Rasa Jala Nidhi, vol 1: Initiation, Mercury and Laboratory

by Bhudeb Mookerjee | 1938 | 67,774 words | ISBN-10: 8170305829 | ISBN-13: 9788170305828

This first volume of the Rasa-jala-nidhi includes preliminary information on Alchemy including initiation of a discpiple, laboratory setup, mercurial operations and commonly used technical terms. The Rasa-jala-nidhi (“the ocean of Iatrochemistry, or, chemical medicine) is a compendium of Sanskrit verses dealing with ancient Indian alchemy and chem...


It is an almost universal belief with the educated people of modern times that the world was created only a few thousand years ago, and that the oldest civilization cannot date farther back than, say, twenty-five thousand years before Christ. This assumption would seem to be nost absurd to those who have entered into the spirit of the ancient Indian culture, unbiassed by any judgment passed by modern scholars on the antiquity of such a culture. The idea of the absolute creation of the Universe out of nothing, at a particular point of time, is more than an ordinary human being can conceive, in as much as it involves an attribution to God of such human characteristics as desire, want, and striving for the attainment of an wished for object, and thus reduces him to the level of an imperfect and human being. We are, therefore, justified in assuming, without entering upon a philosophical discussion of the subject, that the world is eternal with God, and creation means nothing more than the re-construction and re-moulding of matter, which, to a certain extent, takes place every moment. If the world is eternal—and it cannot be otherwise—what justification there is for the assumption that the civilization of which we can have only a glimpse, through records of a few thousand years only, is the only civilization known to the world? Is it not quite reasonable to assume that an infinite number of movements of civilization came upon and passed away from the face of the earth? We have, of course, no history of these civilizations, and naturally so. Can history have a record of what takes place during an infinite number of years? Modern people have compiled a history for the last few centuries only. Let them proceed in their present method of compilation for a few thousand years more, then they would find the task to be hopeless. It is physically impossible for a human being to go through a history which contains a detailed survey of all that takes place during, say, 25 thousand years, not to speak of a longer period. We may, therefore, safely assume that the idea of keeping a chronological and detailed history of the world must be given up after, say, thirty thousand years, if not earlier. What would our historians do then? They would, in all probability, cull out of the past history some of the most important facts, and arrange them in a method which was followed by the authors of the Indian Puranas (i.e. ancient records). The Puranas are nothing but records of kings, sages, and important events that took place, in some cases, many thousands of years apart from one another. These records have been retained in the Puranas only on account of their moral, social, and religious significance. The ancient Indians realized the futility of keeping a detailed history of a world which is eternal and of their own civilization which, we have every reason to believe, was the most ancient known to the modern world, and had therefore to record ancient events of especial importance in a way which differs from the method followed by the modern historians. That being so, we cannot discard the authenticity of the Puranas and consider them as a collection of mythical legends and anecdotes only.

That the Puranas are not based on a mere fiction would find corroboration from independent sources. As for instance, I may refer to the phenomenon of Phallic Worship, the introduction of which into Europe, according to European tradition and mythology, is attributed to Bacche or Bacchus of Greek mythology. Now Bacche or Bacchus, according to Assyrian mythology, was an Indian (see Phallism in Encyclopedia of Ethics and Religion), the event of whose annual return from India used to be celebrated with a great festival on Mount Ymolus in Lydia. The question which now presents itself is, do we find any reference to this Bacche in our Puranas? Yes we do. In Bamana Puranam (chapter VI) we are told that one of the earliest advocates of Phallic Worship was Baka, king of “Creetha” (Crete?), who was an Indian Vaisya by caste, and was initiated into Phallism by his Indian preceptor, the sage Apastamba. Here, we have got, I think, data sufficient to warrant the identification of the Greek or Assyrian “Indian Bacchus” with Baka of the Bamana Puranam. Be that what it may, we look upon the Puranas as having a historic basis. They are, with the Vedas and the Tantras, the most ancient literature of the Indians that have been preserved, after countless acts of destruction of books and libraries by ignorant fanatics. The comparative modernness of the language in which the Puranas and the Tantras written does not justify the conclusion that they are of a comparatively modern origin, in as much as the language of the Tantras and the Puranas have been, for obvious reasons, revised from time to time, and new facts introduced into this group of literature.

