From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

According to the Caraka Samhita, Bharadwaja is considered as the father of medicine of Ayurveda. He is believed to have brought the sun-fire to the earth which bestows the warmth of good and long health and happiness on man.

Our history begins with the inquiry into the nature and period of this great sage. The prime source of all knowledge to the ancients was the Veda. Ayurveda, also referred as "Science of Life", finds a mention in the Vedas. Ayurveda is believed to be a branch of the Rgveda and the Atharvaveda. It is thus called an Upaveda of the Atharvaveda by most and of the Rgveda by some.

Descent of Vedas

Though the Vedas are the eternal source of knowledge, they are introduced at the beginning of each cycle of creation by the creator Brahma and promulgated by the foremost of his creatures for the guidance of the world. Thus Brahma, according to the Mundakopanisad,[1] narrates the descent of the Brahma-vidya from Brahma to his eldest son Atharva who gave it to Angir and he to Satyavaha, a descendant of Bharadwaja. It came down the generations to the world by him.

Significance of Atharvaveda

The Atharvaveda is also known as the Brahmaveda owing to the fact that Brahma vidya applies to Atharvaveda. At the time of the sacrifice:

  • The Rgveda is represented and sung by the Hota
  • The Yajurveda by the Adhvaryu
  • The Samaveda by the Udgata
  • The Atharvaveda by Brahma i. e. the one that represents the creator.

Thus the place of honor is accorded to this Veda. The Gopatha Brahmana says that while all the three Vedas form one wing of the sacrifice; the Atharvaveda forms the other wing. The Atharvaveda was held in high esteem and its promulgators were regarded as the leaders of thought and practical wisdom.

Atharvaveda is both religious and secular in its range of subjects and scope of practice. Not only was it sung and represented at the performance of yagnas which was the nucleus of the Vedic worship, but even also performed at ceremonies to promote happiness and health among the people and for coronation of kings.

Lineage of Atharvaveda

Promulgators of Atharvaveda were looked up as the leaders of the society and the originators of the great sciences and arts that the Atharvaveda contained. Sage Bhardwaja occurs in the Atharvangirasa lineage where his name and stature stand out conspicuously. According to the Caraka Samhita, he is the bringer of the medical science from the king of the gods and the first teacher of Ayurveda on earth, of whom Atreya and others are the great disciples. Just as the Agni, Vayu and Surya are the recipients of the Rk, Yaju and Saaman respectively, similarly Atharva is the recipient of the Atharaveda. Bharadwaja, belonging to this lineage, is accorded the great place as the earthly promulgator of its important branches of medicine and archery.

Evolution of Samhitas

Now, as regards the evidence we have from the three foremost Samhitas of Ayurveda about its origin and earthly descent, there is a unanimity upto a certain extent i. e. with reference to the celestial part of its devolution.

Daksa Prajapati, the progenitor, first obtained the science of life in Its entirety as promulgated by Brahma, the great of the Creator and from him in turn, the Aswin. From them Indra, the lord of the immortals, learnt it. It is from the Indra that mortal protagonists acquired it and according to the Caraka Samhita, the first mortal that received the science was Bhardwaja, who repaired to the court of Indra delegated by the congress of Rsis to appeal to the king of the gods to impart the science for the redemption of suffering mankind below. Graciously enough, Indra taught the whole science to be passed on to their disciples. The prime object of the science of life is to lengthen the span of earthly existence and Bhardwaja, the first mortal knower of this science is credited to have achieved this end.

Bharadwaja thereby acquired unmeasured life endowed with happiness; because he is known to have lived through three lives i e, three generations of contemporary humanity. This, as we have already said, is the version of the Caraka Samhita of the beginning of Ayurveda on earth. But according to the Susruta and Kasyapa Samhitas which are more or less contemporaneous with Caraka Samhita or Agnivesa-tantra as it is also called, the original teachers of these treatises namely Dhanvantari and Kasyapa claim to have received the science direct from Indra, on a par with Bharadwaja.

Succession of Ayurveda

The following table gives the manner of descent of Ayurveda and the succession of teachers and disciples according to each of these three important treatises, each representing predominantly a branch of medicine. Thus the Atreya school is primarily one of medicine, the Susruta school of Surgery and the Kasyapa school of Pediatrics and obstetrics.

According to the version in Susruta Samhita Dhanvantari or Divodasa Susruta, Aupadhenva, Vaitrana, Aurabhra, Paushalavata, Karavirya, Gopuraraksita, Bhoja and others
According to the version in Kasyapa Samhita Kasyapa, Vasistha, Atri and Bhrigu Their sons and Disciples
According to the version in Caraka Samhita Bhardwaja or Atreya Punarvasu Agnivesa, Bhela, Jatukarna, Parasara, Haarita, Ksurapani and others

Rasāyaṇa Vidyā

In this connection it is necessary to refer to another part of the Caraka Samhita where a different account of the descent of Ayurveda, particularly of Rasāyaṇa, is given. In the section on Rasāyaṇa, the following narative occurs.

Which means that Bhrgu, Angira and other sages approached Indra in the Himalayan region, desiring to find a remedy for the ills born of dwelling in towns and villages. They receive the desired know ledge from Indra. There is no mention of Bharadwaja in this context as receiving Ayurveda from Indra; but there is the name of Atri among the galaxy of sages. The learned commentator Cakrapani comes to the reader's rescue and explains that this refers to a later occasion than the one described in the opening chapter of the book and that in the meanwhile the science of healing had fallen into neglect and that the sages mentioned above approached Indra again for instruction. The explanation sounds quite plausible considering the fact that no two obviously conflicting versions could have been embodied in the same text by its authors or compilers and subsequent redactors; and a supposition like the one suggested by the learned commentator seems quite justifiable and to have been intended by the authors. The latter reference is evidently limited only to the science of Rasayana.

Susruta Samhita

In reference to the other two Samhitas, we shall first examine the Susruta Samhita. There is no mention of Bharadwaja having received the science from Indra or having imparted it to Dhanvantari, the king of Kasi Dhanvantari claims to have received it from Indra directly, as per the table above. Contradictory to what we see in the 'Susruta Samhita, we find from the Taittiriya Brahmana and the Mahabharata that Bharadwaja was the priest[2] of three generations of the Kings of Kasi i.e. Dhanvantari, Sudasa and Pratardana. He is thus said to have lived through three lives. Divodasa must have owed his knowledge to his preceptor and priest Bharadwaja. Harivansa describes Bharadwaja as the teacher of the medical science to Dhanvantari.

Evidently, as Divodasa was regarded as the earthly incarnation of God Dhanvantari, the original God of medicine, he claims to have received the science directly from Indra, the king of the Gods. This explains the absence of Bhardwaj in Susruta samhita. This tendency is evident in other treatises too. In the Kasyapa Samhita, Kasyapa is the recipient of the Science from Indra. Again, in the Harita Samhita, Harita is a disciple of Atreya along with Agnivesa, Bhela and others.

Vagbhata, who draws from all the Samhitas extant, portrays Punarvasu Atreya as approaching Indra. He lends it to other sages among whom Bhardwaja is also the one and learning the Science of life from him. He is not indebted to Bharadwaja for his acquisition of the science. Such other conflicting narratives that have made some scholars believe Atreya to be identical with Bharadwaj. But the learned Cakrapini is emphatic on the different individuals of these two sages and is definitely of the opinion that Bharadwaja is the teacher of Atreya.

Origin of Ayurveda as per Bhavamisra

Bhavamisra, of the sixteenth century, has three differing versions of the story of Ayurveda. Evidently he contents himself by stating the actual versions then current in books and among the scholars of the science. His three versions are as belows:

  • He firstly narrates the story as told by Vagbhata wherein Atreya, as the leader of a group of sages, receives his instruction from Indra.
  • In the second story, he depicts Atreya as approaching Indra, out of compassion for suffering humanity and having learnt the science from Indra. Atreya writes a treatise on Ayurveda and instructs his disciples Agnivesa, Bhela and others in it.
  • According to the third story, once many sages met together on the slopes of the Himalayas. Bhardwaja was the first to arrive. Then all the sages that congregated, unanimously chose and besought Bharadwaja to bring down the Ayurveda from Indra. He did so and the other sages studied the treatise written by him and acquired long life and health.

The third version is more in accordance with the one given in the Caraka Samhita except for the fact that Bharadwaja offers himself voluntarily to be their deputy before Indra in the latter work. Other sages learnt the science from him is common in both the versions. His teaching was imparted systematically lading out the foundations of logical concepts of Samanya, Visesa and Samavaaya, from which the theory of drug and action has evolved leading to the general principles of the science of medicine. Both are Bhavaprakasa and Caraka, these logical concepts are specifically mentioned as the basic knowledge that Bharadwaja taught the other sages for learning the science of medicine. It is therefore natural to surmise that Bharadwaja should have been famous as a teacher of logic. We find one Udyota-karta, the author of Nyayavarttika referring to Bharadwaja as the author of Nyaya.

From the foregoing it must be evident that despite the conflicting narratives, Ayurveda owes its inception to Bharadwaja. The strongest point in favor of such a view is his line of descent from Atharva and Angiras, the receivers and seers of the Atharvaveda and Ayurveda as a part of the Atharvaveda accords leadership in the science to Bharadwaja, sage of the Atharvavedic line of descent.

Significance of Bhardwaja in other Scriptures


Bharadwaja is a name held in great veneration in the Rgveda. He is the composer of the Brhat which is the best of the Sama melodies. It is mentioned that while Vasistha composed the Rathantara melody, Bharadwaja was the author of the Brhat[3] . These two sages were the twin luminous wings of the fire-bird of sacrifice. It is also said that Bharadwaja was among the first to discover 'the highway leading to the Devas'. The same hymn concludes mysteriously saying, that it was "these sages[4] that brought down the Gharma the heat, from the sun".

Ramayana & Mahabharata

They found with mental eyes the earliest Yajus, a pathway to the gods that had descended from radiant Dhatar, Savitar and Visnu. From Surya did these sages bring the Gharma.[5]

In the Mahabharata, Bharadwaja is said to be a sage settled near Haradwar on the banks of the Ganges, while in the Ramayana he has his hermitage at Prayag where he receives Rama and Sita. According to both the Harivansa and the Bhagawata, Bharadwaja became the adopted son of Paurva, son of Bharata. In the story it is said that as the king was not satisfied with the qualities of the children his wife bore him, he was very much grieved and the Maruts commended to him this son of Brhaspati as most worthy of being adopted by him for a successor.

The story of his birth in this connection is worth narrating. According to the Visnu Purana and the Mahabharata, he is the son of Mamata by Brhaspati. When Utathya's wife Mamata was big with child, Brhaspati the husband's younger brother cohabited with Mamata. The fetus, who later was the great sage Dirghatamas objected to the uncle's attempt at further impregnation and kicked out the new fetus with his feet. In consequence, Brhaspati caused the original fetus Drghatamas to become blind. Though thrown out, Brhaspatis off-spring grew into the child that was Bharadwaja. "Rear this child of double parentage" with these words Brhaspati offered the child to the mother.

Thus the strange tale of an instance of superfetation hangs about this great personage of ancient times. Prometheus-like in stature and benevolence, the teacher of the Devas, he strode the earth like a prophet, bringing the fire from the sun, the healing wisdom from the king of the immortals and opened up the pathway leading to heaven which may mean the Brahma-vidya or the institution of sacrifice that opens up the path leading to the Gods. Prophet, sage and prince, this dynamic leader was the contemporary of three generations of humanity, counselor and teacher to the kings of Kasi revered leader and compeer of the greatest of sages, he might also be one of the seven original sages that exist from the beginning of each cycle. Manvantar Cakrapani, the commentator is of the view that he is only a descendant of the original sage of that name.

With this great personage, the history of Ayurveda begins. He remains for ever the bringer of the healing light, the father of the science of Medicine on Earth.

The Various Bharadwajas

Bhardwaja Vajineya

The first and the foremost famous vedic poet of this period was Bharadwaja Vajineya. He was a contemporary of Divodasa, Prastoka, Abhyavartin Cayamana and Dasaratha. His sons were Garga and Payu. Rama Dasarathi repaired to his hermitage on his way back from Lanka. He was the Purohita of Divodasa gave Pratardana Daivodasi his kingdom and Ksattrasri Pratardani was his Yajamana. He was one of the Rsis of the Vedic age, who prohibited the slaughter of cows in sacrifices simply out of gratitude to the bovine race which showers on mankind kindness in the form of milk. Bharadwaja loved the cows so very deeply that he did not hesitate to identify them with Indra, his deity.

Go means cow. Go is primarily light or knowledge and the Veda which is the embodiment of it Bharadwaja was a great Gavesaka which means not just the promoter of the well being of the cow, but a seeker of light and knowledge. He identified knowledge with Indra. Hence he received the Ayurveda from Indra, the source of knowledge and the king of the immortals.

Bhardwaja, Father of Drona

Later on in the Mahabharata, we hear of Bharadwaja, the father of Drona, the famous teacher of the Kauravas in archery.

Bhardwaja in Caraka Samhita

There are various persons in Caraka Samhita with the name Bhardwaja.

  • According to Caraka samhita, there was one Bhardwaja who was the first propagator of the Science of Life on earth and the great seer that was among the bringers of the solar fire and that approached Indra for the Ayurveda, as the messenger of the sages.
  • In the Caraka Samhita, we have another Bharadwaja, known as the Kumarasira and yet another that takes part in the learned discussion with Atreya. The context in which the names of these two persons appear leaves no doubt regarding their different identity from the great Bharadwaja.
  • There are three places in the Caraka Samhita where the Bharadwaja with the title of Kumarasira is mentioned. This is perhaps a nick-name bestowed on that particular Bharadwaja for his theory that in the course of the development of the fetus the head is the first part to manifest itself.

It is also likely that he had a head bigger in size than is usual and resembling the head in an infant, in whom the head is very large in proportion to the rest of the body, hence known as Kumarasira, one having a boy's head. But we know for certain that he propounded the theory of the emergence of the head first in the fetus before other parts and his theory might have earned him the lasting epithet of Kumarasira.

Bhardwaja participates in the discussion on the actions of Vata and again in the significant discussion on the number of tastes. He propounds 'that tastes are only five in number "Hearing this statement, Bharadwaja, the Kumarasira said, ' It is even as your honor has said; such are the characteristics of Vata. It is by the repeated use of such like qualities, such like substances and actions of such like potencies that Vata becomes excited. The increasing factors of the body-elements is the repeated use of homologous things.

The sinless Bharadwaja known as Kumarasira Bharadwaja known also as Kumarasira then said,'There are five tastes..... Thus we find a Bharadwaja Kumarasira, quite distinct from the Great Originator of the Science on earth and described in the beginning of the Caraka Samhita.

There is another person by the name of Bharadwaja, who is a great scholar taking part in the learned discussions of the sages and propounding the theory of Nature or the innate quality of things as the cause of man as well as of his diseases.

To this the sage Bharadwaja said,
No For the doer always precedes the deed. Nor have we any valid knowledge of action that has not been performed, whereof it may be said that an individual is the result. Nature alone is the cause, of both man and his disease just as roughness, fluidity, mobility and heat are respectively the nature of earth, water, air and fire.

Bharadwaja denied to this. Because neither mother nor father, neither the spirit nor concordance, nor the use of drinks or foods that are eaten, masticated or licked up, in fact, bring about the conception. Nor does a mind, coming from another world, enter into the embryo. In the latter part of Sarira-sthana, Chapter III, a Bharadwaja asks the teacher Atreya a number of questions. This Bharadwaja seems to be merely a student who goes on asking questions, and evidently a different person from the learned Bharadwaja of the earlier part of the chapter, who has authoritative views of his own. How is the embryo integrated? Why does the embryo emerge in the shape of man?

Bhardwaja in Kashyapa Samhita

In the Kashyapa Samhita, there is a reference to a Kisna Bharadwaja who may be a son of Bharadwaja. There are four kinds of diseases as per Kisna Aitreya:

  1. Exogenous
  2. Those born of Vata
  3. Those born of Pitta
  4. Those born of Kapha


Works of Bhardwaja

There are a few works in the name of Bharadwaja.

  1. Bhavaprakasa ascribes to Bharadwaja a regular treatise on medicine from which the other sages studied and learnt the qualities and actions of substances.
  2. There seems to have been current a book entitled Bharadwajiyam meaning the book on the system of Bharadwaja.
  3. Bhesaja-kalpa is another book ascribed to him dealing with the pharmaceutics and treatment of fevers. A commentary of this work is also available.

There are a few recipes too bearing Bharadwaja's name, being perhaps propounded by him. The following recipes bear the name of Bharadwaja:

  1. Brhat Phalaghita
  2. Phalaghita


In conclusion, it is necessary to repeat that the great mass and variety of evidence that we have reviewed, leave no doubt regarding the existence and accomplishments of this great sage and father of medicine. There must have been lesser persons bearing his name who have played some part in the history of the cultural evolution of the Indo-aryan people; but the proto-type, the Bharadwaja that brought down the science of medicine and opened up the way to the court of Indra, is from all accounts, the real hero and originator of the Science of Medicine and of life, known as Ayurveda. No account of the evolution of Medicine in India can afford to ignore thus hallowed name, if it should be faithful to the inscribed" chronicles of racial history. It is only after a full cognizance of his greatness and significance that we can pass on to consider the lives and achievements of other teachers and propagators of medicine, in the land of the Aryas.


  1. This upanishad belongs to Atharvaveda.
  2. It means Purohita.
  3. Rgveda (X. 181)
  4. It is among whom Bharadwaja is one.
  5. Griffiths translation of Rigveda
  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India