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has always benefited from Indian medicine'
Ashwagandha next on patent hunters list
Mahakumbh: Its Sacred Significance
Trees with spiritual attributes
Patent Your Heritage
Conversion threatening India's ecological heritage
firm has surreptitiously patented Jeevani
scientist trains farmers on ancient Indian Vedic homa therapy
wisdom be patented?
Japan Making a Better Use of
A new age person expropriating, regurgitating Indic thought about god as his
own, carefully omitting to indicate the source of his great new wisdom, the
Indic heritage. This sort of expropriation is going on all over the place, e.g.
in 'Christian' yoga, in the patenting of neem and turmeric, etc. Reminds me of
Microsoft's mantra: 'embrace, extend, exterminate.'"
Rajeev Srinivasan, Indic
Journalists' web-posting August 10, 2003.
has always benefited from Indian medicine'
If you thought the benefits of medicine flowed into India via a one-way street,
American researcher Timothy Walker would like to convince you that is not the
case. This researcher of early European colonial history is currently scouring
the archives of Goa to show how Indian medicine influenced the West.
medicine's influence on Portugal was fairly wide. You had echoes of Indian or
ayurvedic practices that come into Portuguese usage. And you can see
those echoes reflected in the medicines that Portuguese physicians and surgeons
are supplying and prescribing for patients in Indian hospitals and
infirmaries," Walker said.
got him particularly interested is the differences between "popular"
and "university trained" medicine. "For my doctoral program, I
focused on early modern Europe and colonial America. My dissertation work was on
Portugal in the 17th and 18th century. I looked at how popular medicine was
being oppressed by licensed physicians and surgeons," he says.
turn, he got led to India "because at that time a lot of the medicines
coming out of India were being shipped to Portugal." Finally, he began
looking how Indian medicine influenced European medicine, via Portugal - the
earliest European colonial power in Asia.
has one of the richest archives of early colonial history, because the
Portuguese settled here in the early 16th century. Walker is locating
interesting examples of drugs that were shipped out to Portugal in early
influences are also noticeable in drugs in Portuguese pharmacies. "You can
see it (the influence of Indian medicine on the west) thorough documentation
from the 17th and 18th century," says Walker.
for example, is a plant widely used in ayurveda. It is applied in Portuguese
hospitals. It is used as a cooling agent, in combination with other medicinal
plants to help the absorption of those plants and it is used in a poultice,
placed on the skin.
Portuguese colonies in India proved to be the first meeting grounds for the east
and the west, particularly Goa and the enclaves of Daman and Diu around the
coastline of present day Gujarat, he says.
a lot of scholarship in the west that speaks of the way Western medicine was
brought to the east, and of how 'scientific' medicine was taught to Indian
people. But what is often not so strongly appreciated is how much the West
learnt from the east," he points out.
says he has been able to locate documents that show the extent of Portuguese
buying medicines from local merchants and traders. "So you have a lot of
opportunities for shared medical knowledge, which I don't think was the same
case with other colonial powers that were in India at the time.
terms of documentation, you have a real gem here in Panjim. He points out there
were 12,000 to 15,000 volumes of material that relatively are in very good
condition. It has been well preserved and well catalogued.
probably is the best source of documentation for people who want to look at this
whole question of the West meeting the east specially in the early stages."
Top of Page
India succeed in bringing its ancient Ayurvedic plant medicines
into the modern world?
started with turmeric. An essential ingredient of most Indian
curries, the spice was paid tribute by Marco Polo; he compared it
favorably to saffron, and noted its importance in traditional
medicines. Indeed, Indian doctors have long reached for the knobby
yellow root to treat a variety of ailments from skin disease to
stomachache and infection. So when two U.S.-based researchers were
awarded a patent in 1995 on turmeric's special wound-healing
properties, a collective howl of outrage arose from the
subcontinent. "Housewives have been
using turmeric for centuries," says V.K. Gupta, director of
India's National Institute of Science Communication and
Information Resources in New Delhi. "It's outrageous that
someone would try and patent it." The patent was
eventually revoked, after a decade-long battle in which the Indian
government and private sector spent millions of dollars in legal
and research fees to prove that turmeric's qualities were well
documented in ancient medical textbooks. Gupta scrolls through a
list of some 5,000 applications currently pending approval by U.S.
and European patent offices, jabbing a finger at the most
egregious examples of what he considers to be outright theft. He
estimates that at least half of those scientific
"discoveries" are established remedies in India's
ancient plant-based medical system, called Ayurveda. To Gupta,
each application is a jewel plundered from India's vast trove of
medicinal knowledge. "If this isn't
piracy, I don't know what is," he says.
traditional medicine is under attack. Not just from medical
marauders taking a shortcut to the next blockbuster drug by using
ancient remedies, but from modernity itself. A new generation of
Indians has turned from Ayurveda to Western drugs that are cheaper
and work faster. Many of the foraged plants, like bitter snake
gourd—good for treating digestive disorders—are disappearing
along with forest habitats. Meanwhile, Western countries have
embraced Ayurveda as an alternative to conventional medicines,
placing additional strains on already dwindling supplies of rare
plants. Treating what ails the 3,000-year-old medical system
requires a radical prescription: a massive dose of modern
technology. "Ayurveda is the accumulation of thousands of
generations' worth of knowledge," says Gupta. "But we
have to modernize in order to mine it."
remedies have long been a rich resource for pharmaceutical
companies. Quinine, a treatment for malaria, comes from the bark
of the cinchona tree and was an ancient Peruvian cure. But
Ayurveda is different: most of its medicines are based on multiple
herbs that work in concert. Ayurvedic doctors didn't just
prescribe herbal cures; they documented the individual properties
of each ingredient as well as how it worked in conjunction with
others. Upstairs from Gupta's office, around 30 Ayurvedic doctors
are poring over a collection of these medical texts written in
Sanskrit, some of them more than 1,000 years old. The texts are
divided into verses, each of which refers to a disease and its
treatment. The doctors categorize the verses by diagnosis,
treatment and plant source. The information, along with a
photographic scan of the relative verse, is then uploaded to an
online database and translated into English, French, German,
Spanish, Japanese and Hindi. So far, some 140,000 treatments have
been entered into the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL),
a $2 million project launched five years ago to provide a direct
link to what is regarded in the patent world as prior knowledge.
