Dr. V.K. Maheshwari, Former Principal
K.L.D.A.V(P.G) College, Roorkee, India.
India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!”
There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds. It was as if all my life I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant Technicolor. Keith Bellows (Vice-President, National Geographic Society)
From the time of Megasthenes (Greek Geographer, 300B.C.) who described India to Greece, down to the 18th century India was all a marvel and mystery to Europe. Marco Polo (1254-1323 A.D.) pictured its western fringe vaguely, Columbus blundered upon America in trying to reach it, Vasco-De-Gama sailed around Africa to rediscover it, and merchants spoke rapaciously ‘wealth of the India’ but scholars left the mine almost untapped. It will no longer remain to be doubted that the priests of Egypt and the sages of Greece have drawn directly from the original well of India, that it is to the banks of the Ganges and the Indus that our hearts feel drawn as by some hidden urge.
French scholar Romaine Rolland rightly commented that “If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India!”
Nothing should more deeply shame the modern Student than the regency and inadequacy of his acquaintance with India. Here is a vast peninsula of nearly two million square miles; two thirds as large as the United States and twenty times the size of U.K. with one fifth of the population of the earth; an impressive continuity of development and civilization from Mohenjo-Daro, 2900B.C. or earlier to modern age; faith compassing every stage from idolatry to the most suitable and spiritual pantheism; philosophers playing the thousand variation on one monistic theme from the Upanishads eight centuries before Christ to Shankara eight centuries after him; scientists developing astronomy three thousand years ago and winning noble prize in our own time; a democratic constitution of untraceable antiquity in the villages; wise and beneficent rulers like Ashoka and Akbar in the capitals; minstrels singing great epic almost as old as Homer and poets holding world audiences today; artists raising gigantic temples for Hindu Gods from Tibet to Ceylon and from Cambodia to Java, or carving perfect palaces by the Score for Mogul Kings and Queens. This is the India that patient scholarship is now opening up, like a new intellectual continent, to the western mind which only yesterday thought civilization exclusively European thing.
Mark Twain has rightly said: “So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.”
A special charm of studying Indian philosophy today is that it is more truly Western, in the modern, scientific sense, than any system of philosophy that the West has produced. Whereas Western rationalism has broken down under the impact of scientific discoveries, Indian thought cheerfully rides the crest of the wave, and is only pushed higher by every new scientific finding.
The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity is of wonderful structure, more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin and more exquisitely refined than either. India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. ~~~Sir William Jones (English scholar)
India’s work in Science is very old and very young; young as an independent and secular pursuit, old as a subsidiary interest of her priests. Emmelin Plunret said: “They were very advanced Hindu astronomers in 6000 BC. Vedas contain an account of the dimension of Earth, Sun, Moon, Planets and Galaxies.” The motion of the stars calculated by the Hindus before some 4500 years vary not even a single minute from the tables of Cassini and Meyer (used in the 19-th century). The Indian tables give the same annual variation of the moon as the discovered by Tyco Brahe – a variation unknown to the school of Alexandria and also to the Arabs who followed the calculations of the school… “The Hindu systems of astronomy are by far the oldest and that from which the Egyptians, Greek, Romans and – even the Jews derived from the Hindus their knowledge.~~Jean Sylvain Bailey (French astronomer)
“I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges, – astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, It is very important to note that some 2,500 years ago at the least Pythagoras went from Samos to the Ganges to learn geometry…But he would certainly not have undertaken such a strange journey had the reputation of the Brahmins’ science not been long established in Europe… Francois Marie Voltaire (French writer and philosopher)
To the philosophers of India, however, Relativity is no new discovery, just as the concept of light years is no matter for astonishment to people used to thinking of time in millions of kalpas, (A kalpa is about 4,320,000 years). The fact that the wise men of India have not been concerned with technological applications of this knowledge arises from the circumstance that technology is but one of innumerable ways of applying it.–Alan Watts (English philosopher)
