Folklore medicine and Indigenous herbs

Traditional (folklore) medicine comprises knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine. It is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness. Folk medicine consists of the healing practices and ideas of body physiology and health preservation known to some in a culture, transmitted informally as general knowledge, and practiced or applied by anyone in the culture having prior experience. In the written record, the study of herbs dates back 5,000 years to the ancient Sumerians, who described well-established medicinal uses for plants. In Ancient Egyptian medicine, the Ebers papyrus from c. 1552 BC records a list of folk remedies and magical medical practices. The Old Testament also mentions herb use and cultivation in regards to Kashrut.
Siddha Medicine is usually considered as the oldest medical system known to mankind. Siddha is reported to have surfaced more than 10,000 years ago. “Siddhargal” or Siddhars were the premier scientists of ancient time. Siddhars were mainly concentrated in ancient Tamilakam (present period South India), and laid the foundation for this system of medication. Siddhars are alchemists, mathematicians and philosophers. Most of these masters, apart from being knowledgeable in other fields, practice medicine as well. They are considered to have acquired the ashta siddhis (the eight supernatural powers). Agathiyar was the first Siddhar. Many herbs and minerals used in Ayurveda were described by ancient Indian herbalists such as Charaka and Sushruta during the 1st millennium BC. Project 365 photographer Pee Vee (Venkatesan Perumal) has been creating photographic visuals of the folklore doctors, and indigenous herbs and its ecological surroundings, the mineral deposits, etc., Pee Vee is a Photographer and Entrepreneur, with limitless passion to capture light. He is a Chemical Engineer with an MBA. Prior to advertising, he was an agriculturist, sold insurance and designed web banners. He is born in Tamil Nadu.

Erukku (giant milkweed) / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 public photo archives
Erukku (giant milkweed) / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 public photo archives

Errukku (Giant Milkweed / Asclepiadacea family) is one of the most commonly found medicinal plants in our surroundings. The plant is a medium sized shrub and is commonly found in dry regions across India. The plant is called by the name arka meaning sun in Ayurveda due its high potency and sharpness. The plant is mainly a toxic corrosive plant, however, when someone uses properly it has eminent medicinal utility. In our folklore medicine and culture, this plant is used for treating illness and plant’s flower, both the blue and white variety are used as an offering to the deity Ganesha. one of the important deities. In spite of its medicinal value and sacredness, it is not grown in home gardens as it is believed to be the shelter of yakshis (demon goddesses). The useful parts of the plant are its leaves, root, bark, flower and latex. The latex of the plant is used by ayurveda practitioners for ksarasutra preparation as a binding agent. The toxic effect of the plant causes drastic purgation and leads to bruises on skin. The medically purified plant is used to treat hemorrhoids, abdominal conditions, skin disorders, worm infestation, respiratory track, and various other ailments. The plant has a beautiful seed which is hydroscopic in nature and flies in air, a chase and catch play tool for children. The latex is collected preferably during early morning by giving a nip to the stem. The flowers are beautiful to look but do not have any particular odour. The leaves of plant are soft and smooth. The latex of the erukku is used for malingering criminal offenses.

Erukku (giant milkweed) / smart phone photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad /  Project 365 public photo archives
Erukku (giant milkweed) / smart phone photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 public photo archives
Erukku (giant milkweed) / Photography (C) Pee Vee / Project 365 public photo archives
Erukku (giant milkweed) / Photography (C) Pee Vee / Project 365 public photo archives

Disclaimer:

All rights reserved. All the images published in this page is copyrighted property of the author (photographer) and is a part of PROJECT 365 PUBLIC PHOTO ARCHIVES. Text by Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi / EtP. Plant research and description by Dr. Mahima Rahman. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and/or EtP (PROJECT 365 public archives). Prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing for non-commercial public use and research. For more information contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / project365@etpindia.org /

Director’s Anecdote II

Agni

Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 PUBLIC archives / 2014
Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 PUBLIC archives / 2014

The word agni is the Sanskrit word for fire and light. Agni is called as Thee in Tamil. Agni occupies a prominent place in the Vedas and vedic Brahmanas works as a Hindu and Vedic deity. The ancient Indians recognized it as the power of heat and light and the will-power united with wisdom, they knew the human will-power to be a feeble projection of this power which they believed could be strengthened by the Rig Vedic chants to Agni. The Vedic people developed the worship of Agni, personified and deified Agni as the sacrificial fire, the priest of the gods and the god of the priests, who through yajna carries the oblations to the gods, the celestial controllers of the mysterious and potent forces of nature, to ensure the continuance of conditions favourable to mankind.  In Vedic deities Agni occupies, after Indra, the most important position. He is ever-young, because the fire is re-lit every day, yet he is also immortal.

Agni is the first word of the first hymn of the Rigveda (Sukta I.i.1) revealed to Rishi Madhuchchandah Vaishvamitah in Gayatri metre. The Rig Veda begins with a prayer to Agni, the receiver, holder and distributor of energy, who leads the devtas to victory in their battles against the asuras, and confers wealth of various kinds to the performers of yajnas. According to Agni Purana, which is the eighth in the list of eighteen Puranas, no god is approachable without the medium of Agni, and no divinity is without the presence of Agni; his element is earth. At the command of Bhirgu, Agni was brought down from the heavens for man’s use by Matarishvan in the later writings Agni is described as a son of Angiras who happened to discover fire and its uses. Agni as the immortal guest is the witness of all actions, supremely powerful, all consuming and irresistible but who commands all earthly and heavenly riches i.e. all temporal good. As the most potent and visible form of energy, useful but destructive at the same time, fire was both revered and at the same time feared by the Vedic people. Cow’s milk and its derivatives such as ghee (clarified butter) are integral parts of Vedic fire sacrifices, which are conducted by Brahmin priests; That’s why the Vedic priests who are the keepers of fire worshiped the cow that provide ghee to feed the fire.

Project 365 is a PUBLIC PHOTOGRAPHIC ART PROJECT initiated by EtP to photo-document the fast changing ancient culture and contemporary lifestyle of the ancient Tamilakam territory. During the first phase, forty photographers will be documenting the multi-cultural aspects of #Tiruvannamalai, South Indian heritage town over a year period (Aug 2014 – July 2015). This Project is led by contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. FOR MORE PROJECT 365 IMAGES, see #etpproject365 In the next five years, EtP will document the Sangam period ports Muziris, Tindis, Korkai and the Cauvery basin culture and lifestyle.

Disclaimer: All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of the author and belongs to PROJECT 365 PUBLIC ARCHIVES. Text research Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi / EtP. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and EtP (PROJECT 365 public archives). Prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing. For more information about Project 365, contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Project 365