The use of snuhī in Indian medical and liturgical literature, with a note on Bengali Śaktism
AuthorsFerrari, Fabrizio M.
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractThe name snuhī is attested since the first centuries CE in the materia medica of early āyurvedic compendia where its leaves, roots and, particularly, its milky exudation are used in preparations against a wide range of conditions. Identified with various Euphorbiaceae, oft confused with cacti, and known in English as the spurge tree, snuhī is also described as a lesser poison (upaviṣa) and used in alchemical processes to purify metals. Finally, the spurge tree is also present in vernacular traditions, where it is associated to few gods and goddesses and is used by folk healers to develop antidotes against poisonous animals. Moving from an analysis of Picchilātantra, a short premodern Bengali Śākta ritual manual, I discuss how the snuhī-tree (B. sij, siju, manasā) came to be associated to the goddess Śītalā (protector of children from fever and poxes) and her cohort in a way that is not confirmed by other textual evidence or current ritual praxis. The present study, thought based on a minor text, reflects on how scientific knowledge has informed ritual and devotional culture and on the natural permeability of liturgical praxis in vernacular traditions.
CitationFerrari, F.M. (2017). The use of snuhī in Indian medical and liturgical literature, with a note on Bengali Śaktism. Traditional South Asian Medicine, 9, 84-119.
JournalTraditional South Asian Medicine
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