The Indian Materia Medica

Indian Medicine man

Attribution: See Reference

H.H. Sir Bhagvat Singh Jee

|| Index || Chapter 1 || Chapter 2 || Chapter 3 || Chapter 4 || Chapter 5 || Chapter 6 || Chapter 7 || Chapter 8 || Chapter 9 || Chapter 10 || Chapter 11 || Concluding Remarks || Bibliography

THE Materia Medica of the Hindus is a marvel to the modern investigator. In it are fully described the properties of drugs belonging to the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, and of the articles of food essential to the maintenance of health and strength. The theory which forms the basis of the investigation is, that every substance, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral, possesses five properties, namely, Rasa, Guna, Veerya, Vipaka, and Prabhava.

The Rasas or medicines with specific tastes

1. Rasas (tastes) are six — sweet, sour, salt, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Of these the first is more restorative than the second, the second more so than the third, and so on. The first three tastes (sweet, sour, and salt) are antagonistic to wind humour, and the other three to phlegmatic disorders. Astringent, bitter and ​sweet tastes pacify biliary complaints ; while salt, sour and pungent promote the secretion of bile.

The different tastes possess different properties, which are thus described : —

(a) Madhura (sweet) taste has the property of increasing virility, promoting strength and secretion of milk in women, improving the eye-sight, strengthening the body and germinating worms. It is beneficial to children, adults, the wounded, the bald and the feeble.

(b) Amla (sour) promotes appetite and digestion, is cooling to perception but heating in effect ; cures wind disorders, is laxative, but bad for semen. Habitual use of it causes amblyopia and other diseases.

(c) Lavana (salt) is tonic, relaxes the bowels, deranges bile and phlegm, causes flaccidity, lowers the activity of the sexual functions and promotes perspiration. If continually taken it turns the hair white.

(d) Katu (pungent) is hot, destroys worms, diminishes the secretion of milk and dries the nose ; promotes appetite and lessens the fat in the body. It improves the intelligence, but destroys strength and beauty.

(e) Tikta (bitter) is cooling, alleviates thirst, ​fainting, fever, and burning sensation ; cures blood diseases, but causes derangement of wind. Taken in excess, it causes shooting pain in the head.

(f) Kashaya (astringent) heals wounds, produces costiveness and softens the skin. If astringent substances are frequently taken they stiffen the body, swell the abdomen and cause pain in the heart.

The Gunas or medicines with inherent properties

2. Guna (quality or property) is the inherent quality of a drug causing a particular effect when used either internally or externally.

India is a vast and fertile country, and has, as we have said before, the advantage of enjoying all the periodical seasons of the year. This circumstance makes it an encyclopaedia of the VEGETABLE World. The ancient ancient Indians have taken the trouble to examine and study all the herbs that came under their observation, and classified them into Groups or Ganas. Charaka gives fifty groups of ten herbs each, which he thinks "are enough for the purposes of an ordinary physician," though at the same time he adds, that "the number of groups can be increased to any extent." Similarly, Sushruta has arranged 760 herbs in thirty-seven sets according to some ​common properties. Other writers have added to the list, which forms an interesting literature of the Materia Medica of India. They have also described the proper seasons for gathering the herbs, the period of their growth, when they possess their distinctive properties, the localities from which they should be collected, and the manner of treating them, extracting their active principles, and preserving them. Some of the groups mentioned by the Indian writers are given below : —

