Janapadodhwansa (जनपदोध्वंसः)

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Janapadodhwansa (जनपदोध्वंसः) has been defined as destruction of human settlements or communities by means of natural and man-made calamities including epidemics. From the point of view of medical science, it is believed to be the concept similar to epidemics or pandemics described in Ayurveda some 3000 years ago. Epidemics or pandemics were prevalent even in that time and Ayurveda acharyas have meticulously observed, understood and also put forward the methods to manage such calamities affecting numerous lives at a time. Root causes for origin and development of such calamities have also been postulated and thus ways to prevent such man made or natural calamities have also been put forward.

आयुर्वेदसंहितानाम् संदर्भाः॥ References in Ayurveda literature

In Charak Samhita (चरकसंहिता), description of the concept of Janapadodhwansa can be found in Vimanasthanam (विमानस्थानम्) Adhyaya 3.[1] The entire Adhyaya has been dedicated for discussion of this concept. One can find causes, types, effects, treatment measures as well as answers to many relevant questions regarding karma (कर्मः) and mrtyu (मृत्युः) in the same adhyaya. In Sushruta samhita this concept is described by the name Maraka (मरकः) in adhyaya 6 of Sutrasthanam (सूत्रस्थानम्).[2]

जनपदोध्वंस परिभाषा ॥ What is Janapadodhwansa

The term Janapadodhwansa is made up of 2 terms, Janapada (जनपदम्) and Udhwansa (उद्ध्वंसः). The term Janapada refers to human settlements like colony, village, city etc while the other term udhwansa means destruction. Thus destruction of human settlements is the basic meaning of Janapadodhwansa. The cause of such destruction could be either natural or made made calamities. Therefore the term Janapadodhwansa has been defined as destruction of human settlements or communities by means of natural and man-made calamities including epidemics. While listing the causes for Janapadodhwansa, Acharya charaka has opined that, in spite of being of different prakrti (प्रकृतिः) etc the other factors in environment which are common for everyone, lead to development of disease with similar presentation at the same time. Therefore many individuals in the same region suffer from same complaints in that period of time.

..... अपि तु खलु जनपदोद्ध्वंसनमेकेनैव व्याधिना युगपदसमानप्रकृत्याहारदेहबलसात्म्यसत्त्ववयसां मनुष्याणां कस्माद्भवतीति। प्रकृत्यादिभिर्भावैर्मनुष्याणां येऽन्ये भावाः सामान्यास्तद्वैगुण्यात् समानकालाः समानलिङ्गाश्च व्याधयोऽभिनिर्वर्तमाना जनपदमुद्ध्वंसयन्ति ॥ (Char Samh 3.5-6)[3]

..... api tu khalu janapadoddhvaṁsanamekenaiva vyādhinā yugapadasamānaprakr̥tyāhāradehabalasātmyasattvavayasāṁ manuṣyāṇāṁ kasmādbhavatīti। prakr̥tyādibhirbhāvairmanuṣyāṇāṁ ye'nye bhāvāḥ sāmānyāstadvaiguṇyāt samānakālāḥ samānaliṅgāśca vyādhayo'bhinirvartamānā janapadamuddhvaṁsayanti ॥ (Char Samh 3.5-6)

जनपदोध्वंसस्य हेतवः ॥ Causes of Janapadodhwansa

Charaka has attributed the outbreak of Janapadodhwansa to vitiation of factors like Vayu (वायुः। Air), Jalam (जलम्। Water), Desha (देशः। Land) and Kala (कालः। Time/season) which are common factors for every individual in a specific region. Along with that, weapons, affliction by Rakshasas (राक्षसाः। evil spirits) and other creatures as well as curse by preceptors are the other 3 potential causes of Janapadodhwansa listed by Charaka.[4]

प्रकृत्यादिभिर्भावैर्मनुष्याणां येऽन्ये भावाः सामान्यास्तद्वैगुण्यात् समानकालाः समानलिङ्गाश्च व्याधयोऽभिनिर्वर्तमाना जनपदमुद्ध्वंसयन्ति| ते तु खल्विमे भावाः सामान्या जनपदेषु भवन्ति; तद्यथा- वायुः, उदकं, देशः, काल इति ॥ (Char Samh 3.5-6)

