Sushruta Samhita, Volume 5: Kalpasthana

by Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhishagratna | 1911 | 24,963 words

This current book, the Kalpa-sthana (english translation), deals with the nature of poisons, the management of poisons, toxicology and various other subjects. The Sushruta Samhita is the most representative work of the Hindu system of medicine. It embraces all that can possibly appertain to the science of medicine. Susruta-samhita is recognized as...

Chapter III - Description of Jangama (animal) poisons

Now we shall discourse on the subject of (the nature, virtue, etc. of) animal poisons (jangama-visha-vijnaniya). 1.

We have briefly said before that there are sixteen situations of poison in the bodies of venomous animals. Now we shall deal with them in detail. 2.


An animal poison is usually situated in the following parts, viz; the sight, breath, teeth, nails, urine, stool, semen, saliva, menstrual blood, stings, belching[1], anus, bones, bile, bristles (Shuka) and in the dead body of an animal. 3.

Of these, the venom of celestial serpents lies in their sight and breath, that of the terrestrial ones in their fangs while that of cats, dogs, monkeys, Makara (alligators?), Frogs, Paka-matsyas (a kind of insect), lizards (Godha), mollusks (Snails), Prachalakas (a kind of insect), domestic lizards, four-legged insects and of any other species of flies such as mosquitoes, etc., lies in their teeth and nails. 4.

The venom of a Chipita, Piccataka, Kashaya- vasika, Sarshapa-vasika, Totaka, Varchah-kita, Kaundilyaka and such-like insects lies in their urine and excreta. The poison of a mouse or rat lies in its semen, while that of a Luta (spider) lies in its saliva, urine, excreta, fangs, nails, semen and menstrual fluid (ovum). 5–6.

The venom of a scorpion, Vishvambhara, Rajiva-fish, Uccitinga (cricket) and a sea-scorpion lies in their saliva. The venom of a Citra-shirah, Sarava, Kurdishata, Daruka, Arimedaka and Sharika-mukha, lies in their fangs, belching, stool and urine. The venom of a fly, a Kanabha and leeches lies in their fangs. The poison lies in the bones of an animal killed by any poison, as well as in those of a snake, a Varati and a fish[2]. The poison lies in the bile of a Shakuli, a Rakta-raji and a Charaki fish. The poison lies in the bristles (Shuka) and the head of a Sukshma-tunda, an Uccitinga (cricket), a wasp, a centipede (Shatapadi), a Shuka, a Vala-bhika, a Shringi and a bee. The dead body of a snake or an insect is poisonous in itself. Animals not included in the above list should be deemed as belonging to the fang-venomed species i.e., the poison lies in their fangs. 7–11.

Memorable Verses:—

The enemies of a sovereign poison the pastures, water, roads, food-stuffs and smoke (Dhuma) of their country and even charge the atmosphere with poison in the event of his making incursions into their country. The poisonous nature of the foregoing things should be ascertained from the following features and should be duly purified (before use). 12-A.

Characteristic Features and Purifications of poisoned water, etc:—

A sheet of poisoned water becomes slimy, strong-smelling, frothy and marked with (black-coloured) lines on the surface. Frogs and fish living in the water die without any apparent cause. Birds and beasts that live (in the water and) on its shores roam about wildly in confusion (from the effects of poison), and a man, a horse or an elephant, by bathing in this (poisoned) water is afflicted with vomiting, fainting, fever, a burning sensation and swelling of the limbs. These disorders (in men and animals) should be immediately attended to and remedied and no pains should be spared to purify such poisoned water. The cold ashes, of Dhava, Ashva-karna, Asana, Paribhadra, Patala, Siddhaka, Mokshaka, Raja-druma and Somavalka burnt together, should be cast into the poisoned pool or tank, whereby its water would be purified; as an alternative, an Anjali-measure (half a seer) of the said ashes cast in a Ghata-measure[3] (sixty-four seers) of the required water would lead to its purification. 12-B.

