Intro: Though modern medical practices have taken inroads into daily life, the significance of Ayurveda should not be undermined. This holistic science is the knowledge of complete balance of the Body, Mind and Spirit, including the Emotions and Psychology, at all levels.
There are numerous stories about ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda. These stories portray how deeply the science of medicine was understood among ancient Indian sages and the available scriptures on Ayurveda are living proofs of the same. Though modern medical practices have taken in-roads into daily life, the significance of Ayurveda should not be undermined. This holistic science is the knowledge of complete balance of the Body, Mind and Spirit, including the Emotions and Psychology, at all levels. It includes in its consideration, longevity, rejuvenation and self-realisation therapies through herbs, diet, exercise, yoga, massage, aromas, tantras, mantras, and meditation.
It is said that the science of Ayurveda originated from the memories of Lord Brahma as explained in the three classic books named Brihat Trayi – Charakh Samhita, Susrutha Samhita and Ashtanga Hridaya. In Hinduism, Lord Brahma is considered the creator of the world. He remembered the science due to the sufferings in some of his creations, which had diseases.
After memorising the science, Lord Brahma explained it to Daksha Prajapati – the father of Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva. Daksha Prajapati taught Ayurveda to Aswini Devas the twin Gods, who later became the chief physician of the Deva Loka. The Aswinis in turn conferred it to Indra, the King of Gods.
During that period, battles between Devas and Asuras were very common. In one of those battles, one of the Devas had lost his head and Aswini Devas were able to replace the lost head with a horse’s head. (Later on this Deva was known as “Haya Greeva” or the horse headed.)
While all this happened in the heavens, the humanity continued to be plagued by pains and illnesses. Great seers meditated upon remedies for the numerous human maladies but in vain. It was then that three eminent sages Dhanwantari, Bharadwaja and Kashyapa were deputed to go to Indra for learning the divine service of healing. Ayurveda thus descended from the skies to remove the suffering on the mortal plane.
Another Ayurvedic story tells how in a previous age , both the gods and demons debilitated with age , illness, and constant battle. They asked Vishnu, the God of Preservation, the way to regain their youth, strength, and health. Lord Vishnu told them that the only way to achieve perfect health of the mind, the body, and the spirit would be to invoke Dhanwantari, the God of Ayurveda, and to take the elixir of life from his hands, Dhanwantri would provide them with instructions on how to live according to the principles of Ayurveda.
Then Lord Vishnu told the gods to invoke Dhanwantari. Vishnu explained that they must select a number of species of herbs and throw them into the ocean. Then using a mountain as the churning rod, the gods and demons must churn the ocean. Vishnu would form the base of the mountain, taking the form of a tortoise. The powerful serpent Vasuki would be the churning rope. The gods and demons
followed the instructions. The selected herbs were thrown into the sea, and the churning began.
However, it was immediately obvious that something had gone wrong as the process was started without prayers to Lord Ganapathy. The serpent, Vasuki warned that he must spit out his poison as he was exhausted. However, his poison was so venomous that if it fell on the earth, it would kill all living beings.
The gods asked Lord Shiva, the compassionate one, to swallow the poison. Only He would be able to withstand the venom. He agreed, but his wife Parvati, who was worried about his safety, ran to Lord Shiva and squeezed his neck as tightly as she could in order to prevent the poison from flowing down. The poison remained in his throat, but it coloured Lord Shiva’s neck blue—hence he got another name, 'Neelakantha', the blue –necked one.
Lord Vishnu realised why this problem had arisen and he instructed all the assembled gods and demons to pray to Ganapathy. After that they should start the churning.
As the churning proceeded, gems, beautiful trees, elephants and Goddess Lakshmi, the God of Wealth came out of the ocean. Finally, the God Dhanwantari came out of the ocean bearing the elixir of life in his hands. But before the gods could greet him, the elixir was snatched from his hands by the demons. The gods again asked Vishnu to help, and this time he adopted the form of a seductive angel and persuaded the demons to close their eyes to drink the elixir. As soon as their eyes were closed, Vishnu took the elixir and returned it to the gods who consumed it quickly to regain their radiance.
The stories illustrate the effort that is required to resuscitate the ecological balance of the earth, to protect her resources and bio-diversity and to divide them fairly, before demonic beings can grab what should be distributed to all.