Only in that sense Ayurveda can be said to have a beginning. Otherwise it is as beginning-less as life itself and runs parallel to it through all time. First documentation of Ayurveda is found in the Vedas, the world’s oldest existing literature. The exact period of Vedas is also not known because for an unknown period, the Vedic sciences have been communicated from generation to generation through verbal means. However historians believe that the period of documented literature falls between 2000 BC to 1000 BC. This was the period of sincere investigations, observations, and conclusions at higher conscious level by enlightened scholars and then to communicate them to suitable deserving disciples.
At the end of the Vedic period the progressive establishment of scientific Ayurveda began. There were conferences of Rishis, to discuss and exchange their experiences which they have made through sensory as well as extrasensory perceptions, finally to establish a well accepted principle scientifically. Minutes of these congresses are compiled in the form of Samhitas. Those are basis of Ayurvedic learnings and practice even today. Carakasamhita, Susruta samhita and Astangahrdaya are the most important and popular among these samhitas, those are compiled approximately between 1500 BC to 500 AD. In these texts all eight clinical branches of Ayurveda are described together with its fundamental principles.
3rd century onward, Ayurveda enjoyed a big revolution in the form of origin of Rasashastra (Alchemy). Use of mercury and several other minerals came in to practice. These have been used after certain difficult processing. Medicaments prepared through these techniques had several advantages over earlier ways of treatments. These have been fast but safe in action and much effective in very small doses. Even today these medicaments have very special place in Ayurvedic medical practice and often show miraculous results in difficult situations. In 16th Century, Paracelsus, practiced and propagated this system in Europe. This progress continued until the establishment of British rule in India. With the establishment of the British rule, the flow of western culture, science and medicine began. Patronized by the government, it put off all chances of development and evolution for the Indian sciences. Western medical education became dominant. At Government level, Ayurveda became a second-class option. However it has always been a primary health care system for more than eighty percent of the population, practiced traditionally in the families. In the latter days of British rule, Ayurveda had drawn the attention of the scholars in the country as well as abroad. Indologists of the west became interested in Ayurveda together with other sciences and philosophies documented in Sanskrit language. Same time a strong feeling for renaissance of Indian sciences grew with a patriotic and nationalistic spirit as part of India’s freedom movement. As a result establishment of Ayurvedic Institutes and publication of books took place, however with a very slow pace and mostly without a Government support.