[INDOLOGY] Significance of the Iṅgudī tree

naresh keerthi nakeerthi at gmail.com
Tue Apr 25 17:18:51 UTC 2017

Dear Jonathan Peterson,

The iṅgudī (also iṅguda) is also known as the *tāpasa-taru *
(Amarakośa)or *Muni-taru
*(Sāyaṇa), and beside its medicinal properties, it is associated with the
austere life – either that of *ṛṣi*-s, or of people like Rāma who had to
spend a long time in the forest.

It is known for its lipid-rich fruit, that are crushed to extract an oil of
sorts; which is used as lamp fuel, and as an unguent for tying up hair into
the matted *jaṭābhāra* suitable for a forest-dweller,  as well as used as a
salve for wounds. The oilcake that remains after extracting the oil
*[iṅgudī-piṇyāka*] is favoured as an object for making ritual funereal

All instances of the iṅgudī in the Rāmāyaṇa are restricted to the
Araṇyakāṇḍa, which suggests that the tree is tied to the semiotics of the
forest and the forest-dwelling folk (the *tāpasa* and the *vaikhānasa*, not
the hunter). When Rāma comes to the Niṣāda king’s land - Śṛṅgaverapura, he
rests beneath a huge Iṅgudī tree. Later Bharata meets the Niṣāda king, and
pays his respects to the tree where Rāma etc. spent a night.  The same
kāṇḍa also has a description of how Rāma, upon hearing news of Daśaratha’s
death offered the *nivāpa* water, and then a funeral piṇḍa of *iṅgudī-piṇyāka
*mixed with the jujube (*badaraphala*) in homage to his dead ancestor
[Araṇyakāṇḍa, 95th sarga?].

 The Abhijñānaśākuntala refers to the oil-stained rocks used to crush
iṅgudī (ostensibly for tying jaṭā) being markers of a hermitage in the
vicinity [First act, Duśyanta - *nīvārāḥ etc…prasnigdhāḥ
kvacidiṅgudīphalabhidaḥ sūcyanta evopalāḥ*], to the use of iṅgudī for
dressing wounds [fourth act - Kaṇva to Śakuntalā describing her pet
deer – *yasya
tvayā vraṇa-viropaṇam iṅgudīnāṃ tailaṃ nyaṣicyata mukhe kuśasūcividdhe* ].
The Raghuvaṁśa refers to lamps lit with iṅgudī oil (I’m unable to recollect
the full verse – *tā iṅgudī-sneha-kṛta-pradīpāḥ* etc.)

That long prelude was only to point to the many features the *iṅgudī*
shares, with the *zaytun*, as the nearest approximation, in terms of
bearing fruit that yield oil, as well as having religious/ritual
significance; and it was probably this overlap of features that prompted
the translator to use the iṅgudī.

I join Prof Madhav Deshpande in requesting a pdf – I would love to look at
this text.


Naresh Keerthi

National Institute of Advanced Studies


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