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An Introduction to Vrikshaayurveda

Dr. Shriprasad Bawdekar

M.D. (Ayurved) Ph.D

Vrikshaayurveda (V.A.) is one of the minor sciences derived from the ancient Indian heritage. Minor in the sense that there is no teaching, learning system available. Still some technologies are in use by the farmer. V.A. literally means Ayurveda of plants that ultimately means sciences dealing with every aspect related to the life of plants.

Resource texts: The most popular texts of V.A. are Upavanavinoda of S`haarangadhara and Vrikshaayurveda

of Surapaala. Both the texts contain nearly the same material with some deviation. The Upavana Vinoda is a chapter from the anthology Sarngadhara Paddhati The period is 13th century A.D, Surapaalas Vrikshaayurveda is a manuscript and it stands alone as the work of the author Surapaala. Another major resource text on the subject is Brihat Samhitaa. Though it is not totally devoted to the subject, it covers many areas of V.A. Other texts are Krishi Paraas`haraKrishi Sookti. Some other texts like Amarakos`haDhanvantaree Nighan`t`uBhaavaprakaas`ha Nighan`t`u also cover some part of V.A. Later texts from South India S`hivatatva Ratnaakara have merely copied the verses from Upavana Vinoda. This shows that the subject was not developed after the 14th century.

Topics covered in V.A. the major texts Upavanavinoda and V.A.of Surapaala, cover the following topics:

a.    The glory of plants
b.    The good and evil omens of plants planted near the house
c.     Discussion of soil
d.    Classification and morphology of plants
e.    The processing of seeds
f.      Plantation
g.    Watering of plants
h.    Safety of plants
i.       Method of gardening
j.      Detection of water in soil
k.     Nurturing of plants
l.       Treatment of plant diseases
m.  Vichitrikaran`am, novelty possible by efforts on the plants
n.    Indicators to predict the generation of Agri products

1.    Glory of plants: This topic deals with the importance of planting and it seems that the important subject of planting is convincing through Dharma. Some rituals are discussed. Agnipuraan`a tells us that the cutting of a plant is an offence. Manu exhorts that the cutting is a politico social crime and deserves punishment. Manu has also given the guidelines for the punishment.

2.    Good and evil omens: This topic discusses the good and evil omens of planting of trees near the house. Surprisingly the Upavanavinoda and the Surapaala do not provide the logic behind it but some texts like Gobhil Grihyasootra (4/7/21) do attest the omens by certain logic. The Matsya Puraan`a (245/20-22) tells that if the not indicated plants are planted, these should be transferred away from the house; while Brihat Samhitaa tells (53-87) that if not indicated plants are planted, some holy plants like As`hoka, Punnaaga etc should also be planted near them.

3.    Types of soil: Here we find the types of soil. There is description of good soil for plants and list of plants generally grown in a particular soil type. The Brihat Samhitaa (53-93) gives two objective parameters to determine good soil as dig a pit in the soil, fill it with water, go away 10 feet and come back. If the water is as it is and has been not absorbed, it is good soil. Another parameter is the weight of 1 Aadhaka soil (volumetric) should be 64 Pala (gravimetric). Ayurveda texts have elaborated the soil types and the plants accordingly but the discussion in Ayurveda and V.A. differs in its basic intention. Hence the two should not be compared as generally done by scholars.

4.    Classification of plants: We find classification of plants right from the Vedic times. The Rigveda classifies Ya Phalinirya Aphala Apuspa Yascha Pushpinih. The Ayurvedictexts Charaka SamhitaaSus`hruta Samhitaa also classifies plants. The Amarakos`ha and the Manusmriti have classified plants as per their specific needs. Various methods of propagation are also discussed in this topic. These methods include cutting and grafting.

5.    Processing of seeds: Here are discussed some processes to be carried out on the seeds before they are shown. They include processing with ghee, honey, and cow dung.

6.    Plantation: Which plants should be planted in a particular season, the system of planting etc. is discussed under the topic. Some diagrammatic schemes of plantation are also elaborated.

7.    Watering of plants: The scheme of watering of plants according to the season is discussed in this topic. The Upavana Vinoda discusses the indigestion of water. The parameter of indigestion is described as incomplete absorption of water in the pit of plant.

8.    Security of plants: Appropriate measures for security of plants, is elaborated in the concerned chapter. It appears that the measures were in use by contemporary farmers. There is also one Mantra to keep away the rodents from plants etc.

9.    Garden construction: The method and techniques useful for creation of a garden for public utility is discussed in this topic. This topic interestingly has a technology to purify water.

10.     Detection of soil for underground water: This topic elaborates on some plant and animal indicators of the presence of water in that particular soil. It seems that the art of digging wells and ascertaining water with the help of such plant animal indicators had been established in the contemporary culture. Even today some persons ascertain the presence of water using such techniques.

11.     Nourishment of plants: Here are some recipes for nourishment of plants. A unique preparation called Kun`apa Jala is mentioned here.

12.     Novel techniques of gardening: Here we have some novels methods, which may be rejected at its face value. But it seems that there is ample potential for such experiments.

13.     AnnadinishpattiThis is very unique topic. Some indicators to predict the production of crop are discussed here. This is also a potential subject for further studies.

Some modern works related to Vruks`haayurveda

Theory Surpals Vrikshaayurveda is available in printed form. One work is by Dr. Nalini Sadhalein English and another is in German by RahulPeter Das. Upavana Vinoda translated by G.P. Majumdarin English is an old one while the same edited by S.K.Ramakrishnan Raois the latest. A Marathi translation done by VaidyaD.B. Borakaris also available. (A critical edition of Upavana Vinoda was prepared for the first time by Vaidya Shriprasad Bawdekar. The work has a proper authentic Marathi translation, the Ayurvedicperceptive on the subject along with critical edition of the text. The work was submitted to the Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Punefor an M. Phil. degree. The English translation of this work is in progress.) The center for Indian knowledge systems from Chennai has produced quality monograms on Vrikshaayurveda.

Some other unavailable material includes

Upavana Vinoda translated by Gananath SenguptaVrikshaayurveda Telugu by P.V. Ramaswami Shastralu, Madras. Vrikshaayurveda in Telugu by Dr. Laxmipati. Ayurveda S`hikshaa Series Jayantipuram and Upavana Rahasya translation of Upavana Vinoda in Doha form by UmaaprasadSharma.

Practical works: There is no single publication but the monograms of L.S.P.S. S, Coimbatoreand monogram of C.I.K.S Chennai to provide valuable information of the practical carried out in the field. The author (Vaidya Shriprasad Bawdekar) has provided some anecdotal information.

Potential: There is a lot of potential in the subject. The researchers and the farmers will find many theories hypotheses and practical hypotheses to work on the subject.

Dr. Bawdekar
Head Ayurved Dept,
Jnanaprabhodhini, Pune.

Last updated on March 23rd, 2021 at 04:18 am

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