Dussehra (Navaratri) / Vijayadashmi is a major festival, celebrated at the end of Navaratri every year in and around Bharata Kanda (India and Nepal) in the months of September and October. The festival, celebrated over nine days is also called NavDurga. As per ancient scriptures of India, Vijayadashami, the festival on 10th day, is observed upon Goddess Durga’s victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura to restore and protect Dharma (principles) was the basis for cerebrations. In some parts of India, Dussehara marks the end of Ramlila and remembers God Rama’s victory over Ravana. On the very same Vijayadashami day, Arjuna alone decimated more than 1,000,000 soldiers and defeated all Kuru warriors including Bhishma, Dronacharya, Ashwatthama, Karna and Kripacharya, a significant example of victory of good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma).
Ancient Indian sanathana dharma always included health advice integrated in religious / community / rituals, to bring the awareness to the local population about the importance of health and available management through nearby plant based drugs. The medicinal plants availability, importance and their functions were mentioned in many ancient Indian scriptures including Satapadhabrahmana, Rig Veda, Ayurveda, Puranas, Ravana Samhita, Charka Samhita, Sushrutaha Samhita, Astangahridaya etc.,. Upon searching ancient scriptures, one may find many examples of medicinal plants references given various scriptures, apart from the scriptures approved for Ayurveda by AYUSH Department, Govt. of India.
Navdurga literally means nine forms of Maa Durga. But very few people know that there are also nine herbs that represent the essence of Navdurga. In Markandeya Purana, these nine herbs are referred to as carrying essential characteristics of the Goddess Durga. God Brahma ji too has called them Durga Kavach i.e. the shield that saves from ill health.
We can not ignore medicinal plants referred in ancient scriptures as their efficacy proved multiple times with reproducible results as on date with modern valid techniques after thousands of years. One should respect our traditional medicinal knowledge of ancient Bharata Kanda (India).
Represented Medicinal Plants
1 Shailaputri Harad / Harithaki / Terminalia chebula
2 Brahmacharini Brahmi / Bacopa munnieri
3 Chandraghanta Chandrasoor / Lepidium Sativum
4 Kushmanda Kushmanda / Benincasa hispida
5 Skandamata Alsi / Linum usitatissimum
6 Kathyayani Machika / Hibiscus cannabinus L
7 Kalarathri Naagdon / Euphorbia tithymaloides
8 Mahagauri Tulasi / Ocimum sanctum
9 Siddadhatri Shatavari / Asperagus racemosus
Shailaputri – Harad / Harithaki / Terminalia chebula:
Shailaputri (शैलपुत्री), is the daughter of the Mountain King Himavat, and is a manifestation of the Hindu Mother Goddess, Durga. Shailaputri comes from the combination of two words Shaila Meaning Mountain and putri meaning the daughter. So the daughter of mountain has her essences trapped in an essential herb known as the Harithaki or Terminalia chebula. Fruit extract of T. chebula is widely employed as an important ingredient in various ayurvedic preparations like ‘Triphala’. This formulation is beneficial as detoxifying agent of the colon, purgative in chronic constipation, aids in digestion and as a body rejuvenator. The fruit has great medicinal significance and conventionally applied for the management of various illness conditions, such as sore throat, high cough, asthma, ulcers, gout, heart burn, vomiting, diarrhea, dysentery, bleeding piles and bladder diseases. It is also utilized as mild laxative, antispasmodic and stomachic. Because of these enormous medicinal properties, T. chebula is commonly termed as ‘King of Medicine’ in Tibet and can be called as a ‘wonder herb’. (1)
Brahmacharini – Brahmi / Bacopa munnieri:
Brahmacharini (Sanskrit: ब्रह्मचारिणी) means a devoted female student who lives in an Ashrama with her Guru along with other students. It is also the name of the second aspect of the goddess Durga. The goddess is worshipped on the second day of Navratri (the nine divine nights of Navadurga). Her presence associated with herb Brahmi – Bacopa munnieri supports memory and neurological improvement. Phytochemical analysis of Bacopa munnieri extracts revealed the presence of various biochemical compounds such as alkaloids, bacosides, flavonoids, glycosides, triterpenoids and saponins etc. BM is conventionally used for diverse ailments, but is best known as memory enhancer. A vast range of studies using methanolic and ethanolic extracts of BM have shown its effect in treatment of wide range of diseases like diabetes, depression, cancer, inflammation etc.
