Updated: Apr 24, 2021

Origin of ayurveda (ayurvedavatarana)

Lord Brahman, recalling to his mind the science of life, taught it to daksha (prajapati) he taught it to Ashvin twins, who in their turn taught the Indra the king of the gods. When diseases began to trouble the human beings, the great sages of the world, assembled in the slopes of the Himalaya Mountains, and resolved to learn the science of Ayurveda from Indra and bring it to the world for the benefit of the living beings. But who would undertake this difficult task of going to heaven and learn the science from Indra? Sage Bharadvaja, one of the participants of the assembly, volunteered for the task which was very gladly accepted. Bharadvaja went to Indra’s adobe, learnt the science from him, came back to earth and propounded it to the assembly. Krsna Atreya also known as Purnarvasu Atreya, son of sage Arti, taught this science to six of his disciples ,Agnivesa, Bhela, Jatukarna, Parasara, Harita and Ksarapani .each one of them wrote a treatise and placed them before their teacher Krsnatreya and the assembly of the stages. The treatise of Agnivesa was adjudged as the best and was praised even by the Gods. It became popular in the world.

The teachings of Krsna Atreya deals mainly with Kayachikitsa (inner medicine) which is the one among the eight branches of Ayurveda, this school is popularly known as Atreya sampradaya or Kayachikitsa. The treatise written by Agnivesha is available today not in its original form but in its revised version-known as Charka samhita because it was redacted (re-edited) by Charka muni for the first time. It underwent a second redaction from the pen of Drdhabala. Modern scholars assign Krsnatreya and Agnivesha to 6th-5th cent. B.C. ; Charka muni to 2nd cent. A.D. and Drdhabala to 4th cent. A.D.

ASTANGA AYURVEDA (Eight branches of ayurveda)

Kaya, Bala, Graham, Urdhvanga, Saiya, Damstra, Jara and Vrsa-are the eight branches (of Ayurveda) in which treatment (of diseases) is embodied (described).

1. Kayachikitsa:-It is very first branch that has been described. Can be clearly seen from the name itself, this is all about Kaya and chikitsa.

Kaya=body (human body)


Here, every disorder which is originated from anywhere from human is being diagnosed, observed as well as treated. This is also a main reason for its being the very first branch of Ayurveda. Mainly Kayachikitsa can be read from charka samhita, Bhela samhita, Harita samhita etc. These are some authentic ayurvedic texts. It deals with the treatment of diseases arising from disorders of digestive activity , known in modern parlance as inner medicine.

2.Bala chikitsa:- This is also known as balatantra. Alike pediatrics in modern medicine. Here it is as a separate branch for children owing to the difference in the bodies and their functioning. This branch has its own importance and place in the ayurveda. All medicines and treatments which are prescribed for children are different from adults. We can find its description chiefly in”kashyap samhita” and partially in “charka samhita” as well as “sushuruta samhita”.

3. Graha chikitsa:- Third one is the Graha chikitsa which is also known as ”bhoota vidya” that means treatment of diseases arising from possession by evil spirits ,pathogenic ,micro-organisms etc and deals with mainly mental disorders (psychiatry).the evidence of graham chikitsa are not so prominent now but, it can be seen somewhere in the chapters of charka samhita and sushuruta samhita. It was practiced along with medicinal treatments to aid the early recovery of the patients. It may under take chanting and alike practices which may deactivate the negative impacts on the mind of the patient.

4. Urdhvanga Chikitsa:- “Urdhvanga chikitsa” where Urdhv stands for upper .”Ang” stands for parts (body parts) and chikitsa is treatment. It can be correlated with ENT department of western medicine. A proper and explored description is not found anywhere in ayurveda about this branch but sushuruta has described plenty of things about it. A few evidences are seen in charka samhita also. Disorders of eyes, mouth, ear and nose are under this branch.

5.Shalya tantra:-Shalya tantra is the chief branch among all eight branches of ayurveda. Never the less, it was firstly used at the time of battle between Gods and evils to heal their injuries. It is just like surgery in western medicine. In this department surgical instruments are being used to treat the injuries of patients.

6. Agad Tantra:– Toxicology or it is also known as DANSHTRAVISHA CHIKITSA, where DANSHTRA= BITES(mainly of snakes),VISHA=POISON. The branch which deals with the bite’s poison or plant’s poison (now included the chemical poisons) is known as ADAD TANTRA.

7. Rasayana tantra or Jara chikitsa:- It includes the treat of diseases of old age(gerontology). Jara stands for old age .It comes just after the AGAD TANTRA, which signifies the series itself because Jara chikitsa also aids the patients to rejuvenates again after poison attack. Rasayana Tantra can be explained as a branch which pauses the age of human, which increases the years of human age, boosts human immunity and overall well being after a certain age. Studies related to this branch can be found in charka and sushuruta samhita both.

8. Vajikaran Tantra:-“Vrish chikitsa”. It is all related to reproductive systems chiefly the quality, quantity and purity of the sperms of males and eggs of females. Vajikaran Tantra deals with sexual disorders, their treatments; recovery, maintenance and boosting as well, like impotence, sterility etc and making man sexually strong by the use of Aphrodisiacs.

Chikitsa:-the word chikitsa do not only represents treatment=medicines. It covers each and everything that is performed by physician to treat the patient in order to cure and prevent its health problems including mental health too. It may adds moral motivation or psychological therapies etc.

The section of general principles

The three doshas (Tridoshas)

Vayu (vata), pitta, kapha are the three doshas, in brief, they destroy and support (sustain and maintain) the body when they are abnormal and normal respectively.

The doshas are the material substances present in the human body always, they have their own definite quantity, quality and functions .when they are normal they attend to different body functions and so maintain it. But they have the tendency to become abnormal undergoing increase or decrease in their quantity, one or more of their quantities and functions. When they become abnormal, they vitiate their places of dwelling the dhatus (tissues); because of their tendency of vitiation, they are called as DOSHAS or VITIATORS. These three – VATA, PITTA and KAPHA- are more intimately concerned with the body, hence called as “shariraka doshas” in the distinction to two manasa doshas-the rajas and the tamas-which are concerned with the mind. The specific mention of three, as their number is to deny any fourth doshas as some consider rakta (blood) as the fourth one.

Though present all over the body, they are found (predominantly) in the region-below, middle and above, respectively, of the area between the heart and the umbilicus. Doshas are present in every cell of the body attending to its different functions; they are predominantly in certain places, viz. Vata in the area below the umbilicus, pitta in the area between the heart and the umbilicus; and kapha in the area above the heart.

They are predominant, respectively, during the last middle and first stages of the life (span), the day, the night and (process of the digestion) the food.

Vata is predominant in old age (after 60 years of the age), in the afternoon (between3pm and 7 pm), late night (2am to 6 am) and at the end of digestion of food.

Pitta is predominant in the middle age of human life (between 20 and 60 years), midday between 11 and 4 pm), mid night between 12 and 2 am) and during middle period of digestion.

Kapha is predominant in early age (from birth up to 16 years of age), in the forenoon (between 6 am and 10 am), in the early part of the night (between 7 pm and 11 midnight) and the early period of digestion.


Vishamagni is produced by the doshas, the Tikshnagni and Mandagni respectively; while Samagni is produced by their equilibrium. Agni, literally fire, refers to the fire-like activity in the alimentary canal, responsible for digestion of food. This activity in the influenced by the condition of the doshas .when all the three doshas are in equilibrium, the digestion of food will be perfect in all respects and that is SAMAGNI-normal digestion ;but when the doshas get aggravated (increased) they bring about their own characteristics changes in the digestive activity also. When vata is aggravated, the digestion becomes irregular, erratic different from time to time and accompanied with flatulence etc., such a activity, is VISHAMAGNI. When pitta is aggravated the digestive activity is very intense, even large quantities of the food get digested very quickly and there is burning sensation, thirst etc, during digestion; such a condition is TIKSHNAGNI. When Kapha is aggravated the digestive activity after a long time and there is heaviness of the abdomen, lassitude etc. during digestion, such a condition is MANDAGNI .All these three types are abnormal and give rise to many diseases of causative doshas.


Koshtha (nature of alimentary tract / nature of bowels) is hard, soft and moderate or medium by each of them (doshas) respectively; it is medium (madhyam) even when all the doshas are equal.

With the predominance/aggravation of vata, the bowel movement is hard (hard feces being eliminated with difficulty and not regularly every day); with the predominance of pitta, the bowel is soft (semi-solid or liquid feces, eliminated more than once a day, even drinking of milk produces purgation); with the predominance of kapha Bowel is moderate (feces is neither hard solid nor liquid,is eliminated without difficult once a day, regularly. It is so when all the doshas are in equal proportion. This is the ideal condition and does not give rise to any disease while the former two are abnormal and cause ill-health.


