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Author: Dr.Mamta Bhatnagar, ,

Assistant Professor,Department of History,B.H.U.Varanasi, up, India

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ABSTRACT : In Ancient period of India,Buddhist monks made efforts to find alternatives to cure obstinate surgical conditions.As Buddhism was the religion of the rulers and the ruled,they viewedSalya tantraas a form of violence.This inspired the development of rasa shastra where therapeutic use of mercury and other metals could be seen.Side by side the science of transmutation of base metals and noble metals with processed mercury also received impetus .[1] Metals and minerals[2] were used in Ayurveda and Siddha Vidya for rejuvenation and preservation of health and for physical immortality.

FULL PAPER :  As Ayurveda is Upveda, the origin of Alchemy is said to be derived from Vedas.We find the description of artificial leg in Rigveda.”Yajurveda also invokes blessings of metals like iron,gold bestow good health and longevity.”The third part of treatment Daivi in Atharvaveda has been explained in the books on alchemy,where the use of mercurial and metallic preparation has been described for promotion and preservation of positive health.Medieval period of Indian History is known for the translation of Sanskrit treatises into Persian .In Medieval period many books on Alchemy were written for instance Rasratnasamucchaya,Rasratnakar,Rasarnav etc.

          The interaction with other countries like Arabia, Egypt,Greece and Persia shows that there had been coincidences.Theophrastus had done much work in the field of medicinal plants and minerals.Pliny also mentions the use of mercury ,gems and precious stones in medicine.Paulus Aginata recommended the internal use of metallic preparations e.g. iron, steel.Jabir also believed that metals like lead,tin, iron,copper could be transmutated into gold and silver.He discovered several chemical compounds.[3]

He described scientifically the process of calcinations and reduction.He introduced improvements in methods of evaporation ,sublimation,melting and crystallization.

          With the process of pulverization and calcination,red gold was used in colloidal form to make the human body everlasting.Bullian gold was used as raw material and red gold,-the ELIXIR was prepared.Drugs of rejuvenation have been used in India as well.The doctrine of study and practice of chemistry in the Middle Ages, chiefly concerned with transmutation of metals into gold and the finding of a universal remedy of diseases .The art was much practiced in 13th -17th centuries.[4]We find the use of mineral acids, the use of in killing metals was earlier. The processes like killing of mercury, distillation involved in the extraction of mercury were in vogue. Many preparations were for the preservation of body through mercurial and mineral compounds, a part of philosophy of mercury e.g. mercury and gold compound was made by rubbing mercury with gold, sulphur, borax and after slow roasting when taken the sublimate the elixir made body not liable to decay. The preparation of sulphur, copper pyrites was used to relieve all ailments. In purification, there was processing with juice and in the end of this process was killing i.e. the metal was reduced to a fine powder.

          The compound of mercury and sulphur was used as an important chemical agent. Medieval alchemists laid much emphasisonpurification.Gold,silver,iron,led, tin, mercury , copper were commonly used in their processes.[5]Various gems were also used. In the transmutation process coloured alloys were made in India also. The surface of the metal was dyed with plant juice. A number of methods were used for dyeing. Combination of various metals and salts was learnt by medieval alchemists through experiments .In Medieval period much experience was gained which led to correct the ideas about elements,theory of combination.The idea of making gold-the elixir of life from mercury philosophy was similar to that of the world.Here they learnt much from botany,metallurgy and medical knowledge.Wide knowledge in this field was used for the alleviation of human suffering.[6]

          In Ayurveda, the spiritual and psychological well –being is also kept in mind.The aim is to keep the human –beings alive with all the sensual faculties intact.For the purpose of rejuvenation ,metals and minerals are used.This therapy maintains all the five layers of the body i.e.pranmaya kosa,manomaya kosa ,anandmaya kosa etc.In Atharvaveda we find a description of iron in some tissues of the body has been described in the calcined form.In Charak Samhita we find a classification of drugs.In Sushrut Samhita also there is a description of metals.Arthashashtra gives details of various metals,gems and jewels.There is a description of gold prepared by transmutation of base metals with mercury,Rasa Viddha Suvarna which illustrates that people knew well various techniques.



1.Chopra R.N.:Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants.

2.Dey K.L.:Indigenous Drugs

3.Mahndi Hasan:Indian Alchemy or Rasayana

4.Nadkerni K.M.:Indian Plants and Drugs.

4.Panta Taradutta:Rasarnavam


6.Govonda Bhagvatpada:Rashridayatantra.

7.Sharma Sadananda:Rastarangini.


[1] S.N.Mishra:Ayurvediya Rasashashtra,p.143-9.

[2] Pratap Singh:Ayurvediya Khanijvigyan, P39-50.

[3] Taylor Sherwood:The Alchemists,p.12.

[4] Neuberger:History of Medicine, Vol.I,p.54.

[5] Neuberger :op.cit.

[6] Indian Materia Media,p.67-69.

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