The Smell of Plum Blooms and Its Connection to The Coinage of Noun -Vyāghrapādvāsiṣṭhaḥ


One of our Gardener’s name was Moolārāma, as always curious, I asked him how come his parents gave him such a name which is a vegetable. He had said then that his parents first sighted Raddish on his birth so they named him so. Human psyche is very interesting in naming objects, things, animals, people, and places. You will find abundant Moolārāma type cases in ancient Indic texts. To name them few are Ikṣvāku (bitter gourd), īkṣumatī (from Ikshu- sugarcane), Angi”rasa” (juice), Kuśa & Lava(root of vetiver grass [Andropogon Muricatum – Bot.], Arundhatī (Vine), Añjanī ( juice extraction of leaves used for eye-treatement). This post will evaluate whether vyāghra in the name vyāghrapādvāsiṣṭhaḥ has anything to do with Tiger’s paw.

In the earlier blog I had discussed that the etymology of vyāghraḥ can offer a deep insight on when this word would have had got coined. In the Mantra of Ṛg-veda 09.097.016, 17,18 we find a name of Rishi — ऋषि:  :- व्याघ्रपाद्वासिष्ठःvyāghrapādvāsiṣṭhaḥ. This is the first word appearing in Ṛg-veda where the word व्याघ्र vyāghra is observed in a samāsa-a conjugation form with पादः-pādaḥ. Nirghaṇṭa gives the meaning of noun as विकङ्कतवृक्षः i.e., Indian Plum [Flacourtia indica – Bot.]

Flacourtia indica

व्याघ्रपादः , पुं, (व्याघ्रस्य पादा इव मूलानि यस्य ।) 
विकङ्कतवृक्षः Flacourtia indicaविकण्टकवृक्षः । इति राज- निर्घण्टः ॥ (मुनिविशेषः । यथा, महाभारते । १३ । १४ । १०९ । 
“पुराकृतयुगे तात ऋषिरासीत् महायशाः । 
व्याघ्रपाद इति ख्यातो वेदवेदाङ्गपारगः ॥”

Lets see the word “vyāghraḥ” first to further understand noun “vyāghrapādaḥ”.


पुं, (व्याजिघ्रतीति । वि + आ + घ्रा + कः ।)

  • वि — divided, asunder, apart; different
  • आ — near, toward, up to
  • घ्रा — घ्रा , गन्धोपादाने (उपादान— Causing)। इति कविकल्पद्रुमः ॥ (भ्वां- परं-सकं-अनिट् ।) जिघ्रति पुष्पं लोकः । इति दुर्गादासः ॥
  • कः (elision)


  • पुं, (पद + करणे घञ् ।) पद्यते गम्यते अनेन ।तत्पर्य्यायः । पत् २ अङ्घ्रिः ३ चरणः ४ । इत्यमरः ॥( पद् “go”)
  • अङ्घ्रिः , पुं, (अङ्घ्यते गच्छत्यनेन अघि + करणे रिः) ; sphere
  • It would basically mean “different smell causing/creating to go near or creating a sphere of different smell….which is certainly seasonal in the case of tigers”

Did the Vyāghrapādaḥ word paved way to the Vyāghraḥ-Tiger of later Indic texts.

Now that we understood that Vyāghrapādaḥ is used as a noun to Indica Plum and its relation is with the smell. Lets understand when and how similar floras smells. Plum smells better than Cherry. Pear has raunchy smell, Cherry smells like semen “during their bloom times“. Thus, Vyāghrapādaḥ definitely relates to creating a sphere-area of smell which was well noted by our sages and thus coined a name with major root ghrāघ्रा , गन्धोपादाने. Tiger’s pee smell like hot buttered popcorn. Now lets study Pheromones of Tiger and Other Big Cats

Comparative ethology of spraying MF has been studied in the tiger and lion. In the African lion Schaller (1972)noticed that the direction of the spray varies rather widely, upward and backward, horizontally backward, and simply downward (without assuming the squatting posture adopted during urination). In the Asiatic lion Brahmachary et al. (1999) also detected such modalities. In the tiger the direction is more fixed—almost always upward and backward (Brahmachary et al. 1999Poddar-Sarkar et al. 2013). Barja and Miguel (2010) observed Siberian tigers (P.t. altaica) and Barbary lions (P. leo leo) in a Madrid zoo. They reported what they consider to be significant differences in the marking behavior of the tiger and lion, namely that the frequency of marking occurs more in the tiger while the marking duration act occurs more in the lion. They have attempted to correlate these (and other) differences with the social/asocial nature of the two species as well as with their habitat differences (forest versus open area). The tiger shows seasonal variation in marking patterns whereas the lion does not.

Note that the Plum trees do not smell all the year. It smells only during blossoming seasons, and thus is seasonal. Similar is the tiger’s nature. As we understood astronomically, anthropologically, and Soanian-Acheulean sciences that Ṛg-veda was conceived in deep antiquity and further curious absence of Tigers in Ṛg-veda and its appearance in Atharvaveda gives us a clue that Vyāghraḥ in Vyāghrapādaḥ has nothing to do with Tigers. The coinage of this word for Tiger appears to be later to Ṛg-veda.

Now, lets see how word Simha has been derived…

सिंहः , पुं, (सिञ्चति तेजः पशुषु इति । सिच + “सिचेः सज्ञायां हनुमौ कश्च ।” उणा० ५ ! ६२ । इति कः । अन्त्यादेशो हकारः । नुम् च 

  • सिञ्चति तेजः sprinkle water ( urine or other liquid) or emits semen
  • from सिच–sprinkle/water/boundary– horizon


Yeah!, Vyāghra, i.e., “Tiger” has nothing to do with the coining of word of Vyāghrapādvāsiṣṭhaḥ of Ṛg-veda since this can be applicable to the Indica plum blooms. Rgvedic people had not then encountered tigers and thus we do not find Vyāghraḥ as a singular noun in the entire Ṛg-veda, although it would had been difficult to ignore such an eye catchy creature which would had created fear and havoc in vedic people’s lives. The first tiger may have had appeared 22kyBP during the advent of Last Glacial Maximus when the Savanah suffered a lot and forestation began due to abrupt increase in monsoon and decrease in temperature. In the last blog we find remains of Tiger in Shrilanka from 16KyBP. Tropical haven were getting created for more and more Tigers while a species of Lion got extinct by then.

Courtesy- youtube

Both the names, i.e., Siṃha and Vyāghraḥ are pure example of pheromones. By this idea of conduct these animals define their territories. This behavioral pattern of defining territories was expected from the chief of any tribe or even a small group of people from prehistoric times plus their prowess and fight for their territories gave the epithet or adjectives to strength of any chief. More on Lions coming soon…


2 thoughts on “The Smell of Plum Blooms and Its Connection to The Coinage of Noun -Vyāghrapādvāsiṣṭhaḥ

  1. अति रोचकः ज्ञानदायकश्च अयं शब्दविवेचनः | ‘What is in a name’ type of thought process has made us blind to so much of knowledge hidden openly in front of us. We just have to open our ‘eyes’. Thanks for making us see. With bonus references from Rigveda and MB.

    Liked by 1 person

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