Pakkava. A variant reading is phaggava. Possibly Ficus rumphii, a large spreading tree with grey bark, broadly ovate leaves and a small round fruit that can be eaten. It is often planted in villages and along the sides of roads. The Buddha mentioned pakkava as a medicine (Vin I 201).
Accepting the reading phaggava, the commentary to the Vinaya says it is a vine. If this is correct the plant might be Tinospora sinensis. This large succulent climbing shrub or vine has simple, alternate, broadly ovate leaves, greenish yellow flowers, and ellipsoid fruit, bright orange or red when ripe. Most parts of the plant are used in traditional medicine. See Paggavavalli.
Pakkhabiḷāla. A name meaning ‘winged cats’ ( Ja IV 333) which might be a synonym for the flying fox. It was said to be reed-coloured. The sub- commentary gives an alternative interpretation saying that it is a cat-faced owl. Indeed, birds such as the Dusky Eagle Owl, Bubo coromandus, the Brown Fish Owl, Ketupa zeylonensis, and the Collared Scops Owl, Otus bakkamoena, have pronounced ear tufts which could, in the eyes of some, give them a cat-like appearance. See Tuliya.
Pakkhin. Bird, literally ‘winged one’, also aṇḍaja, aṇḍasambhava, both meaning ‘egg-born’, dija ‘twice born’, pattayāna ‘wing goer, sakuṇa or sometimes sakunta, vakkaṅga ‘going this way and that’, and vihaṅga ‘sky travellers’ (D I 71; Ja I 216; V 8; VI 539; S I 224; 197; Sn 221; 606; 1134; Th 599). Birds are feathered, egg-laying bipeds of the class Aves. Numerous kinds of birds are mentioned in the Tipiṭaka but not all of these can be identified. However, birds in general are frequently referred to. In the Suśrutasaṃhitā birds are classified as either peckers, scratchers, aquatic or birds of prey, although no attempt is made in the Tipiṭaka to classify them.
Birds leave no track as they fly through the sky (Dhp 92). They flock to big banyan trees to roost, eat the fruit and rest in the shade (A III 42). They have beautiful songs: ‘peacocks scream, herons cry and koels gently warble’ (D III 201). The call of some birds sounded to the Indian ear like words, a point made by the Sanskrit grammarian Yāska. The jīvajīvaka’s cry sounded like ‘Live!’ (Jīva) and another bird seemed to say ‘lift up your hearts’ (uṭṭhehi citte, D III 201). The monk Rāmaṇeyyaka said that the chirping and twittering of the birds in the forest did not disturb his meditation (Th 49). Whether in the forest or at the edge of the village, the bird songs always gave delight. The Jātaka says: ‘Around and about the trees can be heard the chorus of flocks of najjuhā birds and cuckoos as they fly from one tree to another. Amongst the branches and foliage they sing to passers-by and delight both newcomers and locals’ (Ja VI 534). It was observed that birds like peacocks and pigeons sometimes eat pebbles or grit (Mil 67). Seafarers took birds with them on their voyages and would release them when they sailed out of sight of land. If the bird returned to the ship they would know they were still far from land (A III 368; D I 222).
The Buddha said that just as a bird flies off taking only its wings with it, monks or nuns should wander taking only a few simple possessions with them (D I 71). A god once told a monk that just as a bird removes dust from itself after a dust bath with a vigorous shake, an ardent mindful monk should flick off the dust of the defilements (S I 197). Birds like domestic fowl, quails and partridges were eaten and ‘rice with well-dressed fowl’ was a popular dish (Sn 241). Feathers were used to make fans and flights for arrows. Peacock feathers were used for decorative purposes, and the quills of some feathers were used as sewing needles (Vin II 115).
Some ascetics had cloaks made out of the wings of certain birds. Domestic fowl and their eggs were an important part of people’s diets. Wild birds like quails and pigeons were hunted for food and their eggs were collected. A fowler’s gear might consist of a decoy bird, hair snares, a stick, probably for flushing the birds out of bushes, and a net (Ja II 161). The mention in the Jātaka to those who kill ‘bird by bird’ is probably a reference to hawks and falcons trained to hunt (Ja V 270). People put baskets in trees and under eaves for birds to nest in (Ja I 242). Some of the birds mentioned as being protected in King Asoka’s 5th Pillar Edict are the cakkavāka, haṃsa, sāliya and suka.
Paggavavalli. Also phaggavavalli. A type of bitter-tasting creeper (Ja II 105). See Pakkava.
Paṅgura. See Mandārava (Ja VI 535).
Pacalāka. A type of animal (Ja VI 538), sometimes also pacalaka. The name means ‘shaker’.
Paṭaṅga. A type of insect said to fly into burning lamps at night (Ja VI 234; 506; Sn 602). The same thing is said of another insect called salabha. The modern Hindi equivalents of both paṭaṅga and salabha are used loosely and interchangeably for moths, grasshoppers and locusts.
Paṭikuttaka. A type of bird (Ja VI 538), also paṭikutthaka. As the word paṭikuṭati means to bend, this might be referring to the Baya Weaver, Ploceus philippinus. This bird is similar in size and colouring to the house sparrow except that in the breeding season the male develops a bright yellow head and breast. Large flocks of baya weavers glean grain from harvested fields and sometimes damage growing crops also. Their nests are made out of tightly interlaced and woven rough-edged grasses which are suspended from the end of tree branches.
Paṭola. Pointed Gourd, either Trichosanthes cordata or Trichosanthes dioica. Both plants are called patol in Bengali, have a similar appearance and both have medical uses. The leaves of the Pointed Gourd were used as a medicine (Vin I 201).
Paṭṭa. A type of fine cloth (Bv XXXIV.11; S II 102; Vin II 266). In the Harṣacarita, paṭṭa is described as a type of naturally yellow silk. See Kosakāraka.
Paṇaka. See Paṇṇaka.
Paṇḍuhaṃsa. A type of water bird (Ja V 356). The name means ‘pale yellow goose’ or ‘pale duck’.
Paṇṇaka, also paṇaka, and udakapicchillo ‘water slime’ (Pv-a 53), probably refers to string algae, duckweed and pond slime often found in ponds and slow-moving streams and rivers (Ja II 324; Vin III 177).
Paduma. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, also known as ambuja and vārija ‘water born’, bhisa, kamala, paduminī, pokkhara, saroruha, muḷālipuppha (D I 75; Ja I 146; Sn 2; Th 1089). The lotus is a perennial aquatic herb with large, round, pastel-green leaves which sometimes float on the surface of the water or rise above it and with prickly stems (Sn 845). Lotus blossoms can be pink or white and were named kokāsaka or kumuda (Dhp 285; D II 179) and kokanada or puṇḍarīka (A III 239; S I 81) respectively, and also yellow.
It seems that the word paduma was sometimes used loosely enough to include the Blue Water Lily, Nymphea caerulea. This is clear from the fact that the Buddha mentions paduma as being white, pink or blue (A I 145). As there is no blue lotus this must refer to the blue water lily, more commonly called uppala in Pali.
Lotuses grew in the wild but were also planted in bathing tanks and garden ponds for beautification. When in Campa, the Buddha would stay at one such tank, Gaggarā’s Lotus Lake (D I 111). Such ponds, whether natural or man-made are described as being full of cool, sweet and clear water and lotus blossoms of different colours (S I 138; Vin I 5). When still a bodhisatta, the Buddha had three palaces, each with a pond of blue water lilies and pink and white lotuses (A I 145). The lotus has a sweet subtle perfume although it is hard to say whether this comes from the petals, the stem or the pistils (S III 130). In one delightful story, a monk who waded into a lotus pool to bathe and smell the flowers was chided by a god for being a ‘smell thief’ (S I 204). Comely young men or women were described as having ‘an excellent lotus-like beauty’ (A III 90; 152) and a sincere and generous layman was described as ‘the lotus of laity’ (A III 206). People would make garlands out of lotus blossoms and also eat the stems and roots (Ja III 308) and a drink was made from the juice extracted from the root (Vin I 246). Moggallāna is described as collecting lotus roots and stalks to make them into a medicine for fever (Vin I 215). Lotus nectar was also drunk (Ja V 466) and the leaves were used to make holders, to wrap food in (S V 438) and even to carry water for short distances (Ja III 107).
There are several things about the lotus that seem to have fascinated the Buddha and were often mentioned by him. The first was that such a beautiful pure flower emerges from dirty muddy water. To him, this was analogous to the enlightened person’s transcendence of saṃsāra: ‘Just as the lotus is born in the water and grows up beneath the water, yet remains undefiled by the water, fragrant and beautiful, even so, the Buddha is born in the world, grows up and dwells in the world but like the lotus unstained by the water, he is not defiled by the world’ (A III 347; S III 140; Sn 71). The second thing was the fact that water will not adhere to the lotus leaf. Because of microscopic waxy papillae on the surface of the leaf water splashed on it turns into quicksilver-like drops and immediately slips off, leaving no trace of moisture. ‘Whoever in the world overcomes this low unruly craving, sorrow falls away like drops of water on a lotus leaf’ (Dhp 336; 401). See Lomapaduma and Sogandhika.
