Ayurveda means Knowledge (or Science) of life. In its broader perspective, it is a philosophy, which deals with the quality of life. It is the oldest known form of health care in the world. It traces its roots to the Vedic period (1500 B.C) in ancient India. We have with us the longest unbroken health tradition, which has not only a stream of practitioners but also a textual and theoretical background. Thus Ayurveda can be termed as India's monumental heritage and vibrant tradition. In Kerala Ayurveda has withstood the test of time for the past 2000 years. We have an abundance of traditional expertise and excellence in Ayurveda

 |  Origin of Ayurveda  |  The Philosophy of Ayurveda  |  Doshas and Dooshyam
Dravyas  |  Rogam and Chikitsa  |  Estimatation Of Prakruthi  |  Ayurveda Classics  | 

Origin of Ayurveda

Vedas are the most ancient literary work known. Vedas are Collections of mantras. It reflects the living habits of ancient people, their thought, customs, problems they encountered and remedies for that, their ambitions, ideas, achievements, and pitfalls. Vedas also contain the methods and measures, adopted for health care and treatments.

According to Hindu Mythology, the Universe was created by Brahma. He created Vedas by capturing knowledge from the four directions. The Vedas contain knowledge about the Universe. Hence it contains knowledge about life too. So, Brahma is regarded as the Adya (first) Guru of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda subjects are dealt not only in Vedas, but also in Aranyakas, Brahmanas, and Upanishads also. Garbhopanisad mentions about doshas, dhatu, and growth of fetus. But all these details are not presented in a structured manner, but are scattered all over the Texts. A structured presentation or making a treatise on Ayurveda had taken place only between 2nd century B.C. and 10th century A.D. The most popular and authentic Samhitas, which are still in use, are Charaka Samhita and Susrutha Samhita. Charaka Samhita deals mostly with the General Medicine (Kaya Chikitsa),and Susrutha samhita deals mostly about the Surgery(Salya Tantrum). From the style of presentation and language it is deducted that Charaka Samhita is older than Susrutha Samhita. Another treatise on Ayurveda was written only after a long period of time. It is called Ashtangasangraha by Vagbhata. Ashtangasangraha contains all the knowledge available in Charaka and Susrutha samhitas, and the knowledge acquired after that. Ashtangasangraha is an elaborate work. Hence Vagbhata himself wrote another treatise which contains the essence of Ashtangasangraha, called Ashtangahrudayam. (There is another school of thought who believe that these two texts are written by two Vaghbhatas.)

The Philosophy of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is the Veda of Ayus. Ayus means ‘naturally diminishing’. Veda means informing (about something). Ayurveda is the science, which informs about the ways and measures to be adopted for sustaining and extending Ayus. It discusses about Anayushya and Ayushya. Those, which contribute towards health and long span of life, is Ayushya and which act against this is anayushya. Every individual wants to live a healthy, long life. In order to achieve this he has to follow certain discipline in all walks of life. Ayurveda deals with all these in detail.

The effect and changes produced by various substances used as food and medicines on body in Arogya (health) and Anarogya (unhealth) demonstrates the power of methods and medicines used in Ayurveda. In order to estimate the 'guna' and 'karma' of these substances (Dravya), and to evaluate the effects and changes on body certain hypothesis was formed. They are the ‘theories of’ Panchabhoothas and thridoshas'.

Man, by nature is a complex being of physical, biological, mental and spiritual factors. He is the subject matter of Ayurveda and in him alone knowledge, delusion, pleasure, pain, birth, death, and love of self are co-existent. To establish the equilibrium between human nature and his environment in a comprehensive manner, Ayurveda has developed the necessary principles and practices.

Everything that is subject to human experience has evolved from the 'avyaktha prakruti' (fundamental cause). "Prakruti" can only be inferred and can't be perceived directly. It becomes active only by the presence of 'purusha'.

Prakruti has the quality 'satwa','raja', and 'thama'. These factors interact with 'purusha' {desa(space), kala(time)} to form the five "bhootha thanmatras". This interaction of both 'purusha' and 'prakruti' is the first step in the process of evolution. These panchabhoothas are called akasa (sky), vayu (air), agni (fire), jala (water), and pruthvi (earth). Of these five 'akasa' is the subtlest, and 'pruthvi' the heaviest. During the transformation process the 'bhoothas' which evolved later acquires the qualities of the previous 'bhootha'. The qualities of akasa, vayu, agni, jala, and pruthvi are sound, touch, form, taste, and smell respectively.

In the consequent 'pancheekarana prakriya' these most subtle and indivisible thanmatras successively undergo specific changes to form the 'mahabhoothas'which are in the grosser plane. 'Mahabhoothas' are the basic elements with which the universe is made. Everything in the universe, including all biological organisms, is made up of these 'pancha Mahabhoothas. So also our body.

Ancient Acharyas have classified the human body (sareera) as "sthoola (macro) sareera" and "sookshma (micro) sareera". The "sthoola sareera deha (body)" is made of 'dosha','dhatu', and 'malas'. When we examine the 'deha' we can find a process of production, maintenance, and destruction in progress always, there by continued existence is taking place. This happens under the influence of a power classified into three - productive power, sustaining power, and destructive power. These three-fold powers are termed as " Vatha, Pitha, and Kapha" respectively, which are called 'Doshas'.

