Vaṃsa. See Veḷu.

Vakkala. See Rukkha.

Vakula. Bulletwood Tree, Mimusops elengi, also bakula (Ja V 420; VI 535). A medium-sized tree with leaves varying in shape from oblong to lanceolate and with star-shaped creamy white flowers and berries that turns yellow when ripe. Oil pressed from the seed is used in lamps and an extract from the flower is used in perfumes.

Vagguli. Bat, winged mammals of the order Chiroptera. There are over 100 species of bats in India but it is not possible to identify any particular species from the information given in the Tipiṭaka. Bats sometimes lived in the darker corners of rooms and their droppings caused an unpleasant smell requiring monks to put screens on their windows to keep them out (Vin II 148). One of the austerities practised by some ascetics was called ‘the bat practice’ which involved hanging upside down (Ja I 493; III 235; IV 299). The ancient Indians considered bats to be a type of bird.

Vaca. Sweet Flag, Acorus calamus (Vin I 200). The root of this plant has a fragrance reminiscent of violets and is used in confectionery, perfume and in medicine for its stimulant, cathartic and diuretic properties. Sweet flag does not grow in northern India and must have been imported, probably from Kashmir or Persia. The Buddha considered it to be the most fragrant of all roots (S III 156). The rhizome of sweet flag is chewed as a cure for colds and to alleviate asthma and is made into a tonic. The root is used as a vermifuge and for fever.

Vacattha. The root of a plant used as a medicine (Vin I 200).

Vajuḷa. Ashoka Tree, Saraca asoca (Ja V 420), also vañjula. A medium-sized tree with dark-green leaves and beautiful orange and scarlet flowers. The 19th century botanist Roxburgh said of this tree ‘… when in full bloom, I do not think the whole vegetable kingdom affords a more beautiful object’.

Vaṭarukkha. See Nigrodha.

Vaṭṭakā. A type of bird probably a quail or francolin. They were hunted with nets (Ja I 208) and taken home to be fattened up before being eaten (Ja I 434). Some male quails and francolin can be very pugnacious and setting them to fight each other was a popular entertainment (D I 6). See Kapiñjala and Lāpa.

Vanakāka. See Kāka.

Vanamahisa. See Mahisa.

Vantāda. See Kāka.

Varaka. See Kalāya.

Varaṇa. Crateva religiosa (Ja I 222; 317) also known as kareri (Ja VI 534). A small spreading tree which bears masses of beautiful white, yellow or sometimes pink flowers. There was a small residence in at Jetavana named after the tree, probably because one grew near it (D II 1; Ud 30). Mahākassapa said that whole earth was beautified by kareri blossoms (Th 1062).

Vararukkha. See Nigrodha.

Varāha. Wild boar (Dhp 325; Th 101). See Sūkara.

Valli. A general term for creepers, climbers and vines (Ja V 37; Vin III 144). See Lāta.

Vallibha. Uncertain, but perhaps Averrhoa bilimbi (Ja VI 536. A small attractive tree producing a yellowish, sharply five-angled fruit. The juice of this fruit is made into a refreshing fruit drink and also used to remove stains from clothes.

Vassikā. Sometimes also vassikī, a plant often identified as jasmine (Dhp 377). However whether this name is a synonym for sumanā or some other plant is not certain. The plant’s flowers were made into garlands (M I 32) and were considered the most fragrant of all flowers (A V 22). The Buddha said: ‘Of all fragrances, sandalwood, tagara, blue water lily or vassikī, the fragrance of virtue is the best’ (Dhp 55).

Vātaghata. A type of tree, sometimes also vātaghatāka (Ja V 407; IV 298). The name means ‘wind destroying’ and may refer to the tree’s ability, when taken as a medicine, to dispel bodily wind.

Vātamiga. A type of animal (Ja V 416; VI 538).

Vātiṅgaṇa. Egg Plant, Solanum melongena (Ja V 131). An erect plant with large elliptic leaves, prickles on the stem, branches and underside of the leaves and an elongated oval fruit which can be eaten. The fruit, either creamy-white, yellow or deep purple, can be very large in cultivated plants but is small in those growing wild. The egg plant probably originated in India.

Vānara. Hanuman Langur, also sometimes kapi or gonaṅgula (Th 113; 601) Semnophitecus entellus. This large primate has a silver-grey body with a white belly and a black face. With its long limbs and tail the langur moves through the trees or along the ground with a series of graceful bounds. Langurs have hands, feet and faces resembling those of humans (Ja III 73). The Buddha said that the distracted person ‘jumps from here to there like a langur searching for fruit in the forest’ (Dhp 334). Sometimes they were kept as pets (Ja II 184). The Jātaka describes a troop of langurs raiding a tiṇḍuka tree on the outskirts of a village (Ja II 76).

There is intense competition to become the dominant male and one that does will immediately try to kill all the young so that the females will come into oestrus and he can mate with them. This behaviour seems to have been noticed by the ancient Indians and is probably the basis of the Tayodhamma Jātaka (Ja I 280–82). In this story the dominant male of a troop of langurs castrates with his teeth all the infant males out of fear that they may grow up and replace him. In a story meant to illustrate the idea that greed can make one blind to one’s own benefit, a Jātaka tell of a langur who lets go of all the beans it had just to retrieve one that it had dropped (Ja II 74).

Vāyasa. See Kāka.

Vāraṇa. Uncertain but possibly Crateva religiosa (Ja VI 535). A moderately sized deciduous tree typically found growing along the river banks. It has grey bark, trifoliate leaves and pretty white or cream-coloured flowers.

Vārija. See Maccha.

Vārunika. A type of tree. Ascetics are described as eating the fruit and sometimes the flowers, leaves and shoots of this tree (Ja IV 8).

Vālaja. An aquatic creature, probably a fish (Ja IV 70; 278).

Vālamaccha. A type of fish (Ja III 345).

Vāḷa. Sometimes vāḷamiga, a term for dangerous animals (Ja VI 569; Vin I 113). It was used for lions, tigers, rhinoceros and gaurs (Ja VI 497).

Vāsantī. This name means ‘fragrant one’. This may be Hiptage benghalensis (Ja VI 537), a woody vine-like climbing shrub often cultivated for its fragrant pink to white flowers. These beautiful flowers have fluffy toothed-edges and grow in clusters. The seeds have three papery wings which allow them to be easily carried away by the wind.

Vighāsāda. ‘Eater of others’ remains’. This was perhaps a general term for scavengers such as vultures and hyenas, jackals, crows and dogs (Ja I 348; VI 538). Monks were allowed to eat the leftovers (vighāsa) of certain animals – e.g. tigers, lions, leopards, bears, wolves—after having arranged to have it cooked by a lay person (Vin III 58).

Vicchika. Scorpion, an insectivorous anthropoid of the order Scorpiones, of which there are about 40 species in India (A II 73; III 101). Ranging in colour from tawny-brown to blue-black, scorpions have two claws and a long segmented tail that can grow up to 20 cm long and with a sting on its tip. During the rainy season, when scorpions are driven out of their holes by the water, people are more likely to be stung by them. The sting is extremely painful and can occasionally even be fatal.

The Buddha mentioned the scorpion as an example of a creature that moves stealthily, especially when they sense human presence (A V 289). Knowing antidotes for scorpion stings was considered a special skill (D I 9). The Milindapañha says the scorpion’s tail is its weapon which it always keeps raised (Mil 394). We read that sandals were sometimes decorated with a design resembling a scorpion’s tail (Vin I 186).

Vitacchikā. Scabies, sometimes kacchū (Nidd II 304). Scabies is a skin infection caused by tiny mites of the genus Sarcoptes which burrow into the skin where they feed on blood. The mite’s excretion causes intense itching, especially at night. Scabies is highly infectious and was one of the afflictions that could attack the body along with dysentery, leprosy, eczema, boils, etc (A V 110). The Buddha mentioned jackals suffering from a condition called ukkaṇṇaka or according to another reading ukkaṇṭaka. If this first reading is correct to could have had something to do with the ears (S II 230). Ear mange in canines is caused by the Otodectes and Psoroptes species of mite. The damage done to the ear by these mites is compounded by the infected animal’s continual scratching.

If the correct reading is ukkaṇṭaka this would refer to �Sarcoptes scabiei canis and �Demodex canis, both of which infest jackals and other canines. The first lives in the hair follicles while the second burrow into the skin. As a result the infested animal’s skin becomes crusted and usually loses all or much of its fur and suffers constant intense itching.

Vibhītaka. Belleric Myrobalan, Terminalia bellirica, also vibhīṭaka. A large common forest tree with a tall trunk, broadly elliptic leaves clustered at the end of the branches and greenish-white or yellow flowers. Together with āmalaka and harītaka, the fruit is one of the triphala or ‘three fruits’ long credited in traditional Indian medicine with powerful medicinal properties (Ja VI 529; Vin I 201).

Vibhedika. A type of tree (Ja VI 529; 537).

Vilaṅga. False Black Pepper, Embelia ribes. A common climber with white flowers and deep-purple berries similar in size to peppercorns (Vin I 201). When dried the berries are used in traditional medicine for a wide range of complaints.

Vīhi. See Taṇḍula.

Veṇu. See Veḷu.

Vetasa. Sometimes also vetta. One or another of several climbing palms of the genus Calamus found growing in northern India (Ja V 167). These are slender palms armed with long spines and which climb by means of long flagella covered with hook-like prickles. A forest tract with these climbing palms growing in it is virtually impossible to walk without burning or cutting the palm. The Jātaka mention such a thicket (vettagahana) so entangled that even a snake could not penetrate it (Ja V 46). The cane or rattan produced from these palms was used to make stands, baskets, furniture and ropes, and a rod of cane was used to flog criminals (A I 47). Calamus guruba is considered to produce the best cane.

