Ayurvedic concepts of nidrā, jāgṛti and svapna with special reference to Vāgbhaṭa’s Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya.

Author – Akolkar Prasad Pramod
Institute – Sanskrit department, University of Mumbai
Address – 2/38, Giridhari sadan, DL Vaidya Road, Shivaji Park, Dadar (W), Mumbai 400 028
Contact no – +91 9820267305
Email – drprasaad@gmail.com


Āyurveda being science of āyu or life defines it as a combination of the body, senses, soul and the mind. The manas or mind being one of the important constituent of āyu, Āyurveda has provided its own perspective about the science of mind and systematic understanding about its functionality. The mind is involved in physical activities such as nidrā (sleeping), jāgṛti (awakening) and svapna (dreaming). Current paper focuses on the explanation about these activities and their connection with wellbeing in general and with reference to the text of Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya of Vāgbhaṭa, in particular.

Ayurvedic concepts of nidrā, jāgṛti and svapna with special reference to Vāgbhaṭa’s aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya.
Prasad Pramod Akolkar


Āyurveda or science of life is an ancient Indian System of Medicine. It is a science of āyu or life wherein āyu is comprised of body, mind, senses and soul. Āyurveda contains the scientific information about all the four of them.[1] It is very important for the study of the concept of manas (mind) to understand its functionality and its involvements in the activities where no direct connection is seen. The acts of nidrā (sleeping), jāgṛti (waking up) and svapna (dreaming) are some of such activities of manas. The present paper deals with ayurvedic concepts of nidrā, jāgṛti and svapna with special reference to Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya, an important text in the ayurvedic tradition.

Concept of nidrā

As far as the concept of nidrā and jāgṛti are concerned, Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya (AH) relies heavily on Caraka and Suśrutasaṁhitās. Whatever has been established by both of these doyens is agreeable to it. Based on this hypothesis it further establishes its own views. Hence it is essential to have an idea about what Carakasaṁhitā (CS) and Suśrutasaṁhitā (SS) says about nidrā and jāgṛti. CS states that when manas or more precisely the antaḥkaraṇa (manas, buddhi, ahaṁkāra, and citta collectively) is tired and all the sensory senses, performing their respected duties are tired too, they detach themselves from their respected subjects. At this time person attains nidrā or he sleeps[2].

Nidrā (sleep) is considered as the effect the combination of doṣa śleṣma (kapha) and tamas, one of the doṣas of manas. (Nidrā śleṣmatamobhavā| Suśruta saṁhitā, Śārīrasthāna IV/56) It is said that when the cetanāsthāna, the abode of cetanā (life force) that is mahat-hṛdaya, is covered by tamoguṇa, person sleeps. Sleeping is basically opposite concept of being awake. Due to the engulfing effect of tamas on mahat-hṛdaya, the deha (body), indriyas (senses) and manas (mind) attain a numbing state, in which manas (mind) becomes inactive and returns back to its abode, the mahat-hṛdaya and rests. As in the night time, there is a natural increase in tamoguṇa and the time is aligned with the tiredness of indriyas and manas after the whole day of functioning, it is obvious for them to be numb and detached. During this period the process of acquiring the knowledge too, hampers[3].

Concept of jāgṛti

Jāgṛti, the state of being awake is also known as a state of bodhana. It is a state in which the sattva guṇa of manas is dominant. (Sattvaṁ bodhane heturucyate| Suśrutasaṁhitā, Śārīrasthāna IV.35). Since manas, during the awakened state, acts via sattva guna, the process of gaining knowledge takes place. It is possible, even while awake; this process (bodhana) can be obstructed, if manas has different interest. In such condition, manas does not connect with the indriyas and becomes cala or shaky. Hence, in spite of indriyas gathering the information from the field of their subjects, manas does not carry that to the ātman and the information cannot be converted into knowledge. If manas is interested then it concentrates and the acquisition of knowledge happen unhindered in jagṛtāvasthā.

