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Re: After 325 years, seminal treatise bears new fruit

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  • OBEONEKNOWBE
    PERFUMED GARDEN.....THE GARDENS OF MALABAR AND KALIRIYAPUT, KATHAKALI AND ARYUVEDIC MEDICINE. vERY GOOD ... the ... wealth ... of ... have ... out ... release
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 5, 2003
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      PERFUMED GARDEN.....THE GARDENS OF MALABAR AND KALIRIYAPUT, KATHAKALI
      AND ARYUVEDIC MEDICINE. vERY GOOD
      --- In IndiaArchaeology@yahoogroups.com, "JK" <tiptronicus@y...>
      wrote:
      > http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/EE08Df01.html
      >
      > NEW DELHI - Fully 325 years after its publication in Amsterdam, the
      > 132-volume Hortus Malabaricus ("Garden of Malabar"), a treatise on
      the
      > medicinal plants of the southern Indian state of Kerala, has finally
      > been translated from Latin into English - and it has unlocked a
      wealth
      > of information for historians, botanists and medical researchers.
      >
      > Its original author, Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede, the Dutch governor
      of
      > the former princely state of Cochin between 1670 and 1677, would
      have
      > approved of the effort taken by the Kerala University in bringing
      out
      > an English version after it defied translation for centuries.
      >
      > "Several attempts were made to bring out Dutch and English
      > translations of the Hortus Malabaricus, but all of them failed, so
      > much so that there is a superstition surrounding it - we have just
      > broken that superstition," said Dr B Ekbal, the vice chancellor of
      > Kerala University, in an interview soon after its much-awaited
      release
      > for general sale this month.
      >
      > Rheede's feat was almost superhuman considering that he brought out
      > the 12 finely illustrated volumes between 1678 and 1703 in Latin,
      the
      > accepted language for scientific work in Europe at that time, and
      also
      > employed three other scripts - the local Malayalam, Arabic and
      > Sanskrit. Plant names appeared in the Portuguese and Flemish
      languages
      > as well.
      >
      > Ekbal, a well-known neurosurgeon and health expert, said that apart
      > from its obvious botanical and medical importance, Hortus
      Malabaricus
      > throws light on the intense rivalry between European maritime powers
      > on the coast of Malabar and in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and on the
      > socio-cultural history of these regions.
      >
      > The various volumes are replete with copious introductions,
      forewords,
      > dedications, references and certificates given by or for people
      > ranging from Rheede himself to the native physicians on whom he
      > relied. They contain much information about the social and cultural
      > conditions of the time in Kerala, as well as the rest of India.
      >
      > "None of this could be properly studied, analyzed or appreciated by
      > contemporary scholars because the text was in old Latin and so the
      > vast fund of information contained in the several volumes remained
      > inaccessible," Ekbal said.
      >
      > Hortus Malabaricus is many things to many people depending on their
      > background and interest. Professor K S Manilal, who labored 30 years
      > to bring out the English version, complete with annotations and
      modern
      > botanical nomenclature, said the volumes were important to people of
      > Kerala because they represented the earliest example of printing in
      > the Malayalam language, now spoken by at least 30 million literate
      > people.
      >
      > For botanists, the work, which has detailed descriptions and
      > illustrations of 780 rare plant species, represents a landmark in
      > plant science and was extensively referred to 75 years later by Carl
      > Linnaeus, the Swede who pioneered plant classification and is
      > considered to be the father of modern botany. Hortus Malabaricus is
      > not only historical, but it actually created history.
      >
      > According to Manilal, the book decided the political fortunes of
      > Malabar and Ceylon and was in fact the product of political rivalry
      > between van Rheede and the formidable Ryklof van Goens, who was bent
      > on establishing the Dutch colonial capital at Colombo rather than
      > Cochin.
      >
      > "Van Rheede's main purpose in producing the volumes was to prove
      > Malabar's superiority in terms of ready supply of valuable spices,
      > cotton, timber and the availability of essential drugs for Dutch
      > officers and their families in the East Indies," Manilal said.
      >
      > Van Rheede was able to show that many valuable drugs purchased in
      > European cities, including those used for the treatment of Dutch
      > officers in the Indies, were actually made from medicinal plants
      > originating in Malabar and exported through Arabian and other trade
      > routes.
      >
      > It worked. The Dutch government approved the opinion of van Rheede
      > over that of his superior, while his publication went on to create a
      > stir in the scientific and political circles of Europe, further
      > stimulating the rivalry for colonies in India.
      >
      > But the Dutch, who had captured Cochin from the Portuguese in 1663
      > after years of coastal warfare, lost it to the British in 1795. They
      > later withdrew forever to the East Indies, leaving behind in what
      > became modern Kerala and Sri Lanka a string of ruined fortifications
      > and, of course, Hortus Malabaricus.
      >
      > Manilal says the treatise would be invaluable to nature
      > conservationists trying to trace the migration, disappearance and
      > possible extinction of many useful plants from their original
      habitats
      > in the western areas of peninsular India, a zone recognized as one
      of
      > the world's biodiversity hotspots.
      >
      > In today's world, where the value of natural drugs is gaining fresh
      > recognition but is bedeviled by such issues as intellectual property
      > rights and biological patent laws, van Rheede's work and its English
      > translation have a new and special relevance.
      >
      > In recent times, several of India's traditional plant-based
      remedies,
      > such as those from turmeric and neem, have come under assault by
      > biopirates and Indian groups. The government has had to defend them
      > from being patented by recourse to ancient texts to show "prior
      art".
      >
      > But some patent experts think that translating such texts as Hortus
      > Malabaricus may actually help biopirates rather than hinder them,
      > especially in the absence of universal acceptance of the
      Biodiversity
      > Convention, which is in serious trouble with the Trade Related
      Aspects
      > of Intellectual Property Rights agreement under the World Trade
      > Organization.
      >
      > "By publishing the Hortus Malabaricus in English you will be handing
      > it to them [biopirates] on a platter," said B K Keyala, one of
      India's
      > foremost patent experts. Keyala said the details of medicinal plants
      > and their uses given in the translated version, which is being made
      > available at US$500 for a set by Kerala University, will be tapped
      by
      > biopirates who cannot be prevented from taking out patents on
      extracts
      > from the plants and processes to do that.
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