Vetta. See Vetasa.

Vedisa. A type of plant (Ja V 405; VI 550).

Veḷu. Bamboo, also called veṇu and vaṃsa, grasses of the genus Bambusa (Ja V 38; Sn 38). Ranging in height from small to very tall and growing in dense clumps, bamboos have hollow segmented tube-like stems and branches from which grow long spear-shaped leaves. Over 30 varieties grow in northern India. Bamboo is an economically important plant, its strong but light and flexible wood being used for a wide variety of purposes. Washing was hung on bamboo poles and needle cases were made out of bamboo tubes. It was also plaited and woven into baskets (Vin IV 6) and grown in lines to form hedges (Vin II 154). Bamboo very rarely flowers, but when it does it dies (Ja V 71; S II 241). Its shoots get tangled up with each other (Sn 38) and are hard and difficult to tread down (Th 72). Workers in bamboo were considered low caste (A II 85; III 385).

One of the Buddha’s favourite resorts in Rājagaha was the Bamboo Grove, a park offered to him by King Bimbisāra (Vin I 39). To this day dense thickets of the Thorny Bamboo, Bambusa bambos, grow around Rajgir, modern Rājagaha, and may be the type that was familiar to the Buddha.

The ancient Buddhists believed that having the flexibility of bamboo would be a virtue. One Jātaka story comments that to live successfully in the royal court it is wise to ‘bend like bamboo’ (Ja VI 295). Nāgasena said: ‘Bamboo does not bend any which way, but the way the wind blows. Likewise the monk, having followed the nine parts of the Buddha’s, the Lord’s teachings and being established in that which is good and blameless, should go the way of true asceticism’ (Mil 372). The popular trick where a man holds a bamboo pole erect and a child ascends it and balances on the top, was sometimes performed as an entertainment (S V 168). A segment of bamboo, called a nāḷi, was used as a measure of capacity (Ja IV 67; Vin I 249).

Vyaggha. Tiger, Panthera tigris (A III 101; D III 25; Dhp 295; Sn 416; Th 1113), sometimes byaggha. This large majestic feline has an orange coat patterned with black stripes, a banded tail and black ears. Tigers live in thick jungle and thorny shrub where they hunt mainly deer. The tiger is not mentioned in the Vedas and only occasionally in the four Nikāyas. Perhaps they became common in northern India only as lions died out. In one place, the tiger is described as being striped and is called ‘the king of the beasts’ a term usually used for the lion (Ja IV 345). We read of a man-eating tiger attacking travellers on the high road to Vārāṇasi (Ja I 357). The Buddha sometimes stayed with a clan of people known as Tiger’s Track, Vyagghapajjā (A II 194). Royal chariots were upholstered with leopard or tiger skins (Ja V 377; VI 503), a fact also mentioned by Pāṇini. In the Jātaka, there is a story about a boastful young magician who shows off his skill by bringing a dead tiger to life only to be eaten by it (Ja I 510).

Vyagghīnasa. A type of raptor (Ja VI 538; S I 148). This refers to the Shahin Falcon, Falco peregrinus peregrinator. About the size of a crow, this powerful falcon has a grey back and wings, a black head, white chin and a rufous breast marked with horizontal black bars reminiscent of a tiger’s stripes. The shahin falcon favours hilly areas and feeds mainly on other birds.


Saṃsādiyā. A type of inferior self-sown rice (Ja VI 530). According to the ancient commentary it was the same as pig rice. See Taṇḍula.

Sakuṇa. See Pakkhin.

Sakuṇagghi. The word literally means ‘bird killer’ and was probably a general term for hawks and falcons (Ja II 59; S V 146).

Sakula. Either the Great Snakehead, Channa marulius, or Striped or Common Snakehead, Channa striata (Ja V 405), both fish are similar in appearance except that the former is larger than the latter. Found in either fresh, or brackish water, these fish are dark brown with chevron-like markings and grows in the case of the first up to 120 cm and in the case of the second up to 90 cm long. The pectoral fin takes up about half the body. Their heads resembles that of a snake and hence its English name. Snakeheads eat worms, frogs and especially other fish, aggressively lunging at their prey and swallowing it whole. Snakeheads are the most popular food fish in northern India.

Saṅkha1. Conch, Turbinella pyrum also called kumbu. A marine mollusc with a particularly thick shell which can be polished to a brilliant white (Ja III 447; V 203; Thī 262), as white as milk (Ja VI 572). Conch shells were considered one of the many precious things found in the ocean along with pearls, gems, beryl, crystal, coral, gold and silver, ruby and emerald (Ud 54). During coronation ceremonies water from three conch shells was sprinkled on the monarch’s head (Ja II 409; IV 493). They were blown as trumpets and sometimes played together with different types of drums and other musical instruments (Ja IV 395; IV 464; V 332). According to the Jātaka, the Bodhisatta was once a conch blower (Ja I 284).

The sound of a conch carried far (D I 79; 251). The innermost spiral of the shell could be used as a tube (Vin I 203) and rings of conch were used as bracelets and anklets. Shells spiralling to the right, which are extremely rare, were considered particularly auspicious (Ja IV 350). To have three wrinkles on the neck like the lines of the spiral on a conch was considered a sign of beauty (Ja V 155; IV 130). A young woman was described as having limbs ‘as smooth as a conch shell’ (Ja V 204). Conch shells are burned and the resulting powder is used as a medicine. According to the Mahāvastu, some of the things made out of conch included armlets, vessels for holding oil, perfume and paint, lids, necklaces and girdles (Mvu II 473). The Buddha described the life of a sincere disciplined monk as being ‘perfectly clean, perfectly pure and polished like a conch shell’ (A V 204; D I 63). Conches were harvested mainly in the Palk Straits between the southern tip of India and Sri Lanka, from where they were imported to northern India.

Saṅkha2. A type of water plant sometimes mentioned together with sevāla and paṇaka (Vin III 177).

Saṅkhamuttā. Nacre or mother-of-pearl, the beautiful pearl-like inside of marine bivalve molluscs of the genus Pinctada (Ja V 380; Thī 278). Several species of this bivalve, particularly Pinctada margaritifera, are found down the east coast of India and are harvested for their shell and the pearls that are sometimes found in them. Mother-of-pearl was used to make jewellery. See Muttā.

Sajjulasa. See Jatu.

Satapatha. A type of bird (Ja II 153; Mil II 404).

Satapadi. Centipedes (A II 73). Like its English equivalent, the Pali name for these creature means ‘a hundred legs’. Centipedes are arthropods of the class Chilopoda the common ones in found in the Ganges and Yamuna plain being Scolopendra morsitans, S. subspines, S. indiae, S. amazonica, and S. occidentalis. They were one of the many creatures that forest-dwelling monks had to be careful of. A bite from a centipede could be extremely painful or even fatal (A III 100). The Buddha mentioned the centipede as an example of a creature that moves stealthily (A V 289).

Satapuppha. Indian Dill, Anethum sowa (Ja VI 537). A small plant closely resembling fennel and when in flower covered with beautiful white blossoms. An oil extracted from the seeds is given to children to treat flatulence.

Satavaṃsa. See Maccha.

Sattapatta. Woodpecker. See Koṭṭha2.

Sattapaṇṇa. Scholar’s Tree, Alstonia scholaris (Ja VI 269). An attractive medium to large-sized tree with small whitish-green flowers and is often grown for shade. It has a rosette of leaves at the end of the branches, the number of leaves in each rosette ranging from five to nine, but most commonly seven and hence the tree’s Pali name, ‘seven-leaf’, in Hindi saptaparni. According to the commentaries, the cave in Rājagaha where the First Buddhist Council was held, took its name from the scholars tree (Vin II 76). In the past, children’s writing boards were made from the wood of this tree which gave it its English name.

Sattali. A flower sometimes used to make garlands (Ja IV 440).

Saddala. See Tiṇa.

Saddūla. See Dīpi.

Sappa. Snake, also called aṇḍaja, ‘egg born’, ahi, āsīvisa, dijivhā, ‘two-tongued, nāga, pannāga, pādūdara, ‘whose belly is a foot’, bhogī, bhujaga, bhujaṅga, bhujaṅgama, mahoraga, and uraga (A III 97; Ja III 347; M I 130; Sn 1; 604; Th 429). Snakes were also sometimes known as maṇḍūka-bhakkha ‘frog-eaters’ (Ja III 16). It is uncertain whether all these words are synonyms or refer to different species of snakes. Snakes are legless, long-bodied reptiles of the suborder Serpentes. In Jain literature snakes are classified as either with or without a hood, while the Buddha classified them as either venomous and docile, non-venomous and aggressive, venomous and aggressive or non-venomous and docile (A II 110).

The ancient Indians made some attempt to identify sexual dimorphism in snakes. It was believed that the male’s tail was thicker than the female’s, their head was broad while the female’s was elongated, they had larger eyes and their head was rounded while the female’s was short (Ja VI 339). According to herpetologists, in most species females are of equivalent or larger size than males while the latter typically have longer tails than the former.

Snakes shed their skins (Sn 1), have forked tongues, long backs, crawl on their bellies (Sn 604) and are commonly found living in termite mounds (S IV 199). The reverence people had for snakes was mixed with fear and disgust (Vin I 219). The Tipiṭaka contains several accounts of people being bitten by snakes and dying (A II 70. Vin II 150; IV 166). People wore charms to protect themselves from and to cure snakebites (Ja IV 31). A doctor could give medicine against a snakebite or force the snake to suck the poison out of the wound (Ja I 310). One cure for a snakebite was a concoction of cow dung and urine, ash or clay (Vin I 206).

