Prayer to Dhanvantari (The Lord of Ayurveda):
Chakram, Samkham, Jalookam, dadhathamarutha kumbham shcha thorbhi shchathurbhi
Sookshma swacchadi hridyamsuka parivilasa moulim ambhoju nethram
Kaalombhodojwalangam katithada vilasal chaaru peethambaradyam,
Vande Dhanwantharim tham nighila gada vana prouda davagni leelam.
"One who bears in his attractive four hands conch, circular weapon, a set of leeches and a pot with ambrosia, whose fine, shining and pure upper garment makes him appear especially wonderful, whose eyes are like lotus flower, whose bright bodily luster is of the colour of a fresh rain cloud, whose beautiful waist is adored by a magnificent yellow dress and who burns away all diseases just like a forest fire, to such Lord Dhanvantari, I bow respectfully”
Temples of Lord Dhanwanthary in Kerala
There are 4 major Dhanwanthary temples in Kerala - Thottuva (near Kalady, Ernakulam), Nelluvaya (near Kundamkulam, Thrissur), Maruthorvattom (near Cherthala, Alapuzha) and Prayikkara (near Mavelikkara, Alapuzha) are these temples.
Motto of Ayurveda
History of Ayurveda
“Health is the supreme foundation of virtue, wealth, enjoyment and salvation – Dharma, Artha, kama and Moksha. Diseases are the destroyers of health, of the good life and life itself. Thus has arisen the great impediment for the progress of humanity. What shall be the means for removing it? The sages sat in meditation”
Charaka, I – 15-16.
The remedy revealed to the seers are embodied in Ayurveda – the science of life. Since life is precious to all, this is the most meritorious of all sciences. The great principles underlying this discipline can be summed up in two terms – i) quest for longevity and ii) compassion for creatures.
Ayurveda is one of the 4 Upavedas (others are Dhanur Veda – archery and other military sciences, Gandharva Veda – science and art of music and Sthapathya Veda – engineering, architecture and other mathematics) and derived the philosophical aspects from Vedas. Though it believed that Vedas are as old as 5,000 years, it is not possible to calculate the age of the “science of life” to a time frame.
Meaning of the word
The word Ayurveda derived in different ways – i) to ward off diseases, ii) to cure, if any and iii) to improve the lost health. Vedas are considered to the repository of all knowledge.
Scientists or Sages
The scientists (sages – sanyasis – hrishis) are a peculiar clan seen nowhere else, who always chose to remain anonymous, dedicated themselves to the cause of knowledge by their careful observation of the world, untiring spirit of enquiry and quest for knowledge. They have a tendency to mix-up things – science with metaphysics, history with tradition and every thing with poetry. [It is interesting to note that University of Taksasila (2nd century BC) and University of Nalanda (6 century AD) attracted many students from Greece, Rome, Japan, China etc.] What those sages (with names attached to their works) had done is to collect, classify, analyse, summerise and provide a logical frame work to the scattered knowledge pool of scholars in the country and even outside the country. The approach of ayurveda is field oriented, holistic and functional. This makes it truly universal and hence could not be limited to a small geographical area called India as aptly told by them as “Let the Whole World be Happy” (“Loka samastha sughino bhavanthu”).
Brahma: The creator – who wrote a text with 1,000 chapters and 100,000 stansas (slokas) is said to be the creator ayurveda also.
Prajapathy: Brahma Vaivartha puranam says about Prajapathy Samhitha, but no one else had quoted from it.
Aswini Devas (the heavenly twins and physicians) – mentions are found in Vedas about their expertise in treating infertility, blindness, skin diseases, organ / body parts transplantation, etc. They (or some one in their name) believed to have written books – Aswini Samhitha, Bhramaghnam, Chikilsara Thanthram, and Dhathurtna Mala.
Indra: According to the epics, the sages learnt ayurveda from Indra.
Bhardwaja: Bharadwajeeyam and Bheshajakalpam are the books now available from him. Only one chapter on urinary infection is available in the first book.
Athri: A text called Athri Samhitha is believed to have written by him.
Athreya (Chandrabhagi) : Known as a brilliant teacher and general physician.
Names of sages whose texts are available now
Dathathreya: “Nadee Thathwa Vidhi” is believed to have been written by him. Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment and manufacturing methods of different medicines are the subjects of this text. A translated version is available in Telungu.
Agnivesha: He wrote Agnivesha Samhitha, but not available now. But this had been quoted by others.
Bhela: A Telungu version of Bhela Samhitha is published by Calcutta University in 1921 and it has 8 sections and 120 chapters.
