Jaina alchemy

  • Posted on: 19 March 2019
  • By: vuttekar786

The Jaina alchemical thoughts and practices from the time of the Jainācāryas-Nāgārjuna and Pādaliptasūri up to the eighteenth century A.D. reflect an aspect of the material culture of the Jainas with scientific ideas on Rasāyanavidyā and Dhātuvidyā (chemistry and metallurgy).

A study of the extant Jaina manuscripts-Suvarṇaraupyasiddhiśāstra of Jinadattasūri (VS. 1210) with some additional alchemical informations of the iatro-chemical period, Rasaratnasamuccaya of Mānikyadevasūri (sixteenth century A.D.), Yogaratnākara Copai of Nayanaśekhara (VS. 1736=1679 A.D.) Vaidya-vallabha of Hastirūc (seventeenth century A.D.), Nāgārjunīvidyā (16th-18th A.D.), etc. reveals two distinct trends in Jaina Alchemy-(1) chemistry and metallurgy and (2) medical science, together with some informations on occultism.

During the period of the authors of these MSS. with its system of philosophy of mercury a vast mass of chemical informations accumulated in them was pressed into signal service in the intro-chemical period of India (1300-1550 A.D.)

Western India, by virtue of its geographical position as a centre of Jainism, was a receptacle for many alchenical ideas from other Indian culture-areas.

In the Jaina MSS, some metals and plants are identified with some code names, e.g. mercury with dhamma (virtue), gold with mamgalaṃ (auspiciousness), etc. The research to make gold was continued by the Jaina and other Indian alchemists throughout the Middle Ages together with the studies dealing with industrial process, especially, matallurgy and the manufacture of drugs.

The prominent feature of Jaina Alchemy lay in the search after the elixir vitae. In short it has dealt with the mineral kingdom rasas (minerals), uparasas (inferior minerals), ratnas (gems) and lohas (metals), mercury, the construction of apparatus, the mystical formulae for purification of metals, extraction of essence, liquefaction and incineration of metals, etc. The virtues of mercury are commended as a remedy to make men free from a multitude of diseases.

Author Name: 
J. C. Sikdar
Publisher Name: 

Indian Journal of History of Science, Vol. 15, no. 1 (May. 1980), 6–17



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