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...

Part 1 - Alchemical apparatus (yantra)

A Yantra (or apparatus) is so named, because it is made use of by the Chemists in controlling mercury by way of boiling etc.


Two holes are to be made, opposite each other, at the edge of a vessel, half filled with some liquid. This is provided with a rod, passing through the two holes across the mouth. A bundle, containing the material or materials to be boiled, is to be kept suspended into the liquid, by means of a thread tied at the middle of the rod, the vessel being placed upon fire and heated, as required.


Things, meant to be boiled, are to be put upon a piece of cloth, with which is to be closed the mouth of an earthen vessel, filled with water. An earthen basin is to be placed upon the mouth of the vessel, so as to cover the materials completely, and heat is then applied underneath. The apparatus is called the svedani-yantra.

Patana-yantra (Vidyadhata-yantra).

A vessel with a diameter of eight angulis at the top and ten angulis at the middle, and a height of four angulis from the bottom to the neck, is to be placed upon the mouth of another vessel having a diameter of 16 angulis. The upper vessel is to contain water and the lower vessel is to contain mercury etc, the joint being cemented with a plaster made of buffalo’s milk, powdered and oxidised iron, and treacle, and dried. The apparatus is then to be placed upon fire, and heated for fifteen hours continuously. The mercury, deposited on the convex side of the upper vessel, is to be collected very carefully, after the apparatus gets cooled of itself on the oven.


It consists of two earthen vessels. The inner surface of the upper one is to be painted with mercury and the lower one is to contain water. The upper one is to be placed, upside down, upon the lower one, and the joint closely cemented, A fire made of cow-dung balls, found dried in the pasturage, is to be made upon the upper vessel. This will cause the downward sublimation of the mercury.


Mercury is to be kept in a long vessel, provided with a bent tube, the lower end of which will have to be projected into the body of another vessel containing water. The mouths of these two vessels are to be closed with mud etc. and the first vessel is to be put upon a strong fire, which will cause the inclined sublimation of the mercury which will fall into the water.


A big earthen vessel is to be kept afloat upon water contained in a vessel. Mercury, mixed with bida, is to be kept in a kosthi, placed upon the floating vessel. The mouth of the kosthi is to be covered with a thin iron plate, the joint being closed tightly with six coatings of mud and rags, plastered together. A fire made of Khadira wood charcoal is to be made on all sides of the vessel. Heated in this way, mercury, which is to be rubbed also from time to time, is exhausted. All sorts of essences of metals are then liquefied in that mercury by means of an adequate heat.


It is a Kacchapa-yantra, provided with an earthen lamp, placed upon a mud stand, kept on the surface of the floating earthen basin. Vegetable oil and mercury are to be put into the lamp, kept burning, and fire made on all sides of the Yantra. Mercury will sublimate and fall into the water.


Put one of the extremities of a bamboo reed into a hole made somewhere below the neck of an earthen vessel, well-covered at the mouth, the other end of the reed being connected with another hole made in a samputa consisting of two bell-metal pots containing water. The joints are to be closed very tightly. Mercury, previously mixed with prescribed materials, is to be put into the vessel which is to be placed upon fire. Thus heated, mercury sublimates and falls into the water in the Samputa. The sublimation continues so long as the samputa remains warm.


Put sulphur into an iron crucible, twelve angulis in height, and provided with a hole at the bottom. Place mercury into another iron crucible, not provided with any hole. Enter the first crucible into the other, and close very tightly the mouths of the crucible, after pouring a sufficient quantity of garlic juice, duly filtered, into both the crucibles, so that both mercury and sulphur are almost inmersed into the liquid. Place the crucibles in a pot containing water covered by another pot, the joint being closed very tightly. The aparatus is then to be heated, by means of what is called “Kapota puta”, or simply, by a strong fire. The heating is to be continued for three days. The mercury is to be taken out, after the aparatus is perfectly cooled. On no account should the aparatus be broken open before it is perfectly cooled. Sulphur is thus to be swallowed by mercury. (The process is to be repeated, if it is desired to let the mercury swallow another morsel of sulphur).


