About Hinduism and India

Posts tagged ‘Vedas’

Splashes – 67/72 – Loss of Patronage to Hinduism

Before partition, at least in few princely states, Hinduism received some patronage. But in post partitioned India that patronage was also lost. Nepal was the only one Hindu kingdom on the global map, but it is no more. Hinduism has come to be neglected after partition, particularly at the behest of Congress leaders, who continued the policy of colonial government the same way, as that was handed over to them after partition.  Over and above politicians have assiduously encouraged the minorities to strengthen and preserve their fundamentalist outlook in the social structure of Indian Society by advancing financial and organizational infrastructures.  They have been assured of having first right on countries resources in comparison to Hindus.

Bias against Hindu Heritage

We ignore the fact that Christian organizations have a heavy stake in education. They want to hold on to the colonial – missionary version of history. They do not want our academic curriculum changed, because, they will have to teach the modern and scientific version, that would establish India the home of Vedas, scientific knowledge, and grand Civilization.

The education system of elite’s choice was monopolized by missionary schools during colonial days. The product of such schools came to occupy decision-making apparatus of the government in post partitioned India. Such Anglicized Indians valued dogma above rational thinking. While they preferred everything in English, they generated a dogmatic mindset incapable of critical analysis beyond colonial knowledge.

  • ‘One of their dogmas has been that Christianity is progressive, and rejection of ancient Vedic concepts is a sign of progressiveness’. They assume that Indians do not have the capability to question Western institutions. Jawaharlal Nehru used to pride in referring Vedic period as “Gobar Yuga” (cow-dung age).
  • ‘Muslims in India are a peace-loving minority, suffering at the hands of Aryan “chauvinists”, who want to saffronize the secular character of India’. They associate saffron color with terror by saying that biggest threat to India exists from Hindu fundamentalists.
  • ‘Minorities in India have the first right on resources of the country. Special welfare schemes are needed for their support’.

Due to such generated mind-set most of the youth identify Hinduism with superficial rituals performed on occasions like marriages and funerals. Photographs of drug-addicts in the guise of Sadhus and beggars are projected as representatives and propagators of Hinduism on the cover of glossy magazines. While minorities are hardening their life styles on extreme fundamental dictates, Hindu youth find an escape route in secularism. Government aided Madrassa education is churning out motivated Islamic youths to dream India turning an Islamic state in near future. Individually and collectively, Hindus express helplessness to block their aggressive designs.

Lack of Self-confidence

The net result of such timid mind-set is leading to destruction of Hindu self-confidence and national pride. Unless something is approved by the Westerners ‘educated Hindus’ do not repose faith in their own findings. If westerns certified the benefits of Yoga, sublimity of our classical music, curative properties of Ayurvedic medicines, and usage of Indian herbs for beautification; only then we regarded those as patriotic sophistication in Indian society.

We felt elevated only after being told by John Marshall that we were the oldest civilization. We quote foreign travelers to tell ourselves that there were universities at Nalanda and Takshashila in India, where students all over the world came to study Science and Mathematics. All that could not have been believed otherwise by us.

For rediscovering India, Indian elites happily to go to Oxford and Cambridge, but feel agitated, if facilities for our ancient studies are contemplated in Indian universities. We perceive it as a threat to secularism, which is practically being misused to protect the medieval mindset of ethnic minorities.

Judicial Activism

Of late judicial activism has added another dimension to anti – Hindu mindset. Many often Obitter Dictums are sounded that Caste system should be thrown to dust bin. While our Judiciary has been reluctant to interfere with the personal law of minorities, how passing references are made by courts against customs and traditions of Hinduism? Submitting to pressure from Islamic clerics while judgment in Shah Bano Case was nullified at the behest of Rajiv Gandhi, Congress government and Judiciary seemed to be enthusiastic in recognizing living in relationships, gay marriages and protecting marriages within same Gotras. The government has failed to pass uniform civil code to obliterate distinction between minority and majority.

Opposition to Hindu Studies

Perpetual opposition from secular politicians to introduction of astrology, and other Vedic studies in universities is continuation of slavish mindset, even if the studies are to be presented in modern light. When Astrology was sought to be taught in diploma course in Gujarat, elitists went on to argue that introduction of astrology would be counterproductive to scientific temperament. They contended that due to variability in astrological predictions, Astrology could not be classified as a Science.

Carrying this argument forward one can say that Business forecasts are nothing but estimates, based on market trends applying a blend of modern technology to the database created on past records. Even business predictions are open to errors in judgment. Many times meteorological forecasts also go wrong, though these are arrived after using most modern gadgetry. Should we conclude that Meteorology is also not a science? Likewise, business forecasting is superstitious? Going further, there should be no forward planning in the country, as future cannot be scientifically predicted.

Rediscovering through Technology 

Our astrology still has enough original scientific data and literature to work and improve upon. Systematic study in the field of Astrology has generated self-employment for many, since a market at home and abroad already exists. What astrologers should not have access to modern technology and facilities created in the universities? Further, streamlining Vedic education may help eradication of harmful bias associated with this branch of study. If we accept Vedic studies in our curriculum, experimentation employing modern technology will be helped to verify the correctness of predictions and make us self-sufficient in conceptualization followed by technological absorption of indigenous knowledge.

Neglecting Research

Scientific research can be undertaken to test the hypothesis, with the help of research tools available today and analytical aids applied to case studies. The same is true about our vast philosophical knowledge, which is lying compressed in Vedas and Upanishads. It is lying unused, because it is hard to convince brown elitists and secularists, who are conditioned not to quote beyond Aristotle, Socrates, and Fraud.

Neglecting Sanskrit

Though Sanskrit is the only language in the world to possess an original treatise in the field of all human sciences, we resist its retention in educational curriculum, due to communal bias generated by anti Hindu elements. Our software professionals meekly admitted the validity of Sanskrit for computers after westerners certified that. Convent elites remain blind to the fact that when Chaucer, the father of English poetry was born, Sanskrit literature was already enriched with classics yet to be surpassed by other languages of the world.

On the contrary we are over indulging in promotion of Urdu that has borrowed script and vocabulary. Promotion of Urdu will regenerate more communal mindset among minorities and impede acceptance of Hindi as our national language.

