Fascinating Evidence of the Beginning of Lengthier Monsoons and Lengthier Winters from Suśruta Saṃhitā.

Refutation of Dr. Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s Suśruta Saṃhitā claims

One of the Āyurvedic text, Suśruta Saṃhitā, is a well known text which describes surgical operations with the help of instruments also. The names of surgical instruments itself is very peculiar and have carried the earliest memories of parts from different anthropological taxa as the names of these instruments. Probably, as it appears to me, the beaks or bones of taxa would have been used by the ancients for the surgery of the fatal wounds, ailments etc and these got easily converted into metals at the advent of its discovery. I am giving here an imagery of its ancientness which cannot be avoided. Indeed, we have seen the stone axes turning into metal axes with similar size and shapes.

Suśruta stands before Charaka in the history of Āyurveda and usually is dated from 1st millennium till 5th century BC. Suśruta Historians accept the ambiguity in finding the exact period of Suśruta. Hass accept it in the12th century, Jones Wilson in 9–10th century, Macdonal in 4rth Cent. B.C, Hoernle accept 6 centuries before Vikrama Samvata, Hessler and Shriyut Girindranath Mukhopadhyaya accept 1000 B.C. On the basis of all these views Suśruta Saṃhitā, Part-1 may be 2600 years old. Acharya P.V. Sharma considers two Suśruta i.e. Vṛddha Suśruta Saṃhitā and Suśruta. He accepts Vṛddha Suśruta in the time period of Kāśirāja Divodāsa Dhanvantari*. We do not know if the Vṛddha Suśruta had internal edits from time to time, or which one has been received by us. But interestingly, we find trepanned skull from approximately 2,350– 2,050 BC (4,300–4,000 BP) found in Burzahom, in Kashmir valley and also trepanation evidence found from 10,000 BCE. This method of treatement is mentioned in Suśruta. But why do Indian peninsula so deficient of human bones, we do not find Skulls or any human bones, not even from Toba explosion times when the humans almost had gotten extinct, in the Indian peninsula. Whereas, continuation of stone implements suggests continuity of human activities post Toba also. It appears to me from antyeshti sukta that cremation could be very old tradition in India, if it hadn’t been so we would had many evidence to such surgeries. (Read here.)

Dating the text has been a nightmare to many, but genealogically it can safely be said that it belongs to before Mahabharata times. This has been critically dealt by Shri Nilesh Oak in his talks.

Yet lets see what complications the text contains within.

Historical background

One cannot avoid the little history of the known text…So let’s go into the brief history. Divodāsa, king of Kāśī and his relation to Dhanvantari is mentioned in Ṛgveda 10.179.2 (wiki say, let’s dwell upon wiki for a while), he is deemed to be the founder of the Indian school of medicine called Ayurveda. This name finds its mention in the 1st Maṇḍala of Ṛgveda also.

“Once upon a time, when the holy Dhanvantari, the greatest of the mighty celestial, incarnated in the form of Divodāsa, king of Kāśī….”, In short, if someone wants to grab on this subject then one can read in English here. I will take an account of Divodāsa later on how it has an historical impact on understanding the deep antiquity of Suśruta itself. To understand the text name, it itself apparently is clear that Suśruta himself composed the Saṃhitā. He was a pupil of Divodāsa, King of Kāśī.

The Problematic Passages on Dating of Suśruta

Firstly, one has to understand how to see the various evidence and contradictory evidence and for why they are mentioned in such a peculiar way. Secondly, if required, we will have to see the commentator’s remark and his use of other textual evidence to counter the original verse’s problems.

The Passage

इह तु वर्षाशरद्धेमन्तवसन्तग्रीष्मप्रावृषः षडृतवो भवन्ति दोषोपचयप्रकोपोपशमनिमित्त ते तु भाद्रपदाद्येन द्विमासिकेन व्याख्याताः तद्यथा भाद्रपदाश्वयुजौ वर्षाः कार्तिकमार्गशीर्षौ शरत् पौषमाघौ हेमन्तः फाल्गुनचैत्रौ वसन्तः वैशाखज्येष्ठौ ग्रीष्मः आषाढश्रावणौ प्रावृडिति. “iha tu varṣāśaraddhemantavasantagrīṣmaprāvṛṣaḥ ṣaḍṛtavo bhavanti doṣopacaya-prakopopaśamanimitta te tu bhādrapadādyena dvimāsikena vyākhyātāḥ tadyathā bhādrapadāśvayujau varṣāḥ kārtikamārgaśīrṣau śarat pauṣamāghau hemantaḥ phālgunacaitrau vasantaḥ vaiśākhajyeṣṭhau grīṣmaḥ āṣāḍh-aśrāvaṇau prāvṛḍiti” 9th of Adhyāya 6-Suśruta-Divodāsa conversation