It is an apparatus consisting of an earthen vessel, which contains mercury and is covered very well with mud etc., placed upon another earthen vessel, which contains water and is placed inside a pit cut into the ground, so that the lower part of the first vessel is immersed in water, and its mouth is placed at the same level with the surface of the earth, fire being kindled on the surface of the earth, just above the mouth of the first vessel.

Mercury, mica, etc. are exhausted by means of this apparatus.


This is meant for the reduction of a mercurial paste (mercury combined with prescribed ingredients) to ashes. Prepare a strong earthen crucible, Tour angulis in length, and three angulis in breadth, with its mouth made smooth, and of the shape of a spheroid. (Mercury and other things are to be put into it at the time of its making, otherwise, it would be difficult to close the mouth after the crucible gets dried.) Twenty parts of powdered iron and one part of guggulu are to be rubbed together very carefully, and made into a paste, with which the crucible is to be plastered, over and over again. It is next to be plastered lightly with a paste, made of two parts of mud, one part of salt, and a sufficient quantity of water. The crucible is then to be burnt in an underground pit for 24 or 72 hours, by means of a mild fire, made of husks. This causes the incineration of mercury.


An earthen vessel, with a wide mouth, is to be filled in with sand, upon which will have to be placed another vessel containing five different kinds of ksharas, five different kinds of urines, salt, and bida. The apparatus is to be heated by means of a mild fire, slowly but steadily.


It consists of a glass bottle, plastered on the outside with rags and mud, one anguli deep, and dried, It is to be filled with mercury, etc., to the extent of two thirds of its capacity. Its mouth is to be closed by means of a piece of chalk, etc. It is to be placed inside a vessel, one bitasti in height, which is filled with sand upto the neck of the bottle. The mouth of the vessel is to be covered with an earthen basin, the joint being closed with rag, mixed with mud, The heating is to be stopped, when it is found that the external surface of the earthen basin, at the top of the apparatus, has got so heated as to reduce to ashes a piece of dried grass placed upon it.

A different version.

A Baluka-yantra is an apparatus, by means of which are heated medicines contained in a glass bottle, placed inside a vessel filled with sand upto the neck of the bottle.

Another kind of Baluka-yantra.

Mercurial compounds are sometimes heated, buried in a vessel filled with five adhakas of sand. This apparatus is also called a Baluka-yantra.


A Baluka Yantra is transformed into a Labana Yantra, if sand is replaced by salt or kshara. Instead of a glass bottle, it consists of a copper bowl containing mercury, the cover of the bowl being cemented with mud and salt. This will have to be placed inside an earthen vessel containing salt. The mouth of the vessel is to be covered, the joint being closed with mud and salt. The apparatus is to be heated exactly in the same way as a Baluka-yantra.


It is an iron tube in which mercury is confined, and which is kept buried in salt in a Labana Yantra, and heated in the manner described above. (Vide Baluka Yantra and Labana Yantra).


A crucible, containing mercury, is to be placed inside a pit, cut into the ground, and is to be covered on all sides with sand with which the pit is filled up. A strong fire, made of cowdung cakes, is to be made upon the pit.


It consists of an earthen vessel, containing the materials to be heated, and covered with another basin, the joint being tightly cemented with mud, cloth etc. It is to be heated by a fire made of cowdung cakes, placed on all sides, or simply by being placed for two hours on an oven.


For the purpose of extraction of essences from metals, and for the purification of these essences, various kinds of Kosthikas are made use of. Some of them are dealt with below.


It is a quadrangular oven, two cubits in height, one cubit in length, and one cubit in breadth, the four walls being made of earth. At the lower end of one of the walls, there should be made a strong and well-cut hole, one bitasti or one and half bitasti in diameter. Another hole is to be made, one pradesha in diameter, at the upper surface of the oven, which is situated one pradesha below the upper extremities of the four walls. Then edging the borders of the two holes with bricks and plastering them with mud, the oven is to be filled with charcoal, coal, etc, and the fire is to be kindled by means of two bellows. Fuel and articles to be heated are to be entered into the oven through the upper hole. This kosthika is used for the purpose of extracting essences of hard substances.


