Origin and History
Ayurveda originated in India long back in pre-vedic period. Rigveda and Atharva-veda ( 5000 years B.C.), the earliest documented ancient Indian knowledge have references on health and diseases. Ayurved texts like Charak Samhita and Sushruta Samhita were documented about 1000 years B.C. The term Ayurveda means ‘Science of Life’. It deals elaborately with measures for healthful living during the entire span of life and its various phases. Besides, dealing with principles for maintenance of health, it has also developed a wide range of therapeutic measures to combat illness. These principles of positive health and therapeutic measures relate to physical, mental, social and spiritual welfare of human beings. Thus Ayurveda becomes one of the oldest systems of health care dealing with both the preventive and curative aspects of life in a most comprehensive way and presents a close similarity to the WHO’s concept of health propounded in the modern era.
A perusal of its several classical treatises indicate presence of two schools of Physicians and Surgeons and eight specialities. These eight disciplines are generally called "Ashtanga Ayurveda" and are :-
- Internal Medicine(Kaya Chikitsa)
- Paediatrics(Kaumar Bhritya)
- Psychiatry( Bhoot Vidya)
- Otorhinolaryngology and Ophthalmology(Shalakya)
- Surgery( Shalya)
- Toxicology( Agad Tantra)
- Geriatrics(Rasayana) Eugenics and aphrodisiacs(Vajikarana)
Compendia on these subjects like Charak Samihta, Sushruta Samhita etc. were written by the ancient scholars during B.C. period. These were used for teaching of Ayurveda in the ancient universities of Takshashila and Nalanda.
The Early Beginning
During its early period, it was perhaps the only system of overall healthcare and medicine which served well the people in such crucial areas as health, sickness, life and death. It enjoyed the unquestioned patronage and support of the people and their rulers. This situation promoted maximally the growth of this system. Practically all the systematic ground work of laying down its basic concepts, principles and medicaments took place during this period of Indian history.
The Medieval Period
Then followed a long period of medieval history marked by unsettled political conditions and several invasions from outside the country when Ayurveda faced utter neglect. Its growth was stunted, its teaching and training were stopped from being spread and its monopoly in practice or utilization was eroded greatly by the officially supported systems. Ayurveda barely survived because of its native roots and also because the official systems of medicine could not reach everywhere particularly in widely scattered and difficult rural areas.
The Present Era
The political situation of the country was destined to change in favour of freedom from foreign rule. With the awakening of nationalism and movement for freedom the Indian cultural values and way of life (including health care and sickness cure systems) surfaced again. The patriotic zeal of the people, their leaders and benevolence of the rulers of princely States initiated the revival of Ayurvedic system of medicine even before the country got its freedom. In 1916, the Members of Imperial Legislative Councils pressed the Government to accept this ancient and indigenous system of Ayurveda for developing it on scientific basis and for increasing its usefulness. In 1920, the Indian National Congress demanded Government patronage for Ayurveda and Provincial Governments began to grant assistance. The State and Central Governments appointed several committees to suggest ways and means of rehabilitating this time tested system in the service of the people and promote its further growth following modern scientific parameters and methods. As a result, several States started schools and colleges for training of competent Ayurvedic practitioners with working knowledge of modern medicine.
After, the country became free in 1947, the movement for revival gained additional momentum. The first Health Ministers’ Conference resolved that Ayurveda should be developed and put to use for providing medicare to the people. In due course of time this system got official recognition and became a part of the National Health network of the country. In several ways, the official health policies, national plans and programmes accorded to it the same status as enjoyed by the dominant Allopathic system. At present the system is well set to re-orient itself to modern scientific parameters. Simultaneously, it is well poised for much greater, effective utilization so as to enable the country to reach its goals of Health for all and regulate population growth. In the present situation, Medical Scientists are researching Ayurveda remedies for lifestyle related diseases, degenerative and psychosomatic disorders.
The classical works on Ayurveda describe it as under :
It is that knowledge of life which deals elaborately and at length with conditions beneficial or otherwise to the humanity, and, to factors conducive to the happiness, or responsible for misery or sorrow besides indicating measures for healthful living for full span of life .
Ayurveda is also considered as ‘Science of life’. This probably makes it the earliest medical science having a positive concept of health to be achieved through a blending of physical, mental, social moral and spiritual welfare.
According to the ancient books of knowledge, health is considered as a prerequisite for achieving the supreme ends of life consisting of righteousness, wealth, artistic values and spiritual freedom. Preventive and curative aspects of diseases are considered as important components of the concept of positive health.
Ayurveda deals elaborately with measures of healthful living during the entire span of life and its various phases. Besides dealing with principles for maintenance of health, it has also developed a wide range of therapeutic measures to combat illness. These principles of positive health and therapeutic measures related to physical, mental, social and spiritual welfare of human beings. Thus Ayurveda became one of the oldest system of medicine dealing with both the preventive and curative aspects of life in a most comprehensive way.