1. Angamardaprashamana (Antispasmodic), as Vidarigandha (Costus speciosus).

2. Anulomana (Cathartic), as Haritaki (Terminalia Chebula).

3. Arshogna (Haemostatic), as Indrayava (Wrightia antidysenterica).

4. Artavotpadaka (Emmenagogue), as Jotishmati (Cardiospermum Helicacabum).

5. Ashmarighna (Lithonlytic), as Grokshura (Tribulus terrestris).

6. Avrishya (Anaphrodisiac), as Bhoostrina (Andropogon schoenanthus).

7. Bhedana (Purgative), as Katuki (Picorrhiza kurroo).

8. Chardinigrahana (Anemetic), as Dadima (Punica granatum). ​

9. Chhedana (Laxative), as Marichi (Piper nigrum).

10. Dahaprashamana (Antipyrotic), as Ushira (Andropogon nardus).

11. Dambha (Escharotic), as Bhallataka (Semicarpus Anacardium).

12. Deepaneeya (Stomachic), as Pippalimoola (Piper longum).

13. Garbhasravi (Ecbolic), as Grinjana (Daucus Carota).

14. Grahi (Carminative and Exsiccative), as Jeeraka (Cuminum Cyminum).

15. Hikkanigraha (Antisingultus), as Shathi (Hedychium spicatum).

16. Jvarhara (Antipyretic), as Peelu (Salvadora indica).

17. Kafahara (Antiphlegmagogue), as Bibheetaka (Terminalia bellerica).

18. Kafakara (Phlegmagogue), as Ikshu (Saccharum officinarum).

19. Kandughna (Antipsoric), as Chandana (Santalum album).

20. Kandura (Rubefacient), as Kapikachhu (Mucuna pruriens).

21. Kanthya (Expectorant), as Brihati (Solanum indicum). ​

22. Karshyakara (Antifat), as Gavedhu (a kind of corn).

23. Krimighna (Anthelmintic), as Vidanga (Embelia ribes).

24. Krimikrit (Vermiparous), as Matha (Phaseolus aconitifolius).

25. Kushtaghna (Antiscorbutic), as Haridra {Curcuma Zedoaria).

26. Lalaghna (Antisialagogue), as Jatifala (Myristica moschata).

27. Lalotpadaka (Sialagogue), as Akalakarabha (Spilanthes oleracea).

28. Lekhana (Liquefacient), as Vacha (Acorus Calamus).

29. Madaka (Inebrient), as Dhattura (Datura Stramonium).

30. Mootrasangrahana (Anuretic), as Pippalachhala (Cortex Ficus religiosa).

31. Mootravirechaneeya (Diuretic), as Kasha (Poa cynosuroides).

32. Nidrahara (Antihypnotic), as Shigrubeeja (Moringa pterygosperma).

33. Nidrakara (Hypnotic), as Kakajangha (Capparis sepiaria).

34. Niromakara (Depilatory), as Rala (Shorea robusta). ​

35. Pittahaba (Anticholeric), as Kamala (Nelumbium speciosum).

36. Pittakara (Cholagogue), as Tvak (Cinnamomum Cassia).

37. Prajasthapana (Anecbolic), as Vishnukranta (Evolvulus hirsutus).

38. Pramathi (Antiphysical), as Hingu (Narthex Asafcetida).

39. Prasavaka (Parturifacient), as Beejpura [Citrus acida).

40. Prativasa (Antibromic), as Karpoora (Camphora qfficinarum).

41. Purishasangrahana (Astringent), as Priyangu (Panicum miliaceum).

42. Easayana (Rejuvenescent), as Guggula (Amyris pentaphylla).

43. Rechana (Hydragogue), as Trivrita (Ipomcea Terpethum).

44. Rohana (Epulotic), as Tila (Sesamum indicum).

45. Sammohana (Anaesthetic), as Madya (Vina medicata).

46. Samshodhana (Emetic and Purgative), as Devadali (Luffa echinata).

47. Sankochana (Constringent), as Mayofala (Quercus infectoria). ​

48. Sanjeevasthapana (Restorative), as Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi).

49. Shamaneeya (Calmative), as Amrita (Cocculus cordifolius).

50. Sheetaprashamana (Antalgide), as Agaru (Aquilaria agallochum).

51. Shirovirechana (Sternutatory), as Agastya (Agati grandifiora).

52. Shofakara (Epispastic), as Snoohee (Euphorbia Tirucalli).

53. Shoolprashamana (Anticolic), as Ajamoda (Ptychotis ajowan).

54. Shothahara (Discutient), as Arani (Premna serratifolia).

55. Shramahara (Refrigerant), as Ikshu (Saccharum officinarum).

56. Shronitasthapana (Styptic), as Kesara (Crocus sativus).

57. Shukrajanana (Spermatopoietic), as Ksheerakakoli (Hedysarum gangeticum).

58. Shukrala (Tonic), as Rishabhaka (HeleJcteres isora).

59. Shukrashodhana (Semen-improver), as Kushtha (Saussurea lappa).

60. Shvasahara (Antasthmatic), as Ela (Amomum elettarum). ​

61. Snehopaga (Demulcent), as Vidari (Batatas paniculata).

62. Sransana (Drastic), as Rajataru (Cassia fistula).

63. Stanyajanana (Galactagogue), as Shata- pushpa (Pimpinella Anisum).

64. Sthaulyakara (Fat-former), as Panasa (Artocarpus integrifolia).

65. Svarya (Voice - improver), as Madhuka (Glycyrrhiza glabra).

66. Svedopaga (Diaphoretic), as Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa).

67. Trishnanigrahana (Frigorific), as Dhana (Coriandrum sativum).

68. Vajeekara (Aphrodisiac), as Ashvagandha (Physalis somnifera).

69. Vamana (Emetic), as Madana (Randia dumetorum).

70. Varnya (Cosmetic), as Manjishtha (Rubia cordifolia).

71. Vatakara (Flatus-producer), as Vallaka (Dolichos sinensis).

72. Vedanasthapana (Anodyne), as Shireesha (Mimosa Serissa).

73. Visha (Toxic), as Vatsanabha (Aconitum Napellus). ​

74. Vishaghna (Antitoxic), as Nirgundi (Vitex Negundo).

75. Vyayayi (Sedative), as Bhanga (Cannabis sativa).

Agnivesha, a disciple of Charaka, enumerates no less than five hundred classes of medicinal agents, arranged according to their real or supposed virtues in curing diseases. A few classes have been selected from this and other sources and noted above. The chief notable feature in connection with the nomenclature of the Indian plants is, that in several cases their names are descriptive either of their character or property. A few instances of names descriptive of the prominent specific character of the herb may be given : —

(a) Brachyramphus sonchifolius is called Akhu-karni (rat-eared), as the leaves of the plant resemble the ears of a mouse.

(b) Acorus Calamus is called Ugra-gandha (strong-smelling), because it gives off a very pungent odour.

(c) Clitoria Ternatea is called Go-karni (cow-eared), from the supposed resemblance of the seeds to the ears of a cow.

(d) Aconitum ferox is called Vatsa-nabha ​(calf's navel), because the root resembles in appearance the umbilical cord of a calf.

(e) Sapindus emarginatus is styled Bahuphena (very foamy), as, like soap, its berry produces much froth when agitated with water.

(f) Ricinus communis is called Chitrabeeja (spotted-seed), because of the seed being mottled with white, brown, or dark patches.

(g) Mimosa sensitiva is called Lajjalu (shy), from its leaves mimicking sensibility by folding themselves at the slightest touch.

{h) Tribulus terrestris is called Trikantaka (three-prickled), because its fruit is armed with three thorns.

(i) Datura alba is called Ghanta-pushpa (bell-flower), from the shape of its flowers.

(j) Cassia fistula is called Deergha-fala (long-pod), because its pod is cylindrical, about two feet in length, and one to one inch and a half in diameter.

The following are a few names descriptive of the inherent virtue of the herb : —

(a) Amygdalus communis is called Vatavairee ​(wind-enemy), as it cures disorders of the wind.

(b) Embelia ribes is called Krimi-ghna (worm-killer), from its anthelmintic properties.

(c) Cassia Tora is known by the name of Dadru-ghna (itch-curing), as it is supposed to be very efficacious in curing the itch.

(d) Coleus aromaticus is named Pashana-bhedi (stone-breaker), as its juice is said to possess the property of dissolving stone.

(e) Trianthema obcordata is called Shothaghnee (intumescence-curing), from the use of its root in dispersing morbid swellings.

(f) Ophelia Chiretta is named Jvarantaka (fever-ending), for it is supposed to check fever.

(g) Thevetia neriifolia is called Pleeha-ghnee (spleen-curing), being credited with the power of curing splenic disorders.

(h) Terminalia bellerica goes by the name of Kasa-ghna (cough-curing), because it cures pulmonary catarrh,

(i) Semicarpus Anacardium is known as ​ Arushkara (eschar-causing), because when applied to a living part its juice gives rise to an eschar.

(j) Cassia Absus is called Lochana-hita (eye-benefactor), as its seeds are used as eye-salve to strengthen the sight.

Veerya or strength building medicines

3. Veerya (power) is the third of the five properties innate in every medical substance, a knowledge of which is considered indispensable for a practical study of the Materia Medica. According to the influence of the sun or the moon a medicine is believed to be either hot or cold in power. It is therefore called "Ushna-veerya," heating, or "Sheeta-veerya," cooling. Hot agents cause giddiness, thirst, uneasiness, sweat and burning sensation ; suppress cough and wind, but increase bile and promote digestion. Cold agents lessen bile and increase wind and phlegm, promote strength and pleasure and improve the blood. When a medicine capable of producing effects similar to the disease to be treated is administered, or, as the Homceopathists would put it, "Similia similibus curantur" it is on the principle that a patient suffering from the effects of inherent heat must be treated with a remedy apparently hot, but really cooling in its effects, ​and vice versa, or otherwise the result would be disastrous. The general belief of the Hindus in the hot and cold inherent qualities of medicines is fully shared by the Greek physician Galen, who teaches that, if a disease be hot or cold, a medicine with the opposite qualities is to be prescribed.

