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Ayurveda and the Vedic Age (Pre-1500 BCE)


The Vedic Age refers to the time period of the writing of the Vedas and the later related texts that include the Upanishads, Aranyakas and Brahmanas. All of these writings preceded the time of Krishna. The Upanishads reinterpreted the philosophical aspects of the Vedas, updating the language for the time, adding order and organization, and expounding upon many concepts now familiar to those who study Yoga, including the ideas of Self-realization, karma and reincarnation. The Aranyakas are texts that were used by those who left society to dwell in the forest. The Brahmanas are ritualistic texts used by priests who served the Aryan kings. The Upanishads, Aranyakas and Brahmanas overlap a great deal in their knowledge as they stem from the Vedas. Each developed the knowledge differently for use by different groups. 

The oldest writings of Vedic knowledge are called the "Vedas" which means knowledge. These are also the oldest known writings in the world. Contained within these writings are the roots of India’s philosophical and spiritual traditions, as well as its medical system. While Ayurveda is not one of the major books of the Vedas, it is considered an upaveda or secondary book of knowledge, whose roots flow most directly from knowledge contained in the Atharva Veda. 

There are four Vedas, called the Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, Sama Veda and Yajur Veda. The person credited with writing or compiling the Vedas is Veda Vyasa. However, Veda Vyasa is a title and not a true name. The title refers to one who has divided up the Vedas for the purposes of organizing and explaining them. There have been 28 Veda Vyasas throughout the ages and the 18th was the Rishi, Krishna Dwaipayana. He is credited as the author. However, he did not exactly write them down. There was little writing at that time. He compiled, organized and passed down the knowledge through an oral tradition. He is credited with many classical writings including the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas. However, few believe that he is responsible for all of the writings, as they took place over thousands of years. Some Hindus consider him to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Others see him as an enlightened being. Historians believe that he lived sometime between 2000-3000 BCE. 

Of all the Vedas, the Rig Veda is the oldest and all other writings are based upon the knowledge contained in this compilation. The age of the Rig Veda is difficult to determine and scholars disagree. A common approximation given by historians is 1500 BCE. The actual hymns themselves are older than the written record and thus, it is commonly stated that the Vedas date back 5-10,000 years or as far back as 8000 BCE. David Frawley, in his book, "From the River of Heaven,” states that "many great yogis and scholars, who understand astronomical references in the hymns, date the Rig Veda as before 4000 BCE, perhaps as early as 12,000 BCE.”  

~ Excerpt from “Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine,” by Dr. Marc Halpern, Founder of the California College of Ayurveda