Vrikshayurveda is a Sanskrit text which is a treatise covering the healthy growth of plants and trees and protection of the environment. It is believed to be the work of ‘Surpal’, about whom very little is known today.
In 1996, Dr. Y. L. Nene of The Asian Agro-History Foundation of India obtained the manuscripts of this treatise from the Boldean Library (Oxford), UK. Dr. Nalini Sadhale translated it into English.
The manuscript of Vrikshayurveda is written in the ancient script of Devanagari. There are 325 intertwined verses in 60 pages in which, among other things, the characteristics of 170 plants are given.
The treatise covers the buying of seeds, their protection, their treatment, digging a pit for planting, selection of land, methods of irrigation, manure and nutrition, diseases of plants, protection of plants from internal and external diseases, plant medicine, configuration of the garden (lay-out) etc.etc
Thus Vrikshayurveda is a vast storehouse of knowledge on all the issues related to the life of plants and trees.
It is interesting to learn that ancient India not only had a medical science for the humans (Ayurveda) but also for plants, called Vrikshayurveda.
We would like to introduce this important scientific text and the date of the work here.
Asian Agri-History Foundation (AAF) of Andhra Pradesh is doing great service to the history of Indian agriculture by bringing out authentic translations of ancient texts.
Under the aegis of AAF, Nalini Sadhale has translated Vrikshayurveda of Surapala, an ancient Sanskrit text on the science of plant life.
Though the names of both the text and the author were preserved by tradition, the actual text, however, was unavailable.
The hopes of tracing any independent text of Vrikshayurveda were given up by scholars, till Y L Nene (Chairman, Asian Agri-History Foundation) procured a manuscript of Vrikshayurveda of Surapala from the Bodleian Library, Oxford, UK.
Sadhale undertook the translation of the text at Nene’s request.
The manuscript is written in an old form of Nagari script. The script of the manuscript represents, most probably, the stage immediately preceding the modem form of Nagari.
The script consists of sixty pages with margin on both sides. Each page contains six lines in general (occasionally five or seven).
There are about thirty characters in each line written boldly with a thick pointed pen.
Brhatsamhita of Varahamihira of the sixth century also contains a chapter titled Vrikshayurveda.
It also contains chapters on allied subjects such as divining groundwater, productivity and non-productivity of land as indicated by natural vegetation, etc.
However, beyond establishing the antiquity of the Shastra, it cannot give any definite clues to any full-fledged, independent texts on Vrikshayurveda.
An anthological compilation of Sarngadharapaddhati (written by Sarngadhara), belonging to the thirteenth century, is yet another ancient text which in its chapter “Upavanavinoda” deals with an allied subject, viz., “arbori-horticulture”.
The chapter discusses such topics as planting, soil, nourishment of plants, plant diseases and remedies, groundwater resources, etc.
Thus it shares with Vrikshayurveda of Surapala almost all the topics. Many verses are identical and several others, although worded differently have an identical content.
In spite of the striking resemblance between Upavanavinoda and Vrikshayurveda of Surapala, the former cannot be considered as a complete and independent text on Vrikshayurveda.
Surapal’s Vrikshayurveda is a systematic composition starting with the glorification of trees and tree planting.
It then proceeds to discuss various topics connected with the science of plant life such as procuring, preserving, and treating of seeds before planting; preparing pits for planting saplings; selection of soil; method of watering; nourishments and fertilizers; plant diseases and plant protection from internal and external diseases; layout of a garden; agricultural and horticultural wonders; groundwater resources; etc.
The topics are neatly divided into different sections and are internally correlated.
The author has expressed indebtedness to the earlier scholars but claims that in writing the present text he was guided by his own reason.
All these observations lead one to accept the text as an independent, full-fledged work on the subject of Vrikshayurveda.
Sadhale informs that there are frequent references to this science in ancient Indian literature such as Atharvaveda, Brhatsamhita of Varahamihira, Sarngadharapaddhati of Sarngadhara, etc. which bring out the botanical and agricultural aspects; works such as the Samhitas of Caraka and Susruta which bring out the medicinal aspect; and works such as Grhyasutras, Manusmrti, Arthasastra of Kautilya, Sukraniti, Krishisangraha of Parasara, Kamandakiya Nitisara, Buddhist Jatakas, Puranas (Matsya, Varaha, Padma, Agni, etc.).
