What is Ayurveda?
“Ayurveda”, a whole world resides in this single word. A word that deserves utmost dignity; but undue advantage is being taken of its purity and generosity.
Yes, science and technology has done wonders but Ayurveda has not shown less miracles.
A very basic answer to the question “What is Ayurveda”- Ayurveda is a branch which contains everything related to health; a very old branch but still strong as it stands on universal principles.
Ayurveda is a vast, far big term, big as this planet!
It has explained the causes, symptoms, the treatment regime, treatment principles, diet and what not. But before explaining all this, Ayurveda very systematically first started with the aim of our birth on this planet, then explained the constitution of the body, told about the universal principles observed in nature and how they stand true within the body, too. (A reason to how Ayurveda survived through centuries)
It told about the diseases, their causes, symptoms, treatment.
Ayurveda explained the qualities of variety of food items like Rice, water, milk, dairy products, vegetables and every food you could imagine.
When I say these words, there is whole huge wisdom told under each of these headings. There is much, much more to Ayurveda than herbs, plants and greenery.
Ayurveda is a science which encompasses the systematic study of healing involving both preventive and curative measures.
I would like to take you down the memory lane right to the origin of Ayurveda and how it travelled this far to 21st century.
History of Ayurveda
Ayurveda descended through the following people. (You may find their names weird but they would have found our names weird, too, had they lived today!)
Brahma is believed to be the creator of Earth. Origin of Ayurveda can be attributed to Brahma. Brahma passed on the knowledge of Ayurveda to Dakshaprajapati; Dakshaprajapti to Ashwinikumar; Ashwinikumar-Indra-Bharadwaj- Atreya.
Atreya had 6 disciples-Agnivesh, Bhel, Jatukarna, Parashar, Harit, Ksharpani. In 1000 century B.C., Agnivesh proposed to start writing a text of all the knowledge he had gained. Then in 2nd century B.C., Charak interpreted it. Later Drudhbal completed the text in 4th century A.D. This text is available to us now and is named as “Charak Samhita”.
Indra also passed on this to Kashiraj Divodas Dhanvantari, who then forwarded the knowledge to his disciples. Sushrut was one of them. The text that Sushrut wrote in 3rd century B.C. also went through interpretations later and is available to us as “Sushrut Samhita”.
In the subsequent centuries, many people contributed to the knowledge of Ayurveda. Amongst them, well-known is Vagbhat who wrote a classical text in the 6th century A.D. by combining some references from both Charak and Sushrut Samhita and adding his own views. This is also available to us in the form of “Vagbhat Samhita”.
These 3 texts- Charak, Sushrut and Vagbhat Samhita are considered as the basis of Ayurveda now and majority of Ayurveda that we have learned throughout our BAMS graduation is from these 3 texts.
As the generations’ progressed, new herbal-medicine manufacturing techniques, pharmaceutics etc gained importance. And the major contributor to this section of Ayurveda was Sharangdhar in 13th century A.D.
The Ayurvedic herbs and their uses, qualities of food items etc were told in detail by Bhavprakash in 16th century A.D.
The need for fast-acting medicines, the advent of alchemy, conversion of metals and minerals to medicines gave rise to a branch of Ayurveda called as Rasashastra. The development of this branch started from 6th century A.D. and many amazing contributions were made through research in the centuries later. RasaRatnaSamucchay, Rasatarangini, and many texts where born through this which contain all the Ayurvedic herbo-mineral medicine formulations, their procedures, etc which are extensively used today.
This was about the history of Ayurvedic medicine.
In 1827, the Kolkata Sanskrit college started imparting knowledge of Ayurveda and can be attributed to be the first in recent centuries. Same thing was replicated in Jaipur in 1865. Later, institutions imparting knowledge of Ayurveda were set up. Some of the oldest colleges which stand even today are Gune shastri college in Ahmednagar, Maharshtra set up in 1916, Rishikul Ayurvedic college, Uttarakhand set in 1919, Tibbia college, Delhi in 1921, Madras college in 1925, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) started their Ayurveda branch in 1927, IPGT&RA Jamnagar in 1956 and so on.
There were many more people and texts other than those mentioned above. Each of them made contributions throughout. Many names and their works are available and referred today. Some texts are not available, some were preserved and their editions are available in the libraries of all Ayurvedic colleges in India.
While telling you all about the history of Ayurveda, I realized how lucky I am to belong to such a lineage.
Benefits of Ayurveda-
All the benefits of Ayurveda are inculcated in its motto which is told at the start of Ayurvedic classical texts:
- Preservation of the health of healthy people
- Treating the ailments of the sick.
It hasn’t missed a single principle that would hamper us in reaping the health benefits of Ayurveda.
The pillars of Ayurveda
What is Dosha in Ayurveda? Doshas are the elements which form the basis of our body. They make up our constitution, our physical and mental qualities. They decide if we are going to be lean or fat, angry or calm, etc. When they are in the right proportion and qualities, they maintain our health; however if this gets imbalanced it leads to ill health. Vata, Pitta, Kapha are the three doshas. Know more about what is dosha, what is vata, pitta and kapha in the other article under Ayurveda category on Ayureasy.
2. Dhatu– There are 7 dhatus which make up our organs, tissues, channels. This topic needs another article dedicated to it.
3. Mala– These can be regarded as waste products of the body which also have major significance in Ayurveda.
There are Panchamahabhutas, Strotas, etc and many more principles which form the base of Ayurveda.
When a treatment is decided, all these things are taken into consideration. It took us 5.5 years of BAMS to study all this and in fact, we still keep reading these concepts; because every time you read it, you develop a new way of thinking.
So this is how Ayurveda reached us. It was their dedication and honesty which made it possible to pass on Ayurveda in its original form. It is because of them that a legacy is carried forward through 5000 years. I feel it is in our hands now to pass the same pure and original Ayurveda as we received it. The advent of technology may have helped to popularize Ayurveda but it is harmful if wrong information is spread under the banner of Ayurveda. I definitely don’t want our century to be the culprit and pass on false knowledge and harm a beautiful legacy.