Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (study)

by A. Yamuna Devi | 2012 | 77,297 words | ISBN-13: 9788193658048

This page relates ‘Daily Life (3): Perfumes’ of the study on the Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (in English) which represents a commentary on the Amarakosha of Amarasimha. These ancient texts belong the Kosha or “lexicography” category of Sanskrit literature which deals with the analysis and meaning of technical words from a variety of subjects, such as cosmology, anatomy, medicine, hygiene. The Amarakosa itself is one of the earliest of such text, dating from the 6th century A.D., while the Amarakoshodghatana is the earliest known commentary on that work.

Daily Life (3): Perfumes

It is interesting to observe that Amarakośa mentions the words dealing with sensory perceptions like taste, perfume etc. in the Dhī varga as they are percieved by the sense organs only with the help of intellect or the brain.

Amarakośa gives many words to denote good smell in varied senses as–fragrance, perfume, scent etc. Amarakośa mentions parimala[1] in the sense of a pleasing scent, āmoda[2] as intense and far spreading scent, samākarṣī[3] is a wide spreading scent and surabhi, ghrāṇatarpaṇa, iṣṭagandha and sugandhi denote fragrance in general while āmodī is a mouth freshener. Interesting remarks of Kṣīrasvāmin:

(a) Parimala (I. 4. 10; p. 40)–

[Pleasing scent:]

Kṣīrasvāmin explains the term Parimala as:

“The pleasant fragrance obtained when the fragrant substances, flowers or sandal is pound”–

surabhimālyagandhādiparimardanotpanno hṛdyo gandhaḥ parimalaḥ |

(b) Āmodī (I. 4. 11; p. 40)–

[Mouth freshener:]

Amarakośa gives āmodī and mukhavāsana as words denoting mouthfreshener. Here the commentator gives the two popular views or denotations of the word mukhavāsana.

According to some it is that which perfumes the mouth and in the opinion of Bhāguri it is the perfume of the mouth-freshener

mukhaṃ vāsayatyanulimpati mukhavāsanaḥ mukhavāsayogya ityeke mukhavāsasyāguruvāsana iti bhāguriḥ yataḥ āmodo nityo'syāsti | ānye dvau dvau bhinnāvāhuḥ |

Amarakośa mentions a variety of aromatic plants and trees and their products used as perfumes: Kāśmīra–saffron, lākṣā–Lac, lavaṅga–cloves, jāyakam–yellow fragrant wood, vaṃśikā–Gallocam, aguru–black gallocam, yakṣdhūpa–resin, vṛkadhūpa–compounded perfume, turuṣka–Incence, pāyasaterpentine, mṛganābhi–musk, kolakamBdellium, karpūramcamphor, gandhasāra–sandal wood, patrāṅga–red sander, jātīkośa–mace, yakṣakardamaperfumed paste, gātrānulepanībody perfume, cūrṇapowder. Only those with novel ideas presented by Kṣīrasvāmin are dealt with in this section:

(c) Joṅgaka (II. 6. 126; p. 160):

Kṣīrasvāmin observes that joṅgaka is used in making perfumes and is a product of mountains. He quotes Śāśvata who opines that pravara, loha and anāryaja are other synonyms: joṅgakaṃ girijam | āhuśca -āgarupravaraṃ lohaṃ kṛmijagdhamanāryajamiti śāśvataḥ |

(d) Vāhlīka[4] (II. 6. 124)–


It was also used for its fragrance and unguent property. It was also denoted as vāhlīka which Kṣīrasvāmin opines indicates the country where it is obtained.

Justifying this view he cites from Raghuvaṃśa (IV. 67) the journey of Raghu’s victory over the northern region where saffron is mentioned to grow in plenty.

vahlīkadeśajaṃ vāhlīkaṃ yadraghoruttarādigvijaye durdhūvurvājinaḥ skandhāllagnakuṅkumakesarān |

Raghu’s horses which had lessened their fatigue by turning from side to side on the banks of river Sindhu, shook their shoulders to which clung the filaments of saffron.

Kṣīrasvāmin also includes varṇya to the list and it is ghusṛṇa in Deśī:

varṇyaṃ ca | ghusṛṇaṃ deśyām |

(e) Turuṣka[5] and Piṇḍaka (II. 6. 128; p. 160):

Kṣīrasvāmin observes this to be a kind of incense originating in the Yavana or foreign country.

The piṇḍaka is a compound incense as explained by Kṣīrasvāmin–

piṇḍako dravyāntaraiḥ saha piṇḍitaḥ svarūpānna cyavate |

The Bṛhatsaṃhitā dealing with preparation of perfumes (LXXVII. 9) mentions piṇḍa variety of incense which is made of jaṭāmāṃsi, vālaka, turuṣka, nakha and candana:

ānyo māṃsībālakaturuṣkanakhacandanaiḥ piṇḍaḥ |

(f) Tilaparṇī (II. 6. 132; p. 161):

Tilaparṇī is a variety of sandal used for perfume. Kṣīrasvāmin describes that the leaves resemble the seasamum and hence named so.

He further adds that according to some it is a product from the river–

tilasyeva parṇānyasyāḥ tilaparṇī nadī ākaro'syā ityeke |

(g) Yakṣakardama (II. 6. 133; p. 161):

Amarakośa mentions that a perfumed paste called yakṣakardama[6] with ingredients of karpūra, agaru, kasturī and kaṅkola were prepared. Kṣīrasvāmin remarks that this paste was a favourite of the yakṣas. He further observes that the Āgamas include another substance namely the kuṅkuma and cites Dhanvantari Nighaṇṭu (VII. 25) which adds all these except candana instead of kaṅkola.

Probably it was used for special occasions–

etaiḥ piṇḍīkṛtairyakṣapriyaḥ paṅkaḥ | sakuṅkumairityagamaḥ dhanvantaristu—kuṅkumāgurukastūrīkarpūraṃ candanaṃ tathā mahāsugandhamityuktaṃ nāmato yakṣakardamaḥ |

(h) Vartiḥ (II. 6. 133; p. 161):

The body perfumes were also popular among people as vartiḥ which Kṣīrasvāmin remarks was used more by the actors–vartirhi naṭādau prasiddhā |

(i) Cūrṇam (II. 6. 134; p. 161):

Kṣīrasvāmin explains that the cūrṇa was a kind of perfume generally smeared over the dress–

cūrṇaṃ paṭavāsādikṣodaḥ |

The Bṛhatsaṃhitā (LXXVII. 12) describes the preparation of puṭavāsa(some read it as paṭavāsa) perfume for clothes thus–Take equal quantities of tvak (woody casca), uśīra and patra and half of the above of small cardamoms and pound them together into fine powder. This is an excellent toilette powder.

Footnotes and references:


parimalo gandhe jana manohare |


āmodaḥ so'tinirhārī |


samākarṣī tu nirhārī |


kāśmīrajanmāgniśikhaṃ varaṃ vāhlīka-pītane |


turuṣkaḥ piṇḍakaḥ sihlo yāvanopyatha pāyasaḥ | vivṛti -turuṣkadeśe bhavaḥ turuṣkaḥ | pā - yavanadeśyadhupadravyanāmāni |


karpūrāguru kastūrī kaṅkolair yakṣakardamaḥ |

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