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Ayurveda literally means "Knowledge of life" or "Science of life".[1] This life-care and healthcare system deals with good, bad, blissful and sorrowful life. It describes all wholesome and unwholesome for life, longevity, and about what Ayu (life) is in itself. (Cha.Su.1/41) It is not merely a system of medicine, rather it is a way of life to increase lifespan by preventing or delaying the aging process. [2]

What is Ayurveda?

The careful, critical and unbiased study of the classical Ayurveda texts show that by the time Samhita-granthas were compiled, the Science and Art of Ayurveda had already passed through the stage of specialization and, knowledge flowing from different specialized fields of medicine and allied sciences generalized, simplified and principles enunciated.[3] Thus, Ayurveda is referred to as Science and Art of life. The practice of Ayurveda as a form of medicine dates back to 3000 BC.

Source of Ayurveda

There are four major ancient Indian compendiums of knowledge (veda) named Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda. Rigveda (2000 BC) is the oldest recorded document regarding use of plants as medicine in India, and this tradition continued in another ancient text, Atharvaveda (1500-1000 BC), which described more plants and introduced basic concepts.[4] Ayurveda physicians owe their loyalty to the Atharva Veda because this deals with the treatment of diseases by resorting to various practices like sacrifices, prayers, and chants, charity, moral discipline, the atonement of sins, austere practices like fasts, etc. These are advocated for treatment as well as for living a healthy, long life. Thus,it is sourced as Upaveda from Atharva veda.(Cha.Su.30/21)

What is Ayu?

Ayu (life) implies the conjunction of physical body, senses, mind and soul and is known by the synonym dhari (that which sustains), jivita (that which is live), nityaga (that which is in continuum), and anubandha (that which is interdependent, or a link between past life and the future life).(Cha.Su.1/42)

Thus Ayu means the anuvritti (continuity) of chetana (consciousness) i.e., chetananuvritti, being alive (jeevita), bonding with the body (anubandha) and sustenance of life (dhari).(Cha.Su.30/22).

Life is not merely the existence of machine-like physical structure of body. The conscious interaction of soul, mind and sense organs makes it live. Therefore these are essential components of Ayurvedic biology of human beings.

Scope of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is the source of knowledge that teaches about or deals with Ayu. Through its virtues, it imparts the knowledge of joy and suffering, benefit and harm, and authentic/authoritative and unauthentic/unreliable (sources of information). It also informs about the lifespan and substances with properties and actions that result in the same. This is dealt with in the entire text of Charak Samhita at various appropriate contexts.(Cha.Su.30/23)

Thus, Ayurveda deals with good, bad, bliss and sorrow in life, and with (what is) wholesome and unwholesome for it, longevity, and about what Ayu (life) is in itself.(Cha.Su.1/41)

Benefits of following Ayurveda-good life

The following are characteristics of happy and healthy life. These are indeed benefits of following Ayurveda.

People whose body and mind are disease-free, and those who are endowed with youth, enthusiasm, strength, virility, reputation, manliness, courage, knowledge of arts and sciences, healthy senses, objects of sensory perceptions, ability of the sensory organs, riches and various luxurious articles for enjoyment, and who can achieve whatever they want and think about wellness can enjoy a happy life. The people with opposite characteristics have sad life. Those who are the well-wishers of all beings, who do not wish to take other's wealth, who are truthful, peace loving, who are thoughtful before taking action, who are vigilant, who experience the three important objectives of life (righteousness, wealth and desire) without one affecting the other, who respect superiors, who are endowed with the knowledge of arts, sciences and tranquility, who serve the elders, who have full control over lust, anger, envy, arrogance and pride, who constantly indulge in various types of charity, meditation, acquisition of knowledge and quiet life (solitude), who have full spiritual knowledge and are devoted to it, who work both for the present as well as for the next life, and are endowed with memory and intelligence lead a useful rather beneficial life, while others don't. (Cha.Su.30/24)

The above are clinical parameters of good quality of life.

Signs of decrease in lifespan

The decrease of lifespan is signaled by various abnormal changes in the sensory perception, objects of perception, mind, intellect, and movement. These signals help in predicting the remaining lifespan and death of an individual at a particular moment. Svabhava(return to the natural state), uparama of pravritti (cessation of all activities), marana (death), anityata (temporary state) nirodha (restriction in the continuation of life)- all these are synonymous with death. In the absence of such signs and symptoms, the life span is to be determined as unlimited from the prognostic point of view. In Ayurveda, life span is determined by the characteristics of natural constitution.(Cha.Su.30/25)

Objective of Ayurveda

The prime objectives of this science is to preserve the health of the healthy and cure the disease of the unhealthy.(Cha.Su.30/26) Thus Ayurveda focuses on the preservation and promotion of health and management of diseases.

