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Re-Imagining Indigenous Medical Traditions in Travancore

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About the Book 'Re-Imagining Indigenous Medical Traditions in Travancore' is a research endeavor to comprehend and map the fundamental premises on which the Indian system of Medicine was anchored. The Indian System of Medicine had been all compassing and Universal in its philosophical precepts and practices not withstanding its regional particularities. The myriad facets of the discipline have transcended boundaries of geography and human intellect weaving a synergetic and syn...
About the Book

'Re-Imagining Indigenous Medical Traditions in Travancore' is a research endeavor to comprehend and map the fundamental premises on which the Indian system of Medicine was anchored. The Indian System of Medicine had been all compassing and Universal in its philosophical precepts and practices not withstanding its regional particularities.

The myriad facets of the discipline have transcended boundaries of geography and human intellect weaving a synergetic and synthetic tapestry of medical knowledge and service. The Kerala medical tradition that forms an integral part of the larger Indian medical lore has centuries of unbroken continuity. The totality of Kerala's indigenous medical tradition is an amalgamation of medical wisdom underscored by an intimate interaction with Ashtavaidya, Aryavaidya, Folk, Tribal, etc., consummating in a novel synthesis.

These medical traditions functioned in Travancore as an interconnected and mutually complementing system of knowledge. The research effort re- imagining the germane theme moves on to conceptualize the process of evolution of a synthesized product of indigenous medicine in Kerala with particular reference to Travancore.

FOREWORD

RE-IMAGINING INDIGENOUS MEDICAL TRADITIONS IN TRAVANCORE perspicuously scripted by Dr.Vysakh.A.S is a pioneering work of profound historical importance in its theme and conceptual prognosis. The work beautifully synthesizes the macro conception of an original Indian medical science in spite of its religious and mythological trappings and provenance. Vysakh goes on to highlight the regional spatiality of the medical tradition in all its varied ramifications. Re-imagining Indigenous Medical Traditions in Travancore then brings before us a very sophisticated medical system and its practice wrapped in local beliefs, caste taboos and evolving pharmacopeia. The richness and variety of the thought, philosophy and practice of indigenous medicine is analyzed and laid bare before the reader. The traditional Indian system of Medicine is not only holistic in its philosophy and practice but also incredibly assimilative and tenacious in the pursuit of solutions in diagnosis, pharmacopeia, surgery, et al. The leading practitioners of Indian traditional medicine bear testimony to this fact and historically trace its origin to the divine. The highly imbricate knowledge is glued to classical Sanskrit literature.

Medicine in India was a socio-cultural and political manifestation leading to well- being of individuals and society. Materialism or economic determinism was conspicuous by its absence; however the inebriation of power and the indirect trapping of significance in the social hierarchy were intrinsically pervasive in its practice and indulgence. The philosophy of divine service for 'life well being' was a motivation .This partly explains the high social esteem but penurious life of the practitioners of indigenous medicine. The very nature of this system was anchored in Indian culture and ethos. With the external political interventions disturbing the sanguine and calm ambience of its practice and propagation, the tradition branched out into a variety of cultural manifestations serving the same purpose but innovating and improvising. Regional varieties sprang up and the biggest challenge emerged with colonialism. To the western transgressors, Medicine was as much a political tool as a scheme for cultural aggrandizement. The indigenous medicinal system had to be down sized and annihilated for British political dominance and invincibility. Indigenous medicine was marginalized through various means and yet could not be totally obliterated. It receded substantially from the urban cantonments but held its own in the rural spaces of the land.

Why and how could it hold out in spite of overwhelming odds against its existence? The opposition that stunted its natural growth and evolution came from the political arena rather than from western medicine. The inbuilt defects of a system of medicine that had its origins in the battle field and failed to reach out to the positivity of 'life well being' was an advantage that its rivals from indigenous medicine enjoyed. The Indian system of Medicine with its total approach to healing was not only holistic but one of the most ancient and rich in its literary compendium. The monograph examines the indigenous system of medicine vis a vis its modern cognates and succeeds in placing it in the correct historical perspective and significance. It draws on its power of healing and its evolutionary retentions, discards and innovative enrichments. The regional variations that originated from an ancient tradition and evolved themselves in pockets of geographical spaces and time have been portrayed with clarity and historical understanding. The Indian medical tradition is thus a living organism with power of healing and well being, as potent as ever especially when in the hands of its masters. Its epistemic universalism not withstanding its regional extravasations has stood it in good stead through the centuries. It has as in the past synthesized and assimilated knowledge from all kindred sources without animosity or rivalry. The folk, tribal, the western all have been reasoned and synthesized with the Aryavaidya and Ashtavaidya as can be discerned in Kerala's indigenous medical tradition.

The author, Vysakh A S has succeeded in bringing out a deep, intelligent, complete, and scholarly treatise for the specialist and the interested lay reader who is ever eager to know and comprehend a system of medicine that his forebears proudly utilized and disseminated for their health and well being. The elegant delineation of the indigenous medical traditions in Kerala with special reference Re-Imagining Indigenous Medical Traditions in Travancore transgressors, Medicine was as much a political tool as a scheme for cultural aggrandizement. The indigenous medicinal system had to be down sized and annihilated for British political dominance and invincibility. Indigenous medicine was marginalized through various means and yet could not be totally obliterated. It receded substantially from the urban cantonments but held its own in the rural spaces of the land. Why and how could it hold out in spite of overwhelming odds against its existence? The opposition that stunted its natural growth and evolution came from the political arena rather than from western medicine. The inbuilt defects of a system of medicine that had its origins in the battle field and failed to reach out to the positivity of 'life well being' was an advantage that its rivals from indigenous medicine enjoyed. The Indian system of Medicine with its total approach to healing was not only holistic but one of the most ancient and rich in its literary compendium. The monograph examines the indigenous system of medicine vis a vis its modern cognates and succeeds in placing it in the correct historical perspective and significance. It draws on its power of healing and its evolutionary retentions, discards and innovative enrichments. The regional variations that originated from an ancient tradition and evolved themselves in pockets of geographical spaces and time have been portrayed with clarity and historical understanding. The Indian medical tradition is thus a living organism with power of healing and well being, as potent as ever especially when in the hands of its masters. Its epistemic universalism not withstanding its regional extravasations has stood it in good stead through the centuries. It has as in the past synthesized and assimilated knowledge from all kindred sources without animosity or rivalry. The folk, tribal, the western all have been reasoned and synthesized with the Aryavaidya and Ashtavaidya as can be discerned in Kerala's indigenous medical tradition. The author, Vysakh A S has succeeded in bringing out a deep, intelligent, complete, and scholarly treatise for the specialist and the interested lay reader who is ever eager to know and comprehend a system of medicine that his forebears proudly utilized and disseminated for their health and well being. The elegant delineation of the indigenous medical traditions in Kerala with special reference to Travancore, from a historically cogent perspective, along with its extreme readability, adds to the value and importance of the work. The reader is fortunate to be involved in a scientific and rational rendition of the past that is convincing and satiating.

PREFACE

`Re- Imagining Indigenous Medical Traditions in Travancore' is a research endeavor to comprehend and map the fundamental premises on which the Indian system of Medicine was anchored. The Indian System of Medicine had been all encompassing and Universal in its philosophical precepts and practices not withstanding its regional particularities. The myriad facets of the discipline have transcended boundaries of geography and human intellect weaving a synergetic and synthetic tapestry of medical knowledge and service. The Kerala medical tradition that forms an integral part of the larger Indian medical lore has centuries of unbroken continuity. The totality of Kerala's indigenous medical tradition is an amalgamation of medical wisdom underscored by an intimate interaction with Ashtavaidya, Aryavaidya, Folk, Tribal, etc., consummating in a novel synthesis. These medical traditions functioned in Travancore as an interconnected and mutually complementing system of knowledge. The research effort re-imagining the germane theme moves on to conceptualize the process of evolution of a synthesized product of indigenous medicine in Kerala with particular reference to Travancore.

