Atreya (आत्रेय) Rishi, or Atreya Punarvasu, was a descendant of Atri, one of the great Hindu sages (rishis) whose accomplishments are detailed in the Puranas. Sage Atreya was a renowned scholar of Ayurveda and six schools of early Ayurveda was founded based on his teachings. He is credited as the writer of Bhela Samhita, dating to a period of 6th century BCE. He is believed to have worked as the personal physician of King Nagnajit of Gandhara Kingdom, who finds mention in the Mahabharata. The original contents of Charakasamhita are credited to Atreya, which were in turn codified and edited by Agnivesha and Charaka. According to Surendranath Dasgupta, The old Ayurveda of Atreya-Charaka school probably has its root in the now extinct Caranavaidya branch of Atharvaveda.
Influences in Ayurvedic schools
According to the Charaka tradition, there existed six schools of medicine, founded by the disciples of the sage Punarvasu Ātreya. Each of his disciples, Agnivesha, Bhela, Jatūkarna, Parāshara, Hārīta, and Kshārapāni, composed a Samhitā. Of all the six, the one composed by Agnivesa was most revered. But, neither of them has survived.
Charaka later on, taking cues from Agnivesa Samhita, produced the now renowned work Charaka Samhita around 300 B.C. which survived and has been handed down to us in the form of Bower Manuscript dated around 4th century. Charaka Samhita is the foundational text of Ayurveda.
The descendents of Atri Rishi use Atreya as their surname just like many other Gotras, or clan names used by the Brahmin community of Hindus in India and Nepal. In Northern India, most Atreya Brahmins also prefer to use the Tyagi surname. Many of the Kshatriyas of South India also belong to this Gotra.
Original Atreya gotri bramhin have migrated to East Indian state of Orissa which was in the ancient time known as Kalinga, Utkala/Utkal, South Kosal, Kongada, Odra Desha etc. All Oriya-Utkala Brahmins with surname Rath belong to the Atreya gotra in the line of rathātreya (रथात्रेय). a son of Atri and compiler of the Ṛk Veda, 5th Maṇḍala. Nepali Brahmin surname also belong to this gotra. Atreya gotra is found among Bengali Vaidya Brahmins as well.
- Mohammad Ali Jazayery, Werner Winter (1988). Languages and Cultures: Studies in Honor of Edgar C. Polomé. Walter de Gruyter. p. 116.
- Surendranath Dasgupta (1922). A History of Indian philosophy, Vol 1. p. 284.