Introduction to Ayurveda

Etymologically Ayurveda has two words – Ayu and Veda. Ayu means life and Veda stands for the knowledge. So strictly speaking Ayurveda is knowledge for life. For what this knowledge is? What is the aim of Ayurveda? Talking about both Paramount Scholars of Ayurveda- Charka and Sushruta have told that- Aim of Ayurveda is to prevent the diseases in a healthy person and to cure the diseased one. They have given these following definitions of Ayurveda :

what is ayurveda

  • Ayurveda is a science of life. It tells what is good and what is not for the healthy life
  • An eternal knowledge aimed to cure the diseases of all creatures is Ayurveda
  • Ayurveda is a science, which tells us how to use foods, herbs, medicines, surgical procedures and other natural resources for the maintenance of health
  • All natural things and their effect on the body are where discussed that science is known as Ayurveda
  • Where all ailments of body and mind are cured and made healthy is Ayurveda.

From these definitions, it is clear that Ayurveda is a complete knowledge about life, which deals with all the health concerns of the people and also helps in maintaining the well being.

Origin and History of Ayurveda

Historians have not pinpointed the exact time Ayurveda came into being. Most agree that Ayurvedic classical texts were written in India between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago, though some suggest an even longer history. Ayurveda (the science of Life) is one of the branches of Vedas. It is regarded as upa-Veda (offshoot) of Atharva-veda. It is a stream of the knowledge passed on from generation to generation from teachers to their students and so on. This knowledge is in a continuous flow. It is flowing since eternity parallel to the Vedic literature that is why its emergence has been said to be from the creator (Brahma) himself. It is called eternal because nobody knows when it was not there. All this shows its long tradition and deep attachment to the Indian culture.


The origins of this system, of course, are lost in time. In legend, it is said to have been taught by the creator, Brahma, to the Prajapati Daksha. who taught it in turn to the divine twins called the Ashwinikumars. Ashwinikumars are the heavenly healers. They taught Indra, the chief of the shining ones. The personages mentioned were deities of early Vedic times. When mankind started suffering from various diseases the wise men like Bharadvaja learned from Indra the knowledge of medicine. Gradually the huge amount of knowledge accumulated was divided systematically into different branches.

Eight Limbs of Ayurveda:

Ayurveda is a science, which was offered to students by the teachers in a chain. This knowledge was totally classified and systemized so that pupils can retain it and understand in a better way. These eight parts are known as ASHTANG AYURVEDA :

  • Kaya Chikitsa (Internal Medicine)- Healing and detoxifying measures are discussed under this part of Ayurveda.
  • Shalya Chikitsa(Surgical procedures)- dealing with the extraction of foreign bodies
  • Shalakya Chikitsa- Dealing with the disease of the supra-clavicular region- ENT. & Ophthalmology
  • Agad-Tantra(Toxicology)- dealing with the alleviation of poison, artificial poison and toxic symptoms due to the intake of the antagonistic substance
  • Kaumar Bhritya (Pediatrics & Obs)- Deals with the pregnant ladies and babies
  • Bhoot Vidya- (Psychiatry medicine and bacteriology)
  • Rasayana- (Geriatrics and rejuvenation)
  • Bajikarna- Dealing with aphrodisiacs.

In these eight parts, Rasayana and Bajikarana are meant to promote health and to prevent the diseases. Rests are aimed to cure different diseases of different parts.

He, who has completed, Knowledge of all these eight limbs in detail, is the real Vaidya “A Physician”!!
(Charka Samhita, Sutra Stahana)