History Of Ayurveda
A comprehensive understanding of Ayurveda requires a detailed look at its long history for, No study of science is complete without the study of its history.
The essentiality of the knowledge of history itself proves the significance of history. History also embodies human ambitions of the past. Many of our myths and legends are treasures of human medical ambitions and these instigate us to develop further. In the past, history was generated by historians according to their whims and fancies. They praised their lords and condemned their enemies without evidence. This made many historical records just potential exaggerations instead of scientific documents. Today the study of history is truly evidence based. Scriptures, Archaeological excavations and literature both medical and non medical classical works are used for the study of Ayurvedic history.
Ayurveda, the most reassuring and holistic pillar in the field of Indian medicine, has a long history that traces back many centuries. Ayurvedic medicine is an example of a well organized system of traditional healthcare both in the preventive and curative aspect. Having originated almost 3000 years ago, it is a much favoured form of healthcare in the present day eastern world.
The Descent of Ayurveda
ब्रह्मा स्मृत्वाssयुषो वेदं प्रजापतिमजिग्रहत्।
सोऽश्विनौ तौ सहस्राक्षं सो ऽत्रिपुत्रादिकान् मुनीन्॥३॥
ते ऽग्निवेशादिकांस्ते तु पृथक् तन्त्राणि तेनिरे ।I
The ancient scriptures and also the epics of ayurveda trace the history of this science through a series of mythological progression or Ayurveda Avatharanam.
According to classics, the knowledge of Ayurvedic medicine was passed down from Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe who revealed Ayurveda to Daksha Prajapati, one among his many sons. As time transcends this knowledge was later proposed to Ashwini Kumars who later became exceptional medical practitioners in heaven. Who later in turn spread the knowledge to Lord Indra,the ruling king of DevaLoka (land of Gods).
Simultaneously on Earth people started facing many complex maladies that could not be handled. All the sages across the world came for a summit in the summont of Himalayas and decided to seek heavenly knowledge from the gods. To achieve this knowledge in the most righteous form, they choose Maharshi Bharadwaja to travel to heaven to procure it. It transpires that lord Indra alone was found to be competent to help solve the curiosity of a devotee like Bharadwaja. According to Caraka Samhitha, the first mortal that received the science of life was Bharadwaja from Indra for the redemption of suffering mankind. From Bharadwaja three scholars procured the knowledge and later turned it into the three schools of Ayurveda.
According to Susrutha Samhitha and Kashyapa Samhitha, the original teachers of these treatises, namely Danvantri and Kashyapa, claim to have received the science directly from Indra along with Bharadwaja.
Propagation of Ayurveda
From Maharishi Bharadwaja, Acharya Atreya, Acharya Danvantri and Acharya Kashyapa studied the sciences and later became the pioneers of; the schools of general medicine, surgery and pediatrics respectively under the guidance of the respective Propiaters. The gradual development of ayurveda through many eras of succession is traced under different timelines based on the main source of literature. It is divided into the Prehistoric era, Prevedic era, Post Vedic era, the era of Ayurveda Samhithas and the present modern timeline.
The Prehistoric Era
The lives of people in prehistoric times were determined by spirits. According to Anthropologists the medical plants and even earth and clay were used by prehistoric people for both internal and external application on wounds and as treatment for certain ailments. Evidence suggests that those people have had knowledge about bone structures and used to perform surgeries as well.
Pre Vedic Period
Around 5000 years ago, the Dravidian people who lived in the Indus Valley used to follow a medical system that used substances and utensils which is a characteristic feature of the ayurvedic system of medicine. Around 1500 BCE civilization disappeared, followed by the invasion of Aryas who propagated the Vedas.
The Vedic Era
Among the four postulated Vedas, Ayurveda is considered the upaveda of Yajurveda, the 3rd Veda. Other than this, there are multiple references within the Vedas indicative of certain medications and surgical procedures which are still practiced in modern Ayurveda. RigVeda has references of plant specimens, certain minerals and a few herbo-mineral combinations that uproot certain medical conditions. References of complex medical surgeries are also found in the Vedas.
Post Vedic Era
Around 1000 BC, the Shankya physiological system forms the basics of Ayurveda. Two different schools were created that gave importance to surgery and various other treatments; much similar to the mythological origin of the branches.
The Samhithas Kala
The further journey of the Ayurvedic medicinal system depended on the epics of Ayurveda from the framework of Samhithas. This was the most glorious time for the system as well. It has the principles and practices of all branches of medicine. The epics are further divided as Brihatri the greater trio and Laghu Tri the lesser trio. Carak Samhitha, Susrutha Samhitha and Ashtanga Hrudhya form the bigger trio while MadavaNidana, Saramgadhara Samhitha and Bhavaprakasha belong to the lesser trio.
Carak Samhitha written by Archrya Agnivesha, the disciple of Acharya Atreya and edited by Acharya Carak,is dated to the 4th century BC. Around 900 and 500 century BC Caraka Samhitha and Susrutha Samhitha are assumed to have existed. Acharya Vagbhata wrote ashtanga hridaya during the 2nd century before Christ.
Up-to 10th Century AC
During the era of Buddha, Ayurveda was well promoted and flourished to its epitome. The development of further books in the field of medicine including the lesser trio and specifications of each branch of Ayurveda has been around this era. The installations and scriptures of Buddha also promote Ayurevdic lifestyle and diet.
The Modern Period
From 10th to 15th century AC, a general Deterioration in science is seen due to many forgein invasions that took over the continent. Later from the 18th century began the modern era of ayurveda. Even though the science was still widely practiced, it was After Indian independence that a Unified Ayurvedic system of medicine was integrated and established under many national policies and Agencies that ought to uphold the righteous tradition of this glorious science.
Story Of Dhanvantri
Lord Dhanvantri is one major character throughout the history of ayurveda. A mythological origin as well as historical origin regarding his existence has been traced. Maharishi Dhanvantari is the founder of Dhanvantari school of Ayurveda and also the Founder of Ayurveda are both revolting aspects to deal with. Acharya Susrutha is the direct disciple of Maharishi Dhanvantari.
What The Myths Say
Samudra Madhan or churning of the milk ocean is one of the most famous episodes in the epics and is celebrated every twelve years as a major festival called Kumbhamela. The story goes like this
Once Indra was enjoying the songs sung by Gandharvas when Sage Vashista arrived whose presence was apparently unnoticed by Indra who was engrossed in the melodies. This infuriated sage Vashishta and he stormed out from heaven. The happenings of heaven were heard over Demon king Bali who attacked the entire DevaLoka with his empire. All the heavenly wealth was procured by the demons who later went to Patal Loka. The demons were not intended to be the owners of this stolen wealth for too long as the whole wealth got submerged into the ocean.
After giving a deep thought on this whole issue, Lord Vishnu advised Indra to patch up with the demons so that all the wealth could be received from the ocean bed. The deities went to Patala Loka and convinced the demons to participate in the churning of the ocean. When the process of churning the ocean began, Mandarachal mountain was used as the churner and Vasuki the serpent as the rope. Churning of the ocean resulted in the emergence of many auspicious and inauspicious things. The 12th thing that emerged from the ocean was Lord Dhanvantri. He is considered the proprietor of the Ayurvedic medicinal system.
Keeping the mythology aside. Dhanvantri is believed to have existed in the 1000 to 1500 BCE according to modern history. Dhanvantri Divodasa was the king of Kaasi and an exponent in surgery. Susrutha, Aupadhenava, Aurabhra, Vaitarana, Paushkalaavata and Karaveeraya were his direct disciples. Danvantri Divodasa is understood as the Dhanvantri, acclaimed mythologically in the classics.
Story Of Susrutha
History traces two people in the name Susrutha, Susrutha I and Susrutha II. The former is known as Vridha Susrutha literally meaning the old one. He was a direct disciple of Dhanvantri Divodasa and hence lived somewhere between 1000 and 1500 BCE. He is the author of the great epic Susrutha Samhitha. Susrutha II is believed to be the editor of this compilation and this may be between 200 BCE and 200 CE (Mostly in the 2nd century).
Where Are We Now?
In due course of time, Ayurveda was initiated as a magio-religious practice that matured into a full medical science with eight branches or specialities which have parallels in the modern western system of medicine. Ayurveda with its unique ability to uproot the disease at its grassroots level by eliminating the immediate cause without causing any or no side-effects has turned to be a safe and hopeful option in India and throughout the World for people searching for holistic methods for disease alleviation. Gradually the long lost boom in this field is encapsulating as many now feel free to understand and introspect the advantages of accepting and following this system of medical lifestyle.