B'lore scientists on Sanjeevani trail

Magical herb


Two plants grown in the Western Ghats may be the magical herb.

A fern Selaginella bryopteris and an orchid Flickingeria fimbriata, could be the potential species representing Sanjeevani, said researchers from the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bangalore and College of Forestry, Sirsi.

Reference to Sanjeevani in the Ramayana comes while depicting the battle between Rama and Ravana.

At the peak of the war, Ravana’s son Indrajit strikes Lakshmana with a powerful arrow. Lakshmana gets seriously injured and falls unconscious, which may be interpreted as deep coma.

Later, Lakshmana is treated with the magical herb Sanjeevani, which literally means something that offers life. But there are questions on whether there was only one Sanjeevani plant or four herbs as Hanuman, who went to fetch the medicinal plant could not identify it and brought the entire mountain back to the battle zone.

The epic which may be having some elements of historical truth, led the researchers to ask – does Sanjeevani exist in reality?

Exploiting the Indian Bio-resources Information Network, the scientists began the search first by looking for plants known as Sanjeevani in the epic. This led to six plants.

Further examination eliminates three as common names of three plants were only indirectly indicative. In other words, use of the term Sanjeevani is not very obvious for those three plants.

The plant’s habitats were checked next. This removes one more plant which is not grown in the hilly region, leaving S.bryopteris and F.fimbriata as the two candidates.  

“S.bryopteris is known to offer protection against heat shock and ultra-violet ray shock. Its medicinal properties are under investigation by other researchers. The orchid also satisfies most of the criterion,” team leader K N Ganeshaiah from  UAS told Deccan Herald.

In 2005, scientists in Hyderabad and Gwalior began investigating the medicinal properties of S.bryopteris with the assumption that it may be that magical herb.
According to the scientists, Lakshmana was in coma owing to a heat shock or poison of the arrow. Sanjeevani had awakened or rejuvenated him.

The researchers hypothesises that Sanjeevani might have followed the ancient medicinal principle of ‘similar cures similar’, which means that the plant had the ability of resurrecting itself from a state of near death situation.

Since S.bryopteris can rejuvenate itself from almost dead-dry state by absorbing water as and when available, the plant may be used to ‘resurrect’ Lakshmana.

Commenting on the research, eminent botanist and former professor of Delhi University, H Y Mohan Ram said:“This is an appreciable attempt to eliminate many probable candidates. It should encourage others to follow up.”

Ganeshaish, however, added that a completely new plant may come up as a potential candidate if other search routes are adopted.

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