By them(the doshas) which are present in the shukra (male seed) and artava (female seed) at the time of commencement of life, there arises three kinds of prakriti(human constitutions)just like poisonous worms arise from poison; they (constitutions) are the poor/ weak, the medium/ moderate and the best/ strong from each of the doshas respectively; that constitution arising from equal proportion of all of them (the doshas) is the Sama dhatu prakriti, which is ideal; those arising from combination of two doshas are denounced (nindya).

The male seed is the shukranu (spermatozoon) and the female seed is the andanu (the ovum). Both of these unite together (fertilization) and form an embryo and that is the commencement of life. The male and female seeds produced in the body of the man and the woman, contain the Tridoshas. At the time of the union of the two seeds the doshas undergo change in their proportion, either all of them might remain in equal proportion, or any two together might become predominant. These conditions greatly influence the nature of the embryo in its characteristic features, which is known as prakriti of man (natural human constitution). Thus seven kind of prakritis get formed ,three from any one doshas separately (ek doshaj), three from the combination of any two doshas (dvandvaja) and one from the combination of all three together in equal proportion (sammishra/ sannipataj) . Among them, ek doshaj are poor, the samsargaja/ dvandvaja are moderate and sammishra are the best /ideal. Further, even among the ek doshaj, the first one (vataja) is poor the second (pittaja) is moderate and the third (kaphaja) is best. The characteristic feature of these prakritis (constitutions) has been described in ayurvedic texts.

The example of poisonous worms is to indicate that though they are born from poison, they do not die for it, but continue to survive, similarly the prakriti, though formed from the doshas which is similar to poison, continue to manifest in the person as long as he/she lives.


VATA:– Dryness, light in weight, coldness, roughness, subtleness, movement are the properties of vata (anil).

PITTA:-Slight unctuousness, penetrating deep, hot, heat producing, light in weight, bad smell, free flowing, liquidity are the properties of pitta dosha.

KAPHA:-Unctuousness, cold, producing cold, heavy, slow in action, smooth, slimy, stable/ static are the properties of kapha.

Both in their decreased and increased states, the combination of any two doshas are known as samsargaja and of all three, as sannipataj.

Dhatu and Mala (Basic tissues and wastes)








Above are the seven Dhatus (basic tissues) and are also known as dushyas (those that get vitiated by the doshas).

MALAS (waste products) are the urine (mutra), feces (shakrt), sweat (sweda).

Increase of all of them (doshas, dhatus and malas) is caused by the use of similar and its decrease by the use of dissimilar. Each of the doshas, dhatus and malas has its own quantity, specific qualities and functions, which in its normalcy is conductive to health. They sometimes, undergo increase and decrease in their quantity ,one or more of their qualities and their functions, which are both known as abnormalcy and which lead on to ill-health, use of or association with substance, qualities and activities which are similar, same or identical with the material, qualities and activities and functions of the doshas, dhatus and malas bring about their increase, whereas the use or association with substances, qualities and activities which are opposite or dissimilar bring about decrease.


1. Swadu = Sweet

2. Amla = Sour

3. Lavana = Salty

4. Tikta = Bitter

5. Ushana = Pungent

6. Kashaya = Astringent

These are the six rasas (tastes); they are present in the substances, each one is more strengthening (to the body) in their order of precedence. Taste is also a quality (guna) of every substance; each substance may have one or more tastes, which becomes known when the substances are put on the tongue. The first, clearly recognizable taste is known as PRADHANA RASA (primary taste) and the remaining tastes which are recognized later and mildly are ANURASA (secondary taste). In respect of giving strength to the body, KASHAYA (astringent) provides the minimum, USHANA (pungent) a little more and so on, SWADU (sweet) providing the maximum.


The first three tastes alleviate/mitigate/cause decreases the vata dosha in body; the three starting with Tikta (Tikta, Ushana and Kashaya) alleviate kapha dosha: whereas Kashaya, Tikta and Madura alleviate pitta dosha; whereas the others cause their increase (aggravation of the doshas).

Others cause increase is explained like; bitter, pungent and astringent cause increase of vata dosha; sour, salty and pungent cause increase of pitta; sweet, sour and salt cause increase of kapha.


Dravyas are the substances used as food, drugs etc. They are of three kinds viz. SHAMANA, those which alleviate the doshas, KOPANA are those which aggravate the doshas and SWASTHAHITA which are suitable for health/ which help maintain health.


Virya is that aspect/ factor of the substances which is mainly responsible for the actions of the substances in the human body. USHANA (heat) and SHITA/SITA (cold) being the powerful qualities, Virya (potency of the substances) is also taken to be two.


