Glossary of Vegetable Drugs in Brhattrayi

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Item Code: NAK808
Author: Thakur Balwant Singh
Publisher: Chaukhamba Amarabharati Prakashan
Language: Hindi and English
Edition: 2018
Pages: 568
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 570 gm
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Book Description



The problem of identification of the medicinal plants mentioned by the authors of the three great Samhitas, collectively called Brhattrayi , has not been solved satisfactorily in case of a sizeable number of plants.


This challenge has been taken up, with laudable success, by Thakur Balwant Singh and Dr. K. C. Chunekar, in their excellent work, "Glossary of Vegetable Drugs in Brhattrayi;"


The senior author, Thakur Balwant Singh, is an eminent Ayurvedic botanist of India and accepted as a leading authority on the subject. His knowledge of Indian medicinal plants is not likely to be excelled by that of any other worker in the field, at least to my knowledge.


It will hardly be fair to the work to regard it as a mere glossary of the plants for, the text is full of lengthy and fruitful discussions on a large number of important items which have evaded correct identification for a long time.


Apart from its utility to the average reader, seeking information on Ayurvedic plants, the publication will become an authentic book of reference of abiding value to the future research workers in the field.


The academic circles will welcome the publication and be greatly beholden to the authors for enriching the Ayurvedic literature with a treatise of great practical utility and scientific value.




The book in hand presents an alphabetical list of all the Sanskrit names of the food and drug plants mentioned in Brhattrayi i.e. Caraka Samhita (C. S.), Susruta Samhita ( S. S.) and Astangahrdaya Samhita (A. H.) of Vagbhata together with their references in them. Appropriate Latin (botanical) names of non-controversial source plants have been incorporated in the head-line, while the dotanical identities of others have been critically discussed. The discussions are based on the informations collected from the commentaries of Dalhana, Cakrapani and the Hrdayadipaka of Bopadeva. They have been supplemented here and there by the informations contained in Dhanvantarinighantu, Rajanigbantu and those of Madanapala, Kaiyadeva and Bhavamisra, It is regretted that the treatment could not be made more broad-based by more useful and reliable informations likely to be furnished by the older Samhita commentaries and other extant documents on the subject. This lapse was tried to be made good by recourse to field study of drug plants and it is felt that this adventurous programme initiated by the senior author about four decades back has paid us good dividends.


The field work was conducted in the selected forest areas of Uttar Pradesha and Bihar and in certain areas of Kashmir, Kangra, Darjeeling, Gauhati, Shillong, Amarakantaka and Panchmarhi (M. P.) and Nagpur. The results of the first two decades were published in two small Hindi books-e'Vanausadhi Darsika ( 1948) and Bihar-ki-Vanaspatiyan (1955) and some of them were incorporated in the commentary on Bhavaprakasa Nighantu ( 1969). The present book sums up the result of our entire work in respect of the identification of Samhita plants.


In order to make it possible for the readers to get an idea, at a glance, of our success in our venture, a list is given here of our conclusions which may be called only tentative in many cases. They are none-the-less fruitful suggestions for future workers and the present day scholars who may be earnestly requested to seek their confirmation or otherwise laying aside their prejudices. It may be noted that somi of our views expressed earlier in the two books referred to here in the list as 'V' ( Vanausadhi Darsika ) and 'B' (Bihar-ki-Vanaspatiyan) have been revised here in the present book (referred to as 'G' ) as more and more informations came to our hand after reference to the Samhitas and their commentaries available to us.


This list is not exhaustive as regards the total number of fresh suggestions made in the book. It excludes especially those pertaining to some of the so-called divine drugs and the poisonous plants mentioned by Caraka and Susruta, It is also exclusive of hints on possible identities of plants implied by certain intriguing drug names such as Guha and Atiguha-which have now been accepted as synonyms of well known plants which may have been used as their substitutes when the identities of the originals were forgotten.


Number of plant drugs:

As regards the total number of drug plants mentioned in the three Samhitas, it appears, on a rough estimate, that it lies somewhere between six and seven hundred or it may be about six hundred if the unidentified food grains, divine drugs and vegetable poisons are excluded including, of course, the food-cum-drug plants and some of the drastic poisons accepted for use after some treatment. The number of the Sanskrit names (excluding their derivatives) are about nineteen hundred out of which, on a rough counting, about 670 are common to all the three texts and about 240, 370, and 240 have been exclusively mentioned only in C. S., S. S. and A. H. respectively. The names common to only two of them are about 90 ( C. S. & S. S.), 100 (C. S. & A. H. ) and 140 ( S. S. & A. H.). Thus the total number of the Sanskrit names are about 1270, 1100 and 1150 in S. S., C. S. and A. H. respectively. Their numerical superiority in S. S. indicates that a much larger number of plants were known and used by Susruta. While that in A. H. over C. S. may be explained by the fact that Vagbhata borrowed freely from both to make his treatise more comprehensive and practical, although with the same object in view he dropped most of the divine drug plants and the vegetable poisons from his preview.


