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Surapala – Short Biography – Author On Botanical Science In Ancient Hindu Religion

Surpala is the author on botanical science in ancient Hindu religion. He is the author of Vrikshayurveda on arboriculture and allied subjects. Though botanical science was known from very early times and we have allusions to it in several works like Varahamihira’s Brihatsamhita, Surapala’s Vrikshayurveda is one of the few independent texts on the subject. Surapala acknowledges his indebtedness to the earlier works and avers that there is nothing of his own. The work comprises 325 stanzas, mostly in the anustup meter and upajati, vasantatilaka, mandakranta, vamsastha, pushptiagra and sardulavikridita. It is divided into sections topically.

The items dwelt upon include glorification of trees and of planting certain trees, merits and demerits of trees planted around the house, selection and preparation of the soil, classification of plants and their multiplication, seeds, sowing, planting, protection and nourishment of plants, dangers to and diseases of plants and their treatment, horticultural wonders, pleasure gardens, groundwater, and suitability or otherwise of land for crop and animal husbandry as indicated by natural vegetation.

Very little is known about Surapala’s life. In the colophon 9p.32, verse 25), he describes himself as an intimate of King Bhimapala and as an expert in the vaidya-vdya-vareya (medical science), whose spotless fame had spread due to siddhayogas. Surapala is mentioned in a variant reading of Subandhu’s prose romance, Vasavadatta (7th century CE); however most scholars do not accept this. But there are several verses common to our text and the Upavana-Vinoda section of the Arsgadhara-paddhati (13th century CE). This may indicate that one of them borrowed from the other or that both were indebted to some other source. However, since it is an independent text on the subject, it is more likely that this was Arsgadhara’s source. Accordingly, Surapala and his Vrikshayurveda may be place somewhere in the 11th-12th century CE.