Ancient India Medicines Bhela Samhita, Nava Nitaka, Ashtanga:
Ancient India Medicines
Bhela was one of the six students of Atreya, along with Agnivesha. He was believed to have composed a treatise called Bhela Samhita. This was not traceable for many centuries. However, in the year 1880, a palm leaf manuscript of it, composed in Sanskrit but written in the Telugu script, was found in the Palace Library at Tanjore.
This manuscript, written about 1650, abounds in mistakes. Some of it has been disfigured beyond recognition. But whatever has survived gives evidence of the same ancient tradition as Charaka Samhita does. It also has eight divisions like the Charaka.
The practice of Ayurvedic medicine entered a new phase. In this phase, instead of dealing like the Samhitas on medicine and surgery, compendia of prescriptions for various diseases began to appear. The first of such treatises which we have with us was Nava Nitaka. This manuscript was discovered by a man of Kuchar. Kuchar is an oasis of Eastern Turkestan in Central Asia on the caravan route to China.
Between the tenth and the sixteenth century, Nava Nitaka manuscript by its name or by its contents has been mentioned by different authors. It was written in the Gupta script of the fourth or fifth century. The material on which it is written is birch bark, cut into longish folios like the palm leaves of southern and western India. The contents suggest Buddhistic influence in its composition.
Ashtanga Samgraha or Ashtanga Hridya Samhita
This book studied all over India till today, particularly in the south. It is composed in a combination of verse and prose form. It was written by Vagbhata around the 7th century AD. It is predominantly based on the teachings of Caraka and Susruta Samhitas.
But it also gives its own views on different topics. Commentaries on Ashtanga Samgraha were written by Arunadatta about 1220 A.D. Hemadri. On the other hand, wrote a few decades later.
Ashtanga Hridya Samhita is divided into sutra, Nidana, Sharira, Chikitsa, Kalpa, and Uttara Sthana. This was also written by Vagbhata. It contains 120 chapters.
In this, the author quotes Charaka, Susruta Bhela, Nimi, Kasyapa, Dhanvantari, and other earlier authors and their works. In spite of this, the chief source is the Ashtanga Samgraha. It is a complete but concise description of Ayurvedic medicine with special emphasis on surgery.
Rog Vinishchaya was written in simple language and style. It was Madhavakara’s famous treatise. It is easily understandable by ordinary physicians. It became very popular and came to be known as Madhava Nidana or simply Nidana. It specialized in the diagnosis of the diseases.
The order in which it describes the causes, symptoms, and complications of the important diseases sets an example for future authors such as Vrinda, Vangasena and Chakrapanidatta.
Its description of diseases shows a significant advancement compared to Charaka and Susruta Samhita. A special chapter is devoted to small-pox. Earlier, it was described only in a minor way. It, however, literally quotes many a time, Charaka and Susruta. This shows the borrowing it made from these sources. The time of Madhavakara, however, cannot be stated with certainty.