AS one enters the Udaipur Agricultural University, one sees a sign, which says,
?The line drawn by the plough is the line dividing wildness and civilisation in human history.?
One finds the glorious mention of agriculture in the world'soldest book, the Rigveda.
Akshairma deevyak krishimit krishasva vitte
?Do not gamble, cultivate and earn with respect.?
Krishirdhanya krishirmedhya jantoonaam
?(Krishi Parashar-Shloka 8)
?Agriculture gives you property and intellect or mental sharpness. It is the basis of human life.?
Civilisation started when man started agriculture. Agriculture developed as a science in India. A short description of its history is given in A Concise History of Science in India.
In the Vedic Age itself, sowing of seeds and harvesting was done, instruments like the plough, sickle, sieves were developed and grains like wheat, rice and barley were grown. The honour of starting the tradition of carrying out rotational cultivation to increase the fertility of the soil, goes to the farmers of that time. According to Romesberg, the Father of Botany in Europe, the west adopted this theory much later.
In Kautilya'sArtha-shastra written during the reign of the Mauryan kings, one finds description of agriculture, agricultural production and the appointment of agricultural officials to encourage it.
Irrigation systems were also developed to help in agriculture. The Greek traveller, Megasthenes, writes that the king used to appoint officials to examine the river and the wells and also to ensure equal distribution of water to the main drains and their branches.
There are references to agriculture in the Naradsmriti, Vishnu Dharmottar, Agni Puran etc. Krishi Parashar became a reference book with respect to agriculture. It talks about the procedures in connection with agriculture.
It talks about the area that has to be ploughed or tilled, the plough that ought to be used, its parts, etc. It also describes the kind of oxen to be used for ploughing: their colour, nature and that one must have a humanitarian outlook towards them when the work is being done.
People of the ancient times had made an in-depth study of the changes in nature and minutely examined nature and the movements of the planets.
Describing the results due to the prominence of a certain planet at a certain time of the year, Sage Parashar says, ?The year in which the sun will be the master, there will be less rainfall and human beings will have to suffer. The year when the moon is the master, there will be good rainfall and there will be a lot of vegetation. People will be healthy. Similarly, if Mercury, Jupiter and Venus are the masters of the year, the situation will remain good. However, the year that Saturn is the master, there will be distress everywhere.?
Time to till the Land
On the basis of the examination of the stars and the time, he decided when it would be ideal for tilling
Sage Parashar expresses the opinion of Sage Garg about the best time to collect seeds when he says that the seeds must be collected in the Hindu month of Maagh (January- February) or Phalgun (February-March) and dried in the sun and then kept in a good and safe place.
Krishi Parashar also has a description on how to measure rainfall.
Atha jalaadhak nirnayah:
Adhakasya bhavenmanam munibhih
In ancient times, the sages had developed a scale to measure rainfall. In a reservoir spread over an adhak that is 100 yojan wide and 300 yojan high, the quantity of rain water should be:
Yojan means the thickness of one finger
1 drona = 4 adhak = 6.4 cm
The measurement of rain today also comes to the same.
Kautilya'sArthashastra also talks about how to measure rainfall on the basis of drona and describes the rainfall in various parts of the country.
In his Brihat Samhita, Varahamihir tells us two ways of grafting:
1. Cut one plant from its roots and the other plant on its trunk and insert.
2. Inserting the cutting of a tree into the stem of another. At the place where the two join, seat and cover it with mud and cow-dung.
Varahamihir also talks about which plant to graft in which season. He say:
?At the end of winter (February-March), graft those plants which do not have branches.?
?During the winter season (December-January) and in Autumn (August-September)graft those plants which have a number of branches.?
Speaking about how much water should be given to the grafted plants in different seasons, Varahamihir says, ?Plants that have been grafted in the summer should be everyday, both in the morning and the evening; in winter, they should be watered every alternate day and in the rainy season, whenever the Mud becomes dry.? So, we see that since ancient times, agriculture had developed as a science in India. It is because of this that the fertility of the land has remained unimpaired whereas in a few decenniums only, millions of hectares of land in America have become barren.
The praiseworthy mention of the speciality of the Indian agricultural system and its implements by the British, has been quoted in Dharampal'sbook, Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century. India was the leader in well-developed agricultural implements. Sowing in rows was considered a very good and useful method in this area. It was first used in Austria in 1662 and in England in 1730, although it started getting widely used there only fifty years later. However, according to Maj. Alexander Walker, the system of sowing in rows was prevalent in India since ancient times. In a letter written to the Agricultural Board of England in 1797, Thomas Holcott said that this system had been in use in India in ancient times. He sent three sets of Indian ploughs to the Board so that the British could copy them because they were more useful and much cheaper than the British ploughs.
Sir Alexander writes, ?Probably a larger variety of seeds is sown in India than in any other country of the world. There is a tradition of harvests with nutritious roots there. I do not understand what we can give India because they already have the grains and other food products that we have; in fact, they have a much larger variety.?
(This book is available with Ocean Books (P) Ltd., 4/19 Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi-110 002)