Cut out, in a hard soil, a circular pit, one bitasti in diameter and in height. Inside this bigger one, cut another pit, four angulis in diameter and in height. Place an iron tube slantingly from the bigger pit to the bottom of the smaller one, the upper extremity of the tube being kept at a level, a little higher than the edge of the bigger pit. Cover the inner pit with an earthen circular lid provided with five holes. The bigger pit is to be filled with charcoal, the fire being blown by means of a bellows. This kosthi is meant for the extraction of essences of soft substances. (The substance in question is to be kept in an earthen vessel, closely covered, which is to be put upon the fire, the upper extremity of the iron tube being connected with a small hole at the bottom of the earthen vessel. Sufficiently heated, the substance will emit its essence which will pass through the iron tube and deposit itself at the bottom of the smaller pit. For details see Vol. II).


It is a kosthi meant for heating all sorts of things capable of being heated. Its use was taught by the great Nandi (follower of the Great God). It is specially used for separating the ingredients of a mixed metal. It is twelve angulis in depth and one pradesha in diameter, with a belt four angulis in height, placed upon it. Place upon this belt a circular lid full of several holes. Cover the kosthi with charcoal fire, and heat the substance in the crucible with what is called a banka nala (bent tube). This tube is very strong, is one aratni in length, is made of earth used for the making of crucibles, and is provided, at one of its extremities, with another tube, five angulis in length, and bent downwards. It is meant for heating a substance very steadily.


It consists of a bucket-shaped, slanting, and cylindrical pipe, made of iron or earth; with one cubit of slanting: height, and eight angulis of diameter at the lower end; placed upon a smooth-surfaced ground; plastered all over with mud; and furnished with two circular air passages—the lower one being just as big as to fit in the end of the tube of a bellows.

Fill it with a sufficient quantity of char-coal and blow the fire by means of a tube, made of the bone of an animal, or by a bellows. It is used especially for extracting essences of mica.

A different kind of kosthi-yantra.

Prepare an oven of the shape of a mortar, upon which is to be placed a mortar. The oven is to be filled with charcoal, set on fire, which is to be blown by means of two bellows, provided at either side of the oven. Mercurial cake, rubbed with ksharas, amlas, etc, gets quickly smelted, if heated by means of this apparatus. This mercury becomes very efficacious, if the smelting is effected on a piece of kanta iron.

A third kind of kostika-yantra.

A kosti is one cubit long and twenty four angulis in breadth. It is used for the purpose of extracting essences of metals. Half of the space inside the apparatus is to be filled with hard charcoal, made of bamboo, khadira, madhuka, and badari wood, the fire made by which being fanned by air, sent through the internal passage by a bellows.


It consists of two iron pots, one bigger than the other, each furnished with a circular iron stand. The smaller one with the stand, will have to be placed upon the bigger one which contains kanji. Put swooned mercury into the smaller pot, and apply heat to the apparatus for six hours. This will cause the regaining of consciousness (i.e., reversion to the original condition) of mercury which is now in a state of swoon. This apparatus is used also for the purpose of increasing the potency of mercury by six times, (viz. by reviving mercury in a state of swoon).

Ghata-yantra or Apyayana-yantra.

It is a water vessel containing four prasthas of water, with a mouth four angulis square.


A circular pit is to be cut into the ground, and an earthen basin placed upon it. A burnt brick, with a hollow at the centre, is to be placed upon the basin. A circular iron plate, one anguli in height, is to encircle the hollow. Put mercury into the hollow, and cover it with a piece of cloth upon which is to be kept some sulphur. The hollow is now to be covered with another earthen basin, placed upside down. The space between the iron plate and the basin is to be filled in with mud. The whole apparatus is now to be subjected to a mild heat by means of kapota-puta.


It is a circular iron spoon, furnished with a perpendicular rod with its upper extremity bent a little. (It is generally used in drawing out oil).


It consists of one earthen vessel, placed upside down upon another, the joint being closed very tightly. It is used for the purpose of incineration of mercury.

Nabhi-yantra (Jala-yantra).

At the centre of an earthen basin put mercury and sulphur, surrounded by a circular earthen enclosure, one anguli in height. Cover the space by means of a crucible of the shape of a cow’s teat, placed upside down, and plaster the joint by means of the following paste, which serves as a good waterproof:—oxidised iron, finely powdered,[1] molasses, and lime, rubbed together with a highly condensed decoction of the bark of babbula. This plaster is called “water mud”, and water cannot pass through it. Similarly, chalk, salt, and oxidised iron, rubbed together with buffalo’s milk, gives rise to a plaster, called, “fire mud”. This plaster is a strong fire proof, The joint of the basin and the crucible is to be plastered with this fire mud, which will prevent the mercury from coming out, even when heated. Water is then to be poured into the basin, and heat applied underneath. By this way mercury is exhausted, and becomes incapable of sublimation, It is also purified by the exhaustion of sulphur.


(This is another version of the preparation of a Jala Yantra or Nabhi-yantra. According to this, the joint of the basin and the crucible is, first of all, to be plastered again and again with powdered iron, mixed with goat’s blood, and dried every time. It is then to be plastered with the same two pastes, as described above. In other respects, the two versions are almost the same).


It consists of two crucibles, one of which is to be placed inside another. Both of these are to be cylindrical, except at the bottom, where they are flat. This apparatus is used for the solidification of mercury.


It is a vessel covered with a basin. Copper, etc. contained in this vessel, is heated by fire applied underneath.


Prepare an iron pot, eight angulis in length, breadth, as well as in height, and put into this, a water trough, two angulis below the brim, Place a few thin iron sticks upon the water trough in a slanting manner so as to support thin gold leaves, meant to be reduced to ashes. At the bottom of the iron pot keep the articles, mentioned below, meant to emit smoke rising up to the gold leaves. The iron pot is now to be covered with another iron pot, placed upside down, the joint being closed with mud, and fire placed underneath. The gold leaves are thus reduced to ashes, and undergo internal liquefaction, if thrown upon mercury which has been made to move quickly. (According to another version, the mercury with which the leaves were painted, now sublimates and deposits itself at the bottom of the water trough).

Fumigation of gold leaves is to be effected by means of a kajjvali (black sulphide of mercury) made of mercury and any one of these three—gandhaka (sulphur), haritala (orpiment), and manas-sila (realgar). The fumigation may also be effected by means of incinerated lead. Incinerated tin, etc. may be used for the fumigation of silver leaves, if it is intended to make use of this silver in course of a reduction of base metals into silver. The Dhupa-yantra is used in preparing materials with which mercury is to be exhausted.


A khalva or mortar should be made of stone, blue or black, smooth, strong, and heavy. It should be of the following dimensions:—16 angulis in height, 9 angulis in breadth, and 24 angulis in length. It is to be. provided with a pestle, 12 angulis in length.

A mortar may also be 20 angulis in length and 10 angulis in height. Such a mortar is in common use.

These two kinds of mortars, used for the purpose of rubbing mercury, etc. conveniently, should be so strong as not to wear away very rapidly by friction. They should be very smooth and be provided with pestles.

Another version.

A mortar should have the following dimensions:—Ten angulis in height, sixteen angulis in breadth at the upper part, seven angulis in breadth at the bottom, and two angulis in thickness. It should be very smooth, and have a crescent-like shape. It should be provided with a pestle, twelve angulis ling.

Circular mortar.

It is a circular mortar, made of a very smooth stone, twelve angulis in diameter, at the upper part, and four angulis in diameter at the bottom. The pestle is to be flat at the lower extremity, and capable of being handled easily, at the upper end. Rubbing in this mortar is very comfortable.

Iron mortar.

Its breadth is 9 angulis at the top and six angulis at the bottom, having a pestle eight angulis in length. It may be termed a hot mortar, if heated in the following manner: Construct an oven of the shape of a mortar and fill it with charcoal fire. Place the mortar upon the fire and blow it by means of a bellows. Mercury rubbed in a hot mortar made of kanta iron, grows in efficacy by a hundred times.