The study has been divided into five chapters with an Introduction and Conclusion. The Introduction gives the back drop of the indigenous medical system as practiced in Kerala. The first chapter is an Epistemological Review. All existing knowledge ermine to the theme are reviewed and analyzed. The second chapter on Identifying the streams of Traditional Medicine in Kerala focuses on the various facets of traditional medicine that form the corpus of the existing medical system and practice-Ashta raidva, Arya Vaidya, Siddha, Marma-Kalari, Ethnic, Tribal medical systems, their prominence, identity and sustenance, etc. Aspects of synthesis, reform, etc., have also been studied here. The third chapter- Pursuing Great Traditions deals with medical systems That have immigrated into the Kerala system viz., the Buddhist-Arya Vidya and Ashta Vaidya traditions and practices. At a later period some of these assumed elitist pretentions especially in Re-Imagining Indigenous Medical Traditions in Travancore North Travancore. The fourth chapter locating the Little Traditions brings out the prominence and unique contributions of the subaltern sections that includes the Ezhava, Nadar, Mannan, Velan, Tribal, etc. The fifth chapter on Process of Synthesis and the Creation of Mixed Traditions analyses the formation of this tradition. The Conclusion conceptualizes the transitions and consolidation of Indigenous Medical Traditions in Travancore.

RELEVANCE OF THE STOW

In the arena of medical systems, studies and discussions have so far occurred mostly on the history of Ayurveda or indigenous medicinal practices or on colonial attitudes to native medical systems. But intellectual and theoretical interpretations have seldom been carried out. These discussions have remained a desideratum. An intellectual endeavor has not yet been attempted on the interrelations of the social organization and medical traditions or their theoretical structure. The extent and nature of the contacts of the different streams of indigenous medicine or their course of change to a later period have not been brought under serious study. The process of synthesis of the indigenous medical traditions has not been pursued keenly by the students of the evolution of traditional medical ideas and practices. The synthesizing process of the 'Great traditions' of medical system that included the elite class practitioners with the 'Little tradition' and their practitioners like the ethnic and tribal systems forming an amalgamation in the later phase in Kerala has not yet been touched upon. Hence this study presents a pioneering endeavor in the historiography of the medicinal traditions in Travancore.

The study largely posits an empirical analysis illumined by epistemological understanding. The theme is a micro study that re-imagines the existing corpus of historical knowledge on Medical tradition in Travancore. The process of assimilation and synthesis in the existing traditions of native medicine is largely concentrated upon in the study, as the present Ayurveda' has its existence in this peculiar base. It is to be noted that Travancore is regarded only as a geographical boundary (areas between the Chalakkudi River in the north and the Cape Comorin in the south) and not as a political or social unit, owing to its suitability in identifying areas that are germane to the research. Owing to the historical impossibility of compartmentalizing and assigning a specific period to the evolution of the indigenous medical traditions, no period is specified. However the study consummates with the onset of colonialism in Kerala. Though this is a general formulation undertaken in the work, research requires that we refer to the medical practices during the early phases of colonialism (Portuguese and Dutch periods). This is because these periods are crucial in the history and transitions of existing medical traditions. To delineate the course of the propagation of medicine by the heterodox sects and the migrant Brahmins, who were instrumental in its spread to the south, a comparatively detailed route and character of these sects have been dealt with in the study. Synonyms used such as Classical system of medicine or Textual medicine, et. al represents the pure Ayurvedic system that existed before the known assimilation in Kerala. The Unani system or the Islamic medicine, though included under the indigenous medicine at present doesn't find a place in the study as it is a later incorporation.

Numerous works have been published on the history, principle, theory, and pharmacology of Ayurveda. None of them gives a satisfactory answer to the possible evolution and propagation since its inception, other than a mere narrative tracing its cosmological origin. A rational approach to the nature, interactions, agents, causes, etc., has seldom been undertaken. The same is true with the nature of indigenous medical tradition of Kerala or for that matter Travancore, the area of the present research. No major attempts are yet made to reveal the totality of the Ayurvedic tradition in Kerala. The underlying variety within the broad rubric of `Ayurveda' is seldom recognized and studied. Other than the knowledge of a lay tradition marked by ethnic or folk or native medicine (nattu chikitsa), the majority of the masses are unaware of the nature of the indigenous medicinal system they adhere to. The play of time and space too debars the people from imagining anything other than their local systems of healing. Paucity of primary sources and even lack of rich secondary literature have been a dampener and hence as the advocates of the Annales School advised oral sources had to be exploited in research and the doing of history. It therefore becomes necessary to cogitate into the myriad versions of the origins and existence of indigenous medicine in Travancore. A critical re-imagining thus becomes indispensable for building the 'Mansion of History'.

