References Of Health And Ayurveda In Ramayana

Article by Dr Manasa, BAMS

‘Ramayana’ is a very famous ancient Indian Epic. It is the first of the two ‘Sanskrit Itihasa’ or ancient Indian Epic Poems, the other one being Mahabharata, composed by Maharshi Valmiki before 500BC. 

The epic was revised and set down in its best-known form by the poet Tulasi Das (1532-1623). Traditionally, the epic belongs to the Treta Yuga, one of the four epochs of Hindu chronology.

The epic narrates the life of Rama, the legendary prince of Kosala Kingdom. It tells the story of Prince Rama’s banishment from the kingdom by his father, King Dasharatha, his travels in exile across forests in India accompanied with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, the kidnap of his wife Sita by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, resulting in a war with him and Rama’s eventual return to Ayodhya to be crowned the king.

Ramayan is one of the largest epics in world literature. It consists of nearly 24,000 shlokas (verses). The epic is divided into 7 Khandas (sections) and about 500 Sargas (chapters). It is considered to be the ‘Adi-Kavya’ or the first poem in Hindu tradition. More than a story, epic, it depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, ideal son, ideal brother, ideal wife, ideal servant and ideal king. Ramayana was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Hindu life and culture.

The 7 Kandas of Ramayan are:

  • Bala Kanda
  • Ayodhya Kanda
  • Aranya Kanda
  • Kishkinda Kanda
  • Sundara Kanda
  • Yudha Kanda
  • Uttara Kanda

We can find that the most ancient medical system known to the Earth, Ayurveda, and the Indian system of medicine is linked with this ancient epic Ramayana. References of Ayurveda medicinal herbs are found scattered in Ramayana.
In this article I shall try to establish a relationship between Ayurveda and Ramayan and their mutual influence over each other.

Ayurveda in Valmiki Ramayana
Medical Practice and availability of Royal Physicians –
When his queen Kaikeyi was down and sad, King Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya enquired her about the reason of sadness. He also advised her to take the suggestions of Raja Vaidyas (Royal physicians) for getting relief. This indicates that the medical profession already existed in those days and the court physicians are appointed to look after the health of the Royal Families.

Organ Transplantation –
In Ramayana it is mentioned that sage Gouthama had castrated once the testicles of King Indra, the king of Gods. In place of that, Ahwins or ‘the celestial physician-duo’, had transplanted the testicles of goat to Indra. Indra was henceforth called as ‘Meshanda’.

Toxicology –
Kaikeyi, the third and favourite wife of Dasharatha wanted him to exile Rama and crown her son, Bharata as ‘prince of Ayodhya’. When Dasharatha rejected to fulfil Kaikeyi’s desires, she said that if Dasharatha crowned Rama as ‘Prince of Ayodhya’, she would give away her life by taking poison. This shows that the use of poisonous substances already existed in those days.

Dead Body Preservation –
King Dasharatha had died because of depression of having sent his son Rama to exile on the demand of his wife Kaikeyi. Meanwhile, Bharata went behind Rama to convince him and get back to Ayodhya. Kaikeyi’s son Bharata was a good follower of his brother Rama and did not occupy the throne of Ayodhya according to his mother’s cruel wishes. The dead body of Dasharatha was preserved in ‘Taila Droni’ or tub of oil until Bharata returned. Traditionally Indians used to preserve many things in oil and honey without allowing them to decompose. This incident also tells us that the knowledge of preservation of dead body was well known at that time and might have been due to the knowledge of Ayurveda.

Amputation –
Hanuman, the God and servant of King Rama had visited Sita while she was in Ravana’s captivity, as a ‘messenger of Rama’. Sita sent a message to Rama conveying her miseries through Hanuman. She had said ‘If Rama does not come soon; Ravana will amputate my body with sharp instruments like the surgeon who would amputate the parts of a baby situated in the womb and throws out of the womb’. This shows that the knowledge of amputation was known at that time and also that the Doctor’s used to perform amputation on the ‘dead and impacted child’ in the womb.
Read related: Influence Of Ayurveda in Darshanas: Analysis, Explanation

Description of Herbs –
We can find the description of many plants of trees in Ramayana, which according to Ayurveda have medicinal properties. Some of them are as below mentioned –

  • Kutaja – Holarrhena antidysenterica
  • Arjuna – Terminalia arjuna
  • Kadamba – Neolamarckia cadamba
  • Nimba – Neem
  • Ashoka – Saraca asoca
  • Asana – Pterocarpus marsupium
  • Saptaparna – Alstonia scholaris
  • Kovidara – Bauhinia variegata etc

Use of alcoholic remedies
In the enumeration of ‘Pana Bhumi’ of Ravana, different of Asavas, wine, meat and their preparations according to the principles laid down in Ayurveda, several types of Sura, Sarkarasava, Madhvika, Pushpasava, Phalasava etc and the vessels made of gold, silver, quartz etc also are described.

Oushadhi Parvat – Mountain of medicines:
In ‘Yuddha Kanda’ of Ramayana one could find a chapter entitled ‘Oushadhi Parvata’, which means ‘mountain of medicines’ or ‘peak of medicines’. In similar context, Oushadhi Parvat, Kanchan Parvat and the peak of Kailas have been mentioned. When Lakshman was injured by a deadly weapon while in war with Ravana’s troops, the physicians had asked Hanuman to get an herb called Sanjeevini, the life-resuscitating herb from Himalayas. Unable to identify the exact herb, Hanuman had brought the entire peak or ‘Oushadhi Parvat’ to Lanka where Lakshmana was injured. The Oushadhi Parvat contained the below mentioned herbs which had medicinal properties –
Mritasanjivani – herb which revives the dead
Visalyakarani – herb which frees trouble and or anxiety
Savarnyakarani – herb which imparts original colour
Sandhanakarani – herb which joins the fractured bones
Read related: Jainism and Ayurveda Connection, Contribution

Examination of the dead and alive –
During the war, when Lakshmana became unconscious struck by an arrow, Rama had declared him dead. At that time, Vaidya Sushen explained the following signs and symptoms to indicate that someone was alive –

  • His face has not changed
  • Has not blackened
  • Has not become ‘charm-less’ but is full of light
  • Palms are like lotus
  • Eyes are clear

He said that the above mentioned signs are not found in a dead person.
He also said that since the face of Lakshmana resembled the face of someone alive, he is bound to be alive.
Vaidya Sushen treated Lakshmana with the herbs which had been brought by Hanuman from Himalayas and Lakshmana was revived.

Summing up –
Ayurveda is the most ancient medical science known to the mankind. It has been in practice and has been saving millions of lives since ages. Many civilizations have used Ayurveda and its benefits throughout the timeline of evolution. We can find the references of Ayurveda and basics of this medical science in the great epic Ramayana, just like in any other ancient treatises. This proves the authority of Ayurveda in the field of medicine at all times, in all ages, in all epochs.

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