© 2017 Svetlana RYZHAKOVA

2017 – № 2 (14)

Key words: ayurveda, Indian traditional medical practices, holistic view, multiple perspective, treatment

Abstract: Ayurveda, a traditional medical knowledge and set of practices in India, is one of the most refined and structured system of both treatment of an illness and balancing the body as a holistic unity. The essay deals with the today’s outlook of ayurveda as an approach, as a set of tools, as a way of life, aimed at happy and healthy existance.

This essay is based on personal notes and experience of the author while exploring an art and craft of Indian traditional healing system, ayurveda, today.

Various vernacular medical methods are still popular in certain regions of India and among certain families, in Kerala in particular. However, untill middle 1990s-beginning of XXI century Indian traditional medicine was not much known outside of India, it did spread mostly with some travellers and among the certain groups of some enthusiasts. However, the very term “ayurvedic medicine” has become a trend and been used by some pharmacological companies as a part of a positive marking of the production with the denotation of “green”, “hypo-allergic”, “non-harmful”, etc. At the same time ayurveda slowly has become an established institution in India, in a form of a full-fledged AYUSH ministry since 2014, with some pre-history from 1995. Still, it is difficult to draw borders of ayurveda: sometimes it appears to be a certain “invisible medicine”, blending with a day-to-day life, sustainable existance, herbs knowledge, phenomenology of a human body, philosophy, gastrica, martial arts and many more.

The textual sources for ayurveda, Sanskrit treatises “Charaka samhita”, “Sushruta samhita” (around 400-500s AD), “Ashtanga hridaya” (600s AD) etc., stated the principles of  medical knowledge, theory and an actual practice. They invented a certain vision of a body as a holistic microcosm in universal interconnections with many other physical phenomena. They also payed attention to the specific details of a treatment. Typology and taxonomy were a strong part of this ancient Indian knowledge: various classes of desise, ways of treatment etc. constitutes a large part of these texts. Svastavritta– preventive medicine, including hygiene, healthy way of life, and ataravritta– curing of small and serious diseases is the basic distinction, followed by many more concepts and categories.

According to these old texts and traditional practice known today as ayurveda, a doctor has to cure the whole body as a mircosm, bringing it to the stable and harmonious state. For that purpose a diet, an activity, a way of thinking of a person have to be analysed, and some changes have to be made. Very often, it has to be started with the correction of cognitive perception, which can bring behavior changes and ultimately arrive at the balanced existence and happiness.

Today’s ayurveda has many institutionalized forms: century-old respectful institutes known in India and abroad (like Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala), family traditions here and there, various private companies using the brand of “ayurveda” for thier products and services with different outlooks and purpuses. Many medical doctors in their practices absorb various methods of curing and overcoming diseases. Actually, in the old days there was also no strict distinction between what is ayurveda, and was is not. Rather it is an open set of methods, ways and approaches which lead to the realization of a specific goal to cure and re-shape a person on his way to a long, happy and healthy life.


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The article is available in full version in Russian

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