Ancient Vedic Agriculture

Ancient Vedic Agriculture

India is an agricultural country since ages. Agriculture has been referred in Vedas and many other ancient scriptures. In Bhagawad Gita Lord Vishnu has identified himself as the tree of Ashawatha (Pipal)

Ashwatha Sarva Vrukshanam, Devarshinam Cha Narada I
Gandharvanam Chitra Ratha,  Sidhanam  Kapilo Muni II

(Chapter 10, Shlok 26)

Pipal is a tree which releases Oxygen even during night time also, while other trees release Oxygen during day time (Phenomenon of Photosynthesis) and Carbon dioxide during night time (Phenomenon of Respiration). It means that processes of Photosynthesis and Respiration were known to our forefathers. In Atharva ved 300 varieties of various trees has been listed. Obviously, agriculture was known to us since vedic times.

‘Krishi Parashar’ is the first treatise on agriculture in whole world. Mahrishi Parashar son of Muni Shakti was the grandson of Mahrishi Vashista, Kulguru of Maharaja Dashrath of Ayodhya. He has also worked on medicine and wrote another text ‘Vrukshaurved’. In Krishi parashar he has dealt at length about rain, rain forecasting, rain measurement and field crops. The unit of rain was defined as “Adhaka”. While, tree plantation its types, raising of nursery, grafting and transplanting have been described in Vrukshaurved. Medicinal usages of different plants and its application as pesticides etc. have also been described by him. Subsequently, Garga Muni dealt with the cultivation practices of various crops. Mahrishi Kashyap has also explained agriculture in his ‘Kashyapi-krishi-sukti’ exclusively.

Subsequently, Varahmihir explained the techniques of rain forecasting at length in his “Varah Samhita”. He explained the unit of rain measurement as ‘Drona’. Those techniques of rain forecasting are applicable even today. Shurpala explained ‘Vrukshaurved’ and perfected many techniques. Kautilya in his ‘Arthashastra’ gave crop yield forecasting methods and described agriculture as the basis of business and trade. Balkundi(1998) mentions Parashar as one of the Acharyas (Professor) of Kautilya.

In whole world, cultivation of paddy (Oryza Sativa. Ind.), originated from India and went to Brhmadesh (Burma) and Syam (Thailand). From there it spread to Vietnam and Java, Sumatra and Bali islands (Indonesia). Some varieties of paddy were evolved there and its latin name became (Oryza Sativa. Jav. ). Then it moved to Philippines and Japan. Again, some new varieties were added there and its latin name became (Oryza Sativa. Jap.). Finally, cultivation of paddy spread to China, Mongolia and Korea. Thus, cultivation of paddy originated from India and spread to whole eastern part of the globe. Today rice is the main crop of these countries and staple food of their diet. Rice is produced maximum and is the no. one crop of the world. India, with 95 Mt (2010) of production is the second largest producer of rice. Rice is having 2,40,000 varieties, out of which 60,000 varieties are from India. Its gene code has been fully deciphered, in which Indian Scientists are having a sizable contribution.

In Krushi-Parashar he has described seed treatment of paddy, nursery preparation, transplanting of seedlings and thrashing. He said that farmer should make pillar for thrashing made of nyagrodha (Ficus benghalensis L.;banyan), saptaparna (Alstonia scholaris R. Br.), gambhari (Gmelinaarborea Roxb.). silk cotton tree (Bombax malabaricum DC.), or audambari (Ficus glomerata Roxb.). In absence of vata (F.benghalensis) etc. wood for the pillar should be produced from a tree bearing a feminine name. It should be protected by neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss) leaves and mustard (Brassica sp.) and should be equipped with a flag. It is clear that these trees were known during that period.

Before taking up the final harvesting peasants should celebrate. After meals unguents and perfumes containing the four items Sandal, Camphor, Saffron and musk should be offered to them. Naturally, sandal, camphor and saffron were cultivated and grown during those days.

Sugarcane cultivation started from Ayodhya and that part of the country. Extraction of juice, making of jaggery, batasha, khand, saboni, bura and finally making of sweets started from there and then spread to whole India. Britishers took gentle farmers of that area to Mauritius, African countries and up to Fiji. They were forced to remove the deep forest and introduce cultivation of sugarcane. Thus, sugarcane cultivation started from India and spread to whole western globe.

The cultivation of cotton also started from India. From cotton lint they made fibre and then cloth. The quality of cotton and fabric was so good that it was a fancy to have a dress made of Indian fabric. Dhaka’s muslin cloth was a novelty in fineness. Plane silk and gold and silver fibre designs in silk were an art form of Vanaras and Kanjivaram. Thus, while whole world was bearing tree leaves India was at the glory of Agriculture. World revered India as Jagatguru.