The most elegant and sublime of these is a representation of the creation of the universe at the beginning of each cosmic cycle, a motif known as the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva. The god, called in this manifestation Nataraja, the Dance King. In the upper right hand is a drum whose sound is the sound of creation. In the upper left hand is a tongue of flame, a reminder that the universe, now newly created, with billions of years from now will be utterly destroyed. These profound and lovely images are, I like to imagine, a kind of premonition of modern astronomical ideas.– Dr.Carl Sagan (American astrophysicist)
There is a striking resemblance between the equivalence of mass and energy symbolized by Shiva’s cosmic dance and the Western theory, first expounded by Einstein, which calculates the amount of energy contained in a subatomic particle by multiplying its mass by the square of the speed of light : E=MC2 .~~~ Richard Waterston (Author & Journalist) Time, for example, is intimately connected with the goddess Kali, which partly accounts for her destructive nature. Energy – in Einstein’s equation, E=MC2 is personified in India as Shakti in her various guises. Roger Housden (American writer)
After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of Quantum Physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense.~~~ W. Heisenberg (German Physicist)
Calendars and Constellations in astronomy was an incidental offspring of astrology. The earliest atomically treatises the Siddhantas (ca, 425 B.C.) were similar to Greek science and Varahamihira whose compendium was significantly entitled complete system of Natural Astrology was surprisingly similar to Greeks. The greatest of Hindu astronomers and mathematicians Aryabhatta, discussed in verse such poetic subjects as quadratic equations, sins and the value of π; he explained eclipses, solstices and equinoxes, announced the spherical nature of the earth and to diurnal revolution on its axis and wrote in daring interaction of Renaissance Science: “The sphere of the stars is stationary the earth, by his revolution, produces the daily rising and seeing of planate and stars”. His most farmers’ successors, Brahmgupta, systematized the astronomical knowledge of India. These men and their followers were well adapted to the usage of the division of skies into Zodiacal constellation, they made a calendar of twelve months each of thirty days, each of the thirty hours, interesting an intercalary month every five years they calculated with remarkable accuracy the diameter of the moon, the eclipses of the moon and the sun, the position of the poles and the position and motion of the major star. Johnston: said “Gravitation was known to the Hindus (Indians) before the birth of Newton. The system of blood circulation was discovered by them centuries before Harvey was heard of.”They expounded the theory, though not the law, of gravity when they wrote in the ‘Siddhantas’. “The earth, owing to its force of gravity, draws all things to itself”.
Kanada believed light and heat to be varieties of the same substance. Udayana taught that all heat comes from the sun and Vachaspati like Newton, interpreted light as composed of minute particles emitted by substance and striking the eyes. Musical notes and intervals were analyzed and mathematically calculated in the Hindu Treatises music e.g. in the ocean of music (Sangita Ratnakara) of Sharamgadeva (1210-47) and the ‘Pythagorean Law was formulated by which the number of vibrations, and therefore the pitch of the note, varies inversely as the length of string between the point of attachment and the point of touch. There is some evidence that Hindu mariners of the first century A.D. used a compass made by an iron fish floating in a vessel of oil and pointing north pole.
Chemistry developed from two sources-medicine and industry. The art of tempering and casting iron developed in India long before its appearance in Europe .Vikramaditya, for example erected at Delhi (ca 380 A.D.) an iron pillar that stands untarnished today after 15 centuries; and the quality of metal, or manner of treatment which has preserved it from rust or decay is still a mystery to modern metallurgical science. Something has been said about the chemical excellence of cast iron in ancient India and about the high industrial development of Gupta times, when India was looked to, even by imperial Rome, as the most skilled of the nations in such chemical industries as dyeing, tanning, soap making, glass and cement. As early as the second century B.C. Nagarjuna devoted an entire volume to mercury. By the sixth century the Hindus were far ahead of Europe in industrial chemistry; they were masters of calcinations, distillation sublimation, steaming fixation, the production of light without heat, the mixing of anesthetic and soporific powders, and the preparation of metallic salts and compound King Porus is said to have selected, as a specially valuable gift for Alexander, not gold or silver, but thirty pounds of steel. The Muslims took much of this Hindu chemical science and industry to the near east and Europe, The secret of manufacturing “Damascus” blades for example was taken by the Arabs from the Persians and by the Persians from India.
