According to Indian tradition, life has evolved progressively. This has been expressed in many books. The Shrimad Bhagwad describes:
Srishtva purani vividhaanyajyaatmashaktya
Taistair atushtahridayah purusham vidhaya
Brahmavalokadhishanam mudamaapa devah.
The basic power of the universe manifested itself in the form of creation. In this sequence, trees, reptiles, animals, birds, insects, fish, etc. were created; but this did not completely express its consciousness. Hence, human beings were created who could see that basic element.
Ancient Indian classification of living beings
Indian tradition speaks of about the 84 lakhs species from the time that life started to the time it reached the human stage. Even modern science accepts that the amoeba passed through the one crore 44 lakh species to reach the human state. It is amazing that thousands of years ago, our ancestors realised this. Many ancient Indian scholars have classified these 84 lakh species.
All creatures were divided into two parts?yonij and ayonij (born by the combination of two or developed itself like the amoeba respectively).
Besides this, creatures have been broadly divided into three parts:
1. Aquatic?Animals that live in water.
2. Terrestrial?Animals that move on land.
3. Aerial?Animals that fly in the sky.
Again, on the basis of their birth, the 84-lakh species have been classified into four categories:
1. Jarayuj?Those that are born from the mother'swomb like humans and some animals (mammals).
2. Andaj?Creatures born out of eggs.
3. Swedaj (Sweat born)?Small creatures which are born out of filth.
4. Udbhij (body-born)?Creatures born out of the earth were included in this category.
Species were classified on the basis of numbers in the Brihat Vishnu Puran:
1. Immovable or stationary?20 lakhs of species.
2. Aquatic?9 lakhs of species.
3. Amphibians?9 lakhs of animals that can move on both land and water.
4. Birds?10 lakhs of species.
5. Animals?30 lakhs.
6. Monkeys?4 lakhs.
7. The rest in the human species.
Each of these species was studied in detail. Animals were generally divided into two categories?Pet or domestic animals and wild animals.
Similarly, classification was also done on the basis of anatomy. This is mentioned in the book Science and Craft in Ancient India with the help of the classifications of the various scholars. According to this, animals have been classified into?
1. One-hoofed animals like the ass, the horse, the mule, gaur, a kind of buffalo, deer etc.
2. Animals with two hooves like the cow, the goat, the buffalo, black buck, etc.
3. Animals with five fingers of their paws, like the lion, the tiger, the elephant, the bear, jackal etc. (Science and Architecture in ancient India?pp. 107-110)
In his book entitled Science in Sanskrit, Dr. Vidyadhar Sharma ?Guleri? speaks about the classification of animals as given by Charak.
Charak'sClassification?Charak divided animals on the basis of their birth. He also classified them according to their food and habitat. (Charak Samhita, Sootrasthan, 27/35-54)
1. Prasah: Those that forcefully snatch food and eat. This class includes the cow, ass, mule, camel, horse, cheetah, lion, bear, tiger, monkey, wolf leopard, dogs with thick hair which live near the mountains, cat, rat, fox, jackals, tiger, vulture, crow, shashaghri (falcon-like birds that can even carry a rabbit), eagle, owl, ordinary house birds and kurar (the bird which pierces a fish in water and carries it away).
2. Bhumishay: Those who sleep under the ground. Animals that live in holes like the snake (white and black in colour) a chitraprishtha (one who has a painted back), kakuli deer?a special kind of snake, frog, iguana, seih (porcupine), gandak, kadali (a huge cat like a tiger), mongoose, shwawit (urchin), rat etc.
3. Animals of Anoopdesh: Animals that live primarily in water dominant regions: the hog, a yak (whose tail is used to make a whisk), rhinoceros, wild buffalo, neelgai, deer, pig, antelope and deer with many antlers are included in this.
4. Varishay: Aquatic animals like tortoise, crab, fish alligator, crocodile, oyster, otter, etc.
5. Vaaichari: Birds that live near water like the swan, curlew, balaka, heron, karandav (a kind of swan), plav, asharari, keshari, maalatundaka, mrinaalkanth, madgu(cormorant), kaadamb, kaakatundaka, utkrosh, pundareekaaksha, chaatak jalmurga, nandimukh, sumukh, sahachari, rohini, crane, goose, etc.
6. Forest animals: Animals that are born on land and live in the jungles like the cheetal (white-spotted deer), deer, sharabh (a deer which is huge like a camel. It has 8 legs; four on the back), charushka (deer family), red coloured deer, ena (black buck), sambar, varapot, rishya, etc.
7. Vishkri birds: Birds that scatter their food with their beaks and claws and then eat them. These include a quail , partridge, white partridge, red legged partridge, cock, vartak, vartika, peacock, kank, girivartak, gonard, krakar and baarat etc.
8. Pratud birds: Birds that strike and eat their food like the woodpecker, bhringaraj (special black coloured bird), jeevanjeevak (a special bird), kokila (cuckoo), kairaat, gopaputra, priyaatmaj, latwa, babhru, vataha, dindimaanak, jatayu, lauhaprishtha, weaver bird, dove parrot, kind of deer, chirti, sharika (mynah), kalawink(bird with a red head and a black neck), sparrow, bulbul, pigeon, etc.
Along with the above classification, Charak also gave a detailed analysis of their flesh, its uses and its effects on gout, bile and phlegm. The eggs of the partridge, hen peahen and the weaver bird, as food, have also been discussed.
Similarly, one also gets detailed descriptions of the classification of living beings in Sushruta'sSushruta Samhita, Panini'sAshtaadhyaayi, Patanjali'sMahabhashya, Amarsingh'sAmarkosh, Prashastapaada'scommentary on Vaisheshik Darshan and other books. (Science and Architecture in Ancient India?pp. 115?117)
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