Charaka Samhita is one of the oldest, most authoritative and comprehensive works ever written in Ayurveda. It is thought of as the original book of reference of holistic Ayurvedic medicine. The term ‘charaka’, in Sanskrit, means a wandering religious scholar, student or an ascetic.
Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita are the foundational texts of Ayurveda that have survived since time immemorial. Earliest forms of Charaka Samhita are dated to 900 BCE – 600 BCE while the later editions referred today might have come to picture around 400-200 BCE. Well, it is considered as one of the most ancient and important authoritative writings about Ayurveda. In fact, it is not known exactly who the writer was or whether it is a collective work of some “school of thought.” There is a belief that it could have been written by a team of scholars or a group of followers of a person named Charaka. Or, it could rather be the original composition from one person named Charaka. Some people are of the opinion that this work is a redaction of Agnivesha Samhita (which has 46,000 verses), a much older and more voluminous work.
Charaka Samhita is an Ayurvedic encyclopedia, especially on medicine. Charaka is written in Sanskrit in poetic style. Poetry form was used mainly for the purpose of memorizing easily. There is a lot of valuable information spread across this work and these are scattered over a myriads of sutras (verse statements) in the manuscript. Well, in those days, this style really helped the aspiring students to easily memorize the sutras. The extant text of Charaka Samhita has eight sections, collectively called astanga sthana with a total of 120 chapters that contain 8400 metrical verses. These verses are probably committed to memory by the contemporary medical students learning Ayurveda.
Charaka Samhita describes the philosophy and logic on which the Ayurvedic medicinal system is based. Charaka states that science is largely dependent on an intellectual quality which facilitates it to observe and understand the phenomena that was brought into existence by a number of causes. Most part of this extensive work is in a symposium form wherein several groups of Ayurvedic scholars involve in a range of topics for discussion. Well, this proves the fact that the science of Ayurveda is an end result of consistent verification, enhancement and authentication by an intellectual and active community of scholars and physicians.
Charaka Samhita focuses on kayachikitsa or internal medicine. The book largely involves the theory of internal fire or the body’s digestive function or in modern terms, internal medicine. From a greater point of view, this extraordinary work is a representation of a particular value of consciousness because it provides a notion that this life is basically a field of pure knowledge and intelligence.
Charaka lays special emphasis on health and longevity and to strike a good balance between a person’s spiritual and corporeal being. That is why, during diagnosis, it goes down to the roots to find the origin of a disease.