Itty Achudan

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Itty Achudan Vaidyan
File:Itty Achudan Vaidyan.jpg
Born Circa 1640 AD
Cherthala, Kerala, India
Occupation Ayurvedic physician, Botanical expert, incumbent "Kollat Vaidyan" during the period 1670–1700 AD

Itty Achudan Vaidyan (forename also spelt as Itty Achuden in English, and Itti Achudem in Latin), who is known to have lived during the second half of the 17th century, was a distinguished Ayurvedic physician, from the ancient Kollatt family of traditional Ezhava Ayurvedic Vaidyans (doctors) of Kerala. The Kollatt family are natives of Kadakkarapally, a coastal village, north-west of Cherthala town, in Kerala, South India.

Contributions to Hortus Malabaricus

Itty Achudan Vaidyan was the major contributor of ethno-medical information for the compilation of Hortus Malabaricus, the botanical treatise on the medicinal properties of flora of 17th century Malabar (present day Kerala). The book was compiled by the Dutch Governor of Malabar, Hendrik van Rheede, and published posthumously in Amsterdam between 1678 and 1693.

The ethno-medical information presented in Hortus Malabaricus was extracted from palm-leaf manuscripts maintained by Itty Achudan Vaidyan, who was introduced to Henrik van Rheede by Veera Kerala Varma the then ruler of the erstwhile state of Kochi.

Volume 1 of the Hortus Malabaricus contains an original note by Itty Achudan, dated 20 April 1675, in which he describes his contribution to the work.

Itty Achudan Vaidyan is credited with having dictated the material, in his native Malayalam language, which was then translated into Latin. Part of the botanical information was scrutinized by three Konkani Brahmanas, Appu Bhat, Vinayaka Pandit and Ranga Bhat, and compared to a Sanskrit textbook which they possessed by name “Manhanighantanam” (i.e., Sanskrit Mahānighaṇṭu, meaning "the great lexicon") followed by a process of thorough verification, discussion with other scholars and general agreement. However, as the “Manhanighantanam” was not specifically a text covering all the flora of Malabar, the role of the three verifiers is believed to have been limited to those entries that were covered by the “Manhanighantanam”.

Kollatt family tradition

Historically the head medical practitioner of the Kollatt family was known as Kollatt Vaidyan. When a Kollatt Vaidyan died, his practice and title was inherited by his eldest son. The Kollatt Vaidyans maintained a family medical chronicle consisting of several volumes of palm-leaf manuscripts in Malayalam Kolezhuthu script. In these manuscripts were recorded names of medicinal plants, methods of preparation and application of drugs and the illnesses for which they were used. The Kollat family chronicle is said to have served as a compendium of ethno-medical knowledge, updated and enriched from time to time by recording the experiences of the individual incumbent Kollat Vaidyan.

Research on Itty Achudan’s life

File:Itty Achudan 1716 Reference.jpg
Listing of the name of Itty Achudan, Doctor, of Chego origin, under the Asia Section of the AD 1716 Historical Directory of Natural History Studies of Swiss Prodomus - Bibliotheca Scriptorum Historiae Naturali omnium Terrae Regionum inservientum Historiae naturalis Helvetiae Prodomus.

Calicut University Emeritus and botany taxonomist Professor K. S. Manilal, of Kozhikode, devoted over 35 years of focused research, translation and annotation work of the Latin Hortus Malabaricus (original title of the book is Hortus Malabaricus, continens Regni Malabarici apud Indos celeberrimi omnis generis Plantas rariores); an epic effort, which primarily brought to light the main contents of the book, a wealth of botanical information on Malabar that had remained largely inaccessible to English speaking scholars, because the entire text was in the Latin language. Professor Manilal’s work is also of historic and socio-cultural importance, as it brought insights into the life and times of Itty Achudan and Ezhavas of 17th century Malabar (broadly Kerala) society.

The life of Itty Achudan Vaidyan and the Kollat family tradition was largely unknown to the world outside the Kollat family, elders and ancestors, until Professor K. S. Manilal translated with high precision the entire text of Hortus Malabaricus, including the accreditations in the book to Itty Achudan Vaidyan; and Itty Achudan Vaidyan’s own hand written testimonial included in the book in old Malayalam graphic print.

In 1996 Professor K. S. Manilal also authored a separate book in the Malayalam language; the title which translates as A Study on the Role of Itty Achuden in the Compilation of Hortus Malabaricus.This book was the result of specific additional research undertaken by Professor K. S. Manilal with the objective of collecting factual evidence and clarifying various misconceptions, about the original Hortus Malabaricus, that had crept in through the news media. This book focuses on clarifying matters, such as, the number of pages per volume, the number of pictures, the publication date of the first volume, the publication date of the twelfth volume, and most importantly about the roles played by Itty Achudan and others associated with assisting Hendrik van Rheede with the compilation of Hortus Malabaricus.

Remnants of Itty Achudan's life

File:Itty Achudan's Vilakku Maadam.jpg
Three centuries old - Itty Achudan Vaidyan's Vilakku Maadam (lamp house) at the Kollatt house.

Although none of the Kollatt family members today continue the profession of ayurvedic medicine, the Kollatt family house at Kadakkarapally still has an ancient vilakku-maadam (lamp house) maintained, over the centuries, in honour of Itty Achudan Vaidyan. The family home also has remains of a grove (kaavu) including ancient trees and medicinal plants.

The Kollatt family's and Itty Achudan Vaidyan's ethno-medical knowledge legacy remains mostly within the contents of Hortus Malabaricus, which is now translated into the English and Malayalam languages by Professor K. S. Manilal (although the Malayalam version remains to be published).

Historical honours

During the 19th century, as a mark of respect Carl Ludwig Blume immortalized Itty Achudan Vaidyan by naming a genus of plants Achudemia, which has now been included under Pilea (Urticaceae).

Recent honours

Over the last two decades, the Kollat family members have set up a socio-charitable trust in honour of Itty Achudan Vaidyan. The Government of Kerala authorities announced that, in honour of Itty Achudan Vaidyan, a portion of Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute in Thiruvananthapuram would be set aside to introduce plants listed in Hortus Malabaricus.


  • Horthoos Malabarikkoosum Itty Achudanum – Malayalam book by Dr. K.S. Manilal. A Study on the role of Itty Achudan in the compilation of Hortus Malabaricus – ISBN 81-900324-1-0.
  • Hortus Malabaricus - compiled by Hendrik A. Van Rheede tot Draakestein.
  • The Botany and History of Hortus Malabaricus - by Manilal, K. S. - A. A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands/Oxford & IBH, New Delhi, 1980.
  • Published paper - "On the English edition of Van Rheede’s Hortus Malabaricus by K. S. Manilal (2003)" by H. Y. Mohan Ram.

External links