The reign of Gupta Kings may be called the golden period of Indian history. The university of Nalanda was established during the reign of Kumara Gupta I (414-445 A.D.), which also dealt Ayurveda as one of the subjects along with other oriental sciences of India. In this period, the old treaties of different disciplines, including Ayurveda were redacted.
During the ancient times acaryas of Ayurveda: had written voluminous works on different specialties, which were not tangible to medicore stundents. So, the time demanded concise texts or Handbooks, which cover the essentials of all the eight branches of Ayurveda. Acarya Vagbhata fullfilled this need. At first, he composed a treatise titled 'Astanga Sangraha' by collecting materials from Caraka Samhita, Susruta Samhita and other available texts. Afterwards various authors composed a number of works in different periods.
During 5th to 15th century, many a number of commentaries on Brhattrayi and Laghutrayi were written. The commentators also expressed their own concepts while writing their treatises. In the same period, Nighantus also were composed. Acarya Vagbhata found the tradition of compilations, which has put an end to the original writings like those of Caraka, Susruta etc. He stands at the juncture of Samhita period and medieval period.
Vagbhata was the son of Simhagupta and the grandson of Vagbhata. He belonged to the region of river Sindhu. His father and grandfather were great scholars of Ayurveda. He was the disciple of A valokita, the chief monk of Mahayana Buddhism. He was the author of Astanga Sangraha and Astanga Hrdaya also. The author himself says, 'By churning the great ocean of medical science, a great store of nectar by name Astanga Sangraha was obtained. From that store of nectar has arisen Astanga Hrdaya for the benefit of less intelligent persons'. Plenty of references are found pertaining to Hinduism and Buddhism in Astanga Sangraha, which suggest that Vagbhata was born in a Hindu Brahmin family and adopted Buddhism in the later life. Basing on the available internal and external evidences the date of Vagbhata can be fixed between 4th & 5th century AD.
Astanga Sangraha is one of the authentic texts on the science of life, and hence it has been grouped under Brhattrayi along with Caraka Samhita and Susruta Samhita. The name of the treatise itself suggests that it is a compilation of the eight branches of Ayurveda such as: Kaya, Bala, Graha, Urdhvanga, Salya, Damstra, Jara and Vrsa. Out of all eight branches of Ayurveda, Acarya Caraka gave top priority to General Medicine, where as Susruta discussed the Surgical aspects in detail in his treatise Susruta Samhita. Keeping this in view, Acarya Vagbhata gave equal importance to all eight branches and composed a treatise known as Astanga Sangraha.
The text, Astanga Sangraha consists of 6 divisions and 150 chapters as under:
1. Sutra Sthana - 40 Chapters
2. Sarira Sthana - 12 Chapters
3. Nidana Sthana – 16 Chapters
4. Cikitsa Sthana – 24 Chapters
5. Kalpa Sthana – 8 Chapters
6. Uttara Tantra – 50 Chapters
Sutra Sthana deals with the basic principles of Ayruveda, Preventive measures. Diet, Dietetics, Classification of diseases and Methods of treatments etc. Sarira Sthana deals with Embroyology, Anatomy and Physiology. Nidana Sthana contains Etiology, Pathology, Signs & Symptoms, and Prognosis etc. Line of treatment of different diseases (Kayacikitsa), Diet, Care of patient etc. was dealt in Cikitsa Sthana. Kalpa Sthana deals with the Formulations and Methods pertaining to Elimination therapy, Principles of pharmacy, Weights and Measurements etc. Uttara Tantra, the last section has 50 chapters alloted to other remaining seven branches.
Sasilekha is the only available Sanskrit commentary on Astanga Sangraha, which was written by Indu. It is quite elaborate and explains the text clearly, and hence it helps to understand the subject matter very clearly. Though prior to Indu, many commentaries were written, unfortunately none of them are currently available.
Only Sutra Sthana of Astanga Sangraha was prescribed by C.C.I.M. as a textbook for 1st B.A.M.S. students. In the recent days many a number of translations in Hindi and also in regional languages are available in the market. As a teacher of Astanga Sangraha for the past ten years, I have identified the need of a study material in English prepared in a precised and concised manner for the benefit of the students. The present book entitled A Handbook of Astanga Sangraha, the name itself suggests that it is an abridged one and the translation of Vagbhata's work. In this book, I have incorporated only the important quotations and the summary of each and every chapter according to the need of the freshly joined students of Ayruveda. At times, the order of Sanskrit quotations are also being altered. In the present work, Latin names of the drugs, certain photographs as well as line diagrams are incorporated for a better comprehension. I hope, this book will be useful for the students in unterstanding the Basic Principles of Ayurveda.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to my parents, teachers, students and friends who helped me directly and indirectly during the compilation of this book. I am very much grateful to Shri Janardhana Naidu, I.A.S., Commissioner (Retd.), Dept. of AYUSH, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh for giving me the opportunity for writing this book. My special thanks are due to my 'Teacher' Prof. K. Nishteswar, for his constant encouragement and support in continuing the academic activities. I am also thankful to the authorities of M/s Chaukhamba Surbharati Prakashan, Varanasi for their meticulous care in publishing this work.
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