The first of its kind, the TKDL is serving as a model for
countries such as Brazil and China, which also want to safeguard
traditional healing systems. Once recorded, patents on existing
remedies cannot be awarded.
isn't just pharmaceutical companies who are interested in Ayurveda.
At upscale resorts, Western tourists spend hundreds of dollars on
Ayurvedic rheumatism or detoxification treatments. Partly because
of its cachet in the West, partly because of better
packaging—capsules instead of bitter syrups, pills instead of
difficult-to-swallow pastes and powders—Ayurveda is gaining
popularity among younger Indians, too. It's a development that
Indira Balachandran, author of a multivolume compendium of India's
Ayurvedic plants, welcomes, but also fears. Unlike conventional
medicines, which are based on manufactured ingredients, Ayurveda
uses whole plants—usually dozens of them—for each remedy.
"The demand for medicinal plants is at an all-time
high," says Balachandran, "but it is accompanied by
unprecedented deforestation and unsustainable harvesting. Our
medical-resource base is shrinking before our eyes."
rescue India's Ayurvedic plants from their own popularity,
Balachandran, with the backing of Arya Vaidya Sala Kottakkal (AVSK),
one of India's foremost Ayurveda facilities, has established the
Centre for Medicinal Plants Research in the lushly forested hills
of Kerala in southern India. Part garden and part institute, the
center buzzes with the activity of dozens of scientists, chemists
and botanists, all intent on preserving India's herbal heritage
before it is harvested out of existence. In one building, A.
Sarala, a technician dressed in white coat, surgical mask and cap,
bends over a beaker of tiny green sprouts rooted in agar agar.
Using long tweezers, she carefully places one of the sprouts into
a test tube marked with the Latin and Sanskrit words for bitter
snake gourd. The herb, used in over 75 Ayurvedic preparations, is
notoriously difficult to cultivate. One of the goals of the center
is to figure out how to grow such plants in a garden setting. By
experimenting with nutritional sources, lighting and soil pH,
scientists at the center hope to standardize cultivation methods
to ensure the survival of such rare herbs. "We are doing this
for posterity," says Balachandran.
Muraleedharan, AVSK's chief of research and development, has more
immediate plans. "No doctors outside of the tradition will
prescribe our medicines," he says. "My goal is to make
them globally recognized." In India, it is enough that a
remedy be described in one of the 54 ancient Ayurvedic texts for
it to be allowed on the market, under the theory that hundreds of
years of use support its efficacy and non-toxicity. But that kind
of record is not enough for conventional medical practitioners,
who require exhaustive clinical trials before a new medicine will
be accepted by government regulators. "We know Ayurveda
works," says Muraleedharan. "Now we just have to figure
out how it works."
R&D facility, on the top floor of AVSK's 100-year-old factory,
resembles a high-school science lab. Scales, beakers and Bunsen
burners litter the marble-topped counters. A young man in a white
coat stares intently into the bowl of an industrial kitchen mixer
as it churns through a new formula for treating skin
discoloration. But in an air-conditioned corner of the lab,
isolated by a glass partition, hums a massive machine that would
never be found on a high-school campus. It's an Atomic Absorption
Spectrophotometer, used to detect the presence of heavy metals.
Next to it sits a High Performance Thin Layer Chromatograph, a
computer that reads chemical fingerprints. Muraleedharan uses
these machines to identify the active ingredients of traditional
remedies. Once a medicine's formulation is broken down into
essential components, Muraleedharan can build something new using
the traditional building blocks. In this way, he hopes to
revolutionize India's ancient traditions—and maybe create a
blockbuster drug in the process. He is already excited about one
promising new discovery, a treatment for peptic ulcers, and says
it's ready for clinical trials. "We are on the cusp of
something big," he says. "Maybe in five years we will
look back and see this as the beginning of the new Ayurveda."
And the start of a whole new range of modern medicines.
Top of Page
Ashwagandha next on patent hunters list
Neem. Turmeric. Now, Ashwagandha. American and Japanese
companies have discovered another Indian treasure -- and they are patenting it.
to the officials of the department of science and technology, seven American and
four Japanese firms have filed for grant of patents on formulations containing
Ashwagandha or extracts of the plant.
leaves and seeds of the Indian medicinal plant withania
somnifera have been used for ages in the
Ayurvedic system as aphrodisiacs, diuretics and for restoring loss of memory,
the officials said.
Japanese patent applications are related to the use of Ashwagandha as a skin
ointment for cosmetic purposes and for promoting fertility. Natreon of the
United States has obtained a patent for "an extract obtained from the
Ashwagandha plant taken from steep rocks in the Himalayan mountains",
officials of the patent facilitating cell said in their report.
report said another US establishment, the New England Deaconess Hospital, has
taken a patent on an Ashwagandha formulation claimed to "alleviate symptoms
associated with arthritis".
thing which is very obvious from the above study," the report concluded,
"is that Ashwagandha plant is catching attention of scientists and more and
more patents related to Ashwagandha are being filed or granted by different
patent offices of the world since 1996." (PTI)
Curcumin Effective Against Cancer
found in the bright yellow curry spice turmeric can kill off cancer cells,
scientists have shown. The chemical — curcumin — has long been thought to
have healing powers and is already being tested as a treatment for arthritis and
even dementia. Now tests by a team at the Cork Cancer Research Centre show it
can destroy gullet cancer cells in the lab. Cancer experts said the findings in
the British Journal of Cancer could help doctors find new treatments.
Dr Sharon McKenna and her team found that curcumin started to kill cancer cells
within 24 hours. The cells also began to digest themselves, after the curcumin
triggered lethal cell death signals.
Dr McKenna said: “Scientists have known for a long time that natural compounds
have the potential to treat faulty cells that have become cancerous and we
suspected that curcumin might have therapeutic value.”
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research
, said: “This is interesting research which opens up the possibility that
natural chemicals found in turmeric could be developed into new treatments for
Curcumin Effective Against Cancer - hinduism today.com).
Turmeric - Pirates in the garden of India
The war began thus:
In May, 1995 the US Patent Office granted to the University of
Mississippi Medical Center a patent [#5,401,504] for "Use
of Turmeric in Wound Healing."
Well, well, well.
Some discovery, that. Indians grow up with a constant awareness
of turmeric. It permeates their life. It is an easy and generous
plant [curcurma longa] that grows throughout the sub-continent.
The tuber when dried keeps practically forever. Its decoction is
a stubborn dye. It is a condiment that adds character to Indian
food and helps digestion. Turmeric powder heals open wounds.
Drunk with warm milk, it stems coughs, cures colds and comforts
Indians paint doorways with turmeric
paste as an insecticide. Women in the south make a depilatory
skin cream with it. Add the juice of fresh lime to dry turmeric,
let it marinate for three days, dry it in the sun and grind it
to a fine powder and voila, you have the brilliant red kunkum
that 'dots' Indian women's foreheads and surrounds the gods in
the temples. Roots are exchanged between people as a formal
symbol of goodwill. Indians place freshly uprooted plants at the
altar during Pongal and offer worship .
For Indians turmeric is a benevolent
goddess. For sound reasons, it transpires. Indian physicians had
always packed their kits with turmeric. Now West's formal
research was confirming many of its virtues. It is now believed
to be able to treat dysentery, arthritis, ulcers and even some
cancers. It is also found to protect the liver. Turmeric's grace
is stunning cancer researchers. COX-2 inhibitor drugs have been
known to block an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 which
aggravates arthritis. Dr. Mitch Gaynor at the Strang Cancer
Prevention Center, New York uses these drugs in cancer treatment
to impede this undesirable enzyme. Turmeric goes one step
further: Dr. Chintalapally V. Rao of American Health Foundation,
Valhalla, NY believes that while COX-2 inhibitor drugs battle
the enzyme, the curcurmin element in turmeric prevents even the
formation of the enzyme. Consider the implication of 'turmeric
patent' #5,401,504. If an expatriate Indian in America sprinkles
turmeric powder -- just as her ancestors in India have done for
centuries-- on her child's scrape, she would in fact be
infringing US patent laws and was open to prosecution.
Turmeric for pain relief
Spice May Inhibit Tumor Growth A compound found in
the curry spice turmeric may suppress production of a protein
that spurs tumor growth in the body, researchers report. The
researchers mixed human pancreatic cancer cells with different
amounts of curcumin, which is the substance that gives turmeric
its yellow color.
like India, where turmeric consumption is high, happen to have
less cystic fibrosis, because that genetic defect is most common
in people of European descent. Curcumin has no genetic effect.
large doses of a substance found in the spice turmeric
significantly cut deaths among mice with the genetic disease,
and scientists soon will begin studying the effects in
Substance May Fight Cystic Fibrosis - newsyahoo.com).
hot Indian curries that account largely to the over £3 billion a year turnover
of the Indian food industry in Britain guard against the deterioration of human
brain, according to the latest scientific finding. It also has a role in
"encouraging" a lucid old age.
This is why it is being now
said that India, which produces and consumes most of the world's turmeric, a
chemical compound in the curry ingredient curcumin, has
lower rates of Alzheimer's than in western countries, dropping to
just one per cent of over-65s in some areas. A study into the health benefits of
curcumin, which is found in kormas, hot or mild, has now confirmed that it
protects against the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists have discovered that curcumin oil is a chemical trigger that enhances
enzyme activity. It in turn protects the brain against the progression of neuro-degenerative
disease. . "There are 9000 curry houses in the
country and London has more Indian eating places than in Mumbai or New Delhi.
is new wonder drug - msn.co.in).
Victory for India: Neem patent
The European Patent Office has upheld the
revocation of a patent on the Indian 'neem' tree, dealing a killer
blow to biopiracy in Europe and around the world.
originally issued the patent to the US chemicals multinational W R
Grace on September 14, 1994, before withdrawing it under pressure
from the Green Group led by former Belgian Health Minister Magda
Alevoet, and environmental activists
Vandana Shiva and International Federation of Organic
Agriculture Movements (Germany) vice-president Linda Bullard on
May 10, 2000 on grounds that W R Grace's application was a kind of
dispute started more than 15 years ago on December 12, 1990 when W
R Grace and the US government filed a European patent application
for the 'neem' tree with the EPO. Commenting
on EPO's decision, Alevoet told Belgian daily Le Soil on
Thursday: "It is a victory for traditional knowledge and
the first time anybody has been able to have a patent rejected on
these grounds. Secondly, it is a
victory for solidarity with the people of developing countries who
have definitely earned the sovereign rights to their natural
resources," she said.
for India: Neem patent revoked - rediff.com).
Hundreds of herbs used for centuries
by traditional healers in India could soon be on western
pharmacy shelves. Clinical trials have shown that herbal
remedies for asthma, diabetes and even sexually transmitted
diseases may be effective. The council is
looking at treatments for a range of other conditions used for
over a thousand years by practitioners of Ayurveda and Siddha
Professor Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, a
member of the council, said that in some cases the herbs may be
more effective than Western-style medicines. "We have
plants for bronchial asthma, hepatitis and arthritis," he
investigate Indian herbs - BBC - Sept 30 2002).
Curry leaf for treating diabetes
curry-leaf tree (Murraya koenigii) from India, which is reputed
to have potential benefits in treating diabetes. The researchers
found extracts from the curry-leaf tree appeared to restrict the
action of a digestive enzyme called pancreatic alpha-amylase
which is involved in the breakdown of dietary starch to glucose.
So now under the
guise of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), India’s
traditional medical systems are being mined by researchers in the
West. They are discovering “scientific evidence” that
validates traditional claims.
increasingly, it turns out to be the first step towards
exploitation by multinational pharmaceutical companies.
researchers at King’s College, London, claimed that the
curry-leaf (Murraya Koenigii), which is traditionally used in both
Ayurveda and Indian cuisine could aid people with diabetes.
Professor Peter Houghton, head of
the research team, said: “The curry-leaf is used to control
diabetes in traditional Indian medicine; it is not an uncommon
ingredient in some curries and it is quite possible that people
who take this regularly as part of their diet could control
diabetes. He added: “Any food
which has this curry-leaf in could be helpful to people with
research is being supported by a leading US drug company, Merck
Meanwhile Indolink has learned that
S. Yadav and colleagues at the All India Institute of Medical
Science have found up to 21 percent reduction in blood sugar
levels in diabetic rats treated with curry leaf extract.
Similarly, M.S.Baliga and colleagues at Kasturba Medical College,
Manipal, have found that spices such as curry leaf might be
“potent and novel therapeutic agents for the regulation of
leaf for treating diabetes and
Losing on Patents ?
Dec 8 (UNI) - After Neem, turmeric and jamun, now it is
cow's urine, traditionally used for medicinal purposes in India, which has been
patented in the United States as a distilled bio-enhancer.
The government was
aware of this fact and was considering the steps to be taken in this regard,
official sources said here.
urine is a component of 'Panch Gawya,' a mixture of cow's milk, curd, ghee,
urine and dung, used from ancient times as a component of food and medicine. It
is also used in various ayurvedic medicines.
Though there was no
separate strategy for popularizing use of Panch Gawya, it was being popularised
as part of the popularisation of the Indian System of Medicine and Health
medicines, they said. Now with the patenting of Cow's urine has confirmed the
belief of naturopaths that it has got medicinal properties which enhances the
life span. Former Prime Minister Morarji Desai was among the staunch supporters
of cow' urine.
the patenting of turmeric and neem in the US had created a furore in the country
as people protested the patenting of traditional Indian knowledge abroad.
Recently, the Jamun
fruits that has been widely used in the Indian system for treatment of diabetes,
has been patented in the US.
urine patented in US as bio-enhancer -
December 6' 02).
chapati patent raises Indian ire
the world's largest genetically modified seed company, has been awarded patents
on the wheat used for making chapati - the flat bread staple of northern India.
The patents give the US
multinational exclusive ownership over Nap Hal, a strain of wheat whose gene
sequence makes it particularly suited to producing crisp breads. Another patent,
filed in Europe, gives Monsanto rights over the use of Nap Hal wheat to make
chapatis, which consist of flour, water and salt.
Environmentalists say Nap
Hal's qualities are the result of generations of farmers in India who spent
years crossbreeding crops and collective, not corporate, efforts should be
recognised. Greenpeace is attempting to block Monsanto's patent, accusing the
company of "bio-piracy".
the Basmati patent controversy, it is now the turn of Indian wheat, which the US
agro produce major Monsanto is attempting to register under its patent name in
Europe, where the wheat had once become so popular that it had won first prize
for four consecutive years between 1916 and 1920.
The Research Foundation for
Science, Technology and Ecology, an NGO, has moved the Supreme Court alleging
that the Centre had failed to take the matter vigorously with the European
Patent Office (EPO), and sought a direction to the government to take necessary
action. The NGO has accused Monsanto of “blatant violation” of patent system
while filing a claim before the EPO. It said the Indian
wheat variety had originated in the Indian sub-continent as a result of over a
thousand years of “indigenous” knowledge and practice by the farmers. Any
intervention by an outside entity to claim patent of the produce, was violative
of the World Trade Organisation norms.
chapati patent raises Indian ire - guardian.co.uk
Basmati, it’s now the turn of wheat- tribuneindia.com).
a US patent for atta chakkis
relates to method of producing flour used for rotis
New Delhi, December 9: Now
it is the turn of atta chakkis. The traditional knowledge of producing
atta has become a victim of the patent rights regime. Hundreds of atta
chakkis and modern flour millers and wheat exporters may fall into the trap
being laid by a Nebraska-based company, ConAgra.
The US Patent Office has
granted patent rights to ConAgra Inc for the “method for producing an atta
flour” vide no 6,098,905.
The patent application filed
by ConAgra said “the present invention relates to a method for producing an atta
flour, which is typically used to produce Asian breads such as chapati
and roti. Deputy DG of ICAR, Dr Mangla Rai, said that not only attempts
should be made to document and preserve our traditional knowledge but also we
should make innovations on the basis of our traditional knowledge and patent the
Dr O. P.
Agarwal, advisor and head of R&D, CSIR said, “The filing of such patents
rights by foreign companies should be a wake-up call for us to not only go for
documentation of our traditional knowledge on a war footing but also to
immediately identify areas of traditional knowledge which are likely to fall as
an easy prey to piracy in a fast growing industrial economy.”
a US patent for atta chakkis - Indian Express December 8 '02).
Top of Page
Mahakumbh: Its Sacred Significance
By Pankaj Dixit
WATER is the basis of all life on earth. Of the Panchmahabhut or the five
natural elements, water is considered to be the key to life. Human beings feel a
close affinity to it, since three-fourths of the human body is constituted of
water. In this respect, our body is like a microcosm, as the surface of the
earth (the macrocosm) is constituted similarly, being three-fourths, water.