Concept of svapna

CS deals only with those dreams which indicate forthcoming death. However, same principle is applicable even for the normal process of dreaming while in sleep. CS says that during sleep the doṣas (vāta, pitta and kapha) when become strong, they invade the manovaha srotas and as per the properties of increased doṣa, person sees the dreams. When person is not under the influence of deep sleep, then manas, the controller of all ten senses (five jñānendriyas and five karmendriyas), creates many types of dreams for itself. Same process takes place even at the time when the upcoming death is eminent due to the effect of enraged doṣas at the time and also otherwise when doṣas invade manovaha srotas getting person to see dreadful dreams.[4]

The nature of manas of creating its own ways of visuals is explained by CS through the concept of manobhavā buddhi. When the process of buddhi (intellect) is instigated with any of the senses, the resultant buddhi is identified with the sense that has initiated it. When manas instigates a buddhi with its own association, it is called as manobhavā buddhi.[5] This manobhavā buddhi through functions of manas, establishes itself and initiate dreaming.

AH provides another view about the process of dreaming as a part of diseased condition. It states that when infuriated doṣas engulf manovaha srotas of a person, they lead to have dreadful dreams. In such condition, if the person seeing such dreams is already having any health issue then most often that person dies, if such person doesn’t have any health issue then, he or she develops doubt about his or her health and thus falls sick. In any case, very few can survive through such dreaming process.[6]

AH further informs about the types of dreams one can see. With respect to what can be seen, dreams are of following types[7]

  1. Dṛṣṭa (things that seen earlier appear in dreams)
  2. Śruta (things that heard earlier appear in dreams)
  3. Anubhūta (things that experienced by mind earlier appear in dreams)
  4. Prārthita (things that desired appear in dreams)
  5. Kalpita (things that visualised appear in dreams)
  6. Bhāvika (things that might emerge in future appear in dreams)
  7. Doṣaja (things that are seen as per the properties of doṣas)

With respect to be the initiator in the form of doṣas, dreams are of following types –

  1. Vātaja (initiated by vāta doṣa)
  2. Pittaja (initiated by pitta doṣa)
  3. Kaphaja (initiated by kapha doṣa)

AH informs about the impact or resultant of these dreams which is as follows[8]

  1. Initial five types of dreams i.e. dṛṣṭa, śruta, anubhūta, prārthita and kalpita along with those which are seen as per prakṛti, those svapna which are seen during the day time, those which are forgotten, having very long duration and very short duration do not have any impact or are futile.
  2. Dreams which are seen around pre-dawn period are slightly fruitful but take some time for the same.
  3. Dream is seen at the dawn and if sleeping is avoided and nobody speaks against the vision then it is fructified on the same day.
  4. The impact of aśubha svapna (unfavourable dream) can be minimized by performing homa, oblation and dāna (charity).
  5. If dussvapna (adverse dream) is followed by mild or śubha svapna (favourable dream) then it has a positive effect.

AH also provides the list of dreams, on seeing of which a person attains long life, health and prosperity. Such dreams are listed as follows[9]

  1. Seeing in dreams people or things as follows:
  2. Deva (gods), brāhmaṇa (pious learned person)
  3. Govṛṣabha (cow and ox cattle)
  4. Jivita suhṛd (living friend)
  5. Nṛpa (king)
  6. Yaśasvin (successful person)
  7. Vahni (burning fire)
  8. Svaccha jalāśaya (clear water reservoirs)
  9. Gaurān śuklavastransutejasaḥ kanyā kumārān (radiant, fair girls and boys in white clothing)
  10. Samantād rudhirokṣita diptatanu narāśana (effulgent man eater with blood splashed surrounding)
  11. Seeing or receiving things in dreams such as:
  12. Cchatri (umbrella)
  13. Ādarśa (mirror)
  14. Viṣa (poison)
  15. Āmiṣa (mamsa or meat)
  16. Śukla sumanas (white flowers)
  17. Śukla vastra (white cloths)
  18. Amedhya ālepana (aromatic powders to be used for facial application)
  19. Phala (fruits)
  20. Seeing oneself performing functions in dreams such as:
  21. Climbing up on śaila (mountain), prāsāda (Castillo), phalavṛkṣa (tree full of fruits), siṁha (lion), nara (human) and dvipa (elephant)
  22. Climbing on or getting on goyāna (bullock cart), aśvayāna (horse cart)
  23. Swimming through nada (river), hṛda (lake), udadhi (sea)
  24. Walking towards eastward direction and or northward direction
  25. Having coitus with the woman with whom coitus is inappropriate
  26. Seeing oneself as
  27. Mṛta or dead
  28. Nisṛta saṁbādha (relieved from the obstacle)
  29. Devaih pitṛbhiscābhinandanam (praised by gods and ancestors)
  30. Seeing oneself performing acts like:
  31. Rodana (crying)
  32. Patitotthāna (rising after the fall or overcoming the obstacles)
  33. Avamardanam dviṣatām (overcoming the enemies)

