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Methods of acquiring knowledge (Pramana)

Ayurveda is a science based on experiential knowledge, observations, and scientific principles related to health and disease. It includes the philosophy of life related to the human body and its physiology. Being a traditional and ancient science, it has imbibed few principles or dictums from its contemporary sciences like ‘darshana’. The darshana shastra are authoritative texts of ancient Indian philosophy. Thus the philosophical basis of Ayurveda originated from various streams of thoughts like Samkhya, Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Mimansa, Vedanta etc. Pramana are also one of these important contributions of the philosophical sciences incorporated in Ayurveda texts. Pramana are tools or methods to acquire knowledge about any particular object or phenomena. Thus for understanding any topic or in order to establish the truth, it is necessary to learn the proper methodology. Pramana are investigative processes to gain authentic knowledge. It includes the process of scientific investigation and validation. According to Nyaya system of philosophy (nyaya darshana), pramana is the foremost means to obtain knowledge about a certain phenomenon.

Section/Chapter/topic Concepts / Pramana
Authors Bhojani M.K.1, Joglekar A.A.2
Reviewer Basisht G.3
Editor Deole Y.S.3

1 Department of Sharir Kriya, A.I.I.A. , New Delhi, India

2 Department of Samhita Siddhant, A.I.I.A. , New Delhi, India

3 Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar,India
Correspondence email,
Publisher Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India
Date of first publication: December 02, 2021
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2021.e01.s09.075

Etymology and derivation


The word pramana is derived from Sanskrit verb ‘ma’ with prefix ‘pra’.[1] where ‘ma’ dhatu means “to measure” or ” to mete out”.


The source or tool to obtain knowledge is Pramana.[1][2]

Prama is correct or appropriate knowledge, the tool to obtain it is termed as pramana (Udayanacharya)[3]. The process of establishing or understanding the facts based on pramana is termed as Pariksha. (Vatsyayana bhashya)[4].

It can be two-fold (dwividha), three-fold (trividha) or four- fold (chaturvidha) [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 11/17].[5]

The most authentic and applicable definition of pramana that can be understood is given below:

It is the process of examination, validation, and authentication of any object or phenomenon to understand its true nature. Thus, pramana are understood as pariksha according to Ayurveda.


Thus the synonyms of Pramana can be understood as given below:[6]

1. Examination or assessment tools (pariksha)

2. Causes (Hetu)

3. Means(sadhana)

4. Availability or achievement(upalabdhi)

5. Curiosity or zeal to acquire knowledge (jignyasa)

Pramana are described under the heading of Vaada-marga. [Charak Samhita Vimana Sthana 8/ 27]. The Vaada-marga are different tools or methods to establish the related facts and phenomena.

Other meanings

The word pramana is applied to denote assessment or measurement.

For example, Anguli pramana (measurement on the basis of the thickness of fingers) is used to denote measurements of body parts. [Charak Samhita Vimana Sthana 8/ 117]

Anjali pramana ( measurement based on the capacity of palms placed together) is used to denote the quantity of body fluids. [Charak Samhita Sharira Sthana 7/15]

These constitute an examination of a person to assess normal or abnormal body constitution called ‘ pramanatah pariksha". [Charak Samhita Vimana Sthana 8/ 94]


Different streams of philosophy have accepted different numbers and types of pramana according to their need and utility to explain their philosophical aspects.

This can be summarised in the table given below:

Table 1: Streams of philosophy and their methods of acquiring knowledge

Names of darshana (Streams of philosophy) Accepted pramana (Methods of acquiring knowledge)
Charvaka Pratyaksha
Vaisheshika , Bauddha , Jain Pratyaksha, Anumana
Samkhya , Yoga Pratyaksha, Anumana , Shabda
Nyaya Pratyaksha, Anumana , Shabda , Upamana
Prabhakar Mimansa Pratyaksha, Anumana , Shabda , Upamana , Arthapatti
Bhatt Mimansaka , Vedanta Pratyaksha, Anumana , Shabda , Upamana , Arthapatti, Abhaava
Pauranika Pratyaksha, Anumana, Shabda, Upamana, Arthapatti,Abhaava,Sambhava, Aitihya
Tantrika Pratyaksha, Anumana, Shabda, Upamana, Arthapatti, Abhaava, Sambhava, Aitihya, Cheshta
Others Pratyaksha, Anumana, Shabda, Upamana, Arthapatti, Abhaava, Sambhava, Aitihya, Cheshta , Parishesha


Types of pramana

Two types

1. True (sat)

2. False (asat)

Four types

1. Inspection or knowledge through the sensory organs (pratyaksha)

2. Inferential knowledge(anumana)

3. Authoritative knowledge(aptopadesha)

4. Logical reasoning(yukti) [Charak Samhita Sutra Sthana 11/ 17].

1) Perception/inspection (Pratyaksha pramana)

It is the primary source of knowledge obtained through perception by senses. It is obtained by the contact of senses with the external object. It includes harmony of soul(atma), mind(manas) and senses(indriya) for proper perception and process of knowledge. [Charak Samhita Sutra Sthana 11/20].

