From these books, realise that the scholars of chemistry knew the processes for the purification of minerals and metals, removing their harmful characteristics and making them suitable for internal consumption. Mercury had to go through 18 processes of purification. These included some prominent ones like combining it with the juices of medicinal plants and the mixing of mercury with sulphur, mica and some alkaline products. Scholars of chemistry believe that after going through the 17 processes of purification, mercury can change its form (into gold or silver) but all its powers must be tested or investigated. If it passes the final test, then it must be sent through the 18th process of purification. This way, mercury becomes fit for rejuvenation.
Killing or destroying metals
The method of destroying the qualities of metal in order to make it worthy of use, has also been described in these books. It was a common practice to destroy the metal in the laboratory. Sulphur was used to destroy all metals. Hence, in the book, sulphur has been compared to a lion and the other metals to an elephant. It is said that just as a lion kills an elephant, similarly, sulphur destroys all metals Govindacharya, the Chemistry scholar says-
Naasti tallohamatango yanna
Coversion of zinc into gold: We all know that if one part of zinc is mixed with three parts of copper and heated, it changes into brass, which is a golden coloured mixture. Nagarjuna says?
Kramen kritwambudharen ranjitah
Karoti shulvam triputen kaanchanam
The non-rusting ability of metals: Govindacharya has described, the sequence of the abilities of metals to fight rusting and corrosion. Even today, the same system is followed-
Suvarnam rajatam tamram
Lohakam shadvidham taccha
This means that the sequence of the metals staying unaffected and undecayed by rusting or corrosion is gold, silver, copper, brass, lead and iron. Of these, gold rusts the least.
How to make Copper Sulphate from Copper
Tamradaah jalairyoge jayate tutyakam shubham. When copper is mixed with sulphuric acid, we get Copper Sulphate.
Various ashes?When the harmful characteristics of a metal are removed by chemical action and the metal is converted to ashes, it is known as bhasma. The ash of iron (lauh bhasma), gold (suvarna bhasma), silver (rajat bhasma), copper (tamra bhasma), tin (vanga bhasma) and lead (sees bhasma) are primarily used for medicinal purposes.
One chapter of Vagbhatta'sRas Ratna Samuchchay is dedicated to purification of juices.
Adamantine compound?In his Brihat Samhita, Varahmihir writes:
Ashtau seesakbhagah kansasya dvau tu
Maya kathito yogoayam vigyeyo
This means that if a compound which has eight parts of lead, two parts of bronze and one part of iron is used in the way that Maya has prescribed, it will change into a thunderbolt.
How to make distillates?According to Charak, there are nine ways of making distillates:
1. Dhanyasava?made from grains and seeds
2. Phalasava?made from fruits
3. Moolasava?made from roots
4. Saraasava?made from wood
5. Pushpaasava?made from flowers
6. Patraasava?made from leaves
7. Kaandaasava?made from stems and stacks
8. Twagaasava?made from barks
9. Sharkaraasava?made from sugar
Besides these, various kinds of perfumes, itr and other fragrant products were also developed. Detailed experiments about the metals have already been described in the metallurgy portion.
All these formulae were not given by just listening to a teacher or guru or by reading books. They were given after carrying out experiments personally. Expressing this, in the raskalp, a chapter of the Rudrayaamal Tantra of the 13th century, the scholar of chemistry says:
Iti sampadito margo drutinam patane sphutah
Sakshadanubhavairdrishto na shruto gurudarshitah
Lokanamupakarayetat sarvam niveditam
Sarvesham chaiva lohanam dravanam parikeertitam.
?I have proved all this by carrying out the experiments myself and not by what the tutor says or what the books says and have placed the result for everyone'sbenefit.? This is an inspiring example of the experimentation of the scholars of chemistry in the ancient times.
(This book is available with Ocean Books (P) Ltd. 4/19 Asaf Ali Road, new Delhi-110 002.)