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Atreya introduced the science of healing while Caraka redacted the original tantra of sage Agnivesa. Krsna Atreya's[1] teachings on the discipline of medicine was recorded by Agnivesa. Agnivesa codified the knowledge and arranged it in the form of a Treatise which forms the basis of the "Caraka Samhita". Krsna Atreya expounded the science of Kāyā-Cikitsā to his six pupils among whom Agnivesa was one of them. Krsna Atreya's six disciples were:

  1. Agnivesa
  2. Bhela
  3. Jatukarna
  4. Parāśara
  5. Harita
  6. Ksara-pani

Agnivesa's intellect was believed to be superior to his co-students and his treatise was acknowledged by the sages as the most authoritative. He was equally adept in the field of war along with medicine. He studied archery under Bharadwaja and Agastya. Bharadwaja gave him the Agneyastra which Agnivesa gave to his pupil Drona. This Astra was called Brahmasirah.[2]

Significant role of the Sage Agnivesa in Compilation of Medical Science

Agnivesa became the foremost compiler of the science which also received the approval of the committee of experts that declared it to be the best of all and over time, it became the authoritative text-book on the science of healing. The book penned by Agnivesa is called Agnivesa Tantra still continues to be a reference book by modern day Ayurvedic doctors till date.

Agnivesa Tantra

The Agnivesa-tantra originally consisted of 12,000 verses but at present it is not available in it's entire form. It is likely that he finished the monograph, as there are references available mentioning it in Caraka Samhita. There is a controversy in this regard as some commentators like Indukara don't believe that he finished the treatise[3]. There are a few contradictory statements throughout the text that have furthered this confusion. For example, in the Siddhisthana [4], Drdhabala describes the meeting of the learned sages under the guidance of Atreya implying that the Agnivesa-tantra was available in Drdhabala's time. However, a few statements of Drdhabala also leads one to the conclusion that Agnivesa-tantra was not available in his time.

Redaction of the Agnivesa Tantra

The original seventeen chapters and the sections on Pharmaceutics and Success in Treatment in the treatise composed by Agnivesa and revised by Caraka have not been found. However, Drdhbala added seventeen chapters in the section on therapeutics and also two sections of Pharmaceutics and Success in Treatment in Caraka Samhita by extracting his data from various treatises on the science. Drdhbala was a redactor, not a commentator. He consulted all the available treatises in order to revise and up-date the text as accurate as possible. It is a common practice not to name basic text which was being redacted as it is taken as the foundation for the dissertation. Hence it can be concluded that whether these seventeen chapters are based on Agnivesa Tantra or not is uncertain.

Evaluations and interpretations of the redacted text and detailed inspection of all the possibly available evidence indicates that the original text of Agnivesa existed as the basic text for Drdhabala. The style and language of the original texts of Agnivesa, Caraka and Drdhabala can be distinguished on minute examination of the text. There is a mixture of the styles and diction in nearly all the chapters implying that Agnivesa-tantra did exist in the time of Drdhabala. The fact that Agnivesa tantra existed even after Vagbhata is supported by multiple facts. For example:

  • Jejjata, a pupil of Vagbhata quotes some verses from Agnivesa tantra. These verses are not from Caraka Samhita and hence he must have quoted from the original Agnivesa tantra.
  • Tisata, son of Vighbala, in his Cikitsā mentions Agnivesa as a distinct authority which implies that the Agnivesa-tantra existed in his time.
  • Cakrapani, the commentator of Caraka Samhitā who existed in the 11th century CE cites pharmaceutical preparations which are found in the Agnivesa Tantra and not Caraka Samhita.
  • Sodhala lived in 12th Century CE mentioned a few recipes of Vandya from Agnivesa-tantra.
  • Kanthadatta, the commentator on Vrnda's Siddhayoga who lived in the 13th century A. D., has stated few verses which are not from Caraka Samhita and hence it can be presumed that they have been taken directly from the Agnivesa-tantra itself.
  • Sivadasa Sen who lived in the I5th century CE quotes Agnivesa-tantra[5].
  • After that period no more citations from the Agnivesa-tantra are available except one suggestive reference by Gangadhar Sastri in the 19th century CE.

Different Names of Agnivesa

Agnivesa was also known as Hutasa, Hutasavesa, Vahnivesa Hutasa and Vahni and later authors used one or more of these names for the purpose of variation. The commentator Cakrapani, while beginning the benedictory verse refers to Agnivesa by one of these alternative names. There is a usage of name Vahnivesa of Agnivesa in Charaka Samhita[6].

Other Works

Besides the elite work on Ayurveda, several other works are also ascribed to Agnivesa:

  • Anjana Nidana, a treatise on diseases of the eye is written by sage Agnivesa. He is also quoted by Vagbhata, Bhavamisra, Tisata and Rudra-bhalla and other authors. There are two or three commentaries written on this book.
  • Nidanasthana, a treatise on pathology, is authored by Agnivesa.

Agnivesa, Son of Satyaka

One other person named Agnivesa, son of Satyaka, is mentioned in Majjham Nikaaya. He had taken part in the philosophical debate with Gautama Buddha. He was the pupil of Atreya, hence we can conclude that he existed during the Satapatha[7] period. Points supporting this belief that places him in Satapatha period, apart from the argument of his contemporaneity with Atreya.

  1. He lived before Panini as we find references to Taxilla in Panini, while reference of Taxilla is absent in Agnivesa Samhita. No author of the versatility of Agnivesa could afford to neglect mentioning Taxilla if it were a flourishing center of medical learning in his time
  2. In the Panini Sutra, Jatkarna, Parasara and Agnivesa are all names of physicians that occur together indicating that Agnivesa lived before Panini's period. Jataakarna and Parisara were co-students of Agnivesa.
  3. Hemaadulaksana quotes from Silhotra, a last of Ayurvedic authors. In it Agnivesa, Harita, Ksarapani and Jatu karna are mentioned and were co-students
  4. Satapatha Brahmana refers to the descendants of Agnivesa


  1. He is also known as Punarvasu.
  2. >The weapon Brahmasirah is also called as Brahmāstra.
  3. Indukara was a commentator of Astanga Sangraha
  4. 4th chapter of the Caraka Samita
  5. It is a verse that is not found in Caraka Samhitā.
  6. In Siddhisthan 12th chap, verse 53 Agnivesa is referred to as Vahnivesa
  7. Satapatha means stupor
  • Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India