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In the past, people in Sri Lanka lived very simple lives. When they were sick they relied entirely on the village’s Weda Mahattaya (Traditional Ayurveda doctor). His is not just a means of treatment, but rather a philosophy. It was an art that is mastered with care, and a right that is earned under the guidance of a master. For most of these Veda Mahattayas, Ayurveda was a family inheritance which was learnt under the watchful eye of a senior Veda Mahattaya.
The Ayurvedic medical system is one that encompasses Sinhala traditional medicine and the Ayurveda systems of India. These teachings were handed down for over 3000 years by physicians, and King Buddhadasa (4th Century AD), the most influential of these physicians who wrote the ‘Sarartha Sangrahaya’, a comprehensive Ayurvedic manuscript.
In this modern day, more often we see that when the traditional Veda Mahatthaya passes away, so does his knowledge. His children either become doctors in Western medicine or move on to other professions.
The positive thing is the Institute of Indigenous Medicine (IIM) of the University of Colombo, offer courses in Ayurveda, Unani and the Indigenous System of Medicine (Sri Lankan Traditional Medicine) at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The college of Ayurveda was first started in Sri Lanka, subsequently upgraded and affiliated to the University of Colombo in the year 1977 as the Institute of Indigenous Medicine.
Ayurveda enthusiasts in Sri Lanka are able to study for and get a Bachelor’s Degree in Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS), which is a 5 year degree programme including a 1 year internship. In Sri Lanka, only the University of Kelaniya (Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Institute) and the University of Colombo (Institute of Indigenous Medicine) offer this degree.
In Sri Lanka, the BAMS degree offers Ayurveda subjects, modern medicine subjects, language subjects, Sri Lankan traditional medicine and supplementary subjects.
Some of the topics covered in these programmes include the following:
• Basic principles of Ayurveda, with Philosophy and Logic
• Human anatomy & physiology in Ayurveda
• Action of Ayurveda drugs and identifying herbs with Botany
• Community medicine
• Toxicology in Ayurveda
• Chemical drug preparation
• Some astrology (mainly for idiopathic causes)
• Gynecology, Obstetrics & Pediatrics
• Sri Lankan traditional medicine
All the Ayurveda degree level subjects are offered with a comparative study of modern science and modern medicine such as Pathology, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Pharmacology, Medical Biochemistry and Medicine.
If you are interested in Ayurveda, there are many Ayurveda Retreats in Sri Lanka that will provide holistic ayurveda experiences, including accommodation and ayurveda treatments by qualified doctors and practitioners.