A History of Hindu Chemistry Vol 1

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HISTORY OF HINDU CHEMISTRY

 

 

A
HISTORY OF HINDU CHEMISTRY


FROM
THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE MIDDLE OF THE
SIXTEENTH CENTURY A. D.


WITH
SANSKRIT TEXTS, VARIANTS, TRANSLATION
AND ILLUSTRATIONS


BY
PRAPHULLA CHANDRA RAY D. Sc.,
Professor of Chemistry, Presidency College, Calcutta


VOL. I
Second Edition : Revised and Enlarged

Calcutta
THE BENGAL CHEMICAL & PHARMACEUTICAL
WORKS, LIMITED
1903

 

 

CALCUTTA
PRINTED BY P. C. SANYAL,
AT THE BENGAL CHEMICAL STEAM PRINTING WORKS
91, Upper Circular Road

 

 

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.




Since the days of Sir W. Jones, Sanskrit literature, in almost every department, has been zealously ransacked by scholars, both European and Indian. As the results of their labours we are now in possession of ample facts and data, which enable us to from some idea of the knowledge of the Hindus of old in the fields of Philosophy and Mathematics including Astronomy, Arthmetic, Algebra, Trigonometry and Geometry. Even Medicine has received some share of attention. Wilson in a series of essays published in the Oriental Magazine (1823), Royle in his Antiquity of Hindu Medicine (1837), and Wise in his commentary on the Hindu System of Medicine (1845), were amongst the first to bring to the notice of the European world the contents of the ancient medical works of the Hindus, and recently the Thakur Sahib of Gondal has added his quota. These contributions are, however, of a fragmentary nature. A comprehensive history of Hindu medicine has yet to be written. Materia Medica has also found, in Udoy Chand Dutt, an able exponent. One branch has, however, up till this time, remained entirely neglected—namely, Chemistry. Indeed, it may be assumed that on accont of its complex and technical nature it has hitherto repelled investigators.

The progress of chemical knowledge among the ancient nations has always had a fascination for me. The classical works of Thomson, Hoefer and Kopp have been my favourite companions for the last twelve years and more. In the course of my studies in this field I was naturally led to an inquiry into the exact position which India occupies therein, and with this view I undertook a systematic examination, from the chemical standpoint, of the Charaka, the Susruta and the various standard works of the Ayurvedic and Iatro-chemical Periods, which have escaped the ravages of time. It was at this stage that I was brought into communication with M. Berthelot some five years ago—a circumstance which has proved to be a turning-point, if I may so say, in my career as a student of the history of chemistry. The illustrious French savant, the Doyen of the chemical world, who has done more than any other person to clear up the sources and trace the progress of chemical science in the West, expressed a strong desire to know all about the contributions of the Hindus,[1] and even went the length of making a personal appeal to me to help him with information on the subject. In response to his sacred call I submitted to him, in 1898, a short monograph on Indian alchemy; it was based chiefly on Rasendrasara Samgraha, a work which I have since then found to be of minor importance and not calculated to throw much light on the vexed question as to the origin of the Hindu Chemistry. M. Berthelot not only did me the honour of reviewing it at length[2] but very kindly presented me with a complete set of his monumental work, in three volumes, on the chemistry of the Middle Ages, dealing chiefly with the Arabic and Syrian contributions on the subject, the very existence of which I was not till then aware of. On perusing the contents of these works I was filled with the ambition of supplementing them with one on Hindu Chemistry. Although I have written all along under the inspiration of a mastermind, it is not for a moment pretended that my humble production will at all make an approach to the exemplar set before my eyes.

When I first drew up the scheme of the present work, I had deluded myself with the hope of finishing the study of all the available literature on the subject before I took to writing. But I soon found that the task was one of vast magnitude. Some of my friends, whose judgment is entitled to weight, advised me under the circumstances, to curtail the scope of the work as originally planned out, and present a first instalment of it in its necessarily defective and imperfect shape (see Introduction, p. lxxxiv), reserving for a subsequent volume the working-up of the materials which are accumulating from time to time. In the present volume only one or two representative works of the Tanric and Iatro-chemical Periods have been noticed at length.

As regards the transliteration, I have not rigidly adhered to any particular system, but, in the main, I have followed that of the Sacred Books of the East.

Before concluding, I must acknowledge the valuable assistance I have received rom Pandit Navakānta Kavibhusana with whom I have toiled through many an obscure passage of the Mss. of the Tantras. His sound knowledge of the Ayurvedas has also been of much help to me.

****

And now it only remains for me to discharge the grateful duty of expressing my thanks to the Government of Bengal, which at the instance of Mr. Alexander Pedler, f. r. s., Director of Public Instruction, placed a liberal grant at my disposal to enable me to meet various incidental expences, chiefly in the matter of collecting rare Mss.

Presidency College:   P. C. RAY.
Calcutta, May 1st, 1902.

 

PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.


A comparatively limited number of copies was printed in the first edition as it was feared that owing to its technical nature the work would appeal only to a select circle of readers. The exceedingly favourable reception accorded to it not only by the scientists and orientalists but also by the public in general both in Europe and in India has necessitated the bringing-out of a second edition. Some material additions have been made to the historical portion of the Introduction, throwing further light on the independent origin of the Hindu system of medicine and its priority to that of the Greeks.

M. Berthelot, in the course of a lengthy and appreciative review in the "Journal des Savants," Jan. 1903, expresses his regret at the absence of "any thing which would remind us of the systematic treatises of Zosimus and of the Greco-Egyptians"—a regret which will be shared in by every student of Hindu chemistry. But even the sable cloud is not without its silver lining. I hope, however, to deal with the theories underlying Hindu chemistry in the second volume. For the present, I have to content myself with the pronouncement of my respected and learned friend, Mr. Brajendranātha Seal Principal, Mahārājā's College, Kuch Behar, whose vast acquaintance with and comprehensive grasp of, the literature of the East and the West, entitles him to speak with authority on the subject. Says Mr. Seal in his plea for our University "striking out a line of communication with the organisations of oriental learning."—

"Let us not superciliously dismiss these studies as 'learned lumber.' The Astronomy and Mathematics were not less advanced than those of Tycho Brahe, Cardan and Fermat; the anatomy was equal to that of Vesalius, the Hindu logic and methodology more advanced than that of Ramus, and equal on the whole to Bacon's; the physico-chemical theories as to combustion, heat, chemical affinity, clearer, more rational, and more original than those of Van Helmont or Stahl; and the Grammar, whether of Sanskrit or Prākrit, the most scientific and comprehensive in the world before Bopp, Rask and Grimm."


Presidency College:
January 1, 1904.
P. C. RAY.
 
 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A History of Hindu Chemistry Vol 1 0017.png

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER I

Alchemical Ideas in the Vedas
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
i
The Ayurvedic Period
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
x
The Transitional Period
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
liv
The Tantric Period
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
lxiii
The Iatro-Chemical Period
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
xc
Indebtedness of the Arabians to India
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
cvii

THE AYURVEDIC PERIOD
(From the pre-Buddhistic Era to circa 800 A. D.)
CHAPTER I
The Constitution and Properties of Matter: The Atomic Theory

Page

Tanmátra or Particles—Five Elements—Animated Atom Grosser Body—Earth—Water—Light—Conception of the Simple, Binary, Tertiary and Quaternary Atoms—Quality of the Substance viz., Colour, Savour, etc.—Gravitation—Levity—Fluidity—Viscidity—Sound—Theory of the Propagation of Sound—Anus or Atoms—Dates of the Philosophical Sútras—The Question of Priority
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
1

CHAPTER II
Chemistry in the Charaka and the Susruta
The Charaka

The Tastes—The Metals and their Calces—A Discourse on the Tastes—their Relationship to the five Primal Elements—the Nature of the Alkali—The Five Kinds of Salts—Minerals for External Application—The Eight Varieties of Urine—Preparation of Kshára (Alkali)—Pill Iron Compound—A Collyrium—Powder of Pearl Compound—Iron, Gold and Silver Tonics—Rasáyana Defined
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
24

The Susruta

Preparation and Use of Alkalies and Alkaline Caustics—Lixiviation of the Ashes—Rendering the Alkali Caustic—How to Store up the Alkali—Characteristics of the Good and the Bad Alkali—Why the Acid Neutralises the Alkali—Mild and Caustic Alkalies—Description of Blood—On the Collection of Drugs—The Salts—The Alkalies—Internal use of Lead and Tin—Minerals for External Application—Roasting of Iron and other Metals so as to Render them Fit for Internal Administration—The Origin of Bitumen—Iron Pyrites—Gold Dust—The Poisons—Use of Mercury—Note on the Metals and their Salts
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
32

CHAPTER III
Chemistry in the Bower Ms.

The Alkalies—Fumes of Horn—Kshárataila—Formula for Hair-Dye—Rasáyana Defined—The Doctrine of Bitumen—A Linctus—Formulæ for Eye-ointment
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
52

CHEPTER IV
Chemistry in the Vagbhata

Preparations of Gold, Silver, Copper, Iron and Lead—Preparation of Alkali and Caustic Alkali—Use of Mercury
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
55

THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD
(From 800 A. D. to circa 1100 A. D.)
Chemistry in the Siddha Yoga of Vrinda and Chakrapani
CHAPTER I
Vrinda (circa 900 A. D.)