According to the Puranas, the world is eternal, creation being taken to mean periodical reconstruction after dissolution. The age of the present Kalpa, ie. of the world from the time of its last reconstruction to the current year is 1955885027 years. This is a figure which is based upon a tradition, as transmitted from generation to generation, through our science, philosophy, history, and scriptures.

Rasavidya (Rasashastra), or Chemistry including Alchemy, began to be cultivated by the ancient Aryas as early as the beginning of the present Kalpa, i.e. more than 1950000000 years back. We have got fragments of two books, the authorship of which has all along been assigned to the great Rama Chandra (the hero of Ramayanam, an epic composed by the sage Valmiki who was a contemporary of the hero himself), who learnt the science of chemistry from Kalanatha, a sage living in the forests, during the fourteen years of his exile from his father’s dominions. According to the tradition in vogue amongst the siddhas (chemists), King Ram Chandra was also called, Dandaka Nath, on account of his living in the forest of Dandaka for several years. The books said to have been compiled by this king are named, (1) Rama rajiya, and (2) Rasendra Chintamani. (The latter of these is to be distinguished from Rasa Chintamani, a book compiled by Ananta Deva Suri, not Madananta Deva Suri, as stated erroneously in Dr. Sir P. C. Roy’s book). Now, Rama Chandra flourished, according to Indian history, at least 900000 years back. It appears from these fragments that chemistry of medicine reached a very high state of perfection at the time of Rama Chandra. The authorship of another book, viz. “Arka Prakasha” has all along been attributed to Ravana, the great king of Lanka, who was killed in battle by king Rama Chandra. This “Arka Prakash” is an excellent booklet containing a comprehensive treatment of all sorts of diseases by means of tincturs only. It contains at least one recipe for the preparation of a mineral acid. That being so, we cannot accept as true the assumption of Dr. Sir P. C. Roy that probably Indians came to learn the preparation of mineral acids from the Portuguese. The fact is that mineral acids are not to be used in medicines prepared from mercury and other metals. That is why the Doctor did not find any reference to these acids in ancient books on Rasa Vidya.

Innumerable books on chemistry were written from the earliest times. Most of these are no longer available. Only the names of some of them have been preserved. At present we have got only a few compilations, based on older ones, and most of them are fragmentary and incomplete. In chemistry of medicine and Alchemy, if not in any other branch of chemical knowledge, the ancient Aryas reached a very high degree of perfection. Herodotus testifies to the fact that there were, at his time, Yogis in India who used to live an unusually long life by the use of some mercurial preparations. My readers may take it from me that, even in our own time, there are many such yogis, living in the forests of the Himalayas, Amarakantaka, etc. who live an incredibly long life by the use of mercurial potions. Preparation of many such medicines will be found described in the several volumes of the present work. As for Alchemy, it was a matter of common knowledge with the ancient Indian chemists. Philosophers stone is not altogether a myth. How it was prepared in ancient times has been described in the present work.

The Mahomedan period of the Indian History was the darkest age of Hindu culture and civilization. The whole country was at that time in an almost perpetual state of anarchy and confusion. People were in a state of constant fear for loss of life, property, and honour, with the result that trade, commerce, and learning came to a stand-still. The race of chemist physicians became gradually extinct. Difficulty of procuring rare metals increased with the uncertainty of trade and commerce. Physicians in villages therefore took to the practice of medicines prepared from herbs only, especially in view of the fact that they were much cheaper than medicines prepared from metals. Chemistry of medicine thus came to be almost forgotten by the common run of physicians. It continued, however, to be cultivated, to a certain extent only, by some Yogis in the forests, where there was no chance of meeting with much obstacle. But in the absence of encouragement and patronisation by the state, the science could not be systematically cultivated during the Mahomedan period.

