Is Āyurveda Videshi or is it just another case of Greediocy ? The Battle for Āyurveda begins …

Author: Dr.Priyanka Shandilya.

Editorial Note: This article is part of a Series on the purvapaksha of Western interpretations of Āyurveda. The claims and arguments made in the paper AGNI AND SOMA: A UNIVERSAL CLASSIFICATION” by Dominik Wujastyk are examined with the traditional drishti. Serious claims as to Ayurveda’s “foreign” origins are made by Wujastyk. The interesting and well known phenomenon of Greediocy ( colorful coinage by Prof. C.K.Raju) , is the most plausible explanation of Wujastyk’s thesis.

Obviously, Western history of Greeks is of very inferior quality, since the tacit norm is that stories about Greeks need no evidence and must be accepted on mere faith in Western authority: it is only stories about others which require evidence! That is why I use the term Greediots to describe people who fantasize about all sorts of scientific achievements by Greeks without any evidence, starting from the “Pythagorean theorem”: if they can believe in that they can believe anything on their blind faith.

Prof. C.K.Raju

Using the supposed Agni-Soma dichotomy as the initial divisive wedge , Wujastyk elaborates a Greek theory of Ayurveda’s origins. Key fundamental principles like TriDosha are disregarded. Dr.Priyanka highlights the deep flaws in the arguments, by highlighting the Panchabhoutikata basis of the Ayurveda ontology.

Removing Āyurveda (or any Bharatiya knowledge system/ construct) from its dharma context, is one of the standard strategies of the Videshi methodology, especially when attempting to digest and malign the “source” of knowledge. Discussed by Rajiv Malhotra in the context of the phenomenon of Digestion and the U-Turn theory, and by few others like Prof C.K.Raju in the context of Academic Imperialism, this “research” by Prof.Dominik Wujastyk is very much an exemplar of these insidious “videshi” academic phenomena.

Academics, scholars, IKs need to understand the seriousness of the issues posed by systematic institutionalized Digestion. Bharatiya Knowledge systems have been bearing the brunt of this for centuries. Modern Independent India has made no significant effort to nurture the civilizational “roots” of Bharatiya Knowledge. Tragically, even efforts which supposedly have been purposed to “revitalize”, ministries like AYUSH, constantly look to the West for legitimacy and approval. In fact, policy makers look up to videshi scholars like Prof. Wujastyk to evaluate and interpret Bharatiya vidya-s like Āyurveda.


Author & DW: D.Wujastyk, S.S: Sushruta samhita, C.S: Charaka Samhita

Ancient Indian sciences envisaged the whole world to be coming under the “Dichotomy” with “Agni”(~Fiery) and “Soma”(~Soothing) entities as its components, which ayurveda too concurs with1.“Agni-Soma –A Universal Classification”2 is a work authored by D.Wujastyk  that discusses the relevance/significance of “Agni-Soma” dichotomy in the context of ayurveda.

Author says, the “Agni-Soma” dichotomy appears from time to time in the ayurvedic literature3, as a dual classification of the universe and forms an important fundamental concept in ayurvedic literature. He further mentions the presence of “Agni-Soma” as “Deities” and as a “Tenet” in Vedic literature4. Introducing the upanishadic thought on the same, the author quotes Frauwallner’s work that discusses the doctrines of “Fire(Agni)-Water(Soma)-Breath(Vayu/Prana)”, that deems “Breath” doctrine a “failure” 5 and “Fire” as the most of important among them. It is at this juncture that the author brings in the idea that, the TRIDOSHA of ayurveda was formalised only sometime around Buddha’s period6.

Further discussing the “Agni-Soma” dichotomy in the ayurvedic context, he narrates seven instances7 from ayurvedic literary canon quoting specifically the S.S, as he believes that the dichotomy/duality is much more lucid and pronounced in S.S in comparison to C.S8. Six instances talk about the Agneyatwa-soumyatwa” and one about “Ushna & Shita”(Virya~Quality/Potency) both in relation to the “Agni-Soma-ness” of the universe.

Author navigates through the references from Greek philosophy, furthering an argument that, the “Phlegm” and “Bile” (Greek humors), the incarnations of “Water” and “Fire” elements respectively, are nothing but “Pitta” and “kaphadoshas of ayurveda9. Author draws parallels between the Greek concept of “Oppositions”(Hot-Cold,Black-White etc,.)9 and Agni-Soma” of the Indian thought claiming that the “Dosha” theory of ayurveda is actually a “TWO PLUS ONE”10,“Vatabeing a recent entrant  to the tightly bound Indian thought of “Two dosha”(Kapha+Pitta), alleging “Tridosha” theory to be post-vedic11.  He also goes on to claim that, a vigorous description of Vata12was made in the Ayur-treatises only to prove its antiquity, and makes it look as if vata was an appendage. Author concludes by stating that the “Agni-Soma” had a Greek parallel i.e the “Hot-Cold polarity” and that the concept had an “INDO-IRANIAN” origin13.

