History of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is an Indian art of healing which is as old as the religion of Hinduism. Vedas, the holy books of Hindus mentions the detailed knowledge of spiritual insights and self realization of human life. The topics of health, astrology, spiritual living and behaviour are included in all the four main Vedas i.e. Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva Vedas. Ayurveda is a sub section attached to the Atharva Veda which gives detailed knowledge about the diseases, injuries, sanity and health. All these secrets of life were discussed on the basis of three doshas – vitta, pitta and kapha and their cure with various herbs.
This section also includes knowledge of the five elements of creation, namely the earth,water, fire, air, ether and their role in human life. It also comprises of the three aspects of Ayurvedic knowledge known as the Tri-Sutras which includes cause of illness, symptoms and treatments of the disease. These tri-sutras were further elaborated in eight divisions of Ayurveda and listed down in Atharva Veda. It is believed that the knowledge of Ayurveda was passed on from heavenly deities to the saints and sages of India through deep meditation.
It was between 1200 and 700 BC when all the four Vedas were composed. References of disease, symptoms and their cure with herbs can be seen in all four Vedas, especially in the Rig Veda. The Artha Veda has detailed knowledge about herbs and several hymns dedicated to herbs and disease elimination. Numerous invocations (mantras) mentioned in the Vedas combined with the herbal treatments were used to cure jaundice, skin and hereditary diseases. The Artha Veda hymns recited for the cure of diseases is known as Bhaishajyams and those who achieved success in invocations were called Ayushyams. These hymns are considered to be the groundwork for progress in the Ayurvedic medicines.
During the time of Buddha (around 520 BC) the discovery of several metals added new dimension to the approach of Ayurvedic treatments. The medical practitioners experimented mercury, sulphur and other metals powders along with herbs to make the treatment more emphatic. The Buddhist herbalist, Nagarjuna developed several herbal medicines with metal powders. Further this practice was carried on by the known herbalist Surananda, Yashodhana, Nityanatha and many more. The contribution from eminent herbalist popularizes Ayurveda among masses.
Throughout the era of emperor Ashoka (304 BC-232 BC) and famous monarch Chandragupta Maurya (375-415 AD) the practice of Ayurvedic therapy flourished and contributions from renowned herbalists of that time made it rich in terms of content.
Ayurveda remained the prominent means of treatment over several centuries. Over the decades with the advancement of western medicines, people started ignoring Ayurveda.
But an association of Ayurveda with daily life preserved this treatment in Indian Subcontinent regardless of mounting adoption of European medical techniques. Once again the growing awareness of herbs and the latest research has popularised its prominence around the world.
The three dimensional (body, mind and spirit) healing power make it an acceptable treatment among people throughout the world. The initiatives from various governmental and non-governmental Ayurvedic organisations are helping in restoring its forgotten saga.
Source: Origin and History of Ayurveda