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Scientific Knowledge in Sanskrit Literature

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Item Code: NAP396
Author: Nirmal Trikha
Language: English
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788178541556
Pages: 322
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 530 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Scientific Knowledge in Sanskrit literature highlights the contribution of Indians to the field of Science. The work is based on the scientific information derived from the Sanskrit literature which is indespensible for understand-ing the Indian scientific wisdom. It includes scientific information about Plant Taxonomy, Morphology, Physiology, Pathology, Medicinal Botany, Ecology, Agronomy, Science of Dietics, Veterinary Science and achievements of Indians in the field of Science and Technology. A few chapters on scientific study of social harmony, philosophical concepts, sectarian tendencies, Tantric cults, Buddhistic traits, pilgrimages, prognostics, position of women, dramatic technique, crime and punishment are added to show the richness and diversity of Sanskrit literature.

About the Author

Dr. (Mrs.) Nirmal Trikha is Ex. Vice Principal and Reader Department of Sanskrit, Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi. She has received Ph.D. in Sanskrit from the University of Delhi. She has four decades of teaching and research experience. As a resource person and subject expert, she has been associated with Delhi Sanskrit Academy, N.C.E.R.T., S.C.E.R.T. and U.G.C. programmes. She received 'Sanskrit Samaradhaka Sammana' for 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07 from Delhi Sanskrit Academy.

She has participated in many national and international conferences, seminars, lectures and work-shops. She has presented more than sixty papers. Several papers have been published in books and reputed Journals. She has published books entitled 'Faiths and Beliefs in the Kathasaritsagara' and संस्कृतविज्ञान दीपिका. Her special field of interest is the scientific study of Sanskrit literature with special reference to pure and applied Botany.


I have great pleasure in introducing to the lovers of literature the work Scientific Knowledge in Sanskrit Literature by my pupil and colleague Dr. Nirmal Trikha. Out of its twenty-five write-ups, as many as sixteen deal with science and technology, particularly with plants and farming while the rest of them with diverse matters like philosophic concepts and Tantric cults in Sanskrit folktales, the sectarian trends and Buddhist traits in the Kathasaritsagara, pilgrimages and omens and punishment in the Sukraniti. There is literary touch in one write-up and that is the study of the Avimaraka of Bhasa from the point of its dramatic technique. In line with the well-known maxim pradhanyena vyapadega bhavanti, the names are assigned on the basis of the main contents Dr. Trikha has christened her work 'Scientific knowledge in Sanskrit' as more than half of her work comprising an analysis of Sanskrit literature from the point of view of science and technology. There too she has devoted more attention to plants with a good sprinkling of studies on farming which needs good knowledge of the right seasons for sowing particular crops and the right manure for their growth. There are two write-ups which have Ayurveda connections, the one dealing with Caraka as a dietician, the second with the social harmony which means the physicians acquainting them-selves with the physical and mental problems of the patients, their relation with them and the general helpful attitude of the people around that could be conducive to recovery. There is a solo attempt on tracing the information from the Sukraniti about animal husbandry. Probably it is the first time the Sukraniti is subjected to such a treatment.

Since ages, India has been primarily an agricultural country with farming as the principal occupation of the people. Industrialization in it is a recent phenomenon which has led to its emergence as one of the ten most industrialized nations of the world. With agriculture as its mainstay with all its superstructure, it was but natural that our forbears expended considerable thought on the proper maintenance of farms and fields, from point of view of choice of seeds, manure, crop rotation, irrigation, plant diseases and their cure. Apart from traditional knowledge handed down from generation to generation, manuals came to be produced like the Krsigita, the Krsipartaara, the Krsisamayanirnaya and so on. Quite a few of such works are still in manuscript.

Just as there were texts on farming, there were texts on plants like the Vrksayurveda of Paragara and Surapala, the Upavanavinoda and so on. Besides these texts specifically dealing with agriculture and plants the texts on Ayurveda and the lexica with their sections on Vanausadhis, the Vanausadhivarga, are an important source of information about agricultral and forest produce. The ancient Indians had an intimate contact with nature. They were therefore quite familiar with the bewildering variety of crops and plants dotting the landscape. Even the literary works abound with their names and the uses to which they were put by society. The great poet Kalidasa just starts his Abhijnanasakuntala with the 8irisa flowers being used by women as their ear-rings and the make-up of the bride with flowers, a custom still current in the Pandit community of Kashmir. The entire Sanskrit literature needs to be visited with the point of view of exploring it for the names of crops, trees, creepers and flowers. Some of the plants were associated by traditional belief with certain deities and consequently were deified them-selves. In the Gita the Lord proclaims Agvattha, the fig tree, as His own form: asvatthah sarvavrksanam. Wherever there is the bed of Tulasi, the basil plant, as goes the old saying, the Lord Hari (Visnu) is Himself present there : tulasikananam…… yatra tatra sannihito harih. The old texts list five types of trees, the word Amra is used for them, the planting of which would not lead a person to hell:


pancamraropi narakarit na yati.

