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What Is Ayurveda? 5 Dimensions Of The Ancient Indian Health Wisdom!

What is Ayurveda? Is really a tough question to answer. The Ancient Indian system of health and medicine has many dimensions. From whichever angle we see it, Ayurveda gives a refreshing look. If we sit and analyze the depth and reach of Ayurveda, we can differentiate many aspects of Ayurveda into different categories. Here is a personal attempt to explain Ayurvedic medicine system.

Different facets of Ayurveda


1. Spiritual Ayurveda

  • Ayurveda has its roots deep in spirituality.
  • Ayurveda tells us the very purpose of life, about the karma, why we take birth, various theories about the formation of this entire universe and the simple and humble ways of human existence.
  • The origin of Ayurveda was to help people live long so as to follow righteous path.
  • Many diseases like skin disorders are said to happen due to sin.
  • In the Ayurvedic treatment of many diseases, like in selected types of fever, spiritual practices have been mentioned.
  • In every ancient Ayurvedic text books, there is a separate chapter dedicated to righteous living. It is a well-known fact in Ayurveda that, as long as one is not mentally and spiritually healthy, one’s overall ‘health aspect’ is incomplete.
  • Even in understanding health and disease, ancient Ayurveda scientists used to acquire the sacred knowledge of Ayurveda about health and disease through spirituality. Example: Sushruta used to do dissection of dead bodies to understand the anatomy and physiology of body thousands of years ago. He writes in a context – “The parts of body that can be seen through naked eyes are less, those that can not be seen are infinite. The knowledge of those unseen parts can only be had by the eyes of meditation and eyes of knowledge!”

2. Holistic Ayurveda

The health science that gave the concept of holistic approach to health and disease is Ayurveda.
In Ayurvedic treatment, Ayurveda gives importance to

  • The strength of the disease,
  • strength of the body of the patient
  • Dosha body type of the patient
  • Mental condition of the patient

While treating a patient, Ayurveda not only concentrates on just getting rid of the disease process or breaking the disease pathology. It tries to overall recovery of all the aspects of health – spiritual, mental and physical.

Even after the illness is completely cured, Ayurveda offers rejuvenation and aphrodisiac therapies so that the person can have superior health and enjoy life to its fullest.

3. Preventive Ayurveda

If you open any Ayurveda book, the first few chapters are dedicated to explain how your daily routine should be, how your seasonal routine and rituals should be, what are the techniques to secure and maintain good health.

There are two aims of Ayurveda.
1. To maintain the health of the healthy.
2. To treat the diseased.
So, preventive healthcare is considered ahead of curative aspect.

4. Curative aspect of Ayurveda

Set aside the aspects explained above, Ayurveda is a hardcore science of treating the disease. From the treatment of a simple fever to complicated cancers, Ayurveda books explain you volumes and volumes of treatment options.

Sushruta is considered as father of Surgery even by Allopathic fraternity. He used to do surgery of cataract, kidney stones, rhinoplasty  (cosmetic surgery of nose) etc. 2000 years ago.

In general, Ayurvedic treatment comprises of

  • Panchakarma – 5 sets of detox programs
  • Ayurvedic medicines, herbs, remedies
  • Diet and lifestyle, to follow and, to avoid, for quick relief from the disease.
  • Rejuvenation program to gain back the original vigor and vitality.

5. Ayurveda for health promotion

This special section comprises of aphrodisiac treatment, geriatric treatment to have high quality marital and old-age life.

Pediatric rituals called Samskaras (rituals to be followed at different stages of child growth) and pregnancy care can also be included in this section. This section is to have enjoy the extra benefits of health to have a successful and wholesome life.

Addition by
By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

Ayurveda is the oldest school of medicine ever known to mankind. The roots of Ayurveda are based in Vedas, most ancient treatises of comprehensive knowledge.

Vedas comprised of knowledge of everything, including medicine, lifestyle, creation, politics, economics, governance, worship, oblations and sacrifices given to God, agriculture and lot more. Vedas are four in number i.e. Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. Ayurveda is said to be branch and sister section of Atharvaveda.

Descent of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is said to have been created by creator, Brahma himself.

When the creator saw that his creation was suffering from many ailments and that they were not happy, he, with utmost compassion and love towards living beings recollected science of health and narrated it to Prajapati. The latter was creator’s representative who took care of smooth run of creation. ‘Recollection’ means something which already existed. Thus, Ayurveda was always there in mind of the creator and he narrated it only when he felt need to preach it.

Prajapati, manager of creation later preached Ayurveda to physicians of Gods i.e. Ashwini twins. Celestial twins further taught Ayurveda to Lord Indra, king of Gods.

Sage Bharadwaja, with an intention of finding suitable remedies so as to cure ailing mankind from clutches of diseases approached Lord Indra. Lord Indra conferred knowledge of Ayurveda to sage. Bharadwaja further propogated this divine health science to his disciples and colleagues. Knowledge never remained constant and was preached and taught through successive generations of students and aspiring physicians.