Authenticity and eternal qualities of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is eternal because of the following: It has no beginning; its characteristics are self-evident, and those of things dealt with it are eternal. It has been seen that Ayu (the combination of body, its organs, mind, and soul) and intelligence about Ayu (knowledge about Ayu) are perpetual. Hence Ayu and its knowledge (i.e. Ayurveda) have been eternal. The knower becomes eternal after knowing Ayurveda. Concepts such as happiness and suffering (i.e., health and illness), therapeutics and pathogens, etc. - their causes, signs, and perpetuation are all eternal. This is what is described in Ayurveda.(Cha.Su.30/27) It is observed in clinical practice that the principles described in Ayurveda texts are universal, time tested and stand true on scientific validation tests. For example Samanya Vishesha siddhanta is applicable universally with immense importance.[5]

Eight specialties of Ayurveda

There are eight main branches of Ayurveda:(Cha.Su.30/28)

  1. Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine)
  2. Shalakya (Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) + Ophthalmology)
  3. Shalya (Surgery)
  4. Visha gara vairodhika prashamana or Agada tantra (Toxicology)
  5. Bhutavidya (Psychiatry)
  6. Kaumarbhrityakam ( Gynecology, Obstetrics and Pediatrics)
  7. Rasayanam (Science of rejuvenation) and
  8. Vajikaranam (Science of sexual health and aphrodisiac).

The details about these specialties are given in context of Chikitsa Sthana.


At present, Ayurveda is taught as an under-graduate medical course governed by Central Council of Indian Medicine under Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India. There are 339 colleges to conduct Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery (B.A.M.S.) course in India. Various National and International Institutes conduct post graduation courses and Ph.D. programs for super-specialization in fourteen departments of Ayurveda. Some of the important institutes are enlisted below :

  1. Institute for Post Graduate Teaching and Research in Ayurveda, Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar,India
  2. National Institute of Ayurveda, Jaipur,India
  3. Faculty of Ayurveda, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India
  4. All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi

The list of institutes that conduct above courses can be found here.

Efficacy of Ayurveda in contemporary era

Ample evidence is found through researches on various topics of Ayurveda to show safety and efficacy. It can be seen in the vidhi vimarhsa section of each chapter of this Charak Samhita New Edition.

Sharma H. et.al. has studied and analyzed over 130 research works to observe efficacy of Ayurveda in healthcare management. It is concluded that the Ayurveda therapies are time tested as a natural health care system and comprehensively treat the patient as a whole. Research over the last 100 years has shown encouraging results of various ailments, especially chronic disorders.[6]



The compendiums Charak Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hridayam are three major Samhita(compendiums) of Ayurveda.

The Madhav Nidana, Bhavaprakash and Sharangadhara Samhita are followed as three other important texts. The texts are published online by National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage, Hyderabad, India.[7]


More than 4400 entries of published books covering over 19 different subjects are available in Database ‘International Catalogue of Ayurvedic Publications' prepared by Institute for Post Graduate Teaching and Research in Ayurveda in collaboration with World Health Organization.[8]

Research Journals and Database

In India, research in Ayurveda is undertaken by the Ministry of AYUSH, through a national network of research institutes.[9]. Peer reviewed journals like AYU and Ancient Science of life publish research articles on various topics of Ayurveda. The database like AYUSH research portal and Digital Helpline for Ayurveda Research Articles (DHARA) are available for searching more than 10000 research articles published on Ayurveda. A directory for researches in Ayurveda comprising more than 20000 research titles and 1000 complete post graduate theses on Ayurveda is published online.


Ayurveda as a healthcare system can restore the innate intelligence of the body and awareness for healing. Ayurvedic therapies can affect both the genetic and phenotypic expression of life. It can be appreciated through the science of epigenetics. The epigenetic factors in life affect the phenotype in a positive or negative way, and indirectly affect the genetic expression in a positive or negative way, which can be transmitted to the progeny. Ayurveda covers both aspects of life – genetic and phenotypic – and is a comprehensive, holistic, and personalized system of health care.[10]

External links


  1. Official document by World Health Organization on Benchmarks for training Ayurveda available from https://www.who.int/medicines/areas/traditional/BenchmarksforTraininginAyurveda.pdf accessed on 30/05/2020
  2. Sharma H., Chandola H.M., Singh G., Basisht G. Utilization of Ayurveda in health care: an approach for prevention, health promotion, and treatment of disease. Part 1 – Ayurveda in primary health care. J Altern Complement Med. 2007;13(9):1011–1019.
  3. Dwarakanath C. Preface to Introduction to Kayachikitsa. Chaukhambha Orientalia;1996.Third Edition;Varanasi.
  4. Official document by World Health Organization on Benchmarks for training Ayurveda available from https://www.who.int/medicines/areas/traditional/BenchmarksforTraininginAyurveda.pdf accessed on 30/05/2020
  5. Pandey Deep Narayan , Pandey Neha Prakash. Universal significance of the principle of Samanya and Vishesha beyond Ayurveda.Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine.2018;9(4),308-311. available online from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0975947617305727
  6. Sharma H., Chandola H.M., Singh G., Basisht G. Utilization of Ayurveda in health care: an approach for prevention, health promotion, and treatment of disease. Part 2 – Ayurveda in primary health care. J Altern Complement Med. 2007;13(10):1135–1150.
  7. Available from http://niimh.nic.in/ accessed on May 01, 2019
  8. Available from http://www.ayurvedacatalogue.in/aboutproject.html
  9. Available from Official website of Central Council of Research in Ayurvedic Sciences [3] accessed on April 05, 2019
  10. Sharma H. Ayurveda: Science of life, genetics, and epigenetics. AYU [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 Jun 3];37:87-91. Available from: http://www.ayujournal.org/text.asp?2016/37/2/87/217789