Janapadodhwansa (जनपदोध्वंसः)

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Janapadodhwansa has been defined as destruction of human settlements or communities by means of natural and man-made calamities including epidemics.[1] Charaka has attributed the outbreak of Janapadodhwansa to vitiation of factors like Vayu (Air), Jalam (Water), Desha (Land) and Kala (Time/season) which are common factors for every individual in a specific region. Along with that, weapons, affliction by evil spirits (Rakshasas) and other creatures as well as curse by preceptors are the other 3 potential causes of Janapadodhwansa listed by Charaka. (Cha. Vi 3/ 21-23). (Fig 1)

Vitiated Air, Water, land and season

These are the factors which are common for each and every individual in a community in a 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. After reviewing these factors (Table 1), we concluded that such a vitiation is not evident currently around the globe unvaryingly. Although the transmission of COVID-19 is through the medium of air, it is not known to be airborne but a droplet infection. (Ref) Therefore, even though preliminarily even if it is perceived that the causative factor could be vitiated air according to Ayurveda theory, classical references do not support this hypothesis. Thus, we rule out the possibility of resemblance of nature of COVID-19 etiology with vitiated air/water/land/season.

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
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
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)
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)

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. Clinical features of many such afflictions have been discussed in detail by Charaka in relevant chapters of the treatise. Therefore, the study of the classical literature on clinical presentation of such afflictions was carried out to find similarity between COVID-19 clinical features and any type of these factors.

Rakshoganadi (Evil spirits)

The term Raksha is explained by the commentator Chakrapani as Rakshasadi (Cha. Vi 3/22, chakra). Thus, search to find out the other meaning of word ‘Raksha’ or ‘Rakshasa’ was conducted. While explaining the management of Unmada (~Psychosis) Charaka has mentioned this term ‘Raksha’ again. (Cha. Chi 9/16, chakra). Commentary by Chakrapani on this term indicates that, the term ‘Raksha’ encompasses Rakshas and Brahma rakshasas. The term ‘Gana’ indicates group. Therefore, one can include various invisible evil spirits mentioned as disease-causing entities under this group. This group therefore would include Deva, pishachi, Gandharva etc. (Cha. Chi 9) Charka 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 etc cause diseases that predominantly include psychological and behavioural abnormalities. Sushruta has also mentioned various evil spirits and included all of them under ‘Devagana’. The similar explanation for these terms can be found in Sushruta and Dalhana’s commentary on it. (Su . Su 1/12, Su. Ut. 6/19, Su. Ut 60/7). The clinical features described by Sushruta for such afflictions also are chiefly psychosomatic. (Su. Ut. 60/14) Since the clinical features of COVID-19 do not match with any of these afflictions we rule out the cause of current Janapadodhwansa as affliction by evil spirits.

Bhutasangha (other creatures)

The term Bhuta has been used at multiple places in varied context by Charaka. Various meanings of the term ‘Bhuta’ in Charaka have been explained in the Table2.

Sr No Meaning of the term Bhuta Reference
1 Living beings Cha. Sha 1/51 Chakra
2 Living beings Cha. Sha 1/63 Chakra
3 Living beings like Evil spirits Cha. Su 11/37 Chakra
4 Poisonous insects/worms and evil spirits Cha. Sha. 1/121 Chakra

Although, grossly the term ‘Bhuta’ suggests living beings, one cannot navigate to the specific clinical presentation of any classical disease explained in Charka with help of this meaning. The possibility of evil spirits (as described in treatises) being the aetiological factor for current pandemic has been ruled out earlier. Therefore, we shifted our focus to the study of classical clinical features of diseases caused by Savisha krumi i.e. poisonous creatures/insects.

Poisonous creatures:

Classical treatises like Charaka and Sushruta have described clinical features and management of toxicity induced by poisonous plants (Sthavara visha) and animals (Jangama visha) of varied types. Charaka has used the word ‘Krumi’ 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’ group by Sushruta. (Su. Su 1/30)Thus, we further focused on clinical features of toxicity caused by various groups of animals like snakes, scorpions, rodents, dogs, spiders and insects described by classical treatises. (Cha. Chi 23)

  1. http://www.carakasamhitaonline.com/mediawiki-1.32.1/index.php?title=Janapadodhvansaniya_Vimana#Tattva_Vimarsha_.28Fundamental_Principles.29