शस्त्रप्रभवः जनपदोध्वंसः ॥ Weapons

Janapadodhwansa caused by shastra (शस्त्रम्। weapon) refers to the massive destruction of human settlements due to war. In the times of war, weapons are used to defeat enemy which cause injuries resulting in morbidity and mortality of lot of people residing in the particular region. Although the cause of destruction of human settlement is war or weapons, the fundamental cause is unrighteous act alone. Charaka states that, excessive lobha (लोभः। greed), krodha (क्रोधः। anger), moha (मोहः। attachment) make people fight among themselves with weapons by disregarding the weak. They then attach their enemies or get attacked by enemies. This ultimately gives rise to war and human destruction of human settlements.

तथा शस्त्रप्रभवस्यापि जनपदोद्ध्वंसस्याधर्म एव हेतुर्भवति । (Char Samh 3.21)

tathā śastraprabhavasyāpi janapadoddhvaṁsasyādharma eva heturbhavati । (Char Samh 3.21)

विगुणवायुजलदेशकालाः॥ Vitiated Air, Water, land and season

Vayu (वायुः। Air), Jalam (जलम्। Water), Desha (देशः। Land) and Kala (कालः। Time/season) are the environmental factors which are common for each and every individual residing in particular region. Thus, when these are adversely affected, they can affect the entire community with same disease and similar symptoms simultaneously. A brief account on the signs of each of the factor when vitiated can be found in Charaka samhita. It is stated that, any of the above 4 environmental factors are vitiated in a manner as described in the text, can lead to Janapadodhwansa. Signs of these vitiated environmental factors as stated in Charaka samhita have been described below (Table 1).

विगुण वाय्वादिभावानां लक्षणानि ॥ Signs of vitiated 4 environmental factors

Table 1: Signs of vitiation of 4 environmental factors
Sr No Environmental factor Signs of vitiation
1 Vayu (Air) Air that is not in conformity with the season, totally calm or violently blowing, exceedingly rough, intensely cold, intensely hot, excessively dry, excessively humid, terribly clamorous, blowing from contrary directions and clashing with each other (winds blowing in opposite direction), violently spinning (whirlwind) and associated with unwholesome odour, moisture, sand, dust and smoke. [5]
2 Jalam (Water) Water that does not seem normal in smell, colour, taste and touch, has excessive stickiness, is from a source devoid of aquatic animals and birds or from a drying up water reservoir without pleasantness and is basically devoid of normal attributes[5]
3 Desha (Land) Any land having abnormal colour, odour, taste and touch, that which is excessively damp and has an abundance of serpents, beasts, mosquitoes, locusts, flies, mice, owls, birds and animals such as jackal, and jungles of ulupa grass and weeds, is abounding in creepers, where crops have fallen, withered or have been destroyed in an unprecedented manner, where the wind is smoky, where (unusual) cries of birds and dogs are heard, where herds of animals and flocks of birds of various kinds are always in a state of panic and pain, where the people’s virtues like religion, truth, modesty, custom, character have either declined or been given up, where the water reservoirs always alter and are over-flowing, where there is frequent exposure to meteorites, thunderbolts and earthquakes, where nature is full of menacing sound and sights, where the sun, the moon and the stars are frequently covered by dry, coppery, ruddy and grey clouds and the general atmosphere is of constant confusion, excitement and lamentation, crying, fright and darkness as if seized by guhyaka (ghosts and ghouls).[5]
4 Kala (Season) A time is said to be unwholesome if it exhibits characteristics that are opposite to normal or exhibit excessive or deficient characteristics (e.g. early rains, too little rain, excessively hot summers or cold winters, etc).[5]

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) [6]. While explaining the management of Unmada (उन्माद। Psychosis) Charaka has mentioned this term ‘Raksha’ again.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] [10] [11] The clinical features described by Sushruta for such afflictions also are chiefly psychosomatic.[12] S