The Buddha said that one should be careful even of young snakes. ‘One should not dismiss the snake one might see in village or forest just because it is young. That snake, fierce, sliding along, with serpentine movements, may attack and bite the foolish man or woman. Therefore, protect your life and avoid that snake’ (S I 69). Not everyone tried to avoid snakes. We have an account of children tormenting a snake, probably a small one, with a stick (Ud 11). The Buddha described some species of snakes as being dirty and odorous, terrifying, dangerous and given to betraying their friends (A III 260). To catch snakes charmers would pin their heads down with a forked stick and then grasp them by the neck (M I 134). The Snake River, Sappinī, at Rājagaha was so named because of its winding serpentine course (A II 29). It was believed that some snakes were born in the Himalayas from where they migrated down the streams and rivers to the sea and then grew into sea monsters (S V 47). Several types of water snakes are mentioned (Ja II 238), in particular the alagadda which is described as being venomous (M I 133).

See Agārasappa, Ajakara, Udakasappa, Kaṇhasappa, Deḍḍubha, Silābhu and Silutta.

Samuddakappāsī. This name means sea cotton and may refer to Calotropis procera, called French Cotton or Sodom’s Apple Milkweed (Ja VI 537). A stout shrub or occasionally small tree often found growing around tidal lagoons or on poor salty soil. It has attractive purple and white flowers, fissured corky bark and all parts of it exude a white latex when cut or injured. This latex is widely used in traditional medicine. The rounded seed pods are full or air and pop when squeezed and the seeds are attached to a strong, white silky floss. This floss is used to make cloth and ropes and also as stuffing in pillows and mattresses.

Sambuka. See Sippī.

Sayaṃjātasālī. See Nīvāra.

Sara. Munj sweetcane, Saccharum benghalense (S IV 198). The Pali name means ‘arrow’ (D I 9). This tall grass grows in large tufts up to 5.4 metres high and is usually found along river banks although the Buddha mentioned thick forests of it and other grasses (D III 75, Mil 342), no doubt referring to the grasslands of the Terai region along the India-Nepal border. The stem of the flower is light, strong and straight and was used as the shafts for arrows. See Muñja1.

Sarabha. Sambar, Cervus unicolor, India’s largest and most common deer (Ja IV 267; VI 537). The sambar has a shaggy brown coat, large spreading antlers and favours deciduous forest and grassland scrub, near water if possible. When alarmed it makes a loud ‘donk donk’ call and when pursued by predators. The legs of thrones were made to look like the legs of the sambar (Ja III 342) and we read of these animals being annoyed by biting insects (Ja I 267; III 401). See Sāmāmiga.

Sarabhū The Indian Chameleon, Chamaeleo zeylanicus, also sometimes sarabu. Growing up to 350 millimetres long the Indian chameleon has a laterally compressed body, a conical casque on the top of its head and large eyes. Its skin is covered with granular scales and is normally green with yellow and black bands and spots but can change colour very quickly when the creature is excited. Indian peasants have a superstitious dread of chameleons, mistakenly believing them to be poisonous. When a monk died of a snakebite, the Buddha taught the others to chant some verses that would protect them from noxious creatures, including chameleons (A II 73).

Sarala. Long-leaved Pine, Pinus roxburghii (Ja V 420). A large tree with symmetrically whorled branches high on the trunk which form a rounded crown. The Buddha commented that the leaves of this tree are not suitable for making into containers to carry things in (S V 438).

Sarīsapa. See Siriṃsapa.

Salabha. A type of insect. The Udāna mentions that one evening as the Buddha sat in the open air he noticed swarms of these insects being attracted to the oil lamp and then falling into it (Ud 72). The same habit is said of this creature in Sanskrit literature. This suggests that the salabha is a moth. However, the word commentary on the Jātaka and numerous Sanskrit sources say that swarms of salabha sometimes destroy crops (Ja V 401) suggesting that locusts or grasshoppers are being referred to. During the monsoon in northern India swarms of small grasshoppers, crickets and beetles often join moths in buzzing around any light source. See Paṭanga.

Salaḷa. A type of fragrant-smelling tree (Bv XI.25; Ja I 13; V 420; S V 300). See Sallakī.

Sallaka. Indian Porcupine, Hystrix indica (Ja V 489). A large thickset rodent covered with long black and white striped quills, the porcupine lives in forests and tall grass where it digs burrows and feeds off fruit, tree bark and roots. They also sometimes raid crops. When threatened, the porcupine erects and then rattles its quills as a warning. The porcupine’s name is derived from salla, ‘arrow’, not because its quills resemble arrows but because of the widespread folk belief that it can shoot its quills. Porcupines are one of the animals mentioned in King Asoka’s 5th Pillar Edict as being protected.

Sallakī. Indian Frankincense, Boswellia serrata (Ja IV 92; VI 535), Hindi salag or salai. An attractive medium-sized tree with green, reddish or grey bark that peels off in thin flakes and small whitish flowers at the tip of the branches. The flowers only appear when the tree has lost all its leaves. The fragrant golden-coloured and translucent resin that oozes from the trunk has been used as an incense for thousands of years. The leaves of the Indian Frankincense are hung up in cow stalls to drive away flies. Real frankincense, which is produced in the southern Arabian Peninsular, was imported into India. It is not mentioned in the Tipiṭaka.

Savaṅka. See Maccha.

Sasa. Indian Hare, Lepus nigricollis, also called sasaka. This common animal has a reddish-brown coat with black hair mixed throughout and white under parts. Hares have long ears (Ja V 416) and when captured they tremble with fear (Dhp 342). To refer to something as a ‘hare’s horn’ meant that it was impossible or absurd (Ja III 477). To be ‘as small as a hare’s whisker’ was to be insubstantial (Ja IV 233). When the ancient Indians looked at the moon they saw not the face of a human but a hare and a Jātaka story tells how the image of this animal got there (Ja III 51–5; IV 86; VI 539).

Saha. A type of tree (Ja VI 269). The commentary and other sources identifies this tree as the same as sahakāra and says it is a type of fragrant mango

Sāka. Indian Teak, Tectona grandis, Hindi sagwan. A large tree growing up to 46 metres in height and with a straight often buttressed trunk, a spreading crown, large elliptic leaves and white flowers. The yellow to brown heartwood is easily worked, resistant to decay and retains its fragrance for years. The Indian teak is now rare in the wild but is often grown in plantations. There was a legend that the Sakyans, the tribe the Buddha came from, derived their name from this tree. The Buddha once related this legend to Ambaṭṭha:

‘In days of old, so say those who remember their family lineage… King Okkāka who loved his queen and wished to transfer the kingdom to his son by her, banished his earlier sons, Okkāmukha, Karaṇḍu, Hatthinīya and Sīnipura. Being thus banished, they settled at the foot of the Himalayan foothills beside a lotus pond where there was a sāka forest. Not wanting to degrade their lineage, they cohabited with their own sisters. King Okkāka asked his ministers and advisers: “Where are they living now?” and when they told him he said: “They are strong as sākas, they are real Sakyans!” and this is how the Sakyans got their well-known name.’ (D I 92–3)

Sākhāmiga. Branch animal, a term for monkeys (Ja II 73; V 416). However, as squirrels are often called sakha mrig in Hindi the term may have been used for them too.

Sāṇa. Sann Hemp, Crotalaria juncea (D II 350; M I 78). A small shrub with long leaves, velvety pods and a yellow flower. Sann hemp grows wild but is also cultivated for its strong fibres. Mahā Kassapa’s rag robe was made out of sann hemp (S II 202). Elephants would gather clumps of this plant in their trunks, take them into the water and thrash them about to get the dirt out of the roots before eating them (M I 375).

Sātaka. A type of bird (Ja VI 538).

Sāmalatā. A type of flowering creeper (Ja I 60).

Sāmā. A type of plant (Ja IV 92; V 405).

Sāmāka. Sawa Millet or Barnyard Millet, Echinochloa frumentacea, (A I 295; Ja I 500; IV 371; V 405; Sn 239). A variety of millet with a cream-coloured grain which is eaten and also used as fodder. A gruel consisting of sāmāka, nīvāra and the leaves of some other herbs was given as a cure for bloody dysentery (Ja III 144). See Kaṅgu.

Sāmamiga. This name means dark or black deer (Ja II 44). It is not clear whether this refers to a species of deer or a particular individual animal. However, the sambar ranges in colour from yellowish-brown to dark grey and is sometimes known in Hindi by the alternative name samar. See Sarabha.

Sāyana. Sometimes also sayanā, sāyanā or vāyaṇā. A type of tree. The Jātaka describes sāyana growing at the edge of the Mucalinda Lake (Ja VI 535).

Sāra. A type of tree that gives good timber (Ja III 318).

Sāla. Sal, Shorea robusta, and perhaps the same as assakaṇṇa because the long spatula-shaped sepals enclosing the flower resembles a horse’s ear (Ja II 161; VI 528). The sal is a majestic tree growing up to 45 metres in height and having a girth of 3.6 metres, with ovate oblong leaves and pale yellow flowers. The sal and its flower are often referred to in the Tipiṭaka (Th 948). It has dark green leaves, a straight trunk and is beautiful to see (Ja V 251). The huge sal trees that grew in the lower reaches of the Himalayas are described as having leaves and foliage, bark and shoots, softwood and heartwood (A I 152).