INTRODUCTION

Medicine, its evolution and practice is of fundamental importance in the understanding of socio-political formations and their transitions in historical space and time. Its origins began with man and developed as civilization advanced. A system of medicine is not an abrupt discovery but a gradual evolution-a response to the challenges of nature and environment. A study and analysis of the history of medicine is an important prerequisite for the comprehension of society at its micro and macro levels of manifestations.

Tradition is the product of continuous evolution and accumulation. It retains and transmits the thoughts of past generations, is cumulative and symbolic and provides contemporary society with the sobriety of historical presence as a backdrop to the rapid changes confronted by contemporary society. The history of every tribe, institution or system is found to consist of a past which is founded in tradition. Tradition is accumulated by experience, innovative ideas and external contacts. It will be no exaggeration to say that a living tradition influences not only our inner faculties, but also humanizes our contemporary nature. The greater the contact, the more quickly and easily is the existing tradition disseminated. This process is equally true with that of medical traditions all over the world.

The health concepts and practices of most people in the world today continue from traditions that evolved from antiquity and withstood the test of scientific rationality. This is applicable to India also in large measure in almost every field of human endeavor from culture to medicine. The medicine of traditional India, intellectually and philosophically vibrant, represents an early watershed in the worldwide evolution of medicine.

Indigenous system of medicine, termed Ayurveda, embodies a rich set of compilations and emendations of a literate, academic, scholarly, and scientific medicine. Literate medical traditions dating from antiquity provide a close view of how medicine was understood and dealt with in the distant past. Texts have been amended, redacted and modified, as were descriptions of sickness and treatment. Ayurveda on its innate and proven merits has persisted in spite of external onslaughts, continuing to draw from its ancient textual wisdom and traditions of practice. Other forms like, Siddha, Yoga, Tantra, etc., also exemplify a much broader conception of health and well being. They represent traditions founded in the subcontinent with enormous physical and mental health implications. All of these traditions overlap and it is difficult to extricate them from one another. Interestingly, India still preserves a wide range of popular, folk-based, indigenous medical traditions. These are partly pre-Aryan knowledge and partly a reworking of beliefs and practices found in local settings.

Ancient writings reveal truths of inherited observations and interpretation about social reality and tradition. These have to be examined in relation to contextual studies of social life in local communities conducted by anthropologists across the globe. The anthropologists of the Chicago school, Robert Redfield, Milton Singer, Lawrence Cohn, etc., have pointed out the importance of interrelating different strands of Indian civilization.

Prior to the intervention of the Aryans in the subcontinent of India, people there surely had a system of understandings and practices for dealing with general problems of health and disease. During the early historical phase, one can presume that the groups in the subcontinent had evolved their own cultural conceptions of sickness and healing and ways of coping with sickness. The traditional philosophies were originally based on personal experience and family lore. These accumulated into pockets of local knowledge and then expanded in scope and complexity as the role of practitioners and experts evolved and their incumbents added their own experiences. Characteristics of shamanism as a system of medicine and its unfolding were on display in the subcontinent and it represented the indigenous, proto-history of Indians. Eventually, such peoples coalesced into societies of different size and complexity and developed their own more or less separate specialized and conventional body of beliefs and systems of medical practice. Medical beliefs and practices (including that of foreign ones) that diffused throughout the region were incorporated into local traditions, further beclouding original, indigenous conceptions and practices that evolved from the prehistoric and proto-historic past of India. India's indigenous medical systems and practices are the sum total of the accumulated wisdom and practical experiences of many generations. Foreign systems had no influence on Indian medical practice, in ancient times, though certain interventions had taken place during a later phase.