Vipaka or medicines which undergo change in the body

4. Vipaka (consequence of action) is the change which a medicine undergoes in the organism under the influence of the internal heat. When a substance in the stomach is brought into contact with the digestive fire it is decomposed, and is sometimes recognisable in another form, with its medicinal activity greatly modified by the chemical changes that affect it. This converted state of the substance is called its Vipaka. The chemical effect on the six kinds of tastes is either sweet, sour, or pungent. The Vipaka of sweet, sour, and pungent agents remains unaltered as a general rule ; that of a saline substance becomes sweet ; and of astringent and bitter, pungent. To this (as to most other rules) there are exceptions. Rice, for instance, is sweet, but by the influence of the bodily temperature within, it turns sour. Chebulic myrobalans have an astringent taste, but by chemical action in the organism they become ​sweet. A sweet Vipaka promotes phlegm but lessens wind and bile ; a sour Vipaka increases bile but decreases wind and phlegm ; while a Vipaka that is pungent gives rise to disorders of wind and subdues those of phlegm and bile. Native Pharmacodynamics treat of the changes which each medicinal agent undergoes in the organism. In determining the property of an agent and the chemical changes that affect it, the ancients have ascertained which of the five constituent elements — ether, wind, fire, water, and earth — is predominant in its formation. The five elements have been characterised by their respective qualities of lightness, dryness, sharpness, unctuousness and heaviness. It may be noted here, by way of parenthesis, that this elemental theory precisely accords with that of Plato, Hippocrates, and Pythagoras, though the first two do not seem to recognise ether as an elemental constituent. To determine the proportion of the several elements in the formation of a medicinal drug, and to describe the subsequent changes it undergoes in the living economy, presupposes some knowledge, on the part of the old Indian writers, of chemical analysis and the process of decomposition. ​ The therapeutic effect of a medicinal agent is regulated, not by the nature of its inherent taste, but by that of the taste of its Vipaka.

Prabhava or medicines with specific power or influence

5. Prabhava (inherent nature) is the peculiar active force residing in a drug. There are certain drugs whose taste, property, power, and consequence of action are analogous, and yet the effects produced by them are quite dissimilar. For example, Madhusrava (Bassia latifolia) and Draksha (Vitis vinifera) are similar in taste, both being sweet similar in property, both being heavy ; similar in power, both being cold ; and similar in consequence of gastric action, both remaining sweet in their Vipaka, and yet the physiological effect of the former is costive and that of the latter laxative. This inherent peculiarity of the drugs is called their Prabhava. In like manner, Chitraka (Plumbago zeylanica) and Danti (Croton polyandrum) are both pungent to taste, light in property, hot in power, and pungent in consequence of gastric action. But Chitraka promotes digestion, while Danti operates as a powerful purgative. Certain substances show their Prabhava independently of the four conditions emunerated above. For instance, a herb called Sahadevi (Vernonia ​cinerea), if procured in a prescribed manner and tied on the head, is said to cure intermittent fever, though as an ordinary medicine, when administered internally, it is an alterative and a bitter tonic, and its juice when applied externally is supposed to cure leprosy and chronic skin-diseases. It is under this belief that persons acquainted with the Prabhava, or efficacy of certain objects, as fruits or stones, wear them on their bodies as prophylactics against certain diseases. The ascetics of India, who prefer to be aloof from society and pass their time in the solitude of the jungles, are said to be familiar with the wonderful properties of rare drugs, which go not only to keep their bodies and souls together, but to prolong their lives to a considerable extent. Their knowledge of the Prabhava of the different herbs, combined with the practice of regulating their breathing, is supposed to give them a longevity quite beyond our comprehension. This knowledge is handed down from teacher to pupil, and forms no small volume of the unwritten and traditional lore on the subject of the nature and properties of the Indian curative agents.

The development of India's maeria medica

The Materia Medica of India is acknowledged ​on all hands to be very voluminous. But the most noticeable feature in connection with this particular branch of ancient Indian medical science is, that unlike other ancient Indian sciences it has been up to a certain period a progressive one. Each successive writer, after a patient and careful investigation, appears to have added new drugs to the existing list, and to have thus conferred a lasting benefit on mankind. Some of the writers emphatically assert that all the curative agents mentioned in their treatises have been thoroughly tested and recommended after a long practical experience. Each writer has of course his own method of treating the subject.

Agnivesha and of Sushruta

We have already referred to the classification of Agnivesha and of Sushruta. The latter, in the 39th chapter of his standard work, has arranged the drugs into classes according to their power of curing certain diseases, prescribing from ten to twenty-five remedies for each disease. He strongly recommends that physicians should be able to identify the various remedial agents they have to deal with. They should personally go to the jungles, and with the help of shepherds, graziers, ascetics, travellers, and others familiar with the forests, gather the herbs when they are in flower, taking care to avoid those ​injured by insects, or growing on situations containing nests of white ants, or where bodies have been burnt or buried, or from ground in which there is much salt. We have also referred to the classification of Charaka, based on the properties of various substances.


Vagbhata, in the 15 th chapter of his popular work, has followed Sushruta's method, but the concise way of his description has a charm of its own. The method adopted by the author of "Dhanvantari Nighanta" is much the same as followed by Charaka, with this difference, that while the latter mentions one drug in the treatment of several diseases, the list of the former is free from such a repetition. The work is of great antiquity, but the name of the compiler is not known. Some ascribe the author-ship to Dhanvantari, the Father of Indian Medicine. But this cannot be correct. For in the prologue of his work the writer offers his salutations to "the Divine Dhanvantari adored alike by gods and demons." In his elaborate work he has treated of 373 drugs, exclusive of minerals.

Bhava Mishra

The next important writer on medicinal herbs is Bhava Mishra, son of Lataka Mishra, to whom a reference has already been made in previous pages. He has given the names and properties ​of about 150 drugs more than are found in "Dhanvantari Nighanta," such as Ahiphena (opium), Khakhas (poppy seeds), Kasumba (safflower), Methica (fenugreek), Vatavairi (almond), etc.

Raja Madanapala,

Bhava Mishra is followed by Raja Madanapala, whose work called "Madana-Vinoda " is a second edition, as it were, of the "Bhavaprakasha." He seems, however, to have augmented the list of Indian plants by some new names, among which might be mentioned "Akakarabha" (pellitory), "Anjira" (fig), " Pistam" (pistachio nut), "Haridruma" (gambier), etc.


