Ayurveda is the most ancient Indian medical science, the origin of which can be traced back to the Vedas, which are the oldest available classics of the world. Vedas are the ancient books of knowledge, or science. They contain practical and scientific information on various subjects beneficial to the humanity like health, philosophy, engineering, astrology etc. Ayurveda is the only ancient independent scientific system of medicines. In the medieval period however, the system faced utter neglect at the hands of foreign rulers. Some authentic literature was destroyed in these turbulent times. Even then Ayurveda contributed to public health system due to its safe and most effective herbal formulations and easy availability. The sages who initiated Ayurveda inducted in it sufficiency, soundness and sustenance, that is why it survived.
The Literal Meaning of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a holistic healing science, which comprises of two words, Ayu and Veda. Ayu means life and Veda means knowledge, or science. So, the literal meaning of the word Ayurveda is the science of life. Ayurveda is a science dealing not only with treatment of some diseases but is a complete way of life. This becomes clear when we see the meaning of life.
As mentioned above Ayurveda is a science of life so, to know more about it, we must know what is life? Life according to Ayurveda is a combination of senses, mind, body and soul. It is clear from this definition of life that Ayurveda is not only limited to body, or physical symptoms but also gives a comprehensive knowledge about spiritual, mental and social health.
When Did Ayurveda Originate?
Based on several facts and proofs, scholars of Ayurveda and ancient literature have said that Ayurveda originated before, or around 6000 BC. Because prior to this Ayurveda was preached and practised orally, historians have considered this to be the time of origin of Ayurveda, speaking on the basis of written proofs only.
Kerala, with its rich traditional heritage and the flora replete with medicinal herbs, is considered to be the cradle of Ayurveda. The traditional Physicians of Kerala had developed the special Kerala Ayurvedic treatment and a number of unique formulations. Thousands of people from different parts of the world reach Kerala seeking Ayurvedic cure for their chronic ailments. The methods of diagnosis and treatment are based on simple and natural principles.
Ayurveda is not a treatment; it is a way of life.
In Ayurveda, treatment means removing the root cause. Ayurvedic treatment does not mean suppressing the main symptoms and creating some new ones as side effects of the main treatment. It is to remove the root cause and give permanent relief. The treatment mainly comprises of powders, tablets, decoctions, medicated oils etc. prepared from natural herbs, plants and minerals. Because the medicines are from natural sources and not synthetic, they are accepted and assimilated in the body without creating any side effects and on the other hand, there may be some side benefits. Along with medicine, proper diet and living style is also advised. This is equally important. If we are taking a medicine to remove the root cause and at the same time we are taking some food, or following a life style, which is increasing the cause of disease, then we may not get well, or will be getting less relief.
One part of Ayurveda deals only with maintaining the health and staying away from diseases. The word, health here does not mean physical health, but also spiritual and mental health. Many of us may not have any physical problem but still may not be feeling happy, or comfortable. Problems like depression, anxiety, and nervousness, or insomnia from which most of us are suffering to some extent, are mainly originating due to sick mind and soul.
Ayurveda helps us in understanding each individual at a very subtle personal level and giving a detailed description about diet, daily routine, life-style, actions and activities to be followed. It teaches how to live in society and in the universe without disturbing the natural balance.
We tend to ignore that the human body does react to nature’s ever-changing moods and that human life is but only a link in the great web of Life. Medication today has been reduced to curative, or system-regulating medicines. Preventive medicine has hardly made much progress except for a handful of vaccines. Ayurveda, or ‘the knowledge of life’ will tell you that there’s much more to ‘medication’ than that. Ayurveda is based on sound observational concepts, which have stood the test of time for thousands of years.
Ayurveda is an extension of the Atharva Veda, one of the early Vedic compositions dealing with science, art and philosophy. Charaka’s (the grand old man of medicine) treatise is the oldest known ayurvedic text. It is a holistic science, looking at all things, which make for a wholesome life, where life means the body, mind and spirit.