Kerala had a unique system of medicine. It is often accepted that the indigenous medical tradition, often identified as Ayurvedic tradition of Kerala is heterogeneous in nature and does not represent Ayurveda alone. In the case of Kerala and of Travancore, Ayurveda, Arya Vaidyam, Siddha-Marma system, Tribal and Folk or Ethnic systems are so fused together as to form a synthesized product of indigenous medical system that it is in no way possible to distinguish the specific aspects of the different ingredients. The totality of Kerala's Ayurveda system is an amalgamation of the oncoming and existing traditions. There occurred an exchange of ideas at various stages along with a hierarchical system in accumulating the indigenous medical knowledge. This aspect is true with the indigenous medical traditions of Kerala. A considerable period of parallel existence of absorption and intermingling on various spheres of medical practices might have led to a synthesis of elements, concepts and practices. Such a process might be genuinely applied in the context of the formation of the finished product of the native and traditional medicinal system of Kerala. The resultant Kerala tradition (Mixed tradition) produced out of a slow and steady intermingling of the so-called Great and Little Traditions proved to be more effective than the separate traditions

In Kerala, the diffusion and knowledge accumulation have taken place along with the emigration of batches of people through its borders. The resultant synthesis of the systems of knowledge had the greatest impact on the evolution of indigenous medical systems. In the Sangam period the indigenous people of Kerala practiced their own system of medicine. Later on during the Buddhist-Jaina era, the essence of north Indian Ayurvedic medicinal knowledge was imparted to the people in general, many of them later on being categorized as the lower castes or marginalized sections-the Subalterns in general. The influx of the Brahmins from the north also saw the coming of institutional Ayurveda, the knowledge of which remained mostly confined to them. The Dravidian medical lore or the system which had existed prior to the Ayurvedic systems is believed to have survived intact without debasement in the non-Ayurvedic systems of medicine. The passage of time saw a synthesis of the elitist or the 'Great Tradition' and the folk and ethnic or the `Little Traditions' of medical systems. The same is presumably true with the case of Travancore.

In the south of India, Travancore carved out a niche for itself in the Ayurvedic or indigenous medical arena of Kerala. May it be the propagation or patronage to indigenous systems or its revitalization or institutionalization, Travancore pioneered exceptionally well in the south of India.

Travancore's unique system is a blend of various indigenous medical traditions. It has to its northern most borders, the influence of the Ayurvedic tradition including the lineage of Buddhist tantric practices, Ashta Vaidya, Arya Vaidya and ethnic traditions. Certain ancient temples and hereditary Vaidya families are rich repositories of the lineage from Buddhist to the latter periods. In the south of Travancore, Ayurveda has peculiar relationship with the Saiva, Siddha system of medicine. The basic characteristic of Siddha has similarities with that of Ayurveda. Its antiquity is equivalent to Ayurveda or more. Influx of the Siddha system is evident in the southern parts of Travancore and so is inevitably fused to the existing indigenous medical traditions of the region. Apart from it, the Marma, Kalari and Yoga systems are prominent in these regions thus culminating in a synthesis of indigenous traditions.

It would be reasonable to think that prior to the propagation of Sanskrit Ayurvedic works in Kerala; there had already existed a more or less developed system of treatment. The Ayurvedic system and Sanskrit literary works that came later reformed this system and gave it a new form and content. The history of local medicinal tradition can be deduced from the Manipravalam literature of the 14th — 16th centuries. There is no doubt that Ayurveda and Folk medicine share many points of commonality. The existing or present day medical knowledge has been the product of a thoroughly mixed and assimilated variant, perhaps diluted, of the Ayurvedic, Siddha and Folk traditions.

One of the modern anthropological approaches which has been extensively utilized in the study of 'Traditions' is the post-modernist view of classifying them into the two broad categories of 'Great Tradition' and 'Little Tradition'. Robert Redfield in his work Little Community has emphasized on the interdependency of the 'Great Tradition' and 'Little Tradition'. The 'Great Tradition' being powerful intellectually is dominant, whereas the 'Little Tradition' is comparatively inferior and primitive and also marked by its continuity. The latter is more "nature oriented". As a result of the interaction between the 'Great tradition' and 'Little tradition', `Mixed traditions' also take shape. The last probability is applicable in the peculiar area of indigenous systems of medical traditions prevailing in Kerala. It seems that McKim Marriott, who took the idea further in his Village India with the introduction of the concepts of 'Universalization' and Tarochialization'; may apply more aptly to the process of synthesis in the context of indigenous medical traditions.

