A Brief History of Ayurveda

ISBN : 9780190121082

M. R. Raghava Varier
204 Pages
148 x 223 mm
Pub date
Jul 2020
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Following a general trend, Ayurveda is often officially described and commonly known even among its practitioners as 'alternative medicine' whereas the available sources clearly show that it was the mainstream health care programme in the sub-continent for roughly more than two and a half millennia in the past. This is perhaps the result of an inherent indifference to the historical background of the development of the indigenous medicine. Medicine and its practice do not exist in a vacuum nor do they flourish without economic and social necessities. There is no dearth of literature on the history of Ayurveda but most of the available works are in the form of descriptive accounts of or discussions on the content of the classics, their commentaries and so on. Generally speaking, these volumes seldom make any attempt to place the developments in the system of Ayurveda brought in from time to time against their historical context. This is perhaps due to the approaches, which are, as a rule, myopic to the archaeological and epigraphic sources that shed light on many dimly lit areas of the topic. Access to a proper intellectual apparatus and ideational acumen with an appropriate theoretical frame is essential for a meaningful explanation of medicine and its practice in India with special reference to their historical context. The present volume is a humble attempt at viewing the stages of development of Ayurveda which was the mainstream indigenous medicine and its practice placing them in their historical context.


List of Figures and Tables vii
Preface ix
Acknowledgements xi
Scheme of Transliteration xiii
Introduction: Historiography of Ayurveda xv
1. Early Historic Phase: Indus Civilization: Traditions of Healing 1
2. Towards Scientific Foundations of Healing: Buddhist Heterodox Tradition 22
3. The Age of the Samhitas 40
4. Susrutasamhita 66
5. Samhitas of Bhela, Haritha, Kasyapa, and other Samhitas 85
6. Ancient Indian Medical Education 95
7. Regional Developments 101
8. Experiment with Modernity: The Decline and Reawakening of Ayurveda 117
Concluding Observations 123
Appendix: Auxiliary Branches of Knowledge:
Treatment for Plants and Animals 130
Glossary 159
Selected Readings 163
About the Author 166

About the author: 

Director General, Centre for Heritage Studies, Department of Culture,Government of Kerala, Thripunithura

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