Ayurveda has ever since been selflessly involved in healing ailing mankind and is also a popular and most sought health system even in modern day. This timeless and ageless time-tested medical system has been accepted and embraced by modern world because it is natural, healing, and comprehensive.

 Comprehensiveness of Ayurveda

Comprehensiveness of Ayurveda lay in it being both a preventive and curative medical science.

Ayurveda was the first medical system which emphasized on preventive medicine. The evidence for this is the detailed elaboration of daily and seasonal regimens, personal and community health. Ayurveda also has stressed upon role of dietetics, lifestyle modulations, body cleansing and consumption of rejuvenators and immune modulating medicines in contexts of treating each and every disorder.

‘Conscious avoidance of causative factors of a disease’ i.e. nidana parivarjana has been quoted as major part of treatment. Shat Kriya Kalas i.e. 6 stages of disease formation by Sushruta is one of best concepts of studying a disease pathology in different tiers of its development and has been embraced by other medical systems with evolutionary changes and change of terms as suited to their system. This allows studying diseases and identifying them in their earliest stage of manifestation which further enables early treatment of diseases and also in avoiding recurrence of diseases.

Curative package of Ayurveda deals with identification of disease and causative factors, isolation of latter, treating disease from base by breaking pathological process, administration of detoxifying treatments in form of cleansing treatments i.e. Panchakarama measures, giving disease modifying medicines, advocating suitable diet and lifestyle modifications and administration of immunity modulating medicines so as to prevent diseases from relapsing.


Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing sciences. It is a traditional ancient Indian healthcare system which aims to attain a balance between the body, mind and spirit to promote health, prevent and cure diseases.
Ayurveda originated in India around 6000 BCE, during the Vedic period and was passed down from one generation to the next through an oral tradition, from an accomplished master to his disciple. Some of this knowledge was documented a few thousand years ago and is still accessible.
The word Ayurveda is derived from two Sanskrit words,
‘Ayu’ which means ‘life’ and
‘Veda’ which means ‘science’ or ‘knowledge’.
Hence the meaning of the word Ayurveda is ‘the science of life’.

Ayurveda is considered Upaveda of Atharva Veda (one among the 4 Vedas. Vedas are the oldest written documents explaining about science and society)

Basic operational strategy of Ayurveda

Blueprint of operational strategies of Ayurveda as a health science is based on comprehensively addressing three vertices of health system governance known as trisutra. Three principles to be addressed so as to establish good and total health in a given person individually or in a given population at a gross level are –

  • Hetu – identification and isolation of causative factors of a disease
  • Linga – knowing a disease in its entirety by identifying its signs and symptoms (diagnosis)
  • Aushadha – treating disease comprehensively after properly diagnosing it and also to see that it doesn’t relapse in a later part of time

Meaning and Definition of Ayurveda

Word Ayurveda is made up of two terms i.e. Ayu and Veda.

‘Aayushah vedah Ayurvedah’

  • Ayu means life, lifespan
  • Veda means knowledge, wisdom

Thus, Ayurveda is ‘knowledge of life’ or ‘knowledge of lifespan’.

General meaning of ayu is lifespan, but meaning is more than that. Ayu is said to be a combination of body, soul, mind and senses. Thus, ‘coexistence of body, soul, mind and senses’ is ayu. Knowledge which is helpful in maintenance of integrity and coexistence of these four entities without any obstacles in form of disease or damage is named Ayurveda.

Thus, Ayurveda, by providing comprehensive knowledge about preventive and curative aspects of medicine will help in guarding integrity of chain of body, soul, mind and senses which constitute us, our lifespan.

Word veda is derived from root term ‘vid’. Vid means ‘to know’. This term vid has many meanings.

  • Vid jgnane – to know and understand
  • Vid labhe – to obtain
  • Vid aishvarye – to enhance or enrich, treasure

When we apply these meanings to Ayu and try to understand word Ayurveda as a whole we learn that ‘ science which helps one to know and understand lifespan constituting amalgamation of body, soul, mind and senses, to obtain a qualitative and quantitative lifespan and to enrich one’s treasure in terms of health and wellbeing is called Ayurveda’.

To sum up –

‘ science which helps in obtaining knowledge of components which make up one’s life or lifespan, to understand quality and quantity of lifespan, enables one to enrich his lifespan and obtain longevity is called Ayurveda’

Types of Ayu

Ayu is of four types, i.e.

  • Hita Ayu – advantageous lifespan
  • Ahita Ayu – Disadvantageous lifespan
  • Sukha Ayu – Happy lifespan
  • Dukha Ayu – Unpleasant / Miserable lifespan

Ayurveda can also be defined on basis of these types of lifespan.

‘Ayurveda is a treatise in which beneficial and non-beneficial aspects of four types of lifespan i.e. advantageous, disadvantageous, happy and miserable lifespan and quantum and quality of lifespan have been elaborated.’ – Charaka

Four objectives of life

One needs to fulfill four objectives of his or her life during a lifetime. They are –

  • Dharma – to conduct oneself in doing righteousness
  • Artha – earning wealth and all good things
  • Kama – desires conducive to oneself, his family and community in which he lives
  • Moksha – focusing on getting liberated from vicious cycle of life and death and doing deeds in accordance to achieve salvation

To achieve these objectives of life, one needs to have good health and longevity. Ayurveda and preaching related to health and living embedded in its scriptures will enable one to lead a healthy life and also have a lengthy lifespan. This will enable him to achieve the four objectives of life and make his living meaningful. Thus Ayurveda enables one to achieve his or her life objectives which are termed as ‘purusharthas’.

Branches of Ayurveda

Eight branches of Ayurveda has been described –
1. Kaya Chikitsa – General medicine,
2. Bala Chikitsa – Paediatrics,
3. Graha Chikitsa – Demonology,
4. Urdhwanga Chikitsa – ENT, Ophthalmology,
5. Shalya Tantra – Surgery, cautery and bloodletting etc,
6. Damshtra Chikitsa – Toxicology,
7. Jara Chikitsa – Geriatrics, rejuvenation treatment and
8. Vrisha – Aphrodisiacs.

Although Ayurveda has been practised in India for a long time and is a part of the Indian tradition, it has recently gained popularity in the West as an alternative system of medicine.

Objectives of Ayurveda

The objectives of Ayurveda have been divided into two aspects namely:
1. Maintaining the health of a healthy person – Swasthasya Swathya Rakshanam
2. Treating the disease in the diseased – Aturasya Vikara Prashamanam.

The basic principles of Ayurvedic medicines deal with universal interconnectedness, the body’s constitution, and life forces.

Universal inter-connectedness – According to Ayurveda principles, the universe is made up of five basic elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether. Everything in the universe, living or non-living, are all formed as a result of combination of these 5 elements.

Body constitution – This system believes that each individual has a unique constitution (prakriti) which is determined at the time of conception. So it considers each individual to be different – mentally and physically. The diet, lifestyle and treatments vary from person to person, based on his body type. The body constitution is believed to be unchanged over a person’s lifetime.

Life forces – Like the world is governed by the forces of air, sun and water, the body and its functions are governed by 3 factors called Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are considered as the building blocks of the body. The balance of these three Doshas lead to health and its imbalance leads to disease condition.

Theories of Ayurveda

Ayurveda, at its core has the below-mentioned theories:
1. Tridosha theory
– Like the air, sun and water control the world, the Tridoshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha control the human body and mind.
2. Sapta Dhatu theory
– seven tissues which form the framework of the body
3. Trimala –
three waste products, which should be eliminated from time to time so as to maintain health.
4. Agni
– digestion and metabolism strength, which is responsible for converting food into energy and to supply nutrition to all the seven body tissues. Agni, like the seven tissues, is influenced by the three Doshas.
5. Srotas
– channels of the body through which fluids, food, nutrition, oxygen, tissues and waste products flow.
6. Spiritual concepts
involving mind, soul, Satva, Rajas, Tamas etc.

Based on the above theories, treatments are formulated.
Blueprint of operational strategies of Ayurveda as a health science is based on comprehensively addressing the three vertices of health system governance known as Trisutra. Three principles to be addressed so as to establish good and total health in a given person individually or in a given population at a gross level are –

  • Hetu – identification and isolation of causative factors of a disease
  • Linga – knowing a disease in its entirety by identifying its signs and symptoms (diagnosis)
  • Aushadha – treating disease comprehensively after properly diagnosing it and also to see that it doesn’t relapse in a later part of time

To understand Hetu (causes) and Linga (symptoms of diseases), Ayurveda has postulated
Pancha Nidana theory and Shat Kriya Kala theory.

Pancha nidana theory: 5 steps of disease explanation
Nidana – physical and mental causes of disease
Poorva Roopa  – prodromal symptoms of the disease
Roopa – signs and symptoms of the disease
Upashaya – alleviating and aggravating factors of the disease
Samprapti – complete story of how diseases progresses from Dosha vitiation to complete manifestation of signs and symptoms.

 Shat Kriya Kala – are the six stages, through with the Doshas pass through to get imbalanced and to cause disease.

Based on the Doshas causing disease, Ayurveda has three ways of treatments:
Shamana – alleviating the imbalanced Doshas. It is done with massage, sweating etc therapies and also with oral Ayurvedic medicines.
Shodhana – eliminating toxic Doshas out of the body
Swastha Hita – treatment to maintain health of healthy individuals.

All Ayurvedic treatment measures are based on the basic philosophies of Doshas, Dhatu, Agni etc. Hence, they are very important for an Ayurvedic clinician.
Ayurveda treats not only the human body, but also the mind. Hence, it is very important for the Ayurvedic practitioner to learn about the nature, qualities of mind, functions, afflictions with Rajas, Tamas etc.

All in all, without learning the basics of Ayurveda, in terms of Doshas, Dhatus, mind, soul, etc, one cannot become a successful Ayurvedic practitioner.

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