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Lokopakara (For the Benefit of People) - An Ancient Text on Indian Agriculture

Lokopakara (For the Benefit of People) - An Ancient Text on Indian Agriculture
Item Code: IDL157
Author: Valmiki Sreenivasa Ayangarya
Publisher: Asian Agri-History Foundation
Language: English
Edition: 2006
Pages: 130
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 9.5 inch X 7.3 inch


The Asian Agri-History Foundation (AAHF), a non-profit trust, was established and registered in 1994 in Secunderabad, India to facilitate dissemination of information on agricultural heritage in order to promote research on sustainable agriculture in South and Southeast Asian regions. These regions provided food security to its population for several millennia, with occasional famines that too in limited pockets, primarily due to drought. Farmers here had evolved some of the most sustainable agricultural management techniques suitable for different agroecoregions. There is a great deal to be learned from the traditional wisdom and the indigenous, time-tested technologies that sustained the farmers of South and Southeast Asia in the past. One of the major objectives of AAHF is to disseminate information on ancient and medieval agriculture by translating old texts/manuscripts into English and publish these translations with commentaries on the scientific content of the texts. The aim of these commentaries of the experts in to stimulate research to validate old practices.

The Asian Agri-History Foundation has so far published five bulletins: Vrikshayurveda (The Science of Plant Life) by Surapala (c. 1000 AD), Krishi-Parashara (c. 400 BC), Nushka Dar Fanni-Falahat (The Art of Agriculture), a Persian manuscript by Dara Shikoh (c,. 1650 AD), Kashyapiyakrishisukti (A Treatise on Agriculture) by Kashyapa (c. 800 AD), and Vishvavallabha (Dear to the World: The Science of Plant Life). This bulletin has the translation of a Halagannada (old Kannada) manuscript compiled by the poet Chavundaraya in 1025 AD.

The Western Chalukya Kings, with their capital at Kalyani (near Bidar, Karnataka, India) had a tradition of supporting scholarship and Chavundaraya was one such poet-scholar in the court of Jaisimha II (1015-1042 AD).

The Lokopakara, which meant “for the benefit of common people”, is a vade mecum of everyday life for commoners and describes topics such as astrology, portents, vastu (architecture), water-divining, vrikshayurveda (the science of plant life), perfumery, cookery, veterinary medicine, etc. in the bulletin, we have selected those topics that are of interest to farmers residing in rural areas.

The author of Lokopakara is also known as Chavundaraya II. This is because another Chavundaraya, referred as Chavundaraya I, preceded him by several decades and was a great minister, Commander-in-Chief, as well as a litterateur in the court of the Ganga rulers of southern Karnataka. Chavundaraya I set up the world famous Gommateshwara statue at Shravanbelagola in Karnataka around 980 AD.

This bulletin is based on a printed Halagannada manuscript edited in 1950 by H Sesha Iyengar, a copy of which was obtained from the Madras Government Oriental Manuscripts Library (Adyar Library), Chennai. Since very few people today understand Halagannada, we requested C K Kumudini, Department of Kannada Studies, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore to translate the manuscript into Hosagannada (modern Kannada), The Hosagannada manuscript was then translated into English by Sri Valmiki Sreenivasa Ayangarya. We are most grateful to Kumudini and and Valmikiji for all the hard work.

Three commentaries have been written; one by Y L Nene, another by Nalini Sadhale and Shakuntala Dave, and yet another by Umashashi Bhalerao. These commentaries hopefully would stimulate scholars and researchers to provide notes on the scientific value of Lokopakara. I continue to believe there is an unprecedented opportunity for Indian agricultural scientists today to relate heritage to the present-day agriculture.

Since most people cannot read Halagannada text, we have reproduced only one page of the printed manuscript (Appendix) to give a “flavor” to the bulletin. Two indices of plant names included in this publication were prepared by Y L Nene.

We hope this publication, like the other publications of AAHF, will prove useful to all those interested in agriculture, not only in India but elsewhere in the world.


The present English translation of ‘Lokopakara’ is an abridged version of the original text published in twelve chapters by the Madras Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras (Adyar Library, Chennai) in 1950. The original text is at present not available either in the current Kannada language (Hosagannada) or in English. Even a reprint of the 1950 edition in Hosagannada is not available at present, in spite of the Kannada literature having grown by leaps and bounds. In this translation, all chapters, except nos. I, II, III, and XII, have been included. Chapter IX is abridged only to 58 verses from the original 246 verses. Chapter X is abridged only to 23 verses from the original 53 and Chapter XI is abridged to only 41 verses from the original 113 verses.

