‘Ayurveda’ means ‘the science of life’, and is a system of wellness and healing perfected over more than five thousand years that is famed as South Asia’s ancient healthcare system based on herbs and diet.
Balancing energy and matter, this system of healing treats of not only the part affected by disease, but also the individual as a whole.
It emphasizes on the harmony of mind, body and spirit to cure diseases, and in 600 BC, it emerged in South Asia as the natural way of healing, which has now evolved into a scientific system of holistic healing that has gained recognition across the globe.
As a way of life known to generations of Sri Lankans for over 3000 years, it reflects one of the fundamental beliefs, that of the doctrine of ‘Tri Dosha’ or the Three Vital Forces: Vayu, Pita and Kapha (Wind, Bile and Phlegm).
The modern concept of mucus as an antibody containing liquid which coats and protects internal linings of the body, seems to fit in with Ayurvedic thinking. When the three, doshas are balanced, the body is in good health.
But when this equilibrium is disturbed and the balance of these complementary forces become unbalanced and upset, illness takes over.
Ayurvedic practitioners can be found throughout Sri Lanka, and many westerners travel here specifically to receive treatment.
Sri Lanka developed its own Ayurvedic system based on a series of prescriptions handed down from generation to generation over a period of 3,000 years.
The ancient kings, who were also prominent physicians, sustained its survival and longevity. King Buddhadasa (398 AD), the most influential of these physicians, wrote the Sarartha Sangrahaya, a comprehensive manuscript which Sri Lankan physicians still use today for reference.
Ancient inscriptions on rock surfaces reveal that organized medical services have existed within the country for centuries. In fact, Sri Lanka claims to be the first country in the world to have established dedicated hospitals.
The Sri Lankan mountain Mihintale still has the ruins of what many believe to be the first hospital in the world. Old hospital sites now attract tourists, who marvel at the beautiful ruins. These places have come to symbolize a traditional sense of healing and care, which was so prevalent at that time.
Historically the Ayurvedic physicians enjoyed a noble position in the country’s social hierarchy due to their royal patronage. From this legacy stems a well-known Sri Lankan saying: “If you can not be a king, become a healer.”