Padmaka. This probably refers to one or another trees of the family Magnoliaceae, i.e. magnolias (Ja VI 535; 537) also padumarukkha (Ja V 406). Only one species of these trees grow in the Ganges plain, Michelia champaca, but several others are found in the Himalayan foothills of Uttarakand, Nepal and Sikkim. The flowers of most of these trees resemble small lotuses and have a strong sweet perfume. They range in colour from creamy while, to pink and yellow. The padmaka is mentioned together with tagara and narada as fragrant trees, shrubs and herbs (Ja VI 537). See Campaka.
Panasa. Jack Tree, Artocarpus heterophyllus (Ja I 450; II160; V 205). A large tree with a dense rounded crown, shining green leaves and large round green fruit which is produced in huge amounts. The fruit, which emerges from the trunk and branches, can be eaten as can the seeds. Thieves would steal fruits from the jack tree, and to prevent this owners hired watchers (Vin III 65).
Xuanzang wrote this of the tree: ‘The jackfruit tree though plentiful, is highly esteemed. The fruit is as large as a pumpkin. When it is ripe it is of a yellowish-red colour. When divided it has in the middle many tens of little fruits of the size of a pigeon’s egg. Breaking these there comes forth a juice of a yellowish-red colour and of delicious flavour. The fruit collects on the tree branches as prolific as the fuling.’
Pabbaja. See Naḷa.
Pampakā. A type of bird, also pampaṭakā (Ja VI 538).
Parabhata. See Kokila.
Parivadentikā. A type of bird (Ja VI 540).
Palaṇḍuka. Onion, Allium cepa. A small plant with long erect leaves and a round bulb, either white, brown or pink, depending on the variety. Monks and nuns were not allowed to eat garlic because the smell left on the breath could cause offence to others. They were however, allowed to eat onions (Vin IV 259). In most early Indian literature, onion and garlic are considered despised foods.
Palasata. A type of animal, according to the commentaries, another name for the rhinoceros, sometimes palāsata or phalasata (Ja VI 277; 454). The palasata is mentioned in King Asoka’s 5th Pillar Edict as being a protected animal. See Khagga.
Palāsa. See Kiṃsuka.
Pavāla. Red Coral, the stony branched skeleton of the tiny marine invertebrate Corallium rubrum (Ja II 88; IV 141). Unlike many other types of coral this species is dense enough to be carved and polished. Red coral was one of the many precious things found in the ocean along with pearls, gems, beryl, conches, crystal, gold and silver, ruby and emerald (Ud 54).
The red coral growing in Indian waters is not suitable for making jewellery. According to the Arthaśāstra, there are two types of coral, ālakandakam and vaivarṇikam. This first name refers to Alexandria in Egypt while the second is thought to refer to one of the Greek islands in the Mediterranean. It is certain that the coral used in India was imported” from the West.
Pasatamiga. See Citraka.
Pasādiyā. A variety of wild rice (Ja VI 531). The commentary says it is the same as ‘pig rice’, sūkarasāli. See Taṇḍula.
Pākahaṃsa. A type of water bird (Ja V 357, VI 539). Pāka can mean ripe, cooked or grey.
Pāgusa. Yellowtail Catfish or Pangas Catfish, Pangasius pangasius, sometimes also pāvusa (Ja IV 70; VI 278). A large silver-coloured fish found in the Ganges and its tributaries, the pangas catfish feeds on shrimps and smaller fish. It is a popular food.
Pāṭalī. Trumpet Flower, Stereospermum chelonoides, sometimes pāṭhali (Ja VI 537; Thī 263). A large tree with the leaves clustered at the end of the branches and which bears a beautiful trumpet-shaped yellow or sometimes pink flower. The village of Pāṭaligāma on the south bank of the Ganges, later to become Pāṭaliputta and now known as Patna, was named after this tree (D II 85). The Buddha Vipassī attained enlightenment under a Pāṭalī tree (D II 4).
Pāṇaka. A name meaning ‘small creatures’. The Sasa Jātaka mentions a hare shaking all the small creatures out of its fur (Ja III 55). This no doubt refers to ectoparasites such as the ticks, fleas and particularly the hare lice of the genus Haemodipsis that commonly infest hares.
Pāṭhīna. Wallago Catfish, Wallago attu. A large silvery-coloured fish with long barbs growing up to 1 metres long and commonly found in the Ganges and its tributaries (Ja IV 70; VI 278). It was said to be mahāmukhamaccha, ‘a big mouthed fish’ and indeed it is (Ja II 424). The fish had a voracious appetite and wading birds, domestic ducks and even dogs have been found in its stomach. A fine steel sword is described as being the same colour as one of these fish (Ja VI 449). It has the alternative name pāsāṇamaccha (Ja VI 450), perhaps meaning ‘spear fish’, possibly due to its slightly pointed head or its barbs.
Pārāvata. Dove or Pigeon, sometimes pārāpata or pārevata (Ja I 242; V 215; VI 456; 539), are birds of the Order Columbiformes. Nine species of doves and pigeons are found in northern India, although it is only possible to identify some of these from the information given in the Tipiṭaka. Amongst other things, they would eat grass seeds (Ja I 242). Some cows are described as being ‘dove coloured’ probably meaning that they were grey (A I 162). A certain precious stone was called the ‘dove’s eye gem’ (Vv-a 166), which probably referred to the ruby. Today rubies of the brightest red are called blood red or pigeon blood and command the highest prices. See Kakuṭa and Kapota.
Pārichattaka. A type of tree. See Kovilāra.
Pārijañña. A type of tree (Ja VI 535), or perhaps another name for the mandārava.
Pālibhaddaka. See Mandārava.
Pāsāṇamaccha. See Pāṭhīna.
Piṅgulā. A type of bird, also piṅgalā (Ja VI 538). The name may be a misreading of piṅgalā meaning ‘red’ or ‘tawny.’
Piñjarodaka. Uncertain. The commentary says this is an alternative name for siṅghāṭaka and that its seeds are red (Ja VI 563). However, siṅghāṭaka seeds are black (Ja VI 563). Thus piñjarodaka is more likely be the Eurasian subspecies Trapa natans introduced into India in ancient times. Its seeds have four straight thorns as opposed to siṅghāṭaka’s two curved ones.
Pipīlikā. Ant, sometimes kipillikā (Ja II 276; IV 331). Ants are a small insect of the order Hymenoptera, of which numerous species live in northern India. Ants were sometimes used to torture people (Ja IV 375), and there are numerous references in the Tipiṭaka of anthills (Ja III 86; Vin III 151). See Kunthakipillaka and Tambakipillika.
Pippalī. Indian Long Pepper, Piper longum (Vin I 201), sometimes also pipphalī, pippala. A slender aromatic climber producing a long spike covered with small seeds having a pungent pepper-like taste. A cave at Rājagaha where Mahā Kassapa used to stay was probably named after this climber (Ud 4). The seeds were used in cooking (Ja III 85; Vv-a 186) and as a medicine (Vin I 201; Ap I 302). Meat spiced with long pepper was called soṇḍikā (S I 98). The use of long pepper in cooking has now been largely replaced by black pepper. See Marica.
Piyaka. A type of tree with a white flower (Ja V 419; 422; VI 269). The Amarakośa says it is an alternative name for the kadamba.
Piyaṅgu1. Aglaia elaeagnoidea, a small evergreen tree with grey bark, shiny green leaves and small roundish yellow flowers (Ja VI 336; Vv-a 235).
Piyaṅgu2. Panic Seed, Panicum italicum. A type of millet which was made into a gruel (Ja I 39). It was also used as a medicine (Ja I 419). See Kaṅgu.
Piyāla. See Rājāyatana.
Pilakkha. Wave-leafed Fig, Ficus virens (Ja III 24; S IV 160, V 96; Vin IV 35). A large deciduous tree with smooth ovate leaves with a wavy margin. Although not parasitic it often grows on other trees and is a popular shade tree. The Buddha mentions the wave-leafed fig as an example of ‘trees with tiny seeds and huge bodies that encircle the bodies of other trees so that they become bent, twisted and split’ (S V 96). In the vicinity of Kosambi there was a cave named after this tree, presumably because one grew near its mouth (M I 513). In Baranasi there was a place called Cow Yoke Pilakkha where the Buddha once went for alms (A I 280). The commentary says that a cattle market used to take place there, probably in the shade of the tree.
Pucimanda. See Nimba.
Puṇḍarīka. A type of tree, probably an alternative name for padmaka. The former Buddha Sikhī was enlightened under one of these trees (D II 4). Puṇḍarīka is also a name for a white lotus. See Paduma.
