ORIGIN of Ayurveda

  • By Vaidya Suresh Chaturvedi
  • April 27, 2024
  • Know about the origin and what is Ayurveda in brief, contributions of Charak, Sushruta, Vagbhata and different specialities of medical sciences in Ayurved.

History of Ayurveda can be described in different periods, the earliest being Vedic period. The main sources of our knowledge of Indian philosophy and its relation to Indian medicine are the four Vedas. The word ‘Veda’ means knowledge and these Vedas were thought to have been revealed by God Brahma. From him the inspired sages received this knowledge who then passed it to others. The Rigveda is the oldest one with a collection of 1028 hymn. The Yajurveda and Samaveda are very closely related. They are the backbones of Indian Philosophy. The fourth is the Atharva Veda and this is the source-book for Indian Medicine. 




First published in Journal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in 2001.


There were many philosophical thoughts in India such as Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Vedanta, and others. Amongst them Samkhya Philosophy greatly influenced Indian medicine specially through its branch, the philosophy of yoga. The classical work of Patanjali's yoga sutra seems to have been compiled though the basic ideas and techniques of yoga that had been known even earlier.


The next period which can be named as the period of classical Ayurvedic texts starts from 6th century B.C. to 1000 AD.


Three great authors compiled their classical books during this period. They were Charak, Sushruta and Vagbhata.


Thus Charak Samhita, was written some time in 5th century B.C. as Atreya, the great physician and teacher of Charak taught and practised medicine in Taxila University in the 6th Century B.C. Sushruta a surgeon taught and practised surgery in Varanasi at about the same period (6th or 5th Century BC.) and compiled his great book Sushruta Samhita. This book not only describes various diseases and their treatment, but also gives a vivid description of several operative techniques and surgical instruments. The classical description of rhinoplasty is by Sushruta.


Vagbhata wrote his main book Astanga Sangraha sometime in the 7th Century A.D. He mostly worked in the medical school of the ancient Nalanda University. He summarised very nicely the view of Charaka and Sushruta and gave his own original thoughts to the management of many different diseases. Most of the medicine described by these three authors are of plant origin. Charaka described nearly, 500 such drugs, and Sushruta nearly 760.


All these authors described not only the principles of general medicine and surgery, but also principles of different specialities of medical sciences. VIZ:

1. Internal medicine

2. Paediatrics

3. Diseases of eye, ear, nose and throat

4. Psychiatry

5. Surgery

6. Toxicology

7. Rejuvenation

8. Virilisation.


The very fact that so much of specialisation had been made by the physicians during this period indicates that the system of Ayurvedic Medicine was popular in those days.


In recent years, renewed interest is being shown by many people throughout the world to know more about the contributions that have been made or that can be made in future by the Indian medicine towards the advancement of medical sciences as a whole. There are some observers who feel that Indian medicine is a scientific discipline and that it has been developed by the ancient sages based on their intense clinical observations and subsequent testing whereas others feel that it is purely based on philosophical speculations of that time by a group of experienced physicians without much scientific proof for their statements.


I am of the opinion that both these statements are not fully correct and I believe that there are areas in Indian medicine which are based on scientific proof of that time and which can be proved even now by utilising the modern scientific proof. These are the statements made on the basis of speculations on other related subjects such as Samkhya Philosophy developed well at that time.


These may be treated even now as philosophical speculations.


Therefore we can say that Ayurveda originated as a Vedic science and it is not a way of treatment (pathy) but it is a life of science and philosophy of the life (jeevan) Darshan and it is based on Prakriti and Pursha. Therefore it is universal and of benefit to mankind.


This article was first published in the Bhavan’s Journal, January 31, 2001  issue. This article is courtesy and copyright Bhavan’s Journal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai-400007. eSamskriti has obtained permission from Bhavan’s Journal to share. Do subscribe to the Bhavan’s Journal – it is very good.


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