Ancient treatises of Ayurveda have been broadly classified into two groups viz the Brihat trayee (greater triad) and the Laghu trayee (lesser triad); Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Sangraha are the Brihat trayee while Madhava Nidana, Sharngadhara Samhita and Bhavaprakasha are the Laghu trayee Brihat trayee are great in respect of their authors, antiquity and originality. Laghu trayee are the works of later authors and are, more or less, compilations without much originality. But in view of their containing the quintessence of the Brihat trayee in easy diction, the Laghu trayee are also being studied by students and practioners of Ayurveda since long in our country. Sharngadhara Samhita, the second of this category is a very popular treatise.
Sharngadhara Samhita is assigned to the early part of 14th century A.D. based on the following points:
Chakrapanidatta and Dalhana, the two famous commentators of Charaka and Sushruta Samhitas respectively who leved during 11th century A.D. are ignorant of either Sharngadhara or his Samhita.
Hemadri, the celebrated commentator of Ashtanga Hridaya who be longed to 13th-14th century A.D. has referred to Sharngadhara Samhita in his commentary.
Bopadeva who flourished during the early part of the 14th century A.D. as the protege of Hemadri, is said to have written a commentary on Sharngadhara Samhita.
As there is no personal information of the author in the text, except his name as Sharngadhara and as the later commentators of the treatise are also silent on this point, differences of opinion exists among scholars in identifying the real author. It seems Sharngadhara was a very popular name in medieval India, as we come across many of them, as authors of treatises: Aufrecht mentions about eight of them. For the present study, it is enough if we consider the following personalities who lived during the period of 13th-14th century A.D. or near about.
1. Sharngadhara-author of this Samhita.
2.Sharngadhara-author of S. Trishati or Jwara Trishati.
3.Sharngadhara-author of S. Paddhati.
4.Sharnga Deva-author of Sangeeta Ratnakara.
A glimpse into each of these texts will have to be made to clear the confusion about the correct identification.
(a) Except giving out his name as the author at the commencement of the text, he has not furnished any information about himself or his other works.
(b) The language and style of composition of the text, both being insipid, give room to doubt the erudition of the author in Sanskrit and Ayurveda.
(c) The text predominantly deals with Bhaishajya Kalpana (pharmacy and pharmeceutics). Brief narration of basic principles, anatomy and physiology,methods of diagnosis of diseases, and enumeration of diseases though found in the first section, does not reflect profound knowledge of the author.
Also known as Jwara Trishati is a small treatise with three hundred verses describing the Nidana (aetiology) Lakshanas (symptomatology) and Chikitsa (Therapeutics) of different kinds of fevers. The author says that he is the son of Devaraja, belonging to Nagara Brahman community of Gujarat and he is a disciple of Swami Vaikunthashrama. He has not mentioned any other text on Ayurveda written by him. Vaidya Vallabhabhatta has written a commentary on this Trishati.
Sharngadhara Paddhati is an anthology of Sanskrit poetry. At the commencement of the text, the author gives his personal data as follows:
"When Raja Hammera of Chahumana dynasty was reigning at Shakambari Desha, he had as his Chief Courtier, a Brahman scholar by name Raghava Deva. He had three sons-Gopala, Damodara and Devadasa. The second son Damodara had also three sons-Sharngadhara, Lakshmidhara and Krishna. I, Sharangadhara, have composed this text collecting verses from earlier Scholars.
Historians place Raja Hammera Chouhan as the Hindu king of Ranthambhor in Rajasthan who was vanquished by Allauddin Khilji in 1299-130 I A.D. So the author of this Paddhati will have to be placed in the latter part of 14th century or even early 15th century A.D. and not earlier.
The author has collected interesting and important verses on different subjects from earlier reputed treatises. Bulk of the text is reserved for Ethics (subhashita on vidya prashamsa, pandita prashamsa, guna, dhana, dana, dharma prashamsa), riddles of language (prahelika), Anyokti (parables), description of seasons (ritu Varnana), Koutuka (magic), Shakuna (omens), Kala Jnana (foretelling), Rajaneeti (state craft), Dhanurveda (science of warfare), Gandharva Veda (music and dance), Ayurveda (medical science) for pashu (veterinary medicine), Vriksha (horticulture) and Nara (human medicine), Bhootavidya (demonology), Vishapaharana (toxicology), Rasayana Kalpa (preparation of medicines and elixirs), Arishta Jnana (signs of death), Shareera (cosmic and human body), Yoga especially Hatha Yoga and Moksha (liberation) have all been dealt with. Vrikshayurveda (horticulture and plant medicine) gets the major share under Ayurveda. The verses dealing with treatment of human beings are few and do not belong to Charaka, Sushruta or Yagbhata, the three ancient authorities on Ayurveda. The verses describing Shareera (anatomy) numbering about 65 are taken from a text called 'Yogarasayana' and bear little resemblance to Shareera found In Ayurvedic texts. The author does not mention the name of any acholar or treatise of Ayurveda whereas he names a large number of poets (including one or two of his own name). Majority of the verses being the composition of others, it is difficult to estimate the contribution of the author himeself. As a good compiler he has brought out a valuable encyclopaedic anthology. He does not refer to any other book written by him and his lack of insight into ancient texts of Ayurveda is conspicuous.
Sangeeta Ratnakara is a treatise on music. Its author Sharngadeva was the son of Shodala and grandson of Bhaskara; belonging to the Vrishagana gotra of Brahamanas of Kashmir; having migrated to South India and settled at Devagiri in Karnataka. Shodala was the minister and army commander of Yadava King Bilhana and his son Singhana (1210-1248 A.D.).
Sharngadeva was a profound scholar in many branches of knowledge such as Sangeeta (music), Ayurveda (medicine), Vedanta (philosophy) and many more. He has indicated his authorship of many books on different subjects, of which Sangeeta Ratnakara and Adhyatma Viveka stand out pre-eminent as authoritative texts. According to his own statement in Sangeeta Ratnakara, he was a scholar, philosopher, musician and physician and "that he satisfied the needy in these fields".
Sangeeta Ratnakara exhaustively deals with all aspects of musicology and is ranked as an authoritative text on the subject. Composed in verses of different metres with pleasant diction, fine vocabulary and vast information, the book bears testimony to the great erudition of the author both in language and subject.
In a chapter called 'Pindotpatti Prakarana', the author describes the doctrines of panchamahabhootas, composition of the human body, formation and development of the Embrayo, Trigunas, Pancha - Vayus, Doshas-Dhatus, Malas-Sushumna, Shatchakras, Nadis and their functions.
Description of Swarayantra (voice box), mechanism of sound production and methods to gain control over it are lucidly explained. These descriptions, very closely, correlate with those found in Samhitas of Charaka and Sushruta, proving the author's deep knowledge of Ayurveda. He has not mentioned the names of his books on Ayurveda but according to his own statement, he has written books on this subject. But till today no such book has been found.
Different views on authorship:
The following are the views of scholars entitled for authoritative opinion.
Aufrecht opines that the authors of S. Samhita and S. Paddhati are one and the same person.
Parashuram Shastry Vidyasagar, the editor of S. Samhita published' by Nirnayasagar Press, Bombay, in his introduction also holds the same view and further identifies him as Sharngadhara son of Damodara based upon the colophon found in the manuscript which he edited.
C.G. Kashikar states that the author of Samhita, Paddhati, Trishati and an- other work on Rasa Shastra by name Sharngadhara Sangraha (not traced so far) is the same person and that he was a Gujarati Nagar Brahman.
Priyavrata Sharma opines that S. Samhita and S. Paddhati are the works of two different persons.
There are some scholars who hold the view that S. Samhita is to be as cribbed to the author of Sangeeta Ratnakara assuming the term Sharngadeva as a variant of Sharngdhara and this will substantiate the statement of Sharngadeva about his authorship of book on Ayurveda also.