Distortion of History

Cultural self-hatred abounds due to the anti-Hindu educational policy of the government pursued by secularists in secular India. For the pleasure of minorities, atrocious doings of Muslim invaders against Hindus are being excluded from our History books. Attempts have been made to interpret historical events that factual wrongs committed by invaders and bigots, remain over looked. Shamelessly, we turn apologetic about the heroic deeds of Aryans, Rajputs, Marathas and Sikhs who resisted Islamic onslaught.

Many of ancient sites and shrines have been occupied by Muslims and bear Islamic names in spite of archeological evidence suggesting the original ownership. The government is hesitant to probe the matter to restore ownership to Hindus. This has made India a nation without nationalism, pride, or history for our younger generation. Pseudo-secularists want present generations to believe that Mahmood Gaznavi and Mohammad Ghouri, were not fanatics, but Shiva Ji and Maharana Pratap were the rebels. Western countries have converted most of our intellectual wealth to theirs, while we remained shy and ignorant to stake our claim.

We should assert our Heritage

Modern corporations spend handsome amounts on idea generation exercises, before the launch of new products. Had there been a system of patenting knowledge, India would have been the sole proprietor of world’s intellectual property. The fatherhood of many faculties of knowledge would have been bestowed upon Indians. But there is probably no other country except India, where indigenous concepts however enlightened, is ridiculed while western concepts are blindly parroted. In India, foreign cultures can preach what they want, even if the same were irrelevant, vulgar, backward or anti national. We agitate if our own ancient heritage is included in the curriculum.

It is well-known that concept precedes discovery. Concept changes rarely, while technology to transform concept in to reality changes at rapid pace. One can find for him-self several inspiring concepts lying scattered between the lines of Vedas, mythological literature, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Jatka tales and other classics in Sanskrit. Outsiders need not pull Indians down; we are ourselves quite busy in this exercise in the name of preserving secularism, even if we lose our ancient cultural identity. Our youth leaders like Rahul felt “ashamed” to be associated with India, while Italian Sonia in power declared that “India is not a Hindu country”. Our elected representatives kept mum.

Chand K Sharma

(Naxt: Splashes– 68/72 – Insecure Environment for Hindus)

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Splashes – 54/72 – Spread of Knowledge Abroad

The destruction of Indian literature was so extensive that no record of pre-Islamic history remained in India. In fact, whatever history of ancient India exists now, was re-constructed by the Europeans with the help of writings that survived mainly, in Sri Lanka, China, Myanmar, Nepal and Tibet.  Another source of information was the biographies and official records of Islamic rulers. Hindus sources like Puranas and Vedas were dubbed as mythology by British historians and their clones like Nehru, in India. The gaps in history were therefore filled up by interpretation of British historians to suit their political and colonial aims.

Islamic Contributions

It cannot be categorically stated, that all Muslims were barbarians, while most of them were. Some refined Muslim intellectuals, particularly from Sufi cult in Islam, not only studied Hindu scripture,s but had them translated to Arabic and Persian language. Some Muslims poets and philosophers also enriched our intellectual heritage by their individual contributions. Prominent among them were Amir Khusro, Malik Muhammad Jayasi, Rahim, Raskhan, Maseet Khan, Raza Khan and Dara Shikoh. They contributed mainly towards literature, music, and other arts.

Although Islamic invaders had indulged in reckless destruction of educational institutions and massacre of intellectuals, but many texts in the field of mathematics, astrology, medicine and philosophy had already been translated into Arabic, before Indian universities were burned down and inmates killed. Some manuscripts that were scattered over the country, escaped destruction as they remained in safer hands.

Prominent Translations within India

Some notable translations into Arabic and Persian are:-

  • Al-Bairuni – He was a Muslim Saint and contemporary of notorious Muslim invader Mahmud of Ghazni. It is said that many often he preceded the campaigns and acted as Mahmud’s mentor. He translated Brihatsamhita to Arabic.
  • Aziz Shams Baha-i Nuri – Subsequent to Al-Bairuni’s translation, Aziz Shams Baha-i Nuri translated Brihatsamhita to Persian.
  • Nakhshabi– During his conquest of Nogarkot in 1362, Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq acquired 1300 books from Jwalamukhi temple. He commissioned Sanskrit scholars to translate some of them to Persian. On the basis of the translation of texts on Physics and Astronomy, ‘Izzu’d-Din Khalid Khani compiled the Dala ‘il-Firuz Shahi’ and ‘Abdu’l.
  • Sultan Sikandar Lodhi – Sikandar Lodi also ordered the translation of many Sanskrit works to Persian with a view to enrich the language.
  • Sultan Zaynu’l-‘Abidin – Sultan Zaynu’l-‘Abidin of Kashmir had some Sanskrit Texts translated to Persian in Kashmir.
  • Mughal Period – Mughal Emperor Akbar had established a translation bureau Maktab Khana for translation of Sanskrit texts to Persian and Arabic. Sanskrit books were translated during Jehangir’s period also. Prince Dara Shikoh translated Upanishads to Persian.
  • Retranslation of Translated Sanskrit Texts – Anquetil Duper Ron re-translated the Persian version of some Sanskrit texts to French and Latin, which influenced many intellectuals in Europe including German scholar Schopenhauer.

Slow absorption of Knowledge

Initially the Europeans were slow to absorb knowledge, such as new type of numbers. Much of the work in universities and monasteries was limited to copying the manuscripts and translating them. They were not able to use decimals until a Dutch mathematician Simon Steven (1548-1620) explained the system in a book called La Thiende (The Tenth). After him, Magini and Christopher Claudius used them in their works. In 1621, Bachet published the Latin version of Arithmetica from Arabic.

Accounts of Foreign Travelers 

Since the period of Mauryan Dynasty foreign travelers and diplomats had been visiting India. They carried scriptures as well as accounts of India’s progress in various fields.  Some of their accounts influenced the spirit of Renaissance in Europe and explorers from those countries embarked upon reaching Indian shores. Kamasutra of Vatsayana had been one such text that interested most of the Europeans during the age of Renaissance and afterwards. Navigators from England, France, Portugal, Spain, and Holland competed against each to reach India during fifteenth century. Some of the foreign travelers are mentioned below:-

  • Megasthenes – Megasthenes (350 – 290 BC) was a Greek ambassador in the court of Chandragupta Maurya. He has given accounts of older Indians who knew about the pre-historic arrival of Dionysus and Hercules in India. He mentioned about devotees of Hercules (Shiva) and Dionysus (Krishna or Indra). His classic Indicaserved as an important source to many later writers
  • Buddhist Monks – Emperor Ashoka had sent many Buddhist monks to Tibet, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, China, Japan, Cambodia and several South East Asian countries to propagate the message of Buddhism. They carried with them several texts and art forms. Qandahar (then Gandhara) in Afghanistan, being located along the silk route was an important center for transfer of scriptures and practical interaction between countries in Central Asia and the Middle East. Tibetan alphabet bears influence of Gupta period.
  • Fa-Hien – A Chinese Buddhist monk traveled extensively in India, and Tibet through Kashmir, Kabul, Qandahar, and through Punjab to Central India. He remained in India for about 10 years, seeking complete copies of the Vinaya-pitaka and compiling information regarding Buddhism and the life of its founder. Thereafter he went to Ceylon where he copied many sacred texts. After his return he wrote an account of his travels. His narrative was translated to French by Rémusat (Paris, 1836) and to English by Beal. His accounts inspired Chinese historical novelist to write ‘Journey to the West’ in English.
  • Hiuen-Tsang– Hiuen-Tsang was a seventh century Chinese Buddhist pilgrim. He knew about Fa-Hien’s visit to India and like him was concerned about the incomplete and misinterpreted nature of the Buddhist scriptures that had reached China. Starting from China in AD 629, Hiuen-Tsang passed through Central Asia by the northern trade route via Kucha and reached Northern India, where, at the city of Kannauj, he was the guest of Emperor Harsha-vardhana. He visited the sacred Buddhist sites in Magadha and spent much time studying at the great Nalanda monastery, then an important center of Buddhist scholarship. The Pilgrim next travelled to parts of Bengal and then to South and West India. He studied Sanskrit and translated several scriptures to Chinese. He returned to China, again by way of Central Asia, and recorded the details of all the countries he visited. Hiuen-Tsang’s purpose was to obtain Buddhist books and to receive instruction on Buddhism while in India, but he ended up doing much more. He has preserved the records of political and social aspects of the lands he visited.
  • Ibn Battuta – He made many trips and travelled to several countries during the period 1304 – 1368 AD covering almost 75000 miles, including a voyage from Central Asia, to china and South East Asia. During the period of Muhammad Shah Tughlaq he entered India via Afghanistan. He stayed for some time at his court and then visited Khammbhat and Calicut. He described the city of Hansi under the Rajput and carried his accounts for subsequent European navigators.
  • Sir Thomas Roe – Sir Thomas Roe was an English diplomat and an accomplished scholar and a patron of learning. His reputation resulted mainly from the success of his embassy in 1615-18 to the court of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. He became a favorite of Jahangir. His journal was a valuable source of information for the reign of Jahangir. Roe himself collected several valuable manuscripts which he subsequently presented to the Bodleian Library. As a result of his contacts fame of Indian muslin spread in Europe and fabrics were exported to European Countries from India.
  • Marco Polo – Marco Polo wrote of his extensive travels throughout Asia. He wrote about customs, traditions, philosophy, astronomy, astrology, geometry and dresses of the countries he visited. His pioneering journey inspired Christopher Columbus to undertake an exploration mission in search of India, but eventually he landed on the Continent of America.

Translation of Rig Veda

The knowledge contained in Upanishads had already been put to use in Europe. In 1845 Max Muller from Germany translated Hitopdesha. Max Muller was wary of Darwin’s work on human evolution, and attacked his view of the development of human faculties. Muller shared many of the ideas and associated communion with natural forces. Muller’s Sanskrit studies came at a time when scholars had started to see language development in relation to cultural development. Muller therefore devoted himself to the study of this language, becoming one of the major Sanskrit scholars of his day. Muller believed that the earliest documents of Vedic culture should be studied in order to provide the key to the development. At that time the Vedic scriptures were little-known in the West, though there was increasing interest in the philosophy of Upanishads.  He saw the gods of the Rig-Veda as active forces of nature, only partly personified as imagined persons.

Providential Escape

Perhaps it was also a blessing in disguise that some of the documents and manuscript had escaped destruction that was to follow in India and reached Europe to be used for the benefit of mankind. The worst of blood-bath and destruction were yet to take place in India because Hindus had over indulged in spiritualism and idealism.

It is ironical that to some of our present generation, India is a nation without nationalism, pride, or history. Cultural self-hatred abounds in secular minded academicians who are Indian only in blood and color, but English in taste, opinion, and intellect. Unfortunately still those lots continue to dominate our educational institutions.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 55/72 –Indian Illumination in Renaissance)

Splashes– 46/72 Origin of Political Thought

For the western world, the origin of political theory began with Greek philosophers, but Vedas show that the principle of representative government was in practice in India at least 1000 before the Greek philosophers were born. Political thinking had already been matured in India when Europeans started regrouping their tribes, and races in to tribal areas, societies and countries. Our Rishies had suggested idea for the ‘Government for the Universe’ even much earlier.

Written Form of Governance

The Vedas and Manusumriti were the foundation, upon which not only Indian, but the Egyptian, Persians, Grecians and the Roman codes of law were built later. The ancient Hindu works on law are a marvel of simplicity and wisdom. The articles of Hindu code are composed and arranged in natural and luminous order. They are numerous, comprehensive and had been investigated with minute attention.

Whoever examined the whole texts cannot deny the efficacy of ancient jurisprudence, and the fact that the same was creation of an enlightened, logical and far-sighted society. Whoever looked into any particular title will be surprised by its minuteness of detail that goes beyond the attention of European legislation even today. There were charters of duties for the rulers, ministers, other officials and subjects as well. Rules of succession were clear and there is no instance where untimely death of a ruler caused a war for succession to go on for decades as it often took place on other parts of the globe.

Raj Guru to oversee Kingship

Dharma was the essence of governance. As a true welfare state, the Prajapati (King) was responsible for providing protection, justice, education, and health care to all the subjects. King was also obliged to adhere to Dharma. The Raj Gurus (Spiritual Mentors) acted as Ombudsmen to pronounce violations of Dharma and no one could be out of their jurisdiction. There was no escape route even for people in high position.

Concept of welfare state

During the epic age the concept of welfare state was visualized with Ram Rajya, a perfect Utopian concept of state governance.  Reference exists in Ramayana regarding voluntary abdication of power by the kings to enable younger generation to succeed. Rama sent his brother Lakshmana to Ravana to learn the art of state-craft as soon as the latter fell on the battlefield. To set an example that of an ideal king, Rama banished even his beloved wife when public suspicion was caused against her. Although Caesar’s wife is now quoted to be above suspicion, but how many rulers have dared to emulate that example?

Democratic Form of Governance

India, and certainly NOT England, is the mother of democracy. In fact, there was a democratic deity called Samajnana to whom the last hymn of the Rig Veda makes salutation. Republics existed in India at least as early as the days of the Buddha (6th century before Christ); and continued for at least a thousand years thereafter.

Each Hindu township was, a ‘community-republic’ by itself. The whole of India was one vast federal congeries of such republics – like United States of America. Though evidence for non-monarchical government goes back to the Vedas, republican states were most common during the Buddhist period. There was a complex vocabulary in Pali, Sanskrit, Buddhist and Brahmanical literature to describe the different types of groups that ran their own affairs.

Local self-government

India had developed a style of local self-government that endured up to modern times. It had developed an amazingly modern system of town and village planning, and almost fool-proof economic and social structure. It kept the country and its culture stable through disturbances and invasions.

There is no other country, ancient or modern, where republics existed and continued for so long a period. That was possible due to the spirit of freedom and democracy, which manifested in many forms among the Indian people from the earliest ages. The benevolent nature of Hindu civilization is proved by the fact that the Hindu settlements colonies and dependencies also enjoyed their own Constitution. India never invaded any country in her last 10000 years of history.

There were many sovereign republics in India. It is pertinent from the Greek evidence, since the Greek writers spoke in a political language that is universally more familiar to the European world. Greek accounts of Alexander’s campaigns portray ‘free and independent’ Indian communities at every turn.

Nysa, a city on the border of modern Afghanistan and Pakistan was ruled by a president named Aculphis aided by a council of 300 persons.  Similar development is mentioned by Kautilya also, according to whom there were two kinds of Jana-padas (Republics), called Ayudhiya-praya; (Cantonments) made up mostly of soldiers; and shreni-praya, consisting of guilds of craftsmen, traders, and agriculturalists.  Furthermore, power in some republics was vested in a large number of individuals. In a well-known Jataka tale we are told that in Lichavi capital of Vaishali, there were 7707 kings, 7707 viceroys, 7707 generals, and 7707 treasurers!

Diplomacy and Espionage

The history of diplomacy in ancient India commences with the Rig Veda Samhita where the use of spies is sanctioned while pursuing some mission in general interest for the protection of Dharma.  There is also an interesting account of a successful espionage mission undertaken and executed by Brahspati’s son Kucha, on behalf of Indra to Demon kingdom in disguise to learn the science of Sanjeevani from Demon Guru Shukracharya. The love triangle between Kutch, Guru Shukracharya’s daughter Devyani and host princess Sharmishtha is the first recorded thrilling instance of knowledge espionage.

Apart from Vedas and Manusumriti, we also come across ‘Vidur Neeti’ during Mahabharata and Kautillya’s ‘Arathshastra’ that contain additional detail about the statecraft, diplomacy, spies, and related aspects of contemporary governance and administration.

The following corner stones of ancient diplomacy are very much relevant to our modern times also: –

  • Sama– according reciprocal treatment,
  • Dama – implying appeasement as tool to accomplish desired objectives.
  • Danda-coercion as tool to enforce own dictates.
  • Bheda– with-holding or revealing own intentions to serve own purpose.

Control over Corruption

Rig Veda contains comprehensive instructions for eradication of corruption. Spies (Spasah or Varuna) filled an important role in civil as well as military affairs of ancient India. In addition to their external duties, they were engaged to look after the home officials and those of the royal household.

Only men of wisdom and purity were employed on this errand. They were to be persons above the temptation of corruption. During Mauryan age, young females were brought up on snake poison and employed in assassination of rival chieftains through means of seduction.

Internal Secret Service

In the Ramayana, spies have been described as the ‘eyes of the king’. It may be surprising that In Valmiki Ramayana, when Sarupnakha went to Ravana with her bleeding nose, she chided him for being careless on his spy network, and asked him several questions, the substance of which would form a check list to conduct security audit of even our military installations.

Manusamriti also contains a full chapter on security and diplomacy during military campaigns. Kautilya’s Arthashastra is another comprehensive text-book on matters concerning diplomacy, internal security and intelligence network. The destruction of mighty Nanda Empire by Chankya and Chandragupta Maurya was a remarkable feat in history of sabotage, valor and wisdom.

In Mahabharata, it is stated that cows see by smell, priests by knowledge, kings by spies and others through eyes. Bhishama has listed seven essential qualifications in persons to be sent as ambassadors. They should come from noble heredity, belong to a high family, be skillful, eloquent in speech, true in delivering the mission, and have excellent memory. Mahabharata had galaxy of diplomats and statesmen out of whom Vidura, Krishna, Shalya and Shakuni were prominent.

Apart from Scriptures, it was the famous Indian strategist of the fourth-century BC, Kautilya, who gave the dictum: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The Arthashastra predates Sun-Tzu and Christ by centuries. It dwelled at length on the importance of espionage and the creation of an effective spy network. Such details may indicate the high development of the science of diplomacy in ancient India.

Greek Ambassador Megasthenes has stated that Indians were neither engaged in wars with outsiders nor invaded by any foreign power”. There were friendly relations between Chandragupta Maurya and Seleucus Nikator. Their successors Bindusara and Antiochus also followed the same. Ashoka and Samadragupta also maintained diplomatic relations with Lanka.  Pulaski with Persians, and Harshavardhana established and maintained diplomatic friendly relations with Nepal and China. Certainly, that all had happened well before political awakening came elsewhere.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 47/72 – Hindus are a Nation)

Splashes – 40/72 Literary Contributions by India

India is the home of literary fiction. Stories of Indian origin have long been told in distant lands of Asia and Europe in a variety of forms often without awareness of their source. Although Europeans had no knowledge of Sanskrit till seventeenth century, folk-lore of India had already inspired people over there. Many of the popular stories had been converted to the local mold and that could be a subject for research in the age of copy right.

The Art of Story Telling

Indians had perfected several styles of story-telling. Some of the most popular formats and folk tales in Sanskrit are mentioned here.