The Tipiṭaka describes how a man would make a boat out of a sal trunk. First he would locate a large tree in the forest and cut it down with his axe. After shaping the exterior and hollowing out the inside, he would then further shape it with a scraper and then smooth it with a rock ball. Finally, he would fix a rudder, make a pair of oars and then slide it down to the river (A II 201). The Buddha describes a man going to a sal forest near a village and cutting down the other trees and the crooked sal saplings so that the already well-established sal trees would grow bigger and straighter (M I 124). Sal trees were sometimes stunted by vines and creepers (Dhp 162; Ja V 452).

The Rukkhadhamma Jātaka uses the thickness of a sal forest to illustrate the advantages of unity. King Vessavaṇa asked all the tree gods to select for themselves a plant as their home. The Bodhisatta, who had been reborn as a tree god, advised his kinsmen to avoid trees that stood alone and select those that grew close to others. Some did as he advised, making their homes in a thick sal forest, but others moved into isolated trees growing near towns and villages thinking that they would receive a offerings humans made to such trees. One day a fierce storm swept over the country uprooting even the mightiest and most deeply rooted trees growing in the open. But the sal trees in the forest, supported by each other and with their branches interlaced withstood the storm (Ja I 328–29).

When the Buddha arrived in Kusinārā on his last tour and lay down between twin sal trees, yamakasālā, perhaps meaning that they grew so close together that they has partly merged into each other. They burst into flower out of season and sprinkled their petals over him.

When Ānanda expressed amazement that the very trees were revering him, the Buddha said: ‘Ānanda, these sal trees burst into flower out of season in homage to the Tathāgata and covered his body but the monk or the nun, the lay man or the lay woman who lives practising the Dhamma properly and perfectly fulfils the Dhamma, they honour, revere and respect the Tathāgata with the highest homage’ (D II 137–38). In the light of this story and the traditional belief that the Buddha passed away during Vesākha, it is interesting to note that the sal usually blossoms in March-April and occasionally in May.

The Buddha once said that his Dhamma was so convincing that if the great sal trees had consciousness and could comprehend, even they would benefit from it (A II 194). One moonlit night, Ānanda and Revata went to visit Sāriputta at the sal forest of Gosiṅga which was ‘delightful with all the trees in full bloom and with a heavenly fragrance wafting through the air’ (M I 212). Sometimes gruel was made from or flavoured with sal flowers or perhaps its seeds (A III 49). Even today the sal seeds are sometimes made into a gruel.

The sal was and continues to be even today an important source of timber in India. Oil distilled from the seeds is used for lamps and to make a type of butter and the resin which exudes naturally or is sometimes tapped is used as a medicine, to make incense and also a perfume called dammar in Hindi.

The past Buddha Vessabhū attained enlightenment under a sal tree (D II 4).

Sāli. See Taṇḍula.

Sāliya. Sometimes sāḷikā, or sāliyāya (Ja III 202; VI 421; 425). The Pali means ‘rice bird’ and refers to birds of the genus Gracula, usually called mynas in English. Mynas are from 25 to 30 cm long with glossy black plumage �and white wing patches which are obvious in flight. The bill and legs are bright yellow or orange, and there are yellow wattles on the head, their shape and position differing according to species. The myna referred to most often in both Pali and Sanskrit literature is probably the Common Hill Myna, Gracula religiosa which lives mainly in the hills that border the northern edge of the Ganges plain and feeds on fruit. It has a loud although not unpleasant warbling creaking song and is very good at imitating human speech (D III 202) which even today makes it a popular cage bird. Vaṅgīsa said that the Buddha’s voice was sweet like that of the myna (Th 1232), and Sāriputta’s voice was described similarly (S I 190). Teaching mynas and parakeets to speak is mentioned in the Kāma Sūtra as a pleasant pastime. According to the charming Tesakuṇa Jātaka, Ānanda was reborn as a myna and together with an owl and a parakeet, instructed a king on how to be a good and just ruler (Ja V 110 ff).

Sāliyavaka. See Taṇḍula.

Sāluka. See Sogandhika.

Seleyyaka. Possibly Lasura, Cordia myxa (Ap 346), a small tree with drooping branches and fragrant white flowers with a yellow centre. Common everywhere, the tree grows best in moist areas particularly along rivers and streams. The cherry-sized berry is light pink when ripe and is widely eaten and used in cooking. The unripe berry is pickled.

Sāsapa. Indian Mustard, Brassica juncea (A V 170; S II 137). A small annual shrub with a bright-yellow flower and numerous tiny round black seeds from which a pungent edible oil is extracted. Sores were sprinkled with mustard powder (Vin I 204). The Buddha said that craving will not persist in a good monk any more than a mustard seed will balance on the point of a needle (Dhp 401; Sn 625). See Rājikā and Siddhatthaka.

Sikhandi. See Mayūra.

Siṃsaka. A type of water plant (Ja VI 536).

Siṃsapā. North Indian Rosewood, Dalbergia sissoo. This large handsome deciduous tree has ovate leaves, their broader ends towards the base and about twice as long as broad. The flowers are small and yellowish. They are widely grown for their fine timber and along roads for shade or on common ground around villages. When in Āḷavī, the Buddha once stayed in the nearby siṃsapā grove where he slept on the leaf-strewn ground (A I 136). There was another such grove at Setavya (D II 316). Once, while staying in a siṃsapā grove near Kosambī, the Buddha gathered up a few leaves and asked the monks: ‘Which are more numerous, this handful of leaves or those on the trees above?’ ‘The leaves in your hand are few while more are the leaves on the trees’ replied the monks. Then the Buddha said: ‘Likewise, the things I have discovered but not taught are numerous while the things I have taught are few. And why did I not teach all these things? Because they are useless, irrelevant to living the holy life and do not lead to turning away, dispassion, cessation, peace, higher knowledge and Nirvana’ (S V 437–38). Today, the siṃsapā is one of India’s main timber trees.

Sigāla. Jackal, Canis aureus indicus, also bheraṇḍa, kotthu, kotthuka, kotthusuna, jambuka, and siṅgāla (Ja II 107; V 270). A medium-sized dog-like animal with a scraggy grey-brown coat, the jackal is both a scavenger and a predator. They could be seen sitting by rivers waiting for fish (M I 334) or prowling up and down the banks looking for prey such as tortoises (S IV 177). They would also eat frogs and mice around the threshing floors in harvested fields (D III 26) and enter cities at night through the sewers to scavenge in the garbage heaps (Ja III 415). Jackals were often seen in the company of lions and lived on the remains of their prey (D III 24). The yelp of the jackal cannot be compared with the roar of the lion (A I 187), rather, it was considered pathetic and comical. The Buddha mentioned an old jackal howling at night because it was afflicted by mange (S II 230). Jackals often feature in the Jātaka stories (e.g. Ja I 425; 460; 491; II 6; 354; III 113).

Siggu. See Sobhañjana.

Sigru. See Sobhañjana.

Siṅgāla. See Sigāla.

Siṅgila. Probably a name for one or another of the four species of ‘horned’ owls of the genus Bulbo found in northern India. According to the Jātakas, the Bodhisatta was once reborn as one of these birds (Ja III 73). See Kosika.

Siṅgivera. Ginger, Zingiber officinale (Vin IV 35). The Pali name means ‘horn-shaped’. Green ginger, i.e. before being dried was called allasiṅgivera (Ja III 225). Ginger is a slender herb growing from a stout nodular horizontal rhizome and has a red or crimson flower with a purple lip. The roots are fleshy golden-yellow with a tangy odour and taste and are used in medicine (Vin I 201) and in cooking (Ja III 225). The Jātaka describes a fowl being prepared for roasting with a paste of fresh ground ginger paste, white mustard, salt and cumin, then rolling it in sour buttermilk (Ja I 243). Today the pale-yellow oil extracted from it is used in perfumes and medicines. Xuanzang noted that monks at Nāḷandā began their meals with salted fresh ginger.

Siṅgu. The Stinging Catfish, Heteropneustes fossilis (Ja VI 537). The Pali name is derived from the word meaning ‘horn’ or ‘barb’ and refers to the large serrated barbs on the fishes’ pectoral and dorsal fins. These barbs can inflict serious injuries and are usually broken off as soon as the fish is caught. This catfish is commonly eaten.

Siṅghāṭaka. Water Chestnut, Trapa bispinosa (Ja VI 530). The roots of this annual aquatic plant grow in the mud while the leaves float on the surface of the water, often forming a thick mat on ponds and tanks. The large seed has long curved thorns on either end and a tough black skin which can be peeled off to expose a white, starchy and pleasant-tasting kernel. The water chestnut is very fast-growing and is commonly cultivated in village ponds. The Buddha said that if one were to put a water chestnut with the skin still on it in the mouth, it would lodge in the throat and one would be unable to swallow it down or cough it up (M I 393).

Sithilahanu. Asian Openbill Stork, Anastomus oscitans. This small stork is white or greyish with black wings and orange legs. The mandibles of the reddish-black bill are slightly arched, creating a gap between them and thus the Pali name meaning ‘slack-jawed’. The openbill stork is commonly found throughout India. Its feathers were used to make flights for arrows (M I 429).

Siddhatthaka. White Mustard, Brassica campestris (Ja III 225; VI 537). An erect stout herb with a blue-green flower and pods and that yields numerous small round reddish-brown seeds from which an oil is extracted. It was also used in cooking. We read of fowl being prepared for cooking with several ingredients including white mustard (Ja III 225).

A white mustard seed gets a mention in one of the most famous incident in the Buddha’s life. Once a young woman named Kisāgotamī lost her child and mad with grief she ran through the town pleading with people to give her medicine for her child. Eventually she came to the Buddha who gently told her to get a white mustard seed from a house in which no one had ever died. Thinking that this seed would miraculously revive her child she went from house to house asking for one. Everyone was willing to give her one of the tiny seeds but when she asked if anyone had ever died in the house she was always told that someone had. Slowly it dawned on Kisāgotamī that death is an inevitable part of life and her grief gave way to acceptance and understanding (Dhp-a II 273 ff).

