Cakora. A type of quail or partridge, perhaps the same as caṅkora (Ja V 416; VI 538; Vv-a 163).

Cakkavāka. Brahminy Shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea (Ja III 520; VI 189). A large orange-brown duck, its head being slightly lighter in colour and with black wing tips and tail. Shelducks are often seen in pairs or small flocks on river banks where they eat vegetation, mollusc, insects and fish. The Jātakas describe the shelduck as reddish in colour, rounded in body and feeding off moss and green leaves (Ja IV 70). The compound word cakravāka occurs in the Ṛg Veda and mean something like ‘circle of sound’. Shelducks were probably given this name because pairs keep in touch at night by calling to each other. In later Indian literature the bird came to be associated with numerous virtues but especially with marital fidelity, although this gets no mention in the Tipiṭaka. However, the Milindapañha says: ‘As a shelduck never forsakes his mate as long as life lasts, even so, a meditator, an earnest student of meditation must not forsake clear comprehension for as long as life lasts’ (Mil 401).

Candana. Sandalwood. Both the Pali and the English words are used loosely for a group of related trees that produce fragrant wood and oil. Candana refers primarily to Santalum album (Dhp 54), a small-sized evergreen tree with a small pale flower gradually becoming crimson. The heartwood of this tree, called haricandana, ranges in colour from whitish to yellowish and is strongly scented.

The Tipiṭaka also refers to Red Sandalwood, lohitacandana or rattacandana, Pterocarpus santalinus (A III 237; V 22; Ja IV 442; Mil 321). Both red and white sandalwood grow in the Deccan and South India and must have been imported into the north.

Sandalwood had many uses. It was pulverized and smeared on the body as a perfume and for its supposed cooling properties (Thī 145; 267). The paste was made by grinding a piece of wood on a stone (Ja IV 440). Being soft, fine-grained and easy to carve, it was made into luxury objects (A I 9). We read that a wealthy merchant had a bowl carved out of sandalwood. He even kept the off-cuts to use for other purposes (Vin I 110). The Buddha said that when he was a prince he used only sandalwood from Vārāṇasi (A I 145). Powered sandalwood (candanacuṇṇa) was sometimes rubbed on the body or burned as an incense, and it is said that sandalwood powder fell from the sky just before the Buddha’s final Nirvāna at Kusinārā (D II 137).

The early Buddhists frequently equated sandalwood with things thought of as virtuous or holy: ‘Just as a man who came across a piece of yellow or red sandalwood and he smelled it at the root, in the middle or at the top he would experience a beautiful, sweet and pleasant fragrance, even so, when one hears the good Gotama’s Dhamma in all its parts one experiences elation and joy’ (A III 237). The Milindapañha compares Nirvana to the precious and rare red sandalwood: ‘As red sandalwood is hard to obtain, even so, Nirvana is hard to obtain. Again, red sandalwood is unequalled for its lovely fragrance, even so is Nirvana unequalled for its lovely fragrance. Yet again, red sandalwood is praised by good people; even so is Nirvana praised by the Noble Ones. These are the three special qualities of red sandalwood that are present in Nirvana’ (Mil 321).

Xuanzang was told this tale concerning the harvesting of sandalwood and a tree similar to it: ‘In the south of this country (Malakūta), bordering the sea, are the Malaya Mountains, remarkable for their high peaks and precipices, their deep valleys and mountain torrents. Here is found the white sandalwood tree and the candaneva tree (i.e., a tree similar to sandalwood. These two are much alike and the latter can only be distinguished by going in the height of summer to the top of some hill and then looking at a great distance great serpents may be seen entwining it; thus it is known. Its wood is naturally cold and therefore serpents twine round it. After having noted the tree, they shoot an arrow into it to mark it. In the winter after the snakes have gone, the tree is cut down.’ Similar stories about where sandalwood grows and the serpents or dragons that live around it are to be found in Sanskrit works such as the Kāvyamīmāṃsā.

Camara. Yak, Bos grunniens (Ja I 149), a thick-set long-haired bovine native to the Tibetan plateau. Yak tails have been imported” into India from ancient times. A yak tail fly whisk became associated with status and was also one of the symbols of royalty, along with the white umbrella, turban, shoes, sword and conch (Ja II 330). The Buddha said that ascetics committed to virtue and simplicity would not use yak tail whisks (D I 7). Gods holding such whisks often flank images of the Buddha and bodhisattvas from ancient India.

Campaka. Champak or Yellow Jade Orchid Tree, Michelia champaca (Ja V 420; VI 151). A shapely tree of medium height with smooth grey bark, large elliptical leaves and a creamy yellowish flower famous for its strong sweet perfume. The city of Campa in Aṅga, modern Bhagalpur, took its name from the tree and the commentary says that when the Buddha was in the city he resided in a grove of champak trees on the bank of Gaggarā’s Lotus Lake (D I 111). Freshly made ghee was said to be the same colour as the champak flower (Ja V 289). Champak has a beautiful mottled wood from which a kind of camphor can be extracted as well as an oil used in making soaps and perfumes. See Kappūra.

Calani. A type of animal mentioned together with the yak and the laṅghi (Ja VI 537).

Cāpalasuṇa. A type of pungent vegetable which monks and nuns were allowed to eat (Vin IV 259). The name means ‘bow garlic’. This might refer to the Leek, Allium ampeloprasum. This hardy, erect vegetable has a long cylinder of bundled leaf sheaths emerging from the ground which gradually become separate and green. Both parts are eaten for their strong onion-like flavour.

Ciñcā. Tamarind, Tamarindus indica (Ja V 38). A large attractive semi-deciduous tree with small oblong leaves and a yellow flower splashed with red. The tamarind bears large irregularly curved pods containing a tart-tasting pulp in which are embedded large shiny seeds. The pulp is eaten and used in food preparation. The timber of the tamarind is hard and termite-resistant and the wood ash is used for tanning while the leaves, flowers and pods are used in dyeing.

Cittacūḷā Kacchapa. This is the personal name for a turtle in a Jātaka story and means ‘Marked Crest’ (Ja VI 162–64). The name suggests that the character could be a Chitra Turtle, also called the Indian Narrow-headed Softshell Turtle, Chitra indica. This turtle has a large round soft shell, olive or grey in colour, a long narrow head and eyes situated close to its comparatively short snout. The distinctive inverted chevron mark on its neck probably gave the turtle its Pali name. This turtle is common in all Indian rivers including the Ganges, Yamuna and their tributaries where it feeds on fish and carrion. In ancient Indian cosmology, the four elephants that held up the world were believed to stand on the back of such a turtle. The cittakadhara kumma mentioned in the Milindapañha cannot be this creature because it was said to avoid going into the water (Mil 408).

Cittamiga. See Citraka.

Citraka. Spotted Deer, sometimes also cittamiga (Ja VI 538), pasatamiga or pasadamiga (Ja V 418), Axis axis. This beautiful animal has a brown coat covered with lines of white spots. Both sexes are the same except that the male is slightly larger and has antlers. The animal’s sharp ‘ack ack ack’ call often rings out from the forest fringes where it prefers to live. The spotted deer is one of India’s most common deer and sometimes form herds of up to 50 or more animals. The Buddha said that ‘geese, herons, elephants and spotted deer are all frightened of the lion, regardless of the size of their bodies’ (S II 279).

Cirīṭa. a type of bird. The tinkling of the ornaments in a woman’s hair was said to resemble the chirping of the cirīṭa (Ja V 202).

Cīnaka. Broomcorn or Proso Millet, Panicum miliaceum. A erect, sparsely-branched type of millet growing wild but sometimes cultivated. Ascetics used to eat this grain (Ja V 405; Sn 239). Broomcorn is eaten by the poor or fed to cattle.

Cīriḷikā. Cricket, sometimes also cīrika, a small slender jumping insect of the order Orthoptera. Crickets are nocturnal, similar in appearance to grasshoppers, with long antenna and ranging in colour from black to dark brown. About twelve species of cricket are found in northern India. The Buddha mentioned crickets chirping in the forest at night (A III 397). In Sanskrit literature the equivalent of Pali cīriḷikā is also used for an insect that sings loudly in forests during hot summer days and probably refers to the cicada. Perhaps the Pali and Sanskrit names were used interchangeably for both creatures.

Celakedu. Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone paradisi, variant readings are cetakedu and celakeṭu. (Ja VI 538). One of India’s most beautiful birds, the adult male flycatcher is silvery white with a black crested head and two long ribbon-like tail feathers. The female is similar, only with a chestnut brown back and without the long tail. The paradise flycatcher is common in light forest and gardens where it feeds mainly on flying insects. When perching the male flycatcher often flutters its tail which probably accounts for its Pali name which is a variant of celakelu meaning ‘one who plays with cloth.’

Celāvaka. A type of bird, sometimes also celāpaka (Ja V 416; VI 538).

Coca. A tree or, according to some sources, a fruit from which drinks were made (Ja V 420; Vin I 246). In other ancient Indian literature, the name is used for the fruit of kadalī, nāḷikera, panasa and tāla.

Coraka. Smooth Angelica, Angelica glauca, a tall erect perennial growing up to two meters high with white flowers and a strong pungent smell (Ja VI 537). The root is used as a medicine and the leaves and stems are used to flavour food and homemade alcoholic beverages. It grows in the subalpine Himalayas but is now rare due to over-harvesting.


Jatu. Modern science uses the words gum, resin, sap, latex and mucilage very specifically according to the distinct properties of each. No similar distinctions can be detected between ikkāsa, jatu, ojā and sajjulasa, the names given in the Tipiṭaka for the substances extracted from or exuded by various plants. The four types of jatu mentioned are hiṅgujatu, taka, takapattī and lakapaṇṇa (Vin I 201). The first of these came from the hiṅgu but the trees from which the others came are unknown. Jatu is also one of the medicines mentioned in the Vinaya, the others being tallow, roots, astringents decoctions, leaves, fruits, salts and ointments (Vin I 251). Ojā means ‘nutriment’ and was sometimes used to mean tree sap. Ikkāsa had some adhesive properties because it would be mixed with whitewash to help it adhere to a surface (Vin II 151). The sticky lime (lepa) used to trap birds and animals was apparently made from a type of resin or sap (S.V.148; Th 454). Today birdlime is made from the sap of Cordia myxa, Ficus benghalensis, Ficus religiosa, Loranthus odoratus and several other trees and plants. The latex (khīra) found in certain plants was so called because of its resemblance to milk. See Khīrarukkha.

Jantu. See Tiṇa.

Jambu. Black Plum Tree, Syzygium cumini (Ja II 160; V 6; S V 237), a medium to large-sized tree with smooth grey bark, long leaves and a greenish-white flower which bears an oval dark purple fruit containing a single seed (Ja IV 363). The black plum was said to be the finest tree in India and one of the ancient names for India was Jambudīpa, the Black Plum Land or Jambusaṇḍa, the Black Plum Grove (A I 35; Sn 552; Th 822). Drinks were made out of the fruit (Vin I 246). When he was a young man, Prince Siddhattha fell into a spontaneous meditative state while sitting at the foot of a jambu tree (M I 246). While at Uruvelā the Buddha ate a jambu fruit which was ‘full of colour, aroma and flavour’ (Vin I 30). According to the Jātakas, the Bodhisatta was once reborn as a god living in a grove of jambu trees (Ja II 438).

Jambuka. See Sigāla.

Jayasumana. Pentapetes phoenicea (Ja V 163). A attractive medium-sized branched herb with sharply-toothed leaves and a large red flower. It grows in wet or soggy soil and the root has various medical properties.

Jātisumanā. See Sumanā.

Jiñjuka. Indian Liquorice, Abrus precatorius (Ja IV 333), an attractive twining slender shrub, its leaves shiny on top and silky below, and with pinkish-white flowers. The smooth shiny seeds are scarlet with a black eye and in the Tipiṭaka are said to resemble a peacock’s eye (Ja IV 334). Liquorice seeds, called guñja or raktikā in Sanskrit, were used as the basic unit of weight in ancient India. The seed weighs 109 milligrams. It is also powdered and used in snuff, taken to relieve headache or used as a poison. The root is used in the same way as the liquorice root.

Jīraka. Cumin, Cuminum cyminum (Ja II 363), an annual herb with long thin leaves and attractive pale-pink or white flowers. The pungent, aromatic seeds are powdered and used in curry and to flavour food. We read of meat being soused in a mixture of ground ginger, salt, cumin seeds and sour buttermilk (Ja I 244). See Kāra.

Jīvajīvaka. Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Hydrophasianus chirurgus (D III 201; Ja V 406; VI 276; 538), also jīvajīva. About half the size of the domestic hen, the jacana has a chocolate-brown body, white wings, a yellow strip on the side of its neck and a black ‘necklace’ on the upper breast. The toes are elongated for walking over lily leaves and floating vegetation. During the breeding season the male grows a long, slender sickle-shaped tail. The jacana is often seen singly or in large flocks in lakes and ponds and eats vegetation, insects and molluscs. It has a nasal mewing ‘tewn tewn’ call sounded to the Indian ear like ‘Live! Live!’ and gave the bird its name. The Mahābhārata describes the pheasant-tailed jacana as being ‘red, yellow and brown’. In later Indian literature the jīvaṃjīvaka was mythologized into a two-headed bird.

Jhāpita. A type of animal (Ja VI 537).

Jhāmaka. A type of plant (Ja II 288; VI 537).

Ḍaṃsa. A general name for the many biting flies common in India. These include those of the Tabanus, Chrysops, and Haematopota genera. All these flies drink blood and some can transmit diseases. According to the commentary they were called ‘blind’ because they were easier to swat than house flies and thus were assumed to have poor or no eyesight. They were said to be tawny coloured (Ja III 263). The Buddha said that a monk should reflect that the purpose of his robe is only to offer protection ‘from cold and heat, biting flies and mosquitoes, wind, sun and creepy-crawlies’ (M I 10). One of the things that the herdsman Dhaniya told the Buddha gave him satisfaction was that there were no ḍaṃsa in his pastures (Sn 20). See Kīṭa.

Ḍāka. Possibly Antidesma acidum, a large common shrub bearing rounded fruit ranging in colour from red to black and leaves which turn crimson before dropping off (Vin I 246). The young leaves are boiled and eaten while the fruit is eaten raw.