Puttajīva. Putranjiva roxburghii (Ja VI 530). A moderately-sized tree with drooping branches. The male flowers, which are small and numerous, are yellow and the female flower, larger and less numerous, are green. The seeds of this tree are commonly used to make prayer beads.
Puthuloma. A general name for fish of the order Siluriformes, called catfish in English (Ja IV 466; Vv-a 189; 312). The Pali name means something like ‘wide hair’ and refers to the whisker-like growths which catfish have around their mouths. An ancient lexicon on pṛthuroma, the Sanskrit equivalent of this name, says ‘having long hairs around its mouth’. Several hundred species of catfish are found in India including in the Ganges, the Yamuna and their tributaries. The nun Sumedha said: ‘Do not give up true happiness for the sake of the inferior happiness of sense pleasures. Do not suffer afterwards like a catfish that swallows a hook’ (Thī 508).
Punnāga. Calophyllum inophyllum, (Bv II.51; Ja VI 530). A handsome moderately-sized tree with shiny leaves, large white fragrant flowers and a globose pulpy fruit which becomes yellow when ripe. An oil extracted from the seed was used in lamps.
Puppha. Flower, also kusuma. Flowers are the reproductive structures of Angiosperms, flowering plants. Some of the components of flowers mentioned in the Tipiṭaka include the stem (daṇḍa or vaṇṭa), buds (koraka), petals (patta or dala), calyx (gabbha), filament (kiñjakkha) pericarp (kaṇṇikā) and the pollen (reṇu). Flowers were said to be of two types, those growing on land and those growing in the water, although sometimes two more types are added; those growing on creepers and those that emerge from tree trunks or branches (Ja I 51; Vv-a 159).
The ancient Indians had a deep appreciation for flowers; they wore them in their hair, as garlands around their necks, used them to flavour their food and drinks and offered them to their gods. Flowers were associated with auspicious events. The Nidānakathā describes how all the plants in the universe burst into flower as the Buddha attained enlightenment: ‘Flowering trees in the ten thousand world-systems sprung into bloom and fruit-bearing trees were weighed down with bunches of fruit. Flowers that blossom on tree trunks, branches and vines did so each in their respective places. Lotuses on stalks broke through the rocky crust and arose in bunches of seven and were heaped together layer upon layer’ (Ja I 76).
On Uposatha days, Buddhists would abstain from wearing perfume, makeup and garlands (A IV 250). The Buddha said that flowers, incense and coloured paste should be offered to shrines (D II 142) and people were employed to clear withered flowers from such shrines (Ja V 449; Th 620). A part of the betrothal ceremony consisted of bedecking the bride with garlands (M I 286) and the making of garlands was a recognized craft (Ja V 292). Kinnara, mythical creatures with a bird’s body and a human head were believed to dress in flowers, eat pollen and entertain themselves by swinging on flowering creepers (Ja IV 283). The Vinaya mentions a variety of garlands, wreaths and bouquets, although the differences between these are not clear (Vin III 180).
Horticulture was in its infancy during the Buddha’s time, but we do read of royal pleasure gardens surrounded by walls and staffed by guards and gardeners (Ja I 251). Alcoholic drinks were made out of or flavoured with certain flowers (Vin I 246; IV 109). The Buddha often used flowers as similes in his talks and sayings. For example: ‘Just as many garlands can be made from a heap of flowers, so too many good deeds can be done by one born human’ (Dhp 53), ‘Like a flower that is beautiful but has no scent is the exhortation of one who speaks but does not act accordingly’ (Dhp 51). Someone who spoke pleasantly was referred to as ‘one who speaks flowers’ (A I 128).
Purisālu. A type of animal, perhaps mythological (Ja VI 537).
Puḷava. Maggot, the second of the four stages flies go through in their lives, the others being egg (āsaṭika), pupa (kosa) and adult. Maggots usually feed on faeces and rotting matter but they can also infest living tissue, a condition called myiasis (Ja III 176). The Buddha mentioned that lepers would sometimes get worms (kimi) in their sores, a reference to maggots (M I 506). See Makkhikā.
Pūga. Betel Palm, Areca catechu (Ja V 37; V 323). An attractive palm tree with a single tall straight columnar trunk ending in a tuft of lush green leaves. It bears an ovoid bright orange fruit with a single hard seed. This nut is cut into slivers, mixed with lime and the leaf of the betel vine and then chewed as a mild stimulant. Chewing betel nut is not mentioned in the four Nikāyas, the Vinaya, the Mahābhārata, the Rāmāyana or other early literature suggesting that it must have only been introduced into northern India from the south around the time of the composition of the commentary to the Jātaka. One Jātaka story described wondrous sugar cane growing the size as a betel palm (J V 37).
Pūtilatā. Galancha Vine, Tinospora cordifolia (Th 1184), according to the commentaries sometimes also known as gaḷocī or gaḷocīlatā. A large, deciduous vine or creeper with elongated twining branches, small yellow flowers and pea-sized fruit that turn bright red when ripe looking like bunches of small grapes. The bark is creamy white and the wood is white, soft, and porous. The vine is extensively spreading and quickly grows over other plants and even small trees. Various parts of the plant are used in traditional medicine.
The Buddha used the stem or branches of a Galancha vine as a simile for something “weak, feeble, rotten and coreless” (M I 449). An elephant, he said, would be able to break through a Galancha vine with ease (Sn 29).
Pelaka. Uncertain, but perhaps a type of hare, bandicoot or bush rat (Ja VI 538).
Pokkharasātaka. This name means ‘one who stands on a lotus leaf’ and no doubt refers to birds of the Jacanidae, Metopidius, Rallina and Rallidae families, called jacanas, rails, coots and moorhens in English (D III 202; Ja VI 539). Most of these wading birds have elongated, widely spreading toes which help distribute their weight and allow them to walk over floating vegetation while searching for food.
Poṭakila. See Tiṇa.
Potthaka. A type of cloth described as rough and unpleasant to touch (A I 246; Ja IV 251) and which was made from jute, sāṇa and some other types of fibrous plants. White Jute, Corchorus capsularis, is a herb with pointed, serrated leaves and a yellow flower. It grows to a height of about 3 metres in the wild or often double that when cultivated. Similar to this and likewise used to make jute is Tossa Jute, Corchorus olitorius. Both plants are well-known for the strong, shiny fibre produced from them. In Hindi patt is one of several names for the jute plant and the course cloth or canvas made from it.
Phaṇijjaka. Rosha Grass, Cymbopogon schoenanthus (Ja VI 536; Vin IV 35). It is described as ‘earth grass (bhūtanaka). A broad-leaved fragrant grass which grows mainly on rocky hills and dry forest areas. The plant gives an oil called palmarosa or ginger-grass oil which is used in the manufacture of cosmetics.
Phandana. The Pali name for this tree means ‘quivering’ and it was described by the Buddha as being the most pliable and workable of all trees (A I 9). Its timber was considered suitable for making wagon and chariot wheels because its branches would ‘bend but not break’ (Ja IV 209). Along with sāla and dhava it was the type of tree that people would clear mālūva vines from, presumably because of its usefulness (A I 202). This is probably the Sandan or Chariot Tree, Desmodium oojeinense, a semi-deciduous tree growing up to 14 m high. It is most well-known for its profusion of beautiful pink flowers and its light-brown to red-brown wood which is hard, close-grained, elastic and durable and widely used to make wagon wheels, furniture and agricultural implements. The Sandan is sometimes cultivated but is usually gathered from the wild.
Phāṇita. See Ucchu.
Phārusaka. Grewia asiatica, (Vv-a 145). A medium-sized tree producing globose fruit, red to purple in colour and with a tart taste. The fruit was made into a drink (Vin I 246) and taken as a medicine for stomach complaints.
Phussaka. A type of bird (A I 188). The name means something like mottled or speckled. The Buddha contrasted the diminutive call of this bird with that of the ambakamaddarī and the domestic fowl.
Phussakokila. This name means “spotted kokila” or “dappled kokila” and may be another name of the female kokila or refer to either the Common Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, the Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, or both (Ja V 19). The males of both birds are similar; having a slate-grey back and wings, a lighter grey throat, darker tail and a white breast bared with black. This marking may have qualified as phussa in the minds of the ancient Indians.
Baka. Wading birds of the Ardea, Egretta, and Bubulcus genera, the common ones in north India being the Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, the Large Egret, Ardea alba, Median Egret, Egretta intermedia, and the Little Egret, Egretta garzetta. Most of these birds are white with dagger-like orange-coloured or black bills and long S-shaped necks. They feed in on river banks, paddy fields and wetlands where they eat fish, frogs (Ja III 430), insects and other small animals and are often seen around cattle catching the insects disturbed by them. The Jātaka describes an egret catching a fish, wedging it in the fork of a tree and then pecking it to death (Ja I 222).
Bakula. See Vakula.
