Sunday, April 3, 2011

Modern Science In Our Ancient Scriptures


When we think of the growth and development of modern science for the past several years, our thoughts always turn towards the contributions of the Western scientists. Seldom do we pause and recollect the great contributions made by our scriptures in the development of science and its practical applications ever since the Vedic Age. The rich contribution that ancient India had made in the field of science and the deep insight our ancients had towards the development of science becomes evident from the foregoing illustrative examples which are just representative.

AIRCRAFT ENGINEERING: The use of aircraft as a flying machine finds reference in many places in the Rig-Veda, as is evident from the Suktha [ statement]“Antarikshe Charati”which means ‘that which flies in air’ Indeed, there are several similar Sukthas in the Rig-Veda which point towards the existence of aircraft even then. Who has not heard of the reference to the ‘Puspaka Vimana’ in the Valmiki Ramayana? Tracing the development further, we come across an exhaustive treatise on Aerodynamics called “Brihad Vaimanika Shasta” written by Sage Bharadwaja thousands of years ago which covers all aspects of aeronautics and aircrafts, including their manufacture and flying instructions. In the last hundred years, it is well known that the first aircraft in the world was launched by the Wright Brothers in America on 17th December 1903. But what is not known so well is the fact the 8 years before, in the year 1895 itself, an Indian Sanskrit scholar and a scientist by name V.S. Talpade of Poona had launched an unmanned aircraft in the Juhu Beach, Bombay in 1895, guided by his Bangalore based Guru Anekal Subbaraya Shastri. Talpade had based his design and launch as per the guidelines in the ‘Brihad Vaimanika Shastra’. The aircraft was named as “Marutha Shakti” [Power of the Wind] and the aircraft flew to a height of about 1500 feet before it crashed. The project was financed by the then Maharaja of Baroda and the event was widely covered in the Marathi newspaper from Poona, ‘Kesari’.

Law of Gravitation: Much before Newton discovered the Law of Gravitation, India had produced an exhaustive treatise on Astronomical Sciences, called “Surya Siddhanta”. The very first Shloka therein establishes the Law of Gravitation. Even Acharya Shankara in his commentaries on the Upanishads, particularly in the Prasnopanishad, has clearly established the Law of Gravitation by using the word ‘Akarshana Shakti’.

Velocity of Light: In the Rig-Veda there is a Sooktha [statement] called ‘Soura Sooktha’ which speaks about the brightness of the Sun and how fast it illuminates the entire world.
Explaining the implications of this Sooktha, the great Vedic commentator, Sayanacharya, of the Vijaya Nagara Empire [14th Century A.D] has established the velocity of light in the following shloka:
“Yojananam Sahasre Dve, Dve Shate Dve Cha Yojane
Ekena Nimishardhena Kramamana Namostu Te”
[Oh Surya ! Salutations to you whose light crosses 2,202 Yojanas in half Nimesha]
Yojana was the unit of length in those days, one Yojana approximating to about 8 miles; and Nimesha was the Unit of time, one Nimesha was equivalent to 16/75th of a second. Calculated on the basis of this data, the velocity of light works out to 1, 87, 650 Miles per second which is very close to the modern accepted velocity of light 1,86,282 Miles per second.

Plastic Surgery: The world’s very first plastic surgeon was an Indian Ayurvedic surgeon by name Shushruta who lived in 600 B.C. He has written an exhaustive Medical Treatise known as “Shushruta Samhita” which covers extensive details on almost all the medical operations on the body, including grafting of the skin. Besides, the Treatise deals with the medical equipment required for the operations. In fact, surgery started with him in India and he performed almost all the surgical feats like Caesarean operation, cataract, brain surgery, plastic surgery etc. He specialized in the building up of torn or wounded noses.
In those days, during wars, flashing of swords was common. Soldiers who got their noses cut during the battle would go to Sushruta for treatment. He would take strips of flesh from their thigh and mend the nose by grafting it. He would even fashion a new lip.
In the War of 1792, Tippu Sultan’s soldiers captured a Maratha cart driver in the British army, called Cowasji and cut off his nose. A year later, a native surgeon from Poona who had practiced Plastic Surgery as per the guidelines of Shushruta reconstructed his nose in the presence of two British doctors, Thomas Cruso and James Hindlay of the Bombay Presidency. An illustrated account of this rare operation was reported in the
‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ of London in its issue dated October 1794.

Parachutes: It may be of interest to note that there is a Sanskrit work by name ‘Prabhavaka charita’ written in the 8th Century A.D. which deals with story of the 8th Century Jain writer Haribhadra and his two nephews, Hamsa and Paramahamsa. In this composition, we hear of the employment of a parachute for escaping. The nephews were confined in the upper storey by their angry Buddhistic teacher and, to escape further punishment, the brothers spread two umbrellas, jumped out of the window and softly and safely landed on the ground.

Robotics: Even as early as the 12th century, there are references in our ancient books about the use of Robots as entertaining gadgets. Raja Bhoja [of Kalidasa fame] has written a book in 1150A.D by name ‘Samarangana Sutradhara’ in which he describes several machines installed for the entertainment of the King and operated by remote control. In the dance treatise ‘Nritta Ratnavali’ written by Jaya Senapathi in 1253 A.D.during the Kakatiya rule from Warangal, we get the description of a dance hall in which the mechanical lady figures that chant, sing and dance were installed and were activated by remote control.

Perfumery and Cosmetics: Much before Paris and London thought about beauty products like perfumes, scents, hair-dyes etc, India’s great scientist and astronomer Varaha Mihira [5th Century A.D] has written an encyclopedic work called ‘Brihat Samhita’. It deals with subjects like Astronomy, Medicine, Chemistry, Forestry, Beauty Products,, Jewellery etc. The 77th chapter is entitled ‘Gandha Yukti’ and is devoted to the preparation of perfumes, scents, hair-dyes, bleaching of hair etc. In Shlokas 13 to 22,
The author identifies 16 basic ingredients for the manufacture of perfumes and further explains how by permutations and combinations of these 16 ingredients, it is possible to manufacture 1, 74, 720 types of perfumes.

ARTICLE NO. 496--Our Ancient Scriptures and Modern Science
Created: Friday, April 3, 2009 9:39 PM


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