|Year : 2021 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 166-170
A brief review of Rasaratnasamucchaya of Manikyadeva Suri: an Indian alchemical treatise of the medieval period
Chandrashekhar Y Jagtap1, Dhirajsingh S Rajput2, Rohit Gokarn3
1 Central Ayurveda Research Institute, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences, New Delhi, India
3 Department of Rasashastra and Bhaishajya Kalpana, Shree Swaminarayan Ayurveda College, Kalol, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India
|Date of Submission||30-May-2021|
|Date of Decision||09-Jun-2021|
|Date of Acceptance||24-Jun-2021|
|Date of Web Publication||28-Sep-2021|
Dr. Chandrashekhar Y Jagtap
Central Ayurveda Research Institute, Jhansi 284003, Uttar Pradesh.
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Several alchemical treatises were written in the early Medieval period (800–1300 A.D.). The majority of these texts are from Hindu cult, and some are from Buddhism. During this period, seers from Jain cult were also seen as contributing to the field of alchemy. One of very few such texts from Jain alchemy is Rasaratnasamucchaya of Manikyadeva Suri (RRSMS) (thirteenth century A.D.), which is not available in the market nowadays but was found on the website in PDF form. RRSMS, written in Sanskrit language and edited by Sikdar JC, is reviewed briefly in the present work. RRSMS, containing three chapters, is a precise treatise among the available ancient literature on Indian alchemy; it throws light on the state of Indian expertise in the field of alchemy and medicine and sidelight on the social beliefs, diets, various diseases, and their herbo-mineral remedies used during this period. It provides useful information of various kinds of minerals, metals, and herbs with their complex formulations, the different apparatus used in them, and measuring systems such as weight. Various procedures and alchemical preparations of mercury, iron, copper, gold, silver, and other metals and minerals are suggested as potent medicines in different ailments. Thus, it can be concluded that a mass of chemical information on Rasayanavidya (alchemy), metallurgy, and mineralogy, along with the knowledge of Ayurveda, was accumulated during the period of the author. Thus, it is the dire need of the time to bring it out by translating it to the regional languages and accepting commentaries from the greats of Rasashastra for the welfare of the society.
Keywords: Ayurveda, herbo-mineral preparations, Indian alchemy, Jain alchemy, Rasashastra
|How to cite this article:|
Jagtap CY, Rajput DS, Gokarn R. A brief review of Rasaratnasamucchaya of Manikyadeva Suri: an Indian alchemical treatise of the medieval period. J Indian Sys Medicine 2021;9:166-70
|How to cite this URL:|
Jagtap CY, Rajput DS, Gokarn R. A brief review of Rasaratnasamucchaya of Manikyadeva Suri: an Indian alchemical treatise of the medieval period. J Indian Sys Medicine [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Jun 7];9:166-70. Available from: https://www.joinsysmed.com/text.asp?2021/9/3/166/326840
| Introduction|| |
The early Medieval period (800–1300 A.D.) was the golden era for the Indian alchemy when it flourished in its true sense. Several alchemical treatises were written between the ninth and fourteenth century A.D. Some of the texts dealt with Dehavada (use of Hathayogik and Tantrik practices to promote a long healthy life along with the use of metals and minerals for the preparation of remedies for various diseases); some dealt with Dhatuvada (transmutation of base metals into gold); and some with both. Rasaratnakara, Rasahridayatantra, Rasarnava, Rasendramangal, Rasopnishad, Rasasanketkalika, Rasendrachudamani, Rasendrachintamani, Rasaprakashasudhakar, and Rasaratnasamucchaya are some of the well-known and important alchemical treatises of this period that are generally classed under the Rasashastra. The majority of these texts are from the Hindu cult, and some of them are from the followers of Buddhism. During this period, seers from Jain cult were also seen as contributing to this field. The extant Jain manuscripts Suvarnaraupyasiddhishastra of Jinadatta Suri (VS. 1210), Rasaratnasamucchaya of Manikyadeva Suri (thirteenth century A.D.), Yogaratnakara Chopai of Nayanashekhara (VS. 1736–1679 A.D.), Vaidyavallabha of Hastiruchi (seventeenth century A.D.), and Nagarjunavidya (sixteenth to eighteenth century A.D.) reveal that the Jain alchemy dealt not only with chemistry and metallurgy but also with the medical science and occultism.
