Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (study)

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

This page relates ‘Flora (1): Habitat’ 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.

Flora (1): Habitat

The plant kingdom is the basis for the existence of life forces on earth. In every aspect of human life, plants occupy a place of importance directly or indirectly as food, medicine, shelter and others. Every breath a living being takes is a boon bestowed upon him or her by the enhancement of atmospheric oxygen through photosynthesis. Every drop of rain on earth is due to their existence hence the ṚgVeda sūktas to Indra, Varuṇa, and Dyāvāpṛthvī have been directed towards such pursuits of obtaining plentitude of rains, sunshine and food.

Realising the indispensability of plants Amarakośa has allotted an exclusive and exhaustive section for the plant kingdom namely the Vanauṣadhi varga. Apart from Vanauṣadhi varga, other sections like Vāri varga, Nṛ-varga and Vaiśya varga also have information on plants. The acquatic plants like lotus, lily and also algae are dealt with in Vāri varga. The Nṛ-varga lists out a few plants used for perfumes and cosmetics, and as spices and vegetables. The grains and pulses used as commodities are dealt with in Vaiśya varga.

Amarakośa discusses the habitat in Bhū and Vanauṣadhi varga. Habitat is of prime importance since it decides the type of family of flora and fauna that inhabits it. It is interesting to note that the adaptation of flora and fauna to the habitat unravels the mystery of creation. Amarakośa continues with the type of vegetation, the taxonomy of plant kingdom followed by certain morphological features that are apparent.

(a) Vana (II. 4. 1; p. 80)–


Amarakośa gives a general description of forest and its synonyms at the outset. A dense forest is araṇya and a large forest is mahāraṇya. Kṣīrasvāmin describes a vana as a place abounding in treeskanyate sevyate vanaṃ, vṛkṣabahulaṃ sthanam |

(b) Upavana (II. 4. 2; p. 80)–


Under the topic of forests in Vanauṣadhi varga, the gardens are also mentioned. Contrary to the forests which are natural resources, the gardens are said to be artificial or cultivated:

karaṇena nirvṛttaḥ kṛtrimo vṛkṣasamūhaḥ |

Amarakośa denotes a garden as upavana and Kṣīrasvāmin reasons out that due to the proximity or similarity with a forest, a garden is called upavana

samīpaṃ vanasyopavanam, tulyatvena naikaṭyāt |

(c) Ākrīḍa, Udyāna and Pramadavana (II. 4. 2; p. 80)–

[Public and private gardens:]

Kṣīrasvāmin explains that a royal public garden is called ākrīḍa or udyāna. While an exclusive queen's pleasure garden is called pramadavana:

ākrīḍantyasminnākrīḍaḥ | udyantyasminnudyānam | sādhāraṇaṃ rājñībhiḥ saha | pramadārthaṃ vanaṃ pramadavanam ṅyāpoḥ saṃjñācchandasorbahulaṃ iti hrasvaḥ | āntaḥpuraṃ tatsthā devyaḥ |

(d) Other habitat:

The Bhū varga (II. 1. 10-1; pp.71-2) deals with the different habitats of plants as mentioned below:

1. Naḍvān, naḍvala: A place where reeds grow

2. Kumudvān: Place abounding in water lillies

3. Vetasvān: Place abounding in elephant grasses

4. Śādvala: Grassland. Kṣīrasvāmin explains it as a place abounding in grass similar to dūrvā grass:

śādena śaṣpeṇa nīlaḥ |
śaṣpakardamayoḥ śādaḥ |
śādaḥ śādo'styasmiñśādvalo deśaḥ ivalac |
na hi
koṭarasaṃsthe'gnau tarurbhavati śādvalaḥ śādvalā dūrveti ca nīlatvopacārāt |

5. Paṅkila: Kṣīrasvāmin explains it as a place full of silt or a muddy country:

paṅko'syāsti paṅkilaḥ picchāditvādilac |

6. Anūpam: Kṣīrasvāmin explains it as a place which is watery or wet probably referring to places where hydrophytes grow:

ānugatā āpo'trānūpam |

7. Kacchaḥ: Amarakośa gives it as synonymous to Anūpam[1]. Kṣīrasvāmin explains it as a water logged place probably referring to swampy or marshy area.

Kṣīrasvāmin quotes the Mālā which reads the word in neuter gender:

kaṣantyāpo'yaṃ sa kacchaḥ |
tathāvidho'nūpaprāyaḥ kacchamiti mālā |

8. Urvarā–Fertile land

9. Maru–Desert land

10. Aprahata–Fallow land

11. Śarkarā–Land full of pebbles and pieces of lime-stones

12. Śarkarāvati–Sandy land

13. Nadīmātṛkā–Land watered from a river

14. Devamātṛkā–Land watered by rain

Footnotes and references:


jalaprāyamanūpaṃ syāt puṃsi kacchastathāvidhaḥ |

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: