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Dhanvantari is said to be one of the fourteen symbols which appeared when all the gods and demons churned the milky ocean to extract the 'elixir of immortality' (amrita). He is regarded as a part of Vishnu, the maintainer of the Universe, and a disciple of Siva, the conqueror of the king of death.

  It is said that Dhanvantari was born to Sages Galvana and Virabhadra. Virabhadra saved the life of Sage Galvana by giving water, when the sage was in fatigue and thirsty. The sage blessed her to be the mother of a worthy son. Dhanvantari is said to have married the three daughters of Aswni Kumara and became the father of fourteen sons. 'He taught Susruta and many other students.

The name of Dhanvantari does not appear in the Vedas., He was the God of Classical Indian medicine and is still respected. In the modern period, an Ayurvedic physician is given the title of Dhanvantari, when he attains highest perfection.


Charaka Samhita tells us how Bharadwaja obtained the knowledge of ayurveda from God Indra and then expounded it into the other sages.

According to Charaka Samhita and other sources, Bharadwaja was the first man to have known and taught Ayurvedic medicine. Bharadwaja lived around 800 B.C. It was his disciple Atreya who had originally composed the Charaka Samhita, around that period.

Bharadwaja lived a long life, equal to three generations of men. Many traditional and mythological stories speak about him as a great sage and learned teacher and practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine in ancient India. There are some drug recipes which still bear his name.


Punarvasu Atreya(2000BC)original expounder of Agnivesa tantra.
Amongst the disciples of Bharadwaja, Punarvasu became very popular. He was commonly known as Atreya.

Atreya classifies diseases as curable and incurable ; curable by charms and those scarcely possible to cure. He distinguishes patients on whom physicians must attend from those to whom they must refuse assistance.

He describes the influence of winds, soil and seasons on age and temper. He enumerates six tastes such as sweet, astringent, bitter, sour, salty and pungent and talks of the influence of each on the human body.

He describes the medical qualities of different kinds of water and the use of hot and cold water in various diseases, the physical and medical properties of various milks, sugarcane, sour gruel, infusions from rice, barley and other grains, oils, fruits, herbs, alcoholic liquors made from molasses, honey etc.

He discusses the properties of the flesh of various animals, birds, fishes, snakes and gives rules and principles of diet. Of dreams, he describes the lucky and the unlucky symptoms and foreboding.

He deals with moral causes of diseases and describes various diseases in detail, such as fevers, diarrheas, dysentery, consumption, hemorrhage, etc. and also their treatment. He also deals with various antidotes against poisons.

The beginning of Ayurvedic Medicine can be attributed to Atreya. Though the concepts of controlling the forces of the body are contained in Vedic literature, yet it is to Atreya that Ayurvedic medicine owes its full elaboration of 'Tridosa' concepts. The fundamental concepts of the various factors causing diseases and the action of drugs in Charaka Samhita, belong to Atreya. As a teacher of Ayurvedic Medicine, Atreya is known to be unsurpassed.


Jeevaka was a famous physician of India in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. Buddhist works mention much of him and his patients included the Buddha, the Emperors and the common people. Jeevaka was the son of Salavati, a courtesan of Rajagnha (modem Patria), which was the capital of the Magadha empire in the reign of Bimbisara. He was thrown after his birth on a dust heap where people noticed that he was still alive (Jivati). This was informed to Prince Abhaya, the son of Bimbisara. The prince named him Jivaka and brought him up. He is also known as Jeevaka Kumarabwla (the one brought up by the Prince).
Brain surgery on king Bhoja by Jeevaka-a famous nuero surgeon and personal physician to Lord Bhudha.

When he grew up, he came to know his antecedents and left for Taxila, a famous Indian center of learning near Rawalpindi, without informing anybody. There he studied medicine for seven years.

Jeevaka is said to have performed surgical operations. Jeevaka was declared by Buddha as the chief amongst his lay-followers. He also included in the list of good men who had been assured of the realization of immortality. Buddha enjoined upon monks to take exercise to protect health at the requisition of Jeevaka.


According ancient Indian medicine, Vagbhata, Atreya and Susruta are considered as the three medical authorities (Vriddha Trayi or old Triad). Vagbhata composed two medical treatises, viz., Ashtanga Sangraha (summary of Octopartite Science) and Ashtanga Hrudaya Samhita (Heart of the essence of Octopartite science). Both these works describe him as the son of Simhagupta and he was bom in the country of Sindhu. He was the disciple of a Buddhist teacher named Avalokita.

Ashtanga Sangraha is still studied all over India, especially in the South. It is composed of a combination of verse and prose form. It gathers more or less conflicting medical systems of that time especially of the Charaka and Susruta Samhitas, and harmonizes them into a whole. It contains independent material also.

It contains six sections and 150 chapters. The six sections are the practice of Medicine, human anatomy, the causes and pathology of various conditions, purging and vomiting, taking care of children and diseases of children.

Ashtanga Hrudaya Samhita contains six sections of 120 chapters. It is mainly based on Ashtanga Sangraha. It gives a lucid description of the whole of Ayurvedic medicine with special reference to surgery as given in Susruta Samhita.


Madhavakar or Madhavacharya is the exponent of pathology and diagnosis. For this contribution, he is equal to the rank of the 'Ancient Triad'. Raghuvamshaya is his special contribution, which is also called as Madhavanidnana or simply Nidana.

He is the son of Indukar. He was born in Kishkinda, now called Golconda, in South India. Madhava's brother is Sayana who wrote a commentary on Rig Veda. Madhavakar is said to have contributed to this. He composed many works on Hindu philosophy, religion and astronomy.

Madhavananda deals exclusively and exhaustively with pathology and diagnosis of diseases. The description of the causes, symptoms and complications of the important diseases set an example for the future authors, viz., Vrinda, Varyasena and Chakrapani. The description in this shows an advancement over Charaka and Susruta Samhitas. It devotes a special chapter on small-pox. It also borrows from Charaka and Susruta. There is a unanimous opinion whether he existed in 9th or 10 th century A.D. Numerous commentaries were written on Nidana which clearly show his fame and popularity. The most famous of these commentaries are by Vijayarakshita and Shrikantha Datta in the 14th and 15th centuries.


Vrinda composed a medico-chemical treatise called Siddha Yoga. Siddha Yoga though it incorporates much of the material from the works of famous scholars, describes in detail various diseases, their treatment and also the rejuvenants and elixirs to prolong life and general hygiene. It also describes the methods for the preparation of various metallic compounds, which were used as medicines. Mercury is mentioned as a constituent or a formula to be applied externally for exterminating disease. It also describes methods for preparing sulphides of copper and mercury. Srikantha Datta writes on Siddha Yoga in later times.


Dridhabala was one among the great ayurvedic physicians from Kashmir, who probably lived around 9th century A.D. His father was Kakilabala. He reconstructed and re-edited the great ayurvedic medical treatise of Charaka Samhita. This work embodies the teaching of Atreya. The present form of Charaka Samhita was given by Dridhabala in 9th century AD. He completed the treatise of Charaka by adding 17 chapters in Therapeutics (Chikitsa Sthana) and also 2 complete sections of Pharmaceutics (Kalpasthana) and success in treatment (Siddha Sthana) by collecting data from various treatises on Ayurvedic medicine.

It is possible that Charaka Samhita some of whose portion had been lost by the time of Dridhabala would have been completely lost to posterity, if Dridhabala had not reconstructed it in time.


Charaka, the famous physician of Ayurvedic medicine, lived before 175 BC. In ancient medicine, he is looked upon as an incarnation of Ananthasesha, the giant cosmic serpent, which is believed to support the universe. Charaka Samhita was composed originally by Agnivesha, the disciple of Atreya, who lived around 7th-8th century BC.

Charaka Samhita describes the various aspects of Ayurvedic medicine which gives an insight into the state of medicine in ancient India. Charaka, in his work elaborately deals with foetal generation and development, anatomy of the human body, function and malfunction of the body, viz., vayu, pitha and kapha, etiology, classification, prognosis, treatment of various diseases and the science of rejuvenation of the body.

To Charaka, a human body consists of 360 bones totally, which includes teeth and nails. Muscles the body are first mentioned as fleshy masses. The heart has only one cavity in it and 10 vessels run from it to the different parts of the body.

Charaka, while discussing on physiology, describes all matter including food, as composed of five elemental entities (bhutas), viz., earth, fire, wind and wind and ether. These exist in the body in the form of substances (dhatus), viz., rasa, blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow and semen. The function of the food is to nourish these dhatus, maintain their equilibrium and sustain the digestive function.

Food is first converted into rasa and this in to blood, flesh and dhatus. During the process of digestion, a sweet reaction sets in which gives rise to the production of a foamy phlegm (kapha). A little later, when food is half digested, reactions set in and from the food in the intestine is produced a liquid substance called bile (pitha). Later, down in the intestines, the digested food is converted into a dry mass and during process a bitter and astringent reaction sets in, which gives rise to the production of wind (vayu). Thus, the three doshas are produced.

The role of Vayu is of five types, viz., inhalation and exhalation of breath, speech, throwing out of urine and faces. The bile helps digestion, provides heat to the body and gives good eye-sight, good complexion, cheerfulness of mind and intelligence. The phlegm gives normal oiliness to the body, sprightliness to the joints and body, normal weight, sexual power, strength, capacity to bear or endure.

These three may exist either in equilibrium or anyone of them may predominate in a person. When Kapha dominates one has a body which is smooth, delicate, clean and agreeable to look at. When pitha predominates one will not bear the heat. The body will be dry and delicate. When Vayu dominates, one has a body which is dry, lean and small sized. When all three are in equilibrium, it is an indication of a healthy body.

Diseases are classified in various ways. Internal diseases are due to the predominance of the tumors and these may be curable, curable with difficulty and incurable. These may be accidental, caused by demons, violent or mild.

Charaka's Materia Medica mainly consisted of vegetable products though animal and earth products were also used. These drugs are classified into 50 groups on the basis of their action on the body. The drugs were given in various forms such as powder, paste, infusion, decoction, pill, confection, roast, fermented, distilled, medicated and inhalants as well as injectives into the rectum, urethra and female genital organs. The aim of these drugs is to maintain the normalcy between dhatus and doshas.

It also describes the various categories of the practitioners of healing art, specialization in different medical subjects, nursing care, centers of medical learning, schools of philosophy, such as Nyaya and Vaiseshika which formed the basis of medical theories, medical botany, various customs, traditions, legends, routine of daily life, habits or smoking and drinking, dress and clothing of the people of that era.


Susrutha(1000BC)-Father of surgery-performing plastic surgery of ear.
It has been said that Susrutha led a group of holy men and learnt Ayurvedic medicine from Divadosa, the incarnation of Dhanvantati.

Susrutha, a descendant of Viswamitra, was the greatest Indian surgeon of all times. His treatise on sin gems, Susrutha-Salya-Tantra were composed about 6th century B.C. It has been revised by Nagarjuna in the later part of 4th century B.C.
Susrutha, as a teacher, asked his pupils to try their knives first on natural as well as artificial objects resembling diseased parts of the body, before undertaking the actual operations. The students practiced incision-making on certain vegetables, dummies and dead animals.

Susrutha stressed on both theoretical and practical training and remarks that "the physician who has only the book - knowledge (Sastras) but is unacquainted with the practical methods of treatment' or who knows the practical details of the treatment but from self confidence, does not study the books, is unfit to practice his calling.

His major achievements, however, were in the field of plastic surgery of the nose, operations on the abdomen, on the eyes for cataract, on women during delivery and on the removal of the urinary stones.

Susrutha explained the influence of various seasons on various plants and human beings. Susruta elucidates the influence of wind on the human body.

Susrutha classifies the animal kingdom into four. They are (1) those that are born out of moisture and heat, e.g., worms, insects and ants, (2) those with placenta attached to them at birth, e.g., man and other animals (3) those that are born out of egg, e.g., reptiles, birds and (4) those that come out from the ground, e.g., frogs.

He classifies the worms that infest the human body into 20 categories. Before the end of the 8th century A.D., Susruta Samhita was translated into Arabic and was called Kitab-Shaw-Shoon-Attindi or Kitab-i-Susurd. The famous Arab physician, Rhazes calls him an authority on surgery and mentions him by the term Sarad.