In the early Medieval period, due to the attacks on India by invaders, most of the available manuscripts on Indian alchemy were either destroyed or hidden so much cautiously that later such manuscripts never saw the light of day. Hence, to safeguard the knowledge from extinction, alchemical practitioners felt a necessity to systematically compile and collect the scattered knowledge of Rasashastra. Rasaratnasamucchaya, authored by Vagbhata and written in the thirteenth century A.D., is the perfect example of this. Though many ancient as well as recent scripts, compilation texts, and academic text books written on Indian alchemy in different eras modified as per recent advancements are available nowadays, unfortunately, some of the manuscripts on this subject are still either unknown or hidden in the darkness or lost in the flow of time. One of such texts is RRSMS, which is not available nowadays. Fortunately, the Jain eLibrary project converted Jain literature electronically into e-books and made it available to the readers. Therefore, for the present review, the scanned electronic PDF file available at Jain eLibrary is scrutinized.
Every text has some specialty, and the same was seen in this article. It can be said that this is the only Jain treatise available on this subject. In the present review, an attempt has been made to throw light on the key features of RRSMS and establish its importance and contribution in the field of Rasashastra (Indian alchemy).
| Materials and Methods|| |
The manuscript RRSMS was downloaded in PDF from the Jain eLibrary, and the contribution of the book was scrutinized according to the description related to Rasashastra in each chapter. The scrutinized information was then arranged in a systematic way to briefly highlight the content. The comments of experts on RRSMS were also compiled to represent the significance of this text. Lastly, the reviewed information was compared with similar available literature to understand the difference as well as the distinguishing features of RRSMS.
| Observation and Results|| |
About This Book and Its Structure
Sikdar JC edited and translated the manuscript of RRSMS (Regd. No. 5668), which he found at L. D. Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The first edition of the book was published by Prakrita Bharati Akademy, Jaipur in December 1986. However, there are no reprints found and nowadays even the printed version of this book is not available in the market. Chapters in this book are termed as “Adhikara.” The book is a mini manuscript of only 75 pages written in three chapters with totally 146 verses. The original text was in Sanskrit, and Sikdar JC translated it into English. He also added details of Rasashastra in the introductory section and correlated the text data with his knowledge in view of modern information. The translation section added by the commentator is a slight repetition of the previous content, but it is more suitable to understand the spiritual as well as alchemical gist of RRSMS.
About the Author and His Period
Shri Manikyadeva Suri has mentioned in the last verse of the third chapter that he is the disciple of Shri Devachandra Suri. The author of the Rasaratnasamucchaya, the Buddhist Vagbhat, son of Simhagupta, flourishing in the Iatro-Chemical period (1300–1550 A.D.) began his work with an invocation to all Siddhas following the Buddhist cult. In RRSMS, the style of the salutation is strictly Jainistic. Thus, it seems that Shri Manikyadeva Suri took up the title of his work from that of Vagbhat as they flourished in the same Iatro-Chemical period. The very same title attributed to their works on alchemy and medicine suggests their relation in successive periods—earlier and later.
The author of RRSMS is the devoted Jain monk. He begins his work with salutation to the Rishabhadeva (who is the first Jain Tirthankara). It is interesting to note that Shri Manikyadeva Suri declares his indebtedness to the previous ascetics such as Neminatha and Parshvadeva Suri and their works in this field. This pattern of acknowledging the previous seers of Indian alchemy is also found in other Rasashastra texts, such as Rasaratnasamucchaya of Vagbhata.
