Garden of Malabar

Hortus Malabaricus Palm Berries

Hortus Indicus Malabaricus is a comprehensive treatise that deals with the medicinal properties of the flora in the Indian state of Kerala.
The first volume was published in 1678, and the last in 1703.
Among the contributors and editors were physicians, professors of botany, amateur botanists, technicians, illustrators, and engravers. And assistance came from the King of Cochin and the ruling Zamorin of Calicut.

Much western lore was rejected, as was the Arabic classification of plants. And it was found that when questioned, the Brahmin scholars always depended on the field workers for precise answers.
So the book employs a system of classification based on the traditions adopted by the practitioners of that region, and the medical information presented in the work was extracted from palm leaf manuscripts passed down through the family of local ayurvedic doctor, Itty Achudan, in which were recorded names of medicinal plants, methods of preparation, the application of drugs, and the illnesses for which they were used.

A certificate states:
. . .  According to the Command of Commodore Henrik van Rheede, the trees, shrubs, twines and herbs and their flowers, fruits, seeds, juices and roots and their powers and properties described in the famed book of the Malayalee physician born at Carrapurram, of the Ezhava caste and of the name Colladan, have been dictated separately in Portuguese language and Malayalam language. Thus, for writing this truthfully, without any doubt, my signature . . . (attested 19th April I675)

Later, the plants were arranged at the University of Leiden garden exactly as prescribed by Achuden and his fellow Ezhavas.
Linnaeus subsequently adopted the same method of classification in 1740, as did many other scientists who followed.

http://historicalleys.blogspot.com/2010/01/itty-achutan-and-hortus-malabaricus.html

 

All the country around was diligently searched by the natives best acquainted with the habitats of plants; and fresh specimens were brought to Cochin where the Carmelite Mathaeus sketched them, with such striking accuracy, that there was no difficulty in identifying each particular species when you see his drawings. Names of each species is written in Malayalam as well as Konkani (Then known as Brahmananchi Bhas) A description of each plant was written in Malayalam and thence translated into Portuguese, by a resident at Cochin, named Emmanuel Carneiro. The Secretary to Government, Herman Van Douep, further translated it into Latin, that the learned in all the countries of Europe might have access to it. The whole seems then to have passed under the supervision of another learned individual named Casearius, who was probably a Dutch Chaplain and a personal friend of Hendrik van Rheede, who was the Governor of Dutch Malabar. The book confers honour, both on those who compiled it and the place where it was compiled.

 
T. Whitehouse, 1859, Historical Notices of Cochin on the Malabar Coast

 

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Would like to see this!


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