All this would explain the present state of deep degradation of Indian Chemistry. Before the publication of Dr, P. C. Roy’s History of Indian Chemistry, the majority of our educated countrymen were not even aware of the existence of such a branch of knowledge as Indian Chemistry and Alchemy. Most of the Vaidyas or Kavirajas of the present day (i.e, physicians practising Indian system of medicine) are ill-educated and content with a very little knowledge of the subject. Especially is the case in Bengal, where the Kavirajas, for the several centuries past, depended on medicines prepared from herbs, vegetable products, clarified butter, etc. It will be interesting to note that the late Kaviraja Gangadhara Sen of Murshidabad, a physician of remarkable attainments, who died some 50 years back, had no Faith in metallic medicines and did not care to acquaint himself with chemistry of medicine. Matters have much improved since the death of the great Kaviraj, but speaking generally, the present day Kavirajas of Bengal are ignorant of the 18 mercurial operations, which can safely be considered to be the pivot round which the whole of the Indian Chemistry rotates.

In recent times, some Allopaths, a few of whom are very good scholars too, have taken to the practice of indigenous system of medicines, but, unfortunately, they have not yet come to be aware of the fact that the greater portion of Ayurveda, which deals with chemistry and Alchemy, has for the several centuries past, been a terra incognita to that class of physicians from whom they had to receive their training. They have not yet been aware of the fact that the ancient glory and greatness of Ayurveda was due neither to its progress in Surgery, Anatomy, etc. as taught by Sushruta, etc.—which these well-meaning physicians have been trying to revive, by the introduction of western methods, where necessary,—nor to the excellence of herbal drugs, as taught by Charaka, etc. but to the exceptional and unique progress which Ayurveda made in the region of Medical Chemistry.

While anxious for the revival of Ayurvedic culture in India, let me sound a note of warning to the authorities of the different Ayurvedic institutions, which have been started during the present decade, that unless and until the greatest stress is laid upon the revival of Indian Chemistry of medicine, as outlined in the present work, there is not the slightest chance of recovering the glory which Ayurveda lost about a thousand years ago. Let not the teachers of these Ayurvedic Colleges try to perpetuate the state of ignorance of chemistry prevailing among the present generation of the Kavirajas, content with the teaching of only those branches of Ayurvedic lore with which they can claim some acquaintance. An undue importance has been attached by these Ayurvedic teachers to the teaching of modern Surgery, etc., which has the effect of investing the present system of Ayurvedic teaching with a hybrid character, neither Ayurvedic nor Allopathic, but one which partakes of the nature of both. The sense of gratification which I felt a few years ago at the news of the Hindu University of Benares having opened an Ayurvedic Department was followed by a rude shock which I received at what I personally came to know about it at Benares. It is a poor apologia of Ayurveda, and not Ayurveda proper, that is taught at the Benares University. The same remark applies to the Astanga Avurveda Vidyalaya of Calcutta and similar institutions. In my reference to these seats of Ayurvedic learning, I am not guided by malice or personal grudge but by a real desire to learn that my remarks have made the authorities of these institutions alive to the necessity for an adequate arrangement for the teaching of Indian chemistry in these places.

I have been a devout student of Ayurveda even from my boyhood, and I would have naturally followed the same track as beaten by the common run of Vaidyas or Kavirajas of the present day, But Providence willed otherwise. It was a mere accident that I came to be in contact with a Yogi from whom I learnt much more than could be found in the existing books on Indian Chemistry, each of which is incomplete, incoherent, incorrect, and in many cases misleading. The instructions which I received from my preceptor yogi have enabled me to arrange methodically the materials found in the existing books on chemistry, which were mostly in a chaotic state, and have been neglected for several centuries past,

There were four different schools of treatment of diseases in ancient India, viz., treatments (1) by rasa, i.e., mercury and other metals, (2) by herbs and vegetable drugs, (3) by charms, incantations, etc., and (4) by surgical instruments.