After going through some evidence from Jain texts and the rich Sanskrit language adopted in the composition of this article in poetic order, Sikdar JC concludes that the author Shri Manikyadeva Suri belonged to the period ranging from the second half of the thirteenth century A.D. to the first half of the fourteenth century A.D. Here, it is also to be noted that the manuscript used for the copy writing belongs to the sixteenth century A.D.
Chapter-Wise Description of RRSMS
The first chapter named “Rasangsamgrahi” consisting of 50 verses deals with the names of Maharasas (major/superior/more important minerals), Uparasas (subsidiary/inferior/less important minerals), Lohas (metals) and their Graha (planet) relation, Vishas (poisons), Pitta (biles), Vasa (fats), Taila (oils), and Ghee (clarified butter) in the beginning, as given in [Table 1]. Next, it proceeds on to state three Parada doshas (blemishes of mercury), their effects on the body, and the drugs and processes to remove them: Marana (calcination) methods of Parada (mercury), common Shodhana (purification and/or detoxification) methods of Maharasa and Alparasas (Uparasas) by Swedana (boiling) for one day in different liquid media. The author further describes Shodhana of Darada (Hingula–Cinnabar), Talaka (orpiment), Marana processes of Suvarna (gold), Naga (Lead), Vanga (Tin), Krishna Ayas (Iron), Tikshna Loha (Mild steel), Shodhana, Marana, and Nishchandrikarana (removal of shiny particles) processes of Krishna Abhraka, Marana of Vajra (diamond), and other Ratnas (gems).
In this chapter named “Rasarahasya” having 40 verses, the author worships Neminatha in the very beginning and praises Parada (mercury) in a very analogical way, which is able to cure various kinds of diseases. The author admits that he has borrowed materials from Rasavaloka, some from Rasarnava, some from Vyadindra–Govindarasa, and some from his own experience. He speaks of Rasas (herbo-mineral preparations) for the cure of various kinds of diseases together with their pathology and remedies with their process of purification, complete purification, and experiment of the effectiveness for the benefit of the people of the world afflicted with diseases such as fever and many more.
Next, he gives a list of medicines prepared with the Sattva (essence) of Maharasa, (Uparasa, Ratna), Parada and Abhraka, Lohas, gold, silver, tin, copper, lead, iron, brass, and bell metal. He deals with chemical processes related to copper, pyrite, Morthuthu (copper sulfate), realgar, cinnabar with diamond and pearl attaining the color of lotus, Putas (heating grade) given to them, in some Yantra (equipment) and cooked in Bhudhara Yantra. He enlists Rasendra Gutika bound with the juice of ginger, together with bilious poison of fish, buffalo, peacock, boar, and goat for Sannipataj Jvara (typhoid). The author gives the description of the Yantras such as Bhudhara Yantra, Mathakhya Yantra, and Kachcchapa Yantra used for different processing. The methods of preparation of Suchikabharana Rasa, Vajrahema Rasa are described. Next, he describes the process of killing mercury by Chakramushakarma in Musha (Crucible) made up of iron.
The author treats Bhutabhairavarasa—a remedy for Sannipataj Jvara, Brihad Vadavanala Rasa for the cure of the same disease by killing mercury, and other medicines, Chintamani Rasa for the cure of Jvara (fever), Grahani (chronic dyspepsia), Aruchi (loss of appetite), Tridoshaj Jvara (typhoid), Durnama (piles), Jalodara (Ascites), Vidradhi (Abscess), Kanakavajra Rasa for all diseases, Chhandabhairava Rasa for a multitude of diseases, dropsy due to jaundice, and tumor. At the end of the chapter, the author states that the chapter is written after studying Rasopnishat.