Redfield has observed how there is a separation of culture into hierarchic and lay traditions, and the permanent stamp of authority of the 'Great Tradition' over the 'Little' is visible. In an anthropological analysis, the Little Tradition is compelled to accept the supremacy of Great Tradition and the former gets relegated or even erased. But in the medicinal sphere this cannot be applied as a generalization for each tradition stands with an identity of its own, seldom being totally sidelined. The very concepts of 'Great' and 'Little' becomes questionable in the case of medical traditions. At the same time a considerable period of parallel existence of absorption and intermingling on various spheres of medical practices might have led to a synthesis of elements, concepts and practices. Such a process might be genuinely applied in the context of the formation of the finished product of the native and traditional medicinal system of Kerala. The resultant Kerala tradition (Mixed tradition) produced out of a slow and steady intermingling of the so-called Great and Little Traditions proved to be more effective than the separate traditions.

Every historical reading attempt to imagine the past through existing historical knowledge and new research endeavors to rationally re- imagine the existing corpus of empirical knowledge and its foundational epistemology. The element of imagination acts as an agency for innovation and change of the existing knowledge imbued with rationality. Re-imagining is enabled only through meticulous research and only then a rational conjecture could be arrived at. The present study is a serious effort in that direction.

The indigenous medical tradition of Kerala is a product of synthetic thought and practice consummated in the course of centuries of history and acculturation in pharmacopoeia and treatment. The pristine purity of Ayurveda tradition has undergone myriad encrustations in theme course of history and contact with alien systems of medicine. The study firmly grounded in existing historical knowledge and imagination, re- imagines the evolution and crystallization of indigenous medical tradition in Travancore. It focuses on varied aspects of the nature, character, continuity, impact and evolution of the indigenous medical stream in Kerala. Attempts to conceptualize the change and continuity in the midst of the existence of little traditions in the form of folk medicine have also been made.

Contents

  Foreword xi
  Preface xv
  Acknowledgement xix
  Glossary xxiii
  Introduction 1
1 Epistemological Review 7
2 Identyfying the Streams of Traditional Medicine in Kerala with Special Reference to Travancore 31
3 Pursuing Great Traditions 134
4 Locating the Little Traditions 206
5 Process of Synthesis and the Creation of Mixed Traditions 299
  Conclusion 340
  Appendices  
I. Vaidya Manuscripts at the Oriental Research Institute and Manuscripts Library (ORI MSS) 348
II. Manuscript of Jyotsnika (Visha Vaidyam) 359
III. Prayogasamuchayam 361
IV. Vishavaidyasaaram paattu 362
V. a) Manuscript on Matangaleela 363
  b) Manuscript on Gaja Chikitsa (Elephant Treatment) 364
VI. Use of Medicinal Herbs in Daily Routines of the Royals 365
VII. Document on Kashayappura (Dispensary) and its duties 367
VIII. Document on Existence of Hospital/Athura Salai in Tiruvalla 368
IX. a) Manuscript on Agastyrsootram 369
  b) Paper Manuscript on Agastya Yogasaram 370
X. Neetu Showing Exemption of Land Tax to Pambumekkadu Illom 371
XI. Neetu Regarding Mannarassala Naga Temple 372
XII. Manuscript on Ashtangahirdayam 374
XIII. a) Neetu on Grant for Ashtavaidya Family of Chirattaman for Maintenance of Illom 375
  b) Neetu on Grant for Holding the Annual Festival at the Dhanwantari Shrine of the Chirattaman 376
  c) Document on Facilitating Chirattamon Mooss During Murajapam 377
XIV. Certificate of Itty Achuten in the Hortus 378
XV. Document on Ezhava Physician Treating the Higher Castes 379
XVI. The Dronampalli Tradition of Kalari Vidya 380
XVII. Neetu on Kallantatti Kalari and Institution of Perpetual Lamp and offerings 381
XVIII. a) Rituals of Garbha Raksha (Pregnancy Protection and Vetaneerkappu (Medical Bath) among the Royals 382
  b) Manuscript on Garbha Chikitsa (Gynecology) 383
XIX. Document on Ana Vaidyan (Elephant Physician) & Elephant Department in Travancore 384
XX. Manuscript on Aswa Chikitsa (Horse Treatment) 385
XXI. Neetu on Ashtavaidya Elayidath Taikkatu 386
  Bibliography 387

 

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Item Code: NAO643 Author: Dr. Vyaskh. A. S Cover: Paperback Edition: 2017 Publisher: Zorba Books Pvt. Ltd. ISBN: 9789386407733 Language: English Size: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch Pages: 444 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 490 gms
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