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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 32  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 179-181

The Pathyāpathyaviniścaya of Viśvanātha Sena

Director and CSO, AVP Research Foundation, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication17-Dec-2013

Correspondence Address:
P Ram Manohar
Director and CSO, AVP Research Foundation, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
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How to cite this article:
Manohar P R. The Pathyāpathyaviniścaya of Viśvanātha Sena. Ancient Sci Life 2013;32:179-81

How to cite this URL:
Manohar P R. The Pathyāpathyaviniścaya of Viśvanātha Sena. Ancient Sci Life [serial online] 2013 [cited 2023 Mar 21];32:179-81. Available from: https://www.ancientscienceoflife.org/text.asp?2013/32/3/179/123004

Author: Vishwanatha Sena
Editors: Vaidya Mahendrapal Singh, Dr. M.M. Padhi
Rs. 150

Binding: Paperback

Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences

The Pathyāpathyaviniścaya of Viśvanātha Sena is an important work on Ayurvedic Dietetics that was composed in the 16 th century CE. This work was acclaimed all over the country as an authentic work on therapeutic dietetics. It was translated to Telugu, Bengali and Gujarati in early 20 th Century and in 1999 into Hindi by Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS). Presently, the book is out of print and remains neglected by the academic community of Ayurveda.

Viśvanātha Sena seems to have been a native of Bengal who had settled in Orissa. He discloses that he is the grandson of Tapana Sena who was honored by PrataͿparudra, the Gajapati King of Puri, Orissa (1497-1540 AD). The time of Viśvanātha Sena is fixed tentatively as 1510-1580 in the introduction to the work published by CCRAS. Meulenbeld erroneously ascribes the date of the Pratāparudra to Viśvanātha Sena, though he observes that he is the grandson of Tapana Sena.

Following to a great extent, the nosological arrangement of diseases by Mādhava, the Ayurvedic expert in diagnostics, Viśvanātha Sena has summarized the dos and don'ts for about 75 diseases; covering almost all the diseases well-known to Ayurveda in his times. P.V. Sharma has also noted the similarity of the sequence of diseases with the Cakradatta. He has also listed the indications and contra indications of diet, regimen and therapy with respect to the three dos.as as well as the six seasons. This makes the Pathyāpathyaviniścaya work one of the most comprehensive and exclusive treatises on therapeutic dietetics in the history of Ayurveda.

Apart from covering about 75 major diseases, the book also devotes a section on supportive regimens to be followed in diseases with co-morbidities, i.e. when a patient is suffering from more than one disease. Supportive regimen is also given for the three dos.as and according to the seasons.

The Pathyāpathyaviniścaya is comparatively a small book comprising of around 600 verses (540 according to CCRAS and 611 according to Prof. Meulenbeld). The CCRAS publication is not chapterized, as the sections dealing with a particular disease are very brief.

Pathyāpathya, which includes therapeutic dietetics, behavior, regimens and adjuvant therapies, began to emerge as an independent discipline only after the 15 th Century CE according to Prof. P.V. Sharma. &#ivadāsa Sena of the 15 th Century CE makes mention of such a treatise. The Yogaratnākara composed in the 17 th Century CE has borrowed many verses from the Pathyāpathyaviniścaya. Thus, this treatise is a landmark in the development of therapeutic dietetics and regimen as an independent discipline the evolutionary history of Ayurveda.

The Pathyāpathyaviniścaya is unique because it provides a succinct summary of diet, behavior, regimen, adjuvant therapies and medications that are indicated and contraindicated in a particular disease. It is perhaps one of the earliest independent treatises on therapeutic dietetics and regimen. Though Rasaśāstra was well established in India in the time of the author, herbal substances are predominantly mentioned. Opium is not mentioned in the work. Musk is mentioned and the Materia Medica is more or less classical.

At present, good English translations of Ayurvedic textbooks dealing exclusively with therapeutic dietetics is not available. Previous translations into other Indian languages are not available in print any more. The Hindi translation published by CCRAS is out of print and the available copy reveals grammatical mistakes. Moreover, indexes and scientific names of plant, animal and mineral sources have not been included in this edition.

The title of the book seems to suggest that the book deals with diet, but a careful reading reveals that the author has used the term Pathya in the sense of wholesome and therefore includes diet, life-style and medications that are indicated and contraindicated in specific diseases.

It is quite a surprise to see many sophisticated surgical procedures being listed and recommended in a book that apparently seems to deal with dietetics. Many of these specialized interventions have not been mentioned in the classical texts of Ayurveda.

