The History and Revival of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is regarded as a unique way of healing with a comprehensive approach to physical and mental well-being. This system of natural healing dates back to more than 5000 years ago during the Vedic age in India and is considered to be the oldest form of traditional medicine. Let’s understand the history of Ayurveda and the current market scenario.
What is Ayurveda?
The word Ayurveda is derived from two Sanskrit words, ‘Aayu’ and ‘Veda’. Aayu refers to a person’s physical, mental and emotional life while Veda is a derivation of ‘Vidya’ meaning knowledge. Thus, simply put, Ayurveda can be roughly translated to mean the ‘Knowledge of Life’. Following Ayurvedic principles can help maintain a good health as well as treat a number of conditions that affect one’s body.
Ayurveda and the Vedic Age
The evolution of Ayurveda began long before a written script was developed. Thus, initially, this knowledge was passed on through the word of mouth. Only the very learned of Brahmins had access to this knowledge. Sage Ved Vyas is credited as being the first person to document the science of Ayurveda when he wrote down the Vedas in the form of 4 books. The three Doshas of Ayurveda, i.e. the Vata, Pitta and Kapha Doshas are mentioned sporadically in the Rigveda but it is the Atharvaveda where the main references to Ayurveda can be seen. Many people consider Ayurveda to be a supplement of the Atharvaveda.
Ayurveda in 1500 BC
It was around the 2nd century BC when the knowledge of Ayurveda evolved as a more scientifically verifiable form of medicine. It was described as Ashtang Ayurveda or the 8 branches of Ayurveda:
• Kaya Chikitsa – Internal Medicine
• Shalya Tantra – Surgery
• Shalakya Tantra – ENT and Ophthalmology
• Agada Tantra – Toxicology
• Bhoota Vidya – Psychiatry
• Kaumarbhratya and Prasuti – Pediatrics and Gynecology
• Rasayana – Geriatrics
• Vajikarana – Fertility and Reproduction
There were two schools of Ayurveda at the time; Atreya Sampradaya and Dhanwantri Sampradaya. The first was a school of physicians while the second was a school of surgeons. The major treatise published by these schools include the Charak Samhita and Sushruta Samhita respectively.
The Golden Age of Ayurveda
Ayurvedic became popular around 520 BC (the Buddhist Era). Until this time, Ayurvedic remedies were largely based on herb extracts and certain minerals. Owing to effectiveness of the remedies, this branch of medicine was patronized by Indians and foreign alike. Ayurveda became an established system of healthcare in India during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya.
The Decline of Ayurveda
While the Buddhist era was the golden period for Ayurveda, it also marked a pivotal point for the Dhanvantri Sampradaya or school of surgery. This has been attributed largely to Emperor Ashoka’s patronization of Buddhism and non-violence after the Kalinga war. By 250 BC, Ayurveda’s Shalya Tantra or science of surgery became almost nonexistent. When the Mughals invaded India, many Ayurvedic treatises housed in the Nalanda and Takshila universities were destroyed and lost forever. The colonization of India by the British and the implementation of modern medical practices led to the further decline of this ancient science.
Revival of Ayurveda
The revival of Ayurveda became an important venture for Independent India. Slowly over the years, Ayurveda has gained its long-lost glory. One of the main reasons for this is the relative absence of side effects of Ayurvedic remedies as compared to allopathic remedies. Today, about 60% of the registered medical practitioners in India promote non-allopathic remedies.
Here are a few interesting statistics:
• Number of registered medical Ayurvedic practitioners in India: 366,812
• Number of Ayurvedic dispensaries: 22,100
• Number of Ayurvedic hospitals: 2,189
• Number of Ayurvedic medicine manufacturing pharmacies: 8,400
• The Indian Ayurveda Industry is predicted to hit $8 billion mark by 2022
The Indian government has set up the Ministry of AYUSH in 2014 to promote education and research in the field of Ayurveda, Siddha, Naturopathy, Yoga, Unani and Homoeopathy.