Bhootavidya or Grahachikitsa (भूतविद्या ग्रहचिकित्सा वा)

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Bhootavidya (भूतविद्या) or Grahachikitsa (ग्रहचिकित्सा) is one of the 8 branches of Ashtanga Ayurveda (अष्टाङ्ग आयुर्वेदः). Bhootas (भूताः) or Grahas (ग्रहाः) are considered as some supernatural powers or celestial beings which have potential to inflict person's mind and affect his health, temperament, attitude, behavior and the complete life. The management of such afflictions or illnesses is entirely different and involves use of modalities of treatment that are beyond the physical or physicopharmaceutical dimensions.

Derivation, Definition and Synonyms of Bhutavidya.

Grahachikitsa is that branch of Ayurveda which provides knowledge of methods to diagnose and manage certain illnesses that are specifically affecting person's mind. Therefore Grahachikitsa is also popularly known as the branch of Ayurveda that deals with Psychiatry. Various synonyms are as follows

  • Bhootavidya (भूतविद्या)= Bhoota (भूताः)=celestial beings/living beings + Vidya (विद्या)= knowledge
  • Grahachikitsa (ग्रहचिकित्सा)= Graha (ग्रहाः)=celestial beings + chikitsa (चिकित्सा)=treament
  • Amanushopasarga (अमानुषोपसर्गः)= Amanusha (अमानुष)=non-human + upasarga (उपसर्गः)=affliction
  • Balagraha (बालग्रहाः) = Bala (बालाः) + graha (ग्रहाः)

Common understanding of Bhutavidya in public

The different descriptions under Bhootavidya section are mainly characterized by gross behavioral abnormalities that are categorized and named according to the similarity of expression of their behavioral breakdown to those of the ‘Bhootas’ or living beings of mythological origin viz., Asura (असुराः), Rakshasa (राक्षसाः), Pitru (पितरः), Pisacha (पिशाचाः), etc. These terms have been misconstrued widely and give Ayurvedic Psychiatry a superstitious outlook. Here the word ‘Bhoota’ is used not in the concept of spirits or demonic possession or the microbes causing infections, but in the concept of ‘living beings’ that are clearly explained by Acharya Vagbhata i.e., the similarities shown in appearance, behaviour, speech, posture, gait and other psychomotor activities to the characteristics of the respective Bhootas is the basis behind the concept of Bhootonmada (भूतोन्मादः).

The conclusive concept of Bhutavidya in Ayurveda

Mention of these seemingly mythological characters with regards mind or manas (मनः) can also be found at one more point where various types of manasa prakrtis (मानसप्रकृतिः) or guna prakrtis (गुणप्रकृतिः) in relation to Sattva (सत्वम), rajas (रजः) and tamas (तमः) are described. Guna prakrti is the type of Prakrti which is related to one's psychological status, emotions and instincts. It can be called as mind-type of an individual. On the basis of dominance of Sattva, rajas or tamas in manas of purusha, the person's Guna prakrti is considered as either Sattvik, rajas or tamas. Each of the guna prakrti has been further subdivided into different types based on specific characteristics. These subtypes are named after the deities, celestial or noncelestial beings which have similar personality like that particular subtype. e.g. Gandharva kaya (गांधर्वकाय) is a type of sattva dominant guna prakrti which is named after gandharvas (गंधर्वाः). Gandharvas are semi-celestial beings having interest in various forms of art like music, dance, grooming etc. Thus it can be said that differences in one's behavior, attitude, temperament, likings is related to one's mind and change in these parameters suggests affliction of mind by some living being having those characteristics of behaviour.

Understanding of the Bhuta ,Graha

Bhutas or grahas are also knows as Rakshoganas (रक्षोगणाः). These terms have been explained at various instances in Ayurveda literature in reference with various health afflictions caused by them.

रक्षोगणादि अथवा भूतसंघाः ॥ Rakshoganadi (Evil spirits) or Bhutasangha (other creatures)

A human being is believed to develop a disease by exogenous factors that include evil spirits and other (living) creatures etc. Such evil spirits or celestial beings are known as Bhutas (भूताः) in Ayurveda treatises. Clinical features of many such afflictions have been discussed in detail by Charaka in relevant chapters of the treatise. There are multiple shades of meanings to the terms Bhuta (भूताः) and Rakshogana (रक्षोगणाः). They have been described below.

रक्षोगणादि ॥ Rakshoganadi (Evil spirits)

The term Raksha (रक्षः) is explained by the commentator Chakrapani (चक्रपाणी) as Rakshasadi (राक्षसादि) [1]. While explaining the management of Unmada (उन्माद। Psychosis) Charaka has mentioned this term ‘Raksha’ again.[2] Commentary by Chakrapani on this term indicates that, the term ‘Raksha’ encompasses Rakshas (राक्षसाः) and Brahma rakshasas (ब्रह्मराक्षसाः). The term ‘Gana’ (गणः) indicates group. Therefore, one can include various invisible evil spirits mentioned as disease-causing entities under this group. This group therefore would include Deva (देवः), pishach (पिशाचः), Gandharva (गंधर्वः) etc.[3] Charaka has described distinct clinical features of the diseases caused due to affliction by such spirits. It is clear from the literature that, affliction by Rakshogana (रक्षोगणाः) etc cause diseases that predominantly include psychological and behavioural abnormalities. Sushruta has also mentioned various evil spirits and included all of them under ‘Devagana’ (देवगणः). The similar explanation for these terms can be found in Sushruta and Dalhana’s commentary on it.[4] [5] [6] The clinical features described by Sushruta for such afflictions also are chiefly psychosomatic.[7]

भूतसंघाः ॥ Bhutasangha (other creatures)

The term Bhuta has been used at multiple places in varied context by Acharya Charaka in Charaka Samhita. Various meanings of the term ‘Bhuta’ in Charaka have been explained in the Table 2.

