Around 1500 BC ayurveda was delineated into two distinct ayurveda schools: Atreya—The School of Physicians, and Dhanvantari—The School of Surgeons. Though the knowledge of ayurveda as a holistic alternative medicine was thriving all along in India, the branching out of it into two distinct ayurveda schools gave it a systematic tenor.
The earliest known codified text on ayurveda has been traced to the Atreya Samhita, by sage Atreya. It discussed all aspects of ayurvedic treatment and herbal medicine. Later, his disciple Agnivesa revised it in around 2,000. Thus, the Agnivesa Samhita came into being, which continued to fulfill the need of the physicians of that time. Perhaps, the vast bank of ayurvedic knowledge was segregated into two specialized fields out of a need to conveniently pursue the science of this holistic alternative medicine. Dhanvantari, who is addressed as Bhagwan or God, and considered to be an incarnation lord Vishnu, separated the surgical treatment methods from the existing ayurvedic medical science to establish the School of Surgeons. Later, his famed follower Susruta compiled the most comprehensive treatise on ayurvedic surgery inculcating in it some innovative surgical feats like rhinoplasty including many other varieties of cosmetic surgery.
The method encompassing the internal and external application of herbal medicine came to be known as School of Physicians. The school identified itself with the name of sage Atreya. Charaka had been the best-known follower of this school. The Charaka Samhita is the most referred work on ayurveda especially on internal medicine, till now.
The two schools represent eight branches of ayurvedic medicine or ayurvedic studies that one could specialize on during the ancient times. The three main textbooks were: Charaka Samhita, Susruta Samhita and Astanga Hridaya, known as Bruhattrayee. All of them contain the details of these branches.
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