History of Indian Medicine (and Ayurveda)

by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society | 1949 | 162,724 words | ISBN-13: 9788176370813

The History of Indian medicine and Ayurveda (i.e., the science of life) represents the introductory pages of the Charaka Samhita composed of six large sections dealing with every facet of Medicine in ancient India in a Socio-Historical context. Caraka is regarded as one of the pioneers in the field of scientific healthcare. As an important final a...

Chapter 2 - The Routine of Daily Life

Man gets up rather early in the morning and finishes his or the purificatory process of excretion and bath. Then follows his daily procedure. This he modifies in every season, his diet, dress and behaviour. Twice or thrice in a year he undergoes the cleansing process of his internal system by cleansing all the internal passages possible of approach and then he takes a regular course of medications of Rasayana and Vajikarana whose action is rehabilitation or 1 e prevention of aging of the body, senses, organs, mind and vital strength which helps him to live for the longest possible span of life for him immunizing him against adverse environmental circumstances.

His moral and spiritual life can best be inferred from the passage of (ācārarasāyana) given in the text. (Carakasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 1/4, 30-35)

Thus he fully enjoyed the life fulfilling the four-fold purpose thereof viz., (dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa). The peculiarly oriental luxurious life he lived was unrivalled elsewhere and yet the mode of living made the people around him happy. (“Bhūtadayā”) or the universal spirit of kindness always remained dominant in his activities. He had three springs or (eṣaṇā) of life. Firstly his own bodily existence, secondly wealth and thirdly or the life hereafter. But all these motivating factors were kept in equibalance. He knew how to live happily for himself and he believed in making others happy. The Karma theory is nothing but the spiritual or moral law equivalent to the physical law of actions and reactions being always equal and opposite. Karma is the action done and when any thing is done, the reaction is bound to follow. He was ever conscious to obey these laws which he himself had conceived and found them working in nature.

The essence of the concept of Ayurveda for the man is given in Sutra-sthana chapter XXX.

Life in General

To understand the rationale of each endeavour and activity of man’s life in ancient India, one should view it in its proper setting of the concept of life the Aryans held as well as the purpose and province of Ayurveda or the science of life evolved by the Aryans. ‘Ayus’ or life, to the Aryans, was not merely the mass of material body or the body with a sparingly considered mind tolerated as inseparable addenda, but to them life was the specific conglomeration of body, senses, the mind and spirit. (śarīrendriyasattvātmasaṃyogo dhāri jīvitam—Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 1.42)

Again life was not just a purposeless accidental phenomenon to be wondered at, to he frittered away as it came, but it had a special purpose of achieving virtue, wealth, enjoyment and salvation, to go one step higher on the ladder of creative evolution. With such a vast field for progressive activity and purpose, it was essential to maintain life not only in a disease-free condition, but in perfect positive health of body mind and spirit so that the desired success in the fourfold purpose of life could be fully attained.

[Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 1.15]

[dharmārthakāmamokṣāṇāmārogyaṃ mūlamuttamam]

The province and purpose of the science of life was primarily to teach how to lead a good, long and happy life. Thus greater importance was attached to the healthy condition of all the constituents of man viz., body, senses, mind and spirit to enable him to lead a good, benevolent and happy life. As such the science of life gave primary consideration to the maintenance of positive, health and only secondarily it considered the curative measures which were needed occasionally to alleviate the temporary setbacks to health. (Carakasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 1.4)

Although general rules were prescribed for the maintenance of normal health and for the treatment in diseased condition, great stress was laid on the individual and his peculiar constitution. The word Svastha is significant of this recognition of individuality denoted by the term which means one’s own peculiar constitution.

The general rules laid down were to be applied with necessary modifications and alterations according to the individual constitution which a man acquired from his very birth or even from previous to it i.e., from the moment the conception took place in the mother’s womb.

[Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 7.39]

And so the regimen of conduct and food for the maintenance of health should be devised in accordance with his constitution.

[Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 7.41]

Personal Hygiene

Daily routine—The greatest importance is attached to diet which ought to be taken in proper measure both in quantity and quality. The first of the four chapters devoted to personal hygiene begins with the following aphorism (mātrāśī syāt—Carakasaṃhitā Sū/ 5.3)—“One must eat in measure”. To understand the problem of diet and nutrition as described in Ayurveda, one must be acquainted with the peculiar concept of Ayurveda of grouping food and drug in one category. The only difference between food and drug being that the former has more of mass while the latter has more of potency.


The detailed description of food and factors concerned with it will be given later on. Food is described and considered in the same way as the drug i.e. the materia medica of food is equally important with the materia medica of drugs.

The following articles of diet have been recommended as wholesome and fit to be included in the daily diet:

[Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 5.12]

No definite time of rising in the morning is mentioned in Caraka, but the general trend as found in other texts seems to get up early in the morning. After pe forming the daily morning ablutions the person must strengthen the tone of his various senses, organ of sight by daily use of collyrium, organ of smell by a course of nasal drops, organ of taste by oil-gargles, organ of hearing by oil ear-drops and skin by oily missage of skin of head, body and feet. By strengthening the skin the resistence power to external injury increases and stabilizes the power of the whole body especially its musculature.

The vigour and vitality of man underwent following variations in different seasons. In the beginning and the end of the period of absorption and liberation respectively the body vitality is at its lowest. In between these periods it is moderate and in the end of the former and beginning of the latter the body vitality is at its highest

This statement of Ayurveda will be an interesting study to research scholars to compare the incidence of disease in different seasons or months in India. In the cold season, the gastric fire gets stronger and the climate is cold, so one should have ones food, clothing, residence, sex-relations etc., in accordance with it. In the summer all these are to be changed in order to suit the increased atmospheric temperature. Rainy season has its own peculiarities. Thus man should practise varied measures of personal hygiene in different seasons.

There are special instructions laid down for adjustment from one season to the next. This withdrawal from one habituation to the other was done in a special way as may not disturb the working of the body.

Physical exercise is advised to be practised by every man according to his constitution and strength A special system of psychosomatic exercise was evolved and practised by yogis to develop the controlling power on involuntary musculature of the body in addition to the stabilizing power and tone of voluntary musculature

There is an interesting classification of psychic and somatic urges of the body experienced by man in his daily life Prohibitive injunctions were laid down to ensure non-suppression of the somatic or natural urges viz., urges for micturition, voiding feces, seminal ejaculation, flatus vomiting, sneezing, eructation, yawning, and of hunger, thirst, tears, sleep and deep breath. Equal stress was laid on the suppression of psychic urges which were injurious to his mental and spiritual well-being

These psychic urges requiring to be suppressed were grief, greed, fear, anger vanity, imprudence, jealousy, excessive attachment, malice and any activity of mind, speech or body which would hurt another creature, specially falsehood, theft, adultery and violence.

Another important aict in Ayurveda is that unless the body is kept scrupulously clean and free from toxic or morbid material, the procedures for revitalizing and strengthening it, will not be efficacious as the dirty cloth will not take proper colour.

[Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 8.17]

Thus cleanliness was given supreme importance. Here below we give various items of daily hygiene recommended by the writers of Ayurveda.

  1. dantadhāvana—or teeth-cleansing;
  2. jīhvānirlekhana—or tongue-scraping;
  3. āsyadhāraṇa—or mouth flavoring;
  4. parimārjana—or friction-cleansing;
  5. snāna—bath or the general washing;
  6. pādādiśaucādhāna—or cleansing of feet etc., after all excretory processes.

All these are more or less the specialized procedures evolved particularly in India in view of its climatic, and other needs. Cleanliness of the body, externally as well as internally as also of the mind was regarded as the complete process of personal hygiene in those days

A person was enjoined to put on clean apparel, to use fragrant articles and garlands and to decorate himself with jewels and ornaments. He put on shoes, carried an umbrella and stick; he put on a light turban and remained ever vigilant in the care of his body.