Just about his time there flourished a learned physician named Narahari, son of Chandeshvara, an inhabitant of Sinhpur in Cashmere. He wrote an excellent work called "Abhidhana Chudamani" or "Raja Nighanta" (Royal Dictionary of Medicine). The work was composed under the patronage of the King of Cashmere at the time, and therefore no pains seem to have been spared to make it as useful and interesting as possible. According to some writers, Narahari lived in the seventh century after Christ, though the exact time of his birth is not known. His work is a glossary of medicinal substances with specifications ​of their virtues. He also describes the properties of different kinds of soil ; the nature of soils suit- able for the cultivation of various medicinal plants ; varieties of trees, cereals, oils, vegetables, roots, leaves, flowers and fruits ; properties of fresh and salt waters ; and gives, besides, a mine of useful information. The work is very elaborate, and is much valued by Indian practitioners. The order observed by this writer in arranging the drugs differs from that of his predecessors. He classifies the herbs into creepers, plants, trees and grasses, and describes how each part of them is to be used medicinally. This writer makes mention of about a hundred new medicines not to be met with in the works of his predecessors. The most important of them are : Kandura (Gyrarclinia heterophylla), Brahmadandi (Tricholapis glaberrima), Jinjhira (Triumfetta angulata), Rudanti (Cressa cretica), and Rudraksha (Elaeocarpus ganitrus).


Shodhala, who came after Narahari, wrote a treatise on Materia Medica bearing his name. He was a Gujarati Brahman by caste, his father being a physician named Nandana. His work is chiefly based on the "Dhanvantari Nighanta," to which he has added about eighty drugs as the ​result of actual investigation carried on in the forests such as Mamanjaka (Hipian orientali), Jhullapushpa (Byophytum sensitivum), Keetamari (Aristolochia bracteata) ; Utkantaka (Echinops echinatus), Bhringaraja (Eclipta alba), etc.


Vaidya Moreshvara of Ahmednagar, in the early part of the seventeenth century incorporated in his "Vaidyamrita" some Persian drugs, as Isphgul (Plantago Ispaghula) and others.

In the beginning of the eighteenth century, a well-known physician of Benares composed a large work called "Atankatimirabhaskara," an important work on the Indian healing art. In the chapter on Materia Medica, he has not only availed himself of the labours of all who had gone before him, but has thrown a new light on some of them. Tea is one of the few new drugs he has embodied in his work. His great-grandson, Vaidya Sohamji, was one of the most scholarly and celebrated physicians in Northern India. He died very recently.

About the middle of the present century, that is to say in 1867, Pandit Vishnu Vasudev Godbole published his "Nighantaratnakara." It is a very popular work, as it contains an epitome of all the previous treatises on Materia Medica, ​supplemented by about fifty new herbs not referred to by the older writers. Among the new names we find Elivaka (aloes), Anannasa (pineapple), Peruka (guava), Tamakhu (tobacco), Puclina (mint), Medica (henna), Sitaphala (cus- tard apple), etc.

Knowledge of Indian medicines in other countries

The virtues of the Indian drugs were known not only in the country of their birth, but in other countries as well. Some five centuries before Christ, Hippocrates in his Materia Medica recommends several Indian plants mentioned in Sanskrit works of much anterior date, as for instance Sesamum indicum (tila), Nardostachys jatamansi (jatamansi), Boswellia thurifera (kunduru), Zingiber officinale (shringavera), Piper nigrum (marichi), etc. In the first century of the Christian era Dioscorides, a Greek physician, thoroughly investigated the medicinal virtues of many Indian plants which were then taken to the market of Europe, and incorporated in his extant book on Materia Medica, which for many ages was received as a standard work.

In the second century, Claudius Galen, to whose writings modern European science is indebted for many useful discoveries, published his famous work, the leading opinions in which as to hot ​and cold medicines were borrowed from India, where they still prevail. Ætius, a physician of Mesopotamia, who flourished in the fifth century, and whose works on the diseases of women are still extant in Greek, mentions some drugs, as Indian nuts, sandal-wood, cocoa-nuts, and other products of India.

The Ægian physician, Paulus Ægineta, who is said to have first noticed the cathartic quality of Khubarb, and who lived in the seventh century, refers to certain Indian herbs in his work. In the eighth century, and probably in the century following, the natives of India practised as physicians in Baghdad, and employed many Indian drugs in their practice.

We find from the books written by Arabian and European travellers of bygone days, that about 600 a.c., the Arabs, who were the most forward and enterprising nation of their time, used to bring various articles of merchandise to India from their own country, and from countries lying on the east coast of Africa, and took with them from the Malabar coast in Southern India spices and medicinal drugs, and so spread a knowledge of these articles in the adjoining countries of Europe.

This state of things continued for a long time, while the Medical Science ​of India was in its heyday of glory. Every important town could then boast of one or more medical schools, the pupils at which used to accompany their teachers to the jungles to identify for themselves the various drugs mentioned in their books. The physicians, in their laborious researches, were very liberally encouraged by the ruling chiefs — great and small — in all parts of the country. So long as they continued to receive encouragement from the kings, the science prospered and flourished. Its decline dates from the Mahomedan invasions in the tenth century. The minds of both princes and people were distracted by these foreign intruders. They were chiefly engrossed in taking measures for opposing the invaders. It was only natural that during such a state of unrest and disorder, the native Vaidyas should slacken their zeal for making further investigations in the Indian flora, for want of encouragement. Far from being able to follow up the practical part of their study, they had to rest content with the theoretical knowledge imparted by their books, and to depend on ordinary grocers for the supply of drugs required for their nostrums.

When the Mahomedan power was firmly established in ​India, the Indian medicine received a rude shock. For the Mahomedans brought with them their own physicians, called Hakims, who followed in their practice the Ionian (Greek) system of medicine, generally termed "Yunani." Under Imperial patronage the Hakims began to prosper at the expense of the Vaidyas. But even at the Mahomedan Courts the Vaidyas are recorded to have cured many intractable diseases, which had baffled the skill of their foreign rivals.