The colophon of the manuscript mentions Surapala as the writer of the text. He is described as a scholar in the court of Bhimapala. Surapala is stated to be “Vaidyavidyavarenya“, a prominent physician.
Like several other Sanskrit texts the manuscript gives no clue to the date or place of the author.
The subject deserves an in-depth study; however, any attempt at fixing a date of an author is bound to be at best a conjecture for want of definite proof.
Surapala’s language, style, vocabulary, and expression also do not help much in providing any clue to his time or place.
Interestingly, it is in Subandhu’s Vasavadatta – a Sanskrit prose romance of the seventh century – that we come across the name Surapala.
This might be a reference to some Surapala who through his writings or commentary could throw light on the plant.
At least, there is a reasonable ground to accept such a proposition. An ancient work on plants mentioning Ganikarika may have existed on which Surapala might have written a Vrtti and might have earned credit for identifying or throwing more light on the plant.
Even though it is a reasonable conjecture, Sdahale thinks that the reference must have been to some other Surapala of the seventh century.
Without going into the translators detailed arguments, Sadhale places Surpala in the 10th Century AD.
Sadhale sdays that the existence of the manuscript has solved some problems but it has also given rise to some new ones.
The most important problems are:How does one explain the overwhelming resemblance between Upavanavinoda and the present text of Vrikshayurveda?
The resemblance between Upavanavinoda and Vrikshayurveda may be explained by either proposing a theory that both have made use of texts of their predecessors or by revising our opinion regarding Surapala’s date.
Surapala’s merits as an author of a scientific work have been brought out incidentally in course of these discussions.
Thus a systematic unfolding of the subject, a balanced treatment of various topics, neatly divided sections for the respective topics with clear demarcations of commencement and conclusion, a better and more logical expounding of various topics as compared with the other two texts, regard for predecessors combined with self-confidence and independent reasoning are some of the characteristics of his writing.
However, in the description of the blossoming of some trees at the loving glance or a gentle kick of a charming young girl (as per conventions in literature), Surapala’s poetic talent reveals itself fully and can match with the best of the classical poetry in Sanskrit (verses 147-151).
Similarly, when he describes the plan and layout of a pleasure garden (verses 293-297), the poet in him automatically takes charge of his pen.
Below we quote some prescriptions from Vrikshayurveda; the stanza numbers refer to Sadhale’s translation.
Some of the prescriptions sound very unconventional and should be experimentally verified.
Some agricultural institute should try these methods and if found successful, should be used in regular practice.
35. Arid, marshy, and ordinary are the three types of land. It is further subdivided into six types by colour and savour.
36. Black, white, pale, dark, red, and yellow are the colours and sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent are the tastes by which land is subdivided.
37. Land with poisonous element, abundance of stones, ant hills, holes, and gravel and having no accessibility to water is unfit for growing trees.
38. Bluish like saphire, soft like a parrot’s feather, white like conch, jasmine, lotuses, or the moon, and yellow like heated gold or blooming Champaka is the land recommended for planting.
39. Land, which is even, has accessibility to water, and is covered with green trees is good for growing all kinds of trees.
40. Arid and marshy land is not good. Ordinary land is good as all kinds of trees grow on it without fail.
41. Panasa, Lakuca, Tala, bamboo, Jambeera, Jambu, Tilaka, Vata, Kadamba, Amrata, Kharjura, Kadali, Tinisa, Mrdvi, Ketaki, Narikela, etc. grow on a marshy land.
42. Sobhanjana, Sriphala, Saptaparna, Sephalika, Asoka, Sami, Karira, Karkandhu, Kesara, Nimba, and Saka grow well on an arid land.
43. Bijapuraka, Punnaga, Champaka, Amra, Atimuktaka, Priyangu, Dadima, etc. grow on an ordinary type of land.
45. Vanaspati, Druma, Lata, and Gulma are the four types of plants. They grow from seed, stalk, or bulb. Thus the planting is of three kinds.
46. Those which bear fruits without flowers are Vanaspati (types); those which bear fruits with flowers are Druma (types).
47. Those which spread with tendrils are Lata (types) (creepers ). Those which are very short but have branches are Gulma (types) (bushes).
