Rasayan, a Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 word (with literal meaning: Path (ayana) of the Juice (rasa), or Elixir vitae), is used to describe chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 and alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

, and chemistry is generally called Rasayan Shastra in Sanskrit, Nepali
Nepali language
Nepali or Nepalese is a language in the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family.It is the official language and de facto lingua franca of Nepal and is also spoken in Bhutan, parts of India and parts of Myanmar...

, Marathi
Marathi language
Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western and central India. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra. There are over 68 million fluent speakers worldwide. Marathi has the fourth largest number of native speakers in India and is the fifteenth most...

, Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

, Kannada and several other languages.
Ancient rasayan texts center around the use of prepared forms of mercury or cinnabar
Cinnabar or cinnabarite , is the common ore of mercury.-Word origin:The name comes from κινναβαρι , a Greek word most likely applied by Theophrastus to several distinct substances...

 (see samskaras
Samskara (Ayurvedic)
A samskara is a process in ayurvedic medicine claimed to detoxify heavy metals and toxic herbs.In ayurveda, toxic ingredients, which sometimes include heavy metals such as mercury, are claimed to be purified using a process of prayer and pharmacy...

), as do occidental alchemical texts.
However, there is also ample mention of the preparation of medical tinctures in the ancient science of rasayan; rasayan is in fact a part of Ayurveda
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...


Rasayana formulas

Puri has given detailed account of Classical formulations such as Amrit Rasayana, Brahm Rasayana, Jawahar Mohra, Kamdugdha Ras, Laxami Vilas Ras, Laxman Vilas Ras, Madanoday Modak, Makrdhawaj vati, Manmath Ras, Mukta Panchamrit Rasayana, Nari Kalyan Pak, Navjeevan Ras, Navratna Ras, Navratnakalp Amrit, Panchamrit Ras, Paradi Ras, Ramchuramni Ras, Rattivalbh Pak, Shukar Amrit Vati, Smritisagar Ras, Suvarn Malini Vasant, Suvarn Vasant Malti, Swapanmehtank, Vasant Kusmakar Ras, Visha Rasaayana, Vrihda Vangeshwar Rasa.

These classical Rasayan formulas, contain a large number of ingredients, including minerals, pearl, coral and gems, and include a specially processed (samskara
Samskara (Ayurvedic)
A samskara is a process in ayurvedic medicine claimed to detoxify heavy metals and toxic herbs.In ayurveda, toxic ingredients, which sometimes include heavy metals such as mercury, are claimed to be purified using a process of prayer and pharmacy...

) mercury (the word ras indicates mercury as an ingredient). Because of negative publicity and cost factor, the use of the classical rasayana formulas has declined considerably, and most of the preparations available now have herbal ingredients with a couple of mineral and animal products. The non-availability and wild life protection act has made the use of musk, amber and parts of wild-life animals, nearly impossible.

The current Rasayan formulas are based on such ingredients as amla (Emblica officinalis which has very high stable Vitamin C), Terminalia belerica
Terminalia (plant)
Terminalia is a genus of large trees of the flowering plant family Combretaceae, comprising around 100 species distributed in tropical regions of the world. This genus gets it name from Latin terminus, referring to the fact that the leaves appear at the very tips of the shoots.Trees of this genus...

, Terminalia chebula
Terminalia chebula
Terminalia chebula is a species of Terminalia, native to southern Asia from India and Nepal east to southwestern China , and south to Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Vietnam.It is a deciduous tree growing to tall, with a trunk up to in diameter...

, Shilajit (a mineral exudate high in fulvic acid), Long pepper
Long pepper
Long pepper , , sometimes called Indian long pepper, is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. Long pepper has a similar, but hotter, taste to its close relative Piper nigrum - from which black, green and white...

, Black pepper
Black pepper
Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed...

, Ginger
Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It lends its name to its genus and family . Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric, cardamom, and galangal....

, processed Guggul
Commiphora wightii
Commiphora wightii is a flowering plant in the family Burseraceae. The guggul plant may be found from northern Africa to central Asia, but is most common in northern India...

, Guduchi, Ashwaganda, Shatavari and similar ingredients.

Rasayan has meanings beyond healthful substances. Rasayan Shastr in Ancient India
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 was much less developed than today. Nevertheless, the use and practice of Rasayan was widespread in Ancient India, and some examples of applied rasayan include paints used in the caves of Ajanta
The Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India are 29 rock-cut cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE. The caves include paintings and sculptures considered to be masterpieces of both Buddhist religious art as well as frescos which are reminiscent of the Sigiriya...

 and Ellora, Maharashtra
Maharashtra is a state located in India. It is the second most populous after Uttar Pradesh and third largest state by area in India...

States and territories of India
India is a federal union of states comprising twenty-eight states and seven union territories. The states and territories are further subdivided into districts and so on.-List of states and territories:...

, the steel of Vishnustambha (literal meaning: the tower of Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

), and a processed wood sample in the Kondivade caves near the Rajmachi fort in Maharashtra.


According to Multhauf & Gilbert (2008):
The oldest Indian writings, the Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 sacred scriptures), contain the same hints of alchemy that are found in evidence from ancient China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, namely vague references to a connection between gold and long life. Mercury
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

, which was so vital to alchemy everywhere, is first mentioned in the 4th- to 3rd-century-BC Artha-śāstra
The Arthashastra is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy which identifies its author by the names Kautilya and , who are traditionally identified with The Arthashastra (IAST: Arthaśāstra) is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and...

, about the same time it is encountered in China and in the West. Evidence of the idea of transmuting base metals to gold appears in 2nd- to 5th-century-AD Buddhist
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 texts, about the same time as in the West. Since Alexander the Great had invaded India in 325 BC, leaving a Greek state (Gandhāra
Gandhāra , is the name of an ancient kingdom , located in northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Gandhara was located mainly in the vale of Peshawar, the Potohar plateau and on the Kabul River...

) that long endured, the possibility exists that the Indians acquired the idea from the Greeks, but it could have been the other way around.

Significant progress in alchemy was made in ancient India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

. Will Durant
Will Durant
William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975...

 wrote in Our Oriental Heritage:
An 11th century Persian chemist
Alchemy and chemistry in medieval Islam
Alchemy and chemistry in Islam refers to the study of both traditional alchemy and early practical chemistry by scholars in the medieval Islamic world. The word alchemy was derived from the Arabic word كيمياء or kīmīāʾ...

 and physician named Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī reported that "They have a science similar to alchemy which is quite peculiar to them. They call it Rasâyana, a word composed with rasa, i.e., gold. It means an art which is restricted to certain operations, drugs, and compound medicines, most of which are taken from plants. Its principles restore the health of those who were ill beyond hope, and give back youth to fading old age..." One thing is sure though, Indian alchemy like every other Indian science is focused on finding Moksha
Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

: perfection, immortality, liberation. As such it focuses its efforts on transumation of the human body: from mortal to immortal. Many are the traditional stories of alchemists still alive since time immemorial due to the effects of their experiments.

The texts of Ayurvedic Medicine and Science have aspects similar to alchemy: concepts of cures for all known diseases, and treatments that focus on anointing the body with oils.

Since alchemy eventually became engrained in the vast field of Indian erudition, influences from other metaphysical and philosophical doctrines such as Samkhya
Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible...

, Yog
YOG is a three-letter abbreviation or initialism with multiple meanings, as described below:*Youth Olympic Games*Ogoki Post Airport* The ICAO Code for Central Aviation, United StatesYog may also refer to:* Yoga, Concentration; meditation....

, Vaisheshik and Ayurved were inevitable. Nonetheless, most of the Rasayān texts track their origins back to Kaula
Kaula Island, also called Kaula Rock, is a small, crescent-shaped offshore islet in the Hawaiian Islands.-Geography:It is located west-southwest of Kawaihoa Point on Niihau, and about west of Honolulu. The island is actually the very top of a volcanic tuff cone that rests on top of a larger,...

 tantric schools associated to the teachings of the personality of Matsyendranath
Matsyendranatha or Machindranath was one of the eighty-four Mahasiddhas. He was the guru of Gorakshanath, with whom he founded the school of Hatha yoga. He is considered as the author of the Kaulajñānanirṇaya , one of the earliest texts on Hatha Yoga in Sanskrit...

 and the lineage of the Natha Siddhas.

The Rasayān was understood by very few people at the time. Two famous examples were Nagarjunacharya
Nagarjuna (metallurgist)
Nagarjuna was an Indian metallurgist and alchemist, born at Fort Daihak near Somnath in Gujarat in 931. He wrote the treatise Rasaratnakara that deals with preparations of rasa compounds. It gives a survey of the status of metallurgy and alchemy in the land...

 and Nityanadhiya. Nagarjunacharya was a Buddhist monk who, in ancient times, ran the great university of Nagarjun Sagar. His famous book, Rasaratanakaram, is a famous example of early Indian medicine. In traditional Indian medicinal terminology "rus" translates as "mercury" and Nagarjunacharya was said to have developed a method to convert the mercury into gold. Much of his original writings are lost to us, but his teachings still have strong influence on traditional Indian medicine (Ayureveda) to this day.

Rasayana ( Fruit squash or juice )

In many Indian homes, Fruit squash, juices are prepared and served as drink, desert or as accompaniment to meals. In Tulunadu region of India, Banana and Mango Rasayana are made by mixing of fruit pulp with cow's milk or water with thick consistency. This rasayana may be drunk as juice by diluting with water or milk. With thick consistency it is used as accompaniment to Dosa, Chapati or meals. Many believe this rasayana helps to beat the heat of Indian summer.

Further reading

  • Winston, David & Maimes, Steven. Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, Healing Arts Press, 2007. Contains monographs and information on health benefits for the following rasayana herbs that are identified as adaptogens: Amla, Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Holy Basil (tulsi), Shatavari and Shilajit.
  • Alan Keith Tillotson Ph.D., A.H.G., D.Ay, (Author), O.M.D., L.Ac., Nai-shing Hu Tillotson (Contributor), M.D., Robert Abel Jr. (Contributor) The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook: Everything You Need to Know About Chinese, Western, and Ayurvedic Herbal Treatments Kensington press, ISBN 978-1575666174
  • Puri, H.S. "RASAYAN: Ayurvedic Herbs for Longevity and Rejuvenation". Taylor & Francis, London, 2003. Gives monographic account and illustrations of 57 plants used as Rasayana in India, along with old as well as new Rasayan formulations.
  • Puri, H.S. Ayurvedic Minerals, Gems and Animal Products for Longevity and Rejuvenation. India Book Store, Delhi 2006. Scientific details of all the ingredients other than herb, used as Rasayana in Ayurveda is given. The study on gold, mercury, sulfur, musk and Shilajit are given in good details.
  • Anonymus: National Seminar on Rasayana, 8–10 March 1999, Proceedings, Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha, New Delhi. A very good account of various aspects of RASAYANA by many learned authors.
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