Dr SD Kulkani
The conventional understanding of the world till today is that India is a land of rituals and spirituality, and unfortunately, for long, the doors to its immense contribution in the field of science and technology have remained closed for historical reasons. There is a vast ocean of information about the science and technological heritage of India that lies embedded in the Vedic scriptures, the epics and in several of the technical texts. And a recent research by Shri Dharmpal and others has pointed that the colonial invaders had a vested interest in distorting and destroying this vital information regarding all positive aspects of Hindu culture.
According to the Vedic time tables, though various forms of civilization existed for millions of years, the first record of an organized and developed society was reflected in the Vedic culture that arose in ancient India with the Indus Sarasvati civilization, and then spread out around the world. Its seers who made valuable scientific contributions in Vedic times made India, a home to many scientific inventions.
One such philosopher of the Indian Physics School was Shri Vallabhacharya who enlightened the world by his spiritual understanding and scientific prowess. The founder of the Vaishnavite cult of Rajasthan and Gujarat, he was born of Lakshmana Bhatta and Illamma in 1479 A.D. at Champaranya, Raipur, in Madhya Pradesh, and was a Telugu Brahmin and a contemporary of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. His contribution in Indian physics that considers both the objective universe, which is atomic, and the subjective universe of the observer which is taken to be non-atomic was in explaining how an attribute need never be confused for matter because it is not attributable.
The ancient Hindus had highly evolved technologies in textile engineering, ceramics, printing, weaponry, climatology and meteorology, architecture, medicine and surgery, metallurgy, agriculture and agricultural engineering, civil engineering, town planning, and similar other fields..
There are about 44 known ancient and medieval Sanskrit texts on a technical subject such as chemistry alone.
The Iron Pillar in Delhi is believed to be cast in the Gupta period around circa 500 AD. The pillar is 7.32 meters tall, tapering from a diameter of 40 cm at the base to 30 cm at the top and is estimated to weigh 6 tones. It has been standing in the open for last 1500 years, withstanding the wind, heat and weather, but still has not rusted.(Box)
The archaeological remains of the Indus Valley reveal knowledge of applied sciences. Scientific techniques were used in irrigation, metallurgy, making of fired bricks and pottery, and in measuring areas and volumes.
By the third century B.C. mathematics, astronomy and medicine began to develop separately. In the field of mathematics ancient Indians made three distinct contributions, the notation system, the decimal system and the use of zero. The earliest epigraphic evidence of the use of decimal system belongs to the fifth century A.D. Before these numerals appeared in the West they had been used in India for centuries. They are found in the inscriptions of Ashoka in the third century B.C.
Indians were the first to use the decimal system. The famous mathematician Aryabhata (A.D. 476-500) was acquainted with it. The Chinese learnt this system from the Buddhist missionaries, and the western world borrowed it from the Arabas when they came in contact with India. Zero was discovered by Indians in about the second century B.C. So far as Algebra is concerned both Indians and Greeks contributed to it, but in Western Europe its knowledge was borrowed not from Greece but from the Arabs who had acquired it from India.
From ancient times, Bharatiya philosophers (Vaisheshik Darshan, Rishi Kanada) believed that except ether or space, all other elements were physically palpable and hence comprised of small and minuscule particles of matter. They believed that the smallest particle which could not be subdivided further was paramanu (can be shortened to parmanu), a Sanskrit word. Paramanu is made of two Sanskrit words, param meaning ultimate or beyond and anu meaning atom.
Shipbuilding & Navigation
J.L. Reid, a member of the Institute of Naval Architects and Shipbuilders, England, at around the beginning of the 20th century got published in the Bombay Gazetteer that “The early Hindu astrologers are said to have used the magnet, in fixing the North and East, in laying foundations, and other religious ceremonies. The Hindu compass was an iron fish (“Matsya-Yantra”) that floated in a vessel of oil and pointed to the North. This clearly shows that technology of shipbuilding and navigation practices were well developed and were used for trade and transportation over long distances across seas.
Medicine & Surgery
Ancient scholars of India like Atreya, and Agnivesa have dealt with principles of Ayurveda as long back as 800 BC. Their works and other developments were consolidated by Charaka who compiled a compendium of Ayurvedic principles and practices in his treatise Charaka-Samahita that deals with a variety of matters covering physiology, etiology and embryology, concepts of digestion, metabolism, and immunity. Preliminary concepts of genetics also find a mention, for example, Charaka has theorized blindness from the birth is not due to any defect in the mother or the father, but owes its origin in the ovum and the sperm.
Around 200 BC all thefundamentals of yoga were collected by Patanjali in the treatise, named Yoga sutra. Now, in modern times, clinical practices have established that several ailments, including hypertension, clinical depression, amnesia, acidity etc. can be controlled and managed by yogic practices.