The magnificent knowledge repository in Sanskrit literature, encompassing almost all domains, is a uniqueness of the Indian systems of traditional knowledge. Besides the well-known branches like arts and philosophy, several scientific and technical subjects are also been comprehensively documented in Sanskrit literature. Nevertheless, many of them are still remaining as manuscripts themselves and their unavailability in the print form make them inaccessible to a vast majority of the people. Therefore in this context, the timely and logical approaches of Government of India's National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM, New Delhi) to safeguard and disseminate the knowledge contents in manuscripts through publications and digitization are worth mentioning. A recently published book titled "Dravyagunasatasloki of Trimallabhatta" is one good example of the significant outcomes of the NMM's vision and mission. The author Trimallabhatta is believed to be lived in the first half of the 17 th century in Kasi, North India. He is the author of three other medical works viz. Yogatarangini, Brhadyogatarangini and Vaidyacandrodaya. The text Dravyagunasatasloki consists of 102 "Slokas" (verses) beautifully composed in long meters with poetic excellence. Besides its scientific and technical merits, its poetic excellence is also exceptional. Further, the value additions done by the editors to this publication made it an imperative reference text for both scholars and researchers of Ayurveda and Sanskrit.
The present edition of Dravyagunasatasloki by Dr. C.M. Neelakandhan and Dr. S.A.S. Sarma is based on three manuscripts, two from Oriental Research Institute and Manuscript Library, University of Kerala, India and one from Welcome Library, London; plus one printed edition of Dravyagunasatasloki (with a Hindi commentary namely Puspavali by Saligramavaisya) published by Srivenkatesvara Press, Bombay, India in 1896. This printed edition is also collected from Welcome Library, London. Dr. Neelakandhan, a well-known Sanskrit scholar, is an author/editor of several nationally and internationally acclaimed books in the fields of Sanskrit Sahitya, Vedic studies and Indology. Dr. S.A.S. Sarma is an active researcher who has several important publications to his credit mainly in the areas of Indology and Manuscriptology. The long-term abiding research proficiency of the editors in manuscriptology and Sanskrit literature is very well reflected in this work, particularly through the value additions done to this book in the form of appendices. As stated in the preface of the book, the editors primarily aimed at presenting the Dravyagunasatasloki text, which remained unnoticed for more than a century, to the modern researchers. They have judiciously done the presentation of the text in its naive form without any interpretations or new commentaries and thus provided a wider window for an unprejudiced and critical reading by scholars related to the subject area. The Hindi commentary Puspavali included in this publication is a reproduction of its Bombay edition, and it certainly helps to understand the contents of the text by non-Sanskrit readers as well. The variant readings of the text based on the above-mentioned manuscripts are also included as foot notes in the respective pages of the book and it further facilitates the researchers to have a comparative reading of the manuscripts in one print.
The contents of the text cover the general medicinal properties of articles of food and some other substances of daily use. The text does not focus on specific diseases or their therapies per se. The book is designed to make the common people aware of the merits and demerits of edible substances in terms of their effects on the three body humors viz. Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The descriptions in the text are well aligning with the renowned concept "food is medicine," proposed by great philosophers of western and eastern medicine such as Hippocrates and Charaka. The author starts the text by describing six Rasas (tastes) as properties associated with Dravya (here food substances) and their differential action on Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The text is divided into 15 groups (varga), each of which devoted to a particular form of food such as Jala (water), Dugdha (milk and dairy products), Anna (cereals and pulses), Mamsa (meats), Saka (vegetables), Phala (fruits), Sunthyadi (spices and condiments), Taila (oils), Madya (fermented liquids) and Siddhanna (prepared dishes). It is interesting to note that the text uses maximum number of verses for Siddhannavarga followed by Phalavarga and Mamsavarga, which probably indicate a regulated use of preserved foods and nonvegetarian diet could be as good as fresh foods and vegetarian diet. Nevertheless, Sakavarga also had mentioned in the text with equal weightage as that of the other major groups. The first group Jalavarga includes different types of waters (viz. natural water, spring water, underground water, etc.) and their medicinal properties. In Dugdhavarga, milk and milk products are described elaborately giving emphasis to the source of milk and the differential properties related to its source. Anna, Taila and Sunthyadivarga are explained in fewer verses compared to the other groups. Iksu (sugarcane and its products) and Madhu (honey) had specially mentioned in the text as separate groups (verses 50-52), which could probably draw some research attention because Iksu is one of the important Rasayana plant in Ayurveda and honey is a sweetener which is even allowed in diabetic conditions. Special reference is also given to Tambuladivarga (Pan and associated substances) and Dhatuvarga (metals and minerals). In addition to the edible items, substances used for massage and bathing are also included in the text as a separate varga (Abhyangadivarga). It is evident from the method of grouping and the emphasis given to certain food articles that the text is meant not only for scholars, but for common people also. However, a critical comparative reading of Dravyagunasatasloki with one of the Brihattrayees implies that Dravyagunasatasloki is closely following the pattern of Dravadravyavijnana of Astangahrdaya by Vagbhata. The editors have included this relevant chapter Dravadravyavijnana of Astangahrdaya in this publication as a value addition to this book. It is also important to mention that the method of classification followed in Dravyagunasatasloki resembles not only Dravadravyavijnana, but several other Ayurvedic lexicons (Nighantu) viz. Dravyagunasangraha by Chakrapanidatta, Bhavaprakashanighantu by Bhavamishra, Madhavadravyaguna by Madhava, Madanapalanighantu by Nrupamadanapala etc., Nevertheless, the scientific and poetic scholarship of Trimallabhatta makes Dravyagunasatasloki a very concise and easy-to-read Nighantu important for Ayurvedic scholars.