The Hindus seems to have been the first people to mine gold. Herodotus and Megasthenes tell us in great length about the animals, which help the miners to find the metal by turning it up in their searching of the sand. Much of the gold used in Persian Empire in the 5th century B.C. come from India, Silver, Copper, Lead, Tin, Zinc were also mined- iron as early as 1500 B.C.6.
Anatomy and physiology, like some aspects of Chemistry, were by- products of Hindu medicines. As far back as the 6th century B.C. Hindu physicians described ligaments, Sutures, lymphatic, Nerve plexus, Facial, Adipose and Vascular tissues, Mucous and Synovial membranes and many more muscles than any modern cadaver is able to show.They understood remarkably well the processes of digestion the different functions of the gastric juices, the conversion of chime into chyle and of this into blood, anticipation Weisman by 2400 years, Atreya (ca,500B.C.) held that the parental seed is independent of the parent’s body and contains itself, in miniature the whole parental organism. Examination for Virility was recommended as a prerequisite for marriage in the men; the code of Manu warned against marrying mates affected with tuberculosis, epilepsy, leprosy, chronic dyspepsia, piles or loquacity.
The great men in Hindu medicine are Sushruta in the 5th century B.C. and Charaka in the second century A.D. Sushruta, Professor of medicine in the University of Benares, wrote down in Sanskrit a system of diagnosis and therapy whose elements had descended to him from his teacher Dhanvantri. dealt at length with Surgery Obstetrics, Diet, Bathing, Drugs, Infant feeding and hygiene and medical education. Charaka composed a Samhita (or Encyclopedia) of medicine and gave to his followers an almost Hippocratic conception of their calling “Not for self, not for the fulfillment of any earthly desire of gain, but solely for the good of suffering humanity should you treat your patients, and so excel all”.
Only less illustrious than these are Vagbhata (625A.D.) who prepared a medical compendium in prose and verse, and Bhava Misra (1550 A.D.) whose voluminous work on anatomy, physiology and medicine mentioned, a hundred years before Harvey, the circulation of the blood and prescribed mercury for that novel disease Syphilis, which has been brought in by the Portuguese as a part of Europe’s heritage to India.
Sir W. Hunter, British Surgeon has rightly observed that: “The surgery of the ancient Indian physicians was bold and skilful. A special branch of surgery was dedicated to rhinoplasty or operations for improving deformed ears, noses and forming new ones, which European surgeons have now borrowed.” . “The ancient Hindus” says Garrison “Performed almost every major operation except legation of the arteries.”
Sushruta described many surgical operations Cataract, Hernia, Lithotomic Caesarian Section etc. and 121 surgical instruments, including Lancets, Sounds, Forceps Catheters and Rectal and Vaginal speculums. He advocated the dissection of dead bodies as indispensable in the training of surgeons.. He was the first to graft upon a torn ear portion of skin taken from another part of the body, and from him and his Hindu successor’s rhinoplasty- the surgical reconstruction of the nose-descended into modern medicine Limbs were amputated abdominal sections were performed, fractures were set hemorrhoids and fistula were removed. Sushruta laid down elaborate rules for preparing an operation, and his suggestion that the wound by sterilized by fumigation is one of the earliest known efforts at antiseptic surgery. Both Sushruta and Charaka mention the use of medicinal liquors to produce insensibility to pain. In 927 A.D. two surgeons treplanned the skull of a Hindu King, and made him insensitive to operation by administering a drug called Somohini.
B.G. Rele observed that: “Our present knowledge of the nervous system fits in so accurately with the internal description of the human body given in the Vedas (5000 years ago). Then the question arises whether the Vedas are really religious books or books on anatomy of the nervous system and medicine.” (‘The Vedic Gods’) For the detention of the 1120 disease that he enumerated, Sushruta recommended diagnosis by inspection palpation and auscultation. Taking of the pube was described in a treatise dating 1300 A.D. Urinalysis was a favorite method of diagnosis. Hindu physicians were reputed able to cure any patient without having seen anything more of him than his water. Hindu physicians were especially skilled in concocting antidotes for poisons; they still excel European physicians in curing snake bites. Vaccination unknown to Europe before the 18th century, was known in India as early as 550 A.D., if we many judge from a text attributed to Dhanvantri “Take the fluid of the poke on the udder of the cow—upon the point of a lancet and lance with it the arms between the shoulders and elbows until blood appears then mixing the fluid with the blood, the fever of the small pox will be produced modern European physicians believe that caste separateness was prescribed because of Brahman belief in invisible agents transmitting disease, many of the laws of sanitation enjoins Sushruta and Manu seem to take for granted what we moderns, call the germ theory of disease.