The confluence of three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati at Prayag stands
for the meeting of Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis at Muladhar Chakra known as
Yukta Triveni. Kumbha symbolises the arousing of six chakras to reach Ajna
Chakra where these three nadis meet again to form the Mukta (Liberation) Triveni
The Ganga always flows and rushes very fast to the sound of Gama-Gam (meaning
go-go) while the Yamuna moves slowly with a placid flow to the sound of Yam-Yam
(meaning control-control). Likewise whether one acts fast in life or acts after
deliberate thinking, it must be decided by his knowledge and temperament. And
both these aspects should be supported by the invisible Saraswati, the faculty
of Jnan (knowledge). The meeting of these three rivers in the spiritual realm
represents the three gunas or qualities of the native, i.e. Sattvic or subtle
represented by Saraswati; Rajasic or the vibrant Ganga; and Tamasic or the dark
Yamuna. These three rivers also signify the three saktis, Mahalakshmi, Mahakali
and Mahasaraswati; the three sacred fires of sacrifice; the three Gods Brahma,
Vishnu and Mahesh; and the three notes of music, Sa for Saraswati; Re for Yamuna;
and Ga for Ganga.
Further deep in the spiritual sphere, these three rivers represent the three
phases of time i.e. present, past and future; the triangle or minimum space
enclosed in time; Nad, Bindu and Kala; and the three humours, vata, pitta and
kapha. The Triveni also denotes the three basic philosophies of the Gita, i.e.
Jnan Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga.
The Kumbha occurs in a cycle of every 12 years - the most sacred or
auspicious time is calculated on the basis of a specific planetary
configuration, considering its cosmobiological effect on the human body and
mind. Various astronomical conjugations during Kumbha represent various stages
of the solar cycle which has a direct influence on human beings and the
biosphere. The ritual bath or snan on specific days i.e. full moon, new moon and
Basant Panchami have been specifically prescribed on the basis of the
bio-effects of lunar phases. The imposed electromagnetic fields on water are
transmitted into the human beings taking bath in the Holy Prayag giving them
great health benefits. The number 12 here signifies time or Kal as there are 12
adityas, 12 zodiac signs, 12 months, and 12 Jyotirlingas (self-emergent
sivalingas). The entire world exists in time, moves in time and space, and is
controlled by time. According to Atharvaveda, Kumbh is the representation of
space situated in Kal supervising all of us. Spiritually the holding of Kumbha
at an interval of 12 years symbolises the need for purifying the body by
sublimating the inherent vices of the 12 sense organs, i.e. Panchkarmendriyas
(five organs of action), Panchjnanedriyas (five organs of perception, the mind
and the intellect - and thereby to arouse the six psychic centres or chakras
separated from each other at a distance of 12 angulas for attaining the Amrit
Kumbha or pitcher of nectar.
There is another mystical explanation of the Kumbha. The human head and neck
form an inverted pitcher or Kumbha from where Amrit or nectar flows downwards
into the body. The two eyes represent the sun and moon gods, the nostrils
represent Ganga and Jamuna, the tongue is Vani or Saraswati and it spans 12
angulas of space.
Astrologically during Kumbha the three grahas, Jupiter, Sun and Moon, play a
prominent role in the two Zodiac signs, Taurus and Capricorn respectively. The
presence of Sun in Capricorn or Makara signifies the Swadhishtan Chakra, the
centre of procreation representing the water element. Makara also signifies the
Kama as Kamdev, popularly knows as Makaradhwaj. Accordingly Madam Blavatsky in
her famous book Sacred Doctrine records that Capricorn is universal
intelligence, which is transformed into human intelligence through water. It is
therefore that one of the famous Shahi Snans occurs on Basant Panchami, the day
of Kamdev. Likewise Jupiter's or Jiva's (life force) presence in Taurus
signifies the creative power of universe, Shiva Shakti or the Male and female
Top of Page
with spiritual attributes
time immemorial, certain trees and plants in India have been invested with
divine attributes. Hindus were taught to worship and revere trees and plants in
the belief that it would influence their own personal well-being. Evergreen
trees were regarded as symbols of eternal life and to cut them down was to
invite the wrath of the gods. Groves in forests were looked upon as habitations
of the gods.
The banyan tree occupies the
pride of place amongst the sacred trees of India. It has aerial roots that grow
down into the soil forming additional trunks. It is, therefore, called bahupada,
the one with several feet. It symbolizes a long life and also represents the
divine creator, Brahma. It is invariably planted in front of temples. The
numerous stems of the banyan tree are even regarded as the home of gods and
spirits. It was under a banyan tree that the Hindu sages sat in a trance seeking
enlightenment and it was here that they held discourses and conducted holy
rituals. Some banyan trees reached a height of over 100 feet and more than 1000
feet in circumference. No wonder, it is stated that 10,000 men could be covered
by a single tree. We come across a mention of the banyan tree in many travelers’
Bishop Heber (1825) was so
impressed by the sight of this tree that he exclaimed: "What a noble place
of worship". Travelers’ tales even inspired the great English poet
Milton to give description of the banyan tree in Paradise Lost in the following
The fig-tree at this day
to Indians known
In Malabar or Deccan,
spreads her arms,
Branching so broad and
long, that on the ground
The bended twigs take
root, and daughters grow
About the mother tree, a
High over-arched and
echoing walks between."
In Hindu mythology, the tree
is called Kalpavriksha, the tree that provides fulfillment of wishes and
other material gains. The worship of the tree is also represented in a Buddhist
sculpture with its long hanging roots dropping gold pieces in vessels placed
Another great tree of India
is the peepul to be found all over the country.
Known for its antiquity,
it finds a mention in many Hindu scriptures as a sacred tree whose worship is
regarded as homage to the Trinity — Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
The tree is
treated as a Brahmin and special offerings made to it in the morning and lamps
lit there in the evening. The tree is also associated with the old vedic ritual
of lighting a sacrificial fire with a twig of the peepul tree.