Table 2: Various meanings of the term Bhuta in Charaka Samhita
Sr No Meaning of the term Bhuta Reference
1 Living beings Chakrapani commentary on Charaka Samhita Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutram 51
2 Living beings Chakrapani commentary on Charaka Samhita Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutram 63
3 Living beings like Evil spirits Chakrapani commentary on Charaka Samhita Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 11 Sutram 37
4 Poisonous insects/worms and evil spirits Chakrapani commentary on Charaka Samhita Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutram 121

Origin of Bhutas or grahas

Ashtanga samgraha treatise provides a reference for understanding the origin of bhutas. While explaining various types of balagrahas (grahas affecting children specifically) Acharya vagbhata says that,

पुरा गुहस्य रक्षार्थं निर्मिताः शूलपाणिना| (Asht. Samg. 3.2)[8]

Meaning: Lord Shiva created grahas for protecting children / son of shiva.

एते गुहस्य रक्षार्थं कृत्तिकोमाग्निशूलिभिः |

सृष्टाः शरवणस्थस्य रक्षितस्यात्मतेजसा ||४|| (Sush. Uttar 37.4)[9]

Commentary by Dalhana: शरवणस्थस्य आत्मतेजसा रक्षितस्यापि रक्षार्थं कृत्तिकादिभिरेते स्कन्दादयो ग्रहाः सृष्टा नियोजिता इत्यर्थः; गुहस्य कार्तिकेयस्य, आत्मतेजसा स्वशक्त्या| ननु स्वभावरक्षितस्य गुहस्य रक्षकैः किं? उच्यते- यथा स्वशक्त्या अनभिभवनीयस्यापि इन्द्रस्य अन्ये देवा रक्षकाः, प्रभुधर्मत्वात्; तद्वद्गुहस्यापि अन्ये ग्रहा रक्षकाः, प्रभुधर्मत्वात्||४||

Bhutavidya through ages

Vaidic period

Pauranika period

A legend regarding the origin of Bhutas narrates that soon after the creation of the Universe and division of duties amoAg the Hindu Triad (Brahm a, Vishnu and Maheswara) Maheswara or Isvara, the Lord of destruction came to have one thousand Ganas and another thousand Bhutas as His attendants. In order to punish the wicked among men, the Lord created one thousand diseases and when the Bhlltas demanded food He directed them to descend on earth and by inflicting diseases and hardships on the sinners and non-believers obtain food by way of propitiation. The legend also brings in the soothsayers and astrologers as persons capable of divining the causes for disease and hardships and directing the sufferers to propitiate the Bhutas, in a way, to act as the human agents for supplying food to the Bhutas. The legend proceeds to state that the Lord Himself assigned various names to the Bhutas and also allotted definite tracts such as the southern countries and kingdoms as their abode and promised to send a few more Bhutas later on from the northern and eastern parts of the country.[10]

An objective assessment of this legend indicate\S that it is an attempt to integrate the pre-existing concept of Bhutas into the Hindu religious fold.. In the Hindu Mythology one of the names of Isvara or Pasupathi is given as Bhutanatha, the Lord of all Bhutas and Ganas. This. in a way, supports the above mentioned view that Bhuta cult was assimilated into Brahmanical Hinduism by treating the Bhutas as spirits which are subordinate to Lord Ishvara.[10]

Bhutavidya in different compendium and treaties of Ayurveda

Bhutavidya has been discussed in almost all the treatises on Ayurveda. Charaka Samhita described Unmada roga (diseases). Unmada is known as a psychosamatic illness. A type of unmada is known to be caused by mental affliction by celestial beings like grahas and such type is known as Agantuja unmada or bhutonmada. Various types of bhutas or grahas have been taken into consideration here by Charaka. Acharya Sushruta in Sushruta Samhita uttaratantra dedicated one complete adhyaya named 'Amanushopasarga pratishedha' (management of non-human afflictions). Acharya Vagbhata in Ashtanga Hrdayam dedicates 2 different adhyayas named 'Bhutavijnaneeya' and 'Bhutapratishedha' for Grahachikitsa. Apart from these 3 main treatises, a text called as HArita samhita named after its author Harita offers lot of discussion on Graha or bhutavidya.

