(Last Updated on : 22/05/2013)
Ayurveda is a traditional holistic health care system that has been practiced in India for more than 5000 years. With its origin deeply seated in the hinterlands of India ayurveda is an elaborated medical system and is regarded as the oldest form of health care in the world. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit
term, made up of the words "ayus" and "veda
." "Ayus" means life and "Veda" means knowledge or science. The term "ayurveda" thus means the knowledge of life or the science of life. According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, "ayu" comprises the mind, body, senses and the soul. It analyses the human body in terms of earth, water, fire, air and ether as well as the three bodily humors.
In India the origin of ayurveda is as old as the religion, Hinduism. There were originally four main books of spirituality, which included among other topics, health, astrology, spiritual business, government, army, poetry and behaviour. These books are known as the four Vedas like the Rig Veda
, Sama Veda
, Yajur Veda
and Atharva Veda
. Ayurveda was a sub section attached to the Atharva Veda and is treated as Upaveda of Rigveda and Antharveda (internal part) of Atharvana veda.
Myths and legends lace the origin of this traditional health care system. It is believed that ayurveda was once communicated to the Indian saints and sages. Myths unfold that Dhanvanatri, the physician of the gods in Hindu mythology, penned down ayurveda and taught it to the sages.
While according to another legend, the knowledge of healing, ayurveda originated from Lord Brahma
who taught it to Daksha
, who further taught it to Lord Indra
. There is an interesting story which indicates the origin and development of ayurveda as a holistic treatment in India. It was the time of sheer restlessness; Human existence was under the lash of deaths and disease and it was then to offer human being a solution the great sages gathered together. During this meeting, saint Bharadvaja came forward and learnt the science of ayurveda from Indra. Bharadvaja then taught ayurveda to Atreya who further carried ayurveda as a treatment procedure to the next level of maturity and transmitted this knowledge throughout world. Later it was Agnivesha, the disciples of Atreya who wrote Agnivesha
Samhita which is still considered as the most comprehensive form of Ayurveda. However, in later days the classical texts, Charaka Samhita (Charaka), Ashtanga Hridaya (Vagbhata) and Susruta Samhita (Susruta) formed the foundation of ayurveda.
Ayurveda, as a holistic treatment procedure thus represents the science of life and longevity originating in the Vedic traditions of India. Based on the principle of eternal life, ayurveda has a vast body of knowledge which covers eight principal branches. The primary element of ayurveda involves the eternal symbiosis of mind, body and spirit for a healthy living. Any imbalance in this symbiosis of body, spirit and mind indeed results in physical ailments. Ayurveda as a treatment concept thus re-establishes the harmony between the body and its habitat by creating the optimum health environment.
The whole science of ayurveda is based on the 'Five Great Elements' known as Panchabhuta theory
. These five elements are earth (prithvi), water (jal), fire (agni or tej), air (vayu) and ether or space (akash). In ayurvedic tradition the universe is made up of these five elements. According to ayurveda therefore the origin of all aspects of existence is consciousness. Matter and Energy are one; however, matter is manifested in the Panchabhuta or the five elements. Ayurveda also perceives the body, the mind and the spirit likewise and therefore zero down specific methods for working on each to ensure healthy living
Ayurveda recognizes three main energies that combine to form all things in the universe. These are recognized as being fundamental to all life and are seen in the processes of growth, maintenance, and decay. Their actions are named anabolism, metabolism, and catabolism in the western sciences. Life, light, and love represent all these energies and are found in the environments at almost every moment and on every level. When people become aware of these qualities within themselves, they take the first steps toward creating a healthy life. Ayurveda assists in identifying these energies in a person's body and shows them how to more fully experience these gifts and gain freedom from their limitations. By working with the body's unique nature, true health can be created. Ayurveda names these basic energies as Vata (ether/air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water/earth). Vata rules mental mobility. Pitta, or fire, governs digestion and assimilation on all levels from food to ideas. Kapha or water rules the form and substance and is responsible for weight, cohesion and stability. In the Ayurvedic approach to life and health, it is recognized how these energies work at each moment in people's bodies and minds. When these energies are recognized, countering the destructive forces with positive actions becomes possible. This further creates balance.
Ayurveda insists that any discordant note in the synthesis of the spirit, body and mind due to external or internal causes is a cause for concern. The 'fault' or dosha, the 'tissue' or dhatu and the 'impurity' or mala should be in perfect harmony with each other, with all the components properly balanced and that is the secret of health as per ayurveda. Quite ideally therefore the treatment in ayurveda also concentrates on the symbiosis of the spirit, mind and the body. Essentially ayurveda holds the view that it is the tridosha imbalance, which causes illness. Other causes are the imbalance of digestive fire (agni), and accumulation of toxins (ama) formed by undigested nutrients and psychological experiences. The therapeutic measures in ayurveda are therefore taken both to prevent diseases and also to cure them. Thus ayurvedic procedures are done either to detoxify the body or as a prelude to strengthening the immune system. Panchakarma or 'five procedures', is the most sought after detoxification therapy in ayurveda which paves the way for the culmination of ayurvedic treatment of healing whilst ensuring health.
The legacy of ayurveda as a treatment method which was initiated by the early ayurvedic practitioners like the Shusruta, Charaka or Vagbhata is still regarded as one of the reigning alternative treatment methods in India. With the promise of the profound expression of the holistic nature of good health, ayurveda as a holistic healing method has been perfected over ages. Just not the cure from disease ayurveda is the science of life which views a healthy individual as an integral synthesis of mind, body and spirit, living in harmony with fellow beings and environment.