The association with deities would sometimes become so intimate as to result in the adoption of a tree as a son by him/her (a deity). In the Raghuvamsa Kumbhodara, the attendant of Lord Siva turned into lion makes a reference to a Devaddru tree which has been adopted as son by the Lord with the mother of Skanda (Parvati) Herself watering it :

Amum purah pasyasi devadarum

Putrikrto’ sau vrsbhadhvajena|

Yo hemakumbhastananihsrtanam|

Skandasya Matuh Payasam Rasajnah||

There is reference in ancient texts that a carpenter would seek permission from a tree before cutting or selling it.

On the authority of Harita Samhita, the Carakasamhita, the Raja Nighantu, the Dhanvantari Nighantu and the Vrksayurveda, Dr. Trikha refers to the sexuality of plants. There was a news item in the Times of India in its issue of 10.6.2007 about the marriage between a Peepul and a Neem tree. The priest who conducted the ceremony was certain that Peepul was male and Neem was female. It is mentioned in the scriptures, said he. He also said that a Peepul can marry a Neem tree under two conditions, one, they must lie in close proximity and two, the Neem tree should not have been planted by design. Further, both the Peepul and Neem are Brahmins.

The study on plants and all the other studies carried out by Dr. Nirmal Trikha breathe fresh spirit. She deserves full plaudits for putting a spotlight on areas that have not received the attention of scholars to the extent they should have.


Sanskrit literature is known for its spiritual greatness. Till the eighteenth century, many foreign scholars did not recognise the contribution of India in the field of science. A.B. Keith observes—"In the great period of Sanskrit literature, at any rate, experimental science was at a low ebb and little of importance was accomplished in those fields in which experiment is essential.”

The study of Sanskrit literature has removed such misconceptions regarding the Indian scientific wisdom. It throws profuse light on the achievements of Indians in the sphere of Science. Works of oriental scholars, viz., William Jones, Max Muller, Wilson, Princep Bohtlink, Fergusson, Goldstucker, J. D. Bernal and many others have shown the contribution of Indians in the field of Science. 'The Positive Sciences of the Ancient Hindus' by Brajendranath Seal, 'Hindu Chemisty' by P.C. Roy, 'Founders of Sciences in Ancient India' by Satya Prakash, 'Science and Scientists in India' by N.K. Jain, 'Sciences in the Vedas' by Vaidyanath Shastri, 'Scientists of Ancient India' by O.P. Jaggi, 'History of Science and Technology in India' edited by G. Kuppuram and K. Kumudamani, 'A Concise History of Science in India' published by Indian National Science Academy (1971) and the works of A.K. Biswas, Shankaracharya Bharati Krishna, D.D. Mehta and many others have accepted the contribution of Indians in the field of Science.

Sanskrit literature is indispensible for understanding the Indian scientific wisdom. The present work entitled 'Scientific Knowledge in Sanskrit Literature' is based on the scientific information derived from Sanskrit works.

I start my present work with the humble submission that I am not a student of Science. As a student of Sanskrit literature, I strongly believe that Sanskrit literature is replete with scientific knowledge which shows the analytical thinking and scientific experimentation of Indians. My endevour is to present before the modern scientists the rich scientific wisdom contained in Sanskrit literature, so that they analyse the scientific knowledge inherited by us and prove its scientific importance.

It is my solemn duty to offer my sincere thanks to all the oriental scholars and scientists who have helped me in completeing my work. I am highly thankful to all the scholars whose published works have been gratefully acknowledged by me in the foot notes and in the Bibliography. I express my deepest gratitude to Prof. Satya Vrat Shastri, Ex. Professor and Head, Department of Sanskrit, University of Delhi and Ex. Vice Chancellor, Shri Jagannath Sanskrit University, Puri, Orissa, who has always inspired me by his thorough wisdom and enriched the present work with his critical and constructive Foreword.