It is evident that during the time of the Mahomedan rule there were introduced into India some new drugs from Arabia, Persia, and Afghanistan. Opium, for instance, appears to be a native of Western Asia. It was first imported into this country from Arabia. Its spread in India is synchronous with the advent of the Mahomedans who had adopted it as a suitable substitute for fermented liquors, which their religion discountenances. Sharngdhara and Vagbhata refer to the medicinal use of this article, which they call "Ahi-phena" or snake-foam, believing it to be inspissated saliva of snakes, probably from the symptoms of opium poison resembling those produced by the venom of snakes. It is used in diarrhoea, chronic dysentery, for allaying pain, ​and producing sleep. The European doctors seem to have learnt the therapeutic use of opium from Indian practitioners, though Scribonius Largus has noticed Opium early in the first century. Some more drugs which happened to be introduced into India during the Mahomedan rule are : —

  • Alu (Prunus bocariensis) is used in bilious affections and fevers.
  • Badian (Illicium anisatum) is a Persian drug, and its oil is applied to the joints in rheumatism.
  • Banafsha (Viola odorata) is employed in bilious affections and constipation.
  • Gaozaban (Onosma bracteatum) is used in leprosy, hypochondriasis, and syphilis.
  • Gul-e-daudi (Chrysanthemum Roxburghii) is prescribed as a demulcent in gonorrhoea.
  • Kerba (Panitis succinifer) is antispasmodic and stimulant.
  • Kharjura (Phaenix dactylifera) is nutritive and used as desert.

The Mussulman rule was supplanted by the English, whose power was firmly established in India in the eighteenth century. The English brought with them their own doctors, who prescribed European medicines, before which the ​indigenous drugs gradually gave way. Hospitals and dispensaries on Western models multiplied, and the use of Western medicines was encouraged in all parts of the country. Native medicines came to be discarded in favour of ready-made preparations imported from Europe. This was a serious blow to Indian pharmacy. But Europe is simply paying back the debt it owed to India, because its Materia Medica includes many curative agents of Indian product, such as : —

  • Aconitum heterophyllum (Ativisha).
  • Allium Cepa (Palandu).
  • Acacia Catechu (Kadara).
  • Alhagi maurorum (Yavasa).
  • Alstonia scholaris (Saptaparna).
  • Amomum elettarum (Ela).
  • Andropogon nardus (Ushira).
  • Andropogon Schosnanthus (Katurina).
  • Artemisia sternutatoria (Agnidamani).
  • Berberis Lycium (Daruharidra).
  • Butea frondosa (Palasha).
  • Cassia lanceolata (Sonamukhi).
  • Cucumis Colocynthis (Indravaruni).
  • Datura alba, Datura niger, etc. (Dhattura).
  • Justicia Adhatoda (Atarusha).
  • Luffa amara (Katukoshtaki). ​ Linum usitatissimum (Atasi).
  • Mallotus Philippiensis (Kapillaka).
  • Myrica sapida (Katfala).
  • Ophelia Chiretta and Ophelia angustifolia (Kirata).
  • Pimpinella Anisum (Shatapushpa).
  • Pongamia glabra (Karanja).
  • Ptychotis ajowan (Ajamoda).
  • Ricinus communis (Eranda).
  • Salvinia cucullata (Undurkarnika).
  • Santalum album and Santalum flavum (Cliandana).
  • Shorea robusta (Ajakarna).
  • Strychnos potatorum, Strychnos mix vomica, etc. (Katakafala).
  • Tinospora cordifolia (Gaduchi).
  • Valeriana Hardwickii (Tagara).
  • Wrightia antiddysenterica (Indrayava).

The Hindus from an early date have derived simple medicines from the ANIMAL Kingdom. Their number is very large. A few may be noted here : —

Asthi (bone) of a goat reduced to ashes, and formed into an ointment with other ingredients, is used for curing fistulae. Cuttlefish bones are also used medicinally. ​ Danta (tooth) of the elephant is prescribed in leucorrhcea.

Dugdha (milk) is nutritive and vitalising. Human milk is light and strengthening and much used in eye diseases. Cow's milk increases the secretion of semen. Buffalo's milk induces sleep when taken in large quantities. Goat's milk is sweet and light, and is recommended in phthisis and blood diseases. Sheep's milk is hot, and is believed to promote the growth of hair. Elephant's milk is used in eye diseases, and mare's milk in rheumatism. Ass's milk is saltish, and is supposed to relieve cough in children. Camel's milk is laxative, and is used in dropsy, asthma, and scrofulous diseases. The properties of milk are said to vary according to the colour of the animal and the qualities of the pasture. The chief preparations of milk are Daclhi (curds), a favourite remedy for diarrhoea ; Takra (whey), which is refrigerant ; Navanita (butter), used in constipation ; Ghrita (clarified butter), is tonic, emollient, and cooling ; Santanika (cream) is strengthening.

  • Garala (venom) of snakes is used in dropsy.
  • Tvak (skin), which a snake periodically casts ​off, is said to be an insecticide, and possesses several healing properties.
  • Jala (cobweb) of a house-spider is a useful application for stopping haemorrhage.
  • Jaluka (leeches) are applied for bloodletting.
  • Jeevata (living creatures), such as Matkuna (bed-bug), is alleged to cure quartan fever if swallowed. Similarly, a fly is swallowed to cause vomiting.
  • Kesha (hair) of a man when burnt and reduced to ashes, is applied to sores on the skin. The burning of hair is also resorted to for driving away serpents.
  • Laksha (lac) is used in menorrhagia.
  • Mada (the secretion that flows from an elephant's temples when in rut) has its medicinal use in exciting sexual desire. Similarly, Kasturi (musk) is used in hysterical disorders and other nervous affections.
  • Madhu (honey) is demulcent and laxative, and is used both internally and externally. Hindu writers describe eight kinds of honey, viz. : — Makshika, secreted by big tawny bees, and considered to be the best, is recommended in jaundice. Bhramara is white and cures scurvy. Kshaudra is secreted by small tawny bees and is ​used in gonorrhoea. Pautika is secreted by tiny black bees, is hot in property, and cures stricture of urethra. Chhatra can be had on the Himalayas where the honeycomb is found in the shape of a Chhatra or umbrella, and is employed in expelling worms. Ardhya is found in Malwa, and is said to be very beneficial in eye diseases. Audalaka is obtained from the ant-hills, and is good for the voice. Dala*[1] is the juice exuded from certain kinds of flowers and collected on the leaves. It is credited with the property of curing nausea. Honey of a particular kind of rhododendron is poisonous.
  • Madhujama (wax) is used in cerates and ointments. It is also given in the form of emulsion in diarrhoea and dysentery.
  • Mansa (flesh) of a goat fried in oil is used in rheumatism. An essence of dove's flesh is prescribed in paralysis.
  • Medas (fat) of camel or hyena is considered a valuable local remedy for gouty joints.
  • Mootra (urine) would appear to be a very useful agent, according to the Hindus, and has ​a very wide application. Cow's urine is used both internally and externally. It is prescribed in colic and many other diseases. Goat's urine is used in jaundice, buffalo's in piles and elephant's in blood diseases. The renal secretion of the horse is prescribed for killing worms, of the ass for consumption and insanity, and of the camel for the cure of ringworm. Human urine is recommended for cough and eye diseases, and urine of a castrated bullock in cases of anaemia and dysentery. Urine should, as a rule, be obtained from the female ; but in the case of the horse, the ass, the camel and the elephant, that obtained from the male is generally preferred.
  • Mukta (pearls) are taken in a powdered state for impotency and consumption.
  • Nakha (nail) of a man is used in cases of wounds, and horse's hoof for fumigation and intermittent fevers.
  • Pichha (feather) of a peacock is said to cure hiccough. It is also believed that snake poison will not affect one wearing a ring made of copper extracted from peacock's feathers.
  • Pitta (bile) of fish and other aquatic creatures is helpful in cases of fever and eye diseases.
  • Pravala (coral) is beneficial in cough. ​ Purisha (dung) of a cow is applied to parts of the skin that may be inflamed or discoloured. It is occasionally given internally. In India it is used for plastering the walls, and is spread on floors under the impression that it possesses disinfecting properties. Elephant's fimus is said to cure leprosy. Droppings of a domestic cock are considered beneficial in colic, and those of a goat in cutaneous diseases.
  • Shankha (conch) relieves colic and flatulence.
  • Shringa (horn) of a stag has various medicinal uses. Made into a paste, it is applied to sprains, contusions and fissures, and to the forehead in headache.
  • Varataka (cowry) is recommended for enlarged spleen.