2) Inference (Anumana pramana)

This is the inferential source of knowledge. It intends to assume a phenomenon based on past knowledge and can help in deriving the future prognosis as well. Anumana pramana is largely based on the previous knowledge obtained from the Pratyaksha pramana. [Charak Samhita Sutra Sthana 11/21-22]

3) Authoritative statement / known fact (Aptopadesha pramana)

It is the authoritative statement obtained from a valid source of knowledge. The primary source of knowledge asserted by one worthy of true knowledge. [Charak Samhita Sutra Sthana 11/18-19] It is also known as ‘shabda pramana’.

4) Logical reasoning (Yukti pramana)

It is based on the application and comprehension of information obtained from various sources. It is a practice based expedient source of knowledge. [Charak Samhita Sutra Sthana 11/23]

Other types

5. Analogy (Upamana pramana)

Some ancient scholars include ‘upamana’ as one of the pramana. It is obtaining knowledge about an unknown phenomenon by its comparison with a similar known object. The knowledge between two similar phenomena can be obtained by this method. As it requires previous knowledge regarding similar objects and assumptions about the unknown objects are made.

6. Method of presumption (Arthapatti pramana)

This pramana is accepted by bot streams viz. purva-mimansa and uttar mimansa. It is the method of presumption or preposition. The fact is presumed as a result of contradiction between two known facts. It is the assumption of an unperceived fact in order to reconcile two apparently inconsistent perceived facts.

7. Authoritative statement (Aitihya pramana)

This is similar to aptopadesha pramana described earlier. It refers to obtaining references or knowledge from the veda.

Importance of concept of pramana

a) In preservation and promotion of health

Ayurveda is the only medical science that equally emphasizes preventive and promotive aspects of health. Preservation of health (swasthya raksha) is the primordial motive of this science. The knowledge of self (internal environment) and surroundings (external environment) is necessary for this purpose. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 7/53] Pramana are essential tools to acquire accurate knowledge regarding our body and means to ensure its health. Daily regimen (dinacharya) is described in the Matrashitiya adhyaya should be followed by the individual on the basis of his physiological characteristics. Thus the Aptopadesha or Agama pramana helps the individuals to know about different modalities to achieve health and wellbeing. Determinants of health and disease are examined and assessed by the means of pramana. Other physiological entities like digestion(agni),strength(bala), memory(smriti), intellect(medha), knowlwdge(dnyana) are assessed through the means of anumana pramana.

b) In diagnosis and prognosis

The diagnosis of any diseases involves two processes the investigation of disease (roga pariksha) and examination of patient (rugna pariksha). [Charak Samhita Sutra Sthana 20/20] The patient examination includes a tenfold assessment. (dasha vidha pariksha) Yukti pramana helps to understand the prognosis of the condition. Examination of disease (roga pariksha) commences with five tools of diagnosis (nidana panchaka), six stages of pathogenesis (shatkriyakala), complications (upadrava), consequences (udarka) as mentioned in the classical texts. This is obtained by the application of aptopadesha. All available tools are applied to acquire a correct knowledge of patients and diseases.

c) In management of diseases

One who is able to correctly examine or observe the phenomenon becomes efficient in his work. [Charak Samhita Sutra Sthana 10/5]

Management of any disease condition requires apt knowledge of medicines, therapies, and their timely application in correct dosage. It is applied to understand the dosage, appropriate time, therapeutic vehicle (anupana), and related factors affecting the therapeutic outcomes. While deciding the treatment protocol, the physician makes a few assumptions regarding the presenting conditions and future outcomes to render maximum relief to the patient. This application of yukti pramana leads to success in medical management.

