Blog Details

kriya yoga

Medical Treatment and Medicinal Charms Mentioned in the Atharvanic Literature

Admin Jul 23 2018

 Courtesy: V.V. Bhide
Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit, University of Poona, Pune -411 007. India

Abstract: The ancient Vedic texts Provides us with valuable information and guide lines on various multi-faced aspects of human life. The present discussion is limited to the medicaltreatment and medicinal charms mentioned in the Atharvanic literature with specific consideration to Kausikasutra for better understanding of the rites and actions mentioned in Atharvanaveda.

Man is a social animal. He cannot live without society.  His life always depends upon the life of others.  Therefore to keep up the relationship between man and man or man and society, ancient seers thought of an important end in lifei.e. Dharma.  The concept of Dharma is variously explained by ancient authors as well as by modern scholars.  The famous quotation occurring in the Manusmrti, states that the Veda is the only source of entire dharma.  This Dharma1pervades the whole life of man individually and socially.  The Veda seems to be collected and divided into four main heads according to the particular purpose of human life.  The first three, namely, the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, and Samaveda, prescribe the sacrifice, the importantmeans to attain the desired object.  In ancient times, sacrifice became the centre of religious activities which were regarded as the centre of society.  Hence many texts laid down the detailed procedure of sacrifice. The fourth Veda, namely, the Atharvaveda, (AV) is not primarily connected with the sacrificial rites but with the secular aspect of human life. The word secular, here, means an affair that is not connected with the rigidity of sacrificial rites.  Accordingly the Atharvaveda provides us much information relating to magic-both white and black.  Naturally it discusses the problems relating to politics, Kingship, Warfare, Philosophy, Agriculture, prosperity, Diseases, Exorcism, Subjugation, etc.   It is, proposed here to present some information relating to medicinal charms, diseases and their medical treatments as mentioned in the Atharvanic literature. It is the desire of every man to achieve whatever he needs and to ward off the evils and bad effects.  Therefore, many rites have been prescribed in the Atharvanic Literature.  These rites are divided into two classes. i) Santa; that yields the fruits as prosperity, progeny, healthy life, etc. and, ii) Ghora; that is connected with exorcism, destruction of enemies, the act of subjugation, etc.  About 144 hymns occurring in the AV are connected with curing of the diseases and with the healthy life of man.  Some of these hymns describe the structure of human body, some discuss the nature of diseases, and some others direct us to get a healthy and long life.  This topic has been later developed in the Ayurveda, which is regarded as the Upaveda of the AV.  The hymns related to the diseases and longlife is designated as Bhaisajya hymns.  But as these hymns are not collected together in one chapter, it is necessary to take the help o ancillary literature for the proper understanding of the employment of these hymns.

Bhaisajya –hymns

There are different Parisistas of the AV, but the Kausikasutra (KS)2, otherwise called Samhitavidhi is much more helpful than others to understand the rites and actions mentioned in the AV.  The fourth chapter of the KS begins with the topic of diseases, treatments and the employment of medicinal charms.  At the very beginning, the term Bhaisajya is defined as ‘the act or procedure for removing the symptoms of diseases’3.  While commenting on this Sutra, Darila, the only commentator of this Sutra4, classifies the diseases into two classes namely –i) occurring due to food etc.  ii) occurring due to some inauspicious or invisible forces.  According to him the treatment for the diseases in the first class has been mentioned in the text belonging to the Ayurveda and for curing diseases in the second class, the Atharvanic procedure is to be employed5.  Kesava, who composedPaddhati6, states that the diseases grouped under second variety are to be cured with the help of Atharvanic procedure likeoffering tying, causing to drinketc.7Butit is very difficult to justify the two fold division of the diseases suggested by thecommentators because the Sutrakara has not indicated such division of diseases.  It seems that the hymns of the AV have described the diseases and their medical treatment without taking into consideration the particular causes.  Some hymns are directly addressed to the diseases like Takman, Kasa, Svitra, etc and they are asked to leave the person suffering from the particular disease.  Generally, while ascertaining the symptoms of the disease, it is not possible to consider that the particular disease occurred either due to food etc. or due to some invisible unknown causes.  One-sided diagnosis of the disease may fall short and therefore the Athavanic texts co-ordinate both the methods of treatment and the use of medicated materials and the employment of medicinal charms.  The procedure of these two methods is well-explained by Kesava in his Paddhati.  Therefore with the help of this Paddhati some diseases and their treatments have been considered in the present contexts.


  1. Vedo Akhilo Dharmamulam
  2. Edited by M.  BLOOMFIELD, Baltimore 1889.
  3. Lingyupatpo Bhaisajym K.S. 25.2
  4. The Darilabhasyam, published by tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Poona. 1972 Dr. V.V. Bhide.
  5. Dwividha Vyadhyah Aharanimitta Aaubhanimittascetitatra Aharasamutthanamayurvedah Carakadipranitah Samanarthah, Adharmasamurtthanamu Sastramidamucyate.
  6. This is a manual of the rites prescribed in the KS.  I have edited in collaboration, this Paddhati which will be published very soon.
  7. Of. Sayana’s commentary on the AV 1.1 Papanimittanam tu Atharvanaih. Homabandhana Payanadibhih Upasamanam.
  8. Jarayjah (AV1.12) iti medo madhu Sarpistailam Payayati.
  9. Munca sirsaktya uta kasa enam parusparurayivesa yo asya-AV 1-12.3
  10. Jayayuja lti suktena ghr tamabhi mantrya nasikanatam dadati –kesava on KS 26.8
  11. Hrudurnam Asi Haritasya Deva sa nah Samvidwan Parivrngdhi Takman –AV 12-5-212.Rudu iti Prasiddhah.
  12. For Example in Marathi –Hud Huda tapi
  13. Indrasya ya Mahi Drsad Krmerviswasya tarhnitaya Pinasmi sam krmin Drsada Khalwan Swa-AV 2-31-1
  14. Eyamaganno Sadhinam Virudham Viryavti.  Ajasrngyataki tiksna Srngi vyrsato AV 4-37-6.
  15. Panca ca yah Panacasacca Samyantinantha Abhi.  Sapta Ca hay saptatsiaca Samyanti Graivya Nava Ca ya Navatisca samyanti Skandhya Abhi-Hutastah Sarva Nasyantu vaka apacitamiva Abhi.
  16. KS 30-14 Pancaca ya iti Pancapancasram Parasuparnan Kastairadipayatr.
  17. Parasunam Pancasat Pancadhikah Pasukarna swa Parswavasthah.
  18. Gopamsulikanam Pancasat Pancadhika Agnau Prajwaplyadhastayah.  Samidha Adadhati
  19. Yada sankhenalepanam tada Jalukayadamsanam yada Swajambile Tada Grhako likaya.
  20. Kesava on KS. 26-14-Anusuryam  (AV. 1-22) Sati Raktavrsabha.Roma Misrmuda kamabhi mantrya Payayati.  Kamle Bhaisajyam.

Add Comments

(C) 2019 Lenish John. All Rights Reserved