Will Durant, American Historian said that: “It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to the west, such gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all numerals and the decimal system.” Hypnotism as therapy seems to have originated among the Hindus the Englishmen who introduced hypnotherapy into England-Braid, Esdaile and Elliotson-undoubtly got their ideas and some of their experience from contact with India. In the time of Alexander, says Garrison” Hindu physicians and Surgeons enjoyed a well deserved reputation for superior knowledge and skill and even Aristotle is believe by some students to have been indebted to them. Persians and Arabs translated into their languages in the 8th century A.D., the thousand year old compendia of Sushruta and Charaka The great caliph Haroun-at-Rashid accepted the preeminence of Indian medicine and scholarship and imported Hindu physicians to Baghdad. Lord Amphill concludes that medieval and modern Europe owes to system of medicine directly to the Arabs and through them to Indias. In the field of the mathematics the Hindus developed a system superior to that of the Greeks. Among the most vital part of our oriental heritage are the ‘Arabic’ numerals means from Hind (India) the miscalled Arabic numerals are found on Rock Edits of King Ashoka (256 B.C.) a thousand years before their occurrence in Arabic literature. Said the gate and magnanimous Laplace. It is India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers by ten symbols, each receiving a value position as well as an absolute value; a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit but it’s very simplicity the great ease which it has lent to all computations, puts our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions and we shall appreciate the grandeur of this achievement the more when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonian, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity.
Albert Einstein once said that – “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made!”The decimal system was known to Aryabhatta and Brahmgupta long before its appearance in the writings of the Arabs and the Syrians, it was adopted by China from Buddhist missionaries and Muhammad Ibu Musa al-Knwarazmi, the greatest mathematicians of his age (d.ca.850 A.D.) seems to have introduced it into Baghdad. The oldest known of Zero in Asia or Europe is in Arabic document dated 873 A.D. The most modest and most valuable of all numerals is one of the subtle gifts of India to mankind.
It is India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers by ten symbols, each receiving a value of position as well as an absolute value, a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit. But its very simplicity, the great ease which it has lent to all computations, puts our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions, and we shall appreciate the grandeur of this achievement the more when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Appollnius, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity.~~~ Pierre Simon de Laplace ( French mathematician & philosopher)
Algebra was developed by in apparent independence by both the Hindus and Greeks, but the adoption of its Arabic name (al-jabr, adjustment) indicates that it come to Western Europe from the Arabs-ie from India rather than from Greece. The great Hindu leaders in this field, as in astronomy, were Aryabhatta, Brahmgupta and Bhaskara. The last (b1114 A.D.) appears to have invented the radical sign and many algebra symbols. These men created the conception of a negative quantity, without which algebra would have been impossible, the formulated rules for permutations and combinations; they found the squire root of 2 and solved in the 8th century A.D., indeterminate equations of the second degree. That were unknown to Europe until the days of Euler a thousand years later they expressed their Science in poetic form and to mathematical problem a grace characteristic of India’s Golden age. These two may serve as example of simple Hindu Algebra.
“Out of a swarm of bees one fifth past settled on a kadamba blossom; one third on a silindhra flower; three times the difference of those numbers flew to the bloom of a kutaja one been, which remained, hovered about in the air. Tell me, Charming woman the number of bees——. Eight rubies, ten emeralds and a hundred pearls, which are in thy ear-ring my beloved were purchased by me for thee at an equal amount, and the sum of the price of the three sorts of gems was three less than half a hundred tell me the price of each, O auspicious woman.”
The Hindus were also successful in geometry; in the measurement and construction of altars the priest formulated the Pythagorean Theorem, several hundred years before the birth of Christ. Aryabhatta found the area of a triangle, a trapezium and a circle and calculated the value of π at 3.1416-a figure not equaled in accuracy until the days of Purbach (1423-61) in Europe. Bhaskara anticipated the differential calculus; Aryabhatta drew up a table of sins and the Surya Siddhantas provided a system of trigonometry more advanced than anything known to the Greeks.
The growing of cotton appears earlier in India then elsewhere, apparently it was used for cloth in Mohan—jodaro.17 In our oldest classical reference to cotton Herodotus says with pleasing ignorance; Certain wild trees there wear wool instead of fruit, which in beauty and quality excels that of sheep, and the Indians make these clothing from these trees. It was their wars in near east that acquainted the Romans with tree grown wool. Arabian travelers in 9th century India reposted that “In this country they make garments of such extraordinary perfection that nowhere else is there like to be seen- sewed and woven to such a degree of fineness, they may be drawn through a ring of moderate size.” The medieval Arabs took over the art from India and their word “quttan” gave the word cotton. The name Muslin was originally applied to fine cotton weaves made in Mosul from Indian models. Calico was recalled because it came (first in 1631) from Calicut on the south westerns shores of India.
Embroidery says Marco-Polo, speaking in Gujarat in 1293 A.D. is here performed with more delicacy than in any other part of world but weaving was only one of the many handicrafts of India. Europe looked upon the Indians as expert in almost every line of manufacture woodworked, every world, metal work, bleaching dying tanning, soap making, glass blowing gun powder, firewall, can cue etc. China imported eye glasses from India. In 1260 A.D. Bernier traveling in India in 17th century described it as humming with industry. Fitch in 1585 saw a fleet of one hundred and lightly boats carrying a great variety of good down the river Yamuna.
“It is impossible not to be astonished by India. Nowhere on Earth does humanity present itself in such a dizzying, creative burst of cultures and religions, races and tongues. Enriched by successive waves of migration and marauders from distant lands, every one of them left an indelible imprint which was absorbed into the Indian way of life. Every aspect of the country presents itself on a massive, exaggerated scale, worthy in comparison only to the superlative mountains that overshadow it. It is this variety which provides a breathtaking ensemble for experiences that is uniquely Indian. Perhaps the only thing more difficult than to be indifferent to India would be to describe or understand India completely. There are perhaps very few nations in the world with the enormous variety that India has to offer. Modern day India represents the largest democracy in the world with a seamless picture of unity in diversity unparalleled anywhere else.”
She (India) has left indelible imprints on one fourth of the human race in the course of a long succession of centuries. She has the right to reclaim … her place amongst the great nations summarizing and symbolizing the spirit of humanity. From Persia to the Chinese sea, from the icy regions of Siberia to Islands of Java and Borneo, India has propagated her beliefs, her tales, and her civilization!~~~ Sylvia Levi
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2. Barnetc.L.C. – The Heart of India-page 188-90.
3. Muthu, D.C. – The Antiquity of Hindu medicine and civilization. London -page 97.
4. Sarkar, B.K, Hindu achievement in exact Science, New York-page 36-59.
5. Herodotus: Histories translated by Cary, 111-112.
6. Lajpat Rai, England’s Debt to India, 176.
7. Garrison, F.H.: History of medicine, page 71.
8. Sarkar, Geo,-Introduction to the history of science Vol I-page 78.
9. MacDonnell, A.A.- India’s Poet-Oxfprd-page-180.
10. Lajpat Rai- Unhappy India-286.
11. A MacDonnell,-180.
12. Lap lace, Pierre Simon, French Astronomer and mathematician- 1749-1827.
13. Sedgwic, W. and Tyler. – Short History of Science. New York-page.186.
14. Lowie, R.H.-Are we civilized- New York-page.269.
15. Monier-Williams Sir, M.-India wisdom-London page-183-84.
16. Childe, V.Gorton-The most ancient East-209London.
17. Smith, V.-Akbar page-396.
18. Polo Marco-Travels 307 Ed Mamul Komroft-New York.