Sage Bharadwaja – The Unsung Hero Of Ayurveda

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Sage Bharadwaja was the person who brought the divine science of Ayurveda from the celestial world to the world of mortals, from the heaven to the earth.


Sage Bharadwaja’s name has been quoted in the Ayurveda Avatarana i.e. the step ladder descent of Ayurvedic wisdom from the creator Lord Brahma to the mortal world, to different sages and masters of Ayurveda who propagated it to the successive generations of students and scholars for the benefit of mankind. But the name seems to be lost amidst all others.
Read – How Ayurveda Originated? Detailed Explanation [Video]

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This sage selflessly learnt Ayurveda from Lord Indra and taught it to his disciples and colleagues for the benefit of mankind, to ward off diseases and grief from the earth and to establish comprehensive health. Sage Bharadwaja is mentioned as ‘the father of Ayurveda’ in the Wikipedia page dedicated to him.

Role of Bharadwaja Muni

Role of Sage Bharadwaja in propagation of Ayurveda
Sage Bharadwaja volunteered to go to Lord Indra to seek the knowledge of health from King of Gods.

Backdrop of Sage Bharadwaja going to Lord Indra to learn Ayurveda

Manifestation of diseases which troubled the mankind – It was a time when many diseases had haunted the living beings. These diseases had meddled into the life of common man interrupting all his activities. The diseases not only bothered human beings but also crippled them. Some diseases even caused death of large masses.
Read – Lord Dhanwantari ‘The God of Ayurveda’

The great sages took caution – The great sages of that time got really worried about the scenario wherein the diseases were consuming health and lives. They were hampering the life of people who otherwise had led their lives conducting themselves in day to day activities including meditation, fasting, celibacy, spirituality, studies and other holy rituals. The other lives i.e. animals, birds, everything were afflicted by these diseases.
Read – Ayurvedic Preventive Healthcare: Swastha Urjaskara Chikitsa

Meeting At Himalaya

Meeting of sages in the Himalayas – The great sages, with a kind heart and an intention to do good to the ailing mankind decided to meet at the Himalayas. Their sympathy was not only towards the ailing mankind, but also was towards all life on earth. As scheduled, they all met at the holy Himalayas, in a pre-selected diving piece of land.

Sage Bharadwaja attended the meeting of sages at Himalayas – Below mentioned sages, including Bharadwaja assembled in the Himalayas to discuss about the possible remedies for the diseases troubling all life.

Angira Jamadagni Vashishta Kashyapa Bhrigu
Aatreya Goutama Sankhya Pulastya Narada
Asita Agastya VamadevaMarkandeyaAshwalayana
PaarikshiBhikshu AtreyaBharadwaja KapinjalaVishwamitra
Aashmarathya Bhargava Chyavana Abhijit Gaargya
Shaandilya Kaundinya Devala Gaalava Samkrutya
Varkshi Vaijavapi KushikaBadarayana Badisha
Sharaloma KapyaKatyayana Aavubha Kankayana
Kaikasheya Dhaumya Maricha KashyapaSharkaraksha
Hiranyaksha Lokaksha Paingi Shaunaka Shakuneya
MaitreyaMaimatayanaVaikhanasa Balikhilya  

Apart from the above mentioned sages, many other sages also attended the symposium, but the mentioned sages were important. We can find the name of Sage Bharadwaja in the list of participants.
Read – 6 Comprehensive Ayurveda Preventive Healthcare Tips

All these sages were no ordinary sages. They were abode of immense knowledge and had perfected over yama and niyamas (first two limbs of Ashtanga Yoga). They scattered immense light of knowledge and glowed in the fire of penance as if they represented the sacrificial fire. All of them sat calmly with utmost concentration and dedication on the agenda of discussion and started discussing about the possible remedies and the pathway to find them to get rid of the diseases afflicting all life with sympathy in their hearts to the creation.
Read – Yama – Meaning, Classification, Benefits

The discussion in the symposium of sages – The sages focused on the diseases that had caused obstacle for achieving the four main goals of one’s life i.e. righteousness, ethical earning, meaningful wishes and spiritual liberation. If a person has to achieve his goals of life, he has to keep his health intact because only good health could enable a person to achieve these pursuits. Diseased person cannot fulfill the first three pursuits, he would obviously not get liberated i.e. do not attain moksha. He cannot free himself from the miseries of the life and finds himself recycling in the vicious cycle of life and death.
Read – Niyama – Types, Meaning, Classification, Benefits

The sages wondered what the remedy for all these diseases is and where the remedy for these diseases lies. This was the golden question for which they were seeking the answers. After questioning themselves and discussing a lot about the possible remedies all the sages went into a trance, into a state of meditation. The sages, through their divine vision saw that Lord Indra, the king of Gods had the remedies for these diseases and they need to approach him in seek of the remedies. They knew that Lord Indra would definitely help them out in this perspective. The opinion was common among all sages.
Read – Ashtanga Yoga – Eight Branches Of Yoga

Sage Bharadwaja volunteers to go to Lord Indra to seek remedy for the diseases
Lord Indra, who was the master of the knowledge of Ayurveda, the science of life, was the one they needed to approach to seek the remedies for the diseases and learn the wisdom of Ayurveda for the welfare of all living beings. The next question was to send a representative to the abode of Lord Indra as all of them could not go to him. They needed a sage who could reach the celestial kingdom of Indra, to reach the heaven. To do that they needed a powerful sage who had the capability to travel to different terrains with his divine power.
Read – Acharya Charaka – Work, Samhita, Legacy, Chapters, Description

The inevitable question was raised, ‘Now, who among us is the right person to go to Lord Indra?’

Without any hesitation sage Bharadwaja stood up and volunteered to go to Lord Indra. ‘Kindly appoint me as representative of all great sages to carry on this noble task of approaching Lord Indra for the welfare and good of mankind’ the great sage said.

All the great sages were happy when they saw sage Bharadwaja volunteering to go to Lord Indra. Their problems seemed to be sorted out. All the sages unanimously agreed to send Bharadwaja as their representative to Lord Indra.

Sage Bharadwaja was immensely powerful and had the capability to reach the celestial kingdom of Lord Indra. He also was wise enough to learn everything that Indra teaches him. Bharadwaja said that he would learn Ayurveda from Indra and come back to the sages and in turn teach the same to all the sages so that the knowledge could be passed on to the successive generations of sages, scholars and students for the benefit of mankind.
Read – Introduction to Hippocratic Medicine

After he was unanimously selected without opposition to conduct the noble task, sage Bharadwaja, with a purpose of knowing the secrets of longevity of life and to learn the divine science of life i.e. Ayurveda started his journey towards the abode of Indra, after considering Lord Indra as a kind hearted Lord who would readily help anyone going to his abode in seek of help. He would be creating history now. He would be the one who would bring the science of health i.e. Ayurveda from the heaven to earth, for the welfare of mankind.

Bharadwaj meets Indra

Sage Bharadwaja reaches Lord Indra, learns Ayurveda – Sage Bharadwaja, who was nominated to go to Indra to learn Ayurveda reached the abode of the King of Gods. When he reached, he found Lord Indra sitting in between the sages and Gods. Lord Indra who had killed a ferocious demon named Bala, was glowing like radiance of the fire.
Read – Sufferings And Health Of Spiritual People – Ayurvedic Analysis

Before this, Lord Brahma remembered Ayurveda, the science of longevity of life, which was already in his memory from time immemorial and taught it to Prajapati, the manager of creation (also known as Daksha). This meant that Brahma knew Ayurveda right from the moment he had created the world. He was beholding it in his mind with an intention to expound it only when the proper time comes, when there would be a need to propagate it. When Lord Brahma felt that his subjects would suffer from some diseases, he propagated Ayurveda to Prajapati.

Later, Daksha Prajapati taught Ayurveda to Ashwini Kumaras, the celestial twin physicians (physicians for Gods). Ashwini twins taught Ayurveda to Lord Indra in due course of time. Thus, before Bharadwaja approached Lord Indra, the knowledge of Ayurveda had descended from Brahma to Indra in an unadulterated form.
Read – Meditation By Watching Mind: Stages, Method, Benefits

Sage Bharadwaja totally submitted himself to Lord Indra. He praised Indra with good words and hymns and impressed him. Lord Indra would be his guru, his teacher now. He narrated his intent of coming to the Lord’s abode and about the pledge of great sages towards the welfare, health and longevity of all life on earth. He said – ‘Oh great Lord Indra, many diseases have manifested on the earth which are causing panic, trouble and death of all lives. I have come as a representative of all the sages, with a good intention of learning the science of Ayurveda, the science of life from you my Lord. We shall use the same knowledge for the welfare of all living beings. I kindly request you to bestow me the knowledge of the remedies for these dreadful diseases’.
Read – Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana Chapter 1 – Quest For Longevity

Indra recognizes sage Bharadwaja as a brilliant genius and acknowledges his intentions. Lord Indra accepts to bestow the knowledge of longevity of life and Ayurveda over Bharadwaja. Lord Indra, without wasting time teaches Ayurveda in a concise way, in very few words, in a short time. He taught everything he had learnt from Ashwini twins in an unadulterated way, without concealing any information.