Minerals and metals

The MINERALS used in medicine by the Hindus include Metals, Rasas, Salts, Precious Stones, Clay, etc.

The Metals employed by the ancient Indian physicians are divided into two classes — principal and secondary. The principal metals or Dhatus are seven, namely : — Suvarna (gold), Raupya (silver), Tamra (copper), Banga (tin), Sisaka (lead), Yashada (zinc) and Loha (iron). The "secondary metals" (substances containing any ​of the principal metals or their compounds) possess the properties of such metals, though in a lesser degree, and are also seven, viz. : — Suvarnamakshika (yellow pyrites), Taramakshika (white pyrites), Tuttha (sulphate of copper), Kansya (brass), Keeti (calcined zinc), Sindura (red oxide of lead) and Shilajita (bitumen).

Parada (mercury) is treated under the name of Rasa (pleasure), as its presence in the com- position of medicines is supposed to afford great satisfaction to the Vaidyas. It is called the principal Easa, as distinguished from the Uparasas or secondary Rasas, which are Gandhaka (sulphur), Hingula (red sulphide of mercury), Abhraka (mica), Manasshila (bisulphide of arsenic), Talaka (tersulphide of arsenic), Srotan- jana (sulphide of lead), Tankana (borax), Rajavarta (lapis lazuli), Chumbaka (loadstone), Sfatika (alum), Kasisa (sulphate of iron), Rasaka (carbonate of zinc) and Bodara (litharge).

The precious stones (Ratnas) mentioned in Materia Medica are also divided into two classes — principal and secondary. The principal gems are nine, their names being : Heera (diamond), Padmaraga (ruby), Nila (sapphire), Garutmat (emerald), Pushparaga (topaz), Gomeda (onyx), ​Vaidurya (cat's eye), Mauktika (pearl) and Pravala (coral). The last two belong to the Animal Kingdom, but are referred to here as being included in the " nine gems." Among the secondary stones may be mentioned Suryakanta (sun-stone), Chandra-kanta (moon-stone — a gem supposed to be formed of the congealed rays of the moon), Sphatika (crystal), Haritshyama (turquoise), Kacha (glass), and some others.

Certain kinds of sand and clay are in common use as healing agents, such as Khatika (carbonate of calcium), Kardama (hydrous silicate of alumina), Gopichandana (silicate of alumina), Sikata (silica), etc.

The principal salts included in the Hindu Pharmacopoeia are Navasadara (chloride of ammonium), Sindhava (chloride of sodium), Pamshujakshara (carbonate of potassium), Yavakshara (carbonate of soda), and Suryakshara (nitrate of potash).

Besides the compounds already enumerated, the Hindus have for ages past employed Jangala (subacetate of copper), Mandura (hydrated oxide of iron), Pashanabheda (carbonate of iron and lime), Yashadapushpa (oxide of zinc), Rasasindura (sulphide of mercury), Rasakarpura (corrosive ​sublimate), Shankhavisha (arsenious acid), and several other metallic preparations.

The metals have been recognised as remedies by the Hindus from prehistoric times. Vegetable drugs are universally used as therapeutic agents. But it is to be remembered that preparations of vegetable substances do not keep well. The ancient ancient Indians seem to have ascertained by practical experience that vegetable drugs, as a general rule, become inert after a year; powders preserve their strength for two months, pills and tinctures for a year, and oleaginous preparations sixteen months. Under the circumstances, the ancient Indians have, it is alleged, discovered retentive and lasting medicines, which, far from becoming weakened in effect under the influence of time, increase in strength in proportion to their age. They have described the method of transferring the properties of vegetable cures to certain metals, which intensify their efficacy, and retain it a long time. The metals are subjected to various processes of purification, oxidation, etc., before they can be administered as medicines for various diseases. These Compounds or Bhasmas, as they are called, are supposed to be infinitely more effective than the vegetable drugs, and are always ​given in small doses. The number of physicians using mineral remedies is not large ; for the general belief is that the metals, if not carefully and properly prepared, do more harm than good. Only those who are experts in this practice inspire confidence in their patients. The literature on metallic remedies is very voluminous among; the Hindus.

As has already been said, the metals before being calcined must in the first place be purified. Different modes are prescribed for purifying different metals. One of the simple processes of purifying gold is to manufacture the metal into thin plates ; make these red-hot, and then dip them into sweet oil ; again heat the plates red ; plunge them into whey ; heat them a third time ; cool them in cow's urine and sour gruel ; repeat this process seven times, and lastly dip the red-hot metal into Kulatha (a kind of vetch). The metal then becomes pure and free from all deleterious matter. It is then subjected to the process of "killing" or oxidation, with the object of reducing it to bhasama. Of the many processes described, the following may be taken as an example : — Let the purified gold be melted in a crucible with one-sixteenth part of its ​quantity of lead ; triturate the mass in lemon juice and make it into a ball ; then coat it with powdered sulphur ; put the bolus in an earthen pot, and cover it with another vessel of the same size ; cement the two together with a layer of white clay, and place them in the midst of fire made of twenty cow-dung cakes. When the fire has completely burnt out, take out the mass from the crucible. Repeat the process for seven consecutive clays, and then the metal becomes calcined, and can easily be reduced to powder. This gold "calx" is said to be a good tonic, and is supposed to cure nearly all diseases. It is said to remove the effects of old age, and to restore the vigour of manhood, to sharpen the memory, improve the voice and colour of the body, and promote strength. It is stimulant and aphrodisiac.

