The spiritual development at the corners of the Indian sub-continent has been prevailing since ancient times and many foreign nations have been enamoured of it. The invaders of this nation including Greeks, Persians, Huns and Mongols, embraced many Indian religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism.
India also has a fair share in enriching the world’s material culture. Be it distillation of perfumes, the making of dyes, the extraction of sugar, the weaving of cotton and even the techniques of algebra and algorithm, the concept of zero, the technique of surgery, the concepts of atom and relativity, the herbal system of medicine, the technique of alchemy, the smelting of metals, the game of Chess, martial art and Karate, etc. can be found in ancient India and evidences indicate that they might have originated here.
Developments in Ancient India
Fields of Mathematics & Astronomy
- Science and Mathematics were highly developed during the ancient period in India. There has been an immense contribution of ancient Indians to the knowledge in Mathematics as well as various branches of Science.
- This section deals with the developments in Mathematics and the scholars who contributed to it. Many of the modern day theories of mathematics were actually known to ancient Indians.
- However, since ancient Indian mathematicians were not as good in documentation and dissemination as their counterparts in the modern western world, their contributions did not find the place they deserved. Let us now take a look at some of these contributions of ancient Indian mathematicians.
- Baudhayan was the first one ever to arrive at several concepts in Mathematics, which were later rediscovered by the western world.
- The value of pi was first calculated by him. As you know, pi is useful in calculating the area and circumference of a circle.
- What is known as Pythagoras theorem today is already found in Baudhayan’s Sulva Sutra, which was written several years before the age of Pythagoras.
- Aryabhatta was a fifth century mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and physicist.
- He was a pioneer in the field of mathematics.
- At the age of 23, he wrote Aryabhattiya, which is a summary of mathematics of his time.
- Aryabhatta is credited for the discovery of zero.
- In ancient India, the science of astronomy was well advanced. It was called Khagolshastra. Khagol was the famous astronomical observatory at Nalanda, where Aryabhatta studied.
- The aim behind the development of the science of astronomy was the need to have accurate calendars, a better understanding of climate and rainfall patterns for timely sowing and choice of crops, fixing the dates of seasons and festivals, navigation, calculation of time and casting of horoscopes for use in astrology.
- Knowledge of astronomy, particularly knowledge of the tides and the stars, was of great importance in trade, because of the requirement of crossing the oceans and deserts during night time.
- It was Aryabhatta who stated the theory that earth is round and rotates on its own axis.
- He also gave a scientific explanation for solar and lunar eclipse clarifying that the eclipse were not because of Rahhu and/or Ketu or some other rakshasa (demon).
- In 7th century, Brahmgupta took mathematics to new heights.
- In his methods of multiplication, he used place value in almost the same way as it is used today.
- He introduced negative numbers and operations on zero into mathematics.
- He wrote Brahm Sputa Siddantika through which the Arabs came to know about our mathematical system.
- Bhaskaracharya was the leading light of 12th Century.
- He is famous for his book Siddanta Shiromani. It is divided into four sections: Lilavati (Arithmetic), Beejaganit (Algebra), Goladhyaya (Sphere) and Grahaganit (mathematics of planets).
- Bhaskara introduced Chakrawat Method or the Cyclic Method to solve algebraic equations. This method was rediscovered six centuries later by European mathematicians, who called it inverse cycle.
- Jain Guru Mahaviracharya wrote Ganit Sara Sangraha in 850 CE, which is the first textbook on arithmetic in present day form.
- The current method of solving Least Common Multiple (LCM) of given numbers was also described by him. Thus, long before John Napier introduced it to the world, it was already known to Indians.
Field of Science
Prominent ancient Indians who contributed to the knowledge in Science were:
- Kanad was a 6th century scientist of Vaisheshika School of Indian philosophy.
- His atomic theory can be a match to any modern atomic theory.
- According to Kanad, material universe is made up of kanas, (anu/atom) which cannot be seen through any human organ. These cannot be further subdivided. Thus, they are indivisible and indestructible.
- Varahamihira lived in the Gupta period.
