A nation’s heritage is measured in terms of vitality of its traditions, and every nation has its own traditions that define its existence. Indian medical heritage is a national asset. India has a glorious tradition of healthcare system dating back to several millennia. Traditional medicine is defined by WHO as, the sum total of the knowledge skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health, as well as in the presentation, diagnosis improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.
During the vedic period and then the samhitha period, particularly during 1500-1000 B.C upto 600 A.D, India had evolved highly sophisticated and codified systems with written treatises like Ayurveda. The holistic approach of the Indian systems of medicine which internalizes all aspects of human health and diseases is perhaps the greatest contribution of Ayurveda. Holistic medicine includes humanistic medicine, psycho-somatic medicine and behavioral medicine. In short, the intrinsic value of holistic medicine is its integral vision of health and Ayurveda fulfils these stipulations and much more.
History of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is Sanskrit word that translates into knowledge (veda) of life (ayur).
The mythological origin of Ayurveda is associated with a story about BRAHMA, the lord of creation. Lord Brahma, who sought to ease the sufferings of man created Ayurveda from his memory as the Upaveda of Atharva veda and taught Ayurvedic skills to other gods. One of those deities was Dhanwanthari, who then transmitted the knowledge to the mortal sages. These sages or ‘Rishis of Bharathavarsha like Divodasa, Athreya etc., who are renowned for their empathy to the sufferings of the living beings handed over their knowledge to their ‘SISHYAS’ or students.Sishyas like Agnivesa, Bhela, Jathookarna made their own studies and developed treatises or “SAMHITHAS”
Another story regarding origin of Ayurveda is that Lord Brahma after creating this veda taught it to DAKSHAPRAJAPATHI who transmitted his knowledge to ‘ASWINIKUMARA’S .ASWINI KUMARA’S handed over his science of life to Lord Indra and he himself to Rishis like ‘ATHRIPUTHRA’.Sishyas of Athri like ‘AGNIVESA’ developed their own thanthras and wrote samhitha and thus Ayurveda developed to a sophisticated science with eight specialization or branches known as ‘ashtanga ayurveda’. These eight branches are :-
- Kaya Chikitsa (General medicine)
- Balachikitsa/Kaumarabhrithyam (Pediatrics)
- Grahachikitsa / Bhoothavidya (Psychiatric treatment)
- Urdhuvanga Chikitsa/Salakyathanthram (E.N.T and ophthalmology)
- Salyachikitsa (Surgery)
- ‘Damshtra’ / Chikitsa (Agadathanthram) (Toxicology)
- Jarachikitsa or Rasayanathanthram (Rejuvenation treatment or geriatrics)
- Vajeekaranathanthram (Aphrodisiac treatment)
Thus Ayurveda is viewed as a divine science of revelation and thus values personal insight as much as imperial observation.
The earliest developments of Indian medicine are traced back to India’s Indus valley civilization that flourished from about 2700 to 1500 B.C Ayurveda’s popularity declined between the 10th and 12th centuries A.D. when India was over run by Muslim invaders from the West. The Muslims brought their own Medicine, Unani Tibb, a blend of Islamic medicine and Greek medicine. After the Mughal Empire was established in the 16th Century, influences from the Arab world were also incorporated into Ayurveda. The liberal Muslim ruler Akbar patronized all forms of Indian Medicine and Ayurveda again thrived. This changed however, when India came under British Control.
However, Ayurveda succeeded in facing all these set backs and is a good example of an ancient healing art of India that has emerged as a part of the “New Age” popularity after its unwilling hibernations forced by the cruel forces and circumstances prevalent in the region in the last few centuries.