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is extracted from it in many parts of Hindustàn and used as an åtar or perfume. He adds a very curious philological remark, that, in the Tamul dictionary, most words beginning with nár have some relation to fragrance; as nárukeradu to yield an odour, nártum pillu, lemon-grass, nártei, citron, nárta manum, the wild orange-tree, nárum panei, the Indian Jasmin, nárum alleri, a strong smelling flower, and nártu, which
put for nard in the Tamul version of our Scriptures; so that not only the nard of the Hebrews and Greeks, but even the copia narium of HORACE, may be derived from an Indian root : to this I can only say, that I have not met with any such root in Sanscrit, the oldest polished language of India, and that in Persian, which has a manifest affinity with it, nár means a pomegranate, and nárgàl (a word originally Sanscrit) a cocoa-nut, neither of which has any remarkable fragrance.
Such is the evidence in support of the opinion, given by the great Swedish naturalist, that the true nard was a gramineous plant and a species of Andropogon ; but, fince no grass, that I have yet seen, bears any resemblance to the Jatámánsì
, which I conceive to be the nardus of the ancients, I beg leave to express my diffent, with some confidence as a philologer, though with humble diffidence as a student in botany. I am not, indeed, of opinion, that the nardum of the Romans was merely the essential oil of the plant, from which it was denominated, but am strongly inclined to believe, that it was a generick word, meaning what we now call åtar, and either the âtar of roses from Cashmir and Perhia, that of Cétaca, or Pandanus, from the western coast of India, or that of Aguru, or aloe-wood, from Afám or Cochinchina, the process of obtaining which is described by ABU’LFAZL, or the mixed perfume, called åbír, of which the principal ingredients were yellow fandal, violets, orange-flowers, wood of aloes, rose-water, muik, and true spikenard : all those essences and compositions were
costly; and, most of them being sold by the Indians to the Persians and Arabs, from whom, in the time of OCTAVIUS, they were received by the Syrians and Romans, they must have been extremely dear at Jerusalem and at Rome. There might also have been a pure nardine oil, as ATHENÆUS calls it ; but nardum probably meant (and Koenig was of the same opinion) an Indian essence in general, taking its name from that ingredient, which had, or was commonly thought to have, the most exquisite scent. But I have been drawn by a pleasing subject to a greater length than I expected, and proceed to the promised description of the true nard, or Jatámánsi, which, by the way, has other names in the Amarcósh, the smoothest of which are jatilá and lómasà, both derived from words meaning hair. Mr. Burt, after a modest apology for his imperfect acquaintance with the language of botanists, has favoured me with an account of the plant, on the correctness of which I have a perfect reliance, and from which I collect the following natural characters:
It appears, therefore, to be the Protean plant, VALERIAN, a sister of the mountain and Celtick, Nard, and of a species, which I should describe in the Linnean style : VALERIANA JATA'MA'NSI floribus triandris, foliis cordatis quaternis, radicalibus petiolatis. The
The radical leaves, rising from the ground and enfolding the young stem, are
plucked up with a part of the root, and, being dried in the fun or by an artificial heat, are sold as a drug, which from its appearance has been called Spikenard; though, as the Persian writer observes, it might be compared more properly to the tail of an ermine : when nothing remains but the dry fibres of the leaves, which retain their original form, they have some resemblance to a lock of hair, from which the Sanscrit name, it seems, is derived.
Two mercantile agents from Bután on the part of the Dévarájá were examined, at my request, by Mr. HARRINGTON, and informed him, that the drug, which the Bengalese called Jatámánsí
, grew erect above the surface “ of the ground, resembling in colour an ear of green wheat; that, “ when recent, it had a faint odour, which was greatly increased by “ the simple process of drying it; that it abounded on the hills, and
even on the plains, of Bután, where it was collected and prepared « for medicinal purposes.” What its virtues are, experience alone can ascertain ; but, as far as botanical analogy can justify a conjecture, we may suppose them to be antispasmodick; and, in our provinces, especially in Behar, the plant will probably flourish ; so that we may always procure it in a state fit for experiment. On the description of the Indian spikenard, compared with the drawing, I must observe, that, though all the leaves, as delineated, may not appear of the same shape, yet all of them are not fully expanded. Mr. Burt assures me, that the four radical leaves are hearted and petioled; and it is most probable, that the cauline and floral leaves would have a similar form in their state of perfect expansion ; but, unfortunately, the plants at Gayá are now shrivelled; and they, who seek farther information, must wait with patience, until new stems and leaves Niall spring from the roots, or other plants shall be brought from Népal and Bután. On the proposed inquiry into the virtues of this celebrated plant, I must be permitted to say, that, although many botanists may have wasted their time in enumerating the qualities of vegetables, without having ascertained them by repeated and satisfactory experiments, and although mere botany goes no farther than technical arrangement and description, yet it seems indubitable, that the great end and aim of a botanical philosopher is, to discover and prove the several uses of the vegetable system, and, while he admits with HIPPOCRATES the fallaciousness of experience, to rely on experiment alone as the basis of his knowledge.