Dominik Wujastyk dom at uclblr.iisc.ernet.in
Wed Mar 22 22:00:40 UTC 1995

>           More  on waterlilies and  the moon:   I  went  to  the stacks and 
>           looked through several books  both horticultural and taxonomic on 
>           waterlilies and lotuses, and  there  was  plenty said  about  day 
>           blooming versus  night blooming ones,  but nothing whatever about 
>           any opening with  the  moon.   

Dear Allen, thanks again for the info.  What it is to have a good
library to hand...!

I don't think there is really an issue about lotuses opening with the
moon.  I'm happy to live with the poetic image, and the moon being a
symbol of the night.  The main thing is that there are actual
lilies/lotuses that open at night.  That's what I didn't know.

It's time to come clean about my reasons for asking about lotuses etc.

My enquiry started because I came across the term "kumudaghnii" in a
list of plant-poisons in Susruta's kalpasthana.  This is said to be a
plant whose milky sap is poisonous.  But "kumudaghnii" isn't listed
anywhere in the nighantus as a plant name, and seems to be a hapax in
this one place.  No previous scholar seems to have identified this
plant.  So I got to thinking.  The name of this poison, kumuda-ghnii,
means `lotus killer'. In Sanskrit literature, the kumuda lotus is
associated with the moon, since it blossoms by night (and now we know it
really does).  Since the sun causes this lotus to close, it is therefore
an `enemy' of the lotus.  One of the chief words for the sun, arka, is
also the name of Calotropis gigantea, which indeed has a milky juice
which is a violent purgative, poison and abortifacient.

The only drawback about this explanation is the gender: arka is pum.,
kumudaghnii is strii.  Still, for the moment I'm going with it.


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