Ayurveda is an ancient healthcare system of India based on the eternal principles of healthy life. The word "Ayur" in ancient language means life or daily living and “Veda” means Science. Ayurveda is the name given to the science of life and longevity, which is a vast body of invaluable knowledge, with eight branches. 

it incorporates all aspects of life whether physical, psychological, spiritual or social. What is beneficial and what is harmful to life, what is happy life and what is sorrowful life;

 all these four questions and life span allied issues are elaborately and emphatically discussed in Ayurveda. It believes in the existence of soul before birth and after death too.

The objective of  “preserving and promoting health” in Ayurveda is achieved through different modalities, based on principles within its own conceptual framework. Ayurveda is not a science dealing only with drugs; it is more a “way of life” and describes methods for promotion, prolongation and maintenance of positive health. It emphasizes the importance of a specific daily routine (or Dinacharya) and seasonal (or Ritucharya) along with diet, drugs, physical exercise and good personal hygiene to achieve physical & mental health.


Ayurveda, the ancient most health care system originated with the origin of universe. With the inception of human life on earth Ayurveda started being applied. The ancient Vedic texts have scattered references to Ayurvedic Remedies and allied aspects of medicine and health. Atharva-veda mainly deals with extensive Ayurvedic information. That is why Ayurveda is said to be the offshoot of “Atharva-Veda”.

Dhanvantari – God of Health 
In ancient days, both Demons on earth and Gods in heaven were interested to obtain Ambrosia – the Amrit from Ocean of Milk – the Ksheera Sagar. Amrit was to make an individual immortal. However, it was not an easy task to obtain Amrit from the ocean of milk individually for both of them. It was decided that both the groups would share the task as well as the outcome. Accordingly, both the groups churned the Ksheer Sagar, using Meru Parvata (A large mountain) as the agitator and Adiseshu (A large and strong snake) as the rope. This churning brought out first a powerful Poison, which Lord Shiva swallowed, in the interest of universe. It later followed with outcome of Amrit. “Dhanvantari” emerged out of Ksheera Sagar, with a Vessel Of Amrit in one hand and a set of Herbs in another.  Since then, Indian Mythology regards Dhanvantari as the God of Health and immortality.


History of Ayurveda dates back to Vedic era. Atharva Veda has descriptions of Ayurveda as sub-branch. It was mentioned that during Samudra Manthan, Lord Dhanvantari came out holding the Amritkalash of Ayurveda. He treated the injured and tired gods after which gods fought with Asuras and won. This knowledge of Ayurveda was then provided to Brahma for the welfare of Gods & their families. Brahma then passed on the knowledge to Daksha -------- Indra ------ and Ashwini Kumars to provide the benefits of AYURVEDA to more people of divine origin.

Descriptions indicate that the creation of Lord Ganesha was the first instance of Head transplantation. This is followed by cosmetic surgery (by Lord Daksha) of Goddess Parvati when she committed suicide by jumping into the Homa. Literary review suggests that Ashwini kumars performed various organ transplantations, leg transplantations, orthopedic surgeries etc.,

For the larger benefit of mankind, Rishi Bharadwaj gained the knowledge of Ayurveda from Indra and brought it with him to earth. He then passed on this knowledge to many of his disciples who in turn wrote manuscripts in the form of Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and Kashyapa Samhita etc., to preserve this knowledge.

Jeevaka one such disciple performed the first cranio-surgery to remove a worm from the Maharaja’s head.

After this, Ayurveda enjoyed good respect among various sections of people and soon started to be taught in Kashi Vidyapeeth (today’s BHU), Nalanda Vishwavidyalaya, Takshashila Vidyapeeth etc.,

Ayurveda - AN eternal HEALTHCARE SCIENCE 

Ayurveda is a collection of principles of healthy living that have evolved from the times of appearance of man on earth. It is not liable to change at any time or at any point in the world. This healing system has been practised in daily living in India for more than 5000 years.