- He made great contributions in the fields of hydrology, geology and ecology.
- He was one of the first scientists to claim that termites and plants could be the indicators of the presence of underground water.
- Another theory, which has attracted the world of science is the earthquake cloud theory given by Varahmihira in his Brihat Samhita.
- He has tried to relate earthquakes to the influence of planets, undersea activities, underground water, unusual cloud formation and abnormal behaviour of animals.
- Jyotish or Astrology was presented scientifically in a systematic form by Aryabhatta and Varahmihira. Astrology is the science of predicting the future.
- Varahamihira was one of the nine gems, who were scholars, in the court of Vikramaditya. Varahamihira’s predictions were so accurate that king Vikramaditya gave him the title of ‘Varaha’.
- Nagarjuna was a 10th century scientist.
- The main aim of his experiments was to transform base elements into gold, like the alchemists in the western world. Even though he was not successful in his goal, he succeeded in making an element with gold-like shine. Till date, this technology is used in making imitation jewelry.
- In his treatise, Rasaratnakara, he has discussed methods for the extraction of metals like gold, silver, tin and copper.
Field of Medical Science (Ayurveda & Yoga)
- Ayurveda is the indigenous system of medicine that was developed in Ancient India. The main aim of ayurveda has been health and longevity. It is the oldest medical system of our planet.
- A treatise on Ayurveda, Atreya Samhita, is the oldest medical book of the world.
- Charak is called the father of ayurvedic medicine and Susruta the father of surgery.
- Susruta, Charak, Madhava, Vagbhatta and Jeevak were noted ayurvedic practitioners.
- Susruta was a pioneer in the field of surgery. He wrote Susruta Samhita.
- In Susruta Samhita, the method of selecting and preserving a dead body for the purpose of its detailed study has also been described.
- Susruta’s greatest contribution was in the fields of plastic surgery and removal of cataracts.
- Charak is considered the father of ancient Indian science of medicine.
- He was the Raj Vaidya (royal doctor) in the court of Kanishka.
- His Charak Samhita is a remarkable book on medicine. In Charak Samhita, more stress has been laid on removing the cause of disease rather than simply treating the illness.
- Charak also knew the fundamentals of Genetics.
Yoga & Patanjali
- The science of Yoga was developed in ancient India as an allied science of Ayurveda for healing without medicine at the physical and mental level.
- Yoga is physical as well as mental.
- Physical yoga is called Hathyoga. Generally, it aims at removing a disease and restoring healthy condition to the body.
- Rajayoga is mental yoga. Its goal is self realization and liberation from bondage by achieving physical mental, emotional and spiritual balance.
- The credit of systematically presenting this great science goes to Patanjali.
- In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, he refers to Aum as a cosmic sound. Besides Yoga Sutras, Patanjali also wrote a work on medicine and worked on Panini’s grammar known as Mahabhasaya.
Developments in Medieval India
- During the medieval period, Science and Technology in India developed two facets: one concerned with the already chartered course of earlier traditions and other with the new influences which came up as a result of Islamic and European impact.
- By this time, the traditional indigenous classical learning had already received a setback. The pattern of education as prevalent in Arab countries was gradually adopted during this period. As a result, Maktabs and Madrasas came into existence. These institutions used to receive royal patronage.
- Large workshops called karkhanas were maintained to supply provision, stores and equipments to royal household and government departments.
- The karkhanas not only worked as manufacturing agencies, but also served as centres for technical and vocational training to young people.
Field of Mathematics
- Several works in the field of Mathematics were produced during this period.
- Narayana Pandit was well known for his works in Mathematics – Ganitakaumudi and Bijaganitavatamsa. Gangadhara, in Gujarat, wrote Lilavati Karamdipika, Suddhantadipika, and Lilavati Vyakhya. These were famous treatises which gave rules for trigonometrical terms like sine, cosine tangent and cotangent.
- Nilakantha Somasutvan produced Tantrasamgraha, which also contains rules of trigonometrical functions.
- Ganesa Daivajna produced Buddhivilasini- