Jainism and Ayurveda Connection, Contribution

By Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Jainism also known as Jaina Dharma or Sramana Dharma is one of the long living popular religious sects, like Buddhism. Followers of Jainism are available not only in India but also worldwide.

Confusion regarding the existence of Jainism –
While some people believe that the Jaina Dharma belongs to the 6th century BC, the others opine that it is linked with Vedic period. As a proof of this, one could also find the references of the names of some Jain Tirthankaras (heads or spiritual leaders of Jainism sect) mentioned in Vedic treatises.


Jaina Dharma comprised of 24 Tirthankaras. They are:

  • Rishabha dev
  • Ajita
  • Sambhava
  • Abhinandana
  • Sumati
  • Padmaprabha
  • Suparshwa
  • Chandraprabha
  • Suvidhi
  • Seetal
  • Shreyans
  • Brusu pujya
  • Vibhatwa
  • Ananta
  • Dharma
  • Santi
  • Kunth
  • Ar
  • Mital
  • Muni suvrat
  • Nemi
  • Arishta nemi
  • Parshwanath
  • Mahavir

Among these 24 Teerthankaras, Mahavir or Mahaveera was the most popular one and Jainism is often identified by his name.

Rishabha dev, the 1st Tirthankara

He was supposed to be a king and was born in the Ikshwaku region (Ayodhya). He was also the man who was thought of bringing civilization to the Indians. He is said to have lived for 109 years. Later it is believed that his son Bharat ruled the kingdom.

References relating to Rishabha dev are available in Rigveda, Yajurveda and also in the holy treatise Srimad Bhagavad Gita. He was the most popular profounder of the Jaina Dharma. Much information is not available about the rest of 22 Tirthankaras.

Parshwanatha, 23rd Tirthankara

Parshwanatha was considered as a historical personality. The references about him are available in the Brahmanas (rituals) also. Tulsidas, the author of Ramcharitmanas (story of Rama or Ramayana) has described him as the incarnation of God. He was born 250 years before Mahavir.

Parshwanatha was the son of Ashwasen, the Kasi king. His mother’s name was Lama. At the age of 30, he left all his wealth and all other comforts to become a monk. He was in meditation for 83 days on the Sammegha Mountain. On the 84th day he acquired wisdom. Since then he started to propagate ‘Dharma’ until his last breath. He died at the age of 100 years.

The parents of Mahavir were followers of Parshwanath. Parshwanath did not believe in Vedas. He believed that everyone is eligible to attain salvation or Moksha.

Mahavir, the 24th Tirthankara

He is the most famous leader and preacher of Jainism. Though he was not the founder of Jainism, he made some reforms in the tradition which was coming down from ages. He was born in the year 599 BC in a Kshatriya family. He belongs to the Kunda village near Vaisali, Muzaffarpur district in modern day Bihar. He was the son of Siddhartha and Videha Datta (Trishala, Priyakarini). He had a daughter named Priyadarshana.


After Mahavir, Ganadhar, Pratiganadhar, Sruta kevali and other disciples succeeded that seat and propagated Jainism in and around the country.

Ayurveda in the Jain Literature

Pranavaya – Similar to Buddhists, Jains too had a distinguished tradition of medicine known as ‘Pranavaya’. It was the 12th division of Agama and was prevalent prior to Mahavir.

Definition of health – The science of vitality was defined as ‘that which maintains the health of body and mind’.

The Ashtanga reference – The ‘Ashtanga Ayurveda’ or the 8 branches of Ayurveda were mentioned in Jain literature.

Health consciousness among Jain saints – The Jain saints used to preserve their health. Hence it is essential for them to have the knowledge of Medicine in both aspects i.e. preventive aspect and curative aspect. Without the knowledge of medicine, we would not expect the Jain saints to have a good health and a long life span.

Avoidance of animal products in the form of medicine – Jains are very much particular in observing the rules of conduct, especially non-violence. In medicine too they avoided the usage of honey, meat, alcohol etc. They also modified the formulations accordingly, as per their convenience and suitability.

Medicinal kits – Physicians used to carry the kit containing important herbs and formulations, as well as instruments for attending medical and surgical cases respectively.

