Soil (Bhoomi niroopanam)

Soil (Bhoomi niroopanam)

Soil (Bhoomi niroopanam) (12)

Vrikshayurveda provides suitable guidelines to the farmers for selection of suitable soil and maintaining its healthy status, which are essential for the cultivation of specific corps, planting of trees, raising plantation etc. Charaka and Susruta categorically stated that efficacy of vegetable drugs depends on the nature of soil on which they are grown. Therefore, the health of a human being is directly linked with the quality of the soil in which the food for his consumption is grown. Charaka stated that “Man is the product of food”

Chanakya who wrote ‘Arthasastra’ emphasized the care to be taken for sustaining the productivity and described the different types of soils. He also stressed the need to maintain fertility of the soil by applying suitable manures and ameliorants so as to make soil itself an organic manure. This leads to a novel concept in which a nutrient enriched soil will also become an organic input of economic value so that it can be branded and marketed as an alternative to commercially available organic manures.

Soil is an integral part of the ecosystem of planet earth. All living organism including human beings, plants and microbes sustain their life with the support of the richness, fertility and surrounding environment of the soil. Agricultural science defines soil as ‘a dynamic natural body on the surface of the earth in which plants grow, composed of mineral and organic materials and living forms.’ Soil is made up of four constituents include minerals, organic material, air and water. Ancient Vriksjayurvedic scholars were very keen to maintain the health of the soil as well as plants in terms of applying various preventive, promotional, corrective and curative measures. One of the notable contributions in the sector is the introduction of novel techniques to maintain the quality of the soil. To improve the texture of soil they applied processed soil types by adding nutraceutical as manures instead of direct application of fertilizers. Acharya Charaka and Susruta clearly spelt out the need to maintain the standards of row materials (edible/medicinal plants) collected/cultivated from the forest/natural lands or obtained from cultivated land. A benchmark is highly essential for collecting plants from such soil i.e., from proper places, time season etc. Arthasastra written by Chankya, stressed the need to maintain the productivity of different types of soil in view of their economic importance.

Charaka classified three types of soil according to the Geographic / Terrestrial ecosystem mainly based on its nature, climate, vegetation etc. They are Jangala Desha or Arid/Hilly area (literally dry wilderness – deserts plant types xerophytes), Anupa Desha literally water longed area – plant type aquatic hydrophytes and marshy hydrophytes), Sadharana Desa or generally plain land, plant types Mesophytes. Vrikshayurvedic scholars has been carried out mapping of physical characteristics of land with following specific features:

1, Jangala Desha: specific features

  • Generally open dry land with distribution of a smaller number of tree species.
  • Presence of thorny plants
  • Presence of less flowing or stagnant water bodies, sometimes causing bad order.
  • Open land with scanty vegetation
  • The soil is rough in nature
  • Physical characteristic of the inhabitants (human beings) are thin, stable, healthy, hard working and dominated with vata prakriti.
  • The plant posses’ astringent taste (katu)
  • Presence of water scarce areas
  • Whizzing of tree branches due to blowing of dry and hot wind
  • Presence of deep well
  • Presence of sand with thin, rough and hard nature
  • Abundance of round shaped, polished stone
  • Abundant distribution of Velli pakshi, Thithiripullu (falcon) and Chakoram (Centropus sinensis)
  • Vata, pitta prakriti dominated human beings with stable mind, well-built body 

The major trees usually distributed in the Jangala Desha are Swetakhadira (Acacia polyacantha), Khadira (Acacia Chunda), Asana (Pterocarpus marsupium), Aswakarnah (Terminalia paniculate), Indravriksha (Anogeissus latifolia). Tinisha (Desmodium oojeinensis), Parooshaka (Phoenix pusilla), Aralu (Alianthus excelsa), Thomarayam (Croton persimilis), Badari (Ziziphus mauritiana), Tinduk (Diospyros peregrina), Aswadham (Ficus religiose), Negrodham (Ficus benghalensis), Amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica), Jalavetasa (Homonoia riparia), Arjuna (Terminalia cuneata) and Irumullu (Xylia xylocarpa). 

2, Anupa Desha: specific features

  • Aquatic or marshy land
  • Abundance of water bodies
  • River is extended to forest river
  • Dominated by cold climate
  • Abundant distribution of grass, sand and water resources (ponds and lake) with fishes, surrounded by mountains with falling of dew
  • Human beings in this area usually adopt easy lifestyle and have a soft nature
  • These areas have prominence of gala roga (neck diseases), sleepadam (filariasis)
  • Soil is dominated by Madhura rasa (sweet taste)
  • Abundant distribution of trees / plants (wild / cultivated) like Inthapana (Phoenix pusilla), Pachillamaram (Pogostemon heyneanus), Thengu (Cocos nucifera), Vazha (Musa paradisiaca)
  • Coastal area
  • Presence of various types of flowering trees like Ashoka (saraca asoka), Attuvanchi (Homonoia riparia), Kanikkonna (Cassia fistula), Veppu (Azadirachta indica), Ezhilampala (Alstonia scholaris) etc.
  • Presence of healthy bushes, climbers and herbaceous plant species
  • Presence of the birds like Arayannam (Cygnus olor), Chakkravakam (Tadorna ferruginea), Vellipakshi, Pundarikam (Aythya nyroca), Karanam (Columba livia), Nerkakka (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis), Kadumanchathanpakshi, Perumthatta and Kuyil (Eudynamys scolopacea).
  • Human beings are generally good looking and dominated by Vata and Kapha Pakriti.