Similarly AH enlists dreams which are considered of providing adverse impacts. Such dreams are listed as follows[10]

  1. Bamboo, creepers etc. growing on one’s head
  2. Birds resting on the head
  3. Complete shaving of the head
  4. Seeing flocks of crows, vultures etc.
  5. Seeing oneself surrounded by the dead bodies, piśācca (ghosts), women, Dravidians, andhraits and gavāśana or those eating cows
  6. Seeing oneself entangled into the bunch of veta (rattan), creepers, bamboos, grass, thorns etc.
  7. Seeing oneself sleeping in a pit or in smaśāna (cremation ground)
  8. Seeing oneself falling in dust or in ashes
  9. Seeing oneself drawn into water or mud or seized by a current of muddy water canal
  10. Seeing oneself dancing, playing an instrument and singing
  11. Seeing oneself worn red necklaces and red outfits
  12. Seeing oneself being more than actual age and having bigger form than the actual
  13. Seeing oneself having massage, getting married and shaving
  14. Seeing oneself eating various types of food, consuming oleaginous substances and liquors
  15. Seeing oneself vomiting and purging severely
  16. Seeing oneself finding iron and gold
  17. Seeing oneself involve in quarrel and getting arrested or conquered
  18. Seeing oneself losing both shoes
  19. Seeing oneself losing leg or skin
  20. Seeing oneself very happy
  21. Seeing oneself being scolded by the angry ancestors
  22. Seeing falling or destruction of the lamp, planet, constellation, teeth, idol (of worshiping god) and eyes
  23. Seeing falling or destruction or breaking of the mountain
  24. Seeing oneself entering into the forest where red flowers have blossomed
  25. Seeing oneself entering into inauspicious or sinful act
  26. Seeing oneself entering into cremation, the dark and difficult places
  27. Seeing oneself entering into the womb of the mother
  28. Seeing oneself falling from the high storied building and mountain
  29. Seeing oneself engulfed by the fish
  30. Seeing an angry person with red colored eyes and black complexion, wearing orange robes with a club in the hand

Since these images are haunting and scary their impact lasts for longer period of time. Also some of these images have social as well as mythological meanings that assimilate the meaning of such vision and that too affect the mentality of the viewer. These are general dreams which are considered bad for the person who see them.

Along with the above list, AH also enlists the dreams associated with the death due to a particular disease or medical condition. It informs that when person sees such dreams show impact of or suffers from or dies of a particular disease. Those dreams are mainly indicative of person seeing them develop a particular diseased condition and then die due to it. Such dreams are enlisted with their results, in AH, as follows[11]

  1. When one sees himself drinking liquor with a dead person or sees being attacked by a dog in his dream, will die of the fever in few days
  2. When one sees himself wearing garlands of red flowers and red colored outfits and also sees himself laughing and being pulled by a woman in his dream, will die of Raktapitta (bile-blood or a kind of bleeding disorder)
  3. When one sees himself sitting on buffalo, dog, pig, camel or donkey and travelling in southward direction in his dream, will die of Kṣaya, wasting of the dhātus of the body (tuberculosis)
  4. When one sees in his dream that thorny creepers, bamboos or palm tree has blossomed in his heart, will die of Gulma (glandular enlargement in the abdomen)
  5. When one sees himself necked, dipped in ghṛta (clarified butter) performing sacrifice and while doing so sees the immergence of a lotus on his heart in his dream, will die of Kuṣṭha (skin disorder)
  6. When one sees himself drinking various oleaginous substances with cāndāla (degraded person) in his dream, will die of Prameha (diabetes)
  7. When one sees himself being drawn in the water while dancing with the rākṣasas (evil demons) in his dream, will die of Unmāda (hysteria or mania)
  8. When one sees himself being carried away by the dancing dead people in his dream, will die of Apasmāra (seizers)
  9. When one sees himself riding on donkeys, camels, cats, monkeys, tigers, pigs, foxes, dead people and jackals in his dream, is considered to be trapped in the jaws of sure death.
  10. When one sees himself eating apūpa (sugary cake), karañjī (sweet preparations) etc. in his dream and vomits similar food on waking up surely dies.
  11. When one sees Sun or Moon eclipse in his dream, suffers from ophthalmological disorders.
  12. When one sees falling of Sun and Moon and other celestial planets in his dream, suffers from eyesight disorder.


