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Asva Sastram: An Illustrated Book of Equinology (Ancient Indian Science of Horses)

Item Code: NAD071
Author: Dr. Sandeep Joshi
Publisher: Rajasthan Sanskrit University
Edition: 2008
Pages: 315 (Throughout in Color) Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.5 inch X 9.0 inch
Weight 1.38 kg
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Book Description
From the Jacket

This volume is based on an illustrated Sanskrit manuscript of the Asvasastra (Science of Horses) which is a brief compendium of some important facets of equinology based on the works of ancient Indian equinologists like Salihotra, Nakula Garga, Gana Etc.

The Asvasastra extensively deals with various interesting and scientific aspects of horses like anatomy characteristics of horses their color neighing smell, shade, gait, defects breeds, age, evils that may befall, their prevention and remedial measures etc.

This work by an anonymous author variously described in different manuscripts as Nakula or Gana is written in chaste and succinct style pure and undefiled Sanskrit. It is supplemented by extraordinary captivating and accurate colored pictures of horses to illustrate their scientific description contained in the work.

This volume contains an exhaustive introduction the original Sanskrit text with 235 illustrations and subtitles in English followed by translation in English and Hindi.


About the Author

Dr. Sandeep Joshi obtained his Ph.D. from Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha tirupati (A.P) in 2005 on the Topic A Study of Zoological Aspects in Sanskrit literature.

He is serving as Assistant professor in the research centre of Jagadguru Ramanadacharya Rajasthan Sanskrit University Jaipur Since 2006. His Articles have been published in several prestigious journals.



One of the important aims of our University is to propagate the scientific heritage of India. To achieve this, the University is planning to bring out critical editions of ancient scientific Sanskrit texts with critical introduction, translations, illustrations and notes in English and Hindi. It is also planning to publish subject-wise reading material which can also be prescribed as a text book in UG and PG courses. The University is also planning to try to substantiate the scientific findings available in the Vedas and in other Sanskrit literature applying the modern technical experiments.

The present work in Asvasästra is a brief compendium of the works of SãIihotra, Susruta, Garga etc. This is not just a praise of horses, but it deals with all the aspects related to horses, such as anatomy, characteristics, age, regional dimension, good and bad omens, colors, neighing, smell, shade etc. As such this is a part of Veterinary science, which was famous, well known and practiced by people from the Puranic age.

This publication is based on a Manuscript available in Srivenkateswara University, Oriental Research Institute, Tirupati. The specialty of the Manuscript is that the descriptions which are given in the text in Sloka style, are picturaised in multi colour. There are 235 colour pictures in the paper Manuscript, which contains 25 chapters and around 650 Slokas. The Manuscript is more than two hundred years old, it is preserved in good condition.

Though once in 1952 the book was published on the basis of a manuscript available in Tanjore Saraswati Mahal Manuscripts Library, with 25 colour pictures, that was not a complete version. The present Manuscript is having 100 verses and 2 chapters extra, than the published one.

To bring this scientific literature into public, not just publishing the work, as it is available is not sufficient. In addition to the text (critically edited) the publication should have a good introduction about the subject in English and or Hindi, and also translation of the Sanskrit text in Hindi and English. An attempt is made in this direction by our university and we are very glad to bring the publication with a good introduction in English, critically edited text in Sanskrit with English subtitles in each page, with colour pictures, and translation of the text in English & Hindi.

First, I have to congratulate the young scholar, Asst. Professor in Research & Publication Dr. Sandeep Joshi, who prepared the work for publication and worked hard day & night to bring out this publication in the proposed manner. He himself brought the Manuscript from Tirupati, and improved the faded colour pictures of the Manuscript in good condition, using the modern Technology. He also wrote a good introduction to the book as well as translation of the work in English and Hindi. Many scholars of our University and outside have helped the publication giving suggestions, reviewing and correcting the translation work. Hence, I thank everybody, who is instrumental in brining the publication. My best wishes are to Dr. Sandeep Joshi, who made a Miracle in publication of Sanskrit works. I hope he will certainly bring out this kind of unpublished works in to public in future.

My Sincere thanks to the officials of S.V.U.O.R.I Tirupati in general and to Sri Dr. V.V Ramana Reddy Director and to Shri Gynana Prakash Naidu, Curator, without whole help this would not have happened.



Horses and cow are two animals which have been occupying the most important palace in Sanskrit Literature right from the Vedic times. The Vedic Literature uses horses as an object of comparison. For examples it has been compared with Agni on account of its brilliance (Rgveda 3.29.6.). Again it has been compared with Agni because of its power of consumption (Rgveda 6.3.4.). Asvins are said to have a seat on the earth which is like the back of a horse (Rgveda 7.70.1.). Horse’s loud neighing has been compared to the sound produced by Sonia juice while it passes through the sieve (Rgveda 9.64.3.). In fact we can go on mentioning the references in the Vedic Literature where the horses have been mentioned in association with Vedic Devas.