According to some, the rainy season consists of two months known as Bhādra and Āśvina; Autumn consists of the two months of Kārtika & Mārgaśīrṣya. Hemanta consists of the two months of Pouṣa & Māgha; spring consists of the two months of Phālguna & Chaitra; summer, of Vaiśākha & Jyeṣṭha; and Prāvṛṭa, of Āshādha & Śrāvaṇa.

Pic. 1 and 2, 1. Table shown with two types of understanding of ṛtuvibhāga

Dvividha ṛtuvibhāga is being explained for the identification and rectification of ailment. The above table creates a problem in identifying the exact cardinal point. Cardinal point comprises of two equinoxes, namely Vernal and Autumnal, and two Solstices means Summer and Winter solstice. They all are 90° apart.

saṃśodhanamadhikṛtya has yet another complication, in the proper understanding of, from where (Location? or Time?) the seasons are being observed, to serve the ailing. Read the red and yellow highlighted lines in the Pic 3. Here, two types of ṛtuvibhāga are being explained on the basis of two types of, either geography or time. Kaśyapa is in favor of geography, but Cakrapāṇīdatta insist on time, and dismisses Kaśyapa’s statement of change of geography. Probably, and likely, the writer had been experiencing the abrupt change in seasons or has taken the two types of accounts from his predecessors.

Let’s see the two types of accounts, namely varṣapradhāna and śītapradhāna.

  1. इदंञ्चात्रावधेयम्। द्विविधः खल्विः दृश्यते प्राचामृतुविभागो वर्षप्रधानः शीतप्रधानश्चेति। तत्र षदृतवो वर्षा-शरद्-हेमन्त-वसन्त-ग्रीष्म-प्रावृशः इति वर्षप्रधानो विभागः।
  2. वर्षा-शरद्-हेमन्त-शिशिर-वसन्त-ग्रीष्मा इति शीतप्रधानः।
    तयोराद्यस्य प्राधान्यं सुश्रुतेऽभिहितं द्वितीयस्य चरके।

Cakrapāṇī, defends that this is not due to the observation made for the change of geography with his quote in ṭīkā of Caraka, and says

etañca na, atra “saṃśodhanamadhikṛtya’ iti vacanāt। yadi deśakṛto’yam bhedaḥ syāt, tadā tameva bhedakaṃ brūyāt, na saṃśodhanam। Tena kaashyapokta-deshabhedena prāvṛḍādikramo tāvadihābhimataḥ. — Cakrapāṇīdatta-ṭīkā of Caraka (Vimānasthāna adhyaaya 8)

Cakrapāṇī explains that if geographies were to be concerned, then the geography will be stated. We will see in the conclusion how this affects the historicity and contains deep antiquity. So bear with me for a while.

Pic. 3, courtesy Shri Nityanand Mishra

Now lets understand the verse number 9

If we map the above information then lets see how it will look like while corroborating to the above verse number 9 and we find that the commentary table and verse no. 9 are contradictory.

Figure 1

If Māghādaya is understood from Winter solstice point, then Tapa-Māgha will have to begin from Winter solstice, but it doesn’t justify Phālguna and Chaitra to Vasanta. Taking VE at the junction of Phālguna and Chaitra the time period would be 500 CE and Pauṣa will be at WS. (see Figure 1)

Figure 2

From the Figure 2 we see more complicated problem.

Overall, more than two types of timing can be ascertained with the above observations. One may correspond to the range of years from 500 CE for Phālguna and Chaitra months at Vasanta, but if Pauṣa and Māgha had to be in Hemanta, then in that case Winter solstice has to be at the end of Māgha (for māghādayo-saṃvatsara beginning; for a while lets take it from WS) and beginning of Śiśira has to be in Phālguna, in that case the timing will be going much more back in time during 2600 BCE. And if we align further on other cardinal points then …..

