|Desmostachya bipinnata (right plant)|
Desmostachya bipinnata, commonly known as halfa grass, big cordgrass, and salt reed-grass, is an Old World perennial grass, long known and used in human history. The grass is tall, tufted, leafy, perennial grass, branching from the base, erect from a stout creeping rootstock.
Desmostachya bipinnata is native to northeast and west tropical, and northern Africa (in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia); and countries in the Middle East, and temperate and tropical Asia (in Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand).
On the basis of distinct morphological and reproductive characters, four new subspecies of D. bipinnata have been described by Pandeya and Pandeya (2002). However, it is uncertain whether these subspecies represent actual genetic differences, the authors also note the existence of different biotypes occurring in response to soil and climatic conditions in western India. The four subspecies proposed are:
- D. bipinnata longispiculata;
- D. bipinnata jodhpurensis;
- D. bipinnata sheelai;
- D. bipinnata agraensis.
Desmostachya bipinnata has long been used in various traditions (Hindus, Jains and Buddhists) as a very sacred plant. According to early Buddhist accounts, it was the material used by Buddha for his meditation seat when he attained enlightenment. It is mentioned in the Rig Veda for use in sacred ceremonies and also as a seat for priests and the gods. Kusha grass is specifically recommended by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita as part of the ideal seat for meditation.
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- Griffith, Ralph T. H. (1896). The Hymns of the Rigveda, Volume 1. p. 4. ISBN 9781428630772.
- "Establishing a firm seat for himself, In a clean place, Not too high, Not too low, covered with cloth, and antelope skin, and kusha grass" (B.G. VI:11)
- Smith, Huston; Chapple, Christopher; Sargeant, Winthrop (2009). The Bhagavad Gita (Excelsior Editions). Excelsior Editions/State University of New York. p. 282. ISBN 978-1-4384-2842-0.
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