Ayurveda in Ancient Times
Long, long ago-more than five thousand years ago in fact- the sages and rishis of ancient India developed a system of treatment based on the inherent ability of the human body to rejuvenate, to heal and to restore its natural balance. This system is today known as Ayurveda, the knowledge or the science of Life, and its origins are believed to be Divine. According to Hindu Mythology, the healing effects of Nature were revealed by the Gods to the sages of antiquity. They were given an understanding of the curative properties of roots and leaves, fruits and seeds, the barks of trees, herbs and shrubs. All these gifts of Nature were used by the sages to treat a variety of diseases in the form of concoctions, oils and pastes. The accumulated knowledge of these ancient physicians was incorporated into the four great Vedas, which are the cornerstones of Hindu philosophy. The wisdom of Ayurveda was taught and assimilated as part of the spiritual tradition of Vedic Religion. It was passed on orally from sage to disciple, until the tenets were first written down in the Atharva Veda by the sage Veda Vyasa. It was about this time that Ayurveda was established as an independent science. Around 1500 BC, Ayurveda evolved into two schools- the school of physicians and the school of surgeons. The two schools represent the eight branches of Ayurvedic medicine or Ayurvedic studies that one could specialize in during the ancient times.
From India to the World
The two great cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, were also the cradles of Ayurveda. Excavations of the ruins of these cities have conclusively shown that the physicians of those times were skilled at therapies and treatments for a wide variety of diseases. Black coloured stones, found at the excavation site, turned out to be special type of stone from mountainous areas that has been found useful in the treatment of urinary diseases. Similarly, deer bark from the excavation sites was probably used to treat hereditary diseases as well as coughs. The roots of Ayurveda go deep into the soil of Kerala too, where it was practiced as far back as 5000 years ago, as in the rest of India, and where the rulers of the day honoured and supported its physicians. Word of this wondrous system of healing spread to distant shores. The Egyptians learnt about Ayurveda long before the invasion of Alexander in the 4th century BC, through their sea trade with India. The Greeks and Romans came to know about it as well, after their invasion of Egypt. Around the first century AD, Ayurveda spread to the East too, through Buddhism, and many Buddhist monks were skilled Ayurvedic physicians. Ayurveda greatly influenced the Tibetan and Chinese system of medicine as well, and people from many parts of the ancient world traveled along the Silk Road to India, to learn Ayurvedic medicine, and to take its wisdom back to their own lands. The wonder of it all is that this is still happening- for Ayurveda is a gift from the Gods that is a legacy for all time.