Silver bhasma is prepared in very much the same way, and is highly recommended in sexual weakness and obesity.

The process of purifying copper is similar to that adopted for gold. When purified, boil the thin plates of the metal for three days in lemon juice, and incorporate it with one-fourth of its' quantity of quicksilver. Then the mass, mixed ​with two parts of sulphur, is to be moulded into a ball and covered over with a layer of Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa) about one inch thick. Place this in an earthen pot, and roast it in Valukayantra (an apparatus, see Plate IV.) for twelve hours. After taking it off the fire, put the mass into the hollowed root of Shurana (Arum Colocasia), cover it with a coating of dung and clay, and expose it to heat. This makes the metal fit for reduction to powder, which is used in cases of enlargement of the liver and spleen, gout and rheumatism.

In order to purify tin, first melt and then soak it three times in succession in oil, whey, Kanjika (sour gruel), cow's urine, and lastly in the juice of Arka (Calotropis gigantea). Melt the purified metal in an earthen crucible, adding to it the powder of tamarind and banyan tree barks in the proportion of four to one. Stir and rub them with an iron ladle. Mix with the powder an equal quantity of Talaka and triturate in an acid juice. Expose it to fire ; again add one-tenth of its quantity of Talaka, and again rub it and put it over a fire. Repeat the process ten times, or until the metal is reduced to bhasma, which is said to be a good remedy for painful ​micturition and other urinary disorders. It is also credited with the power of curing gonorrhoea, jaundice and obesity.

The process of purifying lead is similar to that of tin. In order to make it fit for medicinal use cover the mass of purified lead with a coating of Manasshila macerated and rubbed up in betel-leaf juice, put it on the fire and repeat the process thirty times, when the metal is converted into bhasma, which is a vermifuge, and is recommended for chronic diarrhoea.

The method of preparing zinc bhasma is the same as that employed for tin. The medicine is a nervine tonic and is used in cholera and epilepsy.

Iron is purified by exposing it to the fire of a furnace and quenching it three times successively in oil, Kanjika, cow's urine and Kulatha. Then to twelve parts of the metal add one of Hingula and triturate in the juice of Ghritakumari (Indian aloes) for six hours ; expose it to the fire of Gajaputa (a square hole dug in the earth about two feet deep and two feet wide filled in with cow-dung cakes, in the midst of which the earthen vessel containing the metal to be roasted is put). After repeating the pro​cess seven times, iron can easily be reduced to bhasma, and is then prescribed for hectic fever, anaemia, dropsy and brain diseases.

Precious stones, like metals, must be subjected to the processes of purification and calcination before they can be used therapeutically. Diamond bhasma is credited with many wonderful properties. To purify a diamond it is placed in the hollow of a Vyaghri (Solanum indicum) root covered over with buffalo's dung. This is kept over a fire during the whole night, and quenched in horse's urine in the morning. The operation is repeated for seven days. Thus purified it is heated and cooled in a decoction made of asafcetida, bay salt and gruel. Go the same round for twenty-one days, and diamond bhasma is prepared. It is said to improve the colour of the body and cure many diseases. It will be interesting; to note here that the Hindus distinguish four kinds of diamonds, differing from each other in appearance and property, called Brahma, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra, names derived from the castes into which the Hindus are arranged. The Brahma diamond is clear white, the Kshatriya of reddish colour, the Vaishya is yellowish and the Shudra diamond ​is of a smoky colour. A diamond which is perfectly symmetrical, sharp-edged, lustrous, big, and without a stain is called a Purusha or a male diamond. It is considered the best as far as its medicinal use goes ; it restores vigour and can be prescribed to all with advantage. That which exhibits stains and cracks, and which is hexangular, is distinguished as a female diamond, and its bhasma is beneficial to females only. Diamonds that are long and triangular are neuter and are considered powerless.

But of all the minerals Mercury is recognised as the most important by the Indian physicians. Marvellous powers are attributed to it. It was no doubt known to the Romans and Arabs who employed it externally, but the Hindus seem to be the only people who prescribed it internally. It is found in many parts of India, and was known to its people from a very early date. Being a volatile substance it is unmanageable for purification and 'killing' without a good deal of care and patience. But if once brought under subjection, it proves, say the Hindus, an in- valuable medicine for curing some of the most obstinate diseases. The Vaidyas use various contrivances called Yantras for the preparation of ​mercurial compounds. These Yantras are known by the names of Damaru, Urdhvanalika, Valuka, Bhudhara, Dola, Patala, Nabhi and many others. For diagrams of some of them, see Plates 1-6

medicinal instruments, Plate 1 Plate 1

medicinal instruments, Plate 2 Plate 2

medicinal instruments, Plate 3 Plate 3

medicinal instruments, Plate 4 Plate 4

medicinal instruments, Plate 5 Plate 5

medicinal instruments, Plate 6 Plate 6

Like other minerals mercury should be purified for medicinal purposes. This can be done in various ways. Sharngdhara gives the following directions : — Rub mustard seeds and garlic together until reduced to the consistency of mud. Make two small cups of the mass. Put mercury in one of them, lute the other over it, and dry it in the sun. Tie the vessel in a piece of cloth, suspend it for three days in an earthen pot filled with Kanjika and place it on the fire. Take out the mercury from the vessel and rub it for one day in Ghritakumari juice, another day in a decoction of Chitraka (Plumbago zeylanica), for the third day in that of Kakamachi (Cocculus indica), and the fourth day in that of the three Myrobalans. Wash the mass in Kanjika, to separate the mercury from it. Again put the quicksilver in a mortar containing half its quantity of bay salt, and triturate it for a whole day. Add an equal quantity of mustard seed, and rub the mass in a rice-husk decoction.

Repeat the whole process with garlic and then with sal-ammoniac. Mould the lump in the form of a lozenge and let it dry. Apply to it asafoetida all round, and place it in an apparatus called Damaru (see Plate II.). Here, under the influence of fire, mercury will "fly up" and stick to the concave part of the covering vessel. That mercury is supposed to be perfectly pure. The next step in the preparation of its Bhasma is to take equal parts of dry ginger, black pepper, long pepper, carbonate of potash, barilla, "the five salts" (bay salt, table salt, Samber salt, black salt, and Bida salt), garlic, sal-ammoniac, bark of the horse-radish tree (Shigru), and mercury ; powder together the dry ingredients first and then add the mercury, and thoroughly mix them together, triturating it for a whole day and night in Kanjika, or in lemon juice in Taptakhalva (see Plate V.). This process is called "Mukhakarana," which means literally the formation of a mouth ; for mercury is then able to absorb any purified mineral sought to be blended with it. But it is not supposed to have acquired full strength until it is able to "imbibe" an equal, or double, treble, or even quadruple its quantity of prepared sulphur. Finally, triturate the purified mercury in betel-leaf juice, scoop out the interior of Karkoti ​root (Dregia volubilis) so as to form a cavity, fill it with the triturated mass, close the mouth, and drop the preparation in an earthen vessel luted with mud and cloth and place it over a fire. Mercury will then be fit to be reduced to Bhasma. There are other processes more or less intricate in which various Yantras or apparata are required.

