Monday, October 20, 2008



Ayurveda means knowledge of life. It is the indigenous Indian system of medicine. It is world’s oldest recorded healing system. It gives equal importance for treatment and prevention of diseases. Objective of Ayurveda is to achieve health by balancing the physical aspects and improving mental health by controlling emotional release giving due importance to social and environmental issues. Ayurveda views the human body as mirror image of nature.

Like most Indian sciences Ayurveda too has its roots in the Vedas. It is considered as an offshoot of Adharva Veda. Lord Brahma compiled Ayurveda in its original form and this knowledge was imparted to humans through Maharshis (holy men). Maharshis were scientists who made huge advances in the field of medicine, surgery, pharmacoynamics of medicinal herbs, effects of metals and minerals, anatomy, physiology and psychology.

Documentation of Ayurvedic knowledge was done in the shape of classical Ayurvedic texts; most important being Charaka Samhita, Susrutha Samhita, and Ashtanga Hrudaya. They are collectively called as Bruhat-Traiyis (The big threesome).

Indian culture is an amalgamation of many different civilizations. This has helped Ayurveda branch out and evolve to a far greater extent than a single group of people and limited knowledge would have allowed. The Buddhists in particular, took an interest in Ayurveda early on. The knowledge was then expanded, improved and spread to the rest of Asia.

Eight-fold division of Ayurveda (Ashtangas)

1. Kaya-chikitsa. This deals with diseases that affect the whole body. All types of organic disorders are mentioned under this category. This includes very common illnesses like fever to metabolic/endocrine disorders like diabetes mellitus.

2. Kau-mara-bhrithiam. (Balachikitsa), Pediatrics. This branch of Ayurveda deals with diseases affecting children. There is no separate division for gynecology (Sthree-roga-vijnanam). So sometimes Sthree-Balarogas are mentioned together. (Gynecology and pediatrics)

3. Graha-chikitsa. Psychiatry (deals more with diseases inflicted by evil spirits and remedies of such psychotic disorders by herbs, mantra, and homa. (rituals with fire)4. Salakya-tantra. Branch of Ayurveda dealing with diseases of ear, nose, throat, teeth, and eyes. Disorders like headaches and migraines are also included under this category.

5. Salya-tantra. Surgery and related subjects. This includes techniques to remove pieces of arrows and sharp pieces of metals from inured soldiers. (mostly wartime casualties)

6. Agatha-tantra. Toxicology. Science deals with study of poisons, their effect on human body and treatment for various poisons.

7. Rasayana-tantra. This branch gives stress for maintaining good immunity and attaining longevity of life. (Geriatrics)

8. Vajeekarana-tantra. This branch deals with improving the libido, treatment for infertility and associated complaints. (Aphrodisiac treatment)

According to Ayurveda all animate and inanimate objects of this universe is made up of five basic elements. They are Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Space.

Analogous to doshas, which are the essential components of the body, the three gunas i.e. Satwa, Rajas and Tamas are the three essential components or vital energies of the mind.
These qualities are genetically determined; these psychological characteristics are dependent on the relative dominance of the three gunas.
Out of these three, Satwa guna is the virtuous or noble one. To attain salvation, one should achieve a Satwa mind. Great seers and saints of India possessed Sathwik mind. Many Indian way of life like vegetarianism, yoga and meditation are different ways of achieving a satwik mind.