Intro: It is human nature to resist change. Whenever a theory is propagated that seems to undermine our set beliefs, our first reaction is to reject it. The latest furor over certain claims made at the Indian Science Congress reflect such resistance.
India was actively progressing in the field of science and research centuries before modern laboratories were set up. None can deny this. Ayurveda evolved from the study of herbs. Astrology evolved from the study of planets. Sanskrit evolved from research dedicated to create a language so perfect that it transcends time and promotes scientific study.
The daily life of an average Indian is even today touched by the ancient wisdom of our forefathers, acquired through scientific research. Unfortunately we take these things so much for granted that we refuse to acknowledge their contribution.
Perhaps this is because of a basic difference between modern day science and ancient Indian science. Modern science negates the need to understand the ‘spirit’ of nature. On the other hand, science and spirituality were parts of one whole in Ancient India. Scientists of ancient India were sages who tried to understand the concepts of nature in a very scientific manner. The greatness of their knowledge lies in the fact that it is relevant till date! The discovery of ‘Zero’, let us not forget, was a result of such research–it taught the world how to count.
The discoveries that occurred in India in the first millennia BC were the result of collaboration and inquiry by a community of spiritual scientists utilising a common scientific language, Sanskrit. Sanskrit was the language of our scientists–a language of free thinkers, who questioned everything, and expressed the widest spectrum of thoughts on various subjects.
India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said: “If I was asked what is the greatest treasure which India possesses and what is her finest heritage, I would answer unhesitatingly–it is the Sanskrit language and literature, and all that it contains. This is a magnificent inheritance, and so long as this endures and influences the life of our people, India will continue to guide the world.
Until 1100 A.D., Sanskrit was without interruption the official language of the whole of India. The dominance of Sanskrit is indicated by a wealth of literature of widely diverse genres including religious and philosophical; fiction (short story, fable, novels, and plays); scientific literature including linguistics, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine; as well as law and politics.
Unfortunately foreign entrants, who did not understand how intrinsic science and spirituality were to Indian thought, gave it a religious tinge. It was essential for foreign rulers to undermine Indian knowledge so as to create a sense of inferiority among the masses. It is this lingering influence that continues to stop even some educated people today from considering the depth of India’s ancient scientific wisdom.
Otherwise, it is unfathomable how the promotion of Sanksrit can be seen as the ‘saffronisation’ of education. There was no ‘saffron’, ‘green’ or ‘white’ in India when Sanskrit was evolved and used for scientific purposes.
There is a great misconception that Sanskrit is only a language to be recited as mantras in temples or in religious ceremonies. That is only 5 per cent of the Sanskrit literature. The remaining 95 per cent has nothing to do with religion. In fact, Sanskrit was the language in which our great scientists documented their work.
The West has accepted that Sanskrit is the most scientific language known. The Forbes magazine in 1987 described it as the most computer friendly language. The US has the largest number of Sanskrit academic institutions today. In 2012, the media had reported that soon Sanskrit will be a part of the space, with the USA mulling to use it as computer language at NASA.
If our forefathers could develop such a perfect language, we need to consider the evidence of the research they did through this language. Sanskrit was the language of our philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, poets and playwrights, grammarians etc. While epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata are widely read and enacted in Indonesia as ‘moral teachings’, Gayatri Mantra is broadcast regularly on radio channels in Surinam, South America and Amsterdam, Holland. America’s Tulsi Gabbard took her oath as a US Congresswoman on the Bhagwad Gita, and proudly states that the text would remain relevant regardless of time and age.
When the world is ready to embrace and benefit from ancient India’s wisdom, we must try to delve deeper to discover more gems of knowledge. Let there be open-minded research. Let there be a genuine effort to rediscover the past. There can be no harm in this simple endeavor. If nothing else, we’ll unearth our history and learn from it.
Abha Khanna Gupta (The writer is a senior journalist and social worker)