भूतसंघाः ॥ Bhutasangha (other creatures)

The term Bhuta has been used at multiple places in varied context by Acharya Charaka. 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
विषकृमी ॥ Poisonous creatures:

Classical treatises like Charaka and Sushruta have described clinical features and management of toxicity induced by poisonous plants (Sthavara visha। स्थावर विषम्) and animals (Jangama visha। जांगम विषम्)) of varied types. Charaka has used the word ‘Krumi’ (कृमी) while explaining the term ‘Bhuta’. Therefore, it is clear that, in this context, rather than inanimate sources, animate sources of poison must be considered. Krumi are included under ‘Jangama’ (जांगम) group by Sushruta.[13] Thus, various groups of insects described by classical treatises can be considered by the term vishakrumi (विषकृमी) .[14]

अभिशापप्रभवः जनपदोध्वंसः ॥ Curse by preceptors

Abhishapa (अभिशापः) has been listed as one of the causes of Janapadodhwansa. Abhishapa refers to the curse by preceptors. It is said that, such a curse is strong enough to destroy a complete human settlement. Again, the ultimate cause for such a curse is Adharma (अधर्मः) or unrighteousness act. Those who get by without performing religious duties or who shirk from their religious duties tend to behave irresponsibly or are disrespectful to the preceptors, elders, the wise, sages and the nobility. Consequently, such people often get cursed by preceptors etc. Such wraths could destroy individuals or communities immediately or at a pre-determined time.

ये लुप्तधर्माणो धर्मादपेतास्ते गुरुवृद्धसिद्धर्षिपूज्यानवमत्याहितान्याचरन्ति; ततस्ताः प्रजा गुर्वादिभिरभिशप्ता भस्मतामुपयान्ति प्रागेवानेकपुरुषकुलविनाशाय, नियतप्रत्ययोपलम्भादनियताश्चापरे ॥ (Char. Samh 3.23)

ye luptadharmāṇo dharmādapetāste guruvr̥ddhasiddharṣipūjyānavamatyāhitānyācaranti; tatastāḥ prajā gurvādibhirabhiśaptā bhasmatāmupayānti prāgevānekapuruṣakulavināśāya, niyatapratyayopalambhādaniyatāścāpare ॥ (Char. Samh 3.23)

जनपदोध्वंसस्य मूलम् ॥ Fundamental cause of Janapadodhwansa

Although various causes of Janapadodhwansa have been listed by Acharyas, the root cause or fundamental cause for all these factors is believed to be Adharma (अधर्मः) or unrighteous acts done in this life, Sins of the present life or the misdeeds of the past life. And the origin of all these acts is traced up to prajnaparadha (प्रज्ञापराधः। Intellectual errors). Acharya Charaka has expounded how Adharma originating from prajnaparadha causes vitiation of environmental factors and leads to destruction of human settlements.

According to Charaka Samhita, when the reigning heads of countries, cities, trade guilds etc. govern the people irresponsibly by transgressing the virtuous path, then their officers, sub-ordinates and under- subordinates, people of the city and community and traders deviate from their duties as well and propagate such unrighteous acts further. Their sinful acts perforce causes the righteous acts to disappear. Because of the disappearance of righteous acts, even the Gods desert the people living in such places. This causes seasons to get impaired in these places. There is no rain in time, or never at all, or abnormal rain occurs; the air does not flow properly; the land is afflicted, the water reservoirs dry up, and herbs lose their true properties and suffer deterioration. As a consequence, the people perish as the result of infectious contact or ingestion of polluted food and water.[15]

जनपदोध्वंसस्य प्रतिकारोपायाः ॥ Treatment measures to control Janapadodhwansa

After listing various causes for janapadodhwansa, Acharya Charaka explained the medical management of it. Although the causes like weapons/wars, curse by preceptors have been listed specific management of the janapadodhwansa caused by these factors has not been mentioned. However, since vitiated environmental factors and illness caused by such vitiation is tricky to handle, Acharya Charaka has mentioned the holistic management for this kind of janapadodhwansa along with the general measures to manage janapadodhwansa caused due to Adharma. It has also been specifically mentioned that, the level of difficulty to handle janapadodhwansa caused by these 4 factors increases from Vayu to jalam, desha and last kala respectively . It is clear that when janapadodhwansa is developed due to vitiation of kala (कालः) it is nearly impossible to counteract the effects.