Like all things in the world, the body is also made of 'Pancha Bhoothas'. The doshas exist all over the body. That means they have a relation with the basic constituents - Pancha Bhoothas - of the body. When this was examined carefully it was found that the basic " thridosha theory " was evolved from the "Pancha Bhootha theory". The union of ‘Vayu’ and ’ Akasa’ resulted in the ‘Vatha‘ force that of ‘Pruthvi’ and ‘Up’ resulted in the formation of ‘Kapha’ force, and from ‘Agni’ the ‘Pitha’ force originated.

Doshas and Dooshyams

Dosha means that which vitiates. Even though they are 'vitiating things ' they become significant for our experience only when they are out of equilibrium. When they are in equilibrium they are transparent and control the functions of the body. Due to unfavorable circumstances equilibrium of the doshas gets altered and this in turn 'vitiates' the 'dhatus' and 'malas' of body. The ‘dhatus’ and 'malas' which are 'vitiated' is called 'dooshyas'. Rasa, raktha (blood), mamsa (flesh), medas (fat), asthi (bone), majja (bone marrow), and sukla (sperm) are the seven dhatus. If we examine the body we can see that body contains all these seven dhatus. So they are called deha dhatu.

As doshas act on these dhatus they undergo changes accordingly producing diseases. The doshas also acts on the ‘malas’ (the waste products from body, motion, urine, sweat, etc.) and produce changes in the state of malas which in turn produce diseases. That is why they are called 'dooshyas'.



Dravyas are the 'things' which has got functions and properties. All dravyas are perceived by mind through one or more 'indriyas'(senses). It contains the properties of 'mahabhoothas'(sound, touch, form, taste and, smell). Due to the peculiarities of the combination of 'mahabhoothas', stable dravya itself will show marked differences in characteristics. Hence, dravyas are classified as 'prudhiva', 'aapya', 'aagneya', 'vaayavya', and, 'aakasya'. Since Ayurveda studies about dravya with an aim of the use and application of dravya as food and medicine, the knowledge about the properties like taste, etc., is enough to determine the utility of dravya. The utility of dravya depends on the 'rasa', 'guna', 'veerya', 'vipaka', and 'prabhava'. Of these properties, taste (rasa) plays an important role in Ayurveda because dravya is taken as food or medicine.

RASA - There are six rasas madhura (sweet), amla (acidic), lavana (salty), thikta (pungent), katu, and kashaya. Dravyas taken as food or medicine can correct the imbalance of doshas. This is due to to the gunas. The gunas of food or medicine increases the dosha which has the same guna. It was found that madhura, amla, and lavana rasa decrease vatha while all other rasas increase it. Similarly, thikta, katu, and kashaya rasa decrease kapha while all other rasas increase kapha. Kashaya, thikta, madhura rasas decrease pitha while the other rasas increase it. Rasas in dravya are present by virtue of the 'panchabhootas'contained in the dravya. The six rasas are formed as follows.

GUNA -Another property which is inherent is called guna. There are twenty gunas as given below.

VEERYAM -Dravyas has veeryam, the potency to manifest work. It is classified into two namely Ushnaveeryam and Seethaveeryam. Actually these two are gunas which present in abundant and hence behave differently.

VIPAKA - A rasa of dravyam after it has undergone digestion get transformed into three rasas called 'vipaka' of that rasa. Madhura and lavana becomes madhura, amla becomes amla itself, and katu and kashaya becomes katu after digestion by Jataragni. Knowledge of vipaka is needed in understanding physiological changes.

PRABHAVA - is the power of dravyam to manifest work in its unique way. When rasa, guna, veerya, and vipaka in a substance is found same as in another substance, but in action the two substances differ it is said that the change is due to 'prabhava' of dravyam. For example, 'danthi' is having the same rasa, vipaka, veerya and guna of 'chithraka'. But 'danthi' produces 'virechana' while 'chithraka' don't. So the action of 'virechana' found in 'danthi' is due to its prabhava.

Rogam and Chikitsa (Disease and treatment)

A person is said to be in Arogya when the doshas in his constitution is in balanced state. When they are in an imbalanced state his state is called as roga. Diagnosis of roga is done by darsanam (seeing), sparsanam (touching ), and prasnam (questioning). An Ayurvedic Expert with the help of the above methods determines the Prakruti of the patient. Ayurveda shows that the path to optimal health is different for each person depending on their prakruti.

A disease will manifest in different constitutions in different ways. An individual with a predominatly vata prakruti will experience symptoms different from a pitta or kapha predominant person even when all of them are suffering from the same disease.

Thus Ayurveda gives us a model to look at each individual as a unique combination of the tridoshas and provide treatment that specifically address a persons health challenges.It can suggest specific lifestyles and nutritional guidelines to assist the individual in reducing the doshas. Thus it is a guide to action for good health.

Estimation Of Prakruthi

We at CDAC-T ( Formerly ER&DCI ) have developed an expert system for estimation of Prakruti. The package is named 'PRAKES' and is a comprehensive scientific tool for estimating Prakruti. It assesses the dominance of tridoshas and give advice for preventive and promotive health care. The knowledge base is extracted from authentic texts such as Ashtangahrudaya,Charakasamhita and Sushruta Samhita. It was reviewed by a panel of experts in A yurveda.                                                                       

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