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Uttarakhand’s Rs 25-crore Sanjeevani booti search plan smells of a multimillion-dollar scam

Uttarakhand, the Himalayan state, will pump Rs 25 crore to initiate a scientific search for the mythical Sanjeevani booti.  No, it’s not a hoax or a spoof if you are swaying your head in disbelief. My first instinct too, on seeing the news on leading dailies was similar. I thought it was one of those spoofs that media houses these days write in a lighter vein.

sanjeevani booti
A team is expected to search the Himalayas for Sanjeevani

But the news is real. Uttrakhand led by Congress leader Harish Rawat, will start the search in the Himalayas, looking for the Sanjeevani, the plant believed to hold life-saving properties. Interestingly, Rawat’s government decided to pursue the project on its own, when the Centre refused to invest on it. The Himalayan state, that shares it border with China, will spend crores of tax-payers’ money to hunt for the herb, referred to in The Ramayana.

The Ramayana narrates how in the fierce battle of Lanka, Lakshmana, the brother of Lord Rama, was fatally wounded by Ravana’s son Meghnad. Rama wailed in despair to see Lakshmana drifting into a coma. Hanuman, the Monkey God, was so moved to see his lord in pain that he approached the Lankan Royal Physician Sushena for guidance.

Sanjeevani booti
Sushena asked Hanuman to fetch Sanjeevani Booti.

Sushena asked Hanuman to rush to Dronagiri and fetch four medicinal herbs, Sanjeevani being one of them. The plants would emit light, Hanuman was told. On reaching Dronagiri, Hanuman couldn’t ascertain the herbs, and lifted the entire hill to Lanka. A whiff of the Sanjeevani brought Lakshmana to his life.

In 2008, yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s disciple Acharya Balkrishna said that his team of researchers had found the elusive herb in Uttarakhand. They have purportedly filed for its patent as well.

Why the search for the Sanjeevani booti looks like a defeated cause even before it has taken off is because there is no evidence that this magical plant ever existed in the Himalayas. The Himalayan lithophytic plant Selaginella bryopteris is thought to be the Sanjeevini booti.

Sanjeevani booti
Dried Selaginella bryopteris

Dried up Selaginella bryopteris are traditionally used by tribes as a remedy for heat stroke, dysuria, irregular menstruation, and jaundice. However, effectiveness has not been scientifically validated.

“We have to try and it will never go to waste. If we are determined we will certainly find it,” Surendra Singh Negi, Uttarakhand’s alternative medicine minister has stated. Negi says the search will focus on the Dronagiri mountain range adjacent to China border. The state’s resolve to find the plant nevertheless, seems like misplaced faith and a botched up attempt to pocket public money in the name of a multimillion-dollar project that is going to draw a big zero at the end.

Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat

Besides being sceptical about the government misusing the state exchequer’s funds by presenting fake bills, I strongly feel the research team could have been an independent group funded by the any willing global NGO. When Uttrakhand is in tatters due to repeated flash floods and dangerous landslides, it indeed seems foolish on the government’s part that it is spending on a mythical project instead of helping its people.

Is it wise to spend crores on something we know very little about?

It isn’t going to help much that the lookout for a magical herb is approached scientifically. How will the team find out the Sanjeevani booti, when Lord Hanuman failed in doing so? Is it possible that a herb which possibly worked thousands of years back has the same effect today because herbs has a shelf life too.

About the author


Whether it’s women issues, politics or the paranormal, Rubi has an opinion on everything. Art and entertainment interest her, too. Hindu College alumni, she has written for The Hindustan Times and The Financial Express. Every now and then, she loves picking up her camera to capture life and its various shades.

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