3, Sadharana Desha: specific features 

  • Sadharana Desha (plain land) is situated in between Jangala and Anupa Desha.
  • Presence of a combination of specific features mentioned in both Jangala and Anupama Desha.
  • Mixed distribution of plants, animals and birds that belongs to Jangala and Anupa Desha are seen in Sadharana Desha.
  • Human beings are generally good looking, stable minded and having good tolerance and complexion.
  • Sadharana Desha is a land of equilibrium of doshas and shows the healthy nature of the living beings, especially human being.

Soil Type

Soil is categorized as Urvara (fertile) and Anuvara (sterile). Urvara is further divided into four categories namely Mrista (rich fertile soil), Sarvasayadhya (fertile soil), Devamrittikaa (soil watered by rain) and Nadimrittika (soil watered by river). Similarly, Anurvara (sterile) has been categorized as Ushara (barren land) and Maru (desert) linked with Ksharamrittika (alkaline) and Aprahate (wasteland). According to Krishi-Sukti, a comprehensive book on agricultural science written by sage Kasyapa, land is classified into wetland for paddy fields, named Sulibhumi, Galabhumi and Sasyabhumi and dry land called Adakabhumi, Tarabhumi and Usharabhumi. (Krisi Sukti of sage Kasyapa upadesha). 

Different soils and their characteristic features.

(Table)  

Soil classification based on the color of the soil and taste

According to Charaka and text of Upavana vinoda, soil is categorized based on its color and taste. 

Classification of soil according to Susruta.

(table)

Classification of paddy fields

(table) 

According to Kasyapa, the area suitable for tree cultivation is nearby ponds, having the presence of soft clay soil with the presence of grass species like Durva (Cynodon dactylon), and Useera (Chrysopogon zizaniodes).

Classification of Cultivable Land for different plant species.

(table)

Based on the trial and error method, the experts of Vrikshayurveda classified the quality of soil suitable for cultivation of selected crops. Some of recommendations are:

Sandy soil for cultivation of variety rice (paddy), clayey soil for jute, sandy alluvial soil for wild padola (Trichosanthes lobata), soil of the banks of the river for Surana (Amorphophallus paeoniifolius (Dennst). Nicolson). Similar kinds of observations were also enumerated in Arthasastra.

Nature of soil crops recommended for cultivation

(table)

The land on which plants should be grown is to be clean, free from pieces of bones and stones, husk and wild grass and the soil should be soft, strong, cohesive and moist, slightly reddish and dark in colour. Its surface should be even, without pits, chasms or mounds and the soil should emit a pleasant smell. It should not either be deficient in water or be flooded always. It should be conducive to the rapid sprouting of seeds and be very easy to plough. It should be covered with cud of bulls and may abound in beneficial organisms and insects. It should be compact, heavy and fit for luxuriant growth of herbs and free from brambles and dry dung. Land in which presence of water is near the soil and is soft, is best suited for planting trees. 

Soil characteristics for planting various plant species.

(table)

The character of land, which is not suitable for cultivation of plants including trees is to be examined and executed. Avoid the land that is littered with: - 

  • Ant hills
  • Pits
  • Saline stones
  • Graveyard
  • Water scarce area
  • Barren land
  • The place where trees and plants are affected by frost
  • The place littered with stems of dried plants.

Plain lands with the presence of adequate water (samasanna jala) from different nearby sources like river, ponds.

The places where trees usually grow vigorously with the presence of grass on the surface of the land.

Colour of the land should be similar to the colour of Indraneela stone (Violet Blue Sapphire Gemstone), wings of parrot, conch shell (whitish brown), kunnam (kurikuthimulla-off white), kumutham (Ambal-pale yellow), Indu (colour of moon), Tapta kanchana (Reddish brown), Vikasichambakam (colour of the flower of Michelia champaca when it blossoms) 

The places where the irrigation facilities are available

Jangala and Anupadeshas are not much suitable for planting trees but plains are the most suitable places. 

Some of the tree species grown in Jangala, Anupa and Sadharanadesha

(table) 

Treating soil for quality improvement

It is interesting to note that Vrikshayurvedic scholars developed a kind of reclamation technology to improve the quality of soil. For example, by the application of Vajravalli (Cissus quadrangularis), Nimba (Azadirachta indica) leaf and neem oil the excessive soil salinity can be removed.

Medicinal plants are usually collected from all ecosystems including Jangala, Anupa and Sadharanadesam. Black soil is considered apt for the collection of medicinal plants. The locality of the collection of medicinal plants should have the following quality. The soil must be:

  • Fertile
  • Clean
  • Moist
  • Soft
  • Dense
  • Compact
  • Color of the soil – black, white, gold or red.
  • Presence of the grass species like kusa
  • (Desmostachya bipinnata) and Rohisha (Type of aromatic grass) is the most suitable place for the collection of medicinal plants.
  • Places properly exposed to sun light, rains, wind and cold.

The following localities are not suitable for the collection of medicinal plants:

  • Burial grounds
  • Nearby slaughter houses
  • Ant-hills
  • Barren land
  • Garbage pits
  • Gardens (because it is considered as ex-situ conservation sites)
  • Polluted areas
  • Around banyan trees
  • Temple premises (because it is considered as ex-situ conservation sites)
  • Main roads (highly polluted areas)
  • Market area / open street / polluted areas