In ancient India white mustard was widely used as an ingredient in medicines for children’s diseases. It was also a common component in rituals meant to protect children from malevolent influences. This suggests that the storyteller’s choice of a white mustard seed in the Kisāgotamī story was not random or incidental but was used to make the reader initially think that the Buddha was going to cure the child by conventional means.

Sinduvārita. Either a synonym for Vitex negundo or one of its very similar sub-species (Ja IV 440; VI 269). The Buddhacarita says that a bush called sinduvāra growing on the bank of a pool resembles ‘a fair woman reclining and clad in fine white cloth’ (Bc IV.49). See Nigguṇḍī.

Sippī. The shell of freshwater or marine mollusc sometimes also sippika, sambuka, sotti or sutti. These names seem to have been used loosely as are their Hindi equivalents sippa, sambuk and sukti. The Freshwater Mussel, Lamellidens marginalis (A III 395; D I 84; M II 22), is a bivalve commonly found in rivers, ponds and paddy fields throughout northern India. Its rounded elongated shells are dark-brown on the outside and pearly-white on the inside. The cuṇṇa often mentioned as an abrasive in the bath was probably made from ground shells. Sometimes it was perfumed (A I 208; Ja I 290; Vin I 47).

Another abrasive, samuddapheṇaka, may also have been made of shell or even of cuttlefish bone or perhaps pumice (Vin II 130). The Buddha said that if a man were to look into a pool of clear, still unstirred water he would be able to see mussel shells, pebbles and gravel (A I 9).

The shell of the cowrie, a marine mollusc of the family Cypraeoidea, was known in ancient India. Cowrie shells are humped with flattened bottoms. The opening of the shell has inrolled lips with tooth-like ridges on both sides. The underside is usually white, cream or yellow and the top is glossy and usually speckled. The shells used as money were probably cowries (Ja I 426). The human vagina was compared to the mouth of a shell (Ja V 197).

Simbali. Red Silk-cotton Tree, Bombax ceiba, (Ja III 398; IV 430; M III 185). A large prickly tree with silvery-white bark, finger-shaped leaves and large, fleshy, bright red flowers which appear when the tree is leafless. The pods contain seeds embedded in a silky wool and the gum that oozes from trunk is used to treat diarrhoea. We read of parakeets living in a grove of silk-cotton trees (Ja IV 277). An infernal variety of this tree called koṭisimbali was believed to grow in purgatory (Ja V 453). It had thorns sixteen finger-breadths long (Ja V 269) which no doubt inflicted suffering on the purgatorial beings.

Siriṃsapa. Creepy-crawlies, also sarīsapa, a term for reptiles and perhaps insects (A II 73; D II 57; M I 10; Sn 52). The Jātaka commentary says the term refers to elongated creatures, presumably snakes, lizards, centipedes and millipedes. See Kīṭa.

Sirinigguṇḍī. A type of tree, perhaps the same as nigguṇḍī (Ja VI 535).

Sirīsa. Albizia lebbeck, sometimes sirisa (Ja VI 535), a large attractive tree bearing sweet-smelling crimson flowers with distinctive long pedicels. The sirīsa is often grown along roads for shade and is most noticeable when leafless and covered with seed pods. These pods were said to break open similar to the way kiṃsuka pods do (S IV 193). The previous Buddha Kakusandha was enlightened under a sirīsa tree (D II 4).

Silābhu. A snake described in the commentary as ‘green leaf-coloured’ (nālapaṇṇavaṇṇa) and thus probably refers to the Vine Snake, Ahaetulla nasuta (Ja VI 194). This slender snake is bright green above, a lighter green below and has a distinctive pointed snout. Growing up to 1.8 metres in length it is usually found in trees and bushes where it feeds on birds, small mammals and lizards. When first caught the vine snake is very fierce but soon calms down and can be handled with ease. The vine snake is mildly poisonous, although its bite usually has no effect on humans.

Silutta. A snake described in the commentary as a ‘house snake’ and thus it may be the same as agārasappa (Ja VI 194).

Sīha. Asiatic Lion, also migābhibhū, ‘the lord of the beasts’ and migarāja, ‘the king of beasts’, Panthera leo persica (D III 23; Ja II 244; Sn 684). The Asiatic lion is a large, stately, tawny-coloured cat with a long tail with a tuft at the end. It differs slightly from its African cousin, being smaller and having a fringe of hair down its abdomen and in the males a less luxuriant mane. The lion’s preferred habitat is dry jungle and open grassland where it hunt deer and sometimes domestic cattle.

The Buddha said that of all animals the lion is the best in respect to strength, speed and courage (S V 227), and a bold, confident person was called a lion-like man or was said to be as fearless as a lion (Ja I 273; V 32). One speaking well and truthfully was said to be lion-voiced (Ja V 296). Lions were described as ‘five-pawed’ (pañcahattha), the mouth being the fifth ‘paw’ (Ja V 425). Being a noble creature, they always lie on their right sides, with one paw on the other and with their tails between their thighs (A II 245). The male lion emerges from its lair in the evening, stretches, looks around, roars three times and then goes in search of prey (A II 33). When other animals hear the lion’s roar they are frightened: ‘Those who live in burrows descend into them, aquatic animals take to the water, forest dwellers make for the forest and birds take to the air’ (A II 33). When the lion strikes at its prey, whether it be an elephant, buffalo, ox, leopard, hare or cat, it does so with great skill (A III 121).

In one place we read of monks finding and eating the remains of a lion’s prey (Vin III 57) and of the possibility of monks being attacked and killed by lions.

A preparation called lion oil was considered very valuable, but it is uncertain whether it was given this name because of its supposed potency or because it was actually made from lion tallow (Ja I 98). There was a market for lion’s hides, claws, teeth and fat (Ja I 388; III 151; Vin I 192).

Sīha (Sanskrit Siṃgha) has long been a popular name in India. One of the Buddha’s disciples, a general, was named Sīha (A III 38) as were several monks (D I 151; Th 83). The Buddha himself said: ‘Lion, monks, is a name for the Tathāgata, the Arahat, the Fully Enlightened One’ (A III 122). When the Buddha lay down to rest or to sleep, he always did so in the ‘lion posture’, i.e. on his right side, with one foot on the other, mindful and fully aware (S I 27; 107). His bold and confident claim to be enlightened was called his ‘lion’s roar’ (A II 9). Two of the 32 special characteristics of the Mahāpurisa are that the front of his body is like that of the lion and his jaw like a lion’s (D II 18). Lions often feature in the Jātakas where they are depicted as either noble or fearsome creatures, but also sometimes as foolish or mean-spirited.

Even in the middle of the 19th century Asiatic lions were still found in the less populated parts of the Middle East and northern India but today the last 300 or so are restricted to the Gir Forest in Gujarat. See Kālasīha and Kesarī.

Suṃsumāra. See Kumbhīla.

Suka. Parakeet, sometimes also suva, (Ja I 324). Three species of parakeets live in northern India, the most common being the Rose-ringed Parakeet, Psittacula krameri. This beautiful bird has bright green plumage (Ja VI 415), a red patch on its wing and a pink band on the back of its neck turning black towards the front. It also has a red beak, as do several other Indian parakeets (Ja III 492; IV 434). Flocks of these lively, noisy birds descend on crops and orchards where they do great damage. We have a description of a field watcher in Magadha frantically running around trying to scare off a flock of parakeets that was eating the ripening rice (Ja IV 277). They would eat udumbara figs and when these were finished they would eat the buds, young leaves, bark and shoots (aṅkuro pattaṃ taco papatikā, Ja III 491). People kept parakeets as pets and fed them parched grain and honey (Ja III 97). According to the Jātaka, the Bodhisatta was sometimes reborn as a parakeet (Ja II 132; 292; III 97; 491). See Cirīṭa.

Suṇa. See Soṇa.

Sunakha. See Soṇa.

Supāṇa. See Soṇa.

Sumanā. The name jasmine is used loosely for a wide variety of sometimes unrelated plants that produce small white star-shaped flowers with a particularly fragrant perfume. Most plants popularly called jasmine are of the family Oleaceae, genus Jasminum. The Pali names jātisumanā (Ja V 420), mallikā (Dhp 54), sumanā (Ja I 62; VI 537), vassikā, vassikī and yūthikā are usually translated as jasmine. There at least a dozen plants of the genus Jasminum that grow in northern India, common ones being Jasminum sambac, J. scandens, J. arborescens, J. strictum, J. caudatum and J. flexile. All these plants are low shrubs with woody stems that have a tendency to climb and have small, simple or pinnate leaves. They all produce small, usually white but sometimes pink or yellow flowers. All grow wild although several are also cultivated. In the case of J. sambac, J. flexile and J. auriculatum, an essential oil is extracted from the flower and is used in incense and perfume. The mallikā was considered the most fragrant of all flowers (S III 156). There is a reference to cloth with a sumanā and mallikā flower pattern printed or embroidered on it (Ja I 62) and the Buddha asked his disciples to imitate the vassikā: ‘Just as the jasmine sheds its withered flowers, so you, oh monks, should shed desire and hatred’ (Dhp 377).

Suriyavalli. A type of creeper (Ja VI 536).

Sulasī. See Tulasi.

Suva. See Suka.

Suvāṇa. See Soṇa.

Susu. A shortened form of susukā and or susumāra. All three terms were probably used loosely and interchangeably for at least five different aquatic animals living in the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries.