Samhithas by Hareetha, Jathoorkarna, Parasara, Ksharapanee, and Kharanada are not available now, but the quotes from these are found in some other available Ayurvedic texts.
Names in Psychiatry
Both Susrutha Samhitha and Charaka Samhitha had dedicated one chapter each for psychiatry. None of the texts on Psychiatry is available now, though Agni Purana, Garuda Puran and others have descriptions about it.
Names in Surgery
Nimi (Videhapathy / Janakan) : Charka Samhitha (Sareera Sthanam Chapter 6) describes about the opinion of Nimi about the fetus in the womb. His texts Videha Thanthram and Nimi Thanthram are not available now.
Kankaya (described diseases as curable, manageable and not curable) Garhya, Sathyaka and Karala (ophthalmology) , Bhadra Saunaka, Saunaka, and Krishnathreya are sages whose opinions and verses are quoted by others.
Dhanwanthari / Divodasan : He is believed to be the father of surgery methods. He is the teacher (Guru) of Susrutha.
Bruhath thrayee (the big 3)
These are the three major teachers (Guru) who are being followed by the ayurvedic physicians in India, today.
Sustutha (approx BC 700 – BC 350, not known correctly)
Charaka (1st Century AD) : He is the student (sisya) of Bhala who is a sisya of (Punervasu) Athreya who is the sisya of Agnivesh who is the is the sisya of Bharadwaja.
Vagbhata (between 3rd and 4th Century AD) Wrote texts Asthanga Hrudayam and Samgraham. It is believed that he has traveled to Kerala and had 8 sisyas who later became the ancestors of Asthavaidya families.
Interpreters to these 3 eminent scholars also contributed to ayurveda to a great extend. The names of these scholars are not described here.
Laghu Thrayee (the small 3)
Madhava Acharyan (7th Century AD) who wrote Madhava Nidanam
Sargadharan (13th century AD) who worte a Samhitha in his name
Bhavamishran (16th century AD) who wrote Bhavaprakasam.
Chemistry in ayurveda
Chemistry and metallurgy found a place in ayurveda though it is considered to be primarily herbal medicine. Nagarjuna (1st century AD) is believed the introducer of chemicals and metals into ayurveda. Incidentally, none of his works related with chemistry are available now. Others were found from China which translated into Chinese from Sanskrit his sisya. But, other texts which are available are followed to make powdered medicines (bhasmam) and used with ayurveda by many Ayurvedic physicians even today.
Other medical systems
Other traditional medical systems such as Unani (Greek), Sidha, Yoga, Homeopathy, Chinese medicine, allopathic (British Raj period) etc. must have enriched the evolutionary stages of ayurveda by accepting the valuable portions from them or even adapting their methods into Ayurvedic principles.
Vrukshayurveda (for plants), aswayurveda (for horses) and hastyaruveda (for elephants) are some other branches of ayurveda which are found to be functional even today.
Ayurveda in the modern era
· The success of Chinese medicine in influencing the West is now beyond dispute. These new movements contributed to the ideological advancement also. The Alma Ata declaration of World Health Organisation for “health for all by 2000 AD” called for unified action of all health systems including the traditional ones. It is in fact an official recognition of all oriental systems by the West and approval of the new spirit of the occident to have pilgrimage to the East. But, the Governments in Europe and other ‘developed’ nations are still wavering perhaps afraid of the commercial interests of the multi national pharmaceutical companies. In this back ground the rising popularity of ayurveda in the West is quite understandable. So setting our eyes on the world picture and the increasing demand for ayurveda abroad, we have a promising future. But, how far we have advanced to assess this trend and realizing the necessity to increase our ability to cope up with the demand?
· There are many serious issues which are affecting the Ayurveda, today. When the biodiversity is threatened and each day the number of endangered species is increasing, so is the old and traditional Ayurvedic physicians (acharyas). Protection of both should be undertaken on a war footing. Is that possible to have gene bank of both and later clone them in the new planet / satellite for the healthy living?
· Commercial interests are determining the patenting of traditional medical know-how by pharmaceutical industry which is in its 4th evolutionary stage along with others in the fray.
· Good Manufacturing Practices and standardization rules are determined to dominate the philosophical and social aspects of traditional medical systems.
It is time to have another concerned gathering (in Himalayas or elsewhere) to find the future course of action for the sustainable and equitable use of ayurveda for the wellbeing of the living objects of the world.
i) Scientific Heritage of India – Ayurveda, Government Sanskrit College, Thripunithura.
ii) Ayurveda Ithihasam – Publication Department, Government Ayurveda College, Thiruvanthapuram
(* Samhitha – the literal meaning of the term is “collection”)