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Durable Link to this BlogThursday, January 7, 2010

Science in Eeveryday life (III)

III Forest management, and horticulture

In Ancient India, natural forests ((aranya)) and man-made forests ((vana)) received equal attention, nurturing and protection. The state or king was advised to conduct periodical surveys for strategic reasons. The forest-wealth formed very important source of income for the state. Tribals who lived in deep forests were given apt protection. These-forest dwellers collected tusks of elephants which suffered natural death, medicinal herbs, honey, bones, teeth, and kids of wild animals. Tiger and deer skin were held sacred, and were in great demand. Hunting, a popular sport was undertaken in preserved forests by the royalty or only when the population of wild beasts outnumbered, causing danger to villagers and cattle, bordering the forests.

Wanton killing of elephant for tusks was punishable by death sentence. Vanas or man-made forests were numerous, where trees of utility like, teak, mango, jackfruit were specially grown. Upavanas (parks) were laid with ornamental plants, with various shapes and colours. Grafting was a finely developed art. In a single plant, flowers of various hues were grown. A single creeper grew different vegetables like cucumber and pumpkin! Bonsaiand Ikebana art of gardening were known in Indian way. Bonsai is termed Kubja Sasya (dwarfed plant). Vichitrasasya (multicolored and multi shaped) is the word used for Ikebana-like-experiment in Manasollasa, a 12th century encyclopaedia in Sanskrit.

Medicinal herbs and utility trees of fruit and flower had their pride of place in towns, and cities alike. It was joint responsibility of citizens and the state to protect plant and animal life.

There were women who took the vow of planting trees. A 12th century CE, inscription speaks of a lady who planted coconut, mango, jackfruit and other trees and grew an orchard. Later she converted it into a toll-free market. The inscription makes very clear that it was the duty of one and all, to protect the trees and ensure the daily worship of the deity at the temple she built at the spot. There are epigraphs of "garden service" (banada seve) and donation of trees to various temples as well. Thus religion (grants to earn merit), discipline (public responsibility) and practical science (maintenance and nurturing) went together.

If today, salumarada Timmakka, a State awardee, has planted more than a thousand trees on both sides of the highway, which runs through her village, she represents a glorious tradition of public service. Only there were more Timmakkas in the past! They loved plants, nurtured and worshipped them. Today Timmakka an illiterate old woman in her 80s has become a legend. She earned the title Salumarda or "rows of trees" which she planted and which provide shade to innumerable people who pass through.

Pest and insect control was under taken, in as also manure provided in the organic way. Healthy seeds were obtained from fully grown and naturally ripe fruit and processed with inexpensive and sure items like urine and dung of cattle and fumigation of asafetida. At times meat, fish and alcohol were fed to plants to obtain good results. Fumigation of plants was also undertaken. Worship of plants and animals was a way of life. Many birds and animals are vehicles of gods and goddesses. Animals were made heroes in the stories of Panchtantraand Hitopadesha. Ecological awareness was promoted by commoners and rulers alike because of the religious association, which helped humanity at large.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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