  • Ballad Singing – Ballad singing has been very popular in India. Singers would narrate stories through songs at community gatherings. Their themes were chosen from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, and also the heroic deeds of Alha-Udal, love stories of Nala-Damyanti and sufferings of Raja Bhartahari.Ballad singing later inspired Europeans also as Ballads have been very popular in English literature.
  • Panchatantra – No other book, except the Bible, has played so important part in the field of World literature as story-collection ofPanchatantra. The name of its author Vishnu Sharma had travelled to Europe and other countries of the world centuries before Kalidasa captured the fascination of Western intellectuals at the end of the eighteenth century.
  • Jataka TalesJataka Tales are another collection of tales intended to illustrate the precepts of righteous living. Hindus believed in rebirth. Jataka Tales narrate various rebirths of Buddha in the form of Bodhisatva. In Jataka tales Lord Buddha is incarnated in human as well as in animal forms like deer, elephant, or monkey to spread the message of justice and wisdom. Many of the tales of Panchtatra and Jatka Tales are identical. Whereas in Panchtantra lord Rama is the narrator, this role is assigned to Bodhisatva in Jatka Tales. It is significant that Rishabhdeva and Rama both are the incarnations of Vishnu. Jatka Tales were written in Pali script.
  • Hitopdesha – Hitopdesha contained interesting incidents from prevailing social life and bring out some moral lessons on varied subjects to stress some ethical aspect of Buddhism, such as choice of friends. The subject matter of stories concerned day-to-day events in the life of common folks. They generate some moral values in life reflecting the spirit of Yama and Niyama.
  • Betal Pachissi – Another collection of stories is Betal Pachchisi that contain twenty-five stories narrated by Betal to virtuous King Vikramadittyawith every tale revealing some subtle truth.
  • Singhasan Battisi – Similarly, another collection from the same period is Singhasan Batteesi. These stories are narrated one by one by thirty-two puppet supporting the throne of King The tales revolve around several facets of Vikramadittyaglorifying him as a just, benevolent, and chivalrous King.
  • Shuka Rambha – In this collection a parrot happens to witness love affairs, debauchery, infidelity, and jealousy between human relations concerning couples, friends and other persons, and exposes the same through narratives.
  • Katha Sarit Sagara – It is another compendium of assorted tales.

Conversion of Folk Literature

Through Arabs and Persian travelers, Indian folk tales were carried to Turkey, Rome, Greece, Spain and other European countries. From Constantinople, Indian stories were transmitted to Venice and Naples through trade contacts and they found their way into the works of Boccaccio, Chaucer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Le Sage, La Fontaine, Voltaire, and other famous writers.

With each story-teller, the story assumed new looks, eventually reaching a stage that bore only a feeble resemblance with the original. It was much later when Western scholars discovered Sanskrit literature and the Indian contribution to the world’s fiction came to be appreciated. Those folk tales were translated in many languages. Shuka-Rambha is known as Tota-Maina in countries of Middle East.

Many of the immensely popular tales such as the ‘Magic Mirror’ ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and the ‘Purse of Fortunate’ have been traced to Indian sources. So are the Arabian Nights, which have also been traced to Indian sources. The world-famous story of ‘Sindbad’ is a tale of Indian origin as the Arab historian Al Masudi expressly said that the Kitab el Sindbad was derived from India. Most of travels and voyages of Sindbad are narrated on the backdrop of Indian shores. Some of the tales were given local face lifts that it was impossible to trace their origin. Following is an example:-

Peter of Holland

In Holland, the sea presses in on the land so much that the people built big walls of earth and stone to hold back waters. These were to be watched at all times for breach, as even a small hole was considered to be dangerous. Many years ago, there lived a seven years old boy named Peter. One day his mother sent him to go across dikes to deliver some cakes to a blind man. She warned him to return before dark. On way back home, Peter noticed the sea water beat against the dike. Soon the water started trickling and there was a leak in the dike. He tried all possible means to block the leak but could not. It grew darker and colder at night. No one came to help. With bare hands he tried to stop water for whole night and in the morning countrymen found him exhausted. They plugged the breech and carried the hero Peter home. Since then whenever sea roars like a flood, the children are taught what a child could do. Parents take their children by the hand, and tell them of brave little Peter whose courage had saved the land.

This story is similar to that of child Upmannyu in Hindu scriptures who was the disciple of Rishi Apadyomya. Upmannyu looked after the cows at Gurukul. One day he was sent to collect firewood from forest late in the evening. He noticed a breach in field and when all   attempts made by him to plug the breech single-handedly failed, he lied himself down on the ground to keep that plugged with his bare body for whole night till the Guru and other disciples discovered him on next morning.

In both cases the story motivated sense of commitment to duty.  Events are similar but the background and locations have been changed. That was just one example. Even Shakespeare was inspired by a Mahabharata episode to depict death of Macduff in his play Macbeth.

Indian influence on Global Literature

  • Story Telling Technique – The format of telling one story every day has inspired several ancient writers directly or indirectly.  In 1350 Chaucer used the same technique for his classic Canterbury Tales, where every pilgrim narrated a story every night to fellow pilgrims to cover the journey. Arabian Nights have also followed the same style.
  • Concept of Sutra-dhar –In most of the ancient Indian plays, A Sutra-dhar would link the scene by narration to the viewers that were practically not possible for stage action. In Elizabethan plays including Shakespeare’s, similar technique has been used in the form of Prologue and Epilogue. Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare, also modeled the Prologue of Dr Faustus inspired by Kalidasa.
  • Comic Character – Another concept from Kalidasa’s period to influence English drama was to add a comic Vidushaks in the play, such as a Fool to accompany the central character. His main role was to provide some comic relief to counter-balance tragedy and also to be a mouth piece of the play writer. Such Vidushaks appeared on the Elizabethan stage in the role of Falstaff in Shakespeare’s historical plays.
  • Opera Performance – Presenting a story through song and dance is old Indian art. Bharat Muni’s Natya Shastra is the oldest and comprehensive treatise on the art of dance and drama written in third century AD. It covered all aspects of stage craft, acting, make-up, stage management, dance and music. Opera presentation was fully mature in seventh century AD, while in Europe people were still living in forest dwellings. Kalidasa, Bhava Bhuti and Banabhatta were renowned names in play writing. Emperors Vikramadittya, Harash Vardhna and others personally patronized the art of dance drama. They wrote and acted in plays. With Kalidasa the foundation of Opera (musical Dance Drama) was laid in Gupta period that later flourished in Europe in sixteenth century.

Influence on Literary Style

All the formats and styles of literature had already been tried in India before the same were adopted abroad.

