Materia Medica of Ayurveda (Based On Madanapala's Nighantu)

Item Code: NAG451
Author: Vaidya Bhagwan Dash
Publisher: Health Harmony
Language: English
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788131905197
Pages: 834
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 1 kg
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Book Description

About the Book


This book is a translation of the original work Madanapala nighantu by a king named Madanapala. It was a tradition in olden times that books were named after the kings and the original author remained anonymous. this is one such work and is considered to be one of the gems of Ayurvedic literature. This work has been translated by the reputed scholar Vaidya Bhagwan Dash. It is one of the rare works of Ayurveda which are not available today in any other language other than Sanskrit. The publication of this text was, therefore essential for the benefit of readers looking for original work.


Over 500 ingredients which have medicinal properties have been described in the book. A detailed information has been provided with respect to description of the various elements and products present in the nature like the edible fruits & vegetables, cereals. meat different liquids like water, milk and urine with their medicinal properties. It tells us about the innumerable curative properties which mother nature has in store and how to use them for the benefit for our health and have a better life free form diseases and ailments.

The book is divided into 13 chapters each being classified into various categories depending upon the source.



About the Author


Vaidya Bhagwan Dash. D.A.M.S., H.P.A., M.A. & Ph.D. is a scholar and writer of international repute. He is the former Dy. Adviser (Ayurveda) in the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. Govt. of India. He has written many books on herbal treatment of various disorders which are very popular.




The Madanapala nighantu or commonly known as Madanavinoda occupies an important place in nighantu literature of Ayurveda. Madanapala was the ruler in the 'Tika ('Taka?) dynasty with his capital at kacha (kastha?) situated north of Delhi at the bank of the Yamuna river. The description of certain items like phoga and pheni indicate the probable residence of the author in Rajasthan. He was younger brother of Sahajapala and the son of Sadharana. At the end of the' Madanapala nighantu, in concluding verses, the author has himself given his geneological table as follows :


In the introduction (P.6) of the Madanaparijata; the editor, Pandit Madhusudana Smritiratna, has given the name of Bharapapala as Bhavapala. Additional information is obtained from the Rasaratnadipaka, the work of Ramaraja, the son of Ratnapati, who was in the service of King Sadharana. According to this, Sadharana had three sons the eldest being Laksmanasimha and the youngest Madanapala. Rasaratnadipaka was composed in Saka 1342 (1420 AD.) and the Madana palanighatu in Yikrama Samvat 1431 (1374 A.D.) as stated in the last verse of the text.


Madanapala was a versatile scholar and prolific writer. Besides the Madanapalnnighantu" he composed a number of books on dharmasastra such as Anandasanjivana, Tithinirnayasara, Yantraprakasa, Sudradharmabodhini, Siddhantagarbha and Smrtikaumudi. The king patronised a team of scholars in different subjects who helped him in this pursuit. Madanaparijata was written by Visvesvara Bhatta while Gunakara Kavisvara, the son of Vacaspati, the author of the Atankadarpava Comm. On the Madhavanidana, helped Madanapala in composition of this nighantu.


Madanapala introduced many new and materials drugs such as opium, bhanga; jayapala; kumari; parasika yavani; methika, cauhara, sulemani kharjura, seva, amrtaphala; anjira,' kundalika, pheni etc. And also described the properties of human urine and established the concept of bald catustaya. Thus, in every respect, it constructed the base and paved the way for the Bhavaprakasa nighantu which dominated the field for centuries and is the most popular text of dravya guna even today,


It is heartening to note that such a nighantu text of historical importance has been handled for new edition with English translation by Vaidya Bhagwan Dash, a scholar and writer of international repute, who has made very effort to effect improvements in order to make it more intelligible and popular. I express my thanks to the author and also the publisher to bring this important text to light in new attractive form.




Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India is catering to the health needs of the people of this region since the early days of human civilization. Its importance and significance for the welbeing of the society was recognised and this 'science of health' was treated as one of the upavedas of the Atharva veda (according to some, of the Rk veda). Along with accumulation of human experience, both mundane and spiritual, the science was classified into eight specialised branches, and classics were composed on each of these specialities. It had its ups and downs during different periods of history. To promote its practice for the welfare of humanity, efforts were made periodically to compose new works on different aspects of each of these specialities and thus, texts of Materia Medica as a part of kaya cikitsa (internal medicine) become popular. Madanapala nighantu which was composed during the 14th Century A.D. Is one such effort in this direction. Several prints of this work were published with editing and translations into regional vernaculars.


Important editions of this work are given below:

1. Edited and translated into Hindi by Vaidya Rama Prasada Sarma; published by Laksmi Venkatesvara Press, Bombay in 1910 (Reprint in 1954).

2. Edited and translated into Bengali by Devendra Natha Sena Gupta and Upendra Natha Sena Gupta; published by Sena Gupta, Calcutta, in 1914.

3. Edited by Nanda Kisora Sastri; published at Varanasi in 1919 (3rd edition).

4. Edited and translated into Hindi by Saktidhara Sukla; published by Navala Kisora Press, Lucknow in 1917 (12th edition).

5. Edited and translated into Gujrati by Madana Lala Daulata Rama Sarma; published at Ahamedabad in 1918.

6. With the commentary of Ravidatta, published by Laksmi Venkatesvara Press, Bombay.


Need for Publication


Unfortunately, all the above editions of this work have gone out of print since long and the Sanskrit text, of 'its commentary and translations are not available in the market to Ayurvedic students, teachers and research workers. As it is mentioned in the beginning of this text, at the time of its composition, several other Nighantus or works on Ayurvedic materia medica were prevalent. Some of these texts were in detail, some were in brief and some others included inaccurate descriptions of the synonyms and properties. The present work was composed avoiding unnecessary details, appropriately expanding the brief statements and correcting the inaccurate descriptions. Bringing out an edition of this reputed text was therefore, considered essential.


Critical Edition


The earlier editors of this works, had consulted several manuscripts on this work as it is evident from their editorials but details of these manuscripts and variant readings are not furnished. For them, to bring this work to lime light and to make it available to students and teachers were more important than giving critical notes and variant readings. All these editors were reputed Sanskrit and Ayurvedic scholars. Manuscripts they had, were full of calligraphic corruptions and unauthentic interpolations. Such inaccuracies were, no doubt, corrected by the editors. But the exact nature of original readings is not furnished to facilitate future research work. Therefore, it was found necessary to bring out a critical edition of this work after consulting original manuscripts.

Need for Translation into English


There is a growing interest in the fundamentals and practices of ayurveda among the doctors of Modern medicine and scientists of this country and abroad. Only Sanskrit text or its translations into vernaculars do not help them in appropriate comprehension of the intricacies and deep-meanings embedded in these texts. There- fore, providing an English translation of the text was considered essential. Several works on ayurvedic materia medica are, no doubt, available at present in English. But 'description of ayurvedic drugs in these works are given, for the most part, from the Chemistry, Botany or Pharmacology points of view. For the appropriate appreciation of the therapeutic value of drugs, dietary articles and drinks, it is essential to understand the fundamentals of drug composition and drug action as envisaged in original ayurvedic works. There- fore, instead of a running translation of verses, an attempt has been made in this work to describe the synonyms and properties in a format classified keeping in view the requirements of ayurvedic fundamentals relevant to such work.

English rendering follows the Sanskrit text and Sanskrit name of the ingredient is given in Romanised form at the beginning of each monograph. Along with the name, the botanical or English name of the ingredient is furnished in parenthesis. In case of doubt, such botanical names, etc., are not included. In certain cases, like food preparations, the equivalent terms used in vernacular for these items are furnished.


Along with the main ingredient, at times, synonyms and properties of its various parts and variants are provided. These are printed duely indented.


In the format for English rendering, the following subheadings generally appear:

1. Paryaya (Synonyms);

2. Rasa (Tastes);

3. Virya (Potency)

4. Guna (Attributes);

5. Karma (Action);

6. Prabhava (Specific action);

7. Vipaka (Taste that emerges after digestion); and

8. Amayika prayoga (Therapeutic usage).


At the end of the item, notes, where ever necessary, are given to indicate specific nature of the inqredient which is not appropriately covered under the above mentioned subheadings.




Ayurveda, the science of life, deals with the physical, mental and spiritual health of an individual--human-beings, animals, birds and even plants. According to Indian philosophy, both animals and plants have mind and soul in addition to physique. In some, these are well manifested and in others these are in latent or sublatent states. Therefore, along with commonly known ayurvedic texts for human beings, there are books on gavayurveda dealing with cattle health, asvayurveda dealing with the health of horse, gajayurveda dealing with the health of elephants and vrksayurveda dealing with the health of vegetable kingdom. Ayurveda, in a narrow sense, is also interpreted as the science of medicine. Simple freedom from conspicuous diseases and possession of robust body is not consid- ered as health in ayurveda. Along with the harmony of doses (physi- cal entities governing the body-physiology) and dhatuas (tissue elements composing the anatomical structure), the person should have perspicuousness of the soul, senses and the mind to be called healthy. Thus, ayurveda deals with the signs and symptoms of the happy and unhappy life, and drugs, diet, drinks and other regimens which are useful and harmful for good health. In other words, ayurveda prescribes dos and don'ts for the preservation as well as promotion of positive health, and prevention as weill as cure of diseases.

