The Crusades, Wootz/Damascus Steel, Pandanus and Dumbara Mats,

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A post connecting three kinds of Pandanus, a beautiful blue flower, color of Buddhist priest Robes, Dumbara Mats, Wootz/Damascus Steel and Tenuous thoughts to the Crusades


Sri Lanka has three kinds of Pandanus commonly known and used and a beautiful third plant, with beautiful blue flowers.

Rampe| රම්පෙ| Pandanus amaryllifolius
Kora-Kaha |කොරකහ| Memecylon umbellatum
Wetakeyiya | වැටකෙයියා| Pandanus kaida,
Dunukeiya |දුනුකෙයියා| Pandanus thwaitesii
Kora-Kaha |කොරකහ| Memecylon umbellatum

Rampe| රම්පෙ| Pandanus amaryllifolius

The most common and in home gardens. Used extensively in cooking in Sri Lanka and SE Asia. Most of the Sri Lankan dishes use these leaves for aroma along with curry leaves. In India it is called annapurna leaves; in Bangladesh, it is called pulao pata (পোলাও পাতা )

Wetakeyiya | වැටකෙයියා| Pandanus kaida

Grows by seaside. Long thin leaves compared to Dunukeiya (දුනුකෙයියා|). Used for mats mainly by sea side communities. During the 2004 Tsunami areas that had Wetakeyiya along the shore front were protected from the full impact. Post Tsunami many programes to plant and re plant Wetakeyiya along Sri Lankas sea side. (an Evaluation in 2010)

Dunukeiya |දුනුකෙයියා| Pandanus thwaitesii

Grows by rivers, paddy fields, muddy areas. Leaves broad, used for mats called Dumbara mats. Wgasahantharindu has a nice description of the process to make the mats.
Paduru: Sri Lanka’s Magic Carpet 

Kora-Kaha |කොර-කාහ| Memecylon umbellatum
(Hindi : अंजन (Anjan) Tamil காயா (Kaya))

A tree with beautiful blue flowers. The Sinhalese name for the plant does not reflect the beautiful blue flower. More its practical side, the use of as a yellow dye. i.e. kaha කාහ means yellow

a) The leaves contain a yellow dye, a glucoside, which is used for dyeing the robes of Buddhist monks.
b) Also used for yellow colouring of reed (Dumbara) Mats
c) Historically, this plant was burnt as fuel in the production of Wootz steel also see    Eleventh-Century Pittsburgh in Sri Lanka

Note: Wiki says this tree is called Ironwood. It is NOT the Mesua ferrea, the Ceylon ironwood national tree of Sri Lanka

So to put it all together

A common home garden plant used for cooking (Rampe| රම්පෙ|Pandanus amaryllifolius)
Related to a plant that was/is Tsunami protection (Wetakeyiya | වැටකෙයියා|Pandanus kaida)
Related to both above used for Mats (Dunukeiya |දුනුකෙයියා| Pandanus thwaitesii)

The First Tenuous* to an unrelated plant, that connects to the above. Kora-Kaha |කොරකහ| Memecylon umbellatum

Yellow colouring from leaves used for mats made from Dunukeiya|
Buddhist priests robes are dyed by flower of Kora-Kaha
Mats used by Buddhist priests and lay people are dyed from the flower of Kora-Kaha

The Second Tenuous*, Use of Kora-Kaha for Wootz Steel/Damascus Steel.

Was there not enough Kora-Kaha trees to make Steel to fight the 12th Century South Invaders.

Or were the Sinhalese Kings busy exporting the Wootz steel/Damascus Steel to the Mid East and not enough steel to fight invaders (I dont think so, just a thought process).  The Mid East Saladin was busy fighting the Crusaders eg Richard the Lion Heart.

For the Sri Lankan readers, the 12th century was the decline of the Sinhalese polity in North and establishment of the Kalinga/Tamil polity in the North

*Tenuous as in without researched back evidence.

2+

14 Replies to “The Crusades, Wootz/Damascus Steel, Pandanus and Dumbara Mats,”

  1. Sbrakkum

    I dont know why my last comment didnt go thru on Buddha being Kshatriya and all on the other post, so here it is

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakya

    “Buddhaghoṣa’s work (II, 1–24) traces the origin of the Shakyas to king Ikshvaku and gives their genealogy from Maha Sammata, an ancestor of Ikshvaku. This list comprises the names of a number of prominent kings of the Ikshvaku dynasty, which include Mandhata and Sagara”

    Just saying u could be correct, but its not cut and dry

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_dynasty
    “According to the Puranic literature, the Solar dynasty or the Ikshvaku dynasty was founded by the legendary king Ikshvaku.[1] The dynasty is also known as Sūryavaṁśa (“Solar dynasty”) and along with Lunar dynasty comprises one of the main lineages of the Kshatriya Varna.”