Ayurveda first recorded in ‘Vedas’, the world’s oldest collection of knowledge, is still the favored healthcare practice of millions and millions of Indians. A system older than Greek and Egyptian medicine, it is now known to the wider world as a new age medicine, proving its eternal significance.

salient features of Ayurveda Health Care System
Ayurvedic healthcare system has perfected efficient methods and herbal preparations to keep the Physical, Mental and Emotional health of a person in its prime throughout life. It is contrary to the current practice of seeking treatment when disease strikes, or waiting to get medical help till the symptoms manifest. It is a mind, body medicare system evolved to help human beings, get maximum out of their lives in a perfectly natural healthy way.

Ayurveda instills in you, a view of life that is holistic and congenial to enjoy the pleasures of life in a sustainable way. This can be achieved without disturbing the rhythm of your life.

The central principle of Ayurvedic science is that, each human being is unique having a distinct individual constitution, genetic inheritance and predisposition to certain diseases.

As per Ayurveda, ‘Health’ is a state of equilibrium of normal functions of Doshas, Dhatus, Malas and Agni with the Body, Mind and Soul. It means that when Dosh-Dhatu-Malas and Agni are constantly in a state of functional equilibrium, then health is maintained. Otherwise distortion of the equilibrium results in diseases. Erratic lifestyle is believed to be one of the basic causes behind the failure of mechanisms maintaining equilibrium.

Treatment either with or without drugs and application of specific rules of diet, activity and mental status as described, disease wise, brings back the state of equilibrium i.e. health.

action plan of Ayurveda for a ‘Toxin Free Body and Electrical Mind’
Ayurveda in fact can be called an ancient Health care system devised for the fast and stressful modern life. This system is a stress reliever and immunity builder. Ayurveda approaches a problem from different angles.

Pancha karma (Five enlacing procedures) and Ayurvedic massages are effective in flushing out toxins already in the body and internal systems down to the last cell. The body is tuned up by massage, oil bath and other procedures.

Herbal food supplements and health care products build up the immune system in a natural way. There are specific drugs to strengthen each system of the body, and arrest the aging process

Ayurveda prevents toxins from entering the body by making people keep a watch on their food and food habits.

eight branches of Ayurveda 
Kaya Chikitsa: - Commonly known as Internal Medicine. “Kaya Chikitsa” handles prevention and management of diseases affiliating the physical entity of the body (the “Kaya”).

(2) Kaumara Bhrtya: - Commonly known as Balaroga / Pediatrics. Besides handling the complexities of a newborn baby (known as Neonatology), the branch also lays principles and practices to strengthen the foundations of health for a growing child. 

(3) Shalya Tantra: - Commonly known as General Surgery. The branch deals with radical forms of treatment, by a surgical intervention. Besides surgical practices known today, the Shalya Tantra also enumerates the Para-surgical procedures like use of heat (ushma), alkalis (kshara) etc for therapeutic applications. 

(4) Shalakya Tantra: - This is the Ayurvedic branch of Ophthalmology and Otorhinolaryngology, concerned with diseases of the eyes and ENT. Treatment of diseases in these parts is generally done through the help of Shalaka (probes).

(5) Agada Tantra: - Commonly it is known as Toxicology. This branch deals with the management of diseases associated with poisons. 

(6) Rasayana Tantra: - Commonly it is known as Geriatrics or Science of Rejuvenation. This branch deals with promotion of positive health during adulthood and strives to prevent biological aging of tissues.

(7) Vajikarana Tantra: - Commonly known as Virility therapy. This branch deals with physical and mental aspects of sexual life and lays foundations for healthy offspring’s.

(8) Bhuta Vidya: - Commonly it is known as Psychiatry. This branch is concerned with mental diseases and their treatment. The ancient practices of psychiatry used both; Pharmacological approaches (the use of herbal drugs) and also the Non-Pharmacological approaches (propitious rituals, oblation, charity, meditation, and pilgrimage).

There are following major Ayurvedic Texts available.

     (A) Charaka Samhita
     (B) Sushruta Samhita
     (C) Ashtanga Hrdayam
     (D) Madhava Nidanam
     (E) Sharngadhara Samhita 
(F) Bhava Prakasha

Maharishi Atreya, who was said to acquire Ayurveda from Maharishi Bharadwaj, has identified himself to be associated with Kaya Chikitsa (Internal Medicine). Maharishi Atreya taught Ayurveda to six disciples, viz. Agnivesha, Bhela, Parasara, jatukarna, Hareeta and Ksharapani. All these six disciples have recorded the teachings of Atreya, in form of Sutras-, as it was the existing practice in Vedic literature. Of these records, the compilation made by Agnivesha was treatised as Charaka Samhita.  

Among the six disciples of Maharishi Atreya, Agnivesa was believed to be brilliant. In spite of such brilliance, Agnivesa was modest enough, not to add any thing on his own to the original teaching of his teacher. Thus, Charaka Samhita is a compilation by Agnivesa, of the teaching by Maharishi Atreya. This treatise has been acknowledged as the first textbook on Medicine & Health care.

Agnivesa’s compilation was initially named as “Agnivesa Tantra”. After compilation of the text by Agnivesa over a period of time, the text appeared to be lost into the pages of history. At this time, another Charaka came into the picture redacted the whole text. Available evidence shows that, this Charaka belonged to the period of 300 to 200 B.C., which more or less into Kanishka Periods in Indian history. Thus the book attained his name as Charaka Samhita. 

By 4th century AD (the period of Gupta’s ruling in India), an important part (almost 1/3rd) of the treatise was found to be slipped into history, once again. At this stage, the text was redacted by another scholar, Dridhabala.

As a result of these two historical redaction’s (by both Charaka and Dridhabala), Charaka Samhita in its present form, is not the original text preserved through times and was bound to have some kind modifications in the original text. However, due to sincere efforts by Charaka and Dridhabala, a major part of the text appears to keep the original spirit of Agnivesa. 

The original contents of the text, presented in form of Sutras were interpreted by various commentaries. The present understanding on the Samhita is based upon the interpretation of some outstanding commentaries only. Charaka Samhita was translated into Persian and Arabic languages  & also some significant translations in English.

Charaka Samhita synchronizes the beauty of Sanskrit language (packed into 9,227 Slokas) with a science like Ayurveda –perfectly. Such beauty of literature is missing in the consequent texts on Ayurveda. It shows the very impressive effect in terms of Psychosomatic-View, in the treatment & cure of diseases. In this samhita, there are landmarks in scientific nidan (etiology) as Ten process of examine of disorders /disease. Charaka leads the Rasayana therapy for rejuvenation and longevity in the mainframe of chikitsa-sthana, which gives a very significant attitude in Ayurveda environment.  

As the teaching of “Atreya”, were confined to Internal Medicine, the treatise specializes in this particular branch of Ayurveda only. Charaka Samhita has 8 volumes, each of which is termed as Sthana (section). The contents are arranged in a total of 120 chapters and the number of chapters in each Sthana was kept as variable.  

Charaka Samhita-the foremost treatise among its kind had contributed to the nourishment of scientific spirit of Vedic intellect. Its content shows a definite advancement in basic concepts of Ayurveda. The physiological concepts of Ayurveda, viz. Tridosha Theory look a firm rooting structure in a logical foundation.

Preventive health care approaches laid down at the beginning of medical sciences by Charaka Samhita deserve a complete exploration. The approaches advocated by it, call for all round preventive care based on body, mind and spirit.

Scientific methods of clinical diagnosis, determination of prakriti based upon simple observations of physique and behavior are explained by Charaka Samhita. The Samhita contributed to the evolution of therapeutic approaches from Supernatural methods to Rational methods. It’s therapeutic point out to a highly evolved holistic approach of health care.

