Origin of Ayurveda – Contribution of Acharya Charaka

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Ayurveda, is believed to be about5000 years old, predating all other medical systems. The two classic Ayurveda textbooks are more than 2000 years old. Charaka-samhita named after Charaka who was the ayurvedic counterpart of Hippocrates, outlines the principles of health maintenance and treatment of disease. Another book named Sushruta-samhita describes elaborate surgical procedures, including reconstructive plastic surgery, gallbladder removal, and other operations that most people consider modern.

Sushruta, the author of Sushrutasamhita, is believed to have lived around 6th century B.C. and is said to have imbibed his knowledge from Dhanwantri. It is believed that Sushruta's work was also revised and supplemented by Nagarjuna between the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D.

A traditional story about the origin of Ayurveda, elucidates that Brahma imparted this knowledge to Prajapati Daksha, who in turn passed it on to the two Ashwinikumaras. From Ashwinikumaras, this knowledge passed on to Indra and then to Sage Bhardwaja. Bhardwaja shared it with other sages, one of them was Punarvasu Atreya. Atreya passed it on to his disciples. Based on the knowledge thus imparted, Agnivesha, one of Atreya's disciple authored a treatise, which came to be known as Agnivesha-tantra. This work of Agnivesha was revised and enlarged by Charaka around the 5th century A.D. in the form of Charaka-samhita.

Sanskrit caraka is a term for a wandering religious student or ascetic. There are several legendary accounts of the origins of medical science in South Asia. According to one, the serpent-king Śeṣa, who was the recipient of Ayurveda(Ayurveda), once visited the earth and finding it full of sickness he became moved with pity and determined to become incarnate as the son of a Muni for alleviating disease; he was called Charaka because he had visited the earth as a kind of spy or cara; he then composed a new book on medicine, based on older works of Agniveśa and Atreya pupils (Sanskrit shloka – Agniveśakr̥te tantre Charaka pratisaṃskr̥te).

 Charaka-samhita in its present form is the handiwork of another Kashmiri Pandit namely Dridhabala, who revised and updated Charaka's work in the 9th century A.D. Dridhabala, the son of Kapilaba is said to have born in village Pantsinor, the confluence of River Vitasta and Sindhu.

Laying to rest, the controversy regarding Charaka's birth place, the Buddhist literature discovered by Prof. Sylavan Levi in China, shows that Charaka's birth place was Kashmir and he was, the court-poet of Kanishka in the Ist century A.D.

Charaka was the first physician to present the concept of digestion, metabolism and immunity. According to his translations of the Vedas, a body functions because it contains three dosha or principles, namely movement (vata), transformation (pitta) and lubrication and stability (kapha). The doshas are also sometimes called humors, namely, bile, phlegm and wind.)) These dosha are produced when dhatus(blood,flesh and bone marrow) act upon the food eaten. For the same quantity of food eaten, one body, however, produces dosha in an amount different from another body. That is why one body is different from another. For instance, it is more weighty, stronger, more energetic.

Further, illness is caused when the balance among the three dosha in a human body is disturbed. To restore the balance he prescribed medicinal drugs. Although he was aware of germs in the body, he did not give them any importance.

Charaka knew the fundamentals of genetics. For instance, he knew the factors determining the sex of a child. A genetic defect in a child, like lameness or blindness, he said, was not due to any defect in the mother or the father, but in the ovum or sperm of the parents (an accepted fact today).

Charaka studied the anatomy of the human body and various organs. He gave 360 as the total number of bones, including teeth, present in the body. He wrongly believed that the heart had one cavity, but he was right when he considered it to be a controlling centre. He claimed that the heart was connected to the entire body through 13 main channels. Apart from these channels, there were countless other ones of varying sizes which supplied not only nutrients to various tissues but also provided passage to waste products. He also claimed that any obstruction in the main channels led to a disease or deformity in the body.

Under the guidance of the ancient physician Atreya, Agnivesha had written an encyclopedic treatise in the eighthcentury B.C. However, it was only when Charaka revised this treatise that it gained popularity and came to be known as Charakasamhita. For two millennia it remained a standard work on the subject and was translated into many foreign languages, including Arabic and Latin.

 

Popularity and spread of Ayurveda:

Ayurvedic medicine spread with the Hindu culture to Indonesia, Tibet, and eventually to the West, where some of its principles were picked up by the ancient Greek physicians. As Buddhism developed, this healing system was carried to China and other Asian countries.

During the 1800s, the British banned all ayurvedic schools in India, replacing them with Western medical schools. For the next century, ayurvedic medicine was relegated to folk practices in rural areas. When India regained its independence in 1947, ayurvedic schools were again legalised. Today there are more than100 ayurvedic schools in India, equal in number to the Western ones, and many Indian physicians incorporate both styles of medicine into their practices.

Aim of Ayurveda:-

Ayurveda is incorporated into a person's lifestyle. It governs all aspects of life, such as diet, exercise and sexual practices. An ayurvedic practitioner is consulted only to identify and correct an imbalance among the three life forces(1.VATA: The Energy of Movement 2. PITTA: The Energy of Digestion and Metabolism 3.KAPHA: The Factor that provides stability to the body.

Ayurvedic philosophy holds that each person is born with a particular ratio of Doshas, with one dominating. This dominant Dosha determines personality type and also influences one's susceptibility to certain illnesses

Diagnosis of the disease and treatment:

An ayurvedic doctor begins by assessing the patient's Dosha pattern. Pulses play a critical role in this assessment – a practitioner feels pulses throughout the body, looking for Dosha imbalances as reflected in the nature of pulse.Ayurvedic physicians do not focus on a specific disease or an organ system, but instead treat the entire body and mind.

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