Origin of Ayurveda and Food Classifications – Physeek Cafe

Full-Length Interview with Prof. Dr. H.T. Sreenivas

Author: Divya Rajkumar

In this episode of Physeek Cafe interview with Professor and Doctor H.T. Sreenivas, Vijay explores the origin of Ayurveda, its origin, and various food classifications. Read along to find highly insightful information.

What is the origin of Ayurveda? 

There are two hypotheses. One is a mythological story, and another is a historical story. In the first version, it is lord Bramha that is Chathurmuhka Bramha (four heads Bramha). He is the creator of the universe. He created the universe and human beings. Before creating human beings, he created or wrote Ayurveda with one lakh verses so that his creation will make use of it. 

Bramha taught Ayurveda to Daksha Prajapati and Daksha Prajapati to Ashwini Kumars from Ashwini Kumars to Indra. They are celestial people in heaven or swarga. Later they came down to Earth and taught Ayurveda to people.

In the second version, the same word Brahma or Nirguna Bramha means he has no guna; you can not see him. It is the actual pure knowledge that has flown from all directions. In this south peninsula of Asia, our forefathers started practicing Ayurveda. It did not come all of a sudden as Ayurveda. 

A Doctor or Vaidya at Charaka’s time used to refer to Ayurveda’s classic text when they have any doubts regarding medicinal plants and their value. 

Authors of Ayurveda have to take advice from Vanacharas, which means forest dwellers. Gopala means the people who look after cows and shepherds, referred to as Ajahapalas and Avipalas. So, in reality, when we see civilization started almost simultaneously throughout the world. They were like tribals. These peoples gathered a lot of knowledge about medicinal plants and how to heal their diseases. Later, when they came together, they probably formed some cities and large groups. The people in cities brought this knowledge, and they started practicing it and called it Vyshajya Vidya. 

All these are before the Vedic Period. During the Vedic period, there was a revolution, and many intellectual people came. The philosophy of our land integrated this Vyshajya Vidya. They promoted this new Indian philosophy as Ayurveda. 

Veda means Science. While modern medicine has developed significantly, it cannot prove certain things. But we cannot disprove the Science of Ayurveda even today. We have to use this knowledge for the betterment of today’s society. 

In which civilization did Ayurveda come into existence?  

Experts divide Ancient India into two parts. One part is the Indo Gangetic Plain having the Himalayas to the North, Vindyas to the South, and the east up to Assam and the west up to Afganistan. As per the experts, Dravidians and Andhras occupied Southern India. They had their own medicine like Siddha, and they were practicing it since 5000 BC. 

There are no archeologic pieces of evidence to confirm the practice of Siddha medicines. But through some specific arguments, we can correlate this theory. We can find few flora and faunas seen only in Southern India. For example, we don’t find the Jalikattu cattle bulls anywhere in the world. Similarly, cattle of Mysore called Hollikar is also unique. Also, Northern Karnataka has a unique type of cattle called Killari.

North India has different types of cattle, and their gene linked to the middle east and Africa. The sheep in South India have a two or three-inch tail. The cattle in North India, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe have about six inches.

All the regiments like Dinachariya (daily regiment) and Rithuchariya (as per the seasons) explain how we have to change according to seasons. Ayurveda explains it according to the seasons of the Indo Gangetic plain. There is a season change every two months. Kerala and South of Tamil Nadu do not have six seasons when we come down. 

Looking at all these factors, we can ascertain that Siddha and Ayurveda’s knowledge coexisted simultaneously. 

How is food classified in Ayurveda? 

Food is called Aahara, and Ayurveda classifies it as Rasapradhana. Rasa means taste, and they are six tastes called Madhra, Amala, Lavana, Khato, Thika, and Kashaya (sweet, sour, salt, pepper, astringent and bitter). 

In Ayurveda, there is an Aahara classification called Shukadhanya. In this classification, Rakshashali (red rice) and Shaktikashali (short period rice yield) is the best. Others are wheat, barley, ragi, and millets (Khudhanya, Shudradhanya); Ayurveda has explained everything we eat today.

Next is Shimbhijidhanya, which are all pulses starting from the green gram ending with the black gram. So green gram is the best next Toor dal, next comes horse gram, Bengal gram, and the least essential aahara is the black gram. We also eat black gram significantly less every day.

The next comes exciting food that is Mamsavarga. You will be astonished if; I say there were hundreds of animals used in the menu of those Vedic periods or during those periods explained in Ayurveda. The goat meat means Ajhmamsa, and Avimamsa means the sheep; these two have been declared the best suited for human beings. Goat meat soup is the Parama means the best in providing nutritions to healthy and non-healthy people. 

Next is the Gritha, which are the products from the cow. Milk, ghee, Navnitha – the butter, Gomutra that is cows’ urine all these are the best from the cow except one thing, Ayurveda has denounced beef as causing some diseases is not very good for maintaining for the health. In the winter season in Indo-Ganjatic plain, it is freezing there; a person has to take the excess of ghee and take pork and even buffalo, so this is regarding Mamsavarga. 

The next comes the Tailavarga. Ayurveda recommends giving Thilataila to the people who do Vyayama or exercise (soldiers). On the onset of an Anorak in Tamil Nadu in tradition, they give Thilataila. There is a reference in Ayurveda that Dhaityas take Thilataila after exercising.       

When it comes to fruits, among the dry fruits, dry grapes are the best. Among the fresh fruits, pomegranate is the best. It is used as a fruit and also used sour for preparing non-vegetarian foods. In Himachal Pradesh, they use raw pomegranate for food preparations. 

And in vegetables, Kushmanda (ash gourd) is the best. And in tubers, under the ground grown vegetable, there are many, but best is Adraka or ginger. 

Ayurveda considers chicken under the Vishkiradhi Pakshi group. Vishkiradhi Pakshi means a bird that scratches the ground and picks its food. All animals and birds should be in a natural capacity, not caged. That is the reason why we should not eat broiler chicken. 

Among all the animals, goats and sheep are the most nutritious and easily digestible. The meat and the vertebral column backbone are best for making soup and easily digestible than the shoulder and hind leg meat. It is more nutritious and digestible, and also highly potent (medicinal value) is the goat head meat soup. In specific diseases, Ayurveda even suggests what to eat.  

For example – Khichidi is Bhakta; this is from Ayurveda. Odhana is where you add rice meat, dal, ghee, and with Rakshepaka Dravyas or spices Thegela Pantran, Nagakesara, Thak (cinnamon), Yela (cardamom), Thamala Patra(bay leaf), which we put in biriyani. Biriyani was there as Vodhana in those days. 

We should prepare all food using ghee, depending on a person’s health conditions.   


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