What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is the most ancient science of healing which dates back to about 5000 years. It integrates the mind, body and spirit. The mythological origin of Ayurveda has a link with Brahma, the God of Creation. Hindu myth holds that Brahma wanted to ease the suffering of human beings by offering knowledge of Ayurveda to other Gods. 'Ayur' means 'life' and ‘Veda’ refers to ‘science’. The true history of Ayurveda starts from the time of the Holy books, the Vedas. These were written down in the original Sanskrit language for the benefit of the general population.

The medical information contained in the Vedas was the contribution of Rishis and munis or sages, over a period of time. These sages were learned saints who devoted their life to understanding the world.

There are four Vedas. They are:

  • Rigved
  • Yajurveda
  • Samaveda
  • Atharvaveda

Atharvaveda is the last of the Vedas and it is from this that Ayurveda evolved. The Atharvaveda appears to be a compilation of materials that date to around 1500 to 1000 B.C. The volumes of Atharvaveda are not only an important source of knowledge about practical religion but also include descriptions of anatomy, medical treatments and explanations of certain diseases.
The three most important treatises in Ayurveda appeared during the golden age and are referred to collectively as the Senior Triad: the Charaka Samhita, the Sushruta Samhita, and the Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita. These texts are referred to as Samhita which means compilation or collection. The next important treatises in Ayurveda are the Madhava Nidana, the Sarangdhara Samhita, and the Bhava Prakasha, known collectively as the Junior Triad. The Charaka Samhita is the earliest major medical text of Ayurveda, attributed to the physician Charaka. The Sushruta Samhita is the major surgical text of Ayurveda, attributed to the physician Sushruta. It is the most advanced compilation of surgical practices of its time. Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita is the third major treatise in the Senior Triad, attributed to the sage Vagbhata. It is a concise version of the works of Charaka and Sushruta.

The two most important aims of Ayurveda are:

  • To maintain the health of people and
  • To cure the diseases of sick people