This chapter consists of 56 verses, in which the author Shri Manikyadeva Suri initially refers to the three Gunas of the Prakriti of the Samkhya philosophy and mentions Lord Parshvanatha. Then, he deals with Tamra Bhairava Rasa as the remedy for Kshaya (tuberculosis), Kasa (cough), Shwasa (dyspnea), and Visuchika (cholera) with different Anupana (other medicines) triturated with the main medicines for their effective actions. Other medicines such as Jvarari Rasa for Jvara (fever), Kapardika Rasa for Kshaya (Tuberculosis), and another Sakapardika Rasa for the treatment of Samgrahani (chronic dyspepsia) accompany Kshaya. Some other formulations are: Loha (iron) Bhasma for the cure of Sashopha Pandu (anemia accompanied by edema), Kshaya (tuberculosis), Kamala (jaundice), Halimaka (severe jaundice). Hiranayagarbha Rasa for energy, Nagendra Rasa for serious types of Visuchika (cholera), and Vishveshwara Rasa and Agnikumara Rasa for the remedy of many kinds of diseases. Other formulations are also mentioned in this chapter for various ailments, such as Kasa (cough), Shwasa (dyspnea), Samgrahani (dyspepsia), Pandu (anemia), Atisara (dysentery), Kamala (jaundice), Parinamashula (colic pain), Jvara (fever), Ahivish (Snake poisoning), Mandanala (loss of appetite), and others. Mahabhairava Rasa for the removal of Tridoshaja Jvara (typhoid) by using Agnisoma Yantra is mentioned. Methods of preparation of Tamra (copper) Bhasma, Loha (iron) Bhasma, and Nishchandrikaran (removal of shining particles) of Krishnabhra (mica) Bhasma are mentioned at the end of this chapter.
| Discussion|| |
The author Shri Manikyadeva Suri has used the descriptive, explanatory, and emotive style of presentation for explaining the subject matter in this treatise, retaining the pure form of Sanskrit in whole composition. The author has composed this work in rich Sanskrit language uniformly in simple Padas (words), with poetic order from the beginning to the end with some commentaries as stated by him in the concluding remarks (Chapter 3, last verse). He has succeeded in articulating the knowledge of alchemy and medical contents in a clear, concise, explicit, and scholarly manner. Richness of the language and the author’s command over it is seen by the 13 Cchandas (meters) used in whole composition [Table 2]. In his commentary, Sikdar quotes, “It is remarkable to observe how the richness of its vocabularies in all the three chapters produces an equal effect on the minds of the readers by truly expressing and explaining all aspects of its varied contents it has touched upon without faltering, slowness and haziness by presenting a clear and concise conception about them.”
The Jaina ideology of nonviolence is reflected in the first chapter, where it is mentioned that whenever some product of animal origin is required, it should be taken by preserving the life of an animal or when an animal dies accidentally. This treatise throws light on the social beliefs, diets, various diseases, and their herbo-mineral remedies used during this period. It provides useful information of various kinds of minerals, metals, and herbs with their complex formulations, different apparatus used in them, and measuring systems such as weight. The different procedures of alchemical preparations of mercury, iron, copper, gold, silver, and other metals and minerals are suggested as potent medicines in various ailments. Thus, it can be opined that a mass of chemical information on Rasayanavidya (alchemy), metallurgy, and mineralogy, along with the knowledge of Ayurveda was accumulated during the period of the author.
In the words of Sikdar, “The composition of the text of the RRSMS is an evidence of education of Indian society of its time, particularly in western India. The whole composition of RRSMS in Sanskrit indicates that the literature written in this language was studied by the literate people of the days of Shri Manikyadeva Suri in Gujarat and neighboring culture in Rajasthan. The use of handmade paper and black ink for writing alchemical and medicinal works in old Devnagari script shows advancement in the field of education of the people in these culture areas.” During the period of the author, Brahmanism and Jainism flourished simultaneously in harmony in Gujarat and nearby regions. In this classic, various references to the Samkhya philosophy, Purusha and Prakriti (the tool and creator of the universe respectively), Vishnu (Indian god of creation) and Shiva (Indian god of destruction), and salutation to the Jaina Tirthankaras (saviors and spiritual teachers of the righteous path) show their mutual harmonious relations and respect for each other in the society.
When compared with the other Indian works on alchemy, this work by Shri Manikyadeva Suri seems a brief compilation based on some other works of the Iatro-Chemical periods on the same subjects. Just like other Rasashastra texts, this treatise also dealt with the classification of metals and minerals under categories such as Maharasa, Upasaras, Ratnas, and Lohas along with a description of various apparatuses, various formulations, and their uses as a remedy for several diseases known during the period of the author. Thus, it may also be inferred that there might have been a common Indian source on alchemy and medicine from which all the Indian scholars of alchemy might have taken their respective alchemical information. However, as honesty and secrecy were one of the key requirements to achieve success in the field of Indian alchemy, the ancient seers were keen to write the only content that is generalizable as well as that they have experienced through successful experiments. Due to the strict rules of maintaining secrecy in Gurukul (Ancient Indian School), the secret knowledge was passed directly to the disciples and not written in texts. In his commentary, Sikdar says, “The period of Shri Manikyadeva Suri (16th Century A.D.) constitutes the most flourishing and fruitful age of medieval India relating to the accumulation of knowledge in chemical science, which was closely associated with medicine. The abstract theories relate to the physical, chemical and biological theories embracing the process of the entire cosmic evolution and the methodology of science.”
Based on the comparison between RRSMS and Rasaratnasamucchaya of Vagbhat, it is clear that the latter in written in much more detail. The structure, content, and description in RRSMS have many similarities with the aforementioned text; however, it can be interpreted that as a text related to Jain cult, the author of the RRSMS has narrated the relevant content of Indian alchemy that was commonly practiced. It can be understood that in RRSMS, the vast information of Indian alchemy was sorted according to the significance and ease in availability of ingredients as well as less tedious pharmaceutical procedures in order to provide a brief handbook to the commoner or beginners of Indian alchemy and Ayurveda therapeutics. The small size of the text has a positive advantage of ease in knowing the necessary information, which seems already sorted. The study of the RRSMS reveals that the Jain seers were also dealing with the alchemy (chemistry and metallurgy) on the one hand and medical science on the other. This treatise, on alchemy and medicine, is a creation and compendium based on some standard works, such as the Rasaratnasamucchaya of Vagbhat along with the subjects such as chemistry, metallurgy, and medicine. Thus, RRSMS bears an immense value in the history of science in medieval India and makes it an authoritative work for Rasashastra and Ayurveda literature as it throws light on the state of Indian expertise in the field of alchemy regarding the extraction, purification, and conversion of metals/minerals into therapeutically suitable forms, various instruments developed for alchemical purposes, and treatment of numerous diseases by using herbo-mineral preparations. It also throws a sidelight on the history of alchemy and medicine of the Iatro-Chemical period and on some aspects of Indian culture, such as religion, alchemical sects, and the system of alchemical thoughts and practices. This hidden treasure is a useful compilation related to the preparation and properties of drugs of mineral and metallic origin. It is the dire need of the time to bring it out by translating it to the regional languages and accepting commentaries from the greats of Rasashastra for the welfare of the society.
| Conclusion|| |
The RRSMS is a classical literature from Jain philosophy focusing on Indian alchemy and a representative of the involvement of Jain seers in alchemical research as well as the use of alchemy for therapeutic purposes. Considering the brief nature of the manuscript, it is not a major alchemical text of Rasashastra literature. However, it can prove to be a helpful accessory in studying, practicing, and researching the common and feasible practical aspect of Indian alchemy.
The authors are thankful to Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Lale, Research Officer (Ayurveda) of Central Ayurveda Research Institute, Jhansi for suggesting the website www.jainelibrary.org from which this book has been downloaded. The authors also acknowledge Shree Gyanvardhak Charitable Trust, Ahmedabad for making such a treasure freely available in electronic format through the E-libray project in India.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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[Table 1], [Table 2]