In the section on atisāra (diarrhea), cauterization with a surgical instrument in the form of a crescent moon two finger width below the umbilicus or at the tip of the vertebral column is advised. On the other hand, in grahan.ī (sprue), the same procedure is advised at a point two finger width above the umbilicus or at the tip of the vertebral column in the shape of a moon. In Pān.d.u (pallor), cautery is advised in the joints of the feet, two finger width below umbilicus, the forehead, in the shoulder joint and at the midpoint between the axilla and the nipple of the breast. In Śvāsa (dyspnea), cautery is to be done in the chest region, fingers and neck. Cautery with burnt turmeric in the feet and two finger width above the umbilicus is advised in hikkā (hiccough). In vomiting, the cautery is to be done at a distance of length of three yava grains above the umbilicus.

In thirst, it is advised to cauterize the veins under the tongue using burnt turmeric. Appropriate surgical measures are advocated around the umbilicus region for management in ascites. In hernia, cautery is to be done at the groins in the shape of a half-moon along with bloodletting from the arms and any other surgical measures that are appropriate have also been advised. In tumor of the neck, the vein on the back of the tongue is to be cauterized. Furthermore three lines may be marked with a surgical instrument covering half of the man.ibandha (wrist) area. Hemorrhoids are another disease where cautery, bloodletting and surgery have been indicated. Surgery is indicated in ripe abscess and also sinus and fistula. Bloodletting is indicated in many diseases.

In almost all the diseases the relevant cleansing therapeutic procedures are indicated or contraindicated. Emesis, Purgation, Enema, Nasal Purge, Oiling, Fomentation are all mentioned wherever they are relevant. For example, purgation is contraindicated in the first phase of fever (tarun.a jvara).

In the management of hemorrhoids, the following advice is given-"Purgation, Anointment, Bloodletting, Chemical Cautery, Thermal Cautery and Surgery are to be done." In skin diseases, vomiting is to be done every fortnight and purgation every month, nasal purge every 3 days and bloodletting once in 6 months.

Emesis has been specifically contraindicated in management of obesity characterized by buildup of excess fat in the body (atimātram.0 tūpacito viśes.āt vamanakriyām.-verse 311).

It is thus evident that the book details with advice on specific and advanced treatment. One would have expected the author to give greater emphasis on diet and lifestyle considering the fact that the main argument or theme of the book is that diet and life-style by itself can cure diseases and without those even medication will not be fruitful. If that is the case, then the question arises as to why advanced medical interventions are listed in the text, which is very specific to particular diseases. From this observation, it may be concluded that the author did not fully advocate to the extreme view of curing all diseases with diet and life-style alone and also accepted the role of medications. On the other hand, he makes it clear that medicines need the support of dietary and life-style modifications to give optimum results.

It is important to note that although therapies and treatment strategies for diseases are listed, only few medicinal plants, which are very important for the management of a disease are mentioned. Names of formulations are virtually absent. In other words, only the strategic approach to treatment has been listed.

Specific advice is given on life-style modifications with reference to particular diseases. Sleep during the day, exposure to sun, exposure to moon, walking long distances, traveling, exercise, types of rooms and buildings, lying on bed, bathing, brushing the teeth and so on are indicated or contraindicated in specific diseases.

Many diet articles are indicated and contraindicated with respect to specific diseases. Most are vegetables, fruits, grains and water, milk and milk products etc. Food preparations are also mentioned.

Fresh flowers and fruits of plantain are indicated in diarrhea. This is an interesting recommendation and not seen in the classical texts. This is also mentioned in grahan.ī or sprue. In the context of diarrhea, it is mentioned as "navam rambhāpus.paphalam". This leaves some room for speculation as to whether unripe or fresh plantains are intended to be taken. However in the context of sprue, it is clearly mentioned that young or unripe plantain fruits should be used-"ram.bhāyāh. kusumam. phalam. ca tarun.am.". Although the word "navam0" can mean new and also unripe fruit, the word "tarun.am" is definitely indicating unripe plantain. It is interesting to think about the suitability of unripe plantains in management of diarrhea and sprue. Unripe plantain fruits are also recommended in Pān.d.u or Pallor. Plantain fruits have been recommended in the management of hemothermia (raktapitta). In this case, it seems to be the ripe fruits that would be useful. Another interesting use of plantain for hemothermia is the recommendation of Plantain leaves as a bed. The flowers of plantain have been indicated in thirst and dehydration and also in hyperacidity (amlapitta).

The book pathyāpathyaviniścaya is an important work to be studied to understand the concept of treatment that blended medicine, life-style and diet and gave more emphasis to diet and life-style around the 15 th Century CE.


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