Bhattara Haricandra aka Maheswara was a versatile genius who was famous in both the literary and medical worlds. He was the author and court-physician King Shashanka and is the oldest known commentator on the Caraka Samhita. He is estimated to have lived in the 5th century CE based on his contemporaries and the works that has taken reference from his work.
He was considered to be one of the best poets of his time due to his charming diction, style and beauty of assonance. Tributes to his work are made in:
- The beginning of Harśa-Carita by the great poet Bana.
- Gaudavaha, a Prakitra work by the literary genius Vakpati where he takes delight in reading Bhasa, Agnimitra, Kuntideva and Kalidasa
- In diction and style of Subandhu and Haricandra.
Only a few of his poetic works are available today.
Commentary on Caraka Samhita
Bhattara Haricandra authored the Caraka-nyāsa which is the oldest and most well known commentary on Caraka Samhita. Caraka-nyāsa is quoted by all other known commentators of the Caraka Samhita and is considered to be the best by authorities like Indu, Tisat and Maheswara.
Bhattara Haricandra was the contemporary of King Shashanka whose date has been established as 375-413 A. D. King Shashanka was the successor of King Vikrama but is often incorrectly identified with Vikrama or Candragupta II. There is no mention of Bhattara among the Nine Gems of Vikrama's court. Thus the date of Shashanka, viz. 5th century CE. i.e. after Vikrama is also considered to be the date of Bhattara Haricandra. He must have flourished before the 8th or 7th century A. D. which is proved by references to him by Bana and Vakpati, who existed in the 7th and 8th centuries respectively. His existence was before the time of Vagbhatta is proven by the fact that Tisata, son of Vagbhatta, quotes Bhattara Haricandra.
Candrata, grandson of Vagbhatta and son of Tisata, wrote a commentary after reading Jejjata's commentary. Jejjata was the pupil of Vagbhatta and hence Jejjata was his contemporary. There are references of Bhattara Haricandra in the works of Jejjata. Thus, Bhattara Haricandra existed before the time of Vagbhatta. Besides this, the commentary of Cakrapani corroborates this statement. Vagbhatta follows the opinion of Haricandra. Haricandra has also written a commentary on Kharanada Samhita, which was redacted later on by Indu. This Samhita was a living force until the time of Arunadatta and Hemadri.
Haricandra's commentary Caraka-nyāsa is only partially available i.e. only chapters 1-3 and 5 of the sutrasthāna are available as of now. The portions that are recovered of Caraka-nyāsa can be found in the Madras Government library.
- It refers to the quotation given above.
- The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India