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History Of Ayurveda

ancient medicine

Ayurveda "knowledge of longevity" is the earliest medical system in the world. It is as old as the universe itself. The origin of Ayurveda is considered to be divine, from the demigod Brahma who is overseer of the Universe. He taught this knowledge to other demigods. 

Even though Brahma taught Ayurveda first, Lord Dhanvantari became father of Ayurveda, since he was the first divine incarnation to impart its wisdom among human race. 

It is written in the Vedic texts that, “One who remembers the name of Dhanvantari is released from all disease.”

The practice of Ayurveda is based upon the knowledge gained from the sacred books Vedas which were revealed more than 10000 years ago. 

There are four Vedas:

1. Rigveda – the oldest book in the world. It contains hymns and prayers in the worship of the universal forces called demigods.

2. Samaveda – contains rules how to chant mantras or prayers according to mystic vibrations.

3. Yajurveda – describes how to perform rituals.

4. Atharvaveda – describes many kinds of worship and invocations. Ayurveda is classified as one of the Upavedas – a subsection attached to the Atharvaveda. Atharvaveda describes 293 herbs with healing properties and deals with injuries, fertility, sanity and their treatments. 

Atharvaveda has formed the basis for developing Samhitas. Samhita means the authentic text on a particular subject. 

Charaka Samhita:

Charaka Samhita is the most ancient and authoritative Ayurvedic text still in existence written by sage Charaka between 6th and 3rd century B.C. 

Charaka Samhita is divided into 120 chapters that deals with fundamental principles of Ayurveda, etiology, anatomy, physiology, medicines, prognostic signs and symptoms, treatment of diseases, medical qualities of 100000 herbal plants, formulations and administration of elimination therapy etc. 

Sage Charaka also prescribed an ethical charter for medical practitioners two centuries prior to Hippocratic oath.

Charaka samhita is studied by students of Ayurveda all over the world. There is no way to learn Ayurveda properly unless you learn it from the original texts.

Sushruta Samhita:

Sushruta Samhita describes science of surgery written by sage Sushruta around 6th century B.C. He is referred to as the Father of the surgery. 

father of surgery

Photo by Alokprasad

Sushruta Samhita contains 120 chapters and describes more than 300 kinds of surgeries and 125 surgical instruments. It deals with anatomy, toxicology, embryology, humoral theory, psychiatry, anesthesia, physiological process of blood circulation, preservation of dead body, plastic and prosthetic surgery, Cesarean section, setting of compound fractures, dental, eye, ear and brain surgery. 

Sage Sushruta was the first surgeon who described diabetes, angina, obesity, anatomical structure of the eye and rhinoplasty (nose surgery). He invented the method of transposition of a forehead flap to reconstruct amputated nose. Amputation of the nose was a common form of punishment in that era.

125 surgical instruments were made of stone, wood, metal and other natural materials. His students were expected to study for at least 6 years. Only Brahmins were practicing physicians. Brahmin is the highest of the four castes. This caste included priests and spiritual teachers. Visiting the sick, collecting herbs, preparation of medications, memorizing the Vedic texts of Ayurveda, performing procedures on dead animals, practicing excisions on fruit and vegetables and bandaging on full sized human figures made of clay were part of the training. 

Techniques written in Sushruta Samhita are still used in Western medicine today.


Vagbhata was a famous Ayurvedic physician from 4th century A.D. who wrote Ashtanga Hridayam and the Ashtanga Sangraha. He has summarized both Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita in 150 chapters and gave equal importance to all eight branches of Ayurveda.

All the texts state the average human life to be 100 years.

In the 6th century B.C. Ayurveda had spread to Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea and Sri Lanka, carried over by the Buddhist monks traveling to those lands. Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbology and Buddhist philosophy were impacted by Ayurvedic knowledge.

In the 1800s the British invaded India. They destroyed many Ayurvedic book and closed all Ayurvedic schools and hospitals. In place of the Ayurvedic hospitals, western medical hospitals were established.

1947 India gained independence and Ayurvedic schools and hospitals re-opened. Even today Ayurveda is widely practiced on the Indian subcontinent — more than 90 percent of Indians use some form of Ayurvedic medicine.

Interest in the Ayurveda in the West began in the mid 1970's as Ayurvedic doctors from India began visiting the U.S.

In the year 1987 Ayurveda has been recognized by World Health Organization as alternative system of medicine. 

Author: Ayurveda Tutorials

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