The editors included two outstanding articles also as appendices. "Editing scientific texts with special reference to medicine" (by S. A. S. Sarma, one of the editors) and "Scientific texts in Sanskrit in aid of modern science" (by Prof. K. V. Sarma), both are highly relevant with respect to the concept of revitalization of Indian scientific knowledge. The lacunae of editing scientific texts in Sanskrit presented in these articles clearly show the grave injustice the modern scholarship has done to the scientific disciplines of India. With special reference to Indian traditional medicines, especially in the lights of WHO's traditional medicine strategy 2014-2023, it is high-time to bring out the large amounts of knowledge contents available in unpublished manuscripts. It is mentioned in the article that not even 7% of the available science texts have been printed so far and most of the time a few 100 texts are repeatedly reprinted and studied, which basically narrow down the spectrum of critical thinking. The table given in the article shows that out of 3473 science texts available, only 229 are available in the print form for further studies. Specifically to the subject area medicine, only 28 editions are made available in print form from 586 texts available from 1286 manuscripts. Similarly in Botany, 7 texts are available from 8 manuscripts, but not even a single printed edition is out. The statistics clearly shows the amount of effort to be put on for making these accessible for various studies and also shows the hidden research potentials for scholars from various fields. It is mentioned in the book that "this is a sorry situation from which Indian science has to be rescued and resurrected" (pages 42 and 43). Prof. S.A.S. Sarma in his article gives a detailed discussion on how a scientific text is to be edited. One of the major hurdles in editing scientific texts in Sanskrit is probably the lack of harness of scholarship in language (Sanskrit etc.,) and science (medicine etc.,). Editing of a scientific text should have the supplementation of meticulously translated text with necessary footnotes and appendices and then only it can serve its full purpose. However this is an important hurdle in the endeavor, as it is difficult to appropriately translate certain words from one language to the other. The article emphasizes on selection of manuscript, preparation of the transcript for collation and finally the preparation of press copy.
The second article in the edition by Prof. K. V. Sarma discusses the importance of scientific texts in Sanskrit in aid of modern science. The article mentions Ayurveda as a branch of science with highest research potential for a scientist who is well versed in Sanskrit. The unparalleled wealth of Indian flora and fauna and their extensive uses in Ayurvedic, as well as other traditional medicines, requires critical scientific investigation through a trans-disciplinary approach with the aid of modern scientific techniques. Prof. Sarma says "it would be worthwhile to investigate scientifically under controlled conditions, the therapeutic properties of all the gems and other products" (page 51). In view of the scientific texts in Sanskrit, the article exemplifies various contributions of India in the fields of Mathematics and Astronomy that probably bring new insights into their concepts. The well-known and widely discussed Sine of an angle, p-value, Lilavati of Bhaskara etc., were specifically quoted as examples in this context. The article concludes pointing out the potentiality of expanding the scientific achievements of India and warrants the scholars of modern science as the people who can analyze and develop these early theories and practices so as to reconstruct and explain their rationale in terms of modern science. However, the article further suggests that it is possible only if the scientific manuscripts are wisely identified and carefully understood through proper editions and translations.
The current edition is supplemented with a long list of 460 manuscripts on Ayurveda that are available in the major manuscript libraries of Kerala and Tamil Nadu states of India. This is again ready-made information for scholars who are willing to take up the challenges of understanding and bringing up the hidden Indian medical knowledge to the modern world. Besides the medical and scientific contents of the text, the edition provides several insights into the need and importance of conducting research on scientific texts in Sanskrit and also shows a good model of editing, publishing and presenting a manuscript to any relevant research group. This value-added edition of Dravyagunasatasloki of Trimallabhatta serves as an important hand book and quick-reference primarily because of two reasons; (1) the text of Dravyagunasatasloki, which remained unnoticed for more than a century, is reproduced with Hindi translation and made available in the print form and (2) provides guidance and useful information to research scholars in Sanskrit and Ayurveda who are interested in exploring the rich traditional medical knowledge of India.