Another kind of hot mortar.

Goat’s stool, husk of paddy, and fire are to be kept in a pit made in the ground. The mortar, placed upon this pit, is called a hot mortar.

Urdhva-nalika-yantra (Tanka-yantra).

Make a hole just below the neck of a vessel and fit in to this a bamboo pipe, the mouth of the vessel being tightly covered with a basin. Join the other extremity of the bamboo pipe with a glass vessel, into which is to flow vapour coming out of the vessel through the pipe. (This apparatus is meant for the extraction of essences of materials kept with liquids in the vessel which is to be placed upon fire).


In a pit in the ground, one cubit deep, place a vessel. Another vessel containing prescribed materials and having its mouth covered with a basin, full of holes, is to be kept inside the first vessel, which is also to be covered with another basin. The joints are to be closed by means of mud, and the apparatus heated. When cooled of itself, the oil or tincture, as the case may be, is to be taken out from inside the apparatus.

Tejo-yantra (Lavaka-yantra).

Fill up one half of a vessel with prescribed materials, and the other half with water, and close the mouth of the vessel with a lid provided with two tubes, one of which is raised a little high up, and then bent downwards, the other being bent low. Place the vessel upon mild fire, and let hot water come out of the high pipe, again and again, (the other being closed for the time being). Then, when a sufficient number of times, (vapour condensed into) water has been allowed come out through the higher pipe, let the arka (concentrated extract or tincture) come into a pot placed at the mouth of the lower pipe.


Two crucibles, egg-shaped, are to be joined at the lower parts by means of a wooden pipe, one pradesha in length{GL_NOTE::}, the two joints being closely cemented by rag, soaked with mud. In one of these two crucibles put mercury, and powdered sulphur in the other. Having closed the mouths of these two crucibles, put them into two different Baluka-yantras, the wooden pipe referred to above passing through a hole in each of the two vessels. Fire is now to be applied below the vessel containing the sulphur crucible. This leads to the exhaustion of sulphur by the mercury (which remains constant in weight, and does not contain any trace of the sulphur swallowed or exhausted). This apparatus used for the exhaustion of haritala, gandhaka, manas-sila, lauha (iron), etc. It is called an apparatus having, the shape of a tula (libra or balance).

It is used for the purpose of an easy exhaustion of mercury. Prepare a brick, eight angulis square, with its surfaces made very smooth. Make a pit at the central part of this brick, by means of glass, and plaster the surface of the pit with lime. Then, prepare a cake of mercury, mixed with mica, silver, or gold, or with the essences of the same. Inside the pit is now to be placed the cake, covered on all sides with powdered sulphur, one fourth in quantity to the mercury, and dried. The mouth of the pit is to be covered with a basin, the joint being cemented, plastered, and dried. The apparatus is now to be covered lightly with cowdung cakes, arranged in the shape of a horse-shoe. These cakes are then to be burnt


It consists of a pit inside? bigger one. Mercury is to be kept in the inner pit, the outer and the bigger pit being filled with cowdung cakes duly set fire to.


Fit in a glass bowl to a glass bottle with its upper part elongated. Heat is to be applied below the bowl, the apparatus being kept in a slanting posture, (This apparatus is used for distillation of liquors, tinctures etc).


Place a small bowl, upside down, upon a vessel, containing material to be distilled, and close the junction of the mouths with soft mud, etc. Connect the apparatus, by a tube passing in curls through a water trough, with another vessel having its mouth closed tightly. The apparatus is to be heated until the whole of the extract is taken out.


This differs from a Nadika-yantra in this that it has got a water pot placed at the top of the vessel containing the drugs; it has no water trough through which the tube is to pass in a Nadika-yantra; it requires a straight and not a bent tube, and that it requires the pot meant to contain the extract to be surrounded on all sides with water.

Footnotes and references:


Powder of overburnt brick, according to another version.


Pradesha is the maximum distance measured from the tip of the thumb to that of the little finger.


Rasasastra category This concludes ‘Alchemical apparatus (yantra)’ included in Bhudeb Mookerjee’s 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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