These four different kinds of medical systems were cultivated, side by side, from time out of memory, by different classes of people. Of these, it was believed that the first system was of divine origin, the second and third of human origin, and the fourth of demoniac or barbarous origin. I leave my readers to form their own opinions as to the exact significance of all these remarks. Personally, I consider the chemical system of Indian medicine as of divine origin. It is not a science in the ordinary sense of the term. It is not a collection of experiential truths or inductive generalizations, based on observation and experiment. It is a super-science, and, as such, is based on something higher than observation and experiment—call it inspiration, revelation, or what yon will. It is not possible, even for a very careful and devoted student of Rasa-Vidya, to explain, in many cases, why a certain line of procedure was prescribed with a view to attain an end in view. Neither is it possible for us to make any material addition to what has been transmitted to us from time out of memory. I have no doubt any one who has been able to enter into the spirit of Rasa-Vidya would feel constrained to endorse these views. It is Rasa-Vidya which rendered treatment of diseases by surgical instruments almost useless and superfluous. Even in our own time, boils, carbuncles, etc., are found to be cured by oils and ointments, prepared out of metals and indigenous herbs, more speedily and effectively than they are by surgical operations.

The present day people of India have been animated with an intense desire for the attainment of political independence, partial or complete. Let them strive for it by all means, constitutional and legitimate. Rut they seem to be blind to, the fact that cultural independence for India is much more valuable than the attainment of political independence. My attitude to politics is one of absolute detachment, but, if I am to express my views about the present day politics of India, I may say that India, as it is inhabited by a large number of Mahomedans whose sympathy is more with their coreligionists in Afghanistan, Arabia, Persia, etc., than with their Indian neighbours of the same blood, will not be able to retain complete independence for a very long time, even if it ever be granted to us. To be ruled by any other nation than the British would be a worse lot for the Indians. A dominion status of self-Government, within the British empire, appears therefore to be the safest possible constitution for India. But it is too much to expect that Britain would ever consent to the Indians having such a government, unless she is convinced of the fact that 32 crores of people, contented with British overlordship, cannot but add to the strength of the empire. In the meantime we should try, I think, to secure the goodwill of the British people by the exhibition of our greatness—moral, cultural, and intellectual. Be that what it may, personally, I prefer cultural greatness for India to political independence.

I think, I should be a little more explicit here, and say that I advocate cultural independence for India, not because I hate western culture and civilization, which our people have been striving hard to follow, but because India can still boast of a culture and civilization of her own, which it would be most unfortunate and unwise to allow to be effaced from the face of the earth. The majority of the modern Indians suffer from a peculiar mentality which makes them attach very little importance to their own culture and civilization. They came to realize the importance of their philosophy, only when they were told of it by Schopenhaur, Max Muller, etc.—of their medicine, when told by such European physicians as the late Surgeon General Dr. Lukis, etc.—of their tantras, when told by Sir John Woodroffe. It was Lord Ronaldshay, if I remember aright, who advised the Indian youths to turn to Indian culture, and to assimilate it, when possible and desirable, with the best of what we find in western culture and civilization. His advice to us was not to follow blindly the western culture and civilization. But, I am afraid, it has fallen mostly on indifferent ears.

It is generally believed that it was in the field of abstract thought and spirit, and not in the field of science and material progress that the ancient Hindus attained greatness. This assumption is based on a total ignorance of Hindu culture, tradition, and history. The famous iron pillar of Delhi is not the only existing proof of the greatness which the ancient Indians attained in the field of industrial chemistry and metallurgy. In an article contributed to the “Forward” of Calcutta (in its issue of the 4th November 1925), I invited the attention of the public in general to the existence at Hyderabad (H.E.H. the Nizam’s Dominion) of a manuscript Library, perhaps the biggest of its kind in India, which is reported to contain numerous books which have not yet been published. Some of these books are reported to deal with such scientific matters, as (1) process of embalming of dead bodies, (2) making of a kind of glass by means of which it is possible to see through water even the minutest article lying below its surface, (3) arrangement for constant supply of hot water through pipes without the application of heat, (4) growing cotton of any colour desired, (5) transformation of base metals into gold, (6) smelting of precious stones and letting them have any shape and colour, (7) communication between two persons living thousands of miles apart from each other, by means of two blocks of stones, especially constructed, (8) construction of a machine by means of which it is possible to ascertain the nature of minerals and bidden treasure deposited under a particular soil.

It would not be quite out of place to repeat here my appeal to my countrymen for the purchase and preservation of dais Library as a national asset. In tending gentlemen may communicate with Dr. Md. Kashim (Jaghirdar, Patharghati, Hyderabad, H.E.H. the Nizam’s Dominions, the Deccan), who is the present owner of the Library.

In compiling the present work (intended to be completed in 10 volumes), I have depended mainly upon what I learnt from my ascetic preceptor and upon the existing books on chemistry. The science of Alchemy has all along been an accomplished fact with the ascetic chemists of India. There are many such chemists even in our own times. They are in the habit of preparing from time to time only as much real gold as is actually necessary for the bare subsistence. My readers may be curious to know whether I can transform base metals into gold. My reply to this will be that the process has been demonstrated to me by my preceptor, and I am confident, I can carry on the operations successfully, if I am provided with an well-equipped laboratory and given an opportunity of devoting myself exclusively to this line of work.

It is a matter of pity that Indian Chemistry, which according to the sage Dandaka Nath or King Ramachandra, is an indispensable pre-requisite for the study of all other subjects of human culture, has not yet been considered a subject fit for being taught even in the greatest of the Indian Universities. To this fact I invited a few years ago the attention of the late Sir Ashutosh Mookerji of revered memory, who advised me to wait till the Public came to know more about this apparently new science. Is it too much for me now to expect that the local governments and the authorities of the different Indian Universities will consider the desirability of teaching this subject in their respective Universities?

I cannot conclude the present work without a short notice of Dr. Sir P.C. Roy’s History of Indian Chemistry which was written with the object of proving to the world that the ancient Hindus knew a good deal of Chemistry much earlier than the other races of the world. The book is well written, and reflects credit upon the great chemist. It has served its purpose fairly well, but I am afraid, it has failed to convey to its readers the most fundamental and prominent features of Indian Chemistry. With due deference to Dr. Roy’s remarkable attainments in the field of modern Chemistry, I feel constrained to observe that Dr. Roy’s approached the subject as an amateur critic and not as a trained student of Indian Chemistry of medicine, which differs fundamentally from modern chemistry. Hence is his failure to enter into the spirit of Rasavidya, and to get hold of the central idea upon which the whole structure of the Hindu Chemistry is erected; viz., the fact that mercury can be made to swallow, by special processes, a considerable quantity of gold or other metals, without any appreciable increase in the weight of the swallowing mercury. I have no doubt this statement will appear to my readers to be highly dogmatic, paradoxical, and revolting against the common sense of rational beings, but I cannot help it, The statement is based on a practical experience and an arduous research carried on for several years.

Let my readers perform faithfully the operations described in the present volume, and then form their own judgment as to the truth of the statement.

It is earnestly hoped that Dr. Sir P. C. Roy will live to bring out a revised edition of his book, which contains so many misinterpretations of important principles of Hindu Chemistry, due, no doubt, to a hasty and superficial study of the subject.

In conclusion, I am to acknowledge the deep debt of gratitude which I owe to the reputed vedic scholar, Prof. Khitish Ch. Chatterji, M.A., Lecturer, Post Graduate classes in Sanskrit, Calcutta University, for the valuable assistance he rendered to me in correcting the proof sheets. I am also very grateful to Mr. M. N. Bose, B.A., (Cantab), Bar-at-Law, Mr. Jatish Chandra Mitra, M.A., Professor of English, Berhampore College, and some other friends, for the sympathy and encouragement which I received from them in the compilation of this encyclopedic work.



25th November, 1926.


Rasasastra category This concludes ‘Preface’ included in Bhudeb Mookerjee Rasa Jala Nidhi, vol 1: Initiation, Mercury and Laboratory. The text includes treatments, recipes and remedies and is categorised as Rasa Shastra: an important branch of Ayurveda that specialises in medicinal/ herbal chemistry, alchemy and mineralogy, for the purpose of prolonging and preserving life.

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