A jewel in the crown of Incredible India is undisputedly the scenic northern hill state of Uttarakhand (UK), formerly called Uttaranchal. Uttarakhand prides itself in housing some of the most cherished and celebrated ancient cultural gems of India; the central stretch of the Indian Himalayas (whose ancient puranic term happens to be Uttarakhand) and its peaks and valleys well known in ancient times as the abode of gods and goddesses and source of the Ganges River. Today it is often called “the Land of the gods” (Dev Bhoomi) because of the presence of a multitude of Hindu pilgrimage spots (1).
Interestingly, a few years back (2016) UK’s State Minister for Alternative Medicine commissioned a government funded effort to find the Sanjeevani. Now let’s just call it ‘Project Sanjeevani’, If you have read the Ancient Indian epics, you would know what the Sanjeevani is. The magical herb that lord Rama had sent Hanuman to fetch to cure his dying brother Lakshmana. It is believed to be the cure for any disease in the world and can even revive a dead person (2).
The Ramayana narrates how in the fierce battle of Lanka, Lakshmana, was fatally wounded by Ravana’s son, Indrajit. Rama wailed in despair to see Lakshmana drifting into a coma. Hanuman, was so moved to see his lord in pain that he approached the Lankan royal physician, Sushena, for guidance. Sushena asked Hanuman to rush to Dronagiri (one of the high peaks of Uttarakhand Himalayas) and fetch four medicinal herbs, Sanjeevani being one of them. The plants would emit light, Hanuman was told. On reaching Dronagiri, Hanuman couldn’t ascertain the herbs, and lifted the entire hill to Lanka. A whiff of the Sanjeevani brought Lakshmana to life.
In 2008, yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s disciple Acharya Balkrishna said that his team of researchers had found the elusive herb in Uttarakhand. They have purportedly filed for its patent as well!(3) In botanical circles Selaginella bryopteris is known commonly as Sanjeevini bhooti a lithophytic plant. The dry plants have traditionally been used as a remedy for several human health complications for centuries in India, particularly by tribal peoples. Traditional uses include relief from heat stroke, dysuria, irregular menstruation, and jaundice, but the effectiveness has not been scientifically validated (4). While some references in scientific literature list Selaginella bryopteris as the Sanjeevani mentioned in Hindu mythology, a search of ancient texts currently underway in CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) laboratories has so far not revealed any plant that can be definitively confirmed as Sanjeevani (5,6).
Mankind’s quest for health and immortality is not something new. From the ancients to the ‘neo-digital natives’, the desire to stay on in the game ‘forever’ seems embarrassingly real. While we wait with fingers crossed about the team’s success in finding the Sanjeevani, the one that even lord Hanuman had difficulty with, it might be worthwhile to seek something that is not as elusive.
Sanjeevani is a Sanskrit word and is translated mostly directly as “the immortal”, “the infinite life” or as “life giving”(7), suggesting everlasting or eternal life. Talking of the human search for the ‘Sanjeevani’, one cannot help but think of another popular verse/line from an equally cherished ancient Scripture:
“For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,
but have eternal life (loosely translated, “Sanjeevan”) (8)
The search for ‘Sanjeevan’ ends at the foot of the cross, where Christ Jesus, the Eternal ‘Sanjeevani’, shed his ‘Jeevan’ (life) to grant us all those who dare to believe, Sacchi (true) Sanjeevan.
“I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.
Do you believe this?” (9)
- Kandari, O. P., & Gusain, O. P. (Eds.). (2001). Garhwal Himalaya: Nature, Culture & Society. Srinagar, Garhwal: Transmedia.
- Debanjan Dhar: Uttarakhand Government To Spend 25 Crore To Find Sanjeevani Booti. Will They Find It? http://www.storypick.com/sanjeevani/
- Sah N K et al., 2005, Indian herb ‘Sanjeevani’ (Selaginella bryopteris) can promote growth and protect against very heat shock and apoptotic activities of ultra violet and oxidative stress. Journal of Bioscience, 30, 499–505.
- Telegraph India
- In search of Sanjeevani, Current Science, Vol. 97, No. 4, 25 August 2009
- John 3:16 – NIV
- John 11:25-26 – NIV