“If we align the timing of Kartika/Margashirsha with the Sharad season to mean the point of fall equinox was at the intersection of Karitka/Margashirsha, it lead us to the time of ~3000 BCE.” — Nilesh Oak

“Sushruta Samhita states the following lunar months for the specific seasons of the year. If we understand lunar month of Bhadrapada as the beginning of the Varsha season, i.e. lunar month of Bhadrapada coinciding with the time of summer solstice, it leads us to the time of ~4000 BCE.” — Nilesh Oak

“If we perform sensitivity analysis by taking into account various sources of variations (Adhika masa, delaying of corrections to seasons/lunar months shifts, etc.) we may thus define this time interval to be a broad time interval of 5000 BCE…” read here

….all of the above are possible.

The original verse says

Pic.4

In this verse it states that māghādayo dvādaśa māsā dvimāsikaṃ ṛtu means 12 months of two seasons each making six seasons. But original verse doesn’t mention any lunar name, like Chaitra vaiśākha etc., of the solar counterparts tapa-tapasya, madhu-mādhava etc. It was commentator’s evaluation. But the commenter himself is puzzled so he brings in the rāṣī names given by Shāraṅgadhara for more correct observation.

ग्रीष्मो मेषवृषौ प्रोक्तः, प्रावृण् मिथुनकर्कटौ। सिंहकन्ये स्मृता वर्षा, तुलावृश्चिकयोः शरत्। धनुर्ग्राहौ च हेमन्तो, वसन्त कुम्भमीनयोः।

grīṣmo meṣavṛṣau proktaḥ, prāvṛṇ mithunakarkaṭau। siṃhakanye smṛtā varṣā, tulāvṛścikayoḥ śarat। dhanurgrāhau ca hemanto, vasanta kumbhamīnayoḥ। — Śāraṅgadhara

Lets see how this looks like…

Figure 3.

Here Śāraṅgadhara solves myriad problems by introducing the sūryasankrāntī with Kumbha and Mīna in Vasanta appended to dvividha ṛtuvibhāga which can possess the problems of identifying saṃvatsara with adhikamāsa, kṣayamāsa, and furthermore in identifying the cardinal points due to five year yuga system prevalent in vedic as well as saiddhāntic times. We already saw that Saṃvatsara beginning to always happens from Vasanta-Viṣuva whether in Vedic texts or Saiddhāntic text. If one is not acquainted with my blog one can read “When did the head of the ṛtus and saṃvatsara separate?”( see here). Thus, to locate VE is the most important thing. The rest of the season is experiential, sometimes with prolonged rains or prolonged winters if we study the climatology of the past from Pleistocene times. We will see later how prolonged rains had to introduce Prāvṛṭa and how the feel of Hemanta was felt till Vasanta beginning. Since Meṣa etc. were measured from Chitra star thus VE, in between Meṣa and Mīna, cannot be faulted. Thus VE is at -30 deg from the beginning of the Aries (diametrically opposite of Chitra star) point between Kumbha and Mīna. Timing for this event, when calculated, is yet to arrive during ~2450 CE or it goes back to at-least~23000 BCE (lower limit).

But what about Māghādi

One must not forget that the ambiguity in reading Māghādi can happen due to adhimāsa. Sūryasiddhānta gives how to subtract chāndramāsa from ravimāsa which gives the adhimāsa. Even the change of 11 days of chāndramāsa the readings for the Sun in Phālguna, i.e., between Kumbha and Mīna can appear like Māghādi.

भवन्ति शशिनो मासाः सूर्येन्दुभगणान्तरम् ।
रविमासोनितास्ते तु शेषाः स्युरधिमासकाः ॥ १.३५ ॥ — madhyamādhikāra sūryasiddhānta

This solves that Māghādi was not at the winter solstice point as it is always being assumed to be at Uttarāyaṇa point when Saṃvatsara comes into question. I have solved this with all the evidence that Saṃvatsara began from spring season and that too from the vernal equinoctial point. Read here and here for more information as to how Vedic and Saidhāntic texts are consistent with the new year beginning from Vasanta — Viṣuva alone.

I had shown in one of my research papers presented in Vedānta conference held in JNU that the most of the ethnographic memory of their year beginning also endorses the same.

Figure 4

But whats the new observation in Suśruta Saṃhitā

We see a clear and stark observation that Suśruta is making. It does not include Śiśira in the verse 9 in particular, but certainly has included Prāvṛṭa and the feel of winter is also reduced. The difference between Prāvṛṭa and Varṣā has been explained in the Charaka-vibhāga a।8 as

prāvṛḍiti prathamaḥ pravṛṣṭaḥ kālaḥ। tasyānubandho varṣāḥ। — Charaka

Tilak’s observation

“The second paragraph then begins with the words ‘But here’ and continues to state ‘But here the six seasons are, — Varshā, Sharad, Hemanta, Vasanta, Grīshma and Prāvṛiṣh,’ thus altogether dropping Shishira and dividing the rainy period into two seasons Varshā and Prāvṛiṣh. The paragraph then proceeds to assign the months to the seasons as follows:- Bhādrapada and Āshvina is Varshā, Kārtika and Mārgashīrsha is Sharad, Pauṣha and Māgha is Hemanta, and Phālguna and Chaitra is Vasanta; and so on until all the months are assigned to their respective seasons. The second paragraph, however, makes no mention of the ayanas, the year, or the lustrum described in the previous paragraph — all points to the conclusion that the second paragraph is of the later origin and inserted with a view only to note the changes in the occurrence of the events described in the paragraph next preceding it…. — Tilak

Tilak observed it very well that the rains are now spanning for 4 months, whereas Śiśira is conspicuously absent. There is no ambiguity in dividing all these new seasons into the Rāśī pattern of 12 divisions. There are no overlaps of any season here. Lets understand what long rainy season and absence of Śiśira could mean.

From the above Charaka’s notification of prāvṛḍiti prathamaḥ pravṛṣṭaḥ kālaḥ makes us understand Prāvṛṭa and Varṣā were different. We see in the later texts and lexicons that both have become almost synonymous (why? Did the difference disappear?).

The peculiar problem of seasons in Suśruta; Is this peculiarity really a problem or does it contain memory of transition into greater monsoons…

Figure 5

The quaternary and the last glacial maximum gives a view of environmental change from colder to warmer and again colder and wetter in the tropics.

Figure 5 observation suggest that monsoons is not yet in its optimum, the effect of Vapor and elongation of the period of the rains had begun during 23,500 BCE (Phālguna months with Vasanta)~21,500 BCE (māgha months with Vasanta). Prāvṛṭaand Varṣā were different till probably 16~18 Kyrs ago, but after that, it appears, these two words became almost synonymous.

Now lets see what various seasons appears in various Indian narratives and texts and monsoon data from the past in sync with quaternary environment change in tropics

Ṛgveda knows 12 spokes of the year so when it says about 5 seasons one among which definitely is the prolonged one and that would be Hemanta before Vasanta. This gives away that snowy conditions, prolonged and the end of snow was experienced before Vasanta which goes well with northern Vedic lands during Pleistocene times and especially during LGM times. During the past 25,000 years, the Earth system has undergone a series of dramatic transitions. The most recent glacial period peaked during that time. The whole of the Pleistocene had temperatures less than the Holocene times. This gives away our understanding of Ṛgveda seasons a bit. The environment in the north was cooler and wetter during 50–24 Kyr with a warmer and wetter spell around 40 kyr, cool and dry during 24 (22 K BCE) kyr — 18 kyr. Post LGM after 18 Kyr we see that the monsoons had started gearing up — probably the time when Prāvṛṭa and Varṣā became synonyms. Our evidence is of 23,000 BCE and this period appears to be a transition period indeed. Thus Suśruta has two types of memories of ṛtuvibhāga as varṣapradhāna and Śiśirapradhāna. Should there be any ambiguity in understanding this?

Figure 6. Domination of Seasons in Ṛgveda, Shishir is absent in Ṛgveda, but 12 spokes in a year known.

Seasons in Ṛgveda are particularly peculiar just like the Suśruta. Thus, I take Season as experiential and observing. Lexicon says Ṛtu, ‘season,’ is a term repeatedly mentioned from the Rigveda onwards, Three seasons of the year are often alluded to, but the names are not usually specified. In one passage of the Rigveda spring (vasanta), summer (grīṣma), and autumn (śarad) are given. The Ṛgveda knows also the rainy season as prāvṛṣ and the winter (himā, hemanta). Hemanta, ‘winter,’ occurs only once in the Ṛgveda in 10. 161, 4. …श॒तम् । हे॒म॒न्तान् । श॒तम् । ऊँ॒ इति॑ ।otherwise the word for hemanta has been हिमाः in Ṛgveda.

Fig. 3 Six seasons as received in many Indian narratives.