Harita samhita for Bhutavidya

"Harita" (हारितः) was a sage of great antiquity, and he was contemporary of "Agnivesha" (अग्निवेशः), the author fo Charaka Samhita (चरक संहिता). "Harita" has composed a treatise named "Harita samhita" based on the teachings of his preceptor "Punarvasu Atreya." (पुनर्वसु आत्रेयः) "Bhoota vidya" (demonology/psychiatry) is explained in 55 th chapter of the third sthana (स्थानम section) of "Harita samhita." The etiology, number of graha's (demons), their description, and treatment aspects are explained differently in "Harita samhita" from other texts. Previous works have demonstrated that various bhutonmadas or grahonmadas have shown similarity with different psychiatric or neuropsychiatric conditions. The present article explores different "bhutonmada's" (भूतोन्मादः)/"grahonmada's"(ग्रहोन्मादः) (disease caused by the possession of demons) explained in "Harita samhita" along with their clinical significance in the present day Ayurvedic psychiatry practice. Bhutonmada/grahonmada is a psychiatric condition characterized by abnormal behavior in terms of exhibition of strength, energy, valour and enthusiasm, defects in perception, retention and memory, abnormality of speech, and abnormality in perceiving self and environment. Ten grahas (aindra ऐन्द्रः, agneya आग्नेयः, yama यमः, nairruta नैरुतः, varuna वरुणः, maaruta/vaayu मारुतः /वायुः, kubera/yaksha कुबेरः/यक्षः, sira सिरा, grahaka ग्रहकः and pishacha पिशाचः) and clinical features due to their affliction are described in "Harita samhita." Grahonmadas explained in Harita samhita have shown similarity with various psychiatric and/or neuropsychiatric conditions. [11]

The similarities and dissimilarities of Bhutvidya with different contemporary sciences like Manas-Roga ,Graha-Chikitsa and bacteriology etc.

Importance of Bhutavidya in daily life and clinical practice

Importance of Jyotish vigyan and Vastu Shastra in context of Bhoot Vigyan

Types of treatment.

Bhutavidya is not a type of treatment. It is just a branch of Ayurveda that offers knowledge of ways to diagnose and treat illnesses caused by Bhutas and grahas. The type of chikitsa (treatment) beneficial or most effective for such kind of illnesses is known as Daivavyapashraya Chikitsa. The other types of chikitsa namely Yuktivyapashraya and Satvavajaya are also partially effective to manage these illnesses.

Concept and physiopathology of Upasarga

Graha Pratishedhatmaka Upaya

Upasarga Pratishedhatmaka.

Chikitshopaya.(treatmental methods)

Physiopathology of Bhuta ,their Upsarga ,Partishedh and Management

Physiopathology of Manas –

a. Pragyostambh b. Physiopathology of Dhee, Dhriti and Smriti c. The Eshana induced vikar and their pratishedh. d. Kamaj manovikar and their management.


Concept of Balagraha.

Graha rogas are the special topic which constitutes major part of Kaumarbhritya. In the mean time, it is also the most neglected portion, may be due to excess mythological descriptions, difficulties in its clinical understanding, diagnosis and treatment . This universe is combination of visible and invisible entities. Population of invisible entities is more than visible entities. So we are surrounded by invisible microorganisms, around us. Most of the organisms are nature friendly and doesn’t cause disease. Fungus, Bacteria’s and virus play a significant role in decaying unwanted materials to maintain homeostasis of the environment. Moving around and a continuous effort to invade the human and animal body is a basic tendency of microorganism or Grahas. But intact immune system supported by hygienic lifestyle, food, habits prevents their entry and protects human body

In Charaka Samhita there is no explanation regarding the balgraha is found. Of course the word explained in relation to Unmada and Apasmaram as Gandharv Raksha sangrah, where personality changes and behavioral changes are more marked are explained and dealt with psychological disturbances rather than physical changes [3]. The attack of the Grahas episodic and person showing deviation from the abnormal behaviour and personality changes are highlighted that it has been considered as the main cause for such a Grahavesh by Charaka. These Grahas are completely different from Balagrahs explained in Kaumarbhrirtya. Kashyapa samhita gives more importance to Graharoga.

Physiopathology of Balagraha

Pratishedharmak upaya treatment and management


  1. Commentary by Chakrapani on Charaka samhita (Vimanasthanam adhyaya 3 Sutram 22)
  2. Chakrapani Commentary of Charaka Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 9 Sutram 16)
  3. Charaka Samhita (Chikitsathanam Adhyayam 9)
  4. Dalhana's commentary on Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutra 12)
  5. Dalhana's commentary on Sushruta Samhita (Uttaratantram Adhyaya 6 Sutram 19)
  6. Dalhana's commentary on Sushruta Samhita (Uttaratantram Adhyaya 60 Sutram 7)
  7. Sushruta Samhita (Uttaratantram Adhyaya 60 Sutram 14)
  8. Ashtanga Samgraha (Uttarasthanam Adhyaya 3 Sutra 2)
  9. Sushruta Samhita (Uttaratantra Adhyaya 37 Sutra 4)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Special Study Report on Bhuta Cult in South Kanara District, Series-14,Mysore
  11. Gupta K, Mamidi P. Bhutonmada's of harita samhita: An explorative study. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2020;8:3-12.