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History of Ayurveda Natural Medicine in Sri Lanka

The earliest references to Ayurveda medicine in Sri Lanka are associated with a great physician Ravana, a King of Sri Lanka dating back to prehistoric times.

Traditionally, it is believed that Ravana, of Ramayana fame, was well versed in Ayurveda medicine and that he taught Ayurveda to the four tribes, Yaksha, Raksha, Naga, and Vaddas who were nomadic residents of Sri Lanka during his reign.

Ramayana also informs us that King Ravana represented Sri Lanka at a medical symposium at the base of Himalaya in India during his era, and according to Historiography in Sri Lanka, he was the author of the following medicine books of Ayurveda:

Arkaprakasya, Nadivignanaya, Kumarathanthraya and Udishathanthraya.

Sri Lanka has a rich assortment of medicinal plants and spices, of which many are endemic to the country. It is noteworthy to mention that the majority of the plants and spices used in Ayurveda Medicine in Sri Lanka are the same as those used in India Ayurveda.

Dolukanda and Rumassala are believed to be fragments of a part of Himalayas that were carried over to Sri Lanka by the mythical monkey King Hanuman of King Ramayana. Evidence unearthed from prehistoric burial sites speaks of the ancient practices of Ayurveda across Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Madirigiriya and Pomparrippu.

The only structural remains of ancient hospitals that have so far come to light are of those established in the old monasteries of Mihintale, Madirigiriya and Alahana in Polonnaruwa. The identity of those hospitals has been established with the help of inscriptions and discovery of medicine and other equipment.

As referenced in the Mahavamsa and Chulavamsa, many of the ancient kings dedicated their services to the development of Ayurveda medicine in Sri Lanka.

Examples of such practices are King Pandukabhaya (4th Century BC), King Sena (851-885 AD), King Buddhadasa (362-409 AD), and King Datusena (460-478 AD).

As such, ancient Ayurveda evidence reveals that Sri Lanka has inherited a glorious history of indigenous medicine in the country, but it faced setbacks during the late part of the 16th century due to foreign invasions. After that Ayurveda developed independent of the foreign influences, and continues to be practiced as a traditional process, externalized medical institutional education, as well as through parental inheritance.

Examples: Es Vedakama (Ophthalmology) Gedi Vana (Treatment of boils and carbuncle), Sarpavisha (Toxiology), Pissubalu (Hydrophobia), Vidum Pillissum (Burns), Kadum Bidum (Fractures and Dislocation).

At present there are about 16,800 registered Ayurvedic medical officers of which more than 5000 are academically and institutionally qualified doctors available to serve the people and the nation.