48-49. Jambu, Champaka, Punnaga, Nagakesara, tamarind, Kapittha, Badari, Bilva, Kumbhakari, Priyangu, Panasa, Amra, Madhuka, Karamarda, etc. grow from seeds. Tambuli, Sinduvara, Tagara, etc. grow from stalks.
50. Patala, Dadimi, Plaksa, Karavira, Vata, Mallika, Udumbara Kunda, etc. grow from seeds as well as from stalks.
51. Kumkuma, Ardra, Rasona, Alukanda, etc. grow from bulbs. Ela, Padma, Utpala, etc. grow from seeds as well as from bulbs.
52. Seed is extracted from dried fruits, which become ripe in the natural course and season. It is then sprinkled
68. After the ash is naturally cooled and removed, kunapa water (liquid manure) should be sprinkled and the pits should be filled with good earth.
69. Sowing seeds for Makanda, Dadima, Kusmanda, and Alambuka is good but planting is even better.
70. In fertile lands, which are used excessively, seeds of Trapusa or of other vegetables are sown intermittently.
71. Here (in these fields), Saffron, Maruwaka, and Damanaka are similarly grown in a small carry (?).
72. Large seeds should be sown singly but smaller ones should be sown in multiples. The seed of Naranga should be sown in a slanting position with hand.
73. The seeds of Phanijjhaka (Maruwaka) should be mixed with earth and then water mixed with cow dung should be sprinkled gradually and gently.
74-75. Smeared with the pulp of a plantain ripened naturally and dried in the sun, a rope of the stalk of Sastika (a rice variety that matures in 60 days) should be laid in the pits intermittently. Sprinkled with little water continuously in the hot days, it yields without fail sprouts blue like Tamala.
76. The stalk should be eighteen Angula, not too tender nor too hard. Half of it should be smeared with plenty of cow dung and then (it) should be planted with three-fourth part in the pit and should be sprinkled with water mixed with soft sandy mud.
77. The lower part of the stalks of Satapatrika should be half-ripened and then in the month of Kartika (post-rainy season) should be planted in a carry and drenched with water for about two months.
78. When they are covered with leaves they should be uprooted and transplanted wherever desired in the month of Asadha (beginning of rains).
79-80. The branches of Dadima and Karavira should be bent and planted applying enough cow dung at the root. They should be watered regularly for two months. After the leaves start growing they should be cut in the middle.
81. Bulbs should be planted in pits measuring one forearm-length, breadth, and depth-and filled with mud mixed with thick sand.
82. Kadali should be planted after smearing the root profusely with cow dung. It should be planted in the pit along with the root and should be watered well.
83. Small trees should be transplanted by daytime at the proper directions when they are one forearm tall. The roots should be smeared with honey, lotus-fibre, ghee, and Bidanga and then planted in proper pits along with the earth.
84. Big trees should be similarly transplanted with their roots covered during evening after reciting the following mantra the previous day.
87. Ksirika, Tuta, Dadimi, Bakula, etc. should be planted in the month of Sravana (midst of rainy season). Rajakosa, Amra, Lakuca, etc. should be planted in the month of Bhadrapada (when rains are receding).
187. The diseases of the Kafa type can be overcome with bitter, strong, and astringent decoctions made out of Panchamula (roots of five plant species – Sriphala, Sarvatobhadra, Patala, Ganikarika, and Syonaka) with fragrant water.
188. For warding off all Kafa type of diseases, the paste of white mustard should be deposited at the root and the trees should be watered with a mixture of sesame and ashes.
189. In case of trees affected by the Kafa disease, earth around the roots of the trees should be removed and fresh, dry earth should be replaced for curing them.
190. A wise person should treat all types of trees affected by the Pitta type of diseases with cool and sweet substances.
191. When watered by the decoction of milk, honey, Yastimadhu, and Madhuka, trees suffering from Pitta type of diseases get cured.
192. Watered with the decoctions of fruits, Triphala, ghee, and honey the trees are freed of all diseases of the Pitta type.
193. To remove insects both from the roots and branches of the trees, wise men should water the trees with cold water for seven days.
194. The worms can be overcome by the paste of milk, Kunapa water, and cow dung mixed with water and also by smearing the roots with the mixture of white mustard, Vaca, Kusta, and Ativisa.
