Wat Phra Chettuphon's tablets. During his reign (1824-1851), King Rama III ordered all available knowledge to be inscribed on stone slab.
The beginning in India
In the beginning in India, medicine was part of an ascetically based religious movement, a portion of which became know as Buddhism. Medicine evolved with the Sangha and Buddhism monastery, became codified as part of the Buddhist scriptures, gave rise to the monk-healers and provided the basis for subsequent development of Buddhist monastic universities.
The traditional system of ayurvedic medicine owes much of its early systematization, preservation, and subsequent propagation to the ascetic Buddhists and their monastic institution.
Preserved in Thailand
When Buddhism began to spread to other part of Asia, medical institution and practices of the monastery went along as integral parts of the religious system. When Buddhism reached Thailand in the 3rd or 2nd century BC, temples were built with adjacent dispensaries and medical schools.
Massage and other healing arts were taught and applied in the monasteries and within the family. In families it has been mainly an oral tradition (as most people could not read) handed down from teacher to student. The purpose of writing it down as done by the Sangha, was to preserve the medical tradition for the longest possible time and make it available to the maximum number of people of future generations.
It is easily understandable that compassionate monks and nuns would integrate any beneficial medical system to the one brought from India. It is also easy to understand that influence from China and other surrounding countries may have played a significant role in enriching the existing medical system. When one is sick or unwell no helpful method should be disregarded. If it truly help, it is good.
As to where and when Ancient Massage originated precisely, it is difficult to ascertain for sure. A long time has past and many historical evidences have disappeared, for example at the time of the destructive Muslim invasion of Northern India and also at the time of the Burmese invasion of the capital of Ayutthaya in 1767.
Only fragments of the existing precious medical texts survived the Burmese invasion and destruction, which the kind King Rama III in 1832 used as a basis for the famous epigraphs at Phra Chetuphon (Wat Pho) in Bangkok (see photos above).
One thing is for sure, all is the fruit of care, of people striving to alleviate suffering and make other truly comfortable and well.
First to offer materiel well being (cloth, food, shelter, medicine and so forth), second to protect the people from fear (the giving of fearlessness) and third to teach the precious Dharma (the giving of Dharma). These are the three generosity taught by the Buddha.