The reason for Indra to teach Ayurveda in a nutshell, in few words was because he knew that sage Bharadwaja was wise enough to learn and understand the science of longevity in a shorter version and also that the sage was a good student and a quick learner. We know that too much need not be told and taught to brilliant students. The secret message was that sage Bharadwaja did not need any clarifications as he understood everything in one take, without any doubts. Therefore Lord Indra found it easy to teach Bharadwaja.
Read – Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutra Sthana Chapter 1: Basic Principles of Ayurveda

Trisutra of Ayurveda

Sage Bharadwaja learnt Trisutra Ayurveda from Lord Indra – Trisutra Ayurveda is a concise form of Ayurveda wherein the whole essence is explained under three basic concepts which form the foundation and mainstays of this medical system, for any medical system in fact. They are –

  • Hetu – causative factors of a disease
  • Linga – signs and symptoms of a disease
  • Aushadha – the medicines used to cure a disease

Read – Trisutra of Ayurveda – Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

What else constitutes a medical science other than these?
Hetu helps in identifying the causes of the disease. Keeping away the causative factors is said to be the best way to treat any disease in Ayurveda. Therefore, knowing the causative factors of diseases helps in preventing the occurrences or recurrences of diseases, and also in treating the diseases because the causative factors need to be segregated from the equation if the patient needs to recover from the diseases.
Read – Nidana: Meaning, Word Derivation, Definition

Linga helps in diagnosis of a disease because each disease comes with its own set of its signs and symptoms.
Read – Roopa – Symptoms: Definition, Types, Benefits of its knowledge

Aushadha includes the medicines, treatments, dietetic and lifestyle changes, dos and don’ts, preventive measures and everything which is done in order to cure the disease in totality.

The three root principles are not just applicable to the diseased, but also to the healthy because health and disease are the sides of the same coin. The primary aims and goals of Ayurveda also is twofold, i.e. ‘to secure the healthy status in an already healthy individual’ and ‘to cure the disease in an ailing person’.

This was what sage Bharadwaja had come to learn from Lord Indra and it was the same knowledge which the lord bestowed on the learned sage. Lord Indra taught the Trisutra Ayurveda which was eternal and auspicious, to sage Bharadwaja, the same which the creator Lord Brahma had recollected from his spiritual vision.
Read – Ayurvedic Definition Of Health – WHO vs Ayurveda

Sage Bharadwaja returns to earth, teaches Ayurveda to his colleagues and students – After learning the complete essence of Ayurveda in a methodical way, sage Bharadwaja attained healthy and blissful longevity of life. After having experienced the benefits of this divine science for himself, sage Bharadwaja came back to the Earth, after having thanked Lord Indra and shown the gratitude towards his teacher.
Read – What Is Ayurveda? 5 Dimensions Of The Ancient Indian Health Wisdom!

On coming to the earth, sage Bharadwaja teaches Ayurveda to all his colleagues and students, as he had promised them to do before he went to Lord Indra. He taught the science of longevity of life to all sages in the same way that he had learnt from Lord Indra, neither less  nor more, but the exact knowledge he had learnt.

All the sages who also desired longevity of life, learnt the science of life Ayurveda with utmost dedication, faith and interest from the great sage Bharadwaja. Now these sages who had learnt under Bharadwaja would further teach the same Ayurveda to their students in the coming days. And this legacy would continue.
Read – Aptopadesha Pramana – Features, Description

The sages, with the help of their divine vision saw and understood the 6 padarthas or substances i.e. –

  • Dravya – substance / object
  • Guna – qualities
  • Karma – action
  • Samanya – equability
  • Vishesha – disparity
  • Samavaya – inseparable concomitance

The sages after having understood these things in right terms, enjoyed longevity of life and health following the golden guidelines and principles laid in the core of Ayurveda.
Read – Yukti Pramana – Knowledge through Intelligence

Sage Bharadwaja’s next generation students – Sage Bharadwaja taught and preached Ayurveda to many sages, seers and students. Among them the best student was Atreya, who is also known as Punarvasu Atreya, one of the great teachers and pioneers of Ayurveda.
Read – Acharya Atreya – legacy, works, contribution to Ayurveda

Atreya, who was kind hearted, with a compassion towards all living beings and with an intention of taking Ayurvedic wisdom to the further generations taught the auspicious Ayurveda to 6 of his best students, in an unadulterated way, in the same pattern that he had learnt from his teacher sage Bharadwaja. The disciples who learnt under sage Bharadwaja were as enlisted below –

  • Master Agnivesha
  • Master Bhela / Bheda
  • Master Jatukarna
  • Master Paraashara
  • Master Haarita
  • Master Ksharapani

They were highly intellectual. They would go on to document the teachings of Bharadwaja and give the form of scriptures to Ayurveda, for the first time in the history of the evolution of this divine medical science.

Agnivesha was the most brilliant of the lot and was the first person ever to document Ayurveda, as taught by his teacher Bharadwaja in a written form. This treatise was called Agnivesha Tantra. This would in future days be revised and redacted by two more genius sages of Ayurveda, Master Charaka and Master Dridhabala, in that order. The treatise would go on to become one of the most read, respected and praised treatise in the world of Ayurveda in the name of ‘Charaka Samhita, and would also become one among the three great treatises i.e. ‘Brihat trayees’.
Read – Brihat Trayi: The 3 Treatises That Form The Foundation of Ayurveda

The other 5 disciples too wrote the treatises in their names which became popular in their own ways.

This would mark the beginning of propagation of Ayurveda in a documented way and would make learning Ayurveda easy in the days to come.

Sage Bharadwaj, an unsung hero – Bharadwaj was the bridge of Ayurveda, who selflessly brought Ayurveda from heaven to earth, to humbly teach Ayurveda in an unadulterated way to his disciples for the benefit of mankind and for laying the foundation of Ayurveda on earth, which could have never been accomplished without his contribution. This makes him an unsung hero of Ayurveda.
Read – Anumana Pramana: Types, Description, Ayurveda Examples

Contributions of Bharadhwaj

Life and works of Sage Bharadvaja in a nutshell

Sage Bharadwaja was also known as Bharadvaj or Brhaspatya. In Vedic texts, his name has been mentioned as Bharadvaja Barhaspatya. Barhaspatya refers to sage Brihaspati, his father. We can find his name mentioned in Rigveda, Shatapatha Brahmana, Mahabharata and Puranas. In later Puranic legends he is stated to be the son of sage Atri. (read)

Buddha too names 10 sages, calls them ‘early sages’ and makers of ancient verses. Bharadvaja finds his name among these 10 sages.

Credentials –

  • Bharadwaja is the initiator of the ‘Bharadwaja Gotra’ of the Brahmin caste. He is the third in the row of the Pravara Rishis i.e. top ranked sages. His name comes after Aangirasa and Barhaspatya. He is the first name in the Bharadvaja Gotris.
  • He is said to be one of the most revered sages of Vedic period, in ancient India.
  • He was also an eminent physician, economist and scholar.
  • He has contributed immensely to the Indian literature, mainly Puranas and Rig Veda. His works give an insight of the Indian society of his times.
    Read – Veda and Upaveda – Introduction
  • He along with his students is considered to have authored the sixth book of Rigveda. Bharadwaja is one among the seven great sages i.e. Sapta Rishis.
  • Rishi Bharadwaja is said to be the father of the warrior Brahmin, Dronacharya, a main character and teacher for Pandavas and Kauravas in the epic Mahabharata.
  • Sage Bharadvaja’s mention in Ayurveda – Bharadwaja has been mentioned in Charaka Samhita, an authoritative ancient Indian medical treatise. Maharshi (great sage) Bharadwaja is considered to be the ‘Father of Medicine (Ayurveda)’. References from Charaka Samhita tell that sage Bharadvaja had learnt Ayurveda from God Indra.

Baradwaj as an author
Below mentioned are some treatises named after Sage Bharadwaja or attributed to him.

Rigveda – Bharadwaja and his disciples have authored the 6th mandala of Rigveda. They have also attributed to some Rigvedic hymns.
Dhanur Veda – of Mahabharata, is a sub-veda treatise on archery
Bharadvaja Samhita – a text of Vaishnavism
Read – References Of Health And Ayurveda In Mahabharata

Sections in Ayurveda – Bharadvaj theories on medicine and causal phenomenon is described in Charaka Samhita. Example – Bharadwaja states that an embryo is not caused by wish, prayers, urging of mind or mystical causes, but it is produced from the union of a man’s sperm and menstrual blood (ovum) of a woman at the right time of her menstrual cycle, in her womb. Gerrit Jan Meulenbeld tells that Bharadvaja is credited with many theories and practical ideas in ancient Indian medicine.
Read – Health Definition According To Mahabharata

Niti Shastra – a treatise on ethics and practical conduct
Bhardwaj Siksha – treatise on phonetics Bharadvaj Srautasutra and Grhyasutra

Contrasting theories about Bharadvaja according to epics and Puranas
According to a legend – Bhardwaj married Susheela. They had a son named Garga and a daughter Devavarshini.

According to other legend – Bharadvaja had two daughters. Ilavida married Bishrava and Katyayani married Yajnavalkya.

According to Vishnu Purana – Bharadwaja had a brief liaison with an apsara named Ghritachi. Their son was Dronacharya. According to Mahabharata epic Bharadvaja trained Drona in the use of weapons.

According to Ramayana – In the epic Ramayana, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana meet sage Bharadvaja at his hermitage at the start of their 14 year exile. His name appears at various times in the epic
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