Preparations in which Sulphide of Copper and Æthiops Mineral Figure—A collyruim—A process of Killing Iron
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
58

CHAPTER II
Chakrapāni (Circa 1060 A. D.)
Black Sulphide of Mercury (Kajjali) or Æthiops Mineral

Támrayoga (lit. Powder of Copper Compound)—Process of Killing Iron—Mandura or Rust of Iron—Recipe for a Soap to be used as a Depilatory—Preparation of Caustic Alkali
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
61

THE TANTRIC PERIOD
(From 1100 A. D. to circa 1300 A. D)
CHAPTER I
Chemistry in Rasarnava

Extracts from Book IV—On Apparatus and the Colour of Flames—Dola Yantram—An Apparatus for Killing Metals—Garbha Yantram—Efficacy of the Apparatus—Hamsapáka Yantram—Crucibles—Colour of Flames—Tests of a Pure Metal—Koshtí Apparatus—Colophon to Chapter IV—The Alkalies—The Maharasas—Copper from the Pyrites—Brass from Calmine and Copper Mistaken for Gold—Extraction of Zinc from Calmine—Saurashtri—The Metals—The Killing of Metals—Purification of Quicksilver—Killing of Mercury—Killing of Gold—Tests for Killed Mercury—Colouring of Metals
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
64

THE IATRO-CHEMICAL PERIOD
(From 1300 A. D. to circa 1550 A. D.)
CHAPTER I
Chemistry in Rasaratnasamuchchaya

Colophon—The Rasas—Abhra—Vaikránta—Copper Pyrites—Vimala—Silájatu—Sasyaka—Extraction of Copper—Chapala——Rasaka—Extraction of Zinc—The Uparasas or Inferior Rasas—Sulphur—Gairika—Kásisa—Tuvarí—Tálaka—Manassila—The Añjanas—The Common Rasas—Navasára and other Rasas—The Gems—Vajram—General Process of Reducing Gems to Ashes—On Metals—Gold—Silver—Copper—Iron—Tin—Lead—Brass—Bell-Metal, &c.— Initiation into Discipleship—On the Laboratory—On Technical Terms—Tests for Killed Iron—Antimony from Stibnite—Certain Other Technical Terms—On Apparatus (the Yantras)—Dola Yantram—Svedani Yantram—Pátaná Yantram—Adhaspátana Yantram—Dheki Yantram—Váluka Yantram (Sand-bath)—Lavana Yantram—Náliká Yantram—Tiryakpátana Yantram—Vidyádhara Yantram—Dhúpa Yantram—On the Ingredients for Crucibles, &c.—Vrintaka Crucible—Calcination, Roasting, &c.—The Metals—The Salts—The Alkalies—The Oils—The Fats—The Urines—The Acids—The Earth—The Poisons—The Solvents—On the Purification of Mercury—Fixation of Mercury—Incineration of Mercury
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
76
Notes on the Minerals
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
133
Alum and Green Vitirol
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
146
152
ON METALS AND METALLURGY
Zinc
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
156
De la formation des métaux
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
162
On the Essence of Minerals
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
169
Calamine—The Vitriols—Blue Vitriol
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
169–171

ON GUNPOWDER, SALTPETRE AND THE MINERAL ACIDS

Gunpowder—Saltpetre—Mineral Acids
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
174
KNOWLEDGE OF TECHNICAL ARTS AND DECLINE OF SCIENTIFIC SPIRIT
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
190

The Wastage of Gold in the Course of Preparing Jewelry in Bengal

Soldering—Filing and Cutting—The Chemical Operations of the Goldsmith: Cleansing, Colouring and Polishing —The Processes of the Rungwala—Chemical Explanation—The Restorative Processes——The Neharwala——The Jamakwala—Conclusion
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
198
Note on the Salts
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
243
Note on the Killing of Metals
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
246
On the Hindu Method of Manufacturing Calomel—The Hindu and Japanese Methods Compared—The Explanation of the Reactions Involved
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
250

APPENDIX I
Analysis of Some Preparations used in the Hindu Medicine

Æthiops Mineral—Sulphide of Copper—Calomel—Rust of iron—Achyranthes asperaTrianthema monogyna
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
261

APPENDIX II

Illustrations
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
269–284

INDEX

Index of Proper Names
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
287–295
Index of Subjects
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
296–313
SANSKRIT TEXTS
•          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •          •
1–70


Erratum: Intro., p. civ, the 3 lines from the bottom upwards are to be deleted



This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).


  1. "Cependant il serait nécessaire d'examiner certains documents qui m'ont été récemment signalés par une lettre de Rây, professeur à Presidency College (Calcutta). D'après ce savant, il existe des traités d'alchimie, écrits en sanscrit, remontant au XIIIe siècle, et qui renferment des préceptes pour préparer les sulfures de mercure noir et rouge et le calomel employés comme médicaments. Ces indications s'accordent avec celles des alchimistes arabes signalées plus haut. Il est à désirer que ces traités soient soumis à une étude approfondie, pour en déterminer l'origine, probablement attribuable à une tradition persane ou nestorienne."—Journal des Savants, Oct., 1897.
  2. "Matériaux pour un chapitre négligé de l'histoire de la Chimie ou contributions à l'Alchimie indienne (Mémorie manuscrit de 43 pages), par Prafulla Chandra Rây, professeur à Presidency College, Calcutta,"—Vide Journal des Savants, April’ 1898