Originating in India and then spreading to Egypt, Greece, Rome, Tibet, China, Russia and Japan, Ayurveda is probably the oldest continually practiced holistic health care system on the planet. It’s estimated to be between 2500 and 5000 years old.
The word Ayurveda comes from Sanskrit words, Ayur meaning life and longevity, and Veda meaning Knowledge or Science. Therefore, Ayurveda is The Science of Life, specifically referring to harmonious integration of the body, mind, senses and spirit; An art of living, an art of being.
Ayurveda is a nature-friendly healing system that has its foundation an immensely valuable herbal and spiritual science.
However some Ayurveda and Ayurvedic formula did make it to the west and extreme orient. The most popular one which we all know would be “Amala” and “Aritha” fruits to make “champoo” for hair which gave birth to modern day “Shampoo” in use until this day including the word.
European surgeons brought into practice Indian surgery techniques described in the Sushruta Samhita for repairing damage to the face; traditional aesthetic treatment which was devised to restore the beauty of the Maharajas and princes who were deformed while fighting a battle. This technique fostered the discipline we now call plastic surgery.
Greeks and Arabs were totally inspired by Ayurveda. ‘Unani’ Greco-Arabic medicine manuscripts describe in detail the knowledge of Ayurveda and techniques adopted to suit their needs and stressed that all doctors were incomplete without a visit to India and knowledge of its medicines. Chinese travelers regularly came to learn at Nalanda university and took back with them Marma science which we today know as Chinese acupuncture. Tibetan medicine is essentially Ayurveda efficiently adopted for use in high altitude plateaus of Tibet. Meditation known as ‘Dhyan’ is Sanskrit to restore the peace of mind, traveled and became Chyan, then Chen and by the time it reached Japan it became Zen.
The main source of knowledge in this field therefore remain the Vedas, the divine books of knowledge they propounded, and more specifically the fourth of the series, namely Atharvaveda that dates back to around 1000 BC. Of the few other treatises on AYURVEDA that have survived from around the same time, the most famous are Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita which concentrate on internal medicine and surgery respectively.
Ayurveda therefore is not simply a health care system but a form of lifestyle adopted to maintain perfect balance and harmony within the human existence, from the most abstract transcendental values to the most concrete physiological expressions. Based on the premise that life represents an intelligent co-ordination of the Atma (Soul), Mana (Mind), Indriya (Senses) and Sharira (Body). That revolves around the five dense elements that go into the making of the constitution of each individual, called Prakriti. Which in turn is determined by the vital balance of the three physical energies – Vata, Pitta, Kapha and the three mental energies – Satwa, Rajas, Tamas.