Sri Lanka is a country with a very old civilization and
Ayurveda has been a widely practiced medical system through out the ages.
Deshiya Chikitsa 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 Deshiya Chikitsa became fused with Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is considered to have been formally handed over to Sri Lanka during the 3rd century BC
with the introduction of Buddhism from North India during the period of King
Devanampiyatissa (247-207 BC). Since then it has merged with the indigenous system of
medicine that prevailed in Sri Lanka, and has been enhanced, praticed and preserved in an
unbroken tradition up to today. Historical records show that there has been an exchange of
information on Ayurveda between India and Sri Lanka long before its formal introduction.
Sri Lanka's written history begins with the story of the arrival
of King Vijaya around 537 BC. The stories connected to his settlements
have continued as history and legend for over 2500 years. However
during the prehistoric era, Sri Lanka had a well-developed civilization
in comparison to other countries in the world. Agriculture, architecture,
irrigation, and the medical system were well developed at that
time. In addition it is believed that they had means/ facilities
of traveling through air. These vehicles were called Dandu Monara
Yantraya. During this period the Emperor Maha Bali, Tharaka and
Rawana ruled Sri Lanka. They ruled some parts of India as well.
Pulasthi Rishi, the son of the Emperor Tharaka and father of the Emperor Rawana lived about
4400 years ago in Sri Lanka. He is known to have been a skilled physician. Historical Indian
Ayurveda texts mention that Pulasthi Rishi participated in the 1st conference of Rishis
(seekers of knowledge) held in the Himalaya Kingdom (India) and that he was from Sri Lanka.
Son of Pulasthi Rishi, the Emperor Rawana ruled Sri Lanka around 4394 years ago. He was also
a physician and is said to have written 3 Ayurveda medical books. They are named as Arka
prakashaya, Kumaratantraya, Nadi prakashaya. He was also the inventor of the distillation
When King Vijaya came to Sri Lanka (547 BC) with his people, he is said to have brought
along some Ayurveda medicine as well. It was however, during the period of King
Devanampiyatissa (247 BC) that Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka and with it, Ayurveda.
King Devanampiyatissa established a hospital for the Buddhist
monks at Mihintale. That was the 1st hospital in Sri Lanka and
it is one of the oldest hospitals to date, in the world. Even
today the ruins of this hospital can be seen. The 1st book
on Ayurveda in Sri Lanka is the Sarartha Sangrahaya, which was
composed by King Buddhadasa (362 - 409 AD). It contains a detailed
account of the preparation of drugs, diagnosis, treatment of diseases,
and Ayurveda surgery. King Buddhadasa was a famed Ayurveda physician
and surgeon. Later Buddhist monks practiced Ayurveda and wrote
several books and promoted Ayurveda in Sri Lanka.
Ayurveda and Buddhism are two interlinked philosophies that Sri
Lanka received from the India. While Buddhism ceased
to be a major influence in India, the roots of Buddhism were firmly
planted in Sri Lanka, where it was preserved and continued to thrive,
along with the practice of Ayurveda.
At the beginning set Ayurveda was preserved through the oral tradition
of memorizing the body of principles and prescriptions. These
principles and prescriptions were handed down from one generation
to another. In order to make it easier to memorize, the principles
and prescriptions were in rhyme (Stazas) called "Sloka". It was
subsequently codified (written down), first in Sanskrit language.
"Charaka Sauhita" is a popular text on Ayurveda and is now available
in several languages such as Sinhala and English.