Birds In Sanskrit Literature

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From the Jacket: In his monumental research in ancient Sanskrit literature, the author has restored gaps in lexicons, and removed doubts in the later Sanskrit works about the identity of a very large number of birds of the Indian sub-continent. The ancient sages of India were great lovers of nature, with keen powers of observations and an extraordinary sensitivity about animal behaviors. The Vedas, Puranas, Epics and Samhitas are full of descriptions of birds, animals and plants, but the ...

From the Jacket:

In his monumental research in ancient Sanskrit literature, the author has restored gaps in lexicons, and removed doubts in the later Sanskrit works about the identity of a very large number of birds of the Indian sub-continent. The ancient sages of India were great lovers of nature, with keen powers of observations and an extraordinary sensitivity about animal behaviors. The Vedas, Puranas, Epics and Samhitas are full of descriptions of birds, animals and plants, but the exact identification of names had got lost or confounded over the centuries.

Acharya V.M. Apte, the great Sanskrit scholar described this contribution of the author in the following words: "It will be a study-the fascination of which will be matched only by its utility. Scholars intellectually constituted with a purely theoretical bias and studying Nature not in the open but through books, have not a leg to stand on in this field and we will feel highly indebted to a scholar who introduces the ancient (and also modern, because surviving still) Birds in Vedic and Classical Sanskrit Literature to us in such a way as to make us feel that we can actually admire their colourful plumage and appreciate the effusions of their vocal chords."

This book fills a void in Sanskrit literature, and should prove useful not only to scholars, but also to researchers who may be inspired by it to delve deeper into Sanskrit texts and ancient Indian culture.

About the Author:

K.N. Dave, was born in 1884 in Panna, then a princely State and now in Madhya Pradesh. He had his schooling in Sagar and took the B.Sc. degree from Allahabad; then he taught Chemistry at St. John's College, Agra, simultaneously studying Law. He practised at the Bar, served as a Civil Judge in C.P. and Berar, and later joined the newly created Income Tax Department, retiring as an Assistant Commissioner in 1940. After Independence, he was a Member of the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission from 1948 to 1953.

Dave had a keen interest in Indian literature since 1904, and in Nature Study from a very early age. Birds and bird behaviors fascinated him ever since he started keeping birds as pets, a hobby he continued throughout his life. An expert ornithologist, and a scholar of eminence in the Vedas, Puranas and classical Sanskrit works, Dave devoted nearly two decades to systematic research with a view to ture by relating the details of their habitat, coloration and various characteristics to modern scientific observations, and to the names current in Hindi and other languages and dialects of the country.

At the time of his death in November, 1983, the author was working on a further major research contribution on "The Mystic Cult of Honeyed Soma and Symbolic Victims of the Veda". It is a matter for deep regret that he could not live to complete that work. However, it is hoped that a brief monograph prepared by him earlier will soon be made available to scholars who may wish to delve deep into the Vedic mysticism uncovered by Dave.

Excerpts from Reviews:

"This splendid book is a study of many of the bird names found in Sanskrit literature, from the ancient books of the Rig Veda, and the classical epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana to the ancient lore of the Puranas and on through the works of later Sanskrit literature: didactic fables, ethical poetry and then the literature in the Prakrits and Pali. K.N. Dave covers considerable ground and he covers it in a way that will keep the attention of those who enjoy ornithological studies, as well as those who have a general interest in Indian and Eastern literature."

- John A.C. Greppin, Times Literery Supplement, 27, Dec. 1985

The author clearly scoured the Sanskrit literature for bird references, and this makes the book an excellent starting point for a real ornithologist to tackle the issue, with the help of a translator. As it stands it is useful in understanding how the ancient writers saw and classified birds, but would have been more helpful if the author had made some attempt to date the works to which he refers (though dating texts is a very contentious issue amongst Sanskritists). Too little attention has been paid to the likelihood of names transferring from species to species through time, though the author was clearly aware of the very northern, even outside-Indian, bias of the very earliest writings (the Vedas). Compared to analyses of other ancient texts, notably the Bible and ancient Egyptian material, this book, though substantial, is ornithologically disappointing, but is a mine of fascinating folklore.