Badara. The fruit of the Jujube Tree, Ziziphus jujuba (A I 130), also called badarapaṇḍu, bhadarapaṇḍu or kola. A moderately-sized tree of shrubby form and with a spreading crown. It is sometimes cultivated for the edible fruit. The fruit is described as being egg-shaped, reddish and beautiful (Ja III 21) and on one occasion, Ānanda compared the Buddha’s complexion to the beautiful translucent yellow of the jujube fruit in autumn (A I 181). It was sometimes mixed with food (Vin IV 76) and on one occasion the Buddha was offered a meal which included pork with jujube (A III 49). During the time the Buddha practised austerities before his enlightenment, he sometimes ate only one jujube fruit a day (M I 80). The small two-celled stone of the fruit was called kolaṭṭhi (Thī 498).
Badālatā. A type of creeper that was said to have appeared during the early evolution of the Earth and which was ‘sweet like pure wild bee honey’ (D III 87).
Bandhuka. See Bandhujīvaka.
Bandhujīvaka. Pentapetes phoenicea (A V 62; D II 111; M II 14), also called bandhuka (Ja VI 279). A small attractive shrub easily recognized by its long, sharply-toothed leaves and its large red flowers.
Babbaja. A type of grass. The Buddha said: ‘The wise say that the strongest fetters are not made of iron, wood or babbaja, but of the longing for jewellery, of precious stones, offspring and wives’ (Dhp 345). See Kusa and Dabba.
Babbu. See Biḷāla.
Barihi. See Mayūra.
Barihisa. A type of grass used in sacrificial rituals (A II 207; M I 344).
Bala. See Kāka.
Balākā. A type of wading bird described as being pure white and having a crest on its head. This most likely refers to the Little Egret, Egretta garzetta (Ja III 226; Th 307). With its white plumage, black legs and yellow feet, this small bird is often seen in marshlands and paddy fields where it hunts insects, frogs, small fish and crustaceans. The bird’s long drooping crest, made up of two narrow plumes, appears during the breeding season.
Baḷīyakkha. A type of bird (Ja VI 539).
Bahucitra. A type of bird (Ja IV 406).
Bidala. A type of pulse which was made into soup (Ja IV 352).
Bimba. Scarlet Gourd, Coccinia grandis (Ja VI 457), sometimes vimba. A herb climbing by means of tendrils and with five-angled stems. The cylindrical fruit is narrowed at each end and green with white stripes gradually becoming scarlet as it ripens. The lips of a beautiful young woman are often said to be the colour of this gourd when ripe (Ap 182; Ja III 478; VI 457; 591). The gourd is a popular food item.
Bimbijāla. See Kuravaka.
Biḷāra sasakaṇṇika. This is not a name as such but a description meaning ‘the hare-eared cat’ (Ja V 406), which probably refers to the Caracal, Caracal caracal. This medium-sized cat is reddish-grey above fading to buff or white below and has a short tail. The large ears are triangular and pointed, black on the back and with long erect tufts of black hair on the tips. The caracal prefers dry scrubland where it shelters in hollow trees and under boulders during the day and hunts birds and small mammals at night. The caracal is critically endangered in India.
Biḷāla. Domestic Cat, Felis sylvestris, also called biḷāra, babbu, babbuka, or majjāra (D II 83; Ja I 480; Vin I 186). Cats are small mammals of the family Felidae with rounded heads, erect ears and large eyes with vertical-slit pupils. They also have sharp claws that can be retracted into sheaths. The ancient Indians did not keep cats as pets but only to kill rats and mice and other household pests. The Buddha commented that a cat will sit at a door post, a rubbish heap or a drain patiently waiting for mice (M I 334). Nāgasena said: ‘As a cat in caves and holes and inside large houses, seeks only after rats, so too the meditator, the earnest student of meditation, in the village, the forest, at the root of a tree or an empty place should constantly, continually and with diligence seek only the nourishment of mindfulness of the body’ (Mil 393).
There are several species of wild cats in northern India; the Leopard Cat, Felis bengalensis, the Fishing Cat, Felis viverrina, and the Jungle Cat, Felis chaus, being the main ones. The mention of jungle cats (araññabiḷāla, Ja VI 334; VI 277) and of the hunting of cats probably refers to these animals rather than their domestic cousin. The cat skin bags the Buddha spoke of were probably made out of the beautifully marked pelts of wild cats such as the leopard cat (M I 128).
Biḷālī. A kind of tuber or yam, sometimes bilālī (Ja IV 13; V 46). The Bhikkhāparampaka Jātaka describes a forest-dwelling ascetic foraging a variety of roots and grains from the forest including biḷālī (Ja IV 371).
Bīja. Seed. A seed is a new plant in the form of an embryo. Some of the parts of seeds mentioned in the Tipiṭaka include the husk (thusa), the kernel (miñja), and in the case of germinating seeds, the sprout or shoot (aṅkura). The seeds of certain plants are encased in a pod (kuṭṭhilika, puṭa or sipāṭika). The Buddha mentioned at least two species of trees whose seed pods burst or split (ādiṇṇa) open (S I 193). In order to germinate a seed has to have an intact casing, be fresh, be unspoiled by wind or heat and be sown in a good field with properly prepared soil (A I 135).
The Buddha noticed that some plants are resprouters, i.e. that they are adapted to sprout and grow quickly after a fire. He mentioned that ‘When a fire burns down a forest … the shoots there spring to life once more as the days and nights go by’ (S I 69). The seeds of some plants likewise sprout quickly after being burned and the Buddha’s observation may have included this phenomena also. The two factors that enable a seed to grow are nutrition from the soil (paṭhavī-rasa) and moisture (S I 134). Whether the leaves or fruit of the plant is sweet or bitter was believed to depend not on the nutrition but on the nature of the seed (A I 32).
The ancient Indians practiced seed selection in order to improve crops. The Jātaka says: ‘One who picks the fruit that has ripened on a tree and appreciates its taste does not destroy its seed’ (Ja V 243). Commenting on the endless cycle of agriculture the monk Kāḷudāyin said: ‘Again and again they sow the seed; again and again the god king rains; again and again farmers plough the fields; again and yet again the country has grain’ (Th 532).
Some of the seeds mentioned in the Tipiṭaka include sāli, vīhi, mugga, māsa, tila and taṇḍula (M I 57). Elsewhere, the first two of these are included in a list of edible grains and beans (Vin IV 264). See Dhañña.
Bījakanīla. A type of water plant (Vin III 276).
Bīraṇa. Vetiver, Chrysopogon zizanioides (S III 137). A common stout tufted grass usually found growing in damp or swampy ground. When dried the root of this grass, called usīra in Pali, gives off a pleasant fragrance. The Buddha mentioned the fine fibres of the usīra root (A I 204) and recommended the root itself as a medicine (Vin I 201). It was also used to rub down elephants (Ja V 39) and corpses were sometimes laid out on a bed of bīraṇa grass (D III 7). The Mahāvastu describes a maiden as having a complexion like usīra, probably referring to the fresh root’s delicate pink colour (Mvu II 59). The Buddha said: ‘This I say to you, sirs, who are gathered here; dig up the root of craving as one seeking the usīra digs up bīraṇa grass’ (Dhp 337).
Beluva. Bengal Quince or Wood Apple, Aegle marmelos (Ja III 77; IV 363) sometimes also vilva. A small tree with thorns near the base of the leaves and a greenish-white flower. The fruit is called billa (Ja III 77; VI 578) and is round, yellow when ripe and contains a sweet aromatic pulp. The monk Kokālika developed boils all over his body as big as a Bengal Quince which burst open causing him to die (S I 150). Pañcasikha’s lute was made out of yellow wood of this tree (D II 265) and ascetics made their staffs out of the wood also (Ja VI 525). The fruit, leaves, roots and stems are all to believed to have medicinal properties.
Bhaginimālā. A type of flowering tree (Ja V 420; VI 269).
Bhaṅga. Cannabis, Cannabis sativa (Vin I 58). Cannabis is a tall annual herb with broad spear-shaped leaves with serrated edges and which emits a particular odour. Steam from cannabis leaves boiled in water was used as a sweating treatment for sore limbs and rheumatism (Vin I 205). Fibre from the stem was used to make ropes and woven into a coarse cloth (D II 350 Vin III 256). There is no mention in the Tipiṭaka of cannabis being taken for its psychotropic effect. The Hindi word bhang is now used specifically for the dried leaves of this plant.
Bhañjanaka. A type of red-coloured vegetable (Vin IV 259). This could refer to the red shallot, a variety of onion usually much smaller than most onion bulbs and made up of a cluster of cloves called offsets. Ranging in colour from brown to grey, the skin of the cloves is typically bright red. See Palaṇḍuka.
Bhaṇḍi. A type of plant (Ja V 420; VI 537). This might be Hill Glory Bower, Clerodendrum infortunatum, a gregarious shrub growing up to 2 meters high with oval leaves and pretty five-petaled white flowers with pink centres and unusually long stamens. The leaves and flowers are used in traditional medicine. It should be noted that the Amarakośa gives bhaṇḍi as an alternative name for madder. See Mañjeṭṭhī.