Vipaka (nature of end product of digestion) is also three- Swadu (sweet), Amla (sour) and katu (pungent).


1. Guru = Heavy

2. Manda = Slow

3. Hima = Cold

4. Snigdha = unctuous

5. Shlaksna = Smooth

6. Sandra = Solid

7. Mridu = Soft

8. Sthira = stable

9. Suksma = Subtle, Small

10. Vichada = Non slimy

11. Laghu = Light in weight

12. Tikshna = Quick/ Fast

13. Ushana = Hot

14. Ruksha = Dry

15. Khara = Rough

16. Drava = Liquid

17. Kathina = Hard

18. Chala = Moving/ unstable

19. Sthula = Big, gross

20. Picchal = Slimy


*Inadequate/poor (hina)*improper/perverse (mithya) and *excess (ati) association /contact /union (yoga) of season (kala), objects of sense (artha) and activities/functions (karma) are the chief causes of diseases; whereas their proper association (samyak yoga) is chief cause of health.


Disease (roga) is the effect of disequilibrium of the doshas while health is the result of the equilibrium of the doshas. Each of the doshas possessing its specific quantity ,qualities and functions is known as its equilibrium (samyak) whereas increase (vridhi) and decrease (ksaya) in its quantity, one or more of its qualities and functions are known as disequilibrium (vaisamya).

Disease is said to be of two kinds, organic, arising from the body itself (nija) and traumatic, arising from external causes (agantuj).Their seat/residence (adhishthana) is also two:-Kaya (the body) and manasa (the mind).


RAJAS AND TAMAS are enumerated as the doshas of mind.Satva, rajas and tamas are known as the three mahagunas (primary), they are primary or natural qualities responsible for creation of all the substances of the world and said to be present in every one of them and concerned with intelligence stuff. Out of them, satva is considered to be pure and not having any bad effect, whereas the other two are bad and having bad effects. Hence rajas and tamas are considered as the doshas of the mind, when they become increased above the specific limit.


The rogi (patient) should be examined by inspection (darshana), palpation (sparshana), interrogation (prashana).Disease should be examined by its causes/etiology (nidhana), premonitory symptoms (pragrupa), specific signs and symptoms/clinical features (lakshana), diagnostic tests (upashaya) and pathogenesis (samprapti).


Time (kala) which is relevant to the (administration and selection of) drug (or therapies) is of two kinds- viz. that (time) commencing with moment (kshana) etc. and that of the stages of disease.

Kshana (time) is the minimum unit of time measurement and is equivalent to the time required for winking of the eyelid once or uttering of one letter of the alphabet; knowledge of this external time is essential for the collection of drugs at appropriate period, preparation of recipes, administration to the patient etc. The disease develops in the body in different successive stages and not all of sudden; each stage has its own characteristic signs and symptoms, recognition of each stage helps the physician to assess the strength of the disease and decide the appropriate drug and therapy required for that stage, hence the necessity of two kinds of time.


Medicaments, therapies (aushadha) are, in brief, of two kind purification (shodhana) and palliative (shaman).

SHODHANA is the method of eliminating the aggravated doshas from the body forcibly, thus purifying it. SHAMANA, on the other hand, is to mitigate the aggravated doshas within the body itself.

For the doshas of the body, enemata (basti), purgation (vireka), emesis (vamana) are the best therapies respectively; likewise are oil (taila), ghee/butterfat (ghrita) and honey (madhu).

Administration of different kinds of medicinal enemas is best for mitigating vata, producing purgation is for pitta and vomiting is for kapha; use of medicinal oils (both internally and externally) is ideal for mitigating vata, ghee for mitigating pitta and honey for kapha.


DHI ( discrimination), DHAIRYA (courage, strong will) and ATMADI VIJNANA( knowledge of soul etc.) are the ideal therapies for the mind.DHI is the ability of the person to decide good and bad, DHAIRYA is the ability to adhere to the good, avoid the bad, and withstand difficulties with strong will; ATMADI VIJNANA is possessing or obtaining correct knowledge of the soul, of the aims and pursuits of the present life as well as of future life etc.; in other words, a physiological view of human life. These are especially of great value in the treatment of mental disorders.


The physician, the attendant (nurse), the drug and the patient – are the four limbs of treatment; each one has four (good) qualities.


The physician must be efficient, have learnt the science in all its meanings (implications) from the preceptor, must have witnessed the therapies (gained practical experience) and pure /clean (in body, mind and speech).