- Anthony Cheke, Journals of British Ornithologists Union



  Introduction ix
  Works Read/Consulted xvii
  List of Colour Plates xxi
1. Crows and Their Allies 1
  A. Ravens and Crows 1
  B. Choughs 9
  C. Nutcrackers 11
  D. Magpies 11
  E. Jays and Rollers 15
2. Tits 21
3. Parrot-bills and Suthoras 23
4. Nuthatches 24
5. Laughing Thrushes & Babblers 28
  A. Birds equal in size to or large than the common Myna 28
  B. Birds of the size of a Sparrow 31
6. Bulbuls 34
7. Tree creepers 40
8. Wrens 42
9. Dippers 43
10. The Thrush Family 44
11. Fly Catchers 53
12. Shrikes 57
13. Minivets 58
14. Swallow-shrikes 61
15. Drongos 62
16. Warblers 68
17. Gold-crests 70
18. The Fairy Blue-bird 71
19. Orioles 72
20. Grackles or Hill-Mynas 81
21. Starlings and Mynas 84
22. Weaver-birds and Munias 88
  A. Weaver-Birds 88
  B. Munias 89
23. Finches and Buntings 92
  A. Finches 92
  B. Buntings 95
24. Waxwing 97
25. Martins & Swallows 98
26. Wagtails and Pipits 102
  A. Wagtails 102
  B. Pipits 107
27. Larks 108
28. The White Eye 112
29. The Ruby-cheek 113
30. The Sun-Birds 114
31. Flower-peckers 116
32. Pittas 117
33. Broad-bills 118
34. Wood-peckers 119
35. Barbets 123
36. Honey-guide 126
37. Cuckoos 127
  A. Parasitic Cuckoos 127
  B. Non-Parasitic Cuckoos 137
38. Paroquets or Parrots 141
39. Rollers 146
40. The Bee-eaters 147
41. The Kingfishers 155
42. Hornbills 159
43. Hoopoes 162
44. The Trogons 164
45. Swifts 165
46. Nightjars 170
47. Frogmouths 172
48. The Barn Owl 173
49. Other Owls 175
50. Osprey 185
51. Vultures & Lammergeyer 188
52. Eagles, Falcons and Allied Birds: 198
  A. True Eagles 198
  B. Hawk Eagles, Serpent Eagles and Buzzard Eagles 210
  C. Sea Eagles, Fishing Eagles 212
  D. Falcons and Hawks 215
        I. Introductory 215
        II. Falcons 221
        III. Hawks 235
  E. Kites, Harriers and Buzzards 242
53. Pigeons and Doves 250
  A. Introductory 250
  B. Pigeons 252
  C. Doves 257
54. Sand-Grouse 265
55. Pea-Fowl, Jungle Fowls, Pheasants & Quails 268
  A. Peafowl 270
  B. Jungle Fowls and Pheasants 271
  C. Tragopans, Blood Pheasants & Partridges 279
  D. Quails and Bustard Quails 284
56. Magapodes 290
57. Bustard Quails 291
58. Rails, Crakes, Moorhens, Watercocks & Coot 292
59. Masked Finfoot 303
60. Jacanas 304
61. The Painted Snipe 307
62. Cranes 309
63. Bustards 325
64. Stone-Plovers 332
65. Coursers & Pratincoles 333
66. Crab-Plovers 336
67. Skuas 337
68. Gulls 338
69. Terns 345
70. Skimmer or Scissorbill 351
71. Plovers 357
72. Curlew, Godwit, Sandpiper etc. 364
73. Pelicans 370
74. Cormorants & Darter 371
75. Gannet or Booby 376
76. Tropic Bird 377
77. Erigatebird 378
78. Petrels 379
79. Spoonbill 380
80. Ibises 381
81. Storks 389
82. Herons, Egrets and Bitterns 400
83. Flamingos 408
84. Swans, Geese, Ducks and Mergansers 422
85. Grebes 461
86. Divers 463
  Index 465
  Sanskrit-Pali-Prakrit Index 483


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Item Code: IDE793 Author: K.N. Dave Cover: Hardcover Edition: 2005 Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd. ISBN: 8120818423 Language: English Size: 9.8" X 6.5" Pages: 540 (Color Illus: 48)
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