Ayurveda in Sri Lanka
What is Ayurveda? It’s a word that you come across again and again in Sri Lanka. Ayurveda is an ancient form of traditional medical science that has its origins in India. Ayurveda treatments are different to spa treatments in that they seek to treat the symptoms of a disease and also strengthen the body’s immune system to prevent the onset of illnesses. According to Ayurveda, health and wellness rely on the body, mind and spirit being balanced.
At Eraeliya Villas and Gardens we have our own Ayurvedic spa where we administer a range of single option treatments designed to nourish the body and mind, and provide relief from the symptoms of common ailments. Our therapist is well trained in Ayurveda techniques. Our ‘healing garden’ is home to many herbs and flowers used in Ayurvedic oils and medicines.
History of Ayurveda in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, the practise of Ayurveda dates back 4500 years. Although India is the birthplace of Ayurveda, ancient Sri Lankan texts such as the Ramayana record how kings such as Ravana were some of the earliest influencers of Ayurveda in Sri Lanka. Most famously, it is King Devanampiyatissa (247-207 BC) from the Anuradhapura era who is associated with bringing Ayurveda to Sri Lanka. Under his rule, Buddhism was formally introduced to Sri Lanka from North India, and with it came Ayurveda. Over the years this form of Ayurveda has merged with Sri Lanka’s indigenous system of medicine to form its own unique offshoot of Ayurveda, which suits local conditions and needs while preserving the founding principles. King Devenampiyatissa also established a monastic hospital at Mihintale – one of the oldest hospitals in the world – while a later king, Budhadasa (362-409 BC), a notable physician and surgeon, wrote the first book on Ayurveda in Sri Lanka (Sarartha Sangrahaya). Ayurveda and nobility go hand in hand; as a Sri Lankan saying goes: ‘if you can’t be a king, be a healer’.
The principles of Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, the living world is composed of five great elements or ‘Panchamahabhutas’: apo (water/liquid); theejo (fire/heat); vayo (air); pruthuvi (earth); and akasha (space). The Panchamahabhutas, along with body, mind and soul, are at the heart of Ayurvedic science. Together, they blend into three bio-energetic forces or ‘tridoshas’ known as vata, pitta and kapha. It is these that govern the physical constitution of human beings.
Every person’s constitution is made up of prakurthi (acquired at the time of conception) – a unique combination of these doshas. Good health occurs when these doshas are in equilibrium. If one dosha is more dominant (as is often the case), that person is likely to suffer from diseases prone to that dosha. As an example, too much vata may result in anxiety or insomnia while too much pitta may make a person aggressive or irritable. These imbalances can also expose more serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Ayurveda cannot cure these chronic diseases, however, it has been proven to be very effective at alleviating the symptoms. When an imbalance of doshas occurs, this is when treatment is usually required.
The practise of Ayurveda includes detoxification. Panchakarma is a package of treatments designed to purify the body and expel all toxins through herbal treatment and special diets. Panchakarma is not a quick fix solution. The treatment exists across three stages – preparing the body for treatment, the main treatment (consisting of five cleansing actions such as purgation, induced vomiting and blood purification) and then post-treatment therapies. This is usually recommended after consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor for chronic conditions.
Ayurveda vs western medicine
In Sri Lanka, there are thousands of qualified and practising Ayurvedic physicians, which shows just how important this indigenous form of medicine is to the local populace. Many Sri Lankans consult their Ayurvedic doctor for minor ailments before consulting a doctor of western medicine, and it is important to note that the two practises can and do work in harmony with each other, especially when it comes to alleviating symptoms of chronic diseases. Many people turn to Ayurveda for relief from migraines, sinus trouble, insomnia, poor digestion, arthritis and stress. Along with a tailored programme of treatments, patients will also be given prescriptions of herbal medicines along with recommendations of how they can keep their prakurthi in check – such as through special diets, food elimination and yoga.