Chandraghanta – Chandrasoor / Lepidium Sativum:
In Hinduism, Chandraghanta is the third form of Goddess Durga . Her name Chandra-Ghanta, means “one who has a half-moon shaped like a bell. Her third eye is always opened and she is always ready for war against demons”. She is also known as Chandrakhanda, Chandika or Rannchandi. Medicinal plant Chandrasoor / Lepidium Sativum represented with Chandraghanta. Lepidium sativum Linn., (Brassicaceae) is annual herb has various pharmacological actions such as antibacterial activity, antifungal activity, antioxidant activity, cytotoxic activity, diuretic activity, hepato protective activity, hypoglycemic activity, antiosteoporotic activity, antiasthmatic activity, anti-carcinogenic effect, cardiotonic activity, smooth and skeletal muscles contraction activity, fracture healing property, chemoprotective effects, and hemagglutinating activity. It is used for menstrual cycle regulation, gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and constipation and to increase milk production. It is also reported to exhibit antirheumatic activity. It is also used as an immunity booster and brain intellect enhancer agent as traditional medicine. (3)
Kushmanda – Kushmanda / Benincasa hispida:
Kushmanda is a Hindu goddess, credited with creating the world with her divine smile. Followers of the Kalikula tradition believe her to be the fourth form of the Hindu goddess Durga. Her name signals her main role: Ku means “a little”, Ushma means “warmth” or “energy” and Anda means “cosmic egg”. Medicinal plant Kushmanda represents the Godess. Phytochemical analysis showed that the major constituents of Benincasa hispida fruits are volatile oils , flavonoids, glycosides, sacchrides, proteins, carotenes, vitamins, minerals, ß-sitosterin and uronic acid. The pharmacological studies revealed that the plant exerted many pharmacological activities, including central nervous effects (anxiolytic , muscle relaxant , antidepressant , in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and to minimize opiates withdrawal signs), antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiasthmatic, diuretic , nephroprotective , antidiabetic , hypolipidemic and antimicrobial effects . (4)
Skandamata – Alsi / Linum usitatissimum:
Skandamātā (Sanskrit: स्कन्दमाता) is the fifth form of Hindu Goddess Durga. Her name comes from Skanda, an alternate name for the war god Kartikeya, and Mātā, meaning mother. As one of the Navadurga, the worship of Skandamātā takes place on the fifth day of Navaratri. Her abode is in Vishuddha chakra. Medicinal Plant Alsi / Linum usitatissimum represents Skandamata. The archaeological evidence of flax cultivation dates back to >6000 BC and it is considered as one of the oldest and most useful crops. Components of flax have diverse uses. Cultivar development of flax is currently focused on enhancing the oil content and nutritional value to meet the demand of nutraceutical market supply, as an alternate source of fish oil, a rich source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6). Flax seed is also rich in soluble and insoluble fibers and lignans, makes it useful as a dietary supplement. Intake of flaxseed in daily diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke. There is also evidence that flax has anticancer effects in breast, prostate and colon cancers. (5)
Kathyayani – Machika / Hibiscus cannabinus L:
Katyayani (कात्यायनी) is one of the avatars of The Hindu Mother Goddess, Durga. She is seen as the slayer of the tyrannical demon Mahishasura. She is also the sixth form amongst Navadurga or the nine forms of Hindu goddess Durga , worshipped during the Navratri celebrations. Medicinal plant Machika / Hibiscus cannabinus L, represents Kathyayani Devi. The phytochemical analysis of Hibiscus cannabinus showed the presence of phytosterols, flavonoids, polyphenols, tannins, steroids, alkaloids, saponins, lignans, essential oils, glucosides such as cannabiscitrin, cannabiscetin and anthocyanin glycoside. The pharmacological studies revealed that Hibiscus cannabinus possessed cytotoxic, anthelmintic, antibacterial, antiulcer, antidiabetic, hypolipidemic, antioxidant, immunological, haematinic and hepatoprotective effects.
Kalarathri – Naagdon / Euphorbia tithymaloides:
Kalaratri (sometimes spelled Kaalratri) is the seventh of the nine forms of the Goddess Durga, known as the Navadurga. She is first referenced in the Durga Saptashati, Chapters 81-93 of the Markandeya Purana, the earliest known literature on the Goddess Durga. Medicinal plant Naagdon / Euphorbia tithymaloides represents Kalarathri Devi. Euphorbia tithymaloides (L.) leaves are extensively used in traditional medicine to cure asthma, mouth ulcers, persistent coughing, venereal troubles & ringworms. Besides this, it is also known to possess antiprotozoal, mitogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-plasmodial, anti-mycobacterial, anthelminthic and antimicrobial activities. (7)
Mahagauri – Tulasi / Ocimum sanctum:
Mahagauri (Sanskrit: महागौरी, IAST: Mahāgaurī) is the eighth avatar of Durga and amongst the Navadurgas. Mahagauri is worshipped on the eighth day of Navaratri. According to Hinduism, Goddess Mahagauri has the power to fulfill all the desires of her devotees. Medicinal Plant Tulasi / Ocimum sanctum represents Mahagouri Devi. Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn) are known for thousand years to various civilizations of the world. This medicinal herb is considered as a sacred plant by the Hindus in the Indian subcontinent. Scientific explorations of traditional belief of medicinal properties of Tulsi have got momentum mostly after the middle of the 20th century. The wide numbers of phytochemical constituents have been isolated from the plant e.g. aesculectin, orientin, vallinin, eugenol, alkanoids and is proved to have potential for medical effects like hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, chemopreventive, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, antiulcer, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and various other important medicinal properties. (8)
Siddadhatri – Shatavari / Asperagus racemosus:
Siddhidhatri is the ninth form of the Goddess Durga, the meaning of her name is as follows: Siddhi means supernatural power or meditative ability, and Dhatri means giver or awarder. She is worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri (nine nights of Navadurga); she fulfills all the divine aspirations and completes the mundane. Medicinal plant Shatavari / Asperagus racemosus represents Siddadhatri. Asparagus racemosus root has bitter-sweet taste, palliative, stomachic, cooling, binding, aphrodisiac, nervine tonic, galactogogue, diuretic, rejuvenating, carminative, antiseptic and as tonic. There are many beneficial effects of A. racemosus root in treatment of many diseases like nervous breakdown, diarrhea, inflammation, liver problem, cough, bronchitis and many other contagious diseases. (9)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized the importance of traditional research and stressed on the need to bring Ayurveda as per the needs of modern medicine and called upon research institutes to prepare courses as per international standards. International cooperation on Indian traditional medicine is increasing continuously be it Indo –German relations or Indo-US relations. Today WHO has chosen India for establishing its Global Centre for traditional medicine, national policy of Brazil also includes Ayurveda. Mr. Modi said. During the discussions, Dr Jitendra singh Science and technology minister, highlighted the promotion of India’s Indigenous medical system. Recently, Herbal Research Labs Pvt Ltd., Director Dr Murty, based on ancient scriptures formulated poly herbal combinations addressing the gap areas in the modern medicine to address vascular endothelial dysfunction, inflammation, immunity correction including Terminalia chebula, Benincasa hispida and Asperagus racemosus extracts with promising results.
One should not ignore the importance of Hibiscus cannabinus L in cancer pain management, may be economical with lesser adverse effects. Integration of Modern medicine with Ayurveda (Traditional knowledge) may be the choice of the day to address many medical issues with both improved management and economical. Evidence based local traditional knowledge always beneficial and economical.
1. Terminalia chebula Retz. – an important medicinal plant – jayaprakash narayan kolla#, nagaraj m. kulkarni#, rathanakar reddy kura, sravan kumar reddy theepireddy* – Herba Pol 2017; 63(4): 45-56.
2. Bacopa Monnieri: A Wonder Drug Changing Fortune of People Kriti Rai1*, Nirmala Gupta2, Lakshya Dharamdasani3, Pallavi Nair4, Prerna Bodhankar (2017) Int. J. Appl. Sci. Biotechnol. Vol 5(2): 127-132
3. Phytoconstituents, pharmacological activity, and medicinal use of lepidium sativum linn.: a review – chetna baregama, Asian J Pharm Clin Res, Vol 12, Issue 4, 2019, 45-50
4. The Pharmacological Importance of Benincasa hispida. A review – Ali Esmail Al-Snafi – Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, International Journal of Pharma Sciences and Research (IJPSR) – Vol 4 No 12 Dec 2013
5. Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.): Current Uses and Future Applications – Amit J. Jhala and Linda M. Hall Australian Journal of basic and Applied Sciences, 4(9): 4304-4312, 2010 ISSN 1991-8178 – © 2010, INS Inet Publication
6. Pharmacological effects and therapeutic properties of hibiscus cannabinus – a review – Ali Esmail Al-Snafi – Pharmacological Effects and Therapeutic Properties of Hibiscus Cannabinus- A Review, Indo Am. J. P. Sci, 2018; 05(04).
7. Pharmacognostical& Physicochemical Studies of Euphorbia Tithymaloides (L.) Poit Ronit Poudel1*, Rajani Srivastava1,Adarsh Tripathi
8. Ocimum sanctum: a medicinal gift from nature Amol S Deshmukh *1, Girishkumar B Deshmukh1 and Pratibha D Shirole. International Journal of Pharmacognosy – Deshmukh et al., IJP, 2015; Vol. 2(12): 550-559.
9. Asparagus Racemosus: A Therapeutic Herb – Muhammad Farhan Jahangir Chughtai*, Shoaib Aziz, Samreen Ahsan, Ayesha Ali, Nimra Sameed, Kanza Saeed and Syed Junaid ur Rehman – Journal of Food and Nutrition – DOI: 10.32474/SJFN.2020.03.000161 – September 07, 2020
10. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pm-modi-ayurveda knowledge-needs-to-be-developed-as-per-modern-needs-7051053/
Article written by N.K. Prasanna and S.K. Varshney
*N.K. Prasanna (email@example.com)is a Scientist at CSIR-National Institute of Science Communication and Policy Research (CSIR-NIScPR), New Delhi. #SK Varshney (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Head, International Cooperation, Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi