Talk:Identity of Atreya with Punarvasu

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Different Epithets for Punarvasu

  • The names Atreya and Punarvasu are used together in the Caraka Samhita.
  • Both the names are used as synonyms at the end of the chapters in Caraka Samhita.
  • These names also occurs in the Astanga Sangraha of Vagbhata.
  • 'Punarvasu' is used as a substitute of Atreya at the beginning of a chapter.
  • It is also mentioned as the preceptor of Agnivesa.
  • The epithet of bhagawan is also given to Punarvasu.
  • Kisna Atreya is most popular appellation.

Thus Bhagawan Atreya, Punarvasu, Atreya and Kisna Atreya are the names of one single individual sage who is the teacher of the medical science in the Caraka Samhita.

References about Atreya

  • The Mahabharata refers to Kisna Atreya as the famous teacher of medicine.
  • In the Caraka Samhita, Atreya is often called Kisna Atreya.
  • Many of the tested recipes are named after him as commended of greatly favored by Kisna Atreya.
  • In the chapter XI of Sutrasthana, in the initial lines worshipful Atreya is mentioned and at the end in the resume he is referred to as Kisna Atreya.

Thus there can be no confusion in regards to the identity of the person known as Atreya with Kisna Atreya in the Caraka Samhita.

Atreya as per Different Personalities

Bhela, being a disciple of Atreya along with Agnivesa and others, refers to Atreya as Kisna Atreya in the Bhela Samhita. Similarly, Sivadasa in his commentary 'Tattva-Candrika' describes Dasamulasataphalagita quotes from Jwaradhikara of Cakradatta and cites, the names of Gopura Raksita, Jatukarna, Caraka, Susruta and Kisna Atreya. Authors Srikantha Datta and Sivadasa, had raised the question of two personalities, Kisna Atreya, the surgeon and Atreya the physician. The commentator Sivadasa holds the view that Kisna Atreya and Punarvasu are one. The commentator Cakrapani confirms that Candrabhagi is Punarvasu.

Atreya as per Tantras

There is a tantra or a treatise on Salakya or 'Surgery of the supra-clavicular parts of the body' ascribed to Kisna Atreya. Therefore it is led to believe that there were two persons of same name. Atreya was also known as Candrabhagi or Candra-bhagin. The 13th chapter of Sutra-sthana in Caraka refers to the teacher named Atreya. Punarvasu is mentioned as seated amidst the Sankhya philosophers whom Agnivesa approaches for instructions and in the resume at the end of the chapter, the teacher is referred to as Candrabhagi.

The Confusion

Atreya Punarvasu, the teacher in the Caraka Samhita is Kisna Atreya who gave instructions on surgical matters . He was acquainted with the knowledge of Science of Life in its eight-fold ramifications, though he confined himself to Kayacikitsa or medicine, in his exposition to Agnivesa and other disciples. Therefore it was concluded, that there was only one teacher known with different names as Punarvasu, Atreya and Kisna Atreya.

Derivation of the Name Atreya

Derivations of the name Atreya could be, because of the following reasons:

  • He is the son of Candrabhaga
  • A resident of the region named Candrabhaga.
  • A tributary of the Indus was also known as Candrabhaga, as a resident on its banks.
  • The sister compilation to that of Agnivesa,[1] the Bhela Samhita, supports that Atreya, Punarvasu and Candrabhagi are one and the same person.

Thus we had the great sage Atreya, the teacher of medicine and preceptor of Agnivesa, Bhela and other disciples, bearing other names of Kisna Atreya, Punarvasu and Candrabhagi as all these names are in the Caraka Samhita as well as in the Bhela and Kasyapa Samhita and are supported by references to Atreya. In other books like the Mahabharata in similar contexts. The verse in the Bhela Samhita is very significant as it combines the names of Candrabhaga and Punarvasu in reference to the teacher of medicine. Nagnajit, the saintly king of Gandhara, giver of the path to gold, grasped the feet of Candrabhagi Punarvasu in obeisance and inquired.

Thus the verse provides us with a confirmation of the identity of Candrabhaga with Punarvasu and also offers a clue as to the period of Atreyas existence, in the period of his disciple, the king of Gandhara named Nagnajit. Caraka Samhita mentions, as his contemporaries who participated in the discussions on various medical topics, the king of Kasi named Vaamaka and Nimi, the king of Videha. Thus this leads us to the question of the period of Atreya in the chronicles of ancient Indian history.


  1. It refers to Caraka Samhita .
  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India