वाताज्जलं जलाद्देशं देशात् कालं स्वभावतः। विद्याद्दुष्परिहार्यत्वाद्गरीयस्तरमर्थवित् ॥

वाय्वादिषु यथोक्तानां दोषाणां तु विशेषवित्। प्रतीकारस्य सौकर्ये विद्याल्लाघवलक्षणम् ॥ (Char. Samh 3.10-11)

vātājjalaṁ jalāddeśaṁ deśāt kālaṁ svabhāvataḥ। vidyādduṣparihāryatvādgarīyastaramarthavit ॥

vāyvādiṣu yathoktānāṁ doṣāṇāṁ tu viśeṣavit। pratīkārasya saukarye vidyāllāghavalakṣaṇam ॥ (Char. Samh 3.10-11)

त्रिविधा चिकित्सा ॥ 3 modalities of treatment for Janapadodhwansa

While explaining the measures for holistic management of Janapadodhwansa, 3 modalities of chikitsa (चिकित्सा। treatment) have been described by Acharya Charaka. It includes Daivavyapashraya chikitsa (दैवव्यपाश्रया चिकित्सा), Yuktivyapashraya chikitsa (युक्तीव्यपाश्रया चिकित्सा) and satvavajaya chikitsa (सत्वावजय चिकित्सा). It is said that these treatment measures help for sustenance and survival of life and are rewarding in those who do not have niyata mrtyu (नियत मृत्युः। fixed predestined time of death during that critical time).

इत्येतद्भेषजं प्रोक्तमायुषः परिपालनम्। येषामनियतो मृत्युस्तस्मिन् काले सुदारुणे ॥ (Char. Samh 3.18)

ityetadbheṣajaṁ proktamāyuṣaḥ paripālanam। yeṣāmaniyato mr̥tyustasmin kāle sudāruṇe ॥ (Char. Samh 3.18)

युक्तिव्यपाश्रया चिकित्सा ॥Yuktivyapashraya

Treatment of the presenting illness should be done with the medicinal herbs cultivated, grown and collected before such epidemic arrives. Vaidya (वैद्यः) is supposed to treat the presenting complaints with medicinal formulations.

पंचकर्माणि ॥ Panchakarma

Along with medicinal treatments, a special modality of treatment known as Panchakarma (पञ्चकर्मः) in Ayurveda is said to be the excellent therapy for illnesses arising from Janapadodhwansa.

रसायनम् ॥Rasayana

Rasayanam is one of the 8 specialty branches of Ayurveda. Rasayana (रसायनम्) treatments which are revitalising, nourishing and immuno-modulatory in nature are believed to be extremely beneficial in this situation.

दैवव्यपाश्रया चिकित्सा ॥ Daivavyapashraya

Daivavyapashraya chikitsa is that modality of treatment described in Ayurveda which considers the role of remedies like chanting mantras (मंत्राः), prayers (देवतार्चनम्), wearing ratnas (रत्नाः,मणयः) or gems, performing yajnas (यज्ञाः), taking prayashchitta (प्रायश्चित्तम्), following niyamas (नियमाः) etc in lowering the burden of purvakarma (पूर्वकर्माणि) and wrong karmas (कर्माः) which eventually help in reducing the effect of it visible during janapadodhwansa. Charity, sacrifices, worship of god, discussion of religious scriptures are considered to be rewarding in such janapadodhwansa situation.

