About Hinduism and India

Vishwakarma is the celestial engineer in Hindu Mythology, to whom all the knowledge of Technology is attributed. He is worshiped by devote engineers and crafts men in India. Vishwakarma is worshiped by devote engineers and crafts men in India before starting new projects.

He is believed to have designed the weapon systems of gods like Sudarshan Chakra, Shiva Dhanush, Indra’s Vajra, and Arjuna’s Gandiv, just to mention the few. He designed Ravana’s Pushpak Vimana and also the wonderful palaces of Indraprastha. Pushpak Vimana was seven storied aircraft, with five-star luxuries that could fly according to the wishes of its master.

It appeared fantasy some time ago but, we have touch screen technology, invisible fences like Lakshman Rekhas to restrict the pets. Chinese Researchers have created a ‘quad copter’ similar to Pushpak Vimana that can be controlled by thought alone and has the potential to give people with impaired motor abilities a new avenue for interaction. Now we can be assertive in explaining that our so-called “blind faiths” are taking concrete shape as well.

Invention of Wheel

Technological development started after the discovery of wheel. Westerners credit Mesopotamians for this discovery in 500 BC. This is due to simple reason that prior to Fourteenth century, Westerners had no knowledge about India and whatever they had learnt was sourced from Greeks. Even today, Americans and many other countries of the West have been holding concocted knowledge about Indian culture, beliefs and voluminous literature. This can be easily ascertained by opening literature available in their libraries today. Facts are either missing or have been misrepresented as for as India and Hinduism are concerned.

For the sake of argument only, without inventing the wheel Indians could not have had Sudarshan Chakra added to the icon of Vishnu and Durga. Without wheels Mahabharata war could not have been fought with Arjuna on a chariot driven by Krishna. Arjuna was definitely not on sledge, the kind of which is normally associated with Santa Claus. Bhishma Pitama had provoked Krishna to attack him with a chariot wheel during the battle!  Thus certainly the initial step towards technological development was taken only in India.

The Indian invention of wheel accelerated the pace of technological development in other countries also. Conclusive evidence has also been provided by the wheeled cart toy excavated from the site of Indus Valley civilization and at display in National Museum at New Delhi.

The Spinning Wheel

The discovery of wheel was made use for spinning through Charkha. This was as important discovery as its predecessor wheel. Today’s mechanical development owes a lot to invention of Charkha by Indians. With this technique motion could be continuously transferred to another wheel with the help of belt. Bhaskracharya had invented this technique and that reached Europe via Arabs.

Many other inventions have been mentioned in Samrangna Sutradhara a treatise dating 1100 AD, during the reign of Raja Bhoja of Central India. The descriptions include pullies, levers, cantilevers, and bridges.  Arabs acquired this technology from India and later passed the same to Europeans in Arabic and Persian language. Mechanical writings of D Vince were instrumental in its further spread.

Mineralogy and Metallurgy

Great progress was made by India in mineralogy and metallurgy also. The mining and extensive use of gold, silver and copper was undertaken in the Indus Valley in the third century BC. In the Vedic period extensive use was made of copper, bronze, and brass for household utensils, weapons, and images for worship. It is noteworthy that whereas gods and goddesses in other mythologies are depicted in head dresses made of animal skins and horns, Hindu gods are always dressed up in gold crowns.

Patanjali, authored Lohasastra in the second century BC. He has given elaborate directions for many metallurgic and chemical processes, especially the preparation of metallic salts, alloys, and amalgams, and the extraction, purification, and assaying of metals. The discovery of Aqua Regina, a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid to dissolve gold and platinum is also ascribed to him. Manusumriti also contains several passages on purification of various metals, such as:-

अपामग्नेश्च संयोगाद्धेमं रौप्यं च निर्वभो। तत्मात्तयोः स्वयोन्यैव निर्णेको गुणवत्तरः ।।

ताम्रायः कांस्यरैत्यानां त्रपुणः सीसकस्य च। शौचं यथार्हं कर्तव्यं क्षारोम्लोदकवारिभिः ।।

(Manusumriti 5- 113-114)

(The formation of Gold and silver is attributed to water and Fire, thus both the metals can be effectively refined through water and Fire. Copper, Iron, Bronze, Brass, Raga and mirror should be refined with using acids, detergents and water.)

Chemistry and Metallurgy

Chemistry developed in India from two sources – medicine and industry. There is mention about the construction of dams, bridges and even suspension bridge in Kautillya’s Arthashastra. Agriculture had its beginning in Indus valley during 4500 BC. Water storage system has been excavated from Girnar (3000 BC). There is bath connected with under-ground outlets lined with baked tiles. Similarly excavations at Harappa revealed use of utensils and swords made of copper, brass, and bronze.

India was looked as industrially developed and militarily strong country by Roman Empire since Gupta period. They regarded it as most skilled nation possessing chemical industries such as dyeing, tanning, soap-making, glass and cement.

In second century BC Nagarjuna devoted an entire volume to Mercury. By the sixth century Indians were far ahead of Europe in industrial chemistry; they were masters of calcification, distillation, sublimation, steaming, fixation, the production of light without heat, the mixing of anesthetic and soporific powders, and also the preparation of metallic salts, compounds and alloy. Ancient Indians were highly skilled in manufacturing and working with iron and tempering steel. The analysis of zinc alloys like brass, from archaeological excavations, testify that the zinc distillation process was known in India as early as 150 BC.

Southern India was a region that was renowned for metallurgy and metal work in the olden days. The Muslims carried Indian chemical science and industry to Europe.

  • Karnataka – fine steel wires were being produced for use as strings in musical instruments, at a time when the western world was using animal gut for stringed musical instruments.
  • Kerala – besides its large iron smelting furnaces, Kerala possessed skill of special processes such as the metal mirror of Aranmula.
  • Tamil Nadu – High quality steel from Tamil Nadu was exported all over the world since Roman times.
  • Andhra Pradesh –Kona Samudram region in Andhra Pradesh was famous for producing the world-renowned Woozy steel – the raw material for King Salahuddin’s fabled Damascus Sword. The tempering of steel had been brought in ancient India to perfection.
  • Rajasthan – Zink mining was carried out at Jhavar during 400 BC.

King Porus is said to have made a special gift to Alexander in the form of thirty pounds of steel. The Muslims carried Indian chemical science and industry to Europe. The image of Nataraja was made of five metals (Pancha-Dhatu).  This technology of mixing two or more metals and deriving superior alloys had been observed and noted by the Greek Historian Peisistratus. The Spire (Makara) over Hindu temples were always adorned with brass or gold toppings (Kamandals). 

Units of Measurement

  • Yativrasabha prepared tables for distance measuring and time calculations in his treatise Tiloyyapannati way back in 6 century.
  • Yakaspati Mishra has explained in Niyaya-suchini-bandha (840 AD) that location of any point in space could be fixed by the intersection of three imaginary lines drawn and distance accurately measured. This principle was a forecast of Solid Quadrant Geometry later propounded by Descartes in 1644 AD.
  • Niyaya Visheshika mentioned 1,944,000 Kshana as the duration of Sun Day. One Kshana equals to .044 of our today’s second. Truti was the smallest unit of time.
  • Para-manu has also been mentioned in Niyaya Visheshika It was the smallest unit of measure for measuring length. It equals to 1/349525 th part of modern inch. This measure can be imagined to equal the smallest particle of dust visible in sun light entering a dark room.

Iron pillar at Delhi 

Traditional Indian iron and steel are known to have some very special properties such as resistance to corrosion. This is substantiated by the 1600-year-old, twenty-five feet high iron pillar next to the Qutub Minar in New Delhi, installed during the period of Chandragupta Maurya. The famous iron pillar in Delhi is a metallurgical wonder. This huge wrought iron pillar, 24 feet in height 16.4 inches in diameter at the bottom, and 6 1/2 tons in weight has stood exposed to tropical sun and rain for fifteen hundred years, but does not show the least sign of rusting or corrosion.

Evidence shows that the pillar was once a Garuda Stambha from a Vishnu temple and added as a trophy in the Quwwat al-Islam mosque in Delhi. Experts at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur have now found that a thin layer of ‘miswrite’ – a compound of iron, oxygen and hydrogen – protected the cast iron pillar near the historic Qutub Minar from rust for centuries. The metallurgy could be used to develop a model for containers used to store nuclear materials. The protective film had formed due to the presence of high amounts of phosphorous in the iron – as much as one percent, against less than 0.05 percent in today’s iron. The high phosphorous content was a result of the unique iron-making process practiced by ancient Indians.

Galvanizing Feat

Zinc metallurgy traveled from India to China and then to Europe. As late as 1735, professional chemists in Europe believed that zinc could not be reduced to metal except in the presence of copper.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 36/72 – Astrology Palmistry and Gemology)

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