The History Of Ayurveda

VEDAS are the source of Ayurveda. In fact, Ayurveda is said to be the fifth Veda because of its crucial contribution to the well being of the living organisms.

According to Hindu ancient scriptures, the life of the entire creation is divided into four YUGAS. This time duration is fixed and the creation repeats itself in the same pattern. The four Yugas are SATAYUGA, TRETAYUGA, DWAPARYUGA, KALIYUGA.

SATAYUGA- was the time when everything was completely pure and unpolluted. Deficiencies started from Tretayuga.

According to Hindu tradition, all the divine wisdom is imbued in the four Vedas. The Vedas are Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda. The last Veda, Atharvaveda is devoted to the material welfare and righteous fulfillment of desires of a person.

Ayurveda is said to have descended from the source of life itself. According to Vedas, Brahma is the greater of the Universe and everything inside it.

The first proponent of Ayurveda was sage Bharadwaj, and according to Charak Samhita, he is said to have received the knowledge of Ayurveda from the Indra (the King of Gods). Sage Bharadwaj then imparted this flawless knowledge of Ayurveda to multiple other seers and scholars for the welfare of mankind.

It seems to signify that a wise man discovered Ayurveda through establishing a connection between them and nature, via the supreme life force that connects everything in the world.

In this sense, Nature or the Brahma is the father of Ayurveda.
From Bharadwaj, Ayurveda spread to form two distinct divisions – Atreya Community (lead by Sage Atreya) and Dhanvantari Community  (lead by hermit King Dhavantari).

Antreya Community considers general medicine as a principal treatment method, on the other hand, Dhanvantari Community considers surgery as the most important branch of Ayurveda. The approximative time of these developments is considered to be around 4 thousand years back.

Charak Samhita is the most important available text for Antreya Community. Sushrut Samhita is the authoritative text in Dhavantari Community.




The founder of Atreya Community is Sage Atreya, regarding the timeline of his life and work, are some confusions.

According to Charak Samhita, Punarvasu Atreya is the master of Ayurveda who is the father of this community. Punarvasu Atreya imparted his knowledge of Ayurveda to six main students – Agnivesha, Bhela, Jatukarna, Parashara, Ksharaparani, and Harita. But sage Agnivesha shines out of the most capable of all students.

Charak Samhita is basically a record conversation between Sage Punarvasu Atreya and Agnivesha, where the master elaborates on various aspects of Ayurvedic treatment in detail. According to Charak Samhita, Ayurveda was born because the Sages were falling sick due to unhealthy food and lifestyle and were not able to pursue their intellectual and spiritual quests.

Antreya community favors Ayurvedic general medicine ( Kayachikitsa ) as they believe that is the most extensively applicable therapy. Even other branches of medicine depend on general medicine in the course of treatment.

General medicine normally forms the foundation or complementary therapy of all types of treatments. According to this group, the manas (mental) and shariri (physiological) factors are the primary cause of disorders.




Similar to Atreya community, there is a confusion regarding the exact identity and timeline. Dhavantari is the name of God Of Divine Nectar, who has the power to bestow immortality. However, Sushrut Samhita identifies Divodas Dhavantari, the King of Kashi (present Varanasi) to be the founder of Dhavantari community.

Six illustrious students of King Dhavantari were- Aupdhenava, Vaitarana, Aurabhra, Paushkalavata, Karavirya, Gopur-Rakshita, and Sushrut.
Each of these students created a treatise of his own; however, Sushrut Samhita is the most famous and unfortunately the only surviving text on Shalya Tantra (Ayurvedic surgery).

According to Dhavantari community, when the diet and lifestyle are perfect, the diseases do not occur. In such a situation, the physical trauma due to accidents, war, corporal punishment or artificial beauty treatments become a more important subject of treatment.

In this way, Ayurvedic surgery is the most crucial of all branches of treatment under Ayurveda. Also, Agantuja ( external ) factor like an accident, physical attacks etc, are the primary causes of disorders.
Both the communities accept and honor all 8 branches of Ayurveda.

Ancient Hindu scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads, and Aranyaka, describe the scope, practice, and examples of Ayurvedic treatment in Vedic time.

Most interesting information that one may come across is regard to surgery, especially the development of plastic surgery in the ancient times. Ancient Epic Mahabharata indicates various Ayurvedic medicinal interventions like the birth of 100 sons of Dhritarashtra (King of Hastinapura), through a process similar to cloning, the birth of Pandavas (sons of King Pandu) by a process similar to artificial insemination.

Vedas refer to the replacement of dissected nose, limbs etc, through surgical intervention.

Sushrut Samhita mentions 101 types of distinct surgical instruments, categorized in 6 sections. Almost all types of surgical instruments used in modern surgery are mentioned in this extensive list.

Besides, these instruments were strictly made from gold or silver, both the noble metals that normally do not react with the human body. Vedas also describe instances of complex eye end brain surgeries, dentistry and community medicine.

Unfortunately, with the rise of Buddism and Jainism in India, surgery as a science was side-lined. Instead, Shalakya Tantra (father of modern acupressure and acupuncture) was patronized as surgery, was viewed as unnecessary `violence` towards the body.

The word Shalakya is derived from another Sanskrit word Shalaka (needle). Those branches of Ayurveda traveled with the Buddhist monks to many countries like Japan, China, Thailand, Indonesia etc, and each country developed their own treatment system after adopting relevant knowledge from Ayurveda.

During the Muslim dominance in India from 1400 AD to 1600 AD, royal patronage for Ayurveda waned and it was replaced by Unani Medicine. During the British rule in India from 1600 – 1945, Allopathy gained importance and unfortunately, Ayurveda became almost a myth.

However, Ayurveda has always been a major mode of medical treatment for rural India because of its simplicity and natural approach.
Sadly, even after Indian Independence, not much was done to revive ancient science.

Fortunately, the Indian government under Prime minister Narendra Modi is all set to promote Ayurveda on the international level.