AYURVEDA is a medical system practiced in Indian and other Asian countries since many centuries by traditional medical practioners. The literal meaning of the word Ayurveda is “the science of life” (Ayu means Life and Veda means Knowledge or Science) and is said to be eternal. The science of Ayurveda is said to be “recollected” by Lord Brahman, creator of life, and taught to Daksha Prajapati who in turn taught the science to Aswinee Devas, twin brothers who are known as Deva vaidyas (medical consultants of devas). Lord Indra got the knowledge from Aswinee Devas and a group of sages from earth headed by AtreyaPunarvasu learnt the science from him.
AtreyaPunarvasu taught the science to six shishyas (disciples) among whom Agnivesa was the first person to author a book on Ayurveda. This book, called “Agnivesa Samhita” is edited later by Dridhabala and Charaka in around 1st c. BC and is now known as “CharakaSamhitha”. This is the earliest comprehensive textbook of Ayurveda. There are many commentaries and Translations of CharakaSamhitha in various languages.
Later there had been two different traditions of Ayurveda, “the Athreya tradition” following the medicinal line of treatment and “the Dhanwanthari tradition” following the surgical line are emerged. As CharakaSamhitha is the earliest text book of Ayurvedic Medicine, SushruthaSamhitha is the earliest text book of Surgery. This is authored by sage Sushrutha who belonged to the Dhanwanthari tradition of Ayurveda. Sushrutha is hailed as the Father of Surgery. The practice of surgical methods in Ayurveda later on got diminished due to social, legal and practical hindrances.
As the development of Ayurveda taking place many branches of medicines or specialties were emerged. Astanga Ayurveda, meaning Ayurveda having eight main medical specialties/branches is being practised by Ayurveda specialists.
The classical eight branches of Ayurveda (Astanga Ayurveda) consist of following specialties.
- Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine)
- Salayatantra (Science of Surgery)
- Salakyatnatra (Medical science for diseases occurring in Eyes, Ears, Nose,Throat, Face, and Head- Ophthalmology, Otorhinolaryngology)
- Balaroga-Kaumarabhritya (Pediatrics)
- Agadatantra (Toxicology)
- GrahaChikitsa (Related to Demons induced diseases- mainly effecting on mind: Psychology)
- Jara -Rasayana( Related to old age problems- Geriatrics and Rejuvenation therapies)
- Vrisha( Related to sexual problems- Andrology)
However as the need based medical science is being evolved many sub specialties are emerged in later period. Metals, minerals, and ores etc. are being included for medicinal uses and a specialty-Rasashastra is developed as independent subject. Specialised medical treatises were written by Ayurveda physicians for better understanding of the Ayurveda science. For example, Madhavakara wrote a book on pathological consideration based on Ayurveda principles, which is known as MadhavaNidan. Nagarjuna described many metals, mineral, ores etc. for medicinal purpose in the book-Rasaratnasamuchayam. In modern era some subjects are specifically written to cater needs of individual branch of medicine. Dravyaguna, Bhaishajaykalpan, Vikirtvignana, Swastavritta etc. are newly incorporated subjects in Ayurveda medical educational curriculum.