There were three classes of activity which were regarded as violations of rules of health. They were called (prajñāparādhā) or volitional transgressions. Of them over-use, under-use or misuse of the mind, directly or indirectly, led to vitiation of mental or spiritual health. This all-comprehensive concept of (prajñāparādha) led to the evolution of ethical, social and humanitarian codes of Conduct Caraka laying supreme stress on psychic health, appended a Sadvritta (sadvṛtta) or the right life to Svasthavritta (svasthavṛtta) or personal hygiene. This inculcated discipline of mind and senses and regulation of the moral life so as to accord with the happiness and good, not of the indivi dual merely but of the society as a whole.

Personal hygiene as enjoined in Ayurveda is thus physical, social and universal in its conception and application, and comprehends a physical, mental and ethical frame-work of life. It is an entire way of life that Ayurveda expounds embodying philosophy, ethics and morality, as also individual and universal health.

The whole of the 8th chapter of Sutrasthana is devoted to details of how a man should live in society. It gives a clear picture of the rules and modes of social behaviour.

The general rules were the same as are observed today. We shall narrate in brief some of the customs prevailing at that period.

Gods, cows, Brahmins, preceptors, elders, adepts, teachers, guilds and king were held in great respect.

The sacrificial fire was held sacred and meticulous care in observance of cleanliness was enjoined in the performances of the ceremonies Special incantations in honour of fire, wind, water, Visnu and Indra were to be sung. The man was desired to be devoted to sacrifices (hotā, yaṣṭā... valīnā upahartā [?]). Offerings to the manes were given. A dead body was treated with great respect. One should be given to salute acquaintances in the public places and squares of the town. Tutelary tree, temple, totem tree, crematorium and the scaffold were to be held in esteem. Hospitality to guests was one of the prime duties enjoined on a house-holder Company of persons who were irreligious, disloyal to the king, arrogant, depraved, who practised feticide and who were mean and wicked, was prohibited. Drinking, gambling and prostitution were prohibited. Putting on the body of incanted herbs or jewels as a protective measure was widely practised Man's daily cleansing consisted of bathing twice a day, hair-clipping thrice a fortnight, and his dress regulations, his general behaviour as regards speech, social manners, thought and nature, his social code regarding dinner, manners, sex-hygiene, holidays and days of work, all these are minutely described

The universal, progressive and catholic spirit of Caraka becomes quite manifest when one finds at the end of the chapter VIII, Sutra-sthana, verse 34:

“Whatever ether observances there may be that are not spoken of here, provided they are good are always to be welcomed in the opinion of Atreya”.

The Springs of activity or the pursuits of life derived their origin from the three goals which a man aspired to achieve. They were the pursuit of life, the pursuit of wealth and the pursuit of the other world (prāṇaiṣaṇā, dhanaiṣaṇā, paralokaiṣaṇā—Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 11.3)

From among these pursuits, the pursuit of life is given priority. This required main attention in the constant preservation of positive health and the immediate correcting whenever there is the slightest disturbance, of the bodily health.

Next importance was attached to wealth. A life devoid of wealth was considered a wretched life and so every man was asked to do some work and earn his livelihood and if possible opulence. The rules of selection of work or profession tell us of the Social concept of good and bad profession.

Agriculture was considered the best of professions, next came the rearing of cattle, next to it in order of preference came trade and the last was service A man was to select any of these professions, or any other that was not disapproved of by the righteous.

Ancient society seems to have been rather strict as regards the selection of one’s profession.

Caraka lays down a definite statement as under:—

[Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 5.104]

“One should have recourse to such means of livelihood as is not contrary to the dictates of religion and one should be devoted to peace and studies Doing this, one attains happiness”

The third and the last pursuit was (paraloka) or the other world. There existed many and diverse schools of philosophy, some exclusively materialistic, others spiritualist and some that were believers in nature or natural occurrence, others in a creator and some in parental creation and so on.

The development of so many diverse concepts, each supported by plausible reasoning, is significant of the high intellectual level of the times. It resulted in one permanent benefit to the world for it evolved the first postulates of scientific method.

Caraka taking up the question of the other world or the survival of the spirit evolves the principles of scientific investigation and describes each method of knowledge giving it its proper value and place

The concept of the other world (paraloka) is based on the concept of continuity of the soul, and the influences of action in past lives on future periods of life. This view of life taken at its face value would, it be thought, negative the necessity of any human effort or endeavour to counteract what is predestined as a result of previous actions.

But here Caraka puts forward another theory where past deeds are classified into three categories, mild, moderate and strong or severe. Manly endeavour can counteract the mild type of Karma i.e. past deeds and can get over them safely, and thus justifies the necessity of therapeutic endeavours and activities of Ayurveda.

[Carakasaṃhitā Vimānasthāna 3.33]

He, no doubt, admits man’s inability to counteract the stronger effect of past actions which he has to inevitably suffer in this life.

Personal Regimen

The six well-defined seasons with their climatic variations are peculiar to India and this pecularity has been given full cognisance in the science of life, Ayurveda. This classification is an interesting study to the student of physical geography as the description gives many suggestive data regarding directions of wind, rains etc, and how the seasonal variations are brought about by these factors. The descriptions given in different text-books regarding the flora and fauna and natural scenery observed in each season provide the research scholar with definite clues regarding the region referred to. To the medical student as to the common man, these variations had great importance as they led to variations in his bodily functions and vitality and also because they affected the quality and potency of the articles of food and medicine resorted to

There were special directions laid down for adjustment and habituation from observance of one season to another. The ancients knew and valued the science of developing internal homeostasis of the body and to increase the resistance power of the body, i.e. to develop immunity, against the further incursion of disease or the extremes of different dimes, which shows that they travelled to far places of varying climes and seasons and were conversant with the periodic incidence of various diseases. (Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 6.50)

But platitudes and practice never completely coincide. In spite of all the vigilance observed in the execution of the rules of personal, daily and seasonal regimen, the ever-active man was liable to commit errors, negligence and indifference and the internal homeostasis would be disturbed

This disturbance of homeostasis was required to be brought to the normal state at least thrice a year.

This is one of the greatest contributions of Ayurveda. It has definite methods and procedures laid down for internal cleansing of the whole body through all its excretory channels. And all the toxic or harmful substances accumulated in the body was got rid of once in every four months. The Ayurvedist is not satisfied with this mere cleansing but he knows that the delicate machinery of the body suffers wear and tear and becomes deteriorated in its functional capacity. With this in view there have been formulated marvellous procedures of revitalization for regaining the perfect homeostasis, and in rejuvenating the body and in increasing its powers of resistance to disease and of retarding the process of aging, the five verses in the seventh chapter of Sutrasthaua give a vivid picture of this cleansing and revitalizing procedure. (Sū. 7.46-50)

For detailed descriptions of these procedures, the reader may refer to Sutra XIII for oleation therapy, Sutra XIV for sudation therapy and Sutra XV and XVI for purificatory therapy.

There are stronger measures as well as mild ones prescribed for different classes of people. The courses of medication in that group of drugs which were termed Rasayana (rasāyana) were prescribed for a particular period and strict regimen was to be observed regarding diet and behaviour during this period One feels astonished when one finds that Emblic myrobalans that were picked up directly from the tree were highly valued.

Here we get the empirical concept of vitalizing element (vitamins of modern science) in the selection of fresh Emblic myrobalans.

And here is a description of the action of this special course of Rasayana.

[Vi. 1(1) 7-8]

“Long life, heightened memory and intelligence, freedom from diseases, youth, excellence of lustre, complexion and voice, optimum strength of body and sense, utterance that always gets fulfilled, the reverence of people, body-glow—all these does a man obtain by the use of vitalizers. The vitalizers are so called because they help to replenish the vital fluids of the body.”

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