Majority of Ayurvedists without going into descussion, simply subscribe to the current popular view that Sharngadhara son of Damodara is the author of S. Samhita.
Difficulties in correct identification:
Attempting at correct identification of the authors of these texts, the reviewer faces the following problems and finds it difficult to arrive at a satisfactory solution:
1. Absence of personal, narration of his life and works by the author or by later commentators of S. Samhita.
2. Absence of colophon mentioning the details of the author in the manuscri] of S. Samhita first edited by Kaviraj Pyarirnohansengupta' and presence (a colophon mentioning "Sharangadhara son of Damodara at the author" in the manuscripts of S. Samhita edited by Parashuram Shastry Vidyasagar.
3. Likewise, the assumption, that the author of S. Paddhati and the author ( S. Samhita are one and the same and identifying him as son of Damodar is also not satisfactory since the author of Paddhati is glaringly ignorant classical texts of Ayurveda.
Non-availability of Bopadeva's commentary on S. Samhita which might have given some information about Sharngadhara.
4. Non-mention of names of books on Ayurveda said to be written by Sharngadeva, author of Sangeeta Ratnakara and not finding of any sue book till now. Alluding the authorship of S. Samhita which is a small insipid text to Sharngadeva taking the names as variants, will be nothing short of an insult to the wide knowledge and high standard of Sharngadev. His book on Ayurveda, if at all, will definitely stand equal in compariso to Sangeeta Ratnakara.
In the face of the divergent views and difficulties described so far, it is better to keep this question open till such time when further research on the subject bring out some more facts. For the present, it will be prudent on our part to consider the author of S. Samhita as a person distinct from all 'others; and whose where about are not known.
Nature and contents of S. Samhita:
The Samhita is designed to serve as a practitioner's hand book as the author himself states."Written in simple and easy language the book consists of 32 chapters with 2,600 verses in all; the first section with 7 chapters and 585 verses, the second with 12 chapters and 1,261 verses and the third section with 13 chapters and 682 verses.
Prathama Khanda (First section)
Paribhasa (Definitions, weights and measures etc.)
Bhaisajya vyakhyana (Principles of pharmacy)
Nadi parikasadi vidhi (Examination of pulse etc.)
Dipanapachanadi kathanam (Pharmacological definitions)
Kaladikakhyana shaariram (Anatomy and physiology)
Aharadigati kathanam (Digestion and metabolism)
Rogaganana (Enumeration of diseases)
Madhyama Khanda (Second section)
Swarasa adhyaya (Fresh juices)
Quatha kalpana (Decoctions, infusions etc.)
Phanta kalpana (Infusions)
Hima kalpana (Cold infusions)
Kalka kalpana (Wet pills or bolus)
Churna kalpana (Pulvis, powders)
Gutika kalpana (Pills)
Avaleha kalpana (Confections)
Sneha kalpana (Medicated ghee and oils)
Sandhana kalpana (Galenicals, fermented liquids)
Dhatu shodhana-mantra kalpana (Purification and killing of minerals and metals)
Rasadi shodhana marana kalpana (Purification and preparation of mercurials)
Uttara Khanda (Third section)
Sneha adhyaya (Oleation therapy)
Sweda vidhi (sudation therapy)
Vamana vidhi (Emesis therapy)
Virechana vidhi (Purgation therapy)
Basti vidhi (Enemata-oil enema therapy)
Niruha basti vidhi (Uretheral and vaginal douches)
Uttara basti vidhi (Uretheral and vaginal douches)
Nasya vidhi (Nasal medication)
Dhumapana vidhi (Inhalations, fumigations therapy)
Gandusa-kavala pratisarana vidhi (Mouth gargles)
Lepa-murdha taila karnapurana vidi (Topical application, oletation of head, ears etc.)
Shonitasrava vidhi (Blood letting)
Netra prasadana karma (Therapies for the eyes)
Appendix. I and II