Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (study)

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

This page relates ‘Flora (5): Trees’ 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.

(a) Bodhi: (II. 4. 20; p. 84)–

[Holy Fig tree:]

Though Pipal’s popular synonyms are Pippala and Aśvattha, the particular mention of Bodhi lends a clue to the religion and the time of Amara as later to Buddhism.

For only after the advent of Buddhism, the tree got the status of Bodhi meaning ‘that which enlightens’.

Recording this feature of the tree, Kṣīrasvāmin says that it is endowed with energy to enlighten or impart knowledge and thus beneficial in all aspects–

bodhidrumo bodhisatvākhyaḥ sarvopakāritvāt |


Kṣīrasvāmin explains the stalk of the leaf is thin and the leaf being thick is wafted gently by breeze. The leaves in contact with each other makes a clapping noise and earns the name caladala

tanu vṛntatvād guruparṇatvāt svalpe'pi vāte caladalaḥ |


Kṣīrasvāmin observes that etymologists call Bodhi as Apaplava

āpaplava iti nairuktāḥ |

Apaplava means 'that which leaps'. Aśvattha propagates by taking anything as its substratum and starts growing there. Probably the etymologists refer to this characteristic feature of Bodhi. The leaves of Aśvattha are thick in nature with its conspicuous form of pointed tip. According to Kṣīrasvāmin the Holy Fig tree in Deśī is called Patrāṇi.

It is common knowledge that Viṣnu resides in Aśvattha tree and hence considered very auspicious indicated by terms Keśavāvāsa and maṅgalya.

(b) Udumbara (II. 4. 22; p. 85)–

[Fig tree:]

The wasp that enters the flowers for honey get trapped inside and remain inside the fruits and dies. Hence the fig tree is known as jantuphala or kṛmiphala. The unripe fruits when crushed exude milk thus named hemadugdhaka. Their twigs are used in sacrifices earning the name yajñāṅga to the tree.

(c) Plakṣa (II. 4. 32; p. 88)–

[Wavy leaved fig tree:]

It is interesting to note that one variety of Plakṣa is termed jaṭī. Perhaps this indicates that the thick stems of the tree that loop round and grows.

(d) Vaṭa (II. 4. 32; p. 88)–

[The Banyan:]

Nyagrodha, Bahupāda and vaṭa are synonyms mentioned in Amarakośa Kṣīrasvāmin adds from Dhanvantari Nighaṇṭu (5. 76) the terms like raktaphala, vanaspati and vaiśravaṇāvāṣa. Though Banyan tree puts forth flowers it is hardly seen and hence termed vanaspati. Only the dark red coloured fruits are conspicuous and hence the synonym raktaphala is used here.

(e) Āragvadha (II. 9. 23-4; p. 85):

It is also termed rājavṛkṣa–a majestic tree. According to Kṣīrasvāmin the synonym caturaṅgula is denotive of the long leguminous pod perhaps measuring upto four aṅgulas

caturaṅgulaparvā |

According to Kṣīrasvāmin the asterism Revatī is the Goddess of diseases and hence the synonym ārevatathat which cures ferver–

revatī rogadevatā ārevatyam bhava ārevataḥ |
ārevate jvaro'nena vā | rebṛ plavagatau |

(f) Lodhra (II. 4. 33; p. 88):

Amarakośa[1] mentions six words for lodhra. Kṣīrasvāmin opines that Lodhra comprises of red and white varieties. The white variety of lodhra are known as gālava and śābara while the red is called tiriṭa, tilva and mārjana

ādyau śvetalodhre tiriṭādyā raktalodhre |

(g) Guggulu (II. 4. 34; p. 88-9)–

[Indian bdellium:]

Kṣīrasvāmin opines that the word guggulu denotes its property of alleviating the vāta rogaguḍati rakṣati vātārogād gugguluḥ |

In Ayurveda guggulu extracts are used mainly in the treatment of rheumatism.

Indian bdellium gum is an irregular roundish glistening mass and is an opaque reddish brown when dry and is aromatic. This reddish brown colour of the gum is probably referred to as kālaniryāsa in Dhanvantari Nighanṭu (3. 127).

(h) Airāvatī (II. 4. 38; p. 90)–


Kṣīrasvāmin describes that the colour of orange falling into the blended hue of red and yellow, akin to the colour of the lightning called irāvatī

irāvatya vidyutā ivāyaṃ raktatvādairāvataḥ |

(i) Kūṭaśālmalī (II. 4. 47; p. 92)–

[Black silk cotton tree:]

Explaining the term ' kūṭaśālmalī', Kṣīrasvāmin points out that it is the black silk cotton tree that was used in warfare. He adds that it was thrown from forts on the enemy’s army for scattering them[2]

kūṭena kutsitatvaṃ dyotyate durgāderhi parasainyadalanārthaṃ sā kṣipyate ||

However there is no mention of which part of the black silk cotton tree was used for this purpose.

(j) Khadira–(II. 4. 50; p. 93)–

[Acacia Catechu:]

Amarakośa gives gāyatrī and bālatanaya as other synonyms for khadira.

Kṣīrasvāmin rightly observes that Amarasiṃha’s reading of the term bālapatra as bālaputra, is defenitely an error since the reading in Dhanvantri (I. 123) and dvyartha reveal it as bālapatra

bālapatro yavāsa khadiraśceti (ā dra 2/64) ?[™]rtheṣu |
bālaputrabhrāntyā granthakṛdbālatanayamāha |
āha ca khadiro raktasāraśca gāyatrī
dantadhāvanaḥ |
kaṇṭakī bālapatraśca jihmaśalyaḥ kṣitikṣamaḥ ||

(k) Āmalakī Tiṣyaphalā (II. 4. 58; p. 95)–

[Emblica officinalis, Indian gooseberry:]

Kṣīrasvāmin explains that Lakshmī resides in āmalakī permanently and hence the fruit is synonymous with auspiciousness (tiṣya)–

tiṣyam maṅgalyam phalamasyāstiṣyaphalā nityamāmalake lakṣmīriti ||

(l) Karkandhūḥ or Badarī (II. 4. 37; p. 89)[3]

Jujube: Amarakośa gives nine synonyms for jujube, but does not differentiate the name of the tree from fruit. Kṣīrasvāmin specifies that the first three names denote the tree while the rest denote the fruit, whereas the word ghoṇṭā specifies both.

A deviation from the rule of fruits being neuter gender is witnessed here in ghoṇṭā being feminine–

ātra ādyastrayo vṛkṣārthāḥ ānye phalārthāḥ ghoṇṭā tūbhayaspṛk |

Substantiating his view Kṣīrasvāmin quotes the text of Indu

badarī snigdhapatrā ca rāṣṭravṛddhikarī tathā |
phalaṃ tasyāḥ smṛtaṃ kolaṃ
kokilaṃ phenilaṃ kuham ||
lolaṃ sūkṣmaphalaṃ tattu jñeyaṃ karkandhu kandukam |
kaṭuḥ siñcatikā tacca kolaṃ phalaṃ matam ||

Here Kṣīrasvāmin observes that Dhanvantari (5/96) does not specify the tree or fruit but gives the synonyms in general–

dhanvantariḥ sāmānyenāha
badaraṃ kokilaṃ kolaṃ sauvaraṃ phenilaṃ kulam |
karkandhuḥ kandukaṃ svāduḥ kaṭuḥ siñcatikā guḍā ||

He also remarks that the fruit of koli was generally known as kolikam and the physicians denote it as kokilam (because of the linguistic aspect of metathesis) –

koliphalatvātkolikamiti ca sabhyaḥ pāṭhaḥ kokilamiti tu vaidyāḥ |

(m) Vīravṛkṣa (II. 4. 43; p. 91)–

[Marking nut:]

Explaining the word Kṣīrasvāmin mentions that this tree is called so as it is painful to even touch the tree–

viśeṣeṇerayati vīrāṇāṃ vā vṛkṣo duḥsparśatvāt |

Rough handling might cause some exudation from the tree.

(n) Iṅgudī (II. 4. 46; p. 92):

This tree is also known as tāpasataru. Since the oil from this tree is used by ascetics in the forest, Kṣīrasvāmin suggests that the tree is called tāpasataru

tāpasā hyaraṇyesyāḥ snehamupabhuñjata |[4]

(o) Govandanī (II. 4. 56; p. 93):

Govandanī is given as a synonym to priyaṅgu. Kṣīrasvāmin observes that the text of Indu (3/28) reads the word as gaurvandanī.

The word gundrā (priyaṅgu) is given in tryartha kośa as erakā, priyaṅgu and śarā

tryarthe gundrā erakā priyaṅguḥ śarā ca |

Similarly according to dvyarthakoṣa (3/35) priyaka denotes all the three viz., asana, priyaṅgu and kadamba

priyako'sanaḥ priyaṅguḥ kadambaśceti |

In dyarthakoṣa (2/71) gandhaphalinī means priyaṅgu and campakakalikā.

(p) Panasa (II. 4. 61; p. 96)–


Kṣīrasvāmin remarks that Durga reads it as Paṇasa and it is generally called Kaṇṭhakayukta phala, the thorny fruit. It is also called Mahāsarga

paṅāsa iti durgaḥ |
lokoktyā kaṇṭakayuktaphalaḥ | mahāsargo'pi |

(q) Picumanda (II. 4. 63; p. 96)–

[Neem or Margosa:]

It is a synonym of nimba. Kṣīrasvāmin observes that the word should be picumarda (literally meaning that which alleviates leaprosy) and the followers of Śuśruta call it pavaneṣṭa as it is held as sacred and worshipped–

pavaneṣṭo'pi sauśrutāḥ | śāśvatastu hiṅguniryāsaśabdo'yaṃ nimbe hiṅgurase'pi ca |candranandanastu śukamālakamāha |

Footnotes and references:


gālavaḥ śābaro lodhras tiriṭas tilva mārjanau |


Dr. Savitri saxena in the Geographical Survey of the Purāṇas (p. 580) metions that Kūṭaśālmalī is a species of silk-cotton tree. She describes that the tree has short thorns and is regarded as one of the several weapons used in a battle. Probably because of it's thorny feature of the tree it was used in warfare to scatter the enemy army.


karkandhūr badarī koliḥ kolaṃ kuvala phenile | sauvīraṃ badaraṃ ghoṇṭā


Cf. Abhijñānaśākuntalam (II. 10):... tapasvina iṃgudītailacikkaṇaśīrṣasya... |

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