195. The worms accumulated on trees can be treated quickly by smoking the tree with the mixture of white mustard, Ramatha, Vidanga, Vaca, Usana, and water mixed with beef, horn of a buffalo, flesh of a pigeon, and the powder of Bhillata (Bhallataka ?).
196. Anointing with Vidanga mixed with ghee, watering for seven days with salt water, and (applying) ointment made out of beef, white mustard, and sesame destroy the worms, insects, etc.
197. Creepers eaten away by insects should be sprinkled with water mixed with oil cake. The insects on the leaves can be destroyed by sprinkling the powder of ashes and brick-dust.
198. A wound caused by insects heals if sprinkled with milk after being anointed with a mixture of Vidanga, sesame, cow’s urine, ghee, and mustard.
199. Trees suffering from (damage due to) frost or scorching heat should be externally covered. Sprinkling with kunapa water and milk is also advisable.
200-201. The broken trees should be smeared with the paste of the bark of Plaksa and Udumbara mixed with ghee, honey, wine, and milk and the broken parts should be firmly tied together with the rope of a rice stalk. Fresh soil should then be filled in the basin around the trees, sprinkled immediately with the milk of buffalo and flooded with water. Thus they recover.
203. If the branches fall off, the particular spot should be anointed with the mixture of honey and ghee and sprinkled over by milk and water so that the tree will have its branches reaching the sky.
204. If the branches are burnt they should be cut off and the particular spots should be sprinkled with water and grape, crystalline sugar, and barley (and then watered with the same ?).
239. The white flowers of a tree turn into a golden colour if the tree is watered with the mixture of turmeric powder, Kimsuka, cotton seed, Manjista, and Lodhra.
240. The white flowers of a tree turn into a golden colour if it is smeared at the roots with the mixture of Manjista, Darada, milk, Kanksi (kind of fragrant earth), and flesh of a pigeon.
241. Trees watered continuously with the liquid of Triphala, barley, mango seed, and indigo; and also filled at the root with the powder of the same mixture produce fruits resembling collyrium (see Anjana).
242. Trees treated with water and paste containing the mixture of barley, Kimsuka, Manjista, turmeric, and sesame and also smeared with the same paste bear red fruits.
243. Trees watered and smeared at roots with the mixture of the bark of the Salmali tree, turmeric, indigo, Triphala, Kusta, and liquor bear fruits having the shades of a parrot.
244. Trees watered after being sprinkled at the root with the mixture of indigo, turmeric, Lodhra, Vara (Triphala), sesame, Asana, Kasisa and Yasti – all powdered together – produce fruits of golden colour.
245. Bakula trees blossom forth producing lots of Champaka flowers if continuously fed with fresh water after filling the bottom with plenty of mud mixed with Kalaaya and the skin of a python or snake.
246. Plantain trees create wonder by producing pomegranate fruits if fed by water mixed with the urine of a hog and Ankolha.
247. A castor tree produced from a seed cultured by the marrow of a boar, treated further by the process in the previous verse, produces Karavella fruits.
248. Fragrance of the blossom can be changed by filling (the base near) the roots of the trees with the earth scented with the desired fragrance and then fed with water mixed with Jalada, Mura, Nata, Valaka, and Patraka.
249. All types of flowering plants produce excellent fragrance if earth strongly scented by their own flowers is filled around the base (of the trees) and then fed with water mixed with Musta, Mura, Nata leaves, and wine.
250. The same treatment used in the evening at their blossoming time along with fat, milk, blood, and Kusta intensifies the natural fragrance of the blossoms of Punnaga, Naga, Bakula, etc.
251. A big and strong mud pot should be filled with the mixture of mud and plenty of beef; and the Karavira plant should be grown there with effort by watering profusely with cow dung and good quality beef.
252. The above stated plant of Karavira should then be shifted to a pit, previously prepared by filling with cow bones, well-burnt ashes and then wetted by water mixed with beef. Thereafter, the plant should be fed with plenty of water mixed with beef. So treated, it is transformed into a creeper to blossom profusely and perennially.
253. A tamarind plant is grown into an excellent creeper if fed with water, mixed with the powder of Triphala.
Sadhale, Nalini (Tr.). 1996. Surapala’s Vrikshayurveda (The Science of Plant Life by Surapala). Agri-History Bulletin No.1. Asian Agri-History Foundation, Secunderabad 500 009, India.
The Ultimate Revelation Of Vrikshayurveda Organic Farming – An Article Published in Assamica Agro
Vrikshayurveda is the ancient Indian science of plant life, a body of knowledge that has been systematically compiled in the form of 325 Sanskrit Shlokas in a text named VRIKSHAYURVEDA by Surapala approximately 1000 years ago..
Surapala lived and worked in Bundelkhand in central India, and under the royal patronage of King Bhimapala he carried out his various experiments in horticulture and botany.
His text was forgotten and the knowledge he had painstakingly compiled fell into oblivion for several centuries.
Dr. Y.L. Nene, Chairman, Asian Agri History Foundation obtained a copy of Surapala’s manuscript from the Bodlein library in Oxford and had it translated from Sanskrit into English by Dr. Nalini Sadhale.
This translation was released in 1996 and a Hindi translation by Dr. S.L. Choudhary was released in 2003.
Surapala deals with various subjects such as planting a garden, importance of various trees; collection, examination and treatment of seeds; selection of suitable land, soil characteristics, digging of planting pits, different methods of irrigation, plant nutrition, fertilizers, diseases of trees and their treatment, the wonders of horticulture, plant conservation, underground water resources etc.
Surapala lived and wrote a millennium ago when chemical fertilizers and pesticides were unknown.
Plant diseases and pests had to be dealt with by natural means available to the farmers and gardeners, utilizing the locally available materials.
Our own experiments with the recipes described by Surapala and formulation of new recipes keeping in mind the basic principles enunciated by him have yielded magnificent results in the past decade.
Surapala describes and praises a fertilizer cum natural pesticide made from fish and animal waste called KUNAPA JAL.
This fertilizer was made and applied in the tea gardens of Assam, Darjeeling, dooars and the Nilgiris and in the coffee estates of Karnataka.
What emerged was nothing short of miraculous. Various pest such as red spider mite and helopeltis which the tea gardens were unable to eliminate using chemical methods, were eliminated effortlessly with Kunapa Jal within a few months.
Moreover, the tea bushes produced more green leaf and the fertility of the soil also increased as indicated by the return of earthworms in the soil.
Laboratory soil tests showed that pesticide residues had been eliminated from the soil of these gardens within 4-6 months of steady and regular application of Kunapa Jal and other liquid manures.
Arijit Bhuyan and Babul Lahkar of Golaghat, small tea growers, learnt how to make Kunapa Jal from the author and applied it to their gardens and fields in 2006.
They obtained fish and meat waste very cheaply from the local fish and meat market after taking the municipality into their confidence.
Needless to say, they obtained glorious results within a short period of time.
These farmers today produce great full-bodied loose leaf green & Assam teas from their farms that have been able to get appreciations from foreign buyers for their unique natural flavours.
Paddy farmers and small tea growers in the Golaghat area were also encouraged to prepare and use Kunapa Jal and other liquid manures in their gardens and fields.
Dr. Padmeswar Gogoi a retired botanist has also praised these Vrikshayurveda manures when he saw their wonderful field results.
He is totally convinced about the efficacy of Sasyagavya which uses green weeds and cowdung as raw materials. He has now become a champion of Vrikshayurveda in Assam.
The relevance of Vrikshayurveda for the farmers of northeast India
The small tea farmers of Golaghat have demonstrated that the methods of Vrikshayurveda are suited to tea, paddy and vegetable farming.
They have achieved excellent results within a short period of time with only a modest financial investment.
Their gardens and farms are now totally organic and some have been certified as organic. Apart from tea and paddy, the northeast is suited for the cultivation of various fruits and vegetables.
Bhut Jolokia has been in the news as the hottest chili in the world. Small growers are trying their best to grow Bhut Jolokia in their backyards and sell it at a handsome price.
Similarly banana growers are making efforts to step up banana production in Assam.
Keeping in mind the requirements of these small requirements, one bigha models have been developed for a few selected horticultural crops using the methods of Vrikshayurveda for a bountiful harvest.
Why liquid manures?
Growers both big and small want fast results today and a quick monetary return on their investment.
But with the prevailing methods of organic cultivation, it takes a few years to enrich the soil, eliminate pesticide residues and obtain good crops using vermicompost, farmyard manure and the like.
Many farmers do not wish to switch to organic cultivation for this reason alone as they do not have the patience to wait for a few years.
Moreover, many fear a drop in their farm production while they are converting to organic methods. This means reduced income and very few are brave enough to go through this phase of austerity before they can finally taste the fruits of their labour.
In this context, the liquid manures advocated by Vrikshayurveda especially Kunapa Jal and Sasyagavya will work wonders if prepared and applied regularly to their fields by these growers.
Liquid manures can be sprayed easily after being diluted with water and most are ready for field application within three to twenty days in the climate of the northeast.
The conversion to organic production can be made smoothly by growers if they adopt these methods wholeheartedly and give up the use of chemicals totally.
Ingredients used in liquid manures
Kunapa jal uses fish and animal waste and mustard oilcake; Sasyagavya uses green weeds and cowdung; amritapani uses cowdung and jaggery; Bhasmapani uses wood ash and cow urine; Jaivik Tika uses cowdung and cow urine; Agnihotra Bhasma is the ash obtained after performing agnihotra havan.
All these manures can be made in simple plastic buckets or plastic drums or in cement tanks.
The ingredients used in these manures are available locally and cheaply in the northeast.
Most of these manures take from three to twenty days to be ready for field application., only Kunapa Jal takes between 45-60 days to be ready in the plains.
In comparison vermicompost takes three months to be ready for field application and farmyard manure takes about a year’s time to be ready.
Vrikshayurveda methods are thus suitable for today’s fast paced agriculture and horticulture.
Return to our Vedic roots via Vrikshayurveda
Although vrikshayurveda methods have proven their mettle in the field, this ancient science is more than a means to become rich quick.
Our vedic ancestors had a deep respect for Nature and her mysteries, so did our ancient farmers.
Little wonder that Indian civilization has withstood the test of time and the fertility of our soils has been maintained for over 5,000 years of our recorded history.
Even Sir Albert Howard in his book ‘An Agricultural Testament’ has admitted the superiority of traditional Indian methods of agriculture over European methods.
Our experiment with western methods of chemical agriculture have led to disaster and farmer suicides in Vidarbha, Andhra Pradesh and north India are a direct outcome of this system of agriculture.
Indian agriculture and horticulture stands at the crossroads today. Western methods have proven to be unsustainable.
Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are petroleum derivatives. But with the depletion of oil reserves all over this planet within the next 20-25 years this system of agriculture cannot last.
What will our farmers and growers do when DAP, urea and other chemical fertilizers are no longer available?
They will of necessity have to return to their traditional methods of agriculture. But this will be a painful and long drawn out process if known methods are used for making the transition.
Vrikshayurveda offers a relatively painless and smooth transition from chemical agriculture to organic agriculture within a few months!
If this is too good to believe, let the interested farmers learn and adopt Vrikshayurveda methods on their farms. They are sure to be surprised by the results.
Basics of Vrikshayurveda Organic Farming : https://www.youtube.com/embed/fLw8ewdaQYM
Vrikshayurveda Organic Farming– An Overview : https://www.youtube.com/embed/-B4UOfFYZJ8
Dr. Anjali Pathak is a naturopath, writer and organic farming consultant who has worked with the growers and the planters of the northeast, the dooars and the Nilgiris. She uses indigenous methods including those of vrikshayurveda in her work. She advises growers and conducts practical workshops on vrikshayurveda methods all over India upon invitation—www.naturalorganicfarming.com. Her book ANNAM BRAHMA: Organic Food in India, Pilgrims Publishing was released in 2009. She may be contacted at 09450540363, 07388975839; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vrikshayurveda: The Hindu Science of Plant Life – An article published by Kalpavriksha in Medium
Vrikshayurveda is the ancient science of plant life. Its name basically means ‘Ayurveda for trees’. Vrikshayurveda deals with all species of trees and their healthy growth and productivity.
Vrikshayurveda optimizes the productivity of plants and allows the control of pests and diseases without using any chemicals. Vrikshayurveda is the original science of what is today called permaculture or agroforestry.
The ancient sages had a deep understanding of the relationship of plants with other plants and animals, soil moisture and other agricultural phenomenon. A detailed study of Vrikshayurveda gives us insights into what an optimal, holistic agricultural and gardening system would look like.