The Ganges Dolphin, Platanista gangetica (Ja VI 537). This large cetacean varies in colour from slate-blue to muddy brown and has a long thin beak bearing a row of sharp interlocking teeth. The mouth curves upward at the end making it look as if the animal is smiling. Dolphins were hunted for their flesh and the oil rendered from their fat was used as a medicine. The Ganges dolphin is now critically endangered.

The Ganges Shark, Glyphis gangeticus, has a rounded head, small eyes and ranges in colour from grey to greyish-brown. Although it only eats fish and carrion, its size and appearance may have led to the belief that it was dangerous to humans (M I 460). The Ganges shark is now critically endangered.

The Bull Shark, Carcharhinus leucas, definitely attacks humans and although mainly a marine creature, it has been seen up the Ganges as far as Patna. Susukā tallow was used as medicine (Vin I 200).

Susumāra, together with kumbhīla and gaha were probably used for crocodiles. Marsh Crocodile, Crocodylus palustris, a variation being suṃsumāra (M I 459; Thī 241). A large amphibious reptile growing up to 5 metres long that used to live in all the rivers of northern India but is now confined to a few game parks. They were considered one of the perils of going down into the water (A II 123) and were sometimes put in the moats around cities and fortresses (Ja VI 407). We read of a crocodile being harpooned because it was eating fish (Ja II 227). It was noticed that they sometimes swallow pebbles and grit (Mil 67). To ‘see a crocodile in a drop of water’ was a proverb for imagining danger where there was none (Ja I 216). Another proverb with the same meaning was to ‘see a crocodile in a water pot’ (Ja IV 165). When visiting Bhesakalā, the Buddha used to stay at a place called Crocodile Hill (A II 59). Crocodiles appear in several Jātaka stories where they are usually depicted as crafty dangerous creatures (Ja I 278; II 158; III 133).

The other species of crocodile native to northern India is the Gharial, Gavialis gangeticus (S IV 157). The Pali name means ‘one that seizes’. This species of crocodile differs from the better-known varieties by having a very long narrow snout often with a large fleshy nodule on the end. Gharials live in major rivers but also in small streams and ponds where they eat almost exclusively fish. Although fierce-looking and sometimes growing up to 7 metres long, gharials never attack humans unless provoked. The Buddha said that a man seeing a pleasant-looking river might go for a swim and allow himself to be carried along with the current. Seeing this, a more perceptive bystander might warn the swimmer of the presence of undercurrents, rapids, gharials and demons (It 57; 114). The gharial is now rare in northern India and confined to a few nature reserves. See Makara.

Susukā. See Susu.

Susumāra. See Susu.

Sūkara. Pig, Sus scrofa (Ja I 197), also called varāha. Whether wild or domesticated, pigs are a stout, cloven-hoofed mammals of the order Suidae. The Indian pig is usually small, dark-grey and covered with bristles. Today they are rarely eaten but are kept to eat rubbish and human faeces around villages (M III 168).

In his last meal before he passed away, the Buddha ate a dish called sūkaramaddava, ‘pig’s delight’, although it is not known whether this contained pork (D II 127). Whatever it was, sūkaramaddava served with badara fruit was considered a sumptuous dish (A III 49). The Buddha once compared the indolent person to a pig: ‘When one is lazy and gluttonous, snoozing and rolling around on the bed like a great pig, he will be reborn again and again’ (Dhp 325).

The wild pig, is larger, more hairy and more aggressive than its domestic cousin and males have a thick black manes. Wild pigs live in jungles and grasslands and are omnivorous. Both the domestic and the wild pig are occasionally mentioned in the Jātaka and once the Bodhisatta was reborn as a pig (Ja III 286).

Sūkarasāli. See Taṇḍula.

Sūcimukha. See Makasa.

Sūpeyyasāka. A general name for edible vegetable (Ja IV 445).

Sekadhārī. Ziziphus rugosa (Ja VI 536). A large shrub with long large elliptic leaves and large greenish-yellow flowers. The white fleshy fruit is palatable and is used as a medicine for ulcers in the mouth.

Setakkhikūṭa, also setacchikūṭa‏. This name means ‘white eye socket’ and refers to the Oriental White-eye, Zosterrops palpebrosus (Ja VI 539). About the size of a sparrow this bird has a greenish yellow back and wings, a yellow breast and a pointed slightly curved bill. It gets its Pali and English names from the conspicuous white rings around the eyes. It is usually seen in flocks from five to about twenty busily hunting for insects in the foliage of bushes and trees.

Setageru. A flowering tree or shrub (Ja VI 535).

Setaccha. A type of plant (Ja VI 535, 539).

Setaṭṭika. A disease that attacked rice (A IV 279) and one of the six crop afflictions (Ja V 401).

It is not clear whether this disease was caused by an insect or a fungal or viral pathogen. The commentary says it was caused by an insect boring into the stem, thereby depriving the head of sap. If this is correct, setaṭṭhika could well refer to the larvas of the several moths of the Crambidae family, called stem borers. The caterpillars of these small pale-brown moths bore into the stalk of young rice plants and feeds on the inner pith, seriously retarding the plant’s growth.

If setaṭṭhika is a fungal or viral disease it may have been something akin to Xanthomonas oryzae. This bacterial blight causes the wilting of seedlings and a yellowing and dying of the leaves of rice plants. When the disease first strikes the plant the leaves exude small milky white droplets.

Setapaṇṇi. Polygonum lanigerum, a small many-branched herb. The stems are covered with a white woolly tomentum, the lance-shaped leaves are white beneath and also covered with tomentum and the small flowers are white. The Pali name for this plant means ‘white leaf’ (Ja VI 535).

Setapārisa. Uncertain but possibly Thespesia populneoides, also setavārisa (Ja VI 535), a small tree with heart-shaped leaves and flowers usually white or yellow fading to pink or purplish. It is grown mainly for its attractively grained wood which is strong and takes a high polish. Several parts of the tree are used in traditional medicine.

Setapuppha. A type of tree or shrub (Ja V 422; VI 537). The name means ‘white flower’.

Setavārī. Uncertain but perhaps Asparagus, Asparagus racemosus (Ja VI 536; Ap II 347). This slender perennial has a woody prickly shoots which can be eaten and a fragrant white flower. The commentaries say it has an edible root. Wild asparagus is very common in the forests of southern Bihar.

Setahaṃsa. A type of water bird (Ja I 418; V 356). The name means ‘white goose’ or ‘white duck’.

Sena. See Kulala.

Sepaṇṇi. A tree, the fruit of which spotted deer would eat (Ja I 173). The name means ‘having lucky leaves’. It is possibly a synonym for kāsmarī.

Semhāra. A type of animal, the sinews of which were used in making arrows, probably to bind the arrow head or flight (M I 429).

Sereyyaka. Barleria cristata (Ja III 253). A erect shrub with a bright violet-coloured or sometimes white flower borne in great profusion.

Sevāla. Submerged aquatic plants of the genus Blyxa, of which several species are found in northern India, most known as sewa in Hindi. Growing in still or gently moving water, these plants spread by runners and have long narrow leaves with rounded tips and raised veins. The delicate white flowers grow on the surface. Sevāla is described as growing on or over rocks (Th 1070) and floating on the surface of the water (A III 187). Geese fed on it (Ja III 520; IV 71) and birds could get entangled in it (Ja II 149–50). A sect of Brahmins from the western India who advocated various purification rituals wore wreaths of sevāla (A V 263).

The name sevāla must have been also used loosely for a number of aquatic plants as there is a comment of it being eaten by sea monsters (Ja V 462). Sevāla is sometimes mentioned together with paṇaka and saṅkha (Vin III 177).

Sogandhika. White Water Lily, Nymphaea lotus (Ja V 37; 419; VI 518), sometimes kallahāra. This aquatic plant has rounded leaves that float on the surface of the water and a flower with spear-shaped pink, yellow but usually white petals and bright yellow stamens. The Tipiṭaka mentions a drink made out of sāluka which the commentary says is the root of water lilies and lotuses (Ja I 563; Vin I 246). The Bengali name for this plant when pink is saluka. For reasons which are not clear, one of the purgatorial realms was named after this plant (A V 173; S I 152). Water lilies are often mistakenly called and confused with the lotus. See Uppala.

Soṇa1. Indian Trumpet Flower, Oroxylum indicum (Bv IX.22; X.24). A small tree with few branches, long board leaves and a large fleshy purple coloured flower. The inner pulp of the large grey-coloured pods can be eaten and the seeds are used in traditional medicine. The previous Buddhas Paduma and Nārada were enlightened under one of these trees.

Soṇa2. Domestic Dog, Canis lupus familiaris, also called bhobhukka ‘bow wow-maker’, kukkura, suṇa, sunakha, supāṇa and suvāṇa. The great diversity in dog breeds is almost entirely due to artificial and selective breeding. With a minimum of human interference dogs are muscular animals with a broad chests, relatively long legs and strong blunt claws. In ancient India dogs were sometimes kept for hunting (Ja IV 437; V 289), but more commonly to warn of the presence of strangers and to eat household scraps. There are occasional references to thoroughbred (koleyyaka) dogs (Ja I 175; IV 437), but they were generally considered dirty, loathsome creatures and were rarely kept as pets. They were left to wander through the streets scavenging at the rubbish heaps and eating faeces and the corpses dumped in charnel grounds (A III 324). Dogs are mentioned together with chickens, pigs and jackals as animals that eat dung (M III 168). Unwanted babies were sometimes left out for the jackals and dogs to eat (Thī 303). Brahmins would cover the food they were eating with a leaf if a dog stood near to prevent it being rendered impure by the animal’s presence (Ja V 389). The Buddha said that one of the several unpleasant features of Madhurā, the modern Mathura, was the many fierce dogs in the streets (A III 256).

