Ayurveda is a traditional system of healing and health practiced widely in Nepal and Indian subcontinent. Literally, it is a Sanskrit term consisting of two words: ‘Ayu’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘Veda’ meaning ‘knowledge or science’. Thus Ayurveda roughly translates as ‘knowledge or science of life’. Indeed, it is a practical science that explores life in all its layers. As a holistic system of medicine, it pays more attention to quality of life rather than its quantity. It presents health as harmony among body, mind and spirit. It aims to provide proper guidance regarding diet and lifestyle to promote health as well as herbal and herbo-mineral medications to cure the ailments.
Ayurveda is in fact, an intricate system of healing that is believed to be originated since Vedic time. Actually, there are four major books of Vedas which deal with various aspects of life viz. Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. Among these, Rigveda is considered to be the oldest scripture known to mankind believed to be written some 10,000 thousand years ago. Abundant discussion on the basic principle of Ayurveda i.e. the Tridosha Principle is found in this book. Apart from this, Reference to various herbs used in curing different ailments can also be found in this ancient literature. However, the major references of Ayurveda are found in Atharvaveda and it is for this reason that Ayurveda is considered as Upaveda(supplementary) of Aatharvaveda. This knowledge is believed to be gained through deep meditation and passed to subsequent generations by cognition through oral transfer. The various methods of healing encompassed by Ayurveda such as prevention, longitivity and surgery came through divine revelation. So, Ayurveda embraces not only science but spirituality and philosophy as well. In its truest form, Ayurdeda is a science of truth as it is expressed in life.
According to Ayurveda, we all are a unique individual made up of five basic elements that form every matter in this universe: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Ether element in the body is manifested by the spaces like buccal cavity, thoracic cavity, abdomen etc. Air element is expressed in the form of movement within the body like heart beat, movement of lungs, peristalsis of gastrointestinal tract etc. Likewise, all the enzymatic and metabolic actions in the body are due to third element, Fire. All the liquid components of the body are the manifestations of the Water element. Lastly, the solid structures like bones, muscles, skin, hair etc. in the body are the expressions of Earth, the fifth element. The functions of sense organs in our body are also the manifestations of these five elements. Hearing function is related to Ether element while sense of touch is related to Air. Similarly, seeing is related to Fire, the sense of taste is related to Water and finally the sense of Smell is the manifestation of Earth element. Thus, our body is nothing more than these five elements.
While we are a composite of five basic elements, certain elements combine together in some proportions to produce various physiological functions in our body. This combination is fundamental to Tridosha Principle upon which the whole concept of Ayurveda system of healing and health is based. Ether and Air elements combine to form what is known as Vaata dosha in Ayurveda whereas Water and Earth elements combine to form Pitta dosha. Similarly, Water and Earth elements combine forming Kapha dosha. Vaata is basically a principle of movement. It is a force that directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration and elimination. All the functions of nervous system are due to Vaata. Pitta dosha is responsible for all the metabolic processes in the body. It transforms the food we intake into nutrients that our body can be assimilate. It is Kapha dosha that provides physical as well as biological strength, vigor and stability to the body. In this way,these three humors or doshas control all the biological, psychological and physiopathological functions in the human body. These are the basic human constitutions which in balanced state provide positive health and if the balance is disturbed, become reason for occurrence of various diseases.
Ayurveda views that the basic constitution of each individual is different that is determined from the time of conception. Hence, in Ayurveda, treatment protocols are designed specifically to treat the person rather than a disease. It always aims to establish balance among bodily doshas in order to cure any ailment by recommending specific dietary and lifestyle guidelines along with certain herbal, mineral or herbo-mineral medications if required. Panchakarma is the unique concept in Ayurveda to eliminate all the accumulated toxins in the body through different cleansing procedures, thereby uprooting the disease from its base.
To conclude, Ayurveda is the vast ocean of knowledge about life. Through its good understanding and application, one can not only attain better health but acquire the optimum quality of life. So, it’s all up to us to explore this miraculous life-science for the common benefit of ourselves and greater good of mankind as a whole.
History of Ayurveda
Ayurveda was originated from the time immortal. If there is life, there is a chance of having disease. Hence, to remain healthy and cure disease whenever we fall ill Ayurveda was introduced in this world by Lord Brahma (Hindu god of creation) along with the origin of life. Then Lord Brahma transferred the sacred knowledge of Aurveda to Dakshaprajapati (his son) and Dakshaprajapati to Ashwinikumars (God’s physician) and so on until it arrived to the king of heaven, Lord Indra. Ayurveda was within the heaven until that period.
On the other hand, people on Earth were caught by different diseases. The condition was deteriorating and they were helpless. Eventually, they gathered up and decided to take the refugee of the holy saints who were meditating on the lap of Himalayas of present day Nepal. After seeing the suffering of the people caused due to the disease the quickly managed a discussion and decided to send Bhardwaj (one of the senior Rishi) to the heaven to learn the knowledge of Ayurveda with Lord Indra (king of heaven) and bring it on the Earth. This is how Ayurveda descended onto the Earth.
After that Ayurveda had developed by seers (rishis or yogi) and natural scientists through centuries of observations, discussions, meditation for many years. Yogis (rishis) while they are practicing yoga-meditation in Jungle and cave, there is no chance of doctor and hospital then they start to search the different herbs in jungle then their experience and research become rebirth of ayurveda. We can get old history of ayurveda more than 5,000 years ago. It stems from the ancient Vedic culture and was taught for many thousands of years in an oral tradition from accomplished masters to their disciples. Some of this knowledge was set to print a few thousand years ago, but much of it is inaccessible.
Ayurveda Scholars and their treatises
Ayurveda can be broadly classified into 2 schools on the basis of their specialties. 1st is medicine based “Atreya” school and the other is surgery based “Dhanwantari” school. Later, Atreya leaded medicine school was further flourished by his disciples like Agnivesa, Bhela, Jatukarna etc. Among them, Agnivesa is more remembered for his greater contribution of initiating to write the present day “Charaka Samhita”, the most famous treatise of Ayurveda. It was later explained and redacted by Acharya Charaka under whose name the book was named Charaka Samhita. The book consists 8 volumes and 120 chapters in totality. Acharya Charaka denied residential lifestyle of saints and adopted traveller lifestyle.
The other school is Dhanwantari school which is surgery predominant. “Dhanawantari” word itself has a meaning “who is good on Surgery”. Later, one of the disciple of Dhanwantari, “Susruta Senior” initiated to write the surgery based treatise called “Susruta Samhita”. It was later explained and redacted by “Susruta Junior” and other different Acharyas(scholars). Susruta Samhita consists 6 volumes and 120+66 chapters. There were only 120 chapters in the original Susruta Samhita and later, Acharya Nagarjuna added 66 chapters on the original book. Acharya Nagarjuna had done a lot of research on use of metals in medicine preparation with a long penance being on the jungle nearby Kathmandu, Nepal and hence, the jungle is famous by the name, “Nagarjuna jungle”.
The 3rd important scholar in Ayurveda is “Acharya Vagbhata”. He mixed the knowledge of medicine based “Charaka Samhita” and surgery based “Susruta Samhita”, added some of his own medicinal knowledge and finally prepared a book called “Astanga Sangraha”(collection of 8 branches of Ayurveda). Later, he collected the cream part of “Astanga Sangraha” and wrote another book called “Astanga Hridaya”(heart of the 8 branches of Ayurveda). The combination of these 3 big treatises of Ayurveda viz. Charaka Samhita, Susruta Samhita and Astanga Hridaya are famous by the name of “Greater Triad”.