (elixirisation) and Vajikarana (virlification and councelling on sex). The existence of such a clear division of the material would point out that such a standardisation into clear cut specialised branches of study as a tradition is so ancient in Ayurvedic History. This is continued even now to a large extent.
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