  • Question-Answers Format: For explaining serious subject matter the format of question-answers has been widely used in Upanishads, Puranas and Gita.
  • Epic Writing: The grand style of embellishments, figures of speech had been used by the epic writers of Ramayana and Mahabharata that contain vivid use of simile, comparison, contrast, metaphor, alliteration and onomatopoeia. Since then no new format or new figure of speech has been added to literature of any language. By no stretch of imagination it can be concluded that Valmiki, Veda Vyas or Tulsidas had been inspired by Homer, Dante or Milton.
  • Heavenly Invoking: Invoking the blessings from Sarsawati, Ganeshaor from some other gods has been an Indian tradition. In Paradise Lost Milton is also seen invoking heavenly Muse to inspire him to write his epic.
  • Ode Format: In all the Vedas, the Rishies first address the subject and seek blessings, be it a god, goddess or an herbal plants before the attributes of the subject are narrated in the form of an address. This format is called ‘ode format’ that Keats and Shelley used later in English literature.

The above fact pertain to the period before which Sanskrit had already completed her golden period. Hindi had also come off her epic period with several epics like Prithvi Raj Raso, Veesal De Raso, Hameer Dev Raso, and Padmavat on book shelf. Hindi was being enriched by host of metaphysical and mystic poets like Khusro and Kabir when English Literature was just born in 1350 AD. It is a pity that we Indians realized the greatness of Kalidasa only after the British honored him with the title of Indian Shakespeare.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 41/72 –Prosperous Social Living)

Splashes – 36/72 – Astrology Palmistry and Gemology

Astrology is part of Vedanga, the study of which required constant practice. It is scientific that Planets of our solar system affect the body and mind of all living beings. Our thoughts and actions reflect the state of our body and mind. Our actions and consequent reactions sum up our life. All are inter-related.

From time immemorial humans have been trying to study the effect of planetary positions on life.  Our sages analyzed the positions and effect of planets and related the same to occurrences in real life. Their experimentation led to the development of Astrology to the extent that they could forecast future events like weather forecasts. With passage of time the predictive use of Astrology was professionalized by Brahmans.

Like people carry rain coats and umbrellas to prepare for anticipated showers, astrological rituals were devised to minimize sufferings and enhancing happiness in life. The popularity of this science can be gauged from the fact that even today our daily routines start with TV channels and news-papers giving tip for the day to avoid misfortunes. Every country has beliefs in one or more branches of Astrology ranging from mathematical calculations, Palmistry, Gemology, Occult, Witch craft, Black magic and whatever else one could imagine.

The Science of Astrology

Indian Astrology, called Jyotish Vigyana, is universal and timeless. It originated from Vedic Scriptures. The Rig Veda lists a number of stars and mentions twelve divisions of the Sun’s yearly circular path. A circle can be divided into 360 degrees from the center. Thus, the path of 360 degrees has been divided into twelve sectors. Each sector is called a Rashi.  A name and identification sign is allotted to every Rashi matching to the shape of the cluster of stars identified on the path of Sun. Using mythology as a training aid, the Sun’s annual course was artistically explained as a wheel with twelve spokes that correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Planetary Effect

According to Indian Astrologers, the planetary effect is not similar on all living beings at any one time. It is dynamic according to the time and place of birth and position of different planets in the sky. Every planet has its distinct positive or negative effect on body and mind, but it is the accumulated effect of all planets that is finally considered for making forecast. Negative effects can be minimized by enhancing positive effects and vice versa, like changing diet of a person having unstable blood pressure.

In the Vedic system Moon rules the emotional nature of a person. It is well-known that the planets with their large magnetic fields and gravitational interaction with the Earth, affect it physically. The Indian astrology defines the actual traits of an individual, marital compatibility, and the future based on the position of planets at the time and place of birth.

Indian astrology is the study of the subtle energies, which make up our world. While evaluating a horoscope under Indian astrology, nothing more is looked beyond the blending of energies, which can combine in an infinite variety of ways. As energetic beings, each one of us is composed of a combination of energies, which makes up the sum total of our being. Each individual is created by a particular combination of planetary gravitational pulls exerted in different degrees, from different angles, and in different quantities. The multitude of possible combinations accounts for the variety of personalities, mentalities, physiques, as well as emotional and intellectual constitutions.

Bhrigu Samhita

On the basis of all possible planetary combinations, Sage Bhrigu made several calculations to cover astrological effect on humans born during that period.  Those birth charts (Kundalies) were compiled in Bhrigu Samhita, and interpretations of each birth chart could reveal the traits of persons born at the specific time and place.  Over the period, the original treatise disappeared.  However few pages of the same are reported to be in the possession of certain families. If the birth chart of any person matches with Kundali held by the family, his life can be predicted accurately. The practicing families claim that even previous and future births of the person can also be predicted on the basis of Kundali. However the possibility of fake birth charts and fake forecasters cannot be ruled out in this business.

Applied Astrology

There is an interesting instance.  Once, Emperor Shahjahan wanted to test a Hindu astrologer who had come to visit him from Kashi.  As directed, the astrologer made his calculations and wrote his prediction. On orders from the Emperor, without reading, the written prediction was locked in a box, with keys securely held by the Emperor himself. Thereafter Shahjahan moved around in Delhi, the capital city for some time as he used to do. He pretended to enter the outer city wall through one after another several gates but every time he changed his plans. Finally, he ordered the outer wall to be demolished at one place and made his entry to the city. On his return the sealed box was opened and the prediction was read out. To Shahjahan’s surprise it had been predicted that the Emperor would re-enter the city through a new passage!

Importance of Activism

However, Hinduism does not breed fatalistic approach, but emphasizes activism. Hinduism lays more stress on doctrine of Karma.

It is to be remembered that Astrology predicts traits inherited by a person, but the traits can be altered with effort, will power, and through the effect of environment. Traits create mental make-up of a person to initiates action resulting that produce conducive effects in life. Thus, Astrological predictions are to be taken as a cautionary warning before the catastrophe surprised the individual. A fore warned person can prepare in advance and minimize the impending damage by counter actions. One is required neither to be over optimistic, nor to be sullied by future predictions.

Science of Palmistry

Parallel to Astrology, another science in predictions is Palmistry that also had its origin in India. Devarishi Narda is attributed to have founded this art. Many other Rishies were also contributors to the development of Palmistry, such as Sages Gautama, Bhrigu, Kashyapa, Atreya and Garga. Maharishi Valmiki also composed 567 verses on the art of Palmistry. Astronomer Varahmihir has also elaborated on Palmistry in his treatise on Astronomy.

