Untangling Multiple Topographical Systems: Conceptions of Landscapes in Ancient Indian Medicine


  • Vitus Angermeier University of Vienna


Landscapes might be a minor topic in the field of classical Āyurveda; however, they actually do play an important role in several contexts. For example, the constitution of the patients depends on their natural surroundings, the quality of food and medicinal plants is defined by the habitat of plants and animals, and the wholesomeness of drinking water is determined by the clime at its source. Thus, we find references to all kinds of landscapes in the compendia of ancient Indian medicine. However, not only terrestrial space is mapped. Water and sky as well are regarded as living environments of animals which in turn serve as food for humans and have specific characteristics according to their roaming area.

This study is based on a search for references to landscapes in all possible contexts of the four eminent source texts of ancient Indian medicine, the Carakasaṃhitā, the Suśrutasaṃhitā, the Aṣṭāṅgasaṃgraha and the Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā. Its first part presents the gathered information systematically rearranged and discusses the differences and similarities between plant and animal habitat, as well as the human environment. The second half is dedicated to the specific types of landscapes, describing them based on the findings in the source texts and showing their various impact on water, plants, animals, people and medicinal practice in  general.