The original text contains the following chapters:

Chapter I - Astrological aspects
Chapter II - Auspicious and inauspicious time (muhurtas) for various mundane and religious affairs.
Chapter III – Vastu (Architecture)
Chapter V – Water divining
Chapter VI – Vrikshayurveda (Ayurveda for polants including trees)
Chapter VII – Perfumes
Chapter VIII – Recipes
Chapter IX – Medicine for humans and animals
Chapter X – Treatment for snakebite, etc.
Chapter XI – Characteristics of animals
Chapter XII – Omens

The then famous poet named Chavundaraya in 1025 wrote the original text, Lokopakara. The text was written as poetry in the old Kannada language (Halagannada). Though the contents of Lokopakara seem to be very practical and of mundane utility to the common man and the rulers alike, this work cannot be considered the original work of the poet. At best, it can be called a compendium of various “sciences” of the time in a concise form. All the subjects dealt in this book were already available in many ancient Sanskrit works such as Brhat Samhita of Varahamihira, Brhat Jataka, Charaka Samhita, Maya Matam, etc. Varahamihira’s date is determined as 505 AD, i.e., about 520 years prior to that of Chavundaraya. Even the poet himself admits that this information has been culled from Varaha Samhita, Ma Ridacharya Matha, etc. (Chapter IV, verse 36 is excluded from this publication). Though the contents were not all new, the presentation in the old Kannada language current during his lifetime was certainly useful. This presentation must have helped the common man at the time, who did not know Sanskrit. It was named as Lokopakara (for) the benefit of people), an apt title. Though many other ancient Sanskrit works have already dealt the same subjects earlier, it appears that the objective of the poet Chavundaraya, i.e., social benevolence, was missing in them. It is this objective of social benevolence which might have popularized this work amongst the common people and the pundits. Perhaps because its readership was restricted to people not knowing Sanskrit, this work might have appeared as new and original work.

Because of the educational system introduced by Macaulay (1800-1859) in India, during the British rule, and continued even today, many of our practical and mundane ancient works such as ’Lokopakara’ has been ignored. The subjects dealt in this book can be found highly practical in common man’s daily life even today and perhaps in centuries to come. The simple presentation in Halagannada, the ancient Kannada language, has to be understood properly. Perhaps, it needs to be translated to the Hosagannada, the present-day Kannada prose for use of the common man today.

In the only printed version of this work available now, the verses are written in Halagannada poetry format with a commentary in Halagannada prose-cum-poetry form. This commentary is given for every individual verse and at certain places it is incomplete. There are many deletions or additions. At certain places, the commentary does not agree with the original verse. At some places, even the original verses are missing. These lapses might have existed in the four manuscripts themselves, from which this present printed version is prepared. Where there are deletions of some phrases or words in the original verse or the commentary, I have gone through the original Halagannada verses as well as the cross reference available from the ancient Sanskrit works on similar subjects. I have introduced some verse, phrases, or sentences, whenever I found them missing. This is done with the sole intention of doing justice to the laudable work of Chavundaraya as well as to provide a readable English translation.

While writing this English translation, I came across some instances of portentous phenomena reported to me through the newspapers and radio, as also with my own personal observations. I would like to mention them here for the benefit of the readers:

The formation of a ‘halo’ around the sun at noon on 5 September 2002 at Bangalore was reported with a photograph in the English daily, Deccan Herald, 6 September 2002, published from Bangalore, Karnataka.

I heard the news, through All India Radio that water in a big tank in a village in West Bengal became pink on 3 October 2002. The villagers reported the intrusion of an airplane that dropped something into the tank. The Indian Air Force had categorically denied any intrusion in the Indian air space of the said locality on that day.

While walking in the premises of Keshavapuri, Maharashtra around 1800 hrs on 13 October 2002, I saw the formation of a halo around the moon. Though I could not ascertain the exact time, there were three or four small clouds covering the moon and a halo visible around the moon. After the disappearance of the clouds, the halo also disappeared.

Also, I observed formation of a halo around the moon in the evening of 22 October 2002 around 1940 hrs at Keshavapuri.

I have given these instances only to illustrate that the subjects dealt in this book are still found practical and very much mundane, though some of the modern, scientifically tempered people may dismiss these contents as obscure or absurd. There is no doubt that our ancient works in various Indian languages are very practical.

I have not come across any intellectual debate or discussion on the subjects dealt in Lokopakara at least in the Kannada literary field. I have yet to come across any other debate or scholarly opinion on the various mundane cultural habits, remedial measures, and technology explained in the text. Perhaps, the absence of a Hosagannada prose text, the absence of recent reprints, and the ancientness of the topics dealt in this book might be the reasons for the absence of an intellectual debate. I had come across a small portion of Lokopakara published in the Hosagannada prose from in 1996, which had a third reprint in April 1997, and which deals only with the sixth chapter of ‘Vrikshyurveda’. The editorial of this booklet states that the officials of the forest department of the Government of Karnataka had successfully conducted experiments on recommendations made in the verses of ‘Vrikshyurveda’, the sixth chapter of ‘Lokopakara’. An experiment conducted at a medicinal plant garden maintained by the forest department on the emblic myrobalan plant in 1992 was also mentioned on the back cover of this booklet to impress upon the readers on the present-day utility of the verses of ‘Vrikshayurveda’. Except for this small booklet and a limited debate in a restricted circle of organic farmers of the old Mysore area, Lokopakara has not attracted attention since 1950. It is necessary that the present generation should be exposed to this unique, practical and very much mundane text.