After going through the concept and science behind nidrā, jāgṛta and svapna, following conclusions can be drawn –

  1. The stage of nidrā is essential process by which the body, mind, senses and intellect achieve their necessary rest.
  2. Nidrā when acquired only in the night time is considered normal due to the natural increase of the tamas property of the mind at that time. Any other timings will be considered abnormal unless permitted under special circumstances (like during grīṣma ṛtu and Jyeṣṭha māsa, hot summer season)[12]
  3. Jāgṛti is also a natural process caused by sattva guṇa, with which rested manas, senses and body along with intellect be ready to grasp the knowledge from the surrounding.
  4. Since the mind has a control over the process of dream, it can be concluded that all those who have active mind, generally are considered capable of seeing dreams.
  5. AH has classified the dreams and considers some of these types indicate the diseases developing and deaths due to them as well, in the near future. This happens due to the strength of the doṣas involved and their combination, as well as the time.
  6. With the help of the documentation done in AH, further study about the diseases to be developed in the near future can be done on the basis of the list of various dreams.

[1] शरीरेन्द्रियसत्त्वात्मसंयोगो …… आयुरुच्यते | Carakasaṁhitā, Sūtrasthāna I/48

[2] यदा तु मनसि क्लान्ते कर्मात्मानः क्लमान्विताः|

विषयेभ्यो निवर्तन्ते तदा स्वपिति मानवः|| Carakasaṁhitā, Sūtrasthāna XXI/35

[3] Thakar VJ, Ayurvediya maulikasiddhantah, Gujarat Ayurveda University, Jamnagar, 1985, p – 358

[4] मनोवहानां पूर्णत्वाद्दोषैरतिबलैस्त्रिभिः|

स्रोतसां दारुणान् स्वप्नान् काले पश्यति दारुणे||

नातिप्रसुप्तः पुरुषः सफलानफलांस्तथा|

इन्द्रियेशेन मनसा स्वप्नान् पश्यत्यनेकधा|| Carakasaṁhitā, Indriyasthāna V/41-42

[5] या यदिन्द्रियमाश्रित्य जन्तोर्बुद्धिः प्रवर्तते|

याति सा तेन निर्देशं मनसा च मनोभवा|| Carakasaṁhitā, Śārīrasthāna I/32

[6] मनोवहानां पूर्णत्वात्स्रोतसां प्रबलैर्मलैः |

दृश्यन्ते दारुणाः स्वप्नाः रोगी यैर्याति पञ्चताम् ||

अरोगः संशयं प्राप्य कश्चिदेव प्रमुच्यते | Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya, Śārīrasthāna VI/59-60(a,b)

[7] दृष्टः श्रुतोSनुभूतश्च प्रार्थितः कल्पितस्तथा |

भाविको दोषजश्चेति स्वप्नः सप्तविधो मतः || Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya, Śārīrasthāna VI/60(c,d)-61(a,b)

[8] तेष्वाद्या निष्फलाः पञ्च यथास्वप्रकृतिर्दिवा |

विस्मृतो दीर्घ-हस्वोSति पूर्वरात्रे चिरात्फलम् ||

हृष्टः करोति तुच्छं च गोसर्गे तदहर्महत् |

निद्रया चानुपहतः प्रतीपैर्वचनैस्तथा || Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya, Śārīrasthāna Vl/61(c,d)-63(a,b)

