Friday, April 13, 2007

Indian Scientists Working On Sanjeevani Booti.

In what could be a happy marriage of tradition and modernity — or mythology and technology
— scientists are drawing inspiration from the Ramayana, to find a way to make crops drought-resistant. In the Ramayana, Hanuman was asked to look for the Sanjeevani herb that was reputed to have magical curative properties — it was believed to even bring the dead back to life — to treat Lakshman who lay unconscious on the battlefield. Unable to identify the herb, Hanuman simply uprooted an entire Himalayan mountain and delivered it in time to revive the mortally wounded Lakshman. Indian scientists are today studying the potential of the mythical 'herb of immortality'— the invincible Sanjeevani booti — to understand its survival quality that enables it to live without water. In the absence of water, the herb dries up like any other plant but with a difference — it does not die. Once it comes in contact with water, it gets revived in a matter of hours, and its curative properties remain intact. What makes the plant survive for more than 300 years? Scientists at the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) are looking for answers. A five-year programme designed by the NBRI will research the Sanjeevani's gene profile to identify the gene or group of genes that is responsible for the plant's resistance to drought and capacity to survive for long in punishing conditions. Through genetic engineering, crop biotechnologists have been making headway in reducing vulnerability of cotton, corn and even soya to pests. If the Sanjeevani's survival gene is identified and injected into rice and wheat varieties, they could well turn out to be drought-resistant. This would enable food crops in India to develop a 'natural'resistance to drought, thereby forever changing agriculture dynamics. So far, the Sanjeevani herb has been used by tribals with some success in treating diseases like jaundice, heat stroke, kidney infection, diarrhoea and venereal disease. If the herb were found to contain the blueprint for crop survival, it would be a bonanza for Indian agriculture, including future returns from patents and knowledge-sharing. With future wars projected to be fought over water, Sanjeevani's DNA could hold the answer to growing threat of droughts.

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