We read that when a group of Licchavī youths roaming around in the forest with their weapons and hunting saw the Buddha, they put down their bows and called their dogs to heel (A III 75). One of the austerities practised by some ascetics was to behave like a dog; going naked, licking their hands after eating and curling up on the ground to sleep (D III 6, M I 387). Some ascetics would refuse to accept alms if a dog was standing nearby or flies were swarming, probably so as not to deprive them of food (A I 295). In one of his most severe criticisms of Brahmins, the Buddha compared them unfavourably with dogs (A III 221). Outcastes used to eat, or at least were said to eat, dogs (Thī 509, ).

The various Pali names for the domestic dog were probably also used for the Asiatic Wild Dog, Cuon alpines. This animal is a reddish brown forest-living canine with shorter legs and a more bushy tail than the domestic dog. Wild dogs hunt in packs and communicate with each other by a whistling sound. The Asiatic wild dog is now extinct in northern India and increasingly rare in other parts of the sub-continent. According to the Jātakas, the Bodhisatta was once reborn as a dog (Ja I 175).

Sobhañjana. Drumstick Tree or Horse Radish Tree, Moringa oleifera (Ja V 405; VI 535), sometimes also sobhañjanaka or siggu. A small tree with grey cork-like bark, small elliptic or ovate leaves, long snake-like pods and white flowers. The leaves, flowers and fruit can all be eaten, the root, which smells and tastes like horse radish, is also eaten and an oil extracted from the seeds is used in perfumes. A woman was described as being as slender as a siggu shoot (Ja III 161).

Soma. The Vedas mention a plant called soma from which juice was extracted, mixed with ghee and flour, left to ferment and then drunk during religious ceremonies to produce an inebriating effect. The soma sacrifice was an integral part of Vedic religion and was still being performed at the Buddha’s time, although the drink itself may no longer have been consumed (Ja IV 365; VI 199).

There has been a great deal of discussion about the identity of the soma plant but there are two plausible candidates. The first is Syrian Rue, Peganum harmala. This perennial woody herb has bright-green leaves about 5 cm. long and finely divided into long narrow segments, and an attractive white flower with five oblong-elliptic petals. The leathery seed capsules have three compartments, each containing about 50 dark-brown angular seeds. The seeds and roots have medicinal and hallucinogenic properties and also yield a red dye. Syrian rue is found in the western and central part of the Ganges plain and grows best in semi-barren areas.

Another possible candidate for soma is the Moon Plant, Sarcostemma acidum. This is a leafless jointed shrub with fleshy green straggling branches and fragrant white waxy flowers. It grows upright but often trails over shrubs, stumps or rocks. When cut or bruised the branches exude a milky latex which is used in traditional medicine. Extremely potent, the latex is known by village people as tiger’s milk. The plant grows throughout India usually in dry or rocky places.

According to the Jātaka, in two of his former lives the Bodhisatta became so fond of pressing and drinking soma and of offering it to the gods that he came to be known as Sutasoma (Ja V 177; 457).

Somarukkha. A type of tree (Ja VI 530). The Jātaka commentary identifies it with Cassia fistula.


Haṃsa. A term for geese and ducks in general and for the Bar-headed Goose, Anser indicus, in particular. It was sometimes also called rājahaṃsa, and in Hindi hans or raj hans (Ja III 208; V 356).

About the size of the domestic goose, this beautiful bird has grey, brown and white plumage with a white head and neck marked by two distinctive black bands. The bird’s gentle musical ‘aang aang aang’ call is often praised in ancient Indian literature. The famous ornithologist Salim Ali describes it as ‘one of the most unforgettable and exhilarating sounds’ to be heard in nature. Vaṅgīsa addressed the Buddha saying: ‘Quickly send forth your melodious voice, oh Beautiful One. Like geese stretching out their necks, honk gently with your soft well-modulated voice’ (Sn 350).

Bar-headed geese are often seen during the winter feeding in swamps and fields, and then in mid-March they fly off to nest in Tibet. To the Buddha this migratory behaviour was suggestive of detachment: ‘Mindful people exert themselves. They are not attached to any home. Like geese that quit their lakes, they leave one abode after another behind’ (Dhp 91); ‘Geese fly the path to the sun, sages fly by their psychic powers. Having defeated Māra and his army the wise are led away from the world’ (Dhp 175). Piṅgiya used the geese’s arrival back in northern India in October as a metaphor for the coming of something wonderful: ‘Just as a bird might leave a small wood to dwell in a forest full of fruit, so do I, having left narrow-minded teachers, come to He of Wide Vision, like a goose arriving at a great lake (Sn 1134).

One of the most beautiful legends in the whole of the Buddhist tra-dition comes from the Buddhacarita-saṃgraha [1] and concerns a Bar-headed goose.

Once, while walking through the palace garden, Prince Siddhārtha saw a goose fall from the sky with an arrow lodged in its wing. He gently nestled the bird in his lap, extracted the arrow and anointed the wound with oil and honey. Soon afterwards, Devadatta sent a message to the palace saying that he had shot the bird and demanding that it be returned to him. Siddhārtha replied to the message by saying ‘If the goose was dead I would return it forthwith. But as it is still alive you have no right to it.’ Devadatta sent a second message arguing that it was his skill that had downed the goose and as such it belonged to him. Again Siddhārtha refused to give his cousin the bird and asked that an assembly of wise men be called to settle the dispute. This was done and after discussing the matter for some time the most senior of the wise men gave his opinion, saying ‘The living belongs to he who cherishes and preserves life, not to he who tries to destroy life’. The assembly agreed with this and Prince Siddhārtha was allowed to keep the goose.

According to the Jātaka, the Bodhisatta was sometimes reborn as a Bar-headed goose (Ja III 208; IV 246, 423).

Haṭa. Pistia stratiotes (D I 166). A floating stemless water plant looking something like a small cabbage and which grows in still waters. Some ascetics used to eat this plant (A I 241). Before his enlightenment, the Buddha ate it as a part of his austerities (M I 78).

Hatthi. Asian Elephant, Elephas maximus, also called vāraṇa, while large impressively tusked males were called danta, gaja, kāhīti, kuñjara, mahāvarāha or nāga (Ja IV 494; VI 497; Vin II 201). Females were called kaṇerukā (Ja VI 497; M I 178) or kareṇukā (Ja II 343) and a female with protruding tusks was called kaḷārikā (M I 178).

An elephant that had reached 60 years was called saṭṭhihāyana (M I 229) and those with pink spotted foreheads, a sign of age, were called padumin (D I 75; Sn 53). Calves were known as hatthikalabha, kaṇeru or susanāga (A IV 435; D II 254). There is an occasional mention of black elephants (kālavāraṇa) although whether this was a recognized type or just the occasional dark-coloured animal is not certain (Ja III 113; IV 137). Several other types of elephants are mentioned, such as the mātanga but it is not clear what distinguished them from others (Dhp 330; Ja V 416; M I 178).

The Pali, Bengali and Hindi word hatthi means ‘one with a hand’ and refers to the dexterous way elephants use their trunks.

Slightly smaller than its African cousin, the Asian elephant has grey wrinkled skin, a long trunk, a two-domed head and drooping ears. They can grow up to 3 metres at the shoulders and weigh as much as 5 tons. Asian elephants prefer thick or light jungle and eat the leaves, bark and fruit of trees, grass and aquatic vegetation. They will also raid fields and orchards. In his famous parable of the blind men and the elephant the Buddha described the elephant’s ears as being like a winnowing basket, its tusks (danta or hatthidanta) like plough poles, the body like a granary, the legs like pillars, the tail is like a pestle and the tuft of the tail like a broom (Ud 68–9). The frontal lobes of the elephant’s head were called ‘pots’ (kumbha). Temporin, the odorous tar-like secretion that oozes from the males during musth (Dhp 324), and the musth itself is called mada in Sanskrit.

The ancient Indians revered the elephant for its strength, nobility and intelligence and the creatures are mentioned in the Tipiṭaka more than any other animal. Elephants lived in certain forests (M III 132), probably because they offered better shelter, food and water than other places. Males were believed to avoid the cows and their calves so that they would not be bothered by them or have to eat the leaves and grass that they had already cropped or drink the water they had muddied (A IV 435). It was noticed that elephants have very particular behaviour; when they charge they spread their ears and make their tails erect (Vin II 195), they sniff the dung of other elephants (A III 157) and they dislike heat (D II 266). Males regularly go into musth when temporin flows from their ears and they become aggressive and unruly so that their mahouts have to hold them in check (Dhp 326). At such times they may kill people or even knock down dwellings (Ja IV 494). Elephants enjoy swimming and they amuse themselves by squirting water into their ears and over their backs (A V 202). They pull up lotus stalks, wash them to get the mud off and then eat them (S II 269). A bull-elephant might be seven or eight ratanas high (A V 202) and some could live for 60 years or more (M I 229).

Elephants were tamed in India at least 1,500 years before the Buddha’s time. Trackers skilled in reading the marks left by them; footprints, the scrapings of their tusks on trees, broken foliage, etc., were employed to find the animals (M I 178). Tamed elephants would be used to capture the wild ones (M III 132). Once caught, the trainer had to subdue the creature’s forest habits, memories and behaviour, subdue its distress, fret and fever over missing the forest, and get it used to towns and people. The tamer used gentle, kind words and the elephant would gradually respond and begin eating again. Then the trainer would teach the elephant commands such as ‘Take up!’ ‘Put down!’ ‘Go forward!’ ‘Go back!’ ‘Get up!’ ‘Sit down!’ After that, it would be taught what was called ‘endurance’; a plank was tied to its trunk, a man would sit on its back and then it would be surrounded by other men who would poke it with poles and spears and make a great racket while the trainer would command it not to move (M III 132–33).