The natural follow-up step after this analysis should be to assess the actual size of the drug stock in each of the Samhitas and to determine the pace of its enrichment or depletion as time advanced. There are insurmountable difficulties in the achievement of this object. Although the chronological priorities or the order of their appearance are more or less established, the present day editions of the two parent Samhitas are not what they were at their first appearance.


These treatises, coming as they are from manuscripts, passed through the hands of the transmuters and transmitters. It is, therefore, difficult to believe that the work of these intermediaries escaped the impact, at each hand, of the historical developments in this sphere of their times. Ours is a study of the plant names and there is sufficient ground to suspect that the plant names or the proper names in general must have suffered the greatest casualities. When there is sufficient controversy regarding the correct names of the authors during this period, what to say about the possible corruption of plant names. Besides this, the combined authorship of the present day Samhitas is accepted on all hands. It is said that at least the last one third of the Caraka Samhita has been completed by Drdhabala and the Uttarasthana of the Susruta Samhita is a later addition. Astanga Hrdaya, on the other hand, is an abridgement of the Astanga Samgraha by the same or a different author. Thus, the first two and the third also to some extent cannot be expected to represent faithfully the times of their coming into existence. It appears, therefore, impossible to pinpoint the exact time of entry of a plant and its subsequent status as a drug or its elimination, and it is not known if any body has ever attempted to do so. This kind of study in itself is an important and independent one and may be left for those more competent and resourceful to take it up.


The hurdles in the way of identification:


The many fold hurdles were created mainly due to gradual loss of contact with plants in their natural abode. The absence of a workable morphological description of plants, use of only a few multivocal descriptive terms both old and newly coined, and their indiscriminate use by the Nighantu writers during the last few centuries went on making confusion more confounded.


In the literary sphere the lexicons and the Nighantus sprang up which, while referring to a plant refer to more than one or rather many which were used as substitutes at different times and in different areas due to unavailability or ignorance of the originals. It is felt that with gradual obliteration of identities the practice of substitution continued unabated and the treatment of both the substituted and substitutes under the same name or names was the result. This practice ultimately resulted in complete merger of some important unidentified items with partially similar but different well-known plants. An instance of this nature was detected in the merger of Tilaka and Tilvaka with Lodhra and cases of similar nature were found to exist in case of Murvli and Asvakhuraka, Other similar cases of merger are suspected in Nighantu description of Aragvadha, Tagara, Balaka etc. where some of the so called synonyms may have originally been the names of altogether different drug items. We find the same practice in many modern books on the subject. The authors give big lists of regional or vernacular names of different languages under a particular item, which are copied from previous publications without actual verification and some of which are found on enquiry to be the names of substitutes and adulterants rather than of those being actually described. All these misguided practices have produced a large number of multivocal drug names which are the greatest hurdles.


The difficulties of the pharmacist to get supplies of genuine material from the drug-dealers were still greater. The complete dependence of the Vaidya community on these unscrupulous intermediaries without their own capacity of distinguishing between the real and the fake gave a boost to the profiteering motives of the former and the drug markets continued being flooded with useless adulterants.


The aids:

The aids made use of by us were usually, self organised and self acquired. Recourse to field-study,' A careful scrutiny of the regional names reveals that many of them are only distorted forms of old Sanskrit names. It has been found true both for civilized and' tribal areas. The tribal population is rather more informative in the case of purel, drug plants as regards their names and uses which they have inherited from their forefathers. It is, therefore, reasonable to believe that if their informations are true for non-controversial drug-sources, they should also be useful for controversial ones or for those whose identity is completely lost. This belief is more than justified when we find that most of our conclusions are based on field data of similar nature. Certain popular or Sanskrit names mentioned by the commentators have also been investigated successfully by this method. It is a study of this kind which has enabled Mr. Wasson to discover the Soma plant of the Rgveda and there may be no reason to dispair of in case of the unknown plants of the Vedas and the Samhitas. Our own experience has convinced us that if this work is taken up in a missionary spirit with necessary zeal supported by necessary equipment and proper facilities much still can be achieved. It should be remembered that our Sage-investigators built a magnificent edifice of vegetable materia medica by door to-door enquiry from the forest dwellers which meant compilation of human experiences about their natural plant associates since they came in each others contact i.e., since the origin of man on this planet. It appears that the It is after further examination and cultivation of all this crude knowledge, by their creative ability laid the foundation of the Ayurvedic science and formulated the principles and practical methods for the application of this science. But it appears that not much after this, gradual loss of contact with nature reversed the process of further enrichment and brought in an era of continued depletion of the original stock.











Notes on the use of this glossary



The glossary order of the Nagari letters with their

indo-romanic equivalents









Index of Latin and English names



General index of Sanskrit and other Indian names



List of Books and Journals referred to









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