There has been also a limited discussion on the practical utility of Indian astrology having been recognized by the Western scientists in the 20th century’ this is available in the introduction to Brhat Samhita, translated by M R Brhat. I have yet to find a detailed recorded debate on the contents of Brhat Samhita and their present-day practical utility.

A small discussion on the subject of ‘ambugareyuvudu’ is given on page ix of the Introduction written by the editor H Sesha Iyengar, in the only printed version. Sesha Iyengar has expressed the view that the remedial measure of ‘ambugareyuvude’ is not clearly mentioned in the text or in the commentary. He has espoused an unwanted averment on a Jain tradition of ‘gomukhivrata’ and has attempted to direct the subject to Jain tradition. This is clearly wrong. Perhaps he might have thought that this Lokopakara and all its chapters are original and independent works of the poet Chavundaraya, which is incorrect. Perhaps due to lack of appreciation that Lokopakara is a compendium of various subjects already dealt in ancient Sanskrit works like Brhat Samhita and others. Sesha Iyengar has taken recourse to a Jain ritual of ‘gomukhivrata’ unnecessarily. Verse 4 of Chapter VI of Lokopakara is just the Halagannada version of the sixth sutra of the forty-sixth chapter of Brhat Samhita.

While comparing these verses, the expiation called ‘ambugareyuvudu’ is the ‘rudrayathane bhumau godohath’, which means ‘milking of cows on the grounds of a Rudra temple’, which was an existing practice even before Varahamihira and his Brhat Samhita. Even Varahamihira mentions the works of his several predecessors in Brhat Samhita. So the opinion of Sesha Iyengar that ‘milking of cows on the grounds of a Rudra temple’ called ‘ambugareyuvudu’ by Chavundarya is not a Vedic tradition is clearly incorrect. In order to corroborate his misleading allusion to a Jain tradition, Sesha Iyengar has mentioned the practice of maintenance of the idols of Yaksha and Yakshi, without the knowledge of the same existing in the Vedic tradition earlier. The subject of the idols of Yaksha, etc. and the unnatural behavior of these idols is clearly mentioned in verses 13 and 14 of the forty-sixth chapter of Brhat Samhita. So the relation to any Jain tradition is not justified.

In the current Vedic practices known to me, especially those followed in the rural parts of India, this ‘ambugareyuvudu’ may also be interpreted a little differently. Such a practice of milking of cows is seen in some Indian epics like ‘Sri Venkatesvara Mahatme’, etc. one of the Vedic practices, a remedial measure that is practiced even today, is the ‘Kshirabhiseka’, This Kshirabhiseka is an Indian tradition wherein a ritualistic bath to the idol of the deity is offered. The belief is that with this ritualistic bath the deity’s idol gets purified from all the ills caused by the potential phenomena. “Ainbu” in Kannada means “milk”, “gareyuvudu” means milking, pouring, etc.; so the term “ambugareyuvudu” can also be understood as a ritual wherein the fresh milk is used to sanctify the idol through the purificatory milk bath. Presently, this Kshirabhiseka is a regular practice in many of the temples especially the Rudra temples and Vedic homas. After the Kshirabhiseka, the ritualistic milk is shared amongst the people who have participated in the remedial measure. In rural India, sharing of milk is believed to be a token of prosperity, wealth, and health even today. I have personally performed such remedial measures in many places and also have participated in such festivities. The prosperity is also identified by the wealth of the cattle and the quantum of milk in any house. There is a popular saying of halina hole for the richness and prosperity of any house or village or state. Halina hole in Kannada means “abundance of milk”.

About the practical adoptability of the contents of the text ‘Lokopakara’, I have applied these in my daily life at many a time even without reading it. My forefathers used to prepare various perfumes, especially ‘sadu’, prepare various recipes and dishes mentioned in ‘supa shastram’ (the science of cooking), check marriage compatibilities, prepare various medicinal preparations, etc. during my boyhood, I myself had prepared many such recipes without any knowledge of Lokopakara or Brhat Samhita. This is the impact of these ancient texts in the daily chores of our life. Even today, my mother in her late sixties personally makes such preparations mentioned in Lokopakara. She is not a graduate according to the Macaulay’s system of education, but a “doctorate degree holder” and a “research guide” in the traditional Indian school of education. I have learned a lot of such preparations from her and other relatives. I can still prepare them. This is mentioned her to make the reader understand the blend of ancient theory and practice in the daily life even today.