Mention of medicinal plants – Many plants which have medicinal value and properties are found explained in Jain texts in different contexts

Unaccepted fruits – Many fruits were not acceptable by Jain monks for consumption. In Jain literature we can find mentioned the list of fruits which were avoidable by Jain monks and nuns. Example, Mango, grapes, ginger, mustard stalks, wood apple, coconut, lotus, sugarcane, garlic etc.

Personal and mind hygiene – Cleanliness of the body, speech and mind (kaya-vak-mana shuddhi) as well as personal hygiene was carefully observed during those times, the references of which are available in Jain treatises.

Diseases and treatments – Many diseases and their treatments are found explained in Jain literature, namely boils, leprosy, consumption, epilepsy, anaemia, diabetes, arthritis, lameness, blindness, vomiting, dysentery etc.

Classification of plants – Plants were classified into the below mentioned categories:

  • Vriksha – Tree
  • Gachcha – Plant
  • Gulma – Shrub
  • Latha – Creepers
  • Valli – Climbers
  • Trina – Grass

Animal classification – Just like plants, the description and classification of the animals into different categories have also been mentioned.

Metals and minerals – Description of metals, stones, sulphur, mica etc are found whereas mercury, which was adequately used in Ayurveda was not found mentioned in Jain books

Methods of treatments – Many treatments explained in Ayurveda have also been mentioned by Jain authors, namely Emesis (Vamana), Purgation (Virechana), Fumigation (dhupana), Anointing (snehana, abhyanga, samvahana) etc

Sin connection – Jains believed that diseases occur due to sinful acts and so they paid greater attention to rituals to prevent diseases.

Ugradityacharya and Kalyanakarika – The only authoritative text available on the Pranavaya tradition (medical system followed by Jains) of medicine is Kalyanakarika. It was composed by Ugradityacharya. He was the contemporary of Amoghavarsha-1, the Rashtrakuta king (815-877 AD).

Ugradityacharya mentioned the names of the famous authors of different branches of Ayurveda as under –

  • Kaya Chikitsa (general medicine) – Darasadha Guru
  • Bala Chikitsa (paediatrics) – Meghanada
  • Graha chikitsa (idiopathic diseases, psychiatry, microbiology) – Siddhasena
  • Visha chikitsa (Damshtra as in Ayurveda, toxicology) – Siddhasena
  • Shalya Tantra (Surgery) – Patrapada Swami
  • Shalakya Tantra (ENT, ophthalmology) – Pujyapada
  • Rasayana (Geriatrics) – Simhanada
  • Vajeekarana (Aphrodisiacs) – Simhanada
  • All the 8 branches – Samanthabhadra

Jain contribution

Contribution of Jain Preceptors for the Development of Ayurveda

Ashtanga Sangraha (Ashtanga Ayurveda)
This was the work on Ayurveda which deals with all the 8 branches of the Ayurveda (as mentioned above). It was composed by Samanthabhadra. Ugradityacharya also has quoted some references from Ashtanga Ayurveda in his treatise Kalyanakarika. Presently this work is not available. (This is a different work from Ashtanga Sangraha, one among the Brihat Trayees or Greater Trio of Ayurveda, written by Acharya Vagbhata)

Siddhanta Rasayana Kalpa
This is one of the most important works in Jain literature. The original actually contained 18,000 verses and dealt with all the 8 branches of Ayurveda. This treatise is also not available. Around 3000 of those verses have been collected (from various resources) with great difficulty.

The treatment mentioned in this book was according to the Jain principle i.e. all the formulations were formulated keeping ‘non violence’ in view.

Sheuli flower Parijat

Pushpa Ayurveda
Pushpa means flowers. Pushpa Ayurveda deals with formulations made up of flowers. In this book, about 18,000 formulations prepared from various types of flowers were incorporated by the author Samanthabhadra. Till now, no such work is available in the history of Ayurveda. This, therefore shall be considered as the most valuable and unique contribution of Jain Acharyas towards the medical science.
Contribution of Pujyapada
Pujyapada was one of the most popular preceptors of Jain tradition. He was very well versed in various subjects like Vyakarana, Vaidya, Yoga, Rasashastra and Darshanas. He belonged to Digambara tradition of Jainism. His original name was Devanandi, also called as Jainendra Buddhi.

Cleanliness of body, speech and mind were observed by Jains. Pujyapada composed the following works as under –

Vaidya Shastra – to clean the body
Vyakarana Shastra – to clean the speech
Samadhi Tantra – To clean the mind
He had a very good knowledge of both herbal and mineral medicines.
The references of mineral formulations composed by Pujyapada are available in Basawarajeeyam, Ratnaprakasha Sudhakara and also in Kalyanakarika.

In Basavaraajeeyam, more than 32 formulations were taken from the work of Pujyapada.
Information regarding the works of Pujyapada is noticed in the 46th inscription, which is available at Nagar taluk, Shimoga District in Karnataka state of South India.

Kalyanakarika and contribution of Ugradityacharya
This was a treatise composed by Ugradityacharya. It is also known as ‘Vaidya Sara Sangraha’ or ‘Sara Sangraha’.|
Jaina Siddhanta Bhavan, Ara of Bihar, published Kalyanakarika in the name of ‘Akalanka Samhita’.

The author has stated that in his work, he had taken the references from various Ayurvedic texts like Vagbhata Samhita (Ashtanga Sangraha), Sushruta Samhita, Harita Samhita etc.

Various mineral formulations composed by Samanthabhadra and some powders, pills, etc from Pujyapada were also quoted by Ugradityacharya

Kalyanakarika contains 20 chapters and Uttara Tantra 5 chapters and the last two chapters are known as Parishishta Adhyaya which deals with Arishta (inauspicious things and events) and Hita, Ahita (wholesome and unwholesome foods).

Chapters and content of Kalyanakarika:
Chapters 1-3 – deals with basic concepts
Chapters 4 and 5 – deals with food and drinks including Anupana (post drinks for medicines)
Chapter 6 – deals with Dina charya (daily regimen), Ritu Charya (seasonal regimen) and Rasayana (geriatrics)
Chapter 7 – Principles of treatment, diagnosis of patient, arrangements in the hospital etc
Chapters 8-20 – deals with various disorders and their description

Uttara Tantra:
Chapter 21 – deals with Kshara karma (application of alkalis, alkali cauterization), Agni Karma (fire cauterization), Jalouka Prayoga (bloodletting through leech application), Siravedhana (bloodletting through vein puncture) etc
Chapters 22 and 23 – deals with Panchakarma (5 cleansing treatments)
Chapter 24 – deals with Mercury and its processing in detail
Chapter 25 – deals with various formulations like Haritaki, Shilajatu etc.

Other important works on Ayurveda by Jaina Acharyas –

  • Vaidyamrita
  • Shalakya Tantra
  • Nadi Pariksha
  • Nidana Muktavali
  • Madana Kama Ratnam
  • Netra Prakashika etc

Summing Up –
Ayurveda is an ocean of medical knowledge and an unparalleled life which teaches us the way of living in a right and healthy way. The principles of prevention and treatment, daily regimen, seasonal regimen, the circle of goodness, and many more basics explained by Ayurveda has never been touched so comprehensively by any other medical science. Thus it is not an exaggeration to tell that Ayurveda is the mother of all medical sciences. Almost all the medicinal systems were influenced by Ayurveda and were built and modified on the basics provided by this ancient science. Ayurveda has influenced the life and art of living and guided people to live healthily at all junctures of evolution and during different era, Jainism being no exception.

The influence Ayurveda had made on Jainism and the contribution of Jain thinkers, teachers, preachers and authors towards Ayurveda is mutual and exemplary.

2 comments on “Jainism and Ayurveda Connection, Contribution

  • v.r.k.raman

    05/01/2017 - 2:26 am

    very interesting article. Can you explain, why ginger.mango
    sugarcane,grapes , coconut were avoided by jain monks?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      15/01/2017 - 3:53 pm

      I will leave the opportunity to answer this question to any of my Jain friends here.
      (I do not know the answer).

      Reply to comment

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