Two main scriptures are specifically dedicated to Vrikshayurveda:
• Vrikshayurveda written by Salihotra (around 400 B.C), which describes techniques to help plants and trees to bear fruits throughout the year irrespective of the season, climatic conditions etc.
• Vrikshayurveda written by Surapala (1000. A.D) — This scripture explains countless techniques about how to fertilize the soil or raise larger fruits. The cultivation of about 170 plant species are described, including water management, soil conservation, fertilizers, the various diseases affecting the plants and their treatment.
It describes in details the cultivation and preservation of the plant from its seed till its maturity. There was only one existing copy on palm leaves manuscript of Surapala’s Vrikshayurveda, which was preserved at the Oxford University, before its recent translation into English.
Vrikshayurveda of Surapala glorifies trees and tree planting. It discusses various topics connected with the science of plant life such as procuring, preserving, and treating of seeds before planting; preparing pits for planting saplings; selection of soil; method of watering; nourishment and fertilizers; plant diseases and plant protection from internal and external diseases; the ideal layout of gardens; managing groundwater resources; etc.
The different chapters of Vrikshayurveda deal with horticulture, home gardening, preservation of plants, soil treatment, water management and fertilizers. Planting trees like Bilva, Nyagrodha (Banyan), Ashwatta (Sacred Fig), Dhatri (Gooseberry) Mango, Neem, Udumbar (Cluster Fig) is presented as a sacred deed.
From a spiritual standpoint, the scripture further promises bliss in the Urdhva Lokas to the devotees for their service to the environment. Vrikshayurveda suggests that tree planting is one of the means to attain the four Purusharthas (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha).
“Ten wells are equal to a pond, ten ponds to a lake, 10 lakes to a son and ten sons are equal to one tree.” — Surapala
- The Art of Gardens and Medicinal Plants
- A very precise classification of plant types, soils and techniques
- References in scriptures
- Relevance of Vrikshayurveda
The Art of Gardens and Medicinal Plants
The ancient sages recognized the importance of the cultivation, conservation and harvesting methods of all plants for the sustainable source of supply of nutrients (ahara) and medicines (aushadhi).
Upavanakriya is a chapter of Vrikshayurveda by Salihotra which provides instructions an detaching upon the organisation, cultivation and preservation of gardens. It also defines the Latagraha, which is a house for the cultivation of selected medicinal and aromatic plants that yields in great profusion.
After this, it recommends the construction of an artificial hillock (Kridaparvata) along with a grotto a valley, and a large body of crystal-clear water with a fountain in the center.
The chapter ‘Citrikarana’ depicts some astounding techniques such as how to make a plant bloom throughout the year irrespective of the seasons, bring forth premature maturity to plants and fruits, and change the shape and form of trees.
„Be gracious to forests enriched with medicinal plants” — Rig Veda, VII.35.5
A few, quick examples of plant optimization techniques from this amazing scripture:
• The scripture explains about the method for increasing the fragrance of flowers. Different manures are used for different flowering plants.
• For flowering in all seasons — Mixture of Sesame oil cakes, Vidanga (Embelia ribes), sugar cane juice and cow dung is sprinkled to the root of a plant. This practice enables flowering of the plant in all the seasons.
• For seedless fruits — Paste of Yastimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra), sugar, Kustha (Saussurea luppa), flowers of Madhuka (Madhuca indica) is applied to the root of a tree to produces seedless fruit.
• For dwarf variety — A plant grown in a pit supported with four pillars erected close to the roots and irrigated carefully with milk grows into a dwarf variety.
• To control weed — The cut branches of Arka (Calotropis procera) are kept at the entrance of rain water channel. This method minimizes weed population if repeated for several times during rainy season.
• Paddy pest control — Cactus milk is poured into the water inlets of the paddy field to control the pests and insects in paddy field.
• To prevent flower and fruit drop — Asafoetida is applied on the root of the plant and a fine bandage cloth is tied around it. It is used to prevent flower and fruit dropping.
• To purify water — The powders of gooseberry, Kataka (Strychnos potatorum), Musta (Cyprus rotundus) is added to the water to purify it.
• For wounds to the trees, the treatise recommends to apply the paste of bark of Nygrodha (Ficus bengalensis), Udumbara (Ficus racemosa), cow dung, honey and ghee.
• If a plant is burnt, it can be treated with application of mud and paste of lotus. The irrigation should be done with water mixed with sugar, sesame and milk.
