By Shachi Rairikar
In his secular sermon in the Asian Age, Amulya Ganguli, took grave objection to the Vice President mouthing ‘gobbledy gook’. Vice President, Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat had said that “the arrows used during the battle (between Rama and Ravana) were, in fact, today’s missiles,” while the Pushpak vimana was actually an aeroplane. Also that “the progress that Germany and Japan have been making today is because of the knowledge that they took from India centuries ago. Therefore, our scientists need to study the Vedas and Indian culture connecting them with science so that India can be put back on the path of progress.”
What was said by the Vice President in earnest sincerity, based on historical facts having documentary evidence, was ‘laughed off’ by Ganguli as ‘saffron gobbledy gook’—“one of the many peculiarities associated with the medieval-minded Parivar.” Ganguli feels that such comments cannot be dismissed as of little consequence because “the observation can make a laughing stock of India and Indians, reaffirming the stereotypical view of a country steeped in backwardness, mental and otherwise.” Ganguli finds an observation of the kind made by Shekhawat, with a directive to the scientists to “properly identify our ancient knowledge and make its best use” so that “India can again achieve the place of vishwaguru” as ‘startling’. According to Ganguli, “It is as if a serious believer in the flat earth theory is found adorning a high and responsible position. Such a person does not enhance a country’s prestige.”
Ganguli’s myopic viewpoint, the gift of Macaulay’s education system which aims at training a large class of men who are ‘Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect’, does not allow him to believe that there were scientific achievements in the pre-Islamic and pre-Christian period of Indian history. According to him, there were “marvellous achievements” but “those were in the intellectual and spiritual fields, not science”.
The Vice President cannot be blamed for Ganguli’s lack of knowledge. Ancient Indians were an advanced people with great scientific achievements, some of which surpass even the achievements of modern society. There are many evidences which indicate that Indians were very knowledgeable in astronomy, aeronautics, mathematics, marine, metallurgy and medicine. British historian Grant Duff once said, “Many of the advances in the sciences that we consider today to have been made in Europe were in fact made in India centuries ago.” For example, the velocity of light was known to the ancient Indians for centuries while their Western counterparts believed that light travelled with infinite velocity (even Newton assumed so) until 1675, when Roemer determined its exact velocity. The Law of Gravity was known and mentioned in Vedic literature. Isaac Newton only rediscovered this phenomenon. The Puranas speak of the creation and destruction of the universe in cycles of 8.64 billion years, which is quite close to the currently accepted value regarding the time of the ‘big bang’. Aryabhatta propounded the theory that the earth was a sphere in the 5th century, while Brahmagupta correctly estimated the circumference of the earth in the 7th century. The binary number system, various codes, mathematical logic or a formal framework that is equivalent to programming—all arose in ancient India.
A most advanced calculus, maths and astronomy arose in Kerala several centuries before Newton. The cast-iron pillar at Mehrauli, which has not rusted for centuries, speaks volumes of the metallurgy practised by the ancient Indians. History reveals that India was the foremost maritime nation 2,000 years ago. India’s maritime history predates the birth of Western civilisation. All this is well known and acknowledged by scholars all over the world.
There is evidence of nuclear war in ancient times. Most radioactive skeletons, on a par with those found at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were found at Mohenjodaro during excavations by archaeologists. Ancient cities whose brick-and-stone walls have literally been fused together, can be found in India, Ireland, Scotland, France, Turkey and other places. There is no logical explanation for the vitrification of stone forts and cities, except from an atomic blast. Even Dr Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist-philosopher, who was familiar with ancient Sanskrit literature, and was the supervising scientist of the Manhattan Project, while giving a lecture at Rochester University only seven years after the first successful atom bomb blast in New Mexico, gave a strangely qualified answer to a student who asked, “Was the bomb exploded at Alamogordo during the Manhattan Project the first one to be detonated?” The answer was, “Well, yes. In modern times, of course.”
Ancient Sanskrit literature is full of descriptions of flying machines—vimanas. From the many documents found, it is evident that the scientist-sages Agastya and Bharadwaja had developed the lore of aircraft construction. The Agastya Samhita describes hydrogen balloons—the process of extracting hydrogen from water is described in elaborate detail and the use of electricity in achieving this is clearly stated, as also are parachute-like aeroplanes, which could be opened and shut by operating chords. Vaimanika Shastra by Maharshi Bharadwaja deals with aeronautics, including the design of aircraft, the way they can be used for transportation and other applications, in detail. He also described the construction of warplanes and fighter aircraft. Along with the treatise, there are diagrams of three types of aeroplanes—Sundara, Shukana and Rukma. Evidence of existence of aircraft is also found in the Arthashastra of Kautilya (3rd century b.c.).
British historian Grant Duff once said, “Many of the advances in the sciences that we consider today to have been made in Europe were in fact made in India centuries ago.”