A poisoned ground or stone-slab, landing stage or desert country gives rise to swellings in those parts of the bodies of men, bullocks, horses, asses, camels and elephants that may chance to come in contact with them. In such cases a burning sensation is felt in the affected parts and the hair and nails (of these parts) fall off. In these cases, the poisoned surface should be purified by sprinkling it over with a solution of Ananta and Sarvagandha (the scented drugs) dissolved in wine (Sura)[4], or with (an adequate quantity of) black clay[5] dissolved in water or with the decoction of Vidanga, Patha, and Katabhi. 12–C.

Poisoned hay or fodder or any other poisoned foodstuff produces lassitude, fainting, vomiting, diarrhea or even death (of the animal partaking thereof). Such cases should be treated with proper anti poisonous medicines  according to the indications of each case. As an alternative, drums and other musical instruments smeared with plasters of anti-poisonous compounds (Agadas)[6] should be beaten and sounded (round them). Equal parts of silver (Tara), mercury (Sutara) and Indra-Gopa insects with Kuru Vinda[7] equal in weight to that of the entire preceding compound, pasted with the bile of a Kapila (brown) cow, should be used as a paste over the musical instruments (in such cases). The sounds of such drums, etc. (pasted with such anti-poisonous drugs) are said to destroy the effects of even the most dreadful poison. 12–D.

Poisons of the Atmosphere and its purification:—

The dropping of birds from the skies to the earth below in a tired condition is a distinct indication of the wind and the smoke (of the atmosphere) being charged with poison. It is further attended with an attack of cough, catarrh, head ache, and of severe eye-diseases among persons inhaling the same wind and smoke. In such cases the (poisoned) atmosphere should be purified by burning quantities of Laksha, Haridra, Ati-visha, Abhaya, Abda (Musta), Renuka, Ela, Data (Teja-Patra), Valka (cinnamon), Kushtha and Priangu in the open ground. The fumes of these drugs would purify the Anila (air) and the Dhuma (smoke) from the poison they had been charged with 12.

Mythological origin of poison (Visha):—

It is stated in the Scriptures that a demon named Kaitabha obstructed in various ways, the work of the self-origined Brahma when he was engaged in creating this world. At this the omnipotent god grew extremely wrathful. The vehement wrath of the god gradually swollen and inflamed, at last emanated in physical forms from his mouth and reduced the mighty, death-like, roaring fiend to ashes. But the energy of that terrific wrath went on increasing even after the destruction of the demon, at the sight of which the gods were greatly depressed in spirit. The term Visha (poison) is so called from the fact of its filling the gods with Vishada (depression of spirits). After that the god of creation, having finished his (self imposed) task of creating this world, cast that wrath both into the mobile and the immobile creations Just as the atmospheric water which is of imperceptible and undeveloped taste, acquires the specific taste of the ground or soil it falls upon, so it is the very nature of the (tasteless) Visha that it partakes of the specific taste (Rasa) of a thing or animal in which it exists. 13.

Properties of poisons:—

All the sharp and violent qualities are present in poison. Hence poisons should be considered as aggravating and and deranging all the Doshas of the body. The Doshas aggravated and charged with poison forego their own specific functions. Hence poison can never be digested or assimilated in the system. It stops the power of inhaling. Expiration (exhalation of the breath) becomes impossible owing to the internal passages having been choked by the deranged Kapha. Consequently a poisoned person drops down in an unconscious state even when life is still present within his body. 14.

Nature and Location of Snake-poison:—

The poison of a snake like the semen in an adult male lies diffused all through its organism. As semen is gathered up, dislodged and subsequently emitted through the urethra by being agitated (by contact with woman, etc.), so the poison in a snake is gathered up and secreted through the holes of its fangs under the conditions of anger and agitation. The fangs being hook-shaped, a snake cannot secrete its poison without lowering its hood just after a bite. 15.

General treatment of poisoning:—

Since a poison of whatever sort is extremely keen, sharp and heat-making in its poteney, a copious sprinkling with cold water should be used in all cases of poisoning. But since the poison of an insect is mild and not too much heat-making in its potency and as it engenders a large quantity of Vayu and Kapha in the organism, measures of fomentation (Sveda) are not forbidden in a case of insect-bite. A bite by a strongly poisoned insect, however, should be treated as a snake-bite to all intents and purposes. 16.

The poison of a venomed dart or of a snakebite courses through the whole organism of the victim but it is its nature that it returns to the place of hurt and bite respectively. A man eating, from culpable gluttony, the flesh of such an animal, just dead (from the effects of poison), is afflicted with symptoms and diseases peculiar to the specific pathogenetic virtues of the poison with which the dead body is charged, and, in the long run, meets with his doom. Hence the flesh of an animal killed by a venomed dart or a snake bite (should be considered as fatal as the poison itself and) should not be taken immediately after its death. The flesh of such an animal, however, may be eaten after a period of forty eight minutes (Muhurta) from its death after the portions of the hurt and the bite have been removed. 17.

Symptoms of taking poison internally:—

Whoever passes a black sooty stool with loud flatus, or sheds hot tears and drops down with agony, and whose complexion becomes discoloured, and whose mouth becomes filled with foam, should be considered as afflicted with poison taken internally (Visha-pita). The heart of such a man (dying from the effects of internal poisoning) cannot be burnt in fire; since the poison from its very nature lies extended in the whole viscera of the heart, the seat of cognition[8]. 18.

Fatal bites:—

A man bitten by a snake in any of the vulnerable parts of the body, or near (the root of) an Ashvatthva tree, or a temple, at the cremation ground or on an ant-hill, or at the meeting of day and night, or at the crossings of roads or under the influence of the Bharani or Magha asterisms (astral mansions) should be given up as lost. The poison of a hooded cobra (Darvri-kara proves instantaneously fatal. All poisons become doubly strong and operative in summer (Ushna)[9]. In cases of persons suffering from indigestion, urinary complaints, or from the effects of deranged Pitta or oppressed with the heat of the sun (sun stroke) as well as infants, old men, invalids, emaciated persons, pregnant women, men of timid disposition, or of a dry temperament, or oppressed with hunger, or bitten on a cloudy day, the poisons become doubly strong and operative. 19–20.

On the other hand, a snake bitten person, into whose body an incision is unattended with bleeding, or on whose body the strokes of lashes leave no marks, nor does horripilation appear even after a copious pouring of cold water on the body, should be likewise given up as lost. A case of snake-bite in which the tongue of the victim is found to be coated white and whose hair falls off (on the slightest pull), the bridge of whose nose becomes bent and the voice hoarse, where there is lockjaw and the appearance of a blackish-red swelling about the bite,—such a case should be given up as hopeless. 21–22.

The case in which thick, long lumps of mucus are expectorated accompanied by bleeding from both the upward and the downward orifices of the body with distinct impression of all the fangs on the bitten part, should be given up by the physician. 23.

A case of snake-bite marked by the symptoms of an insane state like that of a drunkard and accompanied by severe distressing symptoms (Upadrava), as well as loss of voice and complexion and an absence of the circulation of blood[10] and by other fatal symptoms should be abandoned and no action need be taken therein. 24.


Thus ends the third Chapter of the Kalpa-Sthana in the Sushruta Samhita which treats of animal poisons.

Footnotes and references:


Vriddha-Vāgbhata reads Alaji-Śonite in place of “Visardhita.”


Some read “varaṭīmatsya” (Varati-fish) as one word—the name of a species of fish.


Jejjata explains ‘Ghata’ as a pitcher, i.e., a pitcher-ful of water.


Dallana holds that the use of the plural number here in “murābhiḥ” means that honey, treacle, etc. should also be used with wine.


Dallana says that some read ‘earth of an ant-hill’ in place of ‘black clay’ for its anti-poisonous properties.


See Chapter VII, Kalpa-Sthāna.


‘Sārivā’ according to Dallana, ‘Bhadra-musta’ according to others.


In the Charaka Samhitā also we come across identical expressions of opinion as to the seat of poison in the dead body of an animal or man, dying from poison from a poisoned dart or snake-bite or from poison administered internally. See chapter xxiii, cikitsā-sthāna—Charaka Samhitā.


In place of “uṇe” some read “ūrddhe” This would mean “if bitten in the upper part of the body.”


The text has “Avegi”. Kārtika explains it to mean “with suppression of the natural urgings, ie.. of stool, urine, etc.