The word Ayurveda is composed of two terms, Ayush meaning life and Veda meaning knowledge or science. Thus, it means the science of life or biology. Medicine apart, various other aspects of life also come within the purview of Ayurveda. In its broader perspective it deals with the health and treatment of diseases of humans, animals and even plants. Thus in ancient India, there were specialised subjects like ashva-ayurveda (for the treatment of horses), gaja-ayurveda (for the treatment of elephants); go-ayurveda (for the treatment of cows) and vriksha-ayurveda (for the treatment of diseases of plants). Treatises on these sciences were written by eminent scholars like Nakula, Shalihotra and Parashara.
Ayurveda provides rational means for the treatment of many internal diseases which are considered to be obstinate and incurable in other systems of medicine. Simultaneously it lays a great deal of emphasis upon the maintenance of positive health of an individual. It thus aims at both the prevention and cure of diseases. Ayurveda also studies basic human nature, and natural urges like hunger, thirst, sleep, sex, etc., and provides measures for a disciplined, disease- free life.
PRINCIPLES OF AYURVEDA
The human body according to Ayurveda, is composed of three fundamental elements called doshas, dhatus and malas. The doshas govern the physico- chemical and physiological activities of the body, while the dhatus enter into the formation of a basic structure of a body cell, thereby performing some specific actions. The malas are substances which are partly utilised in the body and partly excreted in a modified form after serving their physiological functions. These three elements are said to be in a dynamic equilibrium with each other for the maintenance of health. Any imbalance or their relative preponderance in the body results in disease and decay.
Pancha Mahabhutas: The man has five senses and through these senses he perceives the external world in five different ways. The sense organs are the ears, the skin, the eyes, the tongue and the nose. Through these sense organs, the external object is not only perceived, but also absorbed into the human body in the form of energy. These five types of senses are the basis on which the entire universe is divided, grouped or classified in five different ways, and they are known as five mahabhutas. They are named as akasha (sky), vayu (air), agni (fire), jala (water) and prithvi (earth).
In a normal body of a living being, these substances remain in a particular proportion. However, because of enzymatic action inside the human body, this ratio of five mahabhutas or their equilibrium inside the body gets disturbed. The body has, however, a natural tendency to maintain equilib- rium. It eliminates some of the mahabhutas which are in excess and takes some of the mahabhutas which are in shortage. This shortage of mahabhutas is replenished through the ingredients of food, drinks, air, heat, sunlight, etc.
Tridosha Concept: As has been stated before, inside the body there are three doshas which govern the physico-chemical and physiological activities. These three doshas are vayu, pitta and kapha. The nearest English equivalents of these terms will be air, bile and phlegm. As all the constituents of the body are derived from the five mahabhutas. Therefore, the doshas are also composed of five Mahabutas. All the doshas have all the five mahabhutas in their composition. The vayu dosha is dominated by akasha mahabhuta and vayu mahabhuta. In pitta, agni mahabhuta is predominant, and kapha is primarily constituted of jala and prithvi mahabhutas.