Ayurveda is the ancient life science practiced from time immemorial, throughout the Indian subcontinent. It is known to be even older than 5000 years. From the time of its conception to the modern times, it has developed differently in northern and southern parts of India. The basic principles of the Ayurvedic science remains the same but there are a few key differences between how it is practiced in different parts of India. Lets explore this further.
The key aspect or principle of Ayurveda is dosha. The functioning of the human body is explained by tridoshas i.e Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The different permutation and combination of the three doshas at the time of conception is known as the Prakruti of a person. The balance / imbalance of the quantities of the doshas at any particular time in life of a person is called Vikruti.
It cannot be said that one style is better than the other as the basic principles remain the same, but one general observation that can be made while comparing the two styles is that in the southern region of India, the knowledge of Ayurveda remained untouched and it became more developed over time.
In northern and other parts of India, the science became lost due to muslim invasions and under the British rule. The British government took steps specifically to curb the development and study of Ayurveda in colleges and promoted the western medicine practices. After independence, the study of Ayurveda restarted but most of the knowledge was lost. Due to this reason, it is considered an ‘Alternate’ system of medicine in most of the northern region. Also, the procedures used for treatment are used in conjunction with western testing procedures like X-ray, MRIs etc.
In southern India however, specifically Kerala (which is also known as the land of Ayurveda), it is considered the primary medicine system. Below are a few key differences.
Southern And Kerala Style Ayurveda Practice
- The Kerala or generally southern style of practice is focused on teaching of Rishi Vagabhata in the classical text Asthanga Hridayam. The book focuses equally on all eight branches of Ayurveda i.e Kaya Chikitsa (internal medicine), Bala Chikitsa (Pediatrics), Graha Chikitsa (Psychology), Urdhvaanga Chikitsa (Treatment of diseases of head and neck), Shalya Chikitsa (Surgery), Damstra / Visha Chikitsa (toxicology), Jara Chikitsa (Geriatrics or Rejuvnation), Vrsha Chikitsa (Aphrodisiac therapy).
- Both the styles use panchakarma treatments but Kerala style has more emphasis on different types of massage and oil treatments. Some of these are only practiced in Kerala ayurveda eg. Ksheera Dhuma (milk steam therapy), Thalapothichil (Shirolepa or applying herbal paste on the head for treatment of head and scalp related disorders).
- The southern style medicine preparation method does not use heavy metals in formulations. They use only herb based treatments which can be considered safer option if one is too sceptical.
- The medicated oil preparations in southern style use sesame oil as well coconut oil. Since coconuts grow in the south, there is a high availability of coconut oil. For ever thailam preparation, you also find a subsequent kerathailam (kera means coconut) preparation which is not found in the northern preparations. They also have some original unique oil preparations like Kuzhambu which is a combination of sesame oil, castor oil and ghee.
Northern Style Ayurveda / Mainstream Ayurveda Practice
- The mainstream practice is focused on teaching of Acharya Charka and Sushruta with reference from the most classical books called Akara granthas aka Charka Samhita which emphasises greatly on Kayachikitsa (Internal medicine) and Sushruta Samhita which emphasises mainly on Shalya chikitsa which is surgery. Akara granthas mean that they are original piece of work by an author.
- More emphasis is given on the panchakarma therapies like vamana (theraputic vomiting), virechana (purgation), basti (enema), nasya (nasal cleansing therapy), rakta moksha (blood purifying).
- Some ayurvedic medicines prepared in the northern part of India are known to contain heavy metals or ‘bhasmas’ eg. lead, mercury and arsensic. The preparation of the medicines is done in a controlled quantity and it is made sure that the metals are highly purified so as to not cause any heavy metal toxicity. The medicine preparation is based on Rasa Shastra which is an entire sub science within Ayurveda. Due to the use of heavy metals, these preparations don’t stay away in controversy in the modern times.
- The medicated oil preparations used in the mainstream system mostly have sesame oil as their base.
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