തര്‍ജ്ജനി

Ayurveda – The myths and realities

“Ayushooveda Ayurveda” in Sanskrit is translated as the study of life cycle of creatures of the universe from birth to death. The term Ayurveda, as applied to humans, finds its roots from this verse. It is believed that Ayurveda was created 5000 years ago and the earliest references can be seen in holy classics like Rigveda.

The Myth of “Brahma Smritoo”

The science of Ayurveda is originated from the memories of Lord Brahma as explained in the three classic books named Brihat Trayi – Chakra Samhta, Susrutha Samhita and Ashtanda Hridaya. In Hinduism, Lord Brahma is considered the creator of the world. He remembered the science due to the sufferings in some of his creations, which had diseases. The term Brahma Smritoo in Sanskrit menas Brahma remembered, which indicates that Ayurveda had existed. (Some scholars interpret this contradiction as the referred Brahama is not the Lord brahma but and ancient sage who is considered as the “father of Ayurveda” and he might have written the book named Brahma Samhita.)

After memorizing the science, Lord Brhama explained it to Daksha Prajapathi – the father of Parvathy, the wife of Lord Shiva. Daksha Prajapathy taught Ayurveda to Aswani Devas, who later became the chief physicians of Deva Loka. During that period, battles between Devas and Asuras were very common. On one of those battles, one of the devas has lost his head and Aswini devas were able replace the lost head with a horse’s head. (Later on this deva was happened to be known as “Haya Greeva” or the horse headed.) Even the modern surgery has not reached in the stages of head transplantation surgery which is detailed in classics, but we can hope it will.

The myth of Danwanthari

Another myth about Ayurveda is that the king of Devaloka – Indra prayed to Lord Brahma to get the immortal status. Brahma advised to churn the celestial sea “Paalaazhi’ to obtain “Amruth” which would help devas to become immortal. Devas, unable to churn the sea alone with Manthara Mountain and vasuki sought the help of Asuras. At the end of the churning, Danwanthari appeared with Amruth pot in his hand. After the brief quarrel with Asuras, devas were able to retrieve the pot and consume the Amruth. It is assumed that the devas are still living today. Danwathari who carried the Amruth pot from Paalazhi is considered the god of Ayurveda.

The reality of Charaka Samhita

Aswani devas explained the ayurvedic science to Sahasraksha (One who has a thousand eyes which also can be extrapolated as five hundred heads.) Conceptually this is interpreted as for humans to learn Ayurveda it requires the intelligence of five hundred people and that’s the reason for this science was being circulated only among devas. Sahasraksha explained Ayurveda to a groups of sages headed by Atriputri who used to meditate in Kailasa for years. Scholars consider Kailasa as Himalaya. Ayurveda in oral teaching in Gurukula system followed for centuries until Sage Agnivesa’s (Disciple of Atreya punarvasu) disciples started to write down the teachings. This ancient script is called Agnivesa samhita, of which the details are in a conversational method. The disciples are asking various doubts and the guru Agnivesa is explaining the details. It is assumed that the period of Agnivesa samhita is BC 1000. In BC 200, another Ayurveda Physician Charaka had re-arranged the Agnivesa samhita in a clearer and defined pattern. Charaka re-named Agnivesa samhita as Charaka samhita. Later in 4th century AD, another disciple of Ayurveda, Dridabala filled the unclear parts and made the “Charaka samhita” in its current form. This book as about 9295 sutras and 12000 slokas arranged in 8 parts and 120 chapters.

The ancient physicians realized that it is not possible to learn the big compilation in a life span. The eights parts currently gives particular attention to particular areas like surgery, psychiatry and so on.

Records say that Charaka is the son of Vishuddha. He used to be known as Kapistala charaka, indicating his roots in Kapistala. He was also the student of Vaisampayana and was the physician of King Kanishka.

The reality of Susrutha Samhita

Another set of scholars interpret that the Ayurvrda has taken birth from Danwanthari. Around BC 2350, it is assumed that another Danwanthari has done surgical experiments on body dissections, organ transplantation etc. The disciples were assumed to be more practical oriented. In between BC 1500 and BC1000, a sage named Vruda Susrutha wrote down the experiments of Danwanthari. In 200AD, another sage named Susrutha had re-worked on the script and made in the now available form of Susrutha Samhita. This scripture gives numerous references about surgeries undergone at that time through its 6 parts and 186 chapters.

There are numerous stories about ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda. These stories portrait how deeply the science of medicine was understood among ancient Indian sages and the scriptures on Ayurveda available are living proofs. Though modern medical practices have taken in-roads into daily life, the significance of Ayurveda should not be undermined. This holistic science is the knowledge of complete balance of the Body, Mind and spirit, including the emotions and psychology, on all levels. It includes in its consideration, longevity, rejuvenation and self-realization therapies through herbs, diet, exercise, yoga, massage, aromas, tantras, mantras, and meditation.

Dr. Lakshmi. J. Nair