[9] देवान् द्विजान् गोवृषभाञ् जीवितः सुहृदो नृपान् |

साधून् यशस्विनो वह्निमिद्धं स्वच्छाञ् जलाशयान् ||

कन्यां कुमारकान् गौराञ् शुक्रवस्त्रान्सुतेजसः |

नराशनं दीप्ततनुं समन्ताद्रुधिरोक्षितः ||

यः पश्येल्लमते यो वा छत्रादर्शविषामिषम् |

शुक्लाः सुमनसो वस्त्रममेध्यालेपनं फलम् ||

शैलप्रासादसफलवृक्षसिंहनरद्विपान् |

आरोहेद्गोSश्वयानं च तरेन्नदहृदोदधीन् || Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya, Śārīrasthāna Vl/65-68

[10] मूर्ध्नि वंशलतादीनां संभवो वयसां तथा |

निलयो मुण्डता काकगृध्राद्यैः परिवारणम् ||

तथा प्रेतपिशाचस्त्रीद्रविडान्ध्रगवाशनैः |

सङ्गो वेत्रलतावंशतृणकण्टकसङ्कटे ||

श्वभ्रश्मशानशयनं पतनं पांसुभस्मनोः |

मज्जनं जलपङ्कादौ शीघ्रेण स्रोतसा हृतिः |

नृत्यवादित्रगीतीनां रक्तस्रग्वस्त्रधारणम् ||

वयोSङ्गवृद्धिरभ्यङ्गो विवाहः श्मश्रुकर्म च |

पक्वान्नस्नेहमद्याशः प्रच्छर्दनविरेचने ||

हिरण्यलोहयोर्लाभः कलिर्बन्धपराजयौ |

उपानद्युगनाशश्च प्रपातः पादचर्मणोः ||

हर्षो भृशं प्रकुपितैः पितृभिश्चावभर्त्सनम् |

प्रदीपग्रहनक्षत्रदन्तदैवतचक्षुषाम् ||

पतनं वा विनाशो वा भेदनं पर्वतस्य च |

कानने रक्तकुसुमे पापकर्मनिवेशने ||

चिन्तान्धकारसम्बाधे जनन्यां च प्रवेशनम् |

पातः प्रासादशैलादेर्मत्स्येन ग्रसनम् तथा ||

काषायिणामसौम्यानां नग्नानां दण्डधारिणाम् |

रक्ताक्षाणां च कृष्णानां दर्शनं जातु नेष्यते ||

कृष्णा पापाननाचारा दीर्घकेशनखस्तनी |

विरागमाल्यवसना स्वप्ने कालनिशा मता || Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya, Śārīrasthāna VI/48(c,d)-58

[11] स्वप्ने मद्यं सह प्रेतैर्यः पिबन् कृष्यते शुना |

स मर्त्यो मृत्युना शीघ्रं ज्वररूपेण नीयते ||

रक्तमाल्यवपुर्वस्त्रो यो हसन् ह्रियते स्त्रिया |

सोSस्रपित्तेन महिषश्ववराहोष्ट्रगर्दभै: ||

यः प्रयाति दिशं याम्यां मरणं तस्य यक्ष्मणा |

लता कण्टकिनी वंशस्ताली वा हृदि जायते ||

यस्य तस्याशु गुल्मेन यस्य वह्निमनर्चिषम् |

जुह्वतो घृतसिक्तस्य नग्नस्योरसि जायते ||

पद्मं स नश्येत्कुष्ठेन चण्डालैः सह यः पिबेत् |

स्नेहं बहुविधं स्वप्ने स प्रमेहेण नश्यति ||

उन्मादेन जले मज्जेद्यो नृत्यन् राक्षसैः सह |

अपस्मारेण यो मर्त्यो नृत्यन् प्रेतेन नीयते ||

यानं खरोष्ट्रमार्जारकपिशार्दुलसूकरैः |

यस्य प्रेतैः शृगालैर्वा स मृत्योर्वर्तते मुखे ||

अपूपशष्कुलीर्जग्ध्वा विबुद्धस्तद्विधं वमन् |

न जीवति अक्षिरोगाय सूर्येन्दुग्रहणेक्षणम् ||

सूर्यचन्द्रमसो: पातदर्शनं दृग्विनाशनम् | Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya, Śārīrasthāna VI/40-48(a,b)

[12] मध्यन्दिनेSर्कतापार्तः स्वप्या…. | Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya, Sūtrasthāna lll/36(c,d)




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