Bhaṇḍu. A type of bird, possibly the swift (Ja VI 538). The House Swift, Apus affinis is a small smoky-black bird with a white throat, long narrow wings and a square tail. It is often seen roosting and nesting near human habitation. During the day it flies about at great speed catching insects and in the late afternoon it congregates in large numbers high in the sky uttering a shrill tittering cry.
Bhaddamuttaka. Nut Grass, Cyperus rotundus (Ja VI 537; Vin IV 35), also bhaddamutta. A common weed with a pleasant-smelling tuber which was used as a medicine (Vin I 201).
Bhamara. Rock Bee, Apis dorsata. A large aggressive wild bee with a shiny black body and which builds huge nests on cliffs and the branches of tall trees. It is one of several native Indian bees which produce honey collected for human consumption (Ja VI 536). The Buddha said that a monk depending on a village for alms should be like a rock bee which collects nectar from the flower without damaging its colour or fragrance (Dhp 49). He also said that a lay person should accumulate wealth the way a rock bee gathers nectar, i.e. diligently (D III 188).
Glossy black hair was often compared to the colour of the rock bee (Thī 252) as was an arahat’s clay bowl (Ja IV 114). One of the strings of the Indian lute was called the bhamara-tanti because it sounded similar to the deep resonant humming of this bee (Ja II 253). The Nidānakathā mentions a swarm of ‘five-coloured bhamaras’ (Ja.I,52). The Carakasaṃhitā mentions bhamara as one of the eight types of honey. See Khudda and Madhukara.
Bhallāṭaka. Marking Nut Tree, Semecarpus anacardium, also bhallātaka (Ap 346; Ja VI 578). A medium-sized tree with low spreading crown and large leathery leaves which cluster near the end of the branches. The dark brown bark has an acrid juice and a black resin extracted from the fruit is used by washermen to mark laundry.
Bhaveyya. A type of tree with an edible fruit, perhaps a species of banana (Ja VI 529).
Bhassara. A wading bird, probably either the Black Ibis, Pseudibis papillosa, or the Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus (Ja VI 538). In Hindi the first bird is called baza or kala baza while the second is called chhota baza. The black ibis has black plumage with a white patch on its wings and red warty skin on its crown. The smaller glossy ibis has dark brown plumage with glossy black wings. Both birds are found around water, although the black ibis will also feed in dry paddy fields, grassland and lawns.
Bhāsa. Eurasian Sparrow Hawk, Accipiter nisus (Ja VI 538), a medium-sized hawk with a brown head, back and wings, a white throat and spotted breast and with four or five black bands on its tail (Sn 790). The Eurasian sparrow hawk preys mainly on other birds, including those much larger than itself. In some countries it is trained and used for hunting.
Bhiṅkāra. Possibly the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus (Ja V 416). A glossy-black bird with a tufted forehead and a long tail ending in two wire-like prongs with spatula ends. The drongo is a noisy bird with a variety of calls, is very good at mimicking other birds and is often kept as a pet.
Bhujapatta. The Himalayan Birch, Betula utilis (Ja II 114) sometimes also ābhuji (Ja V 195; 406). This tree grows in the Himalayas up to 4,500 meters. Often forming forests, it grows up to 20 meters high and has ovate leaves with serrated edges. In ancient times its thin, white papery bark was used to write on.
Bhujalaṭṭhi. A type of vine or creeper (Ja VI 457). The name means ‘snake vine’ and it may be another name for the Betel Vine. See Nāgalatā, Nāgavallika and Tambūla.
Bhūmipappaṭaka. A type of mushroom or fungus that appeared at the beginning of the world (D III 87).
Bheradaka. See Sigāla.
Bhobhukka. See Soṇa.
Maṃsi. See Narada.
Makaci. A type of coarse cloth. There is a description of pomace being strained through a piece of this cloth to get the last juice out of it (Ja II 96). It is also mentioned as something that would be washed in a river by outcastes (Ja V 429). This may be a reference to the process of soaking the jute plant in water for several days to loosen its fibres. Thus this cloth was probably made from one or another of India’s fibrous plants. See Potthaka.
Makara. This name usually refers to a mythical marine creature with a huge head and mouth and a small body (Ja II 442). A makara-tooth pattern was cut into the stand monks used to place their bowls on so as to give them a better hold (Vin II 113; 117; 152). This suggests that there was actually a fish of this name.
If so, candidates for such a creature may be the several species of sawfish found in India, e.g. the Freshwater Sawfish, Pristis microdon, the Knifetooth Sawfish, Anoxypristis cuspidate, and the Green Sawfish, Pristis zijsron. These large fish have long, broad and flat snouts with up to 20 sharp teeth down both edges. Although primarily marine fish, they are known to sometimes swim far up rivers and thus might have been known in the Middle Land. Further, their strange and fearsome-looking snouts may have been imported into the Middle Land. In the past, the fins of saw fish were dried and exported from India to China, an oil was extracted from the liver and the tough skin was used to make sword scabbards and sandpaper. See Susu.
Makasa. Mosquito, also sūcimukha ‘needle mouth’ (A II 117; S I 52; Sn 20). Small delicate flying insects belonging to the order Diptera that feed on blood. Numerous species of mosquitoes are found in northern India including nine species of Anopheles mosquito known to carry malaria. Mosquitoes were one of the many things forest-dwelling monks and nuns had to learn to live with. The monk Gahvaratīriya urged a patient endurance to such biting insects: ‘Annoyed by biting flies and mosquitoes in the forest, in the great jungle, be like an elephant in the thick of the battle and endure mindfully’ (Th 31). The affliction called ‘snake-wind-disease’ (ahivātakaroga) is thought by some modern scholars to have been malaria (Vin I 78; Ja IV 200). The Saṃyutta Nikāya mentions a man ‘whose testicles were like pots’ (S II 258), a common symptom of filariasis. When this disease takes the form of grotesquely swollen legs it is called elephantiasis, sīpada in Pali, (Vin I 91). The commentary calls it bhārapāda, “burden leg”. Filariasis is caused by Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and several other species of roundworm transmitted by mosquitoes.
Monks protected themselves from mosquitoes by sleeping under a kind of tent made of robes (Vin II 119) and herdsmen protected their flocks with smouldering fires (Ja III 401). Even wild animals kept away from swamps to avoid mosquitoes. In the Jātaka there is a story of a man who asked his son to swat a mosquito that had landed on his head. The stupid boy hit the insect with an axe and killed his father (Ja I 247).
Makkaṭa. Rhesus Macaque, Macaca mulattai, sometimes also kapi. This large, aggressive and mischievous primate has a brown coat, a short tail and a bare red and white patch on its rump. When in oestrus the female’s face goes red. Macaques live in close proximity to humans and are often seen in cities, especially around temples, where they eat flower and food offerings. Commenting on the rapidly changing nature of consciousness the Buddha said: ‘Just as a macaque moving through the trees grabs one branch and lets it go only to seize another, so too that which is called thought, mind or consciousness arises and disappears continually both day and night’ (S II 95). The monk Valliya compared the body to a five-doored house and the mind to a macaque racing around inside it. Then he cried to himself: ‘Be still, macaque, stop running. Things are not as they were before. Now you are restrained with wisdom’ (Th 125–26). Baby macaques were sometimes kept as pets (M I 384) and adults were trained by street entertainers. We read of such an entertainer having a macaque and a snake play together (Ja II 267). Ascetics would sometimes have cloaks made out of macaque skins (Ja V 235–36). Interestingly, while the Jātaka say the Bodhisatta was occasionally reborn as a vānara, he was never as a macaque. See Kapi.
Makkaṭaka. Spider, also called makkaṭa, aṭṭhapadā ‘eight legs’, and uṇṇānābhi ‘wool-belly’ (Ja II 147; V 47; 469). Spiders are insectivorous arthropods of the order Araneae. There are dozens of species of spiders in northern India but not enough information is given in the Tipiṭaka to identify any particular type. In one place we read of dew drops hanging on spiders’ webs making it look like a net of pearls (Ja IV 120). The Buddha said: ‘Those infatuated by passion are carried along by a self-created stream, like a spider following its own web’ (Dhp 347). Spiders were said to catch paṭaṅga, insects and flies in their webs (Mil 407).
Makkhikā. A general term for flying insects and probably used mainly for those of the order Diptera. For example, bees are sometimes called honey flies, madhumakkhika. But perhaps the most common and noticeable fly in the Buddha’s India would have been the House Fly, Musca domestica (A I 280; II 117; M I 10; III 148). A small two-winged insect, grey with dark stripes and often found around human habitation where it feeds off and breed in fresh meat, carrion, faeces and moist garbage. The larvas of flies, the maggot, was called puḷava (S V 131; Sn 672) and was described by the Buddha as a creature that is ‘born, lives and dies in darkness’ (M III 168). Maggots are sometimes mentioned together with kimi and gaṇḍuppāda.
