Ayurveda is the ancient system of health and healing, which has a history dating back 3000 years in Sri Lanka and India. The name is derived from two conjoined Sanskrit words: Ayuh meaning life and Veda meaning science or knowledge. The traditional methods of this life science are practiced by at least one-fifth of the human race and continues to gain popularity around the world as people discover its true holistic power.
The root of Ayurveda is a philosophy that can only be achieved through restoring the balance to both the mind and body. In Sri Lanka, this ancient medicine plays a prominent role in both culture and history as accounts reveal Ayurveda was successfully adopted by its original practitioners. Most significantly, Ayurvedic medicine was not merely a cure for illness, instead integrated as a way of life by many.
Hela Weda was the earliest system of medicine that existed in Sri Lanka before the advent of Ayurveda. It was handed down from generation to generation and in the course of time Hela Weda became intertwined with Ayurveda. 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 Ayurvedic practitioners and traditional healers still use today for reference.
Ancient inscriptions on rock surfaces reveal 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 Hospital. The mountain Mihintale, located near the city of Anuradhapura 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.” Along with Buddhism, the interrelationship between Ayurveda and royalty continues to influence politics in Sri Lanka.