A very precise classification of plant types, soils and techniques
The scriptures lay emphasis on the comprehension of plant taxonomy, classification and selection of soils, plant propagation techniques (through seeds, roots, cuttings, etc.), plant nourishment, plant diseases and their management.
The various texts about the science of Vrikshayurveda are divided in precise chapters for all aspects of plant management:
• Bhoomi Niroopana — Explains the classification, fertility and selection of soil.
• Beejotpathi Vidhi — About classification and preservation of the seeds.
• Paada Vivaksha — About morphology and physiology of plants.
• Ropana Vidhi — Location of different types of plants like Vrksha, Gulma, Late etc.
• Nishechana Vidhi — About irrigation and preparation of the special organic manure called Kunapa Jala.
• Druma Raksha — About harvesting and protecting the plants.
• Taru Chikista — About the Panchabhuta and Tridosha constitution of plants, their disease and treatment.
• Upavana kriya — Maintaining herbal gardens.
• Nivasasanna Taru Shubhashubha Lakshana — Direction for planting near the houses.
• Taru mahima — About importance of plants.
• Chitreekarana — Explains about techniques to change the habit, color, smell of flowers and to change the flowering seasons.
In Vrikshayurveda, soils are classified based on vegetation of plants of medicinal and economic value, the fertility of soils were also taken in to account to avoid infertile land and choose soil correctly for growing plants and crops. In the 1st chapter of Vrikshayurveda by Salihotra, the types of land are described:
• Anupa desha — The land is fertile in nature with abundant water, green trees, climate suitable for the growth of plants and soil rich in natural nutrients.
• Jangala desha — The land is dry and barren. Water content in the soil is less.
• Sadharana desha — The land has moderate water, greenery and soil is having natural nutrients in moderate quantity.
The harvest of different parts of plants during various seasons is also explained so that maximum potency can be obtained from the parts:
• Flowers and Fruits — During their flowering and fruiting season
• Leaves and Branches — During rainy season or spring
• Roots — During summer or late winter
• Bark, Stem — Early winter
References in scriptures
There are references to this ancient science in scriptures such as:
• Brhatsamhita of Varahamihira (6th century) also contains a chapter titled Vrikshayurveda and chapters on allied subjects such as divining groundwater, productivity and non-productivity of land as indicated by natural vegetation, etc.
• Sarngadhara Paddhati (written by Sarngadhara) in its chapter “Upavana vinoda” deals with arbori-horticulture and discusses planting, soil, nourishment of plants, plant diseases and remedies, groundwater resources, etc.
• Krishi sukthi — A text on agriculture narrated by sage Kashyapa. It contains the description of eatable and uneatable substances, methodology of paddy cultivation. Period of the work is considered to be 8- 9 century A.D.
• Amarakosha — A Sanskrit lexicon of 6th century A.D, compiled by Pandit Amarasimha. Chapters like Bhoomi Varga, Vanoushadi varga give a comprehensive glimpse of the art of classification of soil, land, implements used etc.
• Krishi Parasara — This book explains about agriculture depending on rainfall, seed collection, preservation and sowing.
• Arthashastra by Kautilya — It enlists the functions of the officer in charge of agriculture and his assistants, tax collection from the people based upon the agricultural output.
• Atharvaveda — The proper documentation for the plant based pharmacopoeia was started around 3000 B.C -2000B.C in the Atharva Veda with information about 300 plants.
• Agni Purana is a dedicated text signifying the importance of agricultural science.
• The Dhanwanthri Nighantu, Raja Nighantu and Bhavaprakasha Nighantu also describe some aspects of Vrikshayurveda.
Relevance of Vrikshayurveda
The ignorance of our ancient texts is responsible for the degeneration of our agricultural practices. Ancient sciences are now making a comeback, as there is a huge demand of the conservation and sustainable utilization of forest products as well as the medicinal plant sciences.
There is now a growing recognition of the need for incorporating the traditional systems to meet the limitations of both modern medicine and agriculture.
The availability of quality medicinal herbs with the desired pharmacological and biological markers has become a challenge, due to the degradation of soils worldwide. The necessity of a controlled, quality cultivation becomes significant in the sector of medicinal plants. To overcome this, the protocols and methods of Vrikshayurveda are promising.