The Buddha mentioned that one of the things a good cowherd will do is remove flies’ eggs from his cows (M I 222). This must refer to the Warble Fly, Hypoderma bovis, a large biting fly parasitic on goats, deer and particularly on cattle. They lay their eggs on the forelegs of animals, after hatching the larvas burrow into the skin and migrate through the connective tissue to the oesophagus. After several month they travel back to the skin and emerge as adults. In the past cowherds used a comb to remove the fly’s eggs from their cattle. See also Upacikā, Khuddakamakkhikā, Ḍaṃsa and Nīlamakkhikā.
Maṅkuna. Bed Bug, (Ja I 10), also maṅkula and maṅgula. A small rusty-red nocturnal insect which feeds on human blood, the two most common species in northern India being Cimex lectularius and C. rotundatus. Bed bugs are often found in bedding and clothes and their bites cause welts on the body and intense itching. People would beat their mattresses in the mornings to get the bed bugs out (Ja III 423). The commentary to the Vinaya says that the most inferior type of bed is one ‘heavy with bed bug excrement’. The presence of bed bugs indicates overcrowding and poor hygiene.
Maṅgusa. See Nakula.
Maccha. Fish, also called ambuja or vārija ‘water born’ (S I 52, Dhp 34). Fish are aquatic cold-blooded vertebrates usually covered with scales. Numerous types of fish are found in the rivers and ponds of northern India, many of them edible. However, only a few of those mentioned in the Tipiṭaka can be identified. Fishing was an occupation, although fishermen were despised together with butchers, fowlers, hunters, robbers, murderers, jailers and others ‘who follow a blood-soaked work’ (A III 383). There is frequent mention in the Jātaka of fish being eaten, even by ascetics and Brahmins (Ja I 390; II 230; III 52). Apparently it was often consumed together with alcohol (Ja I 349; III 435). Fish were caught in nets, including fine-meshed nets (D I 45), traps, hooked lines or were sometimes speared (Ja I 427), and fish was eaten fresh or dried (Ja I 349). When fishermen caught fish they would throw them onto the sand and later spit them and roast them in hot embers (Ja II 178). We read of fish in a garden pond coming to be fed at the sound of a drum (Ja II 227). Fish sense when a drought is coming and try to swim out of their ponds (Ja II 80).
According to the commentary of the Vimānavatthu, one of the gates of Vārāṇasi was called the Fisherman’s Gate, probably because it opened on the river where fishermen worked or sold their catch (Vv-a 19). The Buddha compared the way thoughts flit through the mind to the thrashing of a fish when pulled out of the water (Dhp 34). Once he scolded some noisy monks, saying that they sounded like fishermen pulling in a good catch (A III 30). Fish were sometimes used in idioms of the time; a devious person was said to be as unknowable as ‘the course of fish in the water’ (Ja I 295; 300), and to ‘be tongueless like a fish’ meant to be taciturn (Ja VI 295). Sailors who drowned at sea were said to have became ‘food for the fishes’ (Ja V 75).
One Jātaka story mentions a gold-coloured fish (Ja IV 335) which could refer to either of two fish found in India, the first being the Golden Barb, Pethia gelius. This fish is golden-coloured with silver highlights and has a distinct black spot on the base of its tail. Growing up to 8 cm long, the Golden Barb is found in the standing waters of rivers and in lakes and ponds with silty bottoms where it feeds on small crustaceans and insects. Indian peasants consider the Golden Barb to be an auspicious creature and it is also a popular aquarium fish. The second could be the Golden Mahaseer, Tor putitora, a large fish found in the rivers of the lower Himalayas.
Another type of fish mentioned without being named is one with a human-like body, a razor-like nose and which leaps in and out of the sea (Ja IV 139). The Jātakamāla mentions the same fish and adds that it looks like it is covered with silver armour (Jm XIV.10–12). This could refer to fish of the Belonidae family, specifically the Houndfish or Crocodile Needlefish, Tylosurus crocodilus. This fish has a long, cylindrical body and a long narrow beak with numerous sharp teeth. The body is covered with silvery scales turning slightly blue along the back and can be up to 1.5 meters long. It prefers shallow waters and swims close to the surface and has a tendency to leap out of the water. Fishermen can be injured by leaping fish and sometimes even suffer serious stab-wounds from their beaks. This, together with the houndfish’s unusual appearance, may have encouraged the myth of it having a human-like body.
Other kinds of fish mentioned but which cannot be identified are the aggaraka, āli, kāḷa-mahā-maccha, kāla-maccha, muñja, rohita, pāsāṇa-macchaka, satavaṃsa, savaṅka, silutta and the vājala (Ja I 222; IV 70; V 405; VI 278). According to the Jātaka, the Bodhisatta was once reborn as a fish (Ja I 331). See also Amarā, Maṇḍuka, Puthuloma, Rohita, Sakula, Silābhu, Siṅgu and Susukā.
Majjāra. See Biḷāra.
Majjāru. A type of grass from which coverings could be made (Vin I 196).
Mañjeṭṭhī. Madder, Hindi manjit, Rubia cordifolia (Ja VI 279). A spreading herb that climbs over shrubs and bushes by means of tiny hooked hairs on its stems. It has a yellowish-white flower and a crimson dye is extracted from the bark of the root. When the Buddha was residing at the Kassapa brother’s hermitage and a multi-coloured light emanated from his body, one of the colours was crimson, the others being blue, red, yellow and crystal (Vin I 25). Artists included in their palette paint made from lac, turmeric, indigo and madder (S III 152). Madder dye used to be known as ‘Indian Red’ and was widely used in the cloth industry until the development of synthetic dyes.
Mañjiṭṭhikā. Red Rot, Glomerella tucumanensis. A fungal pathogen that attacks sugar cane (A IV 279; Vin II 256). The organism causes longitudinal reddish streaks in the internal white tissue of the plant resulting in stunted growth. Red Rot is most common during the rainy season. See Ucchu.
Maṇḍuka. The Dadhivāhana Jātaka includes an incident where a man pricks a mango seed with a maṇḍuka so it cannot germinate (Ja II 105). The word maṇḍuka is generally taken to mean a thorn. There are variant readings of this word in the commentaries and later Pali literature including maṇdūka and maṇḍu, but most sources agree that it refers to the barb of a particular fish, some adding that it is a poisonous barb, others that it is from the tail of the fish. If this is correct it must refer to a stingray. Stingray barbs may well have been imported into the Middle Land but two species of this fish are found in the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries.
The Giant Freshwater Stingray, Trygon fluviatiles, is one of the world’s largest freshwater fish measuring upwards of 1.9 m across and weighing as much as 600 kg. Its tail barb is not poisonous but it is sheathed with a toxic mucus. The Cowtail Stingray, Pastinachus sephen, can be as much as 3 meters long and weigh up to 250 kg. Its tail barb is poisonous. The tail barb of both fish must have attracted attention for their formidable and dangerous appearance.
Killing trees with a stingray barb seems to have been proverbial in Pali literature. The Visuddhimagga mentions it (Vism 688) as does the commentary to the Vinaya. The Mahāvaṃsa relates the legend that King Asoka’s queen killed the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya using a stingray barb. ‘Dhammasoka raised the treacherous Tissarakkha to the rank of queen. In the third year thereafter this fool, in the pride of her beauty, with the thought: ‘Forsooth, the king worships the great Bodhi-tree to my cost!’ drawn into the power of hate and working her own harm, caused the great Bodhi-tree to perish by means of a maṇḍu’ (Mhv XX.4–6).
Maṇḍūka. Frog, also sometimes bheka, (Ja III 430, IV 247). Frogs are amphibians of the order Salientia of which about 190 species live in India. Frogs have long hind legs adapted for jumping, large heads with protruding eyes and usually live in or near water. The most common and easily seen frog in northern India is the Skittering Frog, Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis. This medium-sized smooth-skinned frog is grey, brown or blackish, often with darker spots and a black belly. It is usually seen on the side of ponds and puddles or floating contentedly on the surface. When alarmed, it skitters over the surface, sometimes for a considerable distance, then dives and buries itself in the mud. The skittering frog is seen in all seasons and eats insects and small vertebrates.
We have a description of crows eating frogs in a dried-up pond (Ja V 106). In his poem in praise of the Ajakaraṇī River, the monk Sappaka mentioned the deep-throated croaking of the frogs (Th 310). When told that people could wash away their sins by bathing in sacred rivers, the nun Puṇṇikā quipped that if this were so then all the turtles, crocodiles and frogs would go to heaven (Thī 241). Once, a group of people sat listening to the Buddha preach and a frog, attracted by the sound of his voice, joined the audience. The frog was accidentally crushed by a cowherd’s stick and was afterwards reborn in a heaven realm (Vv-a 217). Unripe fruit was said to be ‘as green as a frog’ (Ja VI 529) and snakes were sometimes called ‘frog eaters’ (Ja III 16). See Nīlamaṇḍūka and Uddhumāyikā.
Maddālakā. A type of bird (Ja VI 538).
Madhuka. Honey Tree, Bassia latifolia (Ja IV 434; VI 93; 529). A large tree with a dense rounded crown, large oblong elliptic leaves attractive cream-coloured flower. The Honey Tree is particularly useful although it is very slow growing and only rarely cultivated. The wood is good and strong, the fleshy corollas of the flower are sun dried and eaten and a sweet spirit can be made from them. It was probably this drink that the Buddha forbade monks and nuns to take (Vin I 246). The unripe fruit is eaten cooked and oil extracted from the seeds is used for cooking and lighting.
Madhukara. Bee, literally ‘honey maker’, sometimes madhumakkhika, ‘honey fly’ (Ja IV 265; VI 506). Bees are winged insects belonging to the order Hymenoptera. There are three main species of bee native to northern India, the Rock Bee or bhamara and the Little Bee, which are both wild, and the Indian Hive Bee, Apis cerana indica which is domesticated.
The ancient Indians were intrigued how bees took nectar from different flowers and yet produced honey with a uniform colour, taste, and smell. The Mahāvastu comments that ‘… bees come together and gather the essence of various flowers, gathering it in their mouths and on their feet … Through their concerted efforts is made a syrup that is sweet to the taste and smell, and that, pressed together, becomes choicest honey, goodly in colour, taste and smell and useful as food and medicine’ (Mvu I 297-98).
Honey, madhu, was a much sought-after food. It was eaten with rice (Th 23), used as a medicine (Vin III 77) and sometimes made into mead (Vin IV 110). Lumps of crystallized honey are mentioned (Vin I 221) as are honey cakes (A III 237), honey balls (M I 114) and wild honey (D III 87). To find the bees’ hives, honey gatherers would tap the trunks of likely trees (Ja III 200). Bees’ wax was used for various purposes and when mixed with oil was applied to the hair (Vin II 107; 116). Diabetes was known as ‘honey urine’ (Vin IV 8). The Buddha’s first meal after his enlightenment was honey balls and barley gruel offered to him by the merchants Tapassu and Bhalluka (Vin I 4). The Buddha described as ‘honey-tongued’ the person whose speech is ‘harmless, pleasing to the ear, agreeable, going to the heart, urbane, pleasant and liked by everybody’ (A I 128). See Khudda.
Madhulaṭṭhikā. Liquorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra (Ja I 68; VI 537), also madhulaṭṭhi, laṭṭhimadhuka. The Pali name means ‘honey stick’. This hardy shrub bearing lavender-coloured flowers and its sweet-tasting root was probably imported from Kashmir or Persia. The root is harvested and then dried and cut into pieces or powdered. An extract from the root is taken for abdominal pain, vomiting, chesty cough and sore throat.
Manosilāhaṃsa. Uncertain but perhaps the Pink-headed Duck, Rhodonessa caryophyllacea (Ja V 356). About the size of the domestic duck this bird has dark-brown plumage, a bright pink bill and head and a pink speculum which is very noticeable in flight. The last pink-headed duck in the wild was seen in 1935 and the last known specimen died in captivity in England in the same decade. It is now presumed to be extinct.
Mandārava. The Indian Coral Tree, Erythrina suberosa (Ja I 13; 39; IV 359), also paṅgura or pālibhaddaka meaning ‘very auspicious (Ja IV 205), a medium-sized ornamental tree commonly cultivated in gardens in India. This tree has conical prickles on its trunk and branches, broad trifoliate leaves and beautiful bright red flowers. The flowers appear before the new leaves have grown. It was believed that coral trees grew in heaven (Ja I 202; V 281; 392) and it was the blossoms from these divine trees that fell from the sky just before the Buddha’s final Nirvana at Kusinārā (D II 137). There is also mention of a five-hued coral tree (Bv I.36).
Mandālaka. A type of aquatic plant (Ap 347; Ja VI 564).
Mayūra. Indian Peafowl, also called barihi, mora, sikhaṇḍī and nīlagīva, ‘the blue-necked one’, Pavo cristatus. A large ground bird with a distinctive crest and long tail. The male has a beautiful blue-green neck, breast and tail and chestnut brown wings. Peafowl congregate in small flocks, roost in trees at night and have loud ‘may-aw’ calls which can be heard over a long distance. The early morning cry of the ‘beautiful blue-necked and crested peacock’ would wake sleeping monks (Th 22). They are ‘fair-crested, fair-winged, with beautiful blue necks, fair-faced and have a beautiful song and a fine cry’ (Th 211). The colour of the peacock’s neck was compared with that of beryl (Ja I 207).
For centuries peacock flesh was considered a luxury food in India and a prerogative of kings and the wealthy. And in 257 BCE King Asoka announced that his royal kitchens would no longer serve meat although two peacocks and one deer would continue be slaughtered daily for the royal table. Perhaps connected with this to this, 14 years later he designated various animals as protected and not to be killed, but the peacock was not amongst them. Suśruta advised kings to eat various types of meat daily including peacock in order to maintain health and vigor.
Fly whisks were made out of peacock feathers (Vv-a 147) and Indian magicians have always used peacock feather fans as their wands. The Buddha compared lay people with the peacock and monks with the goose. The first is beautifully adorned but a clumsy flier, while the second is drab-coloured but can fly with ease (Sn 221). In the Bamboo Grove at Rājagaha, there was a place where people came to feed the peafowl. The peafowl often appears in the Jātaka stories and the Bodhisatta was reborn as a peacock on several occasions and once as a peahen (Ja II 33; III 126; IV 333).
Mayhaka. A bird described as eating the figs and uttering the cry ‘mayha mayha’ (Ja III 301). To the ancient Indians this cry sounded like ‘Mine! Mine!’ and consequently in popular imagination the bird was believed to be greedy. It is difficult to identify this bird but it might be the Yellow-Legged Green Pigeon, Treron phoenicoptera. This stout yellow, light-green and grey bird has a lilac patch on its shoulders and yellow stripes on its black wings. A gregarious bird, it is often found in large numbers in banyan and bodhi trees eating the figs. The famous ornithologist Salim Ali describes its call as a ‘pleasant, musical, mellow whistle up and down the scale, with a particular human quality’.
Marica. Black Pepper, Piper nigrum (Vin I 201). A branching climbing shrub producing long spike on which there are numerous small green round seeds which become black when dried. Pepper, either ground or whole, is used to flavour food and as a medicine (Vin I 201). In its ground form it causes sneezing (Ja I 456). Pepper only grows in south India and must have been imported into the north. See Pippala.
Maruvā. Bowstring Hemp, Sansevieria roxburghiana (Ja II 115; M I 429), a erect fleshy plant with tufted leaves. The plant yields a very strong fibre that was still being used to make bowstrings at the early 20th century.
Mallikā. See Sumanā.
Mahānīpa. The bodhi tree of the Buddha Sumedha (Bv II.51). It is the same as kadamba and nīpa.
Mahisa. Water Buffalo, Bubalus bubalis (A III 121; M I 42; S II 188), also mahīsa or mahiṃsa. A large slate-grey bovine with sparse hair on its hide and large spreading horns (Ja VI 507). The domestic variety is used to pull ploughs and carts and for its rich milk. The wild water buffalo, Bubalus arnee, sometimes called vanamahisa, ‘forest buffalo’ (Ja III 26; III 76), is larger and much more aggressive than the domestic variety and is now extinct in northern India. Buffalo fights were a popular form of entertainment (D I 6). According to the Jātakas, the Bodhisatta was once reborn as a wild buffalo (Ja II 385).
Mātuluṅga. Bitter Orange, Citrus aurantium, sometimes also mella or bella. A small thorny many-branched tree, the fruit of which is globose or oblate, with a thin green rind and a juicy flesh similar in taste to the sweet lime. The Jātaka says that the flesh of the wild orange is sweet but the skin is bitter (Ja III 319).
Māluvā. Camel’s Foot Creeper, Bauhinia vahlii (Dhp 162; S I 207). This evergreen creeper, the largest in the Indian forest, has soft porous wood, velvety rusty-coloured shoots, paired tendrils and a creamy-white flower. The leaves, which are sewn together to make plates, are downy beneath and have two rounded lobes on the end giving them the shape of a camel’s footprint and hence the plant’s English name. The big woody pods burst open in the summer heat. The seeds can be eaten and the strong rough fibre in the bark is used to make ropes.
Despite its usefulness, the camel’s foot creeper causes great damage to forest trees, twining around them, stunting their growth and sometimes killing them (Ja V 452). It is a fast-growing plant (Dhp 334) and its leaves are large enough to be used as plates (Ja V 389; S V 439) or even mats or covers to sit on (Ja V 205). A man described his lover as ‘clinging to me like a māluvā creeper’ (Ja V 215).
The Buddha said that passions spread the way the māluvā creeper spreads through the forest (Sn 272). On another occasion he used this plant in a parable in which he warned that although sense pleasures may give immediate satisfaction, they can cause problems later:
‘Imagine that in the last month of the summer the pod of a māluvā creeper bursts and a seed drop at the foot of a sal tree … Being fertile and not being swallowed by a peacock, eaten by an animal, destroyed by a forest fire, carried away by a forester or destroyed by termites, it was eventually watered by the rains, sprouts and put forth a soft downy shoot which wound around the sal tree. The god living in the sal tree thought “The touch of this māluvā creeper is pleasant.” But in time the creeper grew around the tree, made a canopy over it and draped a curtain all around it and broke its branches. And then the god of the sal tree thought “This is the coming danger. Because of this creeper I am now experiencing painful, racking, piercing feelings”.’ (M I 306).
Māsa. Black Gram, Vigna mungo (Ja V 37; Vin III 64) is similar to the Green Gram and probably shares a common ancestry with it. Someone who could not make clear distinctions was said to be ‘unable to tell mugga from māsa’ (Ja VI 355). The bean was also used as a unit of weight in ancient India and was called a māsa, equivalent to 0.59 grams.
Miga. A word used loosely for game animals, particularly deer, and especially for the Blackbuck, Antilope cervicapra, also sometimes eṇi, eṇeyyaka or eṇimiga. The male blackbuck has a black or dark brown back, with white patches around the eyes, a white chin and underside and long spiralling horns. The female, called hariṇa, is similar, only smaller and with a fawn-coloured back and no horns (Ja II 26).
Blackbuck are found in open grassland and light scrub and are now extinct in northern India and endangered elsewhere. A beautiful woman was described as being ‘doe-eyed’ (Ja V 215) and the Buddha said that those monks who followed his instructions lived happily, unruffled and ‘with a mind like a miga’ (M I 450). Forest-dwelling monks were often said to be like miga in that they were alert, harmless, wandered freely and retreated deeper into the forest when they encountered people (Ja I 390; Mil 212; Sn 39). Grazing blackbuck continually keep their ears erect and twitching in order to detect the slightest sound (Ja VI 559). Ascetics used blackbuck hides, ajina, as mats, made cloaks out of them (Sn 1027; Ja IV 387) or sometimes out of strips of the hides (A I 240; D I 167).
The Buddha proclaimed the Dhamma for the first time in a blackbuck reserve called Migadāya near Vārāṇasi and the pedestals of ancient Indian Buddha images depicting this event often include two blackbuck flanking a Dhamma wheel. One of the 32 special characteristics of a Mahāpurisa is that he has legs like an eṇi (D III 143).
A proverb said that a dishonest person is ‘as twisted as the horn of an issā’ (Ja V 425). This would seem to be referring to the male blackbuck’s distinctive spiralling horns and thus issā may be another name for the animal (Ja V 416). During the Islamic period and perhaps earlier, blackbuck were sometimes tamed and kept as pets and for their meat and milk. In the Milindapañha, the blackbuck is included in a list of domestic animals (Mil 267). See Eṇeyya.
Migamātukā. A type of animal, perhaps a deer (Ja I 388).
Mīḷhakā. Sometimes also miḷhakā or piḷhakā. A type of creature that feeds on faeces, probably an insect. The Buddha described this creature as being ‘a dung-eater, stuffed with dung, chock-full of dung’ (S II 228). See Gūthapāṇaka.
Mugga. Green Gram, Vigna radiata (D II 293; Ja I 429; M I 57; S I 150; II 139). A commonly cultivated plant which produces small green edible beans. Before his enlightenment, when he was practising austerities, the Buddha ate soup made from green gram (M I 245). It was said of someone who could not make clear distinctions that they ‘could not tell mugga from māsa’ (Ja VI 355). A gruel of sesame, rice and green gram was given as a medicine (Vin I 201).
Muggatiya. A type of plant (Ja VI 536). It was said to grow on the banks of rivers and ponds.
Mucalinda. The Freshwater Mangrove, Barringtonia acutangula (Ja V 405, VI 269; 536), also nicula. A moderately-sized tree with obovate leaves grey distinctly fissured bark and often with a short but thick trunk. When in flower masses of pink to red flowers hand down on pendulous racemes. The tree is commonly found growing near wetlands and on the banks of rivers and streams. The Buddha spent his third week at Uruvelā sitting at the foot of a mucalinda tree. While there a great rainstorm began and the dragon (nāga) Mucalinda sheltered him saying: ‘Let not cold or heat, the touch of flies or mosquitoes, wind or sun or creeping things disturb the Lord’ (Ud 10). On another occasion he stayed at Kimbilā which was on the bank of the Ganges, in a grove of these trees (A III 339; S IV 181).
Muñja1. Munj Sweetcane, Saccharum bengalense (D I 77). A large spiky tufted grass that commonly grows along the banks of rivers and tanks. It was used to make various articles including fetters for cows (M II 17; Sn 28; Th 27, Vin IV 39). The Buddha said that saṃsāra was as tangled and twisted as a rope made of muñja grass (A II 211). A girdle of muñja grass was tied around a Brahmin boy’s waist during his initiation into the Vedic tradition (Ja V 202). When Māra tried to talk Prince Siddhattha out of continuing his quest for enlightenment, the prince replied: ‘Look, I wear muñja grass’, meaning that he could not be deterred from his quest (Sn 440). Today, muñja grass is used to make mats, ropes and paper. See Sara.
Muñja2. A type of fish (Ja IV 70; VI 278).
Muttā. Pearl. These small round shiny silvery-white objects are sometimes found in the marine bivalve the Akoya Pearl Oyster, Pinctada fucata (Ja III 437; IV 120; VI 489). This mollusc is found all down the east coast of India. Pearls were used as jewellery, usually as strings (Ja VI 345), earrings or nets, and were one of the many precious things coming from the ocean along with gems, beryl, conchs, quartz, coral, gold and silver, rubies and emerald (Ud 54). A beautiful woman’s teeth were described as being like pearls (Ja V 203). One of the jobs of the royal assessor was to value the pearls the king wished to buy (Ja IV 137). A story about the theft of a queen’s pearl necklace by a monkey is one of the more popular Jātaka stories (Ja I 383). According to the Gaṇeśa Purāna, a Hindu text from about the 14th century, pearls were harvested in the waters off Sri Lanka, Kathiawar and Tamrilipti and must have been imported from these regions into northern India. See Saṅkhamuttā.
Mudayanti. Ajwain, Trachyspermum ammi, a slender plant with small leaves (Ja VI 536). The seeds are aromatic and are eaten for their pleasantly pungent taste.
Muddikā. Grapes, the small round fruit of the Grape Vine, usually either green or purple. The Buddha said the essence that the vine absorbs from the earth contributes to the grape’s sweetness (A I 32). The grape vine native to the Indian sub-continent is Indian Grape, Ampelocissus indica (Ja VI 529). Although grape vines would not grow well in the Middle Land some must have because the Buddha allowed monks to drink grape juice (Vin I 246). However, most grape wine and grapes, probably dried ones, were probably imported from what is now Afghanistan, then known as Kapiśī. The grapes of Kapiśī were renowned; the Arthaśāstra calls them Kapiśayanī drākshā. Another grape vine native to India is the Jungle Grape, Ampelocissus latifolia, the fruit of which can be eaten but more usually is used as a medicine. Vinegar, ambila, was made from sugar cane juice but sometimes from wine also (Ja II 448; V 465).
Mūlaka. Horse Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. sativus (Ja IV 88). An annual or biannual herb with bushy toothed leaves, a prominent root and a white or purple flower. The Indian radish is less developed than the European variety, its root being small, conical and white. Both the root and leaves are eaten either cooked or raw and an oil is extracted from the seeds. The Jātaka tells how a goblin (yakkha) ate a child ‘as if he were chomping on a radish bulb, and swallowed him down’ (Ja IV 491).
Mūsikā. House Mouse, Mus musculus, also called ākhu (Ja I 478). A small rodent varying in colour from brown to grey and with small ears and a tail usually longer than its body. Commonly found in homes, the mouse also lives in fields and scrub. The Buddha said that there are four types of mice; those that dig holes but do not live in them, those that live in holes that they have not dug, those that neither dig holes nor live in them and those that live in the holes they have dug (A II 107). Mice would sometimes frolic happily in barns (S I 170). Superstitious people believed that it was possible to foretell the future by examining holes chewed in cloth by mice (D I 8).
There are numerous species of field mice, dormice and bandicoots found in northern India and the word mūsikā may well have been used for some of these also. According to the Jātaka, the Bodhisatta was once reborn as a mouse (Ja I 460).
Mella. See Mātuluṅga.
Moca. A type of banana with seeds (Ja V 405; 406; 465). The fangs of the hounds of purgatory were said to be as big as the fruit of this tree (Ja IV 181). A drink was made from the fruit (Vin I 246). See Kadali.
Mora. See Mayūra.
Moragu. A kind of grass (Vin I 196).