Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani Systems of medicine that existed in Bharat even before 1600 BC were not just systems of medicines; they were Systems of Health as they provided holistic solutions of healthcare, lifestyle, diet and medicine. They didn’t just give medicine to the affected person. The first attempt would be to suggest a lifestyle, where the person doesn’t fall sick. Then some healthcare was provided with small dietary changes and some herbs were suggested as modes of course correction and only after that, if there would be no improvement, medicines would be given. Here in this series, we will be dealing with some words and terminologies from the healthcare systems.
107. Ayurveda: As the name suggests “Ayur” stands for Life and “Veda” means “Source of Knowledge”. Hence Ayurveda means “The source of knowledge of life”. It is not a system of medicine as projected usually. However Ayurveda can be called a holistic system of healthcare, lifestyle and medicine. The founder figure is considered as Dhanvantri – an incarnation of God Vishnu. Then further documenting of Ayurveda is attributed to Rishi Agnivesh, then to Sushruta, Charaka and Atreya Punarvasu. The texts written by these greats are Sushurta Samhita, Charaka Samhita and Bhela Samhista by Atreya Punarvasu. There are other texts like Agnivesha Samhita, Kashyapa Samhita and Harita Samhita. Agnivesha Samhita is a text that is dated 1500 BC, Kashyapa Samhita, which includes the treatise by Jivaka Kumara Bhaccha is dated 600 BC and Harita Samhita is dated much before this and attributed to Harita – a disciple of Atreya Punarvasu.
108. Chikitsa: The earliest classical Sanskrit works on Ayurveda describe medicine as being divided into eight Angas (components). “Cikitsāyām aṣṭāṅgāyāṃ”. This line on the physicians’ art which means “the line of treatment / branches of treatment have eight components” is first found in the Bharathiya Inihasa – the Mahābhārata in 3000 BC. The eight Angas (components) are:
- Kāyachikitsā: This branch / component deals with general medicine, medicine of the body and specifically for the adults.
- Kaumāra-bhṛtya (Pediatrics): This branch / component deals with Garbhini (prenatal) and Balantana (postnatal) care of baby and mother, methods of conception; choosing the child’s gender, intelligence, and constitution; and childhoodcare and midwifery.
- Śalyatantra: This Branch / component deals with surgical techniques and the extraction of foreign objects. This is the oldest form of surgery in the world.
- Śhālākyatantra: This branch / component deals with treatment of ailments affecting ears, eyes, nose, mouth, etc. Probably this contains one of the oldest ENT procedures in the world.
- Bhūtavidyā: This branch / component deals with pacification of possessing spirits and the people whose minds are affected by such possession. Probably this is one of the oldest systems of Psychiatry.
- Agadatantra / Vishagara-vairodh Tantra (Toxicology): This branch / component includes subjects about Mahamaaris (epidemics), Visha (toxins) in animals, vegetables and minerals. It as well contains keys for recognizing those Rogas (anomalies) and their Upachara (antidotes).
- Rasāyantantra: This branch / component includes treatment for rejuvenation and tonics for increasing lifespan, intellect and strength.
- Vājīkaraṇatantra: This branch / component includes study of aphrodisiacs and treatments for increasing the volume and viability of semen and sexual pleasure for both the sexes. It also deals with infertility problems for both men and women and also with spiritual development, which includes transmutation of sexual energy into spiritual energy.
109. Dosha: Dosha is one of the three – what can be called as ‘bio-substance’ of Vata, Pitha and Kapha and as there are three of these Doshas they are called ‘TriDoshas’. The main principle on which Ayurveda is based is the Tridosha. Their subtle energy forms of Prana, Tejas and Ojas. Doshas are the forces that create the physical body. They determine conditions of growth, aging, health and disease. Typically, one of the three doshas predominates and determines one’s constitution or mind-body type. By understanding individual habits, emotional responses and body type, practitioners can adapt their yoga practice accordingly.
110. Roga: According to Charaka Samhita, Roga is that which causes extreme pain to both the body and the mind. It is mainly caused by derangement of any one or more of the Doshas, but the main cause is attributed to lowering of pachakagni (Digestive Fire).
रोगाः सर्वेऽपि मन्देऽग्नौ सुतरामुदराणि तु
One of the main causes of roga (disease) is mandagni (low digestive fire).
If a person suffers from the condition of mandagni or low digestive fire, then this will produce the condition of ama or undigested toxic food substance. The ama is responsible for imbalance of the dosha, vitiating the dhatus and obstructing the srotas.
In Ayurveda, prevention of disease is more important than the curative aspect of disease. Understanding the concepts of Roga (Disease) & Hetu (Cause) can lead to healthy and balanced lifestyle.