From the ancient texts on Palmistry, Samudrik Shastra, Ravna Samihta and Hasta Sanjivini are available today. During third century BC, the knowledge of Palmistry was exported to China, Tibet, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Iran. It spread further to Greece and further to other European countries. In all the countries, the identification of lines on human palms is matching to the original Indian interpretations. Expectantly, there are minor differences in predictions however.

Arun Samhita

This original ancient text in Sanskrit is also known as Lal Kitab (Red Book) and it has been translated in to many languages. It is believed that knowledge of Palmistry was given to Demon King Ravana by Aruna, the mythological charioteer of Sun God. This combined the practical aspects of Birth Chart (Kundali), Palm reading and Samudrik Shastra. Those who disbelieve birth charts could rely on Arun samhita to solve their problems in life. Obviously this book has been more popular in the countries that did not follow the system of birth charts.

Rationale behind Palmistry

The rationale behind Palmistry is that marking of lines on each human palm is different to the palm of the other according to the time and place of every person. This fact has now been accepted by the modern science that no two persons on globe have identical finger prints. This knowledge is being used in forensic science not only for crime detection but for establishing conviction also. Bio-metric identity cards are being relied as sure sign to establish identification of persons. Same way predictions made on the basis of Palmistry are not of general nature but case specific. Nature imprints the feelings and traits on the hands of every person at the time of his birth in accordance with planetary effect of stars. Based on traits, capabilities and achievements are formed, but in accordance to the efforts of the individual.

Science of Phrenology

Related to this is the science of Phrenology. Nature has designed several variations in facial features and every person has a different personality from the other. Thus face is regarded as index of a person. Through experimentation (Anaga Vishleshna) several deductions were made by ancient Rishies. We can see the practical application of this science in films, TV productions and Theaters. Some prominent examples can be found in the make-up given to a proud person. Person shall have a very prominent nose. Small fore head is used to depict a person slow on up-take, while broad fore head is sign of intellect. Villainous characters and corrupt have crookedness written on their face.

The effect of this science is so powerful that people can judge the inner make-up of theatrical characters from watching them outwardly without having them perform any action or dialogue. All body parts have been assigned specific characteristics. Body Language and Hand Writing analysis are forward extensions of the same science.

Gemology

Indian astrology and Gemology came to be studied and applied together in India. Diamonds were first mined in India. Maharshi Shounaka had classified diamonds into four classes, such as – Khanija, Kulaja, Shilaja and Kritaka. This is a subject of Physics.

Ratna Pradeepika dealt with diamonds, precious stones and pearls. It also mentioned the manufacturing of artificial diamonds with the help of borax, salts of alum, and Oshawa.

Kautiliya described diamond in Arthashastra as a big and heavy object that is capable of scratching, bearing blows with symmetrical points, and revolving like a spindle with brilliantly excellent shine. Today this kind of knowledge is being used in computerized satellites.

Besides diamonds, Indians were well conversant with the properties of other precious stones that were used in ornaments, medicine and as cures for certain psychological disorders. Gems and Precious Stones were worn on different body parts to attract effect of heavenly bodies for various purposes. In Mahabharata there is reference that Pandvas extracted a blue sapphire from the fore head of Ashwathama, who had slaughtered siblings of Pandavas in cold blood.

Prior to the advent of scientific knowledge, different gems were associated with gods and goddesses to cure disorders and at the same time for enhancing the suitable effect. The properties of gems and other precious stone are a subject matter of science as well as faith. Hinduism has blended Science and Faith, and has supported both side by side.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 37/ 72 – Founders of Medicine and Longevity)

 

Splashes – 35/72 – India’s Technological Contributions

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)

Splashes – 34/72 – Indian Contributions towards Physics

Philosophy and Science are deeply related. Ideas precede inventions. Philosophers generate ideas and scientists shape them. The two functions might be combined in one person or more. The founders of Western scientific thought were also philosophers. So were the Indians. Indian scientists were called Ashvins.

The Beginning of Physics

Today the text books on Physics tell that matter lays in three states, that are solid, liquid and gas. This statement tells the condition of matter at some particular time only. The forms and shapes can change. The properties of different kinds of matter are the subjects covered under the Science of Physics.

Vedas were the first text books on Physics. The compiled knowledge about matter and its properties came to humans originally through the text of Vedas that provided the first, foremost and subtle knowledge about basic elements (Panch Bhuta) of Nature – Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Ether; out which rest of the things have come in to existence. The process of acquiring knowledge about the composition of different things, properties, and establishing cause to the effects has been a continuously ongoing process.

Vedanga and Vedanta carried forward the studies in Physics. Upanishdas, Darshana Shastras and Puranas are the sources that contain mantras explaining properties of various natural phenomena and link causes to the effects. All Mantras are not meant for spiritual development. Most of them contain vast knowledge in compressed form, like zipped files, and need further expansion.

Format of Texts

Those days even the scientific writing was also done in poetic Chhandas, economized within the given structure of the metric measure. That served as an aid for memorizing. Mostly the style of writings was either in ‘Ode’ format. The author ‘addressed’ the ‘Subject’ and narrated the properties and utilities before seeking the effect. Another style used in ancient texts was a dialogue between the Rishi and disciples. This style offered explanation with examples also. 

Example of the knowledge content

Atharva Veda is mostly devoted to Physics.  It stated that there are seven fundamental elements of matter. Those are (1) Dhara (Earth), (2) Jala (Water), (3) Teja (Fire), (4) Vayu (Wind), (5) Khitija (Horizon), (6) Tanmatra (Quantity) and (7) Ghamanda (Ego).

Further, every kind of matter is possessed by three Gunas (qualities) of (1) Satvik, (2) Rajasik and (3) Tamsik. That implied that all matters can cause beneficial, dormant and harmful effects.

By different permutations and combinations of seven fundamental matter and three Gunas, 21 more products could be formed.

Likewise, another Treatise Vaisheshika Darshana Shastra lists out Prithavi (Earth), Jala (Water), Agni  (Fire), Vayu (Wind), Akasha (Horizon), and adds Kala (Time), Disha (Direction), Atma (Soul) and Mana (mind).

The properties of those are briefly  explained below:-

Prithavi- Earth element has qualities of smell, shape, taste and touch, out of which smell is most significant.

Jala – Water qualities are Taste, Touch and shape. Taste is most significant. Presence of Water is identified through coolness in matter. The warmth in Water denotes the presence of Fire element.