d) Pramana as research tools

Research being an investigative process in itself utilizes the concepts of pramana for the establishment of factual matters. These can be useful to decipher the research process through Ayurveda. For instance, the Pratyaksha pramana can be applied to derive the data or conclusions from direct observations. Thus, it has great utility in observational and interventional studies. Anumana pramana is very useful in determining the research outcomes in case-control, cohort and cross-sectional studies. It is also applied in the process of hypothesis testing and hypothesis formation. Anumana helps to understand futuristic or retrospective predictions based on the logical analysis of acquired knowledge. Yukti pramana is similar to the interventional studies helpful in determining and forming the study design. Aptodesha pramana forms the process of literature review and previous work done on the subject matter. Thus, the concept of pramana is applicable at all stages in the research process.

e) Pramana as teaching, learning tool

Pramana are used in medical texts like Charak and Sushruta Samhita to explain the knowledge matter to fellow peers and students. Thus it has wide applicability in the field of academic teaching and learning for accurate description of subject matter. Aptopadesha is the ideal method of learning any new phenomenon based on the basic known facts about the subject matter. Pratyaksha pramana helps to develop the scientific and self-experience-based method to acquire and analyze the knowledge. Anumana helps in the predictive and logical interpretation of knowledge factor. Yukti is the logical reasoning aimed at the development of the psychomotor domains of acquiring knowledge.

Contemporary approach

In view of contemporary medical methods, the concept of pramana is most similar or closely related to epistemology. Epistemology is the science of correct Knowledge. It is the process or method or science to obtain the knowledge.[7] It basically gives information regarding the sources of knowledge. It is an important part of research methodology forming the backbone of the same. It answers basic questions pertaining to knowledge process like how, when, what, and why. It is the basis of knowledge, understanding and formation. According to James Fredrick Farrier, it is means of production of knowledge and it is scepticism about different knowledge claims. Epistemology involves the process of obtaining knowledge either through inductive or deductive process. The inductive process aims at formation of new theory while the deductive approach tests the knowledge and known theory. Thus the process of the inductive approach is from narrow to broad while deductive approach goes from broader knowledge to precise more specific knowledge.[8]

Current researches

The available literature related to researches pertaining to the concept of pramana and its understanding, application primarily involves review articles. The articles are directed at various aspects of pramana including its application in clinical practice, research , teaching and learning field. Literature is also available on the detailed explanation of various pramana separately. Only few of these articles are available in the recognised peer reviewed journals. There is scope for robust investigation on the scientific evidence-based understanding of pramana and its application in practice.

Summary of articles is given below.

1) Pooja T. et al worked on a review article entitled “anumana pramana and its Scope as a diagnostic and research tool”. This study focused on significance of Anumana pramana in interpreting subtle phenomenon like the functioning of tridosha in health and disease, role of unseen karmic effects on disease-occurrence and palliation, concept of rebirth etc.[9]

2) Sharayu Phuke worked on “Application of Upamana Pramana (Analogy) to Interpret Concept of Prakriti and Dhatu Sarata: A Review”. This study underlined utility of upamana pramana in understanding the concepts of prakriti and dhatu sarata.[10]

3) Supriya Bhalerao described how aptly the pramana can help in understanding the Teaching, Learning and Research Methodology in a letter to editor entitled “Bloom's taxonomy reiterates Pramana”.[11]

4) Rajendra Pai et al. discussed the scope of pramana in prakriti and vikriti pariksha for proper clinical practice in review article entitled “Importance of Pramana Pareeksha in Clinical Practice”.[12]

5) Sinimol T P et. al wrote a paper that analyses the logic behind application of yukti pramana.[13]

6) Ajit Patil, and Mrunali Patil wrote an article that focuses on the scope of anumana pramana as a tool to elaborate the ideologies of research.[14]

7) Sunny Chandrashekhar Patil, Arjunsingh Baghel, Rambabu R Dwivedi discussed methods of examination and investigation in Ayurveda: A review in reference to Pramana Vijnana (Epistemology).[15]

8) Vinay A. Pawar in his article, “Pramana Vidnyana - An ancient method of research with special reference to Charak Samhita” throws light upon the various aspects of pramana in the field of research.[16]

9) C. Bhuvaneswari, Meenakshi Malik, M. Sreevani, K. Venkat Shivudu in their article, significance of using upamana pramana in Ayurveda evaluated the upamana pramana in three aspects i.e. physiological, diagnostic, and philosophical aspects.[17]

Related chapters

Tistraishaniya Adhyaya, Rogabhishagjitiya Vimana, Trividha Roga Vishesha Vijnaniya Vimana Adhyaya, Pratyaksha pramana, Anumana pramana,Aaptopadesha pramana,Yukti pramana, Upamana pramana, Apamarga Tanduliya Adhyaya, Concepts and Contemporary Practices.

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