Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Wed Aug 20 16:27:30 EDT 2008

The trouble with Pandanus - which is so excellent in many ways - and with 
many other guides in this area, including the indexes to my own book, is 
that all the thinking that lies behind a choice of plant identification is 
suppressed.  I no longer even look at books that just say X in Sanskrit is 
Y in Latin/English.  There's no point.  If the author doesn't share with 
you the *thinking* process behind the assertion.

Plant identifications can be made on the basis of many different kinds of 
evidence.  There's the anecdotal/historical "snap" kind of evidence, which 
is great when you can get it.  There is the opinion of vaidyas, and this 
can vary from one locality to another.  There are the Sanskrit nighantus, 
and the Amarakosa, that give many useful correspondences and ideas. 
There are the Sanskrit words themselves that sometimes contain clues to 
the shape, colour or other features of the plant.  There are the remarks 
of botanists from Garcia da Orta and van Rheede through Linnaeus, Hooker 
etc. through to ethnopharmacologists like R. N. Chopra.  There is the 
pharmaceutical consideration, as in discussions of Soma and many other 
plants with claimed medicinal effects.  There's the cross-language 
coordination of nomenclature.  It goes on.  In actual practice, one does a 
kind of triangulation from two or three of these types of evidence to 
arrive at an answer.  The good thing is that there's a great deal of 
useful scholarship already out there, some of it quite old, that gives 
lots of historical background.  Dymock is wonderfully discursive and yet 
accurate.  Same for Whitelaw and others.  U C Dutt's little tome is 
extremely valuable, and does a much better job of understanding King's 
data from the Botanical garden in Calcutta than did dear old Monier 

So, my point is that producing a database or a book that says "This 
Sanskrit thingy is that Latin thingy" just won't do.  At the very least, 
the *sources* for making any such judgement absolutely must be given. 
Better still, the sources should be summarized and discussed, however 
briefly.  Any other approach just adds to the groaning shelves of works 
that make only raw assertions.  These add to the confusion, rather than 
curing it.


Dr Dominik Wujastyk
University College London

On Wed, 20 Aug 2008, Christophe Vielle wrote:

> It remains interesting to note through this wonderful tool Pandanus 
> database that
> Mitragyna parvifolia Korth. = Stephegyne parvifolia [contra parvi"-flora" 
> Apte] S.Vidal, same Rubiaceae family as Anthocephalus chinensis = skt 
> kadamba but in this case identified with Skt vitaana
> see: 
> http://images.google.com/images?svnum=10&hl=en&lr=&q=Mitragyna+parvifolia
> is identified with Tamil ka.tampai, niirkka.tampu (same in Malayaa.lam), 
> ci_n_nakka.tampu, Mal. roosu ka.tampu or viimpu,
> which means, on the basis of this "sub-variety" Dravidian lexical 
> classification, that Apte's identification is not wrong at all, and that 
> two (close) plants remain possible in this case.
> Christophe Vielle
>> Take a look at this:
>> http://images.google.com/images?q='Anthocephalus%20cadamba'
>> According to the DED, Skt. kadamba is (not surprisingly) Dravidian -- 
>> Tamil kaTampu, kaTampam, Telugu kaDambamu, etc.  It was worn by the 
>> veelan, a low-caste priest of Murugan, when he became possessed.  One 
>> wonders why the retroflex disappeared in Sanskrit -- perhaps the voicing 
>> of the -T- (stops are voiced in Tamil/Malayalam when they appear 
>> intervocalically) was heard more prominently than the retroflex.  The -T- 
>> retroflexed in all the Dravidian languages cited by DED.  It also gives a 
>> variant Sanskrit form, kalamba.
>> George Hart
>> On Aug 19, 2008, at 9:57 AM, mkapstei at UCHICAGO.EDU wrote:
>>> Thanks to all who answered my query.
>>> There seem to be several Latin designations
>>> for the same plant in this case.
>>> The very useful Pandanus database
>>> suggests "wild cinchona" as the English name,
>>> but I am puzzled by this: "cinchona" generally
>>> names several quinine-yielding species in
>>> South America. Is it possible that, after
>>> the invention of the gin and tonic, drunken
>>> malaria victims began to see quinine bushes
>>> everywhere?
>>> Matthew
>>> Matthew T. Kapstein
>>> Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies
>>> The University of Chicago Divinity School
>>> Directeur d'études
>>> Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris
> --
> http://belgianindology.lalibreblogs.be

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