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What is Āyurveda?

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

What crosses your mind when you hear the word AYURVEDA?

Probably herbal medicine is what people generally think of. Well… Ayurveda is beyond that. It is the simple yet practical science of life, art of living, science of longevity.


Let us quickly understand the basics of Ayurveda.



HISTORY

The word Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words Ayur (life) and Veda (science or knowledge). It originated more than 5000 years ago in South Asia. Ayurveda is said to be God’s gift to mankind. Brahma (the creator) passed on the knowledge to his son Daksha Prajapati, and, through them, the knowledge was passed on to other gods. This started the tradition of passing down the knowledge of Ayurveda from gods to sages.


VEDAS

The Vedas are the world’s oldest form of literature written in Sanskrit. Ayurveda is the upveda of Atharva Veda.


AYURVEDIC TEXTS

Ayurveda was recognized as a distinct science after the Vedic period. There are several classic texts of Ayurveda.


The great Ayurvedic texts are:

  1. Charak Samhita: Written by Agnivesh (a disciple of Punarvasu Atreya). Charak focused mainly on diagnosis of diseases and has detailed the medicinal value and qualities of more than 10,000 herbal plants.

  2. Sushruta Samhita: Authored by Sushruta. It explains the concept and practice of surgery in Ayurveda. Sushruta is considered the Father of Surgery.

  3. Ashtanga Hridayam: Formed by Acharya Vagbhata. It mainly focuses on kayachikitsa (internal medicine branch of Ayurveda).

The less renowned texts are Sharangadhar Samhita, Bhava Prakas,h and Madhav Nidan.


THE CONCEPT OF AYURVEDA

Ayurveda has extensively explored the natural methods for improving wellness of the body and mind and attaining a beautiful place (our body) for the soul to reside.


In Ayurvedic practices, treatment is specifically created for each person and largely depends upon the individual's state of mind or dosha.


DOSHA

The three bioenergies Vata, Pitta, and Kapha together are termed tridosha. They govern the human body, but they do not stop there. They are present throughout the universe in living and non-living things.



Vata:

  • Connected to wind, its nature is mobile and dynamic

  • Regulates the central nervous system


Pitta:

  • Has similarity with sun (the source of energy)

  • Governs the digestive system


Kapha:

  • Calm and steady in nature

  • Controls the balance of the body’s tissue fluid, builds muscles


When the dosha are in a balanced state (equilibrium), the individual is considered healthy as per dosha aspect; when there is imbalance of dosha, the person is in a diseased state.



PANCHAMAHABHUTA

Another very important concept in Ayurveda is panchamhabhuta -- the five basic or great elements. Ayurveda says that everything happening in universe is directly proportional to things happening with the human body. Also everything in the universe, whether living or non-living, is made up of these 5 basic elements. Each of the panchmahabhuta has specific qualities and significance for Ayurvedic management of health.


1) Earth (Prithvi)

The bulkiness of the human body is nothing but the Prithvi Mahabhuta (earth element).


2) Water (Jala)

The human body is 60-70% water.


3) Fire (Agni)

It has resemblance with the digestive system, but it pervades throughout the body.


4) Air (Vayu)

Used as synonym to prana (vital force of life). It is responsible for all movement within the body.


5) Ether (Akash)

The hollow spaces in the body are considered to be light and have significance with Akash Mahabhuta.



VAIDYA

Ayurveda is widely practiced across the globe, but in India it is considered as one part of the

medical system. The scholar practicing Ayurveda is termed as Vaidya.


Ayurveda treatment is not only disease centric but dosha centric; it treats not only the disease but also the person as a whole. It provides proper diet, lifestyle, yoga, and then medicine, if required, to treat a specific person. This way, the Vedic science - Ayurveda - helps to maintain the health of a healthy individual, prevent a person from ailments, and cure disease by targeting the ultimate health of a person.



























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