A more usual division (not found in the Rigveda) is five seasons, vasanta, grīṣma, varṣā, śarad, hemanta-śiśira, but occasionally the five are otherwise divided, varṣā-śarad being made one season. Sometimes six ( उ॒तो इति॑ । सः । मह्य॑म् । इन्दु॑ऽभिः । षट् । यु॒क्तान् । अ॒नु॒ऽसेसि॑धत् । गोभिः॑ । यव॑म् । न । च॒र्कृ॒ष॒त् ॥ 1. 23, 15 RV) seasons are reckoned, which one being the sixth remains a question since śiśira word doesn’t appear in Ṛgveda, so that the six seasons can be made parallel to the twelve months of the year. Twelve months of the year are definitely known to Ṛgvedic people. द्वाद॑शारंन॒हितज्जरा॑य॒वर्व॑र्तिच॒क्रंपरि॒द्यामृ॒तस्य॑।आपु॒त्राअ॑ग्नेमिथु॒नासो॒अत्र॑स॒प्तश॒तानि॑विंश॒तिश्च॑तस्थुः॥(द्वादशारम्) द्वादश अरा मासा अवयवा यस्य तं संवत्सरम्…

Seasons are experiential in Suśruta Saṃhitā.

Interfusion of Prāvṛṭa’s elongation to Varṣā in Suśruta, an imagery of early fluctuation of monsoon in the midst of late Pleistocene and early LGM probably occurs during ~23,000 BCE

Where to place Dhanvantari Divodāsa?

Now lets come to Pratardana( प्रतर्दनः काशिराजः) who appears as a ṛṣi and mantradraṣṭā of mantra RV 10.179.002, son of Divodāsa (probably not Divodāsa atithigavya whose son was Sudās). Tenth maṇḍala is the last and the latest maṇḍala. We don’t know whether the काशिराजः is appended later or not. Daivodāsi Pratardana is known to Kauṣītaki Upaniṣad also. There he has not been described as king of Kāśi in Vedic literature and is being shown doing yāg in Naimiṣāraṇya.

Pratardana of Kāśi is the son of Divodāsa or bears patronymic name of Divodāsa. Divodāsa’s pupil is Suśruta as is stated from the shruti in the beginning of Suśruta, thus appears to be from Ṛgvedic times, and either is contemporary of Pratardana or predecessor to Pratardana.

From many of my blogs, we are observing that the timing of the end of addition in Ṛgveda is getting stuck in and around 22~23,000 BCE. It amazes me that the moon in Phālguni of Gopatha remembers this time, as if the time has stopped there. This was the time when the north completely was hit with glaciation. Cold and Dry period must have made people to move out. The memory during Māghādi was more cruel.

Conclusion

  • Seasons are experiential and truly observed in Vedas as well as in Suśruta Saṃhitā.
  • The timing of the event is 23,000 BCE, the epoch of VE between Kumbha and Mīna, It also solves the Māghādi months (11 day short to Phālgunādi each year in five year yuga system) name in sync with Kumbha and Mīna with Vasanta.
  • In the fascinating observation of King Bṛhadratha we have found the receding of ocean levels with Maghā at vernal equinox, which has already given us the clue to the dating of newest mandalas since King Bṛhadratha is present in the 1st and 10th mandala as well as in MAU to 34,500 BCE. Now we are encountering king Divodāsa whose pupil is Suśruta. It is though strange and interesting to note here that Suśruta samhitā is silent about the river names like Ganga, Jahnavi, Bhagirathi although Suśruta is said to be the pupil of Kāśīrāja**. Probably, out of few, Māgha month or Maghā nakṣatra have experienced very drastic change in the seasons that it is remembered as one of the cruel nakshatras…krūrāṇi tu maghāḥ VJ 36. Our sages just didn’t assign such words abruptly, they were keenly observing.
  • One can’t place Dhanvantari-Divodāsa in recent times and it has been clearly shown with the help of genealogy also by Shri Nilesh Oak.

References

  • Paliwal Murlidhar, Byadgi ; SUSHRUTA: A GREAT SURGEON AND VISIONARY OF AYURVED
  • ** Hari S Sharma, Sushruta-samhitA — A critical Review Part-1 : Historical Glimpse

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Rupa Bhaty

Rupa Bhaty

Architect and Adjunct Assistant Professor at School of Indic studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, MA, USA