सत्वावजयचिकित्सा ॥ Satvavajaya

This type of treatment modality deals with application of various measures adopted by the person so as to conquer his/her mind. It is observed that in such situations of epidemics or pandemics people are terrified by the unprecedented situations. This creates feeling of fear, anxiety and insecurity in minds of many of those who are already weak. Although awareness is necessary, unnecessary anxiety, fear and agitation is more troublesome. Thus along with the medicinal treatment for survival of physical body during janapadodhwansa, it is also equally important to adopt treatment measures for revival and increasing the strength of psyche or mind of people affected by Janapadodhwansa. Thus, probably identifying this necessity Acharya Charaka has wisely put forward the measures to increase the strength of manas (मनस्) or mind of people. This modality of treatment is known as Satvavajaya chikitsa and the measures include, following ways to achieve this strength.

  • सत्यम्। Truthfulness
  • भूते दया। Compassion for living beings
  • सद्वृत्तम्। Observance of right conduct
  • प्रशम। Tranquility
  • गुप्तिः आत्मनः। Prophylactic protection of oneself and seeking one’s own good
  • शिवानां जनपदानाम् उपसेवनम्। Residing in a wholesome country
  • सेवनं ब्रह्मचर्यस्य तथैव ब्रह्मचारिणाम् । Service to those observing brahmacharya (celibacy) and following it
  • वृद्धसम्मतैः धार्मिकैः महर्षीणां जितात्मनाम् सात्त्विकैर्नित्यं सहास्या । Constant association with the righteous, the well disposed and those who are approved by the elders.

सत्यं भूते दया दानं बलयो देवतार्चनम्। सद्धृत्तस्यानुवृत्तिश्च प्रशमो गुप्तिरात्मनः॥

हितं जनपदानां च शिवानामुपसेवनम्। सेवनं ब्रह्मचर्यस्य तथैव ब्रह्मचारिणाम्॥

सङ्कथा धर्मशास्त्राणां महर्षीणां जितात्मनाम्। धार्मिकैः सात्त्विकैर्नित्यं सहास्या वृद्धसम्मतैः॥ (Char. Samh. 3.15-17)

satyaṁ bhūte dayā dānaṁ balayo devatārcanam। saddhr̥ttasyānuvr̥ttiśca praśamo guptirātmanaḥ॥

hitaṁ janapadānāṁ ca śivānāmupasevanam। sevanaṁ brahmacaryasya tathaiva brahmacāriṇām॥

saṅkathā dharmaśāstrāṇāṁ maharṣīṇāṁ jitātmanām। dhārmikaiḥ sāttvikairnityaṁ sahāsyā vr̥ddhasammataiḥ॥ (Char. Samh. 3.15-17)

Thus it is clear that Ayurveda Acharyas have studied the situations of Janapadodhwansa popularly known as epidemics or pandemics in depth. They have not just been able to reach upto the root cause of such situations, but also, with that perspective, helped the humanity to successfully survive such situations by managinf the imbalances of body as well as mind. This perspective not only help us to find ways to protect us in the situations of janapadodhwansa but also provide insights into the possible ways to prevent such situations in future.


  1. Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 3)
  2. Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 6 sutram 17)
  3. Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 3 Sutram 5-6)
  4. Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 3 Sutram 21-23)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Available from charakasamhitaonline.com (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 3 Sutra 6-7)
  6. Commentary by Chakrapani on Charaka samhita (Vimanasthanam adhyaya 3 Sutram 22)
  7. Chakrapani Commentary of Charaka Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 9 Sutram 16)
  8. Charaka Samhita (Chikitsathanam Adhyayam 9)
  9. Dalhana's commentary on Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutra 12)
  10. Dalhana's commentary on Sushruta Samhita (Uttaratantram Adhyaya 6 Sutram 19)
  11. Dalhana's commentary on Sushruta Samhita (Uttaratantram Adhyaya 60 Sutram 7)
  12. Sushruta Samhita (Uttaratantram Adhyaya 60 Sutram 14)
  13. Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutram 30)
  14. Charaka Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 23)
  15. Available from charakasamhitaonline.com (Vimanasthanam adhyaya 3 Sutram 20)