umAsvati and Hindu zoology

umAsvati, the great jaina Acharya produced a remarkable work termed the tattvArthAdhigama around 40 AD which contains one the great early productions of Hindu zoology. umAsvati believed that all animals could be classified into the following groups:

Group I invertebrates:
apAdika = nematodes
nUpuraka = annelids
gaNDUpada = cnidaria
shankha,shutika,samubuka= molluscs
jalUkA=leeches

Group II (“lower arthropods”)
pipIlikA
rohiNikA
upachikA, kunthu, tuburaka=bugs
trapusavija, karapAsAsthikA=beetles
shatapadi, utpataka=myriapods
triNapatra (plant hoppers)
kAShTha hAraka (termites and cockroaches)

Group III (“higher arthropods”)
bhramara, varaTa, sAranga=hymenopterans
makShika, puttikA, daMSha, mashaka=Diptera
vR^ishchika, nandyAvarta=scorpions and spiders
kITa=lepidoptera
pata~nga=orthoptera (locusts and hoppers)

Group VI
The vertebrates know as tiryagyonis
matsya=fishes
uraga/nakra,godha,kUrma=crocodiles,lizards and turtles
bhujanga=snakes
pakshi=fishes
jArayujAs=mammals

This shows that the ancient Hindus had a working knowledge of animal diversity and a natural complexity based on biological organization. While it may not be the most accurate classification of Animalia it shows that the hindu world clearly encouraged the study of biology, something which was sorely lacking in later day India.

The great ancient brahmANa zoologist lAdyAyana of a lost atharvan shAkha presents a similar picture and made a particular study of arthropods and “reptiles”. His entire text does not survive but fragments preserved by dalvana present a clear picture of his meticulous approach. lAdyAyana states :

kaTubiH bindu lekhAbiH pakshaiH pAdaiH mukaiH nakaiH shUkaiH kaNTakalAngalaiH samshriShTaiH paksharomabhiH |
svanaiH pramANaiH saMsthAnaiH li~ngaishvApi sharIragaiH viShavIryaishca kITAnAM rupagyAnaM vibhAvayate ||

In order to obtain knowledge of the classification of arthropods one must carefully examine: 1) veins, spots and markings 2) wings, 3) legs, 4) oral appendages 5) mandibles, 6) antennae, 7) claws and spines 8) abdominal stings 9) bristles on body and wings 10) sounds 11) structure of organs, 12) genitalia 13) toxins and their actions.

~ by mAnasa-taraMgiNI on May 17, 2004.

 
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