The word Mt-a meaning horses has been derived from the root Aá which means to pervade. This perhaps refers to the swiftness of the speed of the Horses. Another meaning could be all pervasiveness. This could be the basis of identifying horse with Prajäpati (Taittariyasarnhutã 3.9.2 1.4). The idea that the horses have wings should have its origin in the fact that the Vedas mention the horses of Maruta and Surya also. These atmospheric and celestial horses are associated with its qualities. For example white horse is considered to be excellent and famous, where as the brown horses compared with dices, representing evil. In the Veda horse is not only an animal but a symbol of secret knowledge also. Dadhyn imparted the knowledge of Mt/ins through the head of horse. All this goes to prove the importance that has been given to the horse as an animal and as a symbol. Scholars like Dr. V.S. Agrwal consider horse to be symbolic of centrifugal movement and cow as centripetal movement.

In the medieval times horses proved to be the most intimate friend of the warrior class. Its faithfulness to its master became legendry. The story Cetaka is still a living legend.

The statue of a horse across ditch around the port of Agra tells us a telling story of how a faithful horse could endanger its own life to save the life of its master Amar Singh Rathor, another picture of a horse on which Veer Durga Das Rathor is sitting and cooking the bread in fire with the help of a spear underlies the importance of a horse for a warrior in the medieval period.

It is, therefore, no wonder that illustrated book of equenology should have been prepared in Sanskrit counting praise of horses, anatomy of horses, characteristics of horses, Averts, Pundras, colour, neighing of horses, shade of horses, tort of horses, character of horses, detects and age of horses, life of horses, training of horses etc.

Every verse of this work has been illustrated colorfully by some unknown artist. The book was published earlier in 1952 only with 21 illustrations. Now fortunately a manuscript has been found in Tirupati which contains 235 illustrations, Dr. Sandeep Joshi, a young scholar, has taken great pains in editing this book providing subtitle in English on each and every page of the text and also translating the text in Hindi and English so as to make it comprehensible to wider readership. Dr. Sandeep Joshi is specially competent to do the job because he has earlier done research for Ph.D degree on “A study zoological Aspects in Sanskrit Literature.

This book is a piece of both art and science. I am confident that it will prove to be a welcome edition to the kindred literature and find its readers not only at national level but at international level also. It is a matter of great satisfaction that Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Rajsthan Sanskrit University under the able guidance of its Vice-Chancellor Prof. K.V. Ramkrishenmacharya has been able to publish works of great merit during a very short period.

The present work is an out standing example of how an illustrated manuscript could be beautifully edited for which the credit goes to its editor Dr. Sandeep Joshi.



The importance of horses was widely recognized in Ancient India. References to horses are found in many places in Sanskrit literature. The Vedas, Upanisads, Brahmanas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, Brahatsamhita, Yuktikalpataru, Mrgapaksisastra etc. have mention of horses various contexts.

In Sanskrit literature there are many works like Hayayurveda of Salihota, Asvasastram of Nakula, Asvavaidyaka of Jayadatta Asvacikitsa of Vabada son of Vikrama Asvapariksana of Nalaraja, Asvalaksana of Brhaspati avasanti of Narada Asvayuvedasarasindhu of Vaisampayana etc. which deal with horses and provide great details regarding their birth and breed their class and color their merits and demerits and such information which was required for their efficient maintenance.

Medical care of the horses relatively speaking was in a much more advanced stage in ancient India than it is nowadays. Horses were cared for because they were of paramount importance to the individual the society and the king in times of peace as well as in times of war. In the battle fields many a time victory depended upon the superior were sometimes well versed in veterinary sciences. King Nala had a surname Asvavid i.e. one who is well verses in the science and care of horses. Nakula and Sahadeva the twin sons of Madri were taught by drona the art of curing, training and managing horses and cattle. To Nakula is ascribed the work called asvacikitsa. Which is still extant. During those days physicians treating human being were also trained in the care of animals. Ayurvedic medical treatises like Caraka Susruta and Haritasamhita contain chapters or references about care of the diseased and normal healthy animals. There were however physicians who specialized only in the care of animals or even one class of animals. The greatest of them all was salihotra the father of Veternary science.




  Foreword xi
  Prologue xiii
  Preface xvi
  Opinion xvii
  Introduction xx
  Acknowledgements xxxxv
  Scheme of Transliteration xxxxvi
  Abbreviation xxxxvii
1 Vajiprasamsadhyayah 1
2 Paksacchedakatha 8
3 Raivatastotram 17
4 Pradesadhyayah 18
5 Angalaksanaprakaradhyaya 21
6 Avartadhyayah 23
7 Sarvangalaksanam 47
8 Misritalaksanadhyayah 50
9 Pundralaksanadhyayah 73
10 Puspalaksanam 76
11 Hesitalaksanam 82
12 Gandhalaksanam 86
13 Chayalaksanam 88
14 Gatilaksanam 90
15 Sattvalaksanam 91
16 Mahadosadhyayah 96
17 Talurangadhyayah 113
18 Kulalaksanadhyayah 115
19 Vayojnanam 136
20 Vamadhyayah 144
21 Rajavahadhyayah 149
22 Ayurlaksanadhyayah 165
23 Utpataprakaranadhyayah 170
24 Vahanasiksadhyayah 173
25 Dharadhyayah 176
26 Arohavidhanadhyayah 177
  English Translation 181
  Hindi Translation 231

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