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Ancient Ayurveda Dictionary – Paryayaratnamala

Paryayaratnamala or Ratnamala by Madhavakara is a famous ancient Ayurveda dictionary. This medical lexicon in ancient India incorporates numerous words of common parlance about medical plants and drugs. It has also appended to itself a section on homonyms as well as another on ‘mana’ measures, including definition of certain technical terms of frequent occurrence.

The author Madhavakara was the son of Indu Kasa, the celebrated author of Raghviniscaya, popularly known as Nidana. Ganganatha is of the opinion that since Nidana was translated into Persian at the time of Harun-al-Rashid in the 8th century AD, Madhava must have flourished during the 7th century AD or earlier. Joley conservatively places the time period of Madhavakara in the 9th or 8th century AD.

In Paryaya Ratnamala synonyms are presented in shlokas, ardh ashlokas, padas and padardhas.

The homonyms are presented in three ways:
  • Words having a single additional meaning each, indicated by the particle api.
  • Words having two meanings each.
  • Words having many meaning each.

The style of presentation of Paryayaratnamala is most concise and direct, almost of the sutra style. Shloka or anustubha is the meter used throughout the book.

Very often Ratnamala of Madhavakara is descriptive of the characteristics or peculiar features of a plant; drug varieties of a plant or drug, if there are any have also been briefly indicated.

Paryayaratnamala has been often quoted by Sarvananda Vandyagaditya in this commentary on Amara. Both the work and its author have been referred to by Medini (13th century AD), Rayamukta (15th century AD) and Bhanuji Dikshita (17th century AD).

Notes taken from Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume III page 93-94 - IHRF