The Real History of Ayurveda Treatments
Where ayurvedic knowledge ultimately developed is unknown, but oral myths, circumstantial evidence, and several early texts have been used to research its origins. Indigenous Indian medicine is probably as old as the Indus Valley Civilization dating back to 3000 BCE. The meticulously planned cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro are pointers not only to India’s rich cultural heritage but also to its advanced systems of hygiene and health care. The remains of deer antler and bitumen found in Harappa testify to the existence of a medical practice. It was between 1200 and 700 BCE, that the four sacred Vedas were composed. References to diseases, herbs and herbal cures can be seen in all the four Vedas especially in the Rig Veda. The Atharva Veda has many hymns eulogizing herbs. Many plants were worshipped as deities and invoked by incantations. There were also many Mantras (invocations) to combat jaundice, consumption and hereditary diseases among others. The Atharvan hymns chanted for the cure of diseases were known as Bhaishajyams and those for attaining longevity and prosperity were called Ayushyams. These hymns, especially the Ayushyams are considered to be the foundation for advances in later medicine.
In in inception, the system of Ayurvedic medicine was orally transferred via the Gurukul system until a written script came into existence. In this system, the Guru gave a solemn address where he directed the students to a life of chastity, honesty, and vegetarianism. The student was to strive with all his being to heal the sick. He was not to betray patients for his own advantage. He was required to dress modestly and avoid alcohol or drugs. He was to be collected and self-controlled, measured in speech at all times. He was to constantly improve his knowledge and technical skill. At the patient’s home, he was to be courteous and modest, directing all attention to the patient’s welfare. He was not to divulge any knowledge about the patient and his family. If the patient was incurable, he was to keep this to himself if it was likely to harm the patient or others.
The normal length of the student’s training appears to have been seven years. Before graduation, the student was to pass a test. But the physician was to continue to learn through texts, direct observation (pratyaksha), and through inference (anumana). In addition, the vaidyas attended meetings where knowledge was exchanged. The practitioners also gained knowledge of unusual remedies from laypeople who were outside the huffsteter community such as hillsmen, herdsmen, and forest-dwellers.
A common myth states that ancient “rishis” (seers) revealed the knowledge after meditations on the questions of life. The result was a treatise of philosophy encrypted in poetry and mythology, partly to reveal the knowledge to true students and partly to help memorize the voluminous oral content. Ayurveda is said to have been first compiled as a text by Agnivesha, in his book Agnivesh tantra, which was written during Vedic times. The book was later revised by Charaka, and renamed to Charaka Samhita (encyclopedia of the physician Charaka). Other early texts of Ayurveda include the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita. The system was orally transferred via the Gurukul system until a script came into existence. The earliest scripts would have been written on perishable materials such as Taalpatra and Bhojapatra, which could not be readily preserved. The script was later written on stone and copper sheets. Verses dealing with Ayurveda are included in the Atharvaveda, which implies that some form of Ayurveda is as old as the Vedas. Ayurvedic practices have also evolved over time, and some practices may be considered innovations upon earlier Vedic practices, such as the advances made during the Buddhist period in India.
Dhanvantari, the God of AyurvedaAccording to India’s Council for Research on Ayurveda, the Ayurvedavatarana (the “descent of Ayurveda”) or origin of Ayurveda is said to be a divine revelation of the Hindu deity Brahma as he awoke to recreate the universe. It was revealed to the gods through the means of the divine physician Dhanvantari who emerged from the churning of the celestial ocean. This knowledge was passed directly to Daksha Prajapati in the form of shloka sung by Lord Brahma, and this was in turn passed down through a successive chain of deities to Lord Indra, the protector of dharma. According to this account, the first human exponent of Ayurveda was Bharadvaja, who learned it directly from Indra. Bharadvaja in turn taught Ayurveda to a group of assembled sages, who then passed down different aspects of this knowledge to their students. According to tradition, Ayurveda was first described in text form by Agnivesha, in his book the Agnivesh tantra. The book was later redacted by Charaka, and became known as the Charaka Samhita. Another early text of Ayurveda is the Sushruta Samhita, which was compiled by Sushruta, the primary pupil of Dhanvantri, sometime around 1000 BCE. Sushruta is known as the Father of Surgery, and in the Sushrut Samhita, the teachings and surgical techniques of Dhanvantri are compiled and complemented with additional findings and observations of Sushrut regarding topics ranging from obstetrics and orthopedics to ophthalmology. Sushrut Samhita together with Charaka Samhita, served as the textual material within the ancient Universities of Takshashila and Nalanda. These texts are believed to have been written around the beginning of the Common Era, and are based on a holistic approach rooted in the philosophy of the Vedas and Vedic culture. Holism is central to ayurvedic philosophy and elements of holism is found in several aspects of ayurveda.
In the Mahabharata it is stated that Lord Krishna had a son named Samb. He was suffering from leprosy. In order to treat him, Krishna invited special Brahmins from shakdvipa (believed as present-day Iran). They were sun worshipers and famous astronomers. They treated Samb and cured him of leprosy. Shakdvipiya brahmins originated from those shakdvipa origin brahmins and are also called as magi brahmins. Sakaldwipya are said to be specialized in ayurveda, astronomy, astrology and the Sakaldwipiya are the sun worshipper or so-called Saura.
The most detailed account of the origin of Sakadvipis or Bhojakas occurs in Bhavishya Purana (chapter 133). They also played a great role in Ayurveda. The founder of modern Ayurveda Charaka was a Maga or Sakaldwipiya. Different schools of Sanskrit philosophy such as Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Vedanta and Mimamsa influenced Ayurveda. The principles expounded in these philosophies facilitated the development within Ayurveda of its theory of humoral pathology which propounds that the human body is composed of Tridoshas, the three humors – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. When these are in equilibrium they are called the Tridhatus. The body in which these three humors are in a state of equilibrium enjoys perfect health; their disequilibrium causes ill health.
Although Ayurveda was formulated in ancient times, there were a number of additions made during the Middle Ages. Alongside the ancient physicians Sushruta and Charaka, the medieval physician Vagbhata, who lived in the 7th century, is considered one of the three classic writers of Ayurveda. In the 8th century, Madhav wrote the Nidana, a 79-chapter book which lists diseases along with their causes, symptoms, and complications. He also included a special chapter on smallpox (masurika).
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