In our village, where our community people live together, most of the recipes are prepared by the individuals as a routine, both in individual houses and the community locations like temples, etc. the younger generations are trained in this practical school of tradition. No doubt, the influence of globalization is taking a “heavy toll” of the traditions here as elsewhere.

As a practitioner of tribal medicine, I have found this book useful in preparing various medicinal preparations. Some of the medicinal preparations and the preparations of ‘supa shastram’ here in this work have been so much a part of our daily life or the religious way of life, that we find it strange that the knowledge received through our parents, families, and society, existed in literature of yesteryears.

I have prepared many plant medicines out of experience and the knowledge of ‘Vrikshayurveda’ from this text. I came to know of Surapala’s Vrikshatyurveda only in 2001 and the ‘Vrikshayurveda’ of Lokopakara in 1996. I have successfully used the theory of ‘Vrikshayurvedam’ for preparing various herbal pesticides and growth promoters. I have been applying many such techniques of Lokopakara in my day-to-day life and find these more effective in use than those mentioned in many other ancient Sanskrit works, though I am familiar with them as well.

Chapter XI of Lokopakara deals with the characteristics of elephants, horses, cows, goats, dogs, and poultry, though one may dismiss that these are not of much use today, as these animals are no more reared by the common people or the rulers. But it will be wrong to conclude so. Even today, elephant rearing and trading is a rural practice in India, especially in Kerala state. A recent instance is the donation of an elephant to the Lord Krishna temple at Guruvayur, Kerala in 2001 by the Chief Minister of the State of Tamil Nadu Ms J Jayalalitha. This temple maintains more than fifty elephants today Elephants are used for local transport of timber and other heavy articles even today in many rural parts. In Kerala, elephant breeding and trading is a continuing practice. The traders look for all the characteristics mentioned in this book to finalize their purchase. Similarly, in some interior parts of Tamil Nadu, I still find the breeding and trading of horses, especially the native varieties. The common tribal people in these areas learn horse riding as a part of their life. Horse is used for movement of goods and people in these areas. Being a hilling terrain and a remote place, Sirumalai does not have any modern transport facility even though it is just 30 km distance from Digigul, a Tuluk (subdistrict) headquarters in Tamil Nadu. To decide their purchase, people trading in horses look for the characteristics mentioned in this compendium. Cattle trading is still very common today in both rural and semi-urban parts of India. The traders-cum-experts consider the characteristics of teeth, eyes, ears, horns, hairy circles, back, neck, hoofs, tongue, ankle joints, hump, strength, udder, testicles, color, etc. before deciding the purchase of cows, bulls, and calves. The first thing any expert checks is the number of teeth of any cattle, by inserting his hand into the mouth of the cattle, before deciding its purchase. Similarly, the rural people look for the characteristics of goats, dogs, and poultry also before deciding their purchase. The contents of this book can thus also be called “An encyclopedia of the tribal knowledge and practices of rural Karnataka” as this book is written in Mannada language. Due to my proximity to our traditional ancient life system and its practices, I readily accepted to translate this abridged version of ‘Lokopakara’ into English, when Dr Y L Nene, the Chairman of Asian Agri-History Foundation requested in August 2002. I thank him for having provided me with an opportunity to do this service to the world, which will certainly benefit the people at large. Surely this was the intent of the poet Chavundaraya when he compiled ‘Lokopakara’ about ten centuries ago in Halagannada language.

I am even today finding the currency of all the incidents of subjects mentioned in Lokopakara as well as in Brhat Samhita. All these subjects are practical mostly in the Indian agricultural environment. Especially in the remote areas. Anyone who does not have a practical experience and knowledge of Indian rural agricultural traditional environment may not find this book useful this book may not be of any practical utility to the metropolitan, urban, non-agriculturalist multi-story dwellers, though they are not excluded from the subjects dealt herein. I have strived hard to provide correct or closer meanings of some of the Halagannada/Sanskrit words. Which have no similar meaning in English literature. I have attempted to provide a more exhaustive explanation of certain technical words on the translation to enable the reader to understand it well. Wherever I have found dissimilarities in the text and the commentary provided in the printed edition, I have considered the text only.

I would be grateful to receive any queries and views on the subjects dealt herein, which will provide a much deeper intellectual insight to one and all.




Foreword v
Lokopakara by Chavundaraya 1025 AD 1
Introduction 3
Lokopakara (Translation): For the benefit of people 9
Commentaries 61
Commentary – Y L Nene 63
Commentary – Nalini Sadhale and Shakuntala Dave 68
Commentary – Umashashi Bhalerao 102
Plant Index 107
A list of plant names - I 109
A list of plant names - II 120
Appendix 131

Sample Pages

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