Botany in Vrikshayurveda -1

The survey of literature reveals that information about plants was compiled gradually in a systematic way. Rig Veda, the first form of literature, has mention of about 107 plants along with references of plough, sowing seeds, cutting crops, etc. agricultural operations but it lacks in providing information about plant protection and nutrition. As time elapsed and the final Veda, Atharva Veda appeared which provides elaborate information about classification of plants in eight classes such as sasa (herbs), vriksha (plants with spreading branches), manjiri (plants with long clusters), stambini (bushy plant), prastanavati (those creeping on ground), amsumati (with many branches), eksringa (with monopodial growth) and kandini (plants with knotty joints).

Brahmanas and Upanishadas provide different names to plant body parts for example, mula (root), shakha (branches), etc. or colours of plant parts like valkala (skin), majja (pith), etc. or vriksha (tree), Oushadhi (herbs), virudha (creeper), etc. This form of information is indicative of morphological terminology. Thus, it can be confirmed that over a period of time, from Vedic period onwards, intricate botanical information began to evolve. The details of plants gathered for such study was then utilized for logicophilosophical description about plants from perspective of its internal and external characteristics. This was the first attempt of study plant science -Vrikshayurveda from a botanical angle.S

Survey of literature reveals that Botany in Vrikshayurveda contains information on following aspect of plant life

1) Seed and Germination

Topic Information such as
Seed (bija) Ekamatrkabija (monocotyledonous), dvimatrkabija, (dicotyledonous), and adibijapatra (cotyledon)
Germination (ankurrabheda) Process explained by words such as uttanapada, urdhvamula means roots foremost pointing first stage of germination

2) Morphology

Root Types of roots - shakha-shipha (adventitious), shipha-jata (Fibrous)
Shoots Stem and leaves
Stem (kanda or skanda) Strong stems - Prakanda, vanaspati and vanaspatya. Weak stem demanding support -valli, vratati (creeper). Twines from root to the top of the tree – lata. Without stems - aprakanda, sthamba. Short or stunted roots and branches-kshupa
Nodes Parva  or granthi (joints or internodes),  stanu (caudex)
Branches (Shakha) Skandashakha (primary branches),  pratishakha and anushakha (secondary and tertiary), sthanu or shanku (branchless stems), agra, sikhara (tree top – apex of tree)
Underground stems (kanda) Six types are identified
Parasites (vrikshdani) Plant which survive on food from the host tree
Epiphytes (vriksharuha) Plants which live on other trees without taking food
Lower plants Moss (shaiwal) and green algae (jal nili) mentioned but not described
Saprophytic (chatra) Mushroom-  Sushrut Samhita provides some information about place of growth of edible ones
Leaf  (parna, patra)

Savranta, patravarna (petiolate), varntahina (sessile), distinguished by a number of leaflets - dvipatra, tripatra, saptaparna, by shape-  ashwakarna, Parashara observed that veins carry nutrients to leaves and are visible like lines. He also detected two type venation namely, paraguna (parallel) and vellita (obliquely like network) and such characterized leaves are called murijapatra and jalikapatra

Flower (pushpa) Compound pedicel - vallarl, manjari, Helicoid cyme srihastinal (resembling the trunk of an elephant).  Prtyals -pushpadala they can be shatadala, sahastradala. Stamens - keshara (hairy part within flowers) Pollen grains- paraga, keshrarenu (stamen dust)
Fruit (phla) Green fruits - salatu, dry fruits-vana, fleshy fruit - kesharaka, jalaka, Legume or a pod - saml, simba

3) Morphology (Histology) (Internal Description of Plants)

Parashara observed that a leaf contains a large number of invisible (anavsva) cells (raskosha) each covered with cell wall (kalavestitena) of fine membrane (sukshamapatraka). These cells store sap containing colorific principle (ranjakayukta). A plant body possesses transportation systems (savasrotansi). This system distributes rasadrawn from the earth to plant parts is called syandani and one working in leaves is called sirajalan. Shankara Mishra in Upaskara notes the growth of an organ (tissue) by natural recuperation after a wound and closing of a fracture is also visible as end result. Gunaratna's Saddarsana Samucchaya also has a reference of healing of wounds.

4) Physiology

Physiology comprises following aspects of plant life for normal functioning and healthy survival.

i) Brihat Samhita – a) A list of trees to be planted in garden, b) Preliminary
practices of plantation, c) Selection of nakshatra, d) Suitable month for planting, e) Method of plantation such as cutting or grafting or seed etc., f) Soil, g) Distance between the trees, h) Watering

ii) Agni Purana -a) A list of trees according to directions, b) Worshipping prior to plantation
Absorption, Transport, Transpiration and Assimilation of Food According to Vrikshayurveda of Parashara, the nutritive liquid obtained from the earth (parthivarasa) is transported from the root up to the leaf through syandana (xylem). There it gets digested with the help of colouring matter (ranjakena pacyamanat) into food.
Respiration (Breathing) Not much information is available about this topic of plantlife
Growth Gunaratana in his commentary noted stages of infancy, youth and old age in plant life.
Movement, Response to Touch and Reluctance Dharmottara’s Nayavindu Tika notice phenomenon of sleep by contraction of leaves by plant e.g. rain tree. Gunaratna gives a list of plants that exhibit the phenomena of sleep and waking. He also notices the sensitiveness to touch of plants such as the Lajjalu (touch me not)
Consciousness in Plants According to Indian ancient science, every material system, living or nonliving, is at some level of consciousness (Chetana). Application of this concept, of consciousness, is seen in recognizing plants as living organism in ancient India and reflects in literature of Maskarin, Shankara Mishra, Udayana, Guanratna, Chakrapani, etc.
Nourishment Parashara while elaborating detail histology of leaves reveals that presence of colouring matter (ranjaka) has significance, as these together with digestive colouring matter (ranjakena pacyamanat) produce nourishing substance in leaves. Gunaratna in his commentary Saddarsana samuchchaya states that for nourishment plants depend only on soil which is divided into fertile with required nutrients for growth of plant and barren or sterile on which nothing can be grown.
Manuring To regulate plant food supply manuring is required. This was known by ancient Indians, which is reflected in literature provide information about importance, types and material of manure required for various cereals crops, flowering plants, fruiting trees, plants and trees in general along with methods, combinations of material, etc. in details.
Treatment of Plants This topic has paramount place in almost all texts. These treatments are prophylactic (Brihat Samitha, Agni Purana) and curative (Brihat Samitha, Agni Purana). Surapala classified diseases as external and internal. He further classified internal diseases humours namely, Vata (Wind), Pitta (Bile) and Kapha (Phlegm), applying principles of Ayurveda and also prescribed treatment for such disorders.
Sexuality Some vague ideas about sexuality in plants are mentioned in Harita Samhita and Charaka Samhita. Charaka identifies male category of plant bear tender leaves, white flowers and large fruits and female category bear small stalk, yellow flowers and small fruits.
Age and Death Gunaratna says cause of death as due to disease, assimilation of suitable and unsuitable food. Udayana in Kiranavali talks about diseases, drugging and death. Upasakara also mentions about life and death.
Heredity Charaka and Sushuruta states that fertilized ovum contains in miniature all organs of a plant and male sperm cells have minute elements derived from each of its organs and tissues.

Various methods of reproduction by fruits, seeds, roots, cuttings, grafting, apical portions, leaves, bulbous roots, joints (for instance, sugarcane, bamboo), bending long branches up to ground, etc. are well described in treaties like Brihat Samhita, Maskarin’s Goshala, Sumangal Vilasini, Atharva Veda, Arthashashtra, etc.

Previous Page Next Page