To mount a trained elephant the mahout would take his hook and say: ‘Give me your foot’ and the elephant would bend its knee so the mahout climbs on its back (Thī 49). A trainer might demonstrate his mastery of over his elephant by getting it to stand on two legs (Ja II 445). When tamed elephants heard the roar of the lion they would strain at and break the leather bonds that held them, defecate, panic and run around (A II 33). Because of their value, there were veterinarians (hatthivejja) specializing in elephant health (Ja I 485).

Ivory was a much-prized product. Bracelets, boxes for eye-salve, caskets, ornament boxes in fantastic shapes, vases and anklets were made out of it. There is mention of a mirror handle being made out of ivory (Ja V 302). Ivory taken from an elephant that was alive was considered superior to that taken from a dead one (Ja I 321). There was a bazaar of ivory workers in Vārāṇasi (Ja I 320). A type of curved wall peg was called ‘elephant tusk’ (Vin II 113) and one way of wearing the monks’ under robe was to role it up at the front rather than fold it, a style known as ‘the elephant’s trunk’ (Vin II 137). Being crushed by an elephant was a form of capital punishment (Ja I 200). Pillars in buildings were sometimes made to resemble elephants feet (Vin II 169).

Trained elephants were used for work, transportation, in warfare and to enhance royal glory. The elephant brigade was one of the four traditional branches of the army, the others being cavalry, chariots and infantry (D I 137; Ja IV 494). In battle, elephants would take great care to protect their softest and most vulnerable part, their trunk (M I 415). A large tusked elephant was an essential possession for a monarch. King Ajātasattu rode his royal tusker from Rājagaha to meet the Buddha at Jīvaka’s Mango Grove (D I 49). Once, the Buddha and Ānanda were bathing in the river at Sāvatthī when Seta, King Pasenadi’s elephant, arrived to the accompaniment of music. Soon an admiring crowd had gathered to watch, commenting: ‘What a beauty! What a sight! What a delight for the eye! What a body! Now that really is an elephant!’ (A III 345). An elephant fit to be a royal mount in war had to have four qualities; it had to respond well to training; in battle it had to destroy other elephants and their mahouts as well as cavalry, chariots and their drivers and footmen; it was expected to endure the injuries of spears, swords, arrows and axes and the din of drums, conches and other noises; and it was expected to go in whichever direction the mahout directed it (A II 117).

One of the skills taught to princes along with horsemanship, archery, swordsmanship and chariot driving, was the art of training, riding and caring for elephants (A III 152). This was called elephant lore (A III 327). During a food shortage the king’s elephant died and people ate it (Vin I 217–18). The rare white elephant was particularly prized (Ja I 319) and one of the accoutrements of a Universal Monarch was a pure white elephant of sevenfold strength (D II 174). The mount of Indra, the king of the gods, was a magnificent elephant named Erāvaṇa (Sn 379).

Some lay people were rich enough to be able to own elephants. For example, when Soṇa became a monk, he said he had renounced everything he owned including ‘a herd of seven elephants’, the implication being that he had been very wealthy (Vin I 185).

The Buddha seems to have had a special fondness for elephants. The animal’s mindful and deliberate behaviour and particularly the male’s penchant for living alone in the jungle, impressed him. He said: ‘On this matter the enlightened sage and the elephant with tusks as long as plough poles agree, they both love the solitude of the forest’ (Ud 42). In some ways the Buddha even considered elephants to be better than humans. The elephant trainer Pessa once said to him: ‘Humans are a tangle while animals are straightforward. I can drive an elephant undergoing training and in the time it takes to make a trip to and from Campa, that elephant will display every kind of deception, duplicity, trickery and fraud. But our servants, messengers and employees, they say one thing, do another and think something else.’ The Buddha agreed with this observation (M I 340–41). He often compared himself to or was compared by others with an elephant (A II 38). When Doṇa encountered him sitting at the foot of a tree, he appeared ‘beautiful, faith-inspiring, with calm senses and a serene mind, utterly composed and controlled like a tamed, alert, perfectly trained elephant’ (A II 38). The Buddha never looked over his shoulder when he wanted to see behind him but turned around completely as does an elephant. This was called his ‘elephant look’ (D II 122).

Throughout the Tipiṭaka, the Buddha advised his disciples to respond to difficulties as would an elephant: ‘I shall endure abuse as a bull-elephant in battle endures the arrows shot from the bow. For indeed, ill-natured people are many’ (Dhp 320); ‘Formerly this mind wandered wherever it wished, where it liked and as it pleased. But today I shall completely control it as a mahout controls an elephant in musth’ (Dhp 326); ‘Rejoice in awareness and guard your mind well. Pull yourself out of evil as does an elephant stuck in the mud’ (Dhp 327); ‘If you do not find a wise, zealous and virtuous companion to wander with, then like a king abandoning his conquered realm, wander alone like a bull-elephant in the forest’ (Dhp 329).

Elephants are frequently mentioned in the Jātakas where they are usually depicted as noble, kindly and intelligent creatures. According to the Jātakas, the Bodhisatta was sometimes reborn as an elephant (e.g. Ja I 319; 444; III 174; IV 90) and once as a human he worked as an elephant trainer (Ja II 94).

Haritamaṇḍuka. See Nīlamaṇḍūka.

Hariṇa. See Miga.

Haripada. Uncertain, but perhaps another name for the citraka (Ja III 184). The name means ‘golden foot’.

Harīta. A type of Allium (Ja VI 536).

Harītaka. The fruit of the Chebulic or Yellow Myrobalan, Terminalia chebula (Ja I 80; M III 127). The tree from which this fruit comes is medium-sized usually with a short crooked trunk, dark-grey bark, elliptic leaves and whitish flowers. Together with āmalaka and vibhītaka the fruit is one of the triphala or three fruits, long credited in traditional Indian medicine with powerful curative properties. When ripe, the bright-yellow fruits are allowed to fall and then collected and used in tanning and as a medicine. While staying at Uruvelā the Buddha plucked a yellow myrobalan fruit (Vin I 30). According to the Mahāvastu, the Buddha planted a Yellow Myrobalan tree when he was at Uruvelā. It adds the comment: ‘The myrobalans which grew from this tree are today known as the Consecrated Myrobalan Wood’ (Mvu III 311). When the Chinese monk Yijing was in India in the 7th century, he was told of ways to use yellow myrobalan as a medicine:

‘Take equal measures of harītaka bark, dry ginger and granulated sugar. Pound the first two into a powder and mix it with the sugar and some water and then form the paste into pills. Take no more than ten pills in the morning and do not abstain from eating. No more than two or three doses will be sufficient to cure a patient with diarrhea. It will dissolve the gas in the stomach, dispense cold and help digestion… If no granulated sugar is available maltose or honey can be used. If one chews one piece of harītaka and swallows the juice every day, one will be free from disease the whole of one’s life.’

Hareṇuka. Pea, (Ja V 405; VI 537). A very ancient species of pea and probably the one mentioned in the Tipiṭaka is the Field Pea, Pisum arvense. This legume has sharply toothed bright-green leaves, pale purple or white flowers and climbs by means of tendrils. The seeds are brown or grey, marbled and easily dried. Before his enlightenment, when practising austerities, the Buddha sometimes ate pea soup (M I 245).

Haliddā. Turmeric, Curcuma longa, sometimes haliddī or haliddaka (A III 230; Ja VI 537: M I 227; S II 102; Vin IV 35). An aromatic herb with yellow flowers. The rhizomes of this plant are added to curry powder to give it a deep yellow colour and a warm spicy taste. It was also used as a medicine and artists included turmeric paint in their palates (S III 152). As a dye though turmeric does not hold (Ja III 525). We read of a bull being washed with turmeric water (Ja VI 340). See Kāra.

Hiṅgu. Asafoetida, a strong smelling resin or gum extracted from several plants of the genus Ferula (Ja VI 536), the main ones being Ferula assa-foetida, F. foetida and F. narthex. The plants grow in the western Himalayas and Hindukush mountains from where the resin must have been imported into the Ganges and Yamuna plain in ancient times. The gum is extracted when the plant flowers. The stem is cut near the crown, a milky juice exudes from the cut and in a few days dries so that it can be collected. This process is repeated several times over several months and a good plant can yield as much as 1 kg of gum. The Buddha recommended asafoetida as a medicine although he did not mention what it is indicated for (Vin I 201). It is still widely used as a medicine. It is also used in cooking, veterinary medicine and to make incense.

A Jātaka story mentions a man preparing monitor lizard flesh for cooking using ghee, curd and ‘pungent spices’ (kaṭuka-bhaṇḍa). According to the commentary these spices were asafoetida, cumin, ginger, garlic, black pepper and long pepper (Ja III 84–86; Vv-a 186). See Jatu.

Hiṅgurāja. A type of bird (Ja VI 539).

Hiṅgulajalaka. See Kīṭa.

Hintāla. Phoenix paludosa (Ap 346; Vin I 190). A small palm tree with large leaves. The upper part of the trunk usually covered with a fibrous network of sheaths.

Hirivera. Fragrant Pavonia, Pavonia odorata (Vin IV 34). A erect herb with pink flowers which grows in dry forest areas (Ja VI 537). The root fibres of the plant are fragrant-smelling and used in traditional medicine and to make perfumes.


  1. Fo Benxing Ji Jing, 佛本行集經, “Sūtra of the Compilation of the Past Deeds of the Buddha”, Taisho edition of the Chinese Tripiṭaka, T3n190,p17. The Sanskrit name is a reconstruction from the Chinese.