I offer my regards to Dr. Ramashraya Sharma, Ex. Head of the Department of Sanskrit, Zakir Husain College, University of Delhi, for inculcating in me, deep interest and scientific temperament for research.

I express my highest sense of regards, admiration and gratefulness to my respectable teacher Late Shri Karan Singh Gautam who initiated me into the world of knowledge in 1953 and who has always been the greatest source of inspiration and guidance throughout my life. I owe my deep sense of appreciation, gratitude and regards to all my teachers, friends and well wishers who have always encouraged me in my pursuit of knowledge.


Sanskrit literature is a rich ocean of scientific knowledge. Sanskrit writers, with warm affection and admiration for nature, were keen observer of the diversity of life. They have made penetrating observations of scientific nature. The present work entitled 'Scientific Knowledge in Sanskrit Literature' is an attempt to highlight exclusively the contribution of Sanskrit literature to the field of scientific knowledge.

The study includes scientific information about various branches of pure and applied Botany viz., Plant Taxonomy, Plant Morphology, Plant Physiology, Plant Pathology, Medicinal Botany, Plant Ecology and Agronomy. Science of Dietics, Veterinary Science and achievements of Indians in the field of Science and Technology also form a part of this work. A few chapters related to the scientific study of Sanskrit literature with special reference to sectarian tendencies and rivalries, Tantric cult, Buddhistic traits, pilgrimages, omens, women, study of dramatic technique and crime and punishment are also added in this work to show the richness and diversity of Sanskrit literature.

The 'Vrksayurveda' is a remarkable treatise on Plant Science. The ' Kamasutra'l of Vatsyayana mentions it as one of the 64 arts developed in India and recogonises it as a separate branch of knowledge. The sections devoted to VrIcsayurveda in the Agnipurana, the Visnudharmottara Mahapurana, the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, the Brahmarkla Puratja, the Vayu Purana, the Naradiya Purarna, the Mahavaraha Purana, the Matsya Purana, the Arthagastra of Kautilya and the Brhatsainhita of Varahamihira show that a separate Vrksayurveda was in existence.' The chapter XXIV entitled sitadhyaksadhyaya' (Superintendent of Agriculture) of the book second of the Arthasastra asks the Superintendent of Agriculture to be possessed of the knowledge of the Science of Agriculture dealing with the plantation of bushes and trees (Krsitantragulmavrksayurvedajnah).

This has led scholars like A.K. Ghosh and S.N. Sen to believe that it possibly indicated two departments of knowledge one of कृषितंत्र dealing with Agriculture and the other with गुल्मवृक्षायुर्वेद dealing with the Plant Science.

There is a ful-fledged treatise on Plant Science known as the Vrksayurveda of Parashara. The Upavana-Vinoda contains a few verses from it. The manuscript of the Vrksayurveda of Paragara was discovered by late Vaidyasastri Jogendranath Sircar Visagratna. 'An Introduction to the Vrksayurveda of Paragara' was published by his son the late N.N. Sircar in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.' The text of the Vrksayurveda has been edited by N.N Sircar and his daughter Roma Sarkar.


Dedication vii
Foreword ix
Preface xiii
Abbreviations xvii
Scheme of Transliteration xix
Contents xxi
Introduction xxiii
1. Plant Taxonomy 1
2. Plant Morphology 37
3. Plant Physiology 57
4. Plant Propagation 74
5. Seasons Suitable For Crop-production 83
6. Ancient Indian Manures 90
7. Plant Pathology 97
8. Medicinal Botany In Caraka Sarnhita 104
9. Medicinal Botany In Susruta Samhita 112
10.Plant Ecology 120
11.Vedic Agronomy 131
12.Caraka as a Dietician 138
13.Social Harmony in Ayurvedic Texts 145
14.Veterinary Science in Sukraniti 151
15.Psychology and Symbolism of Prognostics 163
16.Achievements in Science and Technology 176
17.Philosophical Concepts in Sanskrit Folktales 181
18. Sectarian Tendencies and Rivalries in Kathasaritsagara 191
19. Tantric Cult in Sanskrit Folktales 197
20. Buddhistic Traits in Kathasaritsagara 205
21. Pilgrimages in Ancient India 213
22. Omens in Mythic Literature 221
23. Women in Sanskrit Folklore 226
24. Avimaraka of Bhasa-A study in dramatic technique. 236
25. Punishment in Sukraniti 258
Bibliography 271
Index 277
Botanial Names 283
शब्दानुक्रमणी 286


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