Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Wed Aug 20 15:51:49 EDT 2008

Actually, there's quite a bit of help around.  The publications out of the 
group at the AVS Kottakkal, including Indira Balachandran, V. V. Sivarajan 
and others, are excellent, have pictures, are multilingual, and are 
historically well-informed.  In the introduction to my Roots of Ayurveda 
book - sorry for mentioning my own work - I discuss these issues of plant 
identification, and give a condensed reading list of the works I have in 
my library and that I have found extremely helpful.  Since Roots came out, 
the website http://botanicus.org has arisen that offers simply amazing 
historical resources, and links to nomenclature databases. One can 
download the whole of Hortus Malabaricus.  It's staggering!

There will always remain some difficult cases, and your "snap" example is 
wonderful, and just the sort of historical data that needs to be brought 
to the surface.  There's always more research to be done.  But there is a 
mass of valuable publications out there already that answer very many 
questions.  Just Kirtikar and Basu is already a great starting point.

Our colleague Roelf Barkhuis has told me that his company will be 
publishing something substantial in exactly this area in the not too 
distant future.


University College London

On Wed, 20 Aug 2008, George Hart wrote:

> Many years ago, Daniel Ingalls remarked that he wished to publish a book 
> of plants with their Sanskrit names, giving pictures and the like.  I 
> realize we have various databases and books that catalog the plants of 
> South Asia, but to my knowledge we still have nothing that is meant for 
> the scholar of premodern South Asia that gives the names of the plants 
> in classical languages (Sanskrit, Tamil, Prakrit) with pictures and 
> citations and identifies the plants.  In translating from Tamil, I find 
> many many plant names (and some fauna also) whose identification is 
> problematic, and the discussion here on kadamba shows the same is true 
> in Sanskrit.  I find myself going on the internet and trying to discover 
> what each plant could be and what it looks like -- using the Tamil 
> Lexicon for the Latin names. I remember one occurrence in the NaRRiNai 
> that describes a plant (I've forgotten which one and don't have time to 
> look it up), saying it makes a sound like fingers snapping.  One modern 
> commentator had a completely different interpretation, and I followed 
> him in translating it -- which led a Tamil journal to criticize my 
> translation.  When I researched it on the internet I found that indeed 
> the seed pod explodes -- which means that fingers snapping is the 
> correct translation.  A comprehensive book -- or better on-line database 
> -- allowing one to look up Sanskrit/Tamil/Prakrit names (and names in 
> other South Asian languages) would be invaluable.  If someone is looking 
> for a challenging and fascinating project, this would be a good one.

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list