Stem of munja grass

Frits Staal jfstaal at SOCRATES.BERKELEY.EDU
Sat Apr 6 20:54:37 UTC 2002

Very grateful for Dr. Vidyasankar Sundaresan's authoritative information
and corrections in Ashok Aklujkar's forwarding -- a print-out must at least
for me.

At 07:44 AM 4/6/02 -0800, you wrote:
>I herewith forward the following message received from Dr. Vidyasankar
>Sundaresan. -- ashok aklujkar
>1. Botanically speaking, grasses and coconut/palm/areca are not too far off
>in the modern classification. Grasses belong to the family Gramineae under
>the subclass Commelinidae, while coconut/areca/palm belong to the very next
>subclass, namely Arecidae (this name is derived from the word areca). Both
>subclasses fall under the class Monocotyledonae, i.e plants with seeds that
>have only one cotyledon (as opposed to two cotyledons).
>2. There are about 10000 species under Gramineae, including food grains like
>rice and wheat, and also such plants as bamboo, sugarcane etc. As we all
>know, bamboos and sugarcane can grow very tall, with even wood-like
>formation in the stems, but they are nevertheless "grasses". Also, the
>scientific name of Munja grass is Saccharum munja or Saccharum bengalense or
>Saccharum sara (i.e. zara (Sanskrit)). I think bengalense is the preferred
>botanical name, as botanists tend to give priority to geography over
>language, although of course, there is no reason in these post-British-India
>times why Bengal should be thus specially priviliged! Anyway, I notice that
>the online Monier-Williams gives the botanical name Saccharum sara under
>both entries. If munja and zara are closely related (much like both Africans
>and Chinese are Homo sapiens), the ritual use of one instead of the other
>makes perfect sense, and there may be no botanical confusion at all in this
>case. Also, given that sugarcane also belongs to the same genus, i.e.
>Saccharum, I have no difficulty in believing that munja can grow rather
>3. In the context of 1 above, the word used to refer to
>coconut/areca/palm seems quite understandable. Common usage might consider
> to be tuccha, but maybe not so for special usages. And if we think
>about it, both garden variety grass and coconut trees have many similarities
>- monocotyledonous seeds, blade like leaves, clusters of flowers,
>adventitious roots, no hard wood formation. The only major differing
>characteristic is that the clusters of flowers give way to clusters of
>medium to big sized nuts in coconut/areca/palm, while grass flowers do not.
>4. Having cleared the botany, may I suggest that instead of "stem", one
>should probably be thinking of translating as "pith"? This would make better
>sense in the context of having to remove multiple outer layers in order to
>expose the iSIkA. The interesting biological fact is that grass stems are
>usually jointed with a solid vertical joint, and solid horizontal joints at
>nodes. So they are hollow inside (think of bamboo flutes, but not so in the
>case of sugarcane), enclosing only AkAza. I don't know if munja is also
>ultimately hollow inside, but I would guess that it is. The comparison to
>the invisible Atman would then be absolutely perfect, both in the anugItA
>and in the pancadazI!
>5. Finally, for pictures of Saccharum munja, people working in the areas of
>water conservation and prevention of soil erosion may have them, or would

>know what sources to search. This and other grasses are being extensively
>studied in environmental programs in India and elsewhere. See for example
> <>  (vetiver is derived from Tamil
Frits Staal

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