Fact check

Is “Tridosha” a paradigm of post-vedic era? Is the theory of Greek “Hot/cold polarity” analogous to “Agni-Soma” of Indian idea? Are “Greek Humors” same as “Dosha” of ayurveda? Are these paradigms not exclusive to India? Did they have contemporaries? These are some of the issues that need to be addressed before we acknowledge the work which “appears” unprejudiced/authentic and very Indian, as rigorous.

“PANCHABHOUTIKATA”: An eternal ingraining in Indian sciences.

Before we refute the views theorised by the author in the article, it is important for us to know what the whole idea of “Agni-Soma” is about. Ayurveda propounds that everything in the universe both animate-inanimate is essentially composed of “FIVE BASIC ELEMENTS/Panchamahabutas(Pruthwi-Ap-Agni-Vayu-Akasha), but in different proportions14 gifting distinctiveness to each and every being/object. The “Panchabhuta” paradigm forms the cornerstone of ayurveda devoid of which ayurveda is inconceivable.

Based on the dominant element among the five, the object is termed as “Parthiva”(Dominantly earthy)/Apya/Agneya/Vayuvya/Akashiya”. This tenet of “Dominance” is termed as “Bhooyastwa15. This brings us to “Agneya”-“Soumya” concepts cited by the author in the seven instances.

What is “AGNEYA” and “SOUMYA”?

Agneya”16,17 is that, which has the innateness of “Agnibhuta adhidevata(~Agni-diety)”and has dominance of “Agni guna”. “Soumya” is that which possesses the nature of “Soma bhuta adhidevata(~Soma-diety)” and possesses dominance of “Soma guna”. Despite the dominance of one element-Guna, an object/a being is essentially “five elemental” i.e the concept of “Agneya-Soumya” has a “Panchabhoutik/Five elemental” underpinning to it18.

Agni-Soma”(Dichotomy) are the macrocosmic forces that govern the “Agni-Soma” reflections of the “microcosm”(body). The significance of this dichotomy is not so much as the author is trying to portray in the article as being the “sole tenet” in the ayurvedic context. Rather, it is an idea of convergence and narrowing down of multiplicities to “Agni-Soma.

Author repeatedly tries to make an exact comparison of “Agni-Soma” concept of the vedic-upanishadic thoughts with that of “Agni somiya-ness of the universe” that shows up occasionally in the ayurvedic literature. Undisputedly the “principle” behind the “Agni-Soma” of Vedas is continuous with that in ayurveda. But the significance of this classification in Ayur-treatises is to emphasize the idea of convergence of the concepts. It does not have an independent-key position in ayurvedic texts. Ayurveda   essentially has “Panchabhoutik” background which the author fails to mention. “Agni-Soma” definitely is not a replacement to “Tridosha” which the author is trying to prove. However, the “vedic-upanishadic” orientation of “Agni-Soma” may need a more spiritual perspective which could only be furnished by Vedic scholars and not Indologists.

Panchabhuta” paradigm forms the soul of ayurveda. Body is panchabhoutik so is the world around us. It is through the ingestion of five elements in the form of food, that the body gets nourished19. Every component in the body has all the five basic elements in different proportions so do the doshas. The reason why the manoeuvring of the bodily components like doshas,dhatus etc., is possible through  “Food/Medicines” because they too are five-elemental.

The Seven instances cited by the author as propounding “Agni-Soma”dichotomy is only half true. In these instances the “Agneyatwa-Soumyatwa” are discussed by ignoring the inseparable underpinning of the “Panchabhoutikata”, making “Ushna-Shitaguna” (Quality) “Agneyatwa-Soumyatwa”, “Agni-Soma” seem one and the same.

What, if the “Agnisoma-Agneya soumya-Hot-cold” are deemed to be same. These are the vital subtleties by manipulating which, false conclusions garbed as “authentic-high on fact” are drawn.  

The author cites “kechit mata”(~Someone’s opinion) from S.S appearing in the context of “Six Rasas/Tastes20, that says that all the six tastes come under dichotomy as the entire universe is “Agneya/soumya”. However, this is not the intent of S.S as it goes ahead with describing every “taste” individually and the chapter dealing with six-rasas/tastes verily starts with the description of “Five-Elemental-ness of “Six Rasas”. D.W says “Unfortunately we don’t know who “Kechit/Some people” are. But, there is nothing unfortunate about this, because such (kechit)views neither are deemed authentic nor endorsed by “Samhita-karas”and is only suggestive of various theories current then21.