    1. Buddhagosha, who you referenced, lived 700 years after the Buddha, I wouldnt put much faith in his tracing of the Kshatriya lineage. There are some other tracing that want to give him Brahmin lineage, based on descent from a Vedic sage.

      Afaik Greater Magadha where the Gautama Buddha was born was not considered a part of Aryavarta at that time. Buddha’s parents are from different tribes (Shakya / koliya) that were semi-endogamous. It’s unclear how much Vedic influence there would have been, clearly there would have been some.

      But on this basis probably not a Vedic Kshatriya, but yes a Kshatriya in the sense he had a princely status.

      1. Sumit:
        Mahavir’s birth story has Indra and his gods playing an important role. Vardhaman was contemporaneous with Buddha. Not sure if the story is of later provenance.

        From the Kalpasutra:
        “According to the Kalpasutra, before Mahavira’s final rebirth, when he was after many lifetimes ready to achieve enlightenment, he took the form of an embryo in the womb of Devananda, a brahmin woman. Sakra, or Indra, the king of the gods, believed that it was not fitting for a future great spiritual leader to be born to a woman of the brahmin caste and that he should be born instead into a royal family of warrior caste. Accordingly the commander of Indra’s army, Harinegamesin, who is depicted with a goat’s head (or sometimes an antelope’s), removed the embryo and transplanted it into the womb of a woman of the warrior caste (ksatriya) called Trisala.

        Trisala experienced 14 auspicious dreams, interpreted as foretelling the birth of a universal sovereign or a spiritual leader. The dream images had also been seen by Devananda when Mahavira was in her womb. Mahavira was subsequently born to Trisala and her husband, King Siddhartha, and was given the name Vardhamana.”

  2. Also, the names of Mahavir, Buddha, their family members, the words that they use for religious/metaphysical concepts ( all Indo Aryan / Prakrit) the fact that both mention Brahmins as disciples, that Vaishyas were a separate well understood group all point to already extant Indo Aryanization of the place.

    1. Yes indo-aryanized for sure…. Vedic Kshatriya vs local chieftan – not sure. Leaning towards cheiftan.

      It’s a bit complicated actually. For eg. early Buddhist scripture and other contemporaneous records only show 3 vedas. indicating the 4th veda was composed / recognized after this period.

      Sarmana tradition and jainism predate buddhism, by at-least a few hundred years if not more. So its not a one way street of ideas from vedas / upanishads to the hetrodox traditions.

      1. Yes, agree with those points, and the Tirthankara before Mahavir, Parshwanath is believed to be a historical person from 8-9th century BC. Buddhist records also indicate that Jaina had been around for a while before the time of Buddha.

        But to your point about local chieftain vs. Vedic Kshatirya, what are some examples of “Vedic Kshatriya” kings/dynasties from circa 500 BC?

          1. Thanks. What is so special about Kuru? just seems to be just one of the 16 mahajanapads..There are some to the west of it, and many around it and to the east.
            If you mean to say that Buddha and Mahavira were from minor ruling families (as in had small kingdoms) that is true..But what evidence there is that they were not proper Kshatriyas? Anything that calls them out (or Buddha) as Shudra? Their society seems no different from other Indian societies at the time with Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas etc..Names etc indicate full Indo-Aryanization..and despite the direct rivalry with Brahmins there is no mention of racial or ethnic differences in either Buddhist or Jain literature, when both of them are not shy to talk about doctrinal differences and their own superiority over Brahminical philosophy..
            Sorry it just seems that the evidence here is very very thin to postulate that Buddha was not a proper Kshatriya..this is not to say that the group itself was fluid and probably added other jaatis/Shudras as and when they captured power (this would be unlike Brahmins who were more insular)

          2. “What is so special about Kuru? just seems to be just one of the 16 mahajanapads”

            From the wiki article…

            “The Kurus figure prominently in Vedic literature after the time of the Rigveda. The Kurus here appear as a branch of the early Indo-Aryans, ruling the Ganga-Yamuna Doab and modern Haryana. The focus in the later Vedic period shifted out of Punjab, into the Haryana and the Doab, and thus to the Kuru clan”

            “Anything that calls them out (or Buddha) as Shudra?”

            The Brahmin Ambattha refers to Sakyas as menial people born out of Brahma’s foot in the Ambattha sutta.

            And then in rebuttal the Sakya side claims their ancestors followed brother-sister incest to keep the royal bloodline pure. I can only imagine the Vedic guy’s reaction to that (hahaha).

            It is pretty clear cut.

            “Their society seems no different from other Indian societies at the time with Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas etc.”

            There is a lot of evidence of many differences.
            https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/9004157190/

            South-East gangetic plain / Himalayan foot hill cultures not fully aryanized / sanskritized during this period, certainly not comparable to the Kuru whose ancestors were progenitors of much of the Vedic culture.

          3. Fair points.
            A question, more than a rebuttal: Names, place names, concept names, stories all point to full Indo Aryanization..one which would have been around for a while..There is no mention of racial differences between the Sramanas and the Brahmanas..it seems they were just another Indo Aryan group (as Indo Aryan as the Kurus) but didn’t care much for Vedic religion. What is the theory behind how that came about?

  3. “There is no mention of racial differences between the Sramanas and the Brahmanas”

    They didn’t have a concept of “race”

    There is some passing mention of skin color, but mostly in the context of varna.

    In Assalayana sutta…
    “Master Gotama, the brahmans say, ‘Brahmans are the superior caste; any other caste is inferior. Only brahmans are the fair caste; any other caste is dark… ”

    Jains assign different colors to their trithkaras. Probably corresponding to their supposed skin colors ranging from white to black.

    There is no real pattern except a majority of the 24 are ‘golden’. So make of that what you will.

    “Names, place names, concept names, stories all point to full Indo Aryanization”

    I mean Pali and Prakrit are Indo-Aryan languages so I agree they are indo-aryan speaking people. Not sure how much sanskrit knwoledge they would have had.

    “…it seems they were just another Indo Aryan group (as Indo Aryan as the Kurus) but didn’t care much for Vedic religion.”

    So I disagree with this, they are just too different culturally and in terms of religious practices during that time period.

    And these differences seem to have deep roots, but they are going through a process of intermingling during this period. And I think they later merged into one cultural / civilizational entity.

    So if you compare early sramana religious practices to Srauta Hindu practices that the Kuru kingdom. What they practiced is quite different.

    But if you look later practices like Tantra.

    The Buddhist practices and Hindu practices are almost the same. The only real difference is the ‘darshana’ / philosophical view.

    Indicating greater level of civilizational and cultural cohesiveness.

    Questions for you:

    What are your thoughts regarding how old the vedas and upanishads are ?

    Do you think some texts are older than others ?

    Do you see a pattern of similarity between newer texts and the sramana traditions compared to the older texts which are more different ?

    1. They didn’t have a concept of “race”
      But surely if the “Kshatriyas” or the ruling clans were different racially from the Brahmins that would be called out somehwere? Indians were quick to point to Yavanas and other Mlechhas as different..

      In Assalayana sutta…
      “Master Gotama, the brahmans say, ‘Brahmans are the superior caste; any other caste is inferior. Only brahmans are the fair caste; any other caste is dark… ”
      –Hmm, yes this is consistent with Brahmin vs. Kshatriya rivalry that is also apparent in Vardhman Mahavir’s birth story

      “Jains assign different colors to their trithkaras. Probably corresponding to their supposed skin colors ranging from white to black.There is no real pattern except a majority of the 24 are ‘golden’. So make of that what you will.”

      — Yes but the colors are black, white, golden, blue, red..these are hardly skin colors..Also all 24 are considered Kshatriyas/Kings that renounced. A king or a wealthy merchant renouncing is a very prevalent trope in Jain stories.

      “I mean Pali and Prakrit are Indo-Aryan languages so I agree they are indo-aryan speaking people. Not sure how much sanskrit knwoledge they would have had.”
      —-That is only possible if Sanskrit originated after the Indo Aryanization of Magadha or was always a liturgical language that only the Brahmins cared to learn.

      “So I disagree with this, they are just too different culturally and in terms of religious practices during that time period.And these differences seem to have deep roots, but they are going through a process of intermingling during this period. And I think they later merged into one cultural / civilizational entity.”
      Since Magadhans are Indo Aryanized and there is no evidence of racial difference, it only means that the Sramana and Brahmana strands coexisted or originated separately in different parts of Northern India..and the east was Sramana stronghold?

      “What are your thoughts regarding how old the vedas and upanishads are ?
      Do you think some texts are older than others ?
      Do you see a pattern of similarity between newer texts and the sramana traditions compared to the older texts which are more different ?”
      – Not knowledgeable enough to answer these questions. i have *heard* that there is a lot in common between later Buddhist (especially Mahayana, tantra, Vajrayana) and Shaivite, Vedantic philiosophies..I don’t think there is much in common between Jain strands and these Astika schools although the concepts of Karam, rebirth etc do seem to have made their way from jainism/Sramana schools into Sanatan dharma..

      1. “Yes but the colors are black, white, golden, blue, red..these are hardly skin colors.”

        These are skin colors based on jain tradition.

        They are also used in Hindusim. For eg. Krishna is blue, Radha is golden

        Btw I have no idea about racial differences and stuff and don’t really care too much.

        But greater magdha was considered outside Aryavarta circa 1000 BCE but slowly incorporated by the common era.

        The some of oldest surviving Indian paintings (2nd century BCE to 480 CE) from Ajanta seem to show a bunch of brown people, in all stations in society.

        And seemingly no bias towards fair skin. I mean you can see for yourself and compare to the current actors / models in India.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajanta_Caves#/media/File:Ajanta_cave_17,_frescoes_above_a_lintel.JPG

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajanta_Caves#/media/File:Meister_des_Mahâjanaka_Jâtaka_001.jpg

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