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Ayurveda, the health care system indigenous to India, has an impressive evolutionary history that spans a period of many thousands of years. With the advent of biomedicine, Ayurveda was relegated to the background and there was a time when it looked as though the final word had been said about it. Recently, Ayurveda is getting worldwide attention albeit the nature of the role it can play in contemporary health care scenario is not well defined.
Many still feel that Ayurveda should rest in the annals of history or contend that Ayurveda is a living museum and a promising field for anthropological inquiry. For ethnopharmacologists, AyurvedicPharmacopoeia is a rich source of information that can facilitate drug development from natural sources. There are people who for whom Ayurveda can function in the area of Primary Health Care or as a Medical specialty or even as an independent medical system. For many thinkers, Ayurveda is part of an outdated world view common to cultures of the European and Mid-East Arabian antiquity, but which is still alive in Asian cultures that was exposed to modern science only recently.
There is a viewpoint that progressive research in world health care must include a consideration to early medico-philosophical ideas. Indeed, ancient Ayurvedic thinking might as well provide metaphors that encapsulate templates to organize information on knowledge of life, health and disease from varied sources. However, the fact that Ayurveda still caters to basic health care needs of a significant number of people, especially in areas where modern medicine failed to offer solutions, seems to be the major impetus behind the resurgence of Ayurveda in our times.
Ayurveda - general profile
By definition, Ayurveda is the knowledge of life.
In the first place, Ayurveda gives us an understanding of what life is. Reminding us of the transient nature of life, this body of knowledge encourages us to discover our life span i.e., to take stock of the time at our disposal. By making us aware of factors favorable and unfavorable to sustain the life process,Ayurveda gives us guidelines to carve an individualized regimen to live one‚Äôs life to the full potential.Ayurveda admits that achievement of personal happiness is a major goal of life. But it points out that fulfillment in life comes only when achievement of personal happiness does not conflict with communal happiness but also promotes it.
Ayurvedic literature has been decorated with mythological stories, which ascribe extra human or divine origins to this knowledge system. Few variations are available on the mythological origins of Ayurveda. The most popular mythological story on the origin of Ayurveda is that Lord brahmaa who taught it to prajApati, who in turn passed it to azwinIs from whom indra learnt it and transmitted it to the human beings, recollected this knowledge from memory.
These mythological accounts according to many scholars speak of the rigidity that Ayurveda acquired in the flow of time, which arrested its further progress and development. Attributing divine origin to Ayurveda worked as a powerful contrivance to discourage questioning and inquiry while it promoted blind worship of authority. The intelligent person finds the mythological stories on the origin of Ayurveda quite amusing indeed.
Serious aspirants of Ayurveda have discovered that such stories are symbolic and when demystified, convey profound insights on the process of knowledge building. indra, for instance, is known as the thousand eyed and represents a powerful state of consciousness, which is attained by rigorous discipline. Another of indra‚Äôs names indicates this, the performer of a hundred sacrifices. Thus, mythological accounts only indicate that rigorous training is required to experience the knowledge of Ayurveda and they are in no way opposed to open inquiry of truth. The discipline of mind that Ayurveda demands can be aptly termed as tapas. tapas literally heats up and transforms the mind. It awakens not only the rational but also the intuitive faculty of the mind.
The origins of Ayurveda, and for that matter, Indian civilization, are shrouded in mystery. While some scholars have been enthusiastically pushing Ayurveda into remote antiquity, others are vehemently arguing that most of the Ayurvedic literature available today have come into existence only a few centuries before Christ or even after the beginning of the common era. To add more spice to the curry, historians have also opened up a debate on the vedic and extra vedic origins of Ayurveda. Some swear that Ayurveda is a product of the vedic tradition while others scoff at such ‚Äòdeceptive‚Äô notions pointing out that Ayurveda is in fact, anti-vedic. The most recent and quite a revolutionary proposition is that Ayurveda originated from Buddhism.
Anonymity of authors of Ayurvedicliterature poses major difficulties in the study of Ayurvedic history. Another problem is that great personalities often become institutionalized and it is difficult to decide whether a name like vAgbhaTa refers to one individual, a group or institution.
We can definitely state that Ayurveda is a product of the Indian civilization process. But it is very difficult to understand how much of Ayurveda has been borrowed by other medical approaches and how much of Ayurveda is borrowed from other medical approaches.
It is probable that at least in a certain period of history, Ayurveda attained the status of cosmopolitan medicine to some extent and spread from India to the neighboring countries.
While it grew out of its own land of origin, Ayurveda also adapted itself in a region specific manner creating many regionally specialized approaches to health care within the land of its origin.
The Ayurvedic traditions of Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western regions stand out uniquely in terms of literature, practice, techniques and pharmacopoeia. On top of it all, Ayurveda emerged as the refined classical version of a self-existent folk stream of medical lore in India with which it established a symbiotic relationship.
It has merged into the very life breath of the people of the Indian sub-continent and is very much alive in contemporary India.