Many treatises have been written on the wonderful power of Rasa or Mercury. The followers of a religious doctrine in India called Euseshism consider Mercury as one of the manifestations of God. It is generally believed that the combination of mercury with other metals adds considerably to the intrinsic powers of these metals as useful remedies. Paracelsus of Hohenheim, who is known in Europe as "the Reformer of Medicine," in referring to the Yogis of India, says that " these are extremely long-lived, every man of them living to 150 or 200 years. They eat very little, rice and milk chiefly. And these people make use of a very strange beverage, a potion of sulphur and quicksilver mixed together, and this, they say, they drink twice every month. This, they say, gives them long life." The Yogis of India, as we have said, are supposed to have ​their own method of prolonging life to a wonderful extent by regulating their breathing. By a careful attention to the rules of conduct, diet, and ways of thought, as well as by the adoption of certain postures for restraining their inspirations and expirations, the Yogis are said to enjoy perfect health and happiness. They no doubt make use of certain medicinal drugs to stave off hunger and thirst without detriment to their health, and knowing its marvellous powers they now and then have occasion to use Parada (Mercury) during their austere practice. Sulphur being an indispensable ingredient in the preparation of the drug, Paracelsus is right in alluding to "a potion of sulphur and quicksilver." This "Luther Alter," as he is called, nourished in the sixteenth century, and had himself great faith in mercury, and his principal mixture w T as styled "Mercurius Vitae." To mercury, when freed of all traces of lead, tin and other impurities, is ascribed the virtue of curing eighteen kinds of leprosy, eye diseases, fevers and impotency, and it is further credited with the power of prolonging life. As a therapeutic agent it is believed to be matchless.

Medicines prepared from the vegetable, animal, ​and mineral products are exhibited in various forms. Some are used externally and some internally. These include : —

Anjana (eye-salve), Asava (tincture), Avaleha (electuary), Basti (enema), Bhasma ("alkaline ashes"), Bindu (drops), Chukra (vinegar), Churna (powder), Dhumapana (inhalation), Dhumra (fumigation), Drava (acid), Dravasveda (medicated bath), Fanta (infusion), Gandusha (gargle), Ghrita (ointment), Gutika (pill), Hima (watery extract), Kalka (paste), Kanjika (gruel), Kavalika (suppository), Kvatha (decoction), Lepa (plaster), Manjana (dentifrice), Modaka (bolus), Nasya (snuff), Paka (confection), Panaka (syrup), Peya (emulsion), Pindi (poultice), Plota (lotion), Satva (extract), Sechana (spray), Shrutambu (cold water in which a very hot piece of brick or iron is quenched), Shukta (ferment), Svarasa (expressed juice), Sveda (vapour), Taila (oil), Udvartana (liniment), Upanaha (fomentation), Vatika (lozenge) and Vartika (bougie).

The weights and measures employed in the preparation and administration of medicines have been referred to by the ancient Hindu writers, and they are still used by the modern physicians, though the standard of weights ​prevailing in India varies in different parts. Charaka gives the following table for weights:—

6 Trasrenus = 1 Marichi.
6 Marichis > = 1 Rajika.
3 Rajikas = 1 Sarsapa.
8 Sarsapas = 1 Yava.
4 Yavas = 1 Gunja.
6 Gunjas = 1 Maskaka.
4 Maskakas = 1 Shana.
2 Shanas = 1 Kola.
2 Kolas = 1 Karsha (one tola).[2]
2 Karshas = 1 Ardhavapada.
2 Ardhavapadas = 1 Pala.
2 Palas = 1 Prasruti.
2 Prasrutis = 1 Anjali.
2 Anjalis = 1 Manika.
2 Manikas = 1 Prastha.
4 Prasthas = 1 Adhaka.
4 Adhakas = 1 Drona.
2 Dronas = 1 Surpa.
2 Surpas = 1 Droni.
4 Dronis = 1 Khari.
100 Palas = 1 Tula (400 Tolas).
2000 Palas = 1 Bhara.

The weights used in Kalinga,—country along ​the Coromandel coast, north of Madras, — are the following : —

12 Sarsapas = 1 Yuva (barley-corn).
2 Yuvas = 1 Gunja.
3 Gunjas = 1 Vala.
8 Gunjas = 1 Masha.
4 Mashas = 1 Shana.
6 Mashas = 1 Gadiana.
10 Mashas = 1 Karsha.
4 Karshas = 1 Pala.
4 Palas = 1 Kudava.

The weights now in vogue in Gujarat and Kathiawar are : —

6 Chokhas = 1 Rati.
3 Ratis = 1 Vala.
16 Valas = 1 Gadiana.
2 Gadianas = 1 Tola (180 Grains).
2 Tolas = 1 Adhola.
2 Adholas = 1 Navatanka.
2 Navatankas = 1 Paseer.
2 Paseers = 1 Adheer.
2 Adheers = 1 Seer.
40 Seers = 1 Maund.

Fluids were measured by a vessel of bamboo, wood, or iron, four fingers in diameter and as many deep, called Kudava.

Bhagavadgita Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V Avaialbe in USA/UK/DE/FR/ES/IT/NL/PL/SC/JP/CA/AU

Suggestions for Further Reading

↑ * This substance is a purely vegetable product, and is mentioned here because the Hindu writers have generally classified it with the other varieties of honey.

↑ 180 Grains.

Image Attribution: This image was created by Jayaram V with modifications from a photograph which was originally taken by Biswarup Ganguly and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Source: Chapter 7, A Short History Of Aryan Medical Science By H.H. Sir Bhagvat Singh Jee, K.C.I.E. M.D., D.C.L., Ll.D., F.R.C.P.E. Thakore Saheb Of Gondal With Ten Plates, London Macmillan And Co., Ltd. New York : The Macmillan Company 1896. This was previously edited by Rajasekhar, 1961, and was reformatted and reorganized for the web edition by Jayaram V in 2019. The title of the work has also been changed to A Short History Of Indian Medical Science to reflect the current theories of the early history of India and adjoining areas.

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