Can all this be mere imaginative writing or just science fiction? The Indian texts speak about things that no other civilisation thought of until the last century, like air and space travel, embryo transplantation, multiple births from the same embryo, weapons of mass destruction (all in the Mahabharata), travel through domains where time is slowed, other galaxies and universes, potentials very much like quantum potential (in the Puranas). If nothing else, we must salute the rishis for their most astonishing and uncanny imagination.
Are not these achievements in the field of science? Were the marvellous achievements of the Vedic people only limited to ‘the intellectual and spiritual fields’? The Vice President’s views are endorsed by many modern scholars and historians, in India and abroad. Should well-researched concepts and ideas be ridiculed just because Ganguli feels that aeroplanes and missiles are made by an ‘industrial society’? Ganguli’s inability to see beyond what the colonial historians wrote about India smacks of a closed mentality, intolerance towards contradicting viewpoints, immaturity, arrogance and over-confidence.
Moreover, the knowledge of ancient times has been successfully put to test in the modern times. It is interesting to note that the Academy of Sanskrit Research in Melkote, near Mandya, had been commissioned by the Aeronautical Research Development Board, New Delhi, to take up a one-year study on ‘Non-conventional Approach to Aeronautics’, on the basis of Vaimanika Shastra. As a result of the research, a glass-like material which cannot be detected by radar has been developed by Prof. Dongre, a research scholar of Benaras Hindu University. A plane coated with this unique material cannot be detected by a radar.
Even more interesting is the fact that Shivkar Bapuji Talpade and his wife, in 1895, full eight years before the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, USA, gave a thrilling demonstration flight on the Chowpatty beach
in Mumbai. Their plane “Marutsakha” was based on Bharadwaja’s research and the details of the Pushpak vimana. The most astonishing feature of Talpade’s aircraft was the power source he used—an ion engine. The theory of the ion engine has been credited to Robert Goddard, long recognised as the father of liquid-fuel rocketry. But the fact is that not only had the idea of an ion engine been conceived long before Dr Goddard, it had also been materialised in the form of Talpade’s aircraft.
It is a fact that other countries have always taken knowledge from India. The discovery of zero and use of numerals, the decimal system, has been India’s gift to the world. ‘Arabic numerals’ are in fact Hindu numerals. Reiki, Feng-shui, judo, karate—all have their roots in India. One of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, Erwin Schrodinger from Austria, was directly inspired by Vedanta in his creation of quantum mechanics, a theory at the basis of all our advances in chemistry, biochemistry, electronics, and computers.
Much of modern medicine can be traced to Sushruta (600 b.c.), best known for plastic surgery. His other notable achievements include treatises on medical ethics, definitions for 121 surgical implements, control of infection through antiseptics, use of drugs to control bleeding, toxicology, psychiatry, midwifery, cataract operations and classification of burns. An illustrated account of an operation performed for substitute nose near Pune by an unnamed vaidya, sometime in the 18th century, in the presence of two English doctors, appeared in the Madras Gazette. Subsequently, the article was reproduced in the Gentleman’s Magazine of London in October 1794. This description of the operation fired the imagination of the young English surgeon, J.C. Carpue, who after gathering more information on the ‘Indian nose’, performed two similar operations in 1814 with successful results. After Carpue published his account, Graefe, a German surgeon, performed similar plastic operations of the nose using skin from the arm. After this plastic surgery became popular throughout Europe.
Only a few years ago, the Chinese discovered some Sanskrit documents in Lhasa, Tibet and sent them to the university of Chandigarh to be translated. The documents were found to contain directions for building interstellar spaceships! The Chinese announced that they were including certain parts of the documents for study in their space programme.
Ganguli’s lack of knowledge (or deliberate distortion of the same) is a shame. For the so-called intellectuals of the Indian media, knowledge loaded with pecuniary benefits, comes from the West. So they mouth the ‘gobbledy gook’ that the West wants them to speak, oblivious of the harm done to the Indian society and civilisation. Any attempt to study Indian history independent of the colonial viewpoint is hastily written off as ‘saffronisa-tion’. It is a fact of history that in pre-Islamic and pre-Christian India, Hindus lived a life of glory and prosperity. Politicising the point by attaching it with the Sangh Parivar’s ideology cannot change history. It will only misguide the public at large.
It is mediapersons like Ganguli who make a laughing stock of India and the Indians. They appear to be still carrying the burden of the colonial yoke and fail to take pride in their own heritage. While the West is turning to the Vedas as the books of ultimate knowledge and wisdom, our intellectuals find studying of the Vedas as “reaffirming the stereotypical view of a country steeped in backwardness”. The most modern and Westernised Muslims, like Imran Khan, read the Quran and take pride in their religion. So is the case with the Christians. The US President, George Bush follows the Bible and quotes extensively from the same. The ‘forwardness’ of these modern people does not become questionable by their association with their centuries-old holy books, the stories of which appear to be very childish and unreal in the modern context. On the other hand, if a Hindu talks of going back to the Vedas, which are much more scientific, secular and broad in their outlook as compared with the Bible or the Quran, he is looked upon as backward. Disgusting double-standards indeed!
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])