The literary aspect of Charaka Samhita is one of its unique natures. Charaka Samhita uses an extremely fine poetic language and interfaces the science, with the sweetness of poetry. Thus, it attracted a large number of non-medical language scholars also. 

Charaka Samhita was enriched by number of commentaries by various scholars at later periods. Of them, Nirantara-Padavyakhya written by Jejjata and Ayurveda-Deepika commentary by Chakrapani Datta need a specific mention. 

Sushruta samhita was the second treatise to enrich Ayurveda during the Samhita Era. This text represents a totally different tradition of Ayurveda and therefore, the text describes a different order for descent of Ayurveda. As per the Ayurvedic doctrine Dhanwantary is said to have taught Ayurveda to Sushruta.  

In the historical point of view, Dhanwantary who taught Ayurveda to Sushruta was supposed to be king of Kashi (presently Varanasi). His complete name was Dhanwantary Divodasa. Divodasa was regarded as a great exponent of Ayurveda as a whole. He was thorough with all the 8 branches of Ayurveda.

To determine the time of Sushruta Samhita appears to be more complex, as we come across many name of Sushruta, who was an expert in surgery. However, based upon the period of Divodasa, it is generally accepted that the author of Sushruta Samhita belongs too roughly before 600 B.C., which just proceeded the period of Gautam Buddha.  

Contribution of Sushruta & his compilation to modern surgery are highly acknowledged. Modern world recognizes him for dissecting the dead bodies to learn Anatomy. Sushruta performed anatomical dissections only on the bodies of youngsters, which were customarily buried. He did not have an opportunity to study the bodies of grown-up adults, as these corpses were being burnt down religiously, those days. As a result, the total number of bones enumerated in this samhita is higher, in comparison to the enumeration of modern anatomy.

Sushruta is acknowledged as the first surgeon. His treatise describes various surgical procedures to the minute details. The concepts of Pre-operative, operative and post-operative procedures describe in the text, provide a strong foundation to the existing surgical practices. What intrigues a modern researcher is the precision Sushruta has attained in describing very minute details of Surgical Anatomy, even in the absence of important paraphernalia.

Sushruta Samhita describes surgical procedures comparable to modern Plastic Surgery. He repairs injured bodily parts by grafting with healthy tissues take from somewhere else, in the body. Rhinoplasty (Nasal graft) is one of such procedures. Sushruta also laid down the foundations for the branch of Military Medicine –to focus onto the specific health needs of armed forces. 

The Samhita describes (brilliancy of Sushruta) two kinds of surgical equipment. First group is called the Yantra, which includes a range of instruments like forceps, specula etc and the other group is called Shashtra, which includes a range of instruments like knifes, scissors, hooks etc. 

Sushruta Samhita enriches the two branches of Ayurveda, viz. Shalya (Surgery) and Shalakya Tantra (ENT & Eye). The content of the text was divided among 6 volumes, named as Sthana (section). It spread into 186 chapters.

More interestingly, Sushruta Samhita devotes a chapter to Marmasthanas (vital points of the body), which is somewhat closer to Chinese concept of Meridians in Acupuncture. It also introduces the concept of Medical-Registration. 

Ashtanga Hrdayam comprises an important milestone in Ayurvedic literature. The name of the text implies that, it is the heart of eight branches (obviously, of Ayurveda). The book was complied by Vagbhatta and is believed to present in 600AD.

It had attracted the attention of medical men not only with in the country but also of neighboring countries such as Arabia, Persia, and Tibet & Germany. With its beauty and brevity of poetical composition, sequential arrangement of topics, clear description of precepts and practices of medical science and many other merits, it has earned its rightful place as one among the, three great treatises-of Ayurveda. It is an epitome of Ayurveda catering to the needs of the students, scholars and medical practitioners alike.

In Ashtanga-Hrdayam, the language is very simple and is totally free from any kind of poetic demagogy, like the earlier treatises. The concept was more matured and summarizing all-important aspect. The Ashtanga-Hrdayam is more practical for clinical purposes. The text complies information highly relevant to day today application, instead of going into the depths of philosophy of Ayurveda. 

Ashtanga-Hrdayam contains Six-Sthanas & total number of chapters being 120. There are 240 short prose lines, two at the commencement of each chapter. 

Ashtanga-Hrdayam perhaps had the largest number of commentaries to its credit –which suggests its popularity. In all, there were 44 commentaries, as indicated by historical evidence.

IIn the Ayurveda, Madhava Nidanam plays the vital role in the treatise justification. This text comprises the first title among Laghuttrayee (The lesser triad) in Ayurvedic literature. Probably, Madhava Nidana was the first treatise on Ayurveda, to focus on non-medical-specialties. Earlier texts were aimed to focus primarily on the basis of medical specialties of Ayurveda-the eight branches. Text, to deal with more specific areas of clinical practice-were rare before Madhava Nidana. 

The text focuses only on the Clinical Pathology therefore, occupies an important place among the whole array of Ayurvedic treatises. This treatise comes in existence by Acharya Madhavakar, who had written the major text ”Roga-Vinishchaya”, popularise as Madhava Nidanam in 700 AD. 

In this treatise, there are 69 chapters, which show perfect Nidana (etiology). Madhava Nidana covers the Clinical Pathology of many diseases, much in depth to samhitas. In this text 68 types of diseases is noted, by its characters, symptoms, etiology (nidana) and chikitsa (therapeutics); by the original wordings of Charaka, Sushruta & Vaagbhatta. Diseases like, Rheumatoid arthritis, Hyper-acidity, Obesity was considered by Madhava Nidana as independent disease entities, which were covered in samhitas very briefly.

There are only two well-known commentaries of Madhava Nidana. The first one was written by Vijayarakshita –in the name of Madhukosha-Vyakhya in 12th century AD. The second was by Vachaspati, in the name of Atanka-Darpana.

Madhava Nidana was among few texts to be translated into Arabic language during the regime of Harun-al-Rashid. A part of Madhava Nidana was translated by Dr. Mulen Bold into English in 1974 and was published by E.L.Brill, Leiden.

Sharngadhara Samhita is assigned to the early part of 14th century AD and prepared by Sharngadhara. Except giving out his name as the author at the commencement of the text, he has not furnished any information about himself or his other workers. Perhaps, this text is the last treatise to use the word “Samhita” in its title. It constitutes the second text among Laghuttrayee.

By the time of this treatise, Alchemy –the Ras Shastra was primed well. A number of mercurial compounds were identified to act as potent medical agents. As a result, the samhita devoted to chapters exclusively for the purification and processing of Mercury and other metals and metabolites.

Sharngadhara-Samhita is designed to serve as a practitioner’s handbook, as it himself states. Written in simple and easy language; the book consists of 32 chapters with, 2600 verses in all.

Sharngadhara-Samhita is the first Ayurvedic treatise to describe Nadi-pariksha (examination of pulse) as a method of diagnosis of diseases. It is the first book describing the mechanism of respiration by making use of new terms like Ambara-Peeyoosha, Vishnupadamrita (both to mean oxygen) and Jeevaraktashaya (to mean heart).

A new technique of introducing drugs into the blood stream through an artificial wound (Soochikabharana Rasa Prayoga) and Snayuka Krimi Roga (guinea worm infection) has been recognized for the first time through this text. Clear definitions of pharmacological terms & also the method of preparation of all types of recipes are found only in this text.

Recipes found herein are simple, easy to prepare and effacious and hence make the treatise a good practitioner’s handbook.

Sharngadhara Samhita lays down specific guidelines for collections of medicinal plants. These guidelines were aimed to ensure that the herb is collected from healthy and uncontaminated source, while it is at an optimal level of medicinal effects.

It is a famous treatise written by  “Bhava Mishra” in 1500-1650 AD. There are very systematized & elaborative views of Pharmacology in this text. Due to this reason, Bhava-Prakasha is one of the highly popular texts referred to, by practicing Ayurvedic physicians.

In this text all types of matter –“plants, animals & minerals”; show their properties in Ayurvedic form very beautifully. The original text is in the form of Sanskrit-Slokas. It covers 649 herbs for their medicinal effects, in all.

The treatise follows the ancient Ayurvedic literature in context of basic principles and therapeutics. It is a crisp presentation of thought processes in a simpler language.

The text has three divisions. The first division, know as Prathama Khanda deals with the fundamentals of Ayurveda. This is supplemented by a Nighantu (means a dictionary) and Terminology & Pancha-Karma procedures. The second division known as Madhyama Khanda, contains the therapeutics related to 71 diseases entitles are described. The last division known as Uttara Khanda deals with Rasayana and Vrishya chikitsa.

However, the main contribution of the entire text comes from the supplementation by Nighantu. The supplement contains a large number of herbs not covered by earlier texts –described elaborately, for their medicinal effects. Thus, the treatise takes its credit for studying new medicinal plants, in terms of Ayurvedic Concept of Pharmacology.

Bhavaprakasha Nighantu divided the medicinal herbs under 23 groups based on morphological criterion.

Ayurveda & Modern Medicine
Modern medicine tries to treat and remove the condition, rather than treating the patient suffering from it. This is stemmed from a view that all the people are more or less the same. Ayurveda makes it special contributions by addressing the uniqueness of each patient and by helping body to heal itself.


Because of multidimensional, wide range of efficacy of Ayurvedic treatments, where certain disease conditions or symptoms become refractory to conventional treatment, a harmonized approach of these two systems of health care has proven to be successful and fruitful. Sometimes Ayurveda has a synergistic effect while at other places it antagonizes and minimizes the toxicity of modern drugs.


Reasons for Decline of  ayurveda
This holistic science faced a major setback during Buddhist period. Buddhism promotes Ahimsa as fundamental principle. Hence Buddhism prohibited all activities where blood shedding was present. This was followed by the Mughal period. Mughals as part of their communal empowerment demolished most of the available Indian literature/ culture. They also translated most Ayurvedic literature into Islamic, which formed the basis for Unani system of medicine. Britishers who were left the Ayurvedic knowledge remnants then carried on the demolition exercise.


Resurgence of Ayurveda
The 16th Century, considered by many as the Golden period of Ayurveda led to many developments in the Ayurvedic field. Siddha Nagarjuna practicing in Srisailam hills of Nagarjunakonda (AP) initiated usage of metallic / mineral preparations in combination with herbs / plants to provide quick relief in chronic diseases. This set up the pace for Ayurvedic development. Down south many Siddhas started using metallic / mineral preparations which form the basis of the Siddha System of Medicine.

Rishis in Northern India started developing stable Ayurvedic formulations, which form the basis of Vati-gutika, Avaleha-pak, Asava-arishta, Medicated oils etc.,

But since the language was highly technical, Ayurveda was limited only to Ayurvedic physicians. Educational systems have increased health consciousness but lack of scientific documentation on Ayurvedic principles/ medicine have put this indigenous system in the rear seat after allopathic system of medicine.

Provoked by this situation many Ayurvedic Scientists, Institutions & Industries formed associations to provide scientific evaluation for revalidating ancient claims. These supporting documents / evaluations procedures put safe, human friendly Ayurveda on par with the Allopathic system {although unsafe & anti-human (anti-biotic)}.

[These information sources are primary and secondary data from CCRAS, CCIM, ICMR, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare-India and various research and pharmaceuticals organizations]

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