Agni – Fire element has qualities of shape and touch, out of which shape is most significant. 

Vayu – Wind element has distinct quality of touch. 

Akasha – Ether element has qualities of sound. It is formless, but where ever sound can be heard, presence of this element is confirmed. Ear drums are the recipients of this property.

Kala – Time causes origin, state and destruction of everything. For practical interpretation, it has been conceptualized into hours, days, months, age, present, past and future.

Disha For practical application there are ten directions that have been conceptualized for the origin, existence and expiration of matter.

  • These are four cardinal points East, West, North and South.
  • Four corners North East, South East, South West, and North West.
  • Two sides, Surface and Bottom

Atma – Awareness is the sign of Atma. Awareness is not the identity or qualification of senses, because previous knowledge continues to stay even after destruction or mal- functioning of the sense that had acquired knowledge in the past. It implies that Atma experienced knowledge and is separate from senses. Desire, feelings, efforts, comfort and discomfort are separate from body and are the identity of Atma.

Mana – It is a tool to experience various sensory feelings.

The above illustrations depict that spirituality has been neatly blended with the subject of pure science Physics. It is not necessary to use only European terminology to look authentic. Explaining subtle scientific facts through artistically woven mythological stories has been the hall mark of Hindu religion.

Scope of Hindu Scriptures

Scientific gems are lying scattered throughout in Hindu Scriptures like Vedas, Vedangas, Vedants Purans and Epics. Modern physics confirmed that the Sun’s rays travel in a curved way, but not in a straight line. The same fact our ancestors had artistically explained through mythology that seven horses tied by snakes drew Sun’s chariot. As the movements of the snakes are crooked and curved, so also are the sun’s rays. This phenomenon has been poetically described in scriptures:

भुजंगनः मितः सप्तः तुर्गः

Similarly the Atharva Veda explained another scientific truth about Sunlight that there are seven colors in the white ray of the Sun. Sun rays contain blend of seven colors:

सप्तः सूर्य्स रसम्यः। 

Contribution of Indian Scientists

In the realm of physics, Indian scientists have made remarkable contributions.

  • Rishi Kanada, the founder of the Vaisesika system of philosophy, expounded that the entire matter in this world consisted of atoms, as many in kind as there were various elements. About light he explained that light and heat are variations of the same reality. He is the fore-father of Atomic Science. Jain thinkers went a step further. They thought that all atoms are the same kind and variety emerged because they entered into different combinations.
  • Sushrut explained that we are able to see the objects around us due to the light falling on them. Aryabatta also supported his views later. In contrast, Greek scientists held the view that objects are seen because of light in the eyes.
  • Varahmihir in sixth century explained how shadows were cast.
  • Chakrapani was the first to explain that light and sound traveled through waves, but the speed of light was many times faster than the sound waves.
  • Pratispda further elaborated that sound waves travelled in the shape of concentric circles and every sound wave has a corresponding echo.
  • Vachaspati interpreted light as composed of minute particles emitted by substances striking the eyes. This is a clear anticipation of the corpuscular theory of light, which was proposed by Newton, but was rejected till the discovery of the proton.

Gravitation and Astro-Physics

The theory of gravity found its existence in Yajur Veda that explains that the Earth is kept in space owing to the superior attraction of the Sun. Scholars of the Gupta period were already acquainted with the movement of the heavenly bodies, the reasons for eclipses of the Sun and the Moon.

  • Aryabhatta put forward a brilliant thesis regarding the Earth’s rotation on its axis. As regards the stars being stationary, Aryabhatta stated that starry vault was fixed, but the earth moving round its axis, again and again caused the rising and setting of planets and stars. He also described the Polar days and nights of six months duration. Aryabhatta affirmed the diurnal revolutions of the earth on its axis. He wrote that when the sun rose in Sri Lanka, it was midday in Yavakoti (Java) and midnight in the Roman land. Yavadvipa, a Sanskrit name mentioned in the Ramayana, to which Sugriva sent search parties looking for Sita, was the ancient name of Java. As regards to the size of the earth, he calculated the circumference of the earth as 4,967 Yojanas and its diameter as 1,581 1/24 Yojanas.  A Yojana is equal to five English miles, and the calculation tallies with modern calculations. The circumference of the Earth works out to be 24, 835 miles, with its diameter as 7, 905 5/24 miles. He also wrote a textbook Aryabhatta Siddhantafor working out astronomical calculations.  Even today, this data is used in preparing Hindu calendars (Panchangs) giving most accurate results.
  • Brahmagupta, (598 AD – 665 AD) is known for introduction of negative numbers and operations on Zero in Arithmetic. His main work was Brahmasphuta Siddhanta, which was a corrected version of an old astronomical treatise Brahma Siddhanta. From his time the Hindus were aware of the length of diameter and circumference of the earth.
  • Varahamihira in 6th century produced valuable material relating to Astronomy, Geography and Mineralogy in his work Brihat-Samhita. It is stated that one half of the moon, whose orbit lies between the sun and the earth, is always bright by the Sun’s rays;  while the other half is always dark by its own shadows, like the two sides of a pot standing in the sunshine. Explaining eclipse of the Moon and Sun, he wrote that Moon enters into the Earth’s shadow; and in Solar eclipse the same thing happens to the Sun. He further explained the commencement of a lunar eclipse does not take place from the Western side. The solar eclipse does not take place from the Eastern side. He gave the calculation of eclipses; independent of any reference to the mythological ‘Rahu Ketu’ episode.
  • Bhaskaracharya knew the law of gravitation. In a verse in Sidhanta Shiromani, he held that the Earth is endowed with the power of attraction. It drags with own power heavy objects on the sky.  It appears that objects are falling but actually they are not, they are only being dragged by the power of attraction of the Earth. When everything on the sky drags each other equally there is no question of objects on Earth to fall. It is explained that Earth, planets, stars, Moon, and Sun – each of them is being dragged by the other with its respective power of attraction and as a result of this attraction none of them is removed from their axis. This theory was deliberated in the Siddhanta Shiromani centuries before Newton was born. According to Brahmagupta and Bhaskaracharya the diameter was calculated to be 7182 miles, some calculated that to be 7905 miles, while modern scientists take it to be 7918 miles. Bhaskara is renowned for his concept of Tatkalik-agati (instantaneous motion).

Last but not the least, none of the Hindu scientists suffered the fate of poor Galileo for making new discoveries. 

Chand K Sharma

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