The Search for Sanjeevani

Mythology Nature Resources for Children

If I had to pick one ancient legend that sums up the spirit of 2020, it would have to be the search for Sanjeevani from the Ramayana, the enduring evergreen Epic from India.

The Episode in the Epic

During the war between Rama and Ravana in the Ramayana, Laksmana is hit by Ravana’s weapon and seriously wounded.

At that time, Susena orders Hanuman to bring him some herbs to revive the unconscious Lakshmana.

“Go quickly to the mountain that Jambavan told you about earlier, the one with all the medicinal herbs. Bring me the viṣalyakarnī, the sauvarņakarņī and the sanjīvinī that grow on its southern peak. I shall need them all to revive Lakshmana.

Valmiki Ramayana,
Yuddha Kanda, Sarga 12
Abridged version Penguin Classics, translated by Arshia Sattar

Hanuman then takes off in search of these magical herbs. Landing on a mountain range, referred to often as the Sanjeevani Parvatha, he searches frantically but is unable to locate them.

With precious time ticking away and possessing immense power, he decides to carry the entire mountain range back to Lanka, where the herbs are identified and administered to Lakshmana. This act saves the dying Laksmana and the iconography of Hanuman becomes set forever with this dramatic episode from the epic.

The popular iconography of Hanuman depicts him carrying the Sanjeevani Parvatha back to Lanka
Image source – Wikipedia

The Sanjeevani as a herb that can resurrect life appears not just in the Ramayana but also in other ancient literature.

As I watch and hear news of our search for a Covid Vaccine in 2020, it brings back to mind, this quest for the Sanjeevani and an interesting article I had once read about it.


Is the Sanjeevani real?

As someone interested in learning more about plants, especially plants in ancient stories and legends, I stumbled upon an interesting journal article published in 2009 that examines various herbs and plants in an attempt to narrow down, on what could be the the Sanjeevani of the Ramayana.

‘Sanjeevani is the most mysterious and the most sought after herbs in Indian mythology whose existence and identity are steeped in deep controversy.’

Extract from the Paper In search of Sanjeevani by
K. N. Ganeshaiah, R. Vasudeva and R. Uma Shaanker published in Current Science
Vol. 97, No. 4 (25 August 2009), pp. 484-489 (6 pages)

The paper goes on to address whether the Sanjeevani, a herb capable of resurrecting life actually exists and if so, what plant or herb it could in fact be.

Based on the available literature the researchers agreed that the herb, if at all it existed, would

(a) have been known in some Indian language as Sanjeevani;

(b) be found in high altitudes;

(c) be a very effective medicinal plant;

(d) be capable of reviving a person on the threshold of death;

Using this filter, they screened a number of potential candidates to find out which herb could in fact be the Sanjeevani of the Ramayana. Without going into all the details mentioned in the journal paper, here’s what they found.

The species most likely to have been the Sanjeevani plant referred to in the Ramayana, according to the researchers.

S. bryopteris, thus appears to possess the traits prescribed by the criteria we have set for searching Sanjeevani. It is a mountainous plant, referred to as Sanjeevani in Sanskrit and other local languages, has a number of medicinal values and exhibits an ability to resurrect itself from a stage of death, though its ability to cure coma is not recorded.

Extract from the Paper In search of Sanjeevani by
K. N. Ganeshaiah, R. Vasudeva and R. Uma Shaanker published in Current Science
Vol. 97, No. 4 (25 August 2009), pp. 484-489 (6 pages)

Medicinal Plants

Well, whether or not the jury is out on the Sanjeevani and whether or not we have succeeded in finding a viable Covid Vaccine, what we do know for sure is that Plants and Trees possess amazing medicinal qualities and have for long been the source of medicines. From the humble cold to the more complex diseases, plants hold mysterious secrets of cure and are venerated for being life-givers.

In fact, DID YOU KNOW, it was exactly the medicinal properties of the Jackfruit Tree that helped Birbal find a thief in a popular Akbar-Birbal folktale?

The roots of the Jackfruit Tree have medicinal properties.
Check this story for how Birbal uses that as a clue to find a thief!

You’ll find that story and plenty of other Tree Stories in my book Tracing Roots …




  • Hina Baxi
    December 27, 2020 - 10:22 pm ·

    Mallika, I’ve been hearing from Attye about your Children’s books. Have also read several excerpts now and again. I find them fascinating and inspiring, not just for children but also for adults like me.
    I’m very interested in buying them. Please tell me if they are available on Amazon or anywhere else online? How many have you written so far? They are a treat to read! (Even though I haven’t read a full one yet).

    • mallikaravikumar
      December 28, 2020 - 1:18 pm ·

      Thank you so much Hina aunty. That is so sweet of you. There are a bunch of books about adoption available on Pratham Storyweaver. Pasting one link here –

      The book about Trees with Karadi Tales and the History one with Puffin are currently available in bookstores and on Amazon in India and the publishers are looking to make it available elsewhere too. Once that happens, I will put it up on my website ( and will ask Athai to let you know 🙂

      thanks once again, Hope Vib uncle’s mother is better. Love to all.