The “Elemental” conflict

The comparison between “Hot-Cold polarity”,“Apollonian-Dionysian”22,23 principles and “Agni-Soma” of Indian tradition is undesirable. Because “Hot and Cold” are the  “Qualities” of “Fire” and “Water” elements respectively, the two among the “FOUR basic elements”(Earth-Water-Air-Wind) of Greek philosophy. The “Black bile-Yellow bile-Phlegm and Blood” the Greek humors are descendents of these “FOUR elements24. Now, is the “Humor” theory of Greeks similar at all to the “Tridosha” of Indian tradition?

HUMOR v/s DOSHA

Greek-humors cannot be likened to “Doshas” of ayurveda, as the very conceptualisation differs greatly. Greeks propound only “Four basic elements” and four Humors24  which represent them and are all said to be “liquid”25. This is non-congruous with the “Doshic” paradigm, because the tridoshas are Panchabhoutik(5elemental)” with two elements in dominance i.e Vayu+Akasha being dominant in VATA, Ap+Agni in PITTA  and Pruthwi+Ap in KAPHA.

Also unlike the Greek idea of Humors being liquids, Kapha-pitta doshas have a “structure” while, vata is “formless”26. The “structure/form” of “Kapha” could be both ~solid and ~liquid27.

Author in his article claims “asymmetry”28in the “Doshic theory in ayurveda”, whereas the asymmetry in the humor theory exists in the greek philosophy with 1.Pre-Hippocratic philosophy propounding “TWO Humors”(Bile-Phlegm)29 and 2. Hippocratic one propounding “FOUR”30. Both the Greek theories are not comparable at all to “Tridosha”(three-doshas) concept. The notion of asymmetry in “Dosha-Theory” is sown by few western authors in their effort to compare and superimpose the two dissimilar principles of “Apollonian–Dionysian” idea of Greeks with “Agni-Soma” of Indian philosophy.  

Author claims that the Indians originally knew only of “Agni-Soma” and their  descendents “Pitta-kapha” dosha9. He claims that “VATA” the most powerful “Macro-Microcosmic” force was later added to the duo only during the Buddha’s era6. But, in fact a continuous stream of eloquent description of “Vayu/Vata” is strongly palpable right from the Vedic-Upanishadic literature to the ayurvedic treatises. Throughout the ayurvedic literature “Vata” is seen along with pitta-kapha doshas forming a triad. Therefore, claims of “Vata/vayu” having been added only later is ridiculous.

THE INSEPARABILITY BETWEEN “TRI-DOSHAS” w.s.r

 Loka-Purusha Samya”(~Semblance between macrocosm and microcosm)

While attempting to  establish ”vata” as an add-on, the author fails to mention or rather skips some of the key verses emblematic of the harmony and relatedness between the THREE Macrocosmic forces (Wind-Sun-Moon) and “THREE dosha”(Vata-Pitta-Kapha) in the microcosm31. Like other Indian doctrines “Loka-purusha samya”, has both corporal and ethereal layers, the elaboration of which is found in the texts based on the subject matter (adhikarana).

One might argue that, the verses containing “Vata” were only superimposed later. “Tridosha” is so widely mentioned in the ayurvedic classics that, every other verse/concept that one stumbles upon, deals with “Vata-Pitta-Kapha”, and is essentially “tridosha” centric with an inseparable “panchabhoutik” embedding.

S.Samhita says “VISARGA-ADANA-VIKSHEPA” are the three functions of “~Moon-Sun-Wind” in the universe and of Kapha-Pitta-Vata in the body32respectively. This verse of VIKSHEPA illuminates two vital issues

1.VIKSHEPA=PRERANA33/Stimulation” a function of “VATA” and how “Pitta-kapha” are dependent on it

2.The term “KSHIPTA34 a variant of “VIKSHEPA” is seen in Atharvaveda.

1.“VATA” is extensively praised in ayur-literature for its tremendous power and ability of “VIKSHEPA”/to-stimulate/give momentum to” other structural entities in both micro and macrocosm33.Vata” is defined as the “NETA/Leader” of the “Army”(Kapha-Pitta), annihilation of which would annihilate the latter35. This phenomenon plays an important role in treatment & diagnosis. “VATA” is never isolated and should always be seen in relation with “Kapha-Pitta”. Any change in the body will sooner/later or in bigger/smaller way will affect “VATA” and vice versa.

The inseparability of the “Vata” with pitta-kapha can be noted in clinical condition called  Avarana36(A clinical condition principally of Vata but influenced by fellow doshas), seconded by the concept of “THREE forces” regulating the “micro-macrocosm”. S.Samhita in the context of “Twelve Pranas (Vitalities)37” mentions the TRIO of  “AGNI (Sun) – SOMA (Moon) – VAYU (Wind)and not just the Agni-Soma duo. Hence, “Vata” being a later addition to “Kapha-pitta” theory, lacks merit.

“LOKA PURUSHA SAMYA” describes the “THREE deities (Vayu-Agni-Soma)”along with number of other deities and their “Bodily/Microcosmic” reflections38. Since the time these deities/forces came into being in the universe, their microcosmic reflection were naturally there. So the question of “Vata/Vayu” being unknown to Indian sages does not arise. These concepts existed since the beginning of the beginning-less creation and are all eternal39.

2.”Kshipta”in Atharvaveda: An evidence of continuity

Dasguptaji terms “KSHIPTA” appearing in Atharvaveda as “madness”, which western authors like J.Filliozat34 do not accept. In their effort to de-link ayurveda from its vedic roots, they say “kshipta” doesn’t refer to “madness”.

But, the translation of “kshipta” as “madness” fits accurately from the ayurvedic perspective. According to C.S, “Turbulence in mana/chitta” is a “disease of VATA40.Kshipta” refers to “activity/stimulation” of the “chitta~mind”.

VI-KSHIPTA (a variant of “kshipta”) is used multiple times in the contexts suggesting “Stimulatory function” and also in the contexts referring to stimulatory/Scattered state of “Chitta/mind”41. Mandukya Upanishad also concurs with this meaning42. So, these are suggestive of “kshipta” being “madness” or rather “stimulated/fickle mind”. However, this can be further clarified by Vedic scholars.

Summary of Purvapaksha :

The paradigm of Agneya-Soumyatwa of the universe is undoubtedly a part of India’s continuous tradition which is evident across Indian sciences and is rather a “CONVERGENCE” of the panchabhoutik tenet, in ayurvedic context.

Applicability of “Agneya-soumya” without the underpinning of panchabhoutikata is unthinkable and impossible. This is where the Greek “Dual polarity /oppositions theory” vastly differs from “Agneya-soumya”.

 The very fundamental idea of “Elements”(~Bhuta) in Indian philosophy differs from that of the Greek. Comparing the two and quoting selectively would do injustice to both.

Claims of Agni-Soma” concept having been borrowed from a common “Indo-Iranian” source also is baseless, as the very “Aryan-Dravidian” theory has been scientifically debunked43.

Insinuating that the Indians knew of only two doshas originally and calling pre-buddha period as “formative” is not right. Indian sciences and the traditional knowledge system, unlike  the“Experimental”/“Trial-based” modern-day science, does not create theories/concepts that constantly change eventually getting obsolete with changing times. This knowledge is “eternal” which existed in a complete form ever since the creation and is relevant even today.

The conclusions drawn by the author are mere conjectures, as they lack documentary backing. The concept of panchabhotikata, a vital principle of ayurveda has been skipped. These omissions look habitual. Selective quoting from treatises is quite obvious in every example, specially when author talks about “Marma (~Vital points)” being “Agneya-Soumya”. Omitting the verses to follow, that describe  marmas with the nature of VAYU” and also of “VAYU+AGNI”. A verse in the same chapter describes the significance of marma and its association with “THREE” forces “SOMA-VAYU-AGNI(Three forces)44 again, omitted by the author.

Irrespective of the motives for such repeated omissions, the outcome ultimately is ,“distortion” of Indian ideas and force-fitting Greek paradigms into Indian sciences trying to make a glove out of a sock.  Such intellectual infiltration is hazardous to the deep fabric of the culture as they mutate the very way a civilisation “THINKS” and “ACTS”. Indological studies also give rudimentary translations and interpret “swadeshi” ideas with “videshi drushti”(as Sri. Rajiv Malhotra puts it) taking away the essence. These interpretations are high on history with no practical-applicability just like the one in this article.


About Author: –

Priyanka Shandilya is a practising ayurveda physician, based in Mysore. She completed under graduation and post graduation from Government Ayurveda Medical College, Mysore affiliated to Rajiv Gandhi University of Health sciences (RGUHS), Bangalore. (Read More)


References: –

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  44. https://www.deccanherald.com/national/new-dna-study-challenges-aryan-invasion-theory-759635.html
  45. https://rajivmalhotra.com/library/articles/european-misappropriation-sanskrit-led-aryan-race-theory/
  46. Sushruta samhita,Sharirasthana ,Pratyekamarmanirdesha  adhyaya ,6/16 &35 ,edited by Vaidya Yadavji Trikamji Acharya,7th edition,Chaukambha Krishnadas Academy,2008;371

3 thoughts on “Is Āyurveda Videshi or is it just another case of Greediocy ? The Battle for Āyurveda begins …”

  1. Excellent , elaborate explaination to proove thuth…Thank you..for uplifting the truth over deliberate negetiveness and lies..

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