Unique Features of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a holistic science of health. Apart from the sign and symptoms of the diseases manifested in the affected part of the body, it prescribes measures to ascertain the place of origin of the disease (udbhava sthana) and the channel through which the morbid material has traversed (sancara marga) from the site of origin to the site of manifestation of the disease. Thus, for treatment, it prescribes measures to correct the site of origin and the channels of transportation of the morbid material along with the site of mani- festation of the disease. By doing so, it helps in the complete eradi- cation of the ailment and not only giving mere relief from the agoni- sing signs and symptoms. Apart from the whole body, it emphasises upon correcting the mental abberations which are also considered to be important factors of causing diseases.

Ayurveda recognises the roles of foreign organisms like bacte- ria, virus, etc. in the causation of diseases. Butthese are considered as "secondary causes", the primary cause being the disturbance in theharmony of doses (physical entities responsible for regulating body-physiology) and dhatus (tissue elements constituting the structure' of the body). If these doses and dhatus are in their appropriate state of equilibrium, then these foreign organisms, howsoever virulent they may be, will not be able to multiply or grow to cause a disease. This principle is applied to both the preservation as well as promotion of positive health and prevention as well as cure of diseases. Apart from good conduct (acara rasayana), regimens for different parts of the day and night and for various seasons are prescribed. If a person is unable to follow these instructions because of ignorance or wilful negligence and falls victim to the attacks of organisms or metabolic aberrations, then therapies are prescribed in the form of drugs, diet, drinks, massage, exercise, etc., to restore the harmony of doses and dhatus, and to correct mental perversions. Once the harmony is restored, the invading germs stop growing and succumb to their death in the absence of congenial atmosphere and because of the presence of hostile environment around them.

Thus, ayurvedic therapies, along with correcting the ailment, promote body resistance or immunity against the disease causing organisms. Ingredients of these therapies, before acting, become homologous to the tissues and they do not act as foreign elements. Therefore, instead of side (toxic) reactions, they produce several side benefits inasmuch as the body becomes immune to several other invading organisms.

Dravya Guna (Materia Medica)

As has been stated above, drugs apart, diet, drinks and other regimens are used as therapeutic measures in ayurveda. Thus, in ayurvedic works on materia medica, all these items are described and their properties are elaborated.

In the books on ayurvedic materia medica, durgs, ingredients of food and drinks are classified into several categories. Generally, different methods are followed for such classification in different works and each of these groups is described in separate chapter. These chapters are named after the primary drugs described in the beginning, for example, Abhayadi varga, which is the first chapter of this text. Of each item, in the beginning, synonyms are provided. These synonyms are generally indicative of the botanical character- istics, therapeutic effects, parts of the plant used, place of growth. time of occurrence, local names and other physical features. Due to lack of communication facilities in those days, the same drug was used by different names in different parts of the country and at times, the same name was used for different drugs. All these names were later compiled by scholars and placed in one place to facilitate their recognition and identification. Thereafter, the taste, attributes, potency, vipaka (taste that emerges after digestion), specific action and therapeutic utility are described. In respect of some drugs, their varieties and adverse effects, method of usage, method of prepa- ration, adverse effects produced because of injudicieus usage and precautions are prescribed. To facilitate easy memorisation, these texts are written in Sanskrit verses. Traditional invocations at the beginning and colophons at the end of each chapter are provided. These invocations lead one to judge the sect of Hinduism to which the author belongs. The colophon provides lead to the identity of the author. The purpose of composition is generally indicated in• the beginning of the work. In some works, details on the fundamentals governing the concepts of drug-composition and drug-action are also furnished. But generally the compiler or author of works on materia medica expects the readers to be well acquainted with such fundamentals .

Ayurveda has eight specialised branches as follows:
(1) Kaya cikitsa or Internal medicine;
(2) Satya tantra or Surgery;
(3) Salakya tantra or Management of diseases of Eye & ENT;
(4) 8ala tantra or Paediatrics;
(5) Bhutavidya or Psycho-therapy including Seizures by evil spirits;
(6) Agada tantra or Toxicology;
(7) Rasayana tantra or Geriatrics; and
(8) vajikarana tantra or the Science of aphrodisiacs .



Indo-romanic Equivalents Used for Devanagarixxxix
I.Abhayadi Varga1-131
II.Sunthyadi Varga132-160
III.Karpuradi Varga161-207
IV.Suvarnadi Varga208-233
V.Vatadi Varga234-264
VI.Phala Varga265-315
VII.saka Varga (Vagetables)316-361
VIII.Paniyadi Varga (Drinks)362-443
IX.Iksukadi Varga444-457
XDhanya Varga458-484
XI.Dhanyakrtannadi Varga (Food Preparation)485-532
XII.Mamsa Varga533-578
XIII.Misraka Varga579-614
(Sanskrit Names of Drugs, etc. Described in the Book)615
(Botanical & English Names of Drugs, etc. Described in the Book)655
(Synonyms of Drugs in the Book)688

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