India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition

By: Vijai Singhal.

“We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.” _ Albert Einstein
Most people feel that the first rays of science broke out in the west and thus started the wheel of development in the world. Hence there is tendency to follow the west. We are not aware of our great scientific tradition and enormous contribution we have made in the field of science. This book, written by Suresh Soni is an attempt to highlight the contributions our ancestors have made in different streams of science.
Pūrṇamadaḥ pūrṇamidaṁ pūrṇāt pūrṇamudacyate;
Pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate. _ (Iśā Upaniṣad)

“This is full, that is full, from the full the full has come;
The full remains the same, even after the full has come out of the full”

This verse has deep spiritual meaning referring to the creation of the world or projection of the universe as per Hindu philosophy. When it is referring to the first Full, it is referring to the invisible Brahman. When it is referring to the second Full, it is referring to the visible world. When the visible world has come out of the invisible Brahman, the Brahman still remains full. In the west Science and Religion are two distinct disciplines but in Hinduism science is the very basis of religion.
This verse also has extremely important mathematical significance. This defines infinity(∞).
The Decimal numbering system was originated in India. It went via Arab to Greece. The largest number known to ancient Greeks was ‘myriad’ which is equal to 10 to power 4 or 10,000 and the largest number known to Romans was 10 to power 3 or 1000. In India we have description of very large numbers as per our Vedic, Buddhist and Jain texts.
Multiples of 10 (Yajurveda Samhita): Ek 1, Dash 10, Shat 100, Sahastra 1000, Ayut 10,000, Niyut 100,000 (lakh), Prayut 10,00,000, Arbud 1,00,00,000 (crore), Nyarbud 10 to power 8, Samudra 10 to power 9, Madhya 10 to power 10, Ananta 10 to power 11, Parardh 10 to power 12 i.e. one Trillion (US).
In the Buddhist text from 1st century BC we have multiples of 100. Its count of numbers goes up to Tallkshana or 10 to power 53. Katyayan’s Pali Grammar has reference to multiples of crores. Jain text of Anuyugodwar describes numbers after Koti and ending with Asankhyeya which is equal to 10 to power 140.
India is the birthplace of both Algebra and Geometry. In the Pythagoras Theorem, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the two sides of the right-angle triangle: BC square = AB square + AC square. This was actually defined in Bodhayan Shulbhasootra (Verse 1-12) in 800 BC.
Measurement of Time: Stephen Hawking, the renowned cosmologist in his book – The Brief History of Time” writes that the universe and time started together when the Big Bang occurred. This resulted in the evolution of the universe. In answer to the question: “What was there before the universe? He says that is unknown today.” It is a scientific principle that nothing can come out of nothing. Hindus believe that Brahman ever exits. Brahmāṇḍ Purāṇa provides detailed description of creation of the universe. Brahman makes a sunkalpa (determination): “Ekoham bahuśām – I am one, let me be many” and creates the universe.
Time is described as Eternal in Hinduism. The Hindu concept of time is very vast and cyclical. There are four ages or Yugas: Sat Yug – 1,728,000 years; Treta Yug – 1,296,000 years; Dwapar Yug – 864,000 years; Kali Yug – 432,000 years. The present Kali Yug, according to Indian calculations, started in 3102 BC, on the 20th February at 2 hours, 27 minutes and 30 seconds. At that time, all the planets were under one zodiac sign. Time measurement goes much further. Four yugas together make up Chaturyugi 4,320,000 years; 71 Chaturyugis make a Manvantar 306,720,000; 14 Manvantars along with 15 Satyugas make up a Kalpa 4,320,000,000 years. Kalpa is one day of Brahma who lives for 100 years. When Brahma dies it is Lord Vishnu’s nimesh, and after Vishnu, the age of Rudra starts. He is himself a form of kaal and therefore, eternal. That’s why time is said to be endless.
The book goes on to describe a number of subjects where India made scientific and technological contributions. Listed below are some of them.
Astronomy – John Playfair, famous astronomer, wrote in his book in 1790 that India had knowledge of astronomy for more than 6000 years. Some glimpses of ancient astronomy:
Speed of light is described quite accurately in Rig Veda to travel @ 2202 yojans in half nimesh, which works out equal to 188766.67 miles per second. It is close enough to the modern calculations.
Gravitaional Pull – It is believed that Newton was first to discover earth’s gravity, but 550 years before him Bhaskaracharya had spoken about it.
Solar and lunar eclipse – Great Indian astronomer Aryabhatta (c.499 AD) describes the formation of Solar and Lunar eclipses. He had also written about the distances of various planets from sun.
Medical Science – Ayurveda is an ancient Indian medical system which provides a natural and holistic approach to physical and mental health believed to be more than 5000 years old. The medicine aspect is mainly covered in the Charak Samhita whereas Sushruta Samhita covers the surgical aspect. Sushruta is believed to be the first surgeon (c.600 BCE). His statue is installed at the Royal Australia College of Surgery, Melbourne. The Sushruta Samhita describes 8 types of surgeries and gives details of the instruments and appliances necessary for those surgeries.
Marine Science – India has a long history of boat and ship-building and voyage by sea. As per excavations in Gujarat it is believed that trade used to be carried on with Egypt from 2540 BCE. There are descriptions of big ships in Hindu scriptures: Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas as well.
Metallurgy – metals like gold, silver, iron, tin, lead, copper and bronze etc. have been mentioned in our scriptures. A process of zinc making goes back to the 4th century BC. It is quite an involved process. The iron pillar next to the Qutab Minar in Delhi has been standing there for 1600 years without rusting. It has been the centre of attraction for metallurgists around the world.
Other subjects mentioned include: electrical science, mechanical science, aeronautics, garment industry, architecture, chemistry, botany, agriculture, zoology, science of sound and voice, and science of writing.
Vijai Singhal

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