Amoungst the oil seeds Sesame (Til) and mustard were well known to our forefathers. Cultivation of Sesame, oil extraction its multiple usages as cooking medium and as medicine have been described at various places. On Sankranti day Til laddu Gazak, Revadi, Chikki are used which are supposed to be good for health. Mustard oil has been used as cooking medium and for preparation of pickels. Mustard oil was also used for massage.

Black gram (Udid), and Green gram (Mung bean) were the source of proteins in vegetarian diet. Not only that mung also improves the memory. These are the most popular pulses cultivated by our forefathers. Udid is also used in Shradha along with til.

Not only this, cultivation of mango spread from India to other parts of the world. Indians of different states are very proud of their mango varieties and considers them as unique; it may be Hapus (Alphonso) of Maharashtra, Kesar of Gujarat, Dashahri of Uttar Pradesh or Neelam of Andhra Pradesh. Even today 50% share in world trade of mango is of India.

People from other countries were queuing up to have a trade with India especially of turmeric, fenugreek, cumin, fennel, black paper, cardamom, clove, nutmeg etc. Kerala, Karnataka, and Goa were famous for their spices and condiments.

It was not only the crops and their cultivation practices which were developed by our forefathers, but farm implements and processing technique were also developed. For farm operation Axe (Kulhadi), Plough (hal) and other tools were used. Axe has resemblance with parshu of Bhgawan Parshuram, while plough is the main weapon of Balram. For processing of cotton Ginning process was developed to separate seed from lint but also the spinning wheel (charkha) was invented for spinning and making the thread. Of course looms were invented to weave yarn and make cloth. Needle was the main instrument to stitch the cloths and for doing all types of embroidery.

Iron pans of various sizes were made to prepare jagery from sugarcane juice and then to prepare other sweet products. The revolution was done by bullock cart, which was used for the transport of goods and human. The pottery changed the scenario of cooking and eating and storage of water, food grains etc..

India has variable climate. Temperatures increases from north to south while, rainfall decreases from east to west. Soils are deeper in valleys, along the coast of rivers and in north while, it becomes shallow as you move inland and towards the south. Thus various agro climatic zones are created. The country has been divided in 127 agro-climatic zones for understanding the uniqueness of climate of that part of India. Being a tropical country it is blessed with ample sunshine and favourable temperatures. Also average annual rainfall is around 1116 mm. Thus, God has blessed us with best of natural resources. Therefore most of the agricultural crops can be raised in India. Export not only of cotton textile, but also of rice, wheat, sugar, fruits and vegetables and all types of spices and condiments can be made.

India can become the hub of agricultural trade of the world.

Sanskrit Literature:

  1. Ruga Ved
  2. Krushi Parashar;
  3. Kashyapiya Krushi;
  4. Vrukshayurveda, (Charaka, Shushruta, Vagbhata)
  5. Brihatsamhita – Varahmihir
  6. Tarkasangraha;
  7. Kadambini;
  8. Upavanvinod;
  9. Vrukshavallbha;
  10. Roopchandrika –  Chaukhamba Prakashana, Varanasi


Crops of Indian Origin:

  1. Rice
  2. Barley
  3. Sugarcane
  4. Cotton
  5. Black gram (Vigna mungo (L) Hepper)
  6. Green  gram (Vigna radiata,)
  7. Sesame –Sesamum Indica
  8. Sandal- Indian sandalwood (Santalum album)
  9. Mango
  10. Coconut
  11. Areca nut
  12. Betel- Indian paan (Piper betle)
  13. Black paper
  14. Cardamom
  15. Clove
  16. Nutmeg
  17. Camphor
  18. Saffron crocus (Kesar)
  19. Turmeric
  20. Lotus
  21. Basil leaf
  22. Herda (Terminalia chebula)
  23. Baheda (Terminalia Belerica)
  24. Aamla-(Phyllanthus emblica )
  25. Bel-Stone apple
  26. Kabeeth- Hard apple
  27. Ber (Ziziphus Mauritiana)
  28. Jamun (Syzygium cumini)
  29. Gular (Ficus racemosa)
  30. Palash (Butea monosperma)
  31. Arjun (Terminalia arjuna 
  32. Ashoka (Saraca indica)
  33. Chironji (Buchanania Latifolia)
  34. Ragi Mudde


Agricultural Machines/Implements Developed in Ancient India:

  1. Axe (Kulhadi)
  2. Mattock (Phawada)
  3. Trowel (Khurpi)
  4. Plough (Hal)
  5. Sickle (Hasia)
  6. Wing (Sup for Winnowing the grains)
  7. Needle
  8. Ginning wheel
  9. Spinning wheel (Charkha)
  10. Looms for weaving the clothing
  11. Clay pots (Pottery)
  12. Pan (Kadhai for heating)
  13. Bullock Cart