Even now, village women may
be seen worshipping the tree by watering its roots and placing some milk and
eats for the serpents and insects residing there. Every village has its special peepul
tree and the village elders hold their councils beneath its hallowed foliage.
The most famous of these trees is the sacred peepul at Gaya under which
Buddha sat when he attained Enlightenment. Since then the peepul tree is
also called the Bo or the Bodhi tree and Prince Sidharath came to
be known as Buddha. It is also believed to be a symbol of fertility and women
worship it for progeny. The tree waves its leaves in an uncanny way and their
trembling with a fluttering sound is attributed to spirits agitating in each
leaf. This puts fear of the gods into the hearts of common folk.
The banyan and the peepul
trees are symbols of the male and ceremoniously married to those of the female
category. James Forbes, in his Oriental Memoirs
(1813), mentions about a
wedded banyan tree or the Palmyra and Burr tree united, that he saw at Salsette.
The bilva or
oak-apple and the Asoka trees are associated with different deities. The
Asoka tree is sacred to Kama, the god of love, and according to folklore, its
buds will open up in full bloom when the foot of a young beautiful maiden
touches its roots. The bilva with its three leaves resembling the trishul,
or the trident held by Lord Shiva finds mention in Hindu mythology. Its fruit is
a blood purifier.
Besides the sacred trees,
there are some sacred plants, notably the tulsi plant which is found
everywhere in sandy and fallow lands. It is an ancient variety of the basil. tulsi
is considered to be the wife of Vishnu and worshipped by the Hindus. In
homes, tulsi is grown in pots and womenfolk offer daily puja and
pour an oblation of Ganga water. A mere touch of the plant is believed to
purify the person and giving a twig of tulsi to anyone is considered as a
protection from dangers and difficulties. Tulsi leaves are also put in
the mouth of a dying man for the salvation of the soul. Among other virtues of
the tulsi are its medicinal properties. Its leaves have a pleasing aroma
and act as a cough elixir and cordial. Leaves are also eaten to help digestion
and prevent other maladies like cold and chill. No wonder, the Hindus deified
the plant for its numerous qualities.
kusha is a sacred grass essential in all sacrifices. This plant is found
in damp marshy ground. It is rough to the touch and pointed at the top.
According to an old legend, it was produced at the time of the churning of the
ocean by the gods and demons. It is also said that the gods while drinking amrita
or the nectar of immortality shed some drops on this grass which thus became
There is a mention of it in
the Hindu scriptures and the epics. The Kusha grass is therefore
worshipped by Brahmins and used in various religious ceremonies as it is
believed to have the virtue of purifying everything.
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has made it easier for companies in wealthy countries to take advantage of poor
countries by filing patents for crops, medicines and chemicals that traditional
cultures have been cultivating and using for centuries. This year, the poor
countries have figured out a way to fight back: they are creating digital
libraries for their ancient cultural knowledge.
probably the largest victim, is cataloging its traditional knowledge on a
protected Web site and on DVD's it will send to patent examiners worldwide. The
next time someone proposes patenting the use of a traditional Indian herb or
spice for a particular medicinal purpose, examiners will be able to see if
Indian Ayurvedic medicine described the process centuries ago.
June, the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
unveiled a Web site with parts of the Indian digital library, as well as a
database of patents based on traditional medicine granted in Beijing to Chinese
inventors. WIPO is urging other countries to catalog their cultural and
biological patrimony, and is asking patent examiners to search these databases
when considering relevant applications.
began the project after it had to spend almost four years fighting a basmati
rice patent granted in America to a company called RiceTec, and two years to get
another American patent, on the healing properties of turmeric, revoked. ''There
are 2,000 or 3,000 cases of misappropriation of our traditional knowledge in
Washington alone,'' says V. K. Gupta, the driving force behind India's digital
database. ''It would cost us a billion dollars to invalidate these wrong patents
in court. We needed defensive protection.''
United States patent office, not surprisingly, sees its mission as encouraging
innovation through the generous granting of patents, and those who disagree can
slug it out before a judge. Woefully overstretched examiners have only a few
hours to see whether an idea is new, and they cannot reject a patent application
on common sense alone. ''Patent offices have terrible problems knowing who's
doing what where, especially outside their home countries,'' says Greg Aharonian,
a San Francisco patent consultant. And traditional knowledge -- which often
exists only orally -- is especially hard to pin down.
medicine is written -- in verse. The Indian database translates the verses from
Sanskrit to modern languages, updating the names of plants and diseases and
grouping them into standard patent classifications. Digital libraries for other
Indian traditional medicines are in the works.
(source: Patent Your Heritage
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Conversion threatening India's ecological heritage
ecological traditions of India, especially Kerala face serious
threat in the form of religious conversion, according to noted
environmental scientists, technologists and ecologists. This was
revealed here on Wednesday by none other than Dr Nanditha Krishna,
Chairperson, C P Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation.
Delivering the introductory speech of the seminar on “
Conservation of Ecological Traditions and Sacred Sites of
India”, with special emphasis on Kerala, Dr Nanditha pointed out
that religious conversion happening all over the country at an
alarming rate has destroyed forests and holy groves (popularly
known as Kaavus in Kerala). “The
proselityzers and the newly converts do not have any emotional
attachments with the holy groves. In most of the cases, the newly
converted people see to it that the holy groves are destroyed at
the earliest,” Dr Nanditha said. She
pointed out with statistics that many dense forests and groves in
north east India became the main target of the Christian
missionaries engaged in the harvesting of souls in the areas.
Dr Nanditha said that the Kaavus, especially the sarppakaavus (
fanily temples where the snakes were worshipped) were destroyed
indiscriminately as a result of urbanization and religious
conversion. “This is causing havoc all over the country. The
team of scientists from the CRP Foundation found to their dismay
that Kerala, popularly known as God’s Own Country, is fast
emerging as a drought stricken state. The new generation among the
Hindus show scant regard to the traditional Kaavus and groves,”
Dr Nanditha said.
Substantiating the findings of the CRP Foundation team were the
revelations by Shri M Amrithalingam, a well known botanist and
ecologist. Shri Amrithalingam, with more than two decades of
research experience in the ecological system of south India told
the seminar that unless and other wise something is done to arrest
the destruction of the holy groves, the country is in for serious
crises, like drought and shortage of water.
“While we had small sized forests attached to the Hindu
tharavadus in Kerala, urbanization and religious conversion have
denuded them. There were many scientific reasons for worshipping
forests, animals and groves,” Amrithalingam explained.
Shri T Madhava Menon, formerly of the Indian Administrative
Service spoke on the Tribal Communities and Heritages of Kerala.
Dr C R Rajagopalan, Dr S Rajasekharan, Shri E Unnikrishnan, Dr K P
Thrivikramji and Dr Ashalatha Thampuran presented papers on the
various aspects of ecology and environment.
Earlier, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, noted film maker who inaugurated
the seminar expressed apprehension over the findings of the CPR
Foundation. More than hundred college students from various parts
of the state attended the seminar.
Kerala Correspondent - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM). For
more refer to chapter on Conversion.
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deal with the impact of climate change in agriculture, farmers in
Himachal Pradesh are being trained by a German scientist in the
ancient Indian vedic homa therapy.
Berk claims the Vedic homa therapy,
which invokes prayers, has been found to aid farming.
This farming technique is called 'Homa' (traditional vedic farming
method through prayers) farming here. Berk has made some
alterations in the centuries old technique to make it
Berk said that if the farmers practice 'Homa' therapy it might
rain in their farms as the therapy creates microclimate around
"It is possible that if the farmers practice 'Homa' farming
here that it might rain as it creates microclimate around your
farm and you will be safe. The capacity of soil to absorb the
moisture will be increased," said Berk.
Lalit Mohan Sharma, a farmer in
, said that by practicing 'Homa' farming pollution can be
controlled to a large extent.
"Earlier in Hindu
culture, life used to revolve around Vedas and
today he has given a demonstration of 'Homa' farming and also told
us that by practicing this technique pollution can be
controlled," said Sharma.
The farmers are very delighted to adopt the traditional methods of
farming and offering prayers. They believe that the prayers
offering will help the farmers to purify the atmosphere and bring
timely rainfall to have good crop.
scientist trains farmers on ancient Indian vedic homa therapy
Top of Page
wisdom be patented?
I grew up watching my father stand on his head every morning. He
was doing sirsasana, a yoga pose that accounts for his youthful
looks well into his 60s. Now he might have to pay a royalty to an
American patent holder if he teaches the secrets of his good
health to others.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has
issued 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 patents on yoga
accessories, and 2,315 yoga trademarks. There's big money in those
pretzel twists and contortions - $3 billion a year in
alone. It's a mystery to most Indians that anybody can make that
much money from the teaching of a knowledge that is not supposed
to be bought or sold like sausages.
The Indian government is not laughing. It has set up a task force
that is cataloging traditional knowledge, including ayurvedic
remedies and hundreds of yoga poses, to protect them from being
pirated and copyrighted by foreign hucksters. The data will be
translated from ancient Sanskrit and
Tamil texts, stored digitally, and available in
five international languages, so that patent offices in other
countries can see that yoga didn't originate in a
It is worth noting that the people in the forefront of the
patenting of traditional Indian wisdom are Indians, mostly
overseas. We know a business opportunity when we see one and have
exported generations of
gurus skilled in peddling enlightenment for a buck. But as
Indians, they ought to know that the very idea of patenting
knowledge is a
gross violation of the tradition of yoga.
In Sanskrit, "yoga" means
"union." Indians believe in a universal mind - brahman -
of which we are all a part, and which ponders eternally. Everyone
has access to this knowledge.
Knowledge in ancient
was protected by caste lines, not legal or economic ones. The term
"intellectual property" was an oxymoron: the intellect
could not be anybody's property.
it is for this reason that Indians do not feel obligated to pay
for knowledge. Pirated copies of my book are openly sold on the
streets, for a fourth of its official price. Many of the plots and
the music in Bollywood movies are lifted wholesale from
. Still, Indians get upset every time they hear reports - often
overblown - of Westerners' stealing their age-old wisdom through
the mechanism of copyright law. The fears may be exaggerated, but
they are widespread and reflect
's mixed experience with globalization.
Western pharmaceutical companies make billions on drugs that are
often first discovered in developing countries. But herbal
remedies like bitter gourd or turmeric, which are known to be
effective against everything from diabetes to piles, earn nothing
for the country whose sages first isolated their virtues. The
Indian government estimates
that worldwide, 2,000 patents are issued a year based on
traditional Indian medicines.
Drugs and hatha yoga have the same aim: to help us lead healthier
has given the world yoga for free. No wonder so many in the
country feel that the world should return the favor by making
lifesaving drugs available at reduced prices, or at least letting
Indian companies make cheap generics. If the lotus position
all mankind, so should the formula for Gleevec, the leukemia drug
over whose patent a Swiss pharmaceuticals company is suing the
For decades, Indian law allowed its pharmaceutical companies to
replicate Western-patented drugs and sell them at a lower price to
countries too poor to afford them otherwise. In this way,
supplied half of the drugs used by HIV-positive people in the
But in March 2005, the Indian Parliament, under pressure to bring
the country into compliance with the World Trade Organization's
rules on intellectual property, passed a bill declaring it illegal
to make generic copies of patented drugs.
This has put life-saving antiretroviral medications out of reach
of many of the nearly 6 million Indians who have AIDS. Yet the
very international drug companies that so fiercely protect their
's attempts to amend World Trade Organization rules to protect its
There's more at stake than just the money. There is also the
perception that the world trading system is unfair, that the deck
is stacked against developing countries. If the copying of Western
drugs is illegal, so should be the patenting of yoga. It is also
intellectual piracy, stood on its head.
Suketu Mehta is the author of "
Lost and Found
wisdom be patented? - by Suketu Mehta International
Herald Tribune May 7 2007).
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An Indian herbal formulation with regenerative properties.
While all attention is riveted on the furore over CPI(M)
The Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat's diabolical attempt to denigrate
and discredit Ayurveda and Ayurvedic drugs which together are
rapidly gaining popularity and posing a challenge to multinational
drug companies, few would have noticed
that an American firm has surreptitiously patented Jeevani, an
Indian herbal formulation with regenerative properties.
The Kani tribe of Kerala had harnessed native knowledge and
used indigenous plants to create this wonder diet supplement.
Subsequently, Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute, in
collaboration with the tribe, had developed Jeevani as a packaged
product. That was nearly a decade ago. Although a local patent was
procured, nobody bothered to take note of patent laws that have
come into force in the post-WTO era.
The American firm, Good Earth Companies
Inc, has made full
use of this lapse and, after patenting the brand, released its own
product labelled as 'Jeevani Jolt 1000' whose ingredients are the
same as those in the original Indian formulation.
Technically, Good Earth has not violated any law. Given the
smash-and-grab attitude of American enterprise, it would be silly
to expect any US firm to be guided by ethics. If anybody is to
blame, it is the sprawling bureaucracy of India which is too
slothful to respond to the changing times. By the time a file
makes its way from one desk to another in its inexorable journey
through the hierarchy of India's babudom, someone somewhere would
have outwitted those charged with - and paid by taxpayers - to
protect India's interests.
We have seen this happening in the past with Neem, Haldi and
Basmati being patented and our babudom waking up from their
paid-for-slumber with a start only after reports appeared in the
media. This time, too, we can expect our bureaucrats to feign
ignorance and their political bosses to voice faux indignation.
There are other reasons, too, why we continue to lose out on
indigenous medicines, often to foreign firms. To begin with,
Indian systems of medicine are poorly documented. Modern medicine
demands proof on the efficacy of a particular formulation, which
is most often not documented in the case of traditional drugs. The
Government's effort to overcome this obstacle through a
partnership between CSIR, ICMR and Department of Ayush is welcome,
but the pace is far too slow to merit any applause.
Moreover, the marketing of indigenous medicines is poor. A
last point: Indigenous systems have not cultivated a culture of
quality control as is understood in the context of modern,
We need to introduce standardisation across industry. The
State drug controller's establishment does not have the expertise
to check Ayurvedic samples. The Government is at last talking
about creating the post of an additional director-general in the
proposed National Drug Authority and four AYUSH inspectors. But
given the snail's pace at which Government works, and the
pro-active campaign by MNCs to prevent the emergence of indigenous
medicines as a challenger to their hegemony, adequately backed by
the campaign of calumny launched by their stooges in the Left, we
can only wait for all this to happen.
(source: Our loss, US's gain -
The Pioneer Edit Desk - Jan 7' 2006).
Japan Making a Better Use of
The Japanese have worked really hard
to understand the basic concepts in ayurveda and now they know that the
discipline offers solutions for a number of ailments, which cannot be cured by
modern medicine alone. It is true that the country has one of highest life
expectancies in the world and now they are striving for longer quality of life
with the help of ayurveda. The life style diseases including diabetes,
hypertension and cardiac problems are also growing in Japan and people are
turning to traditional medicine.
The traditional medicine system in Japan has its root in oriental system as
practised in China, but it has its own limitations. The country has been fast
enough to realise the significance of inter-disciplinary approach in medicine
system, taking the best out of every medicine system. "India also needs to take
a leaf out of this practice in Japan, if it is wishing to address a wide range
of diseases and improve health conditions," added Dr. Krishna.
Japan Making a better use of Ayurveda - timesofindia.com).
Top of Page
Did you Know?
Sissa's request and Chess
Among the fascinating legends told about the origin
of chess is the story of Sissa, a scientist and the inventor of the game. In
western India, Raja Balhait had asked his advisers to create a game that
demonstrated the values of prudence, diligence, foresight, and knowledge. Sissa
brought a chessboard to the raja and explained that he had chosen war as a model
for the game because war was the most effective school in which to learn the
values of decision, vigor, endurance, circumspection, and courage. The raja was
delighted with the game and ordered its preservation in temples. He considered
its principles the foundation of all justice and held it to be the best training
in the art of war.
The raja said to his subject Sissa, "Ask any reward. It will be
yours." Being a scientist, Sissa felt rewarded by the pleasure his
invention was giving others; but the kind insisted, and finally Sissa said,
"Give me a reward in grains of corn on the chessboard (ashtapada). On the
first square one grain, on the second two, on the third four, on the fourth
double of that, and so on until the 64th and last square."
The raja would not hear of it. He insisted that
Sissa ask for something of more worth than grains of corn. But Sissa insisted he
had no need of much and that the grains of corn would suffice. Thereupon the
raja ordered the corn to be brought; but before they had reached the 30th
square, all the corn of India was exhausted. Perturbed, he looked at Sissa, who
laughed and told his raja that he knew perfectly well he could never receive the
reward he had asked because the amount of corn involved would cover the whole
surface of the earth to a depth of nine inches.
The raja did not know which to admire more: the
invention of chess or the ingenuity of Sissa's request. The number involved is
18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains. This number had been previously calculated by
the early Indian mathematicians, who incidentally, had invented the decimal
system long before it reached the Arabs and Europe.
of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables - By Rani p.
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