What is Ayurveda?
AYURVEDA - a name that evokes the charm of the strange and exotic. Everyone with an interest in health will have heard this word at least once, but what exactly lies behind it? A translation of the term provides us with an initial idea. The word “Ayurveda” comes from Sanskirt, the ancient language of India, and is comprised of the words “Ayus” meaning “life” and “Veda” which means "knowledge". Therefore, the closest possible translation of “Ayurveda” is “knowledge of life”. The foundations of this knowledge are built upon the recognition of the wholeness of life. According to Ayurveda, the body is not isolated from the soul and people are not separate from their surroundings. There are countless interactions and complex interdependencies. Ayurvedic diagnoses and therapies take all aspects of life into consideration, such as emotions, reason, body, behaviour, home environment, social life and the influence that the seasons and time of day has on human interactions. Ayurveda has a diverse range of applications. It is based on a fundamental knowledge of nutrition adapted to each individual‘s constitution, herbal medicine which utilises over 3000 different plants and herbs, numerous cleansing techniques (e.g. Panchakarma), oil massages and many more purifying treatments - all combined with spiritual yoga and meditation practices. Creating a sense of wellbeing and to prevent illness is the main aim of Ayurveda, however authentic Ayurveda cures can also alleviate chronic illnesses, such as rheumatisms and high blood pressure.
Brief history of Ayurveda
The roots of Ayurveda can be traced back over 5000 years to the Vedic high culture of ancient India. Historical texts about the Vedic period of far eastern healing are very scarce. However, the few texts from this period that we do have tell us that the original source of Ayurveda was the meditative exhibition of the Rishis, the sages who passed on their knowledge through the oral tradition. It wasn‘t until the centuries around the birth of Christ, in the Upanishadic period or the “Golden Age” of Ayurveda, that these practices began to develop into what is now known as Ayurveda. The most famous classic texts, the Charaka-Samhita and Sushruta-Samhita, originate from this period and still form part of the basis of Ayurveda today.
With the spread of Buddhism (approximately 600 B.C.) Ayurveda experienced a huge boom and many ayurvedic colleges and hospitals were established. During the 200 year long colonial rule of England from the middle of the 18th Century, ayurvedic teachings were vilified as backward and regressive, and were completely suppressed. All ayurvedic colleges were closed. It wasn‘t until the 1920s, under the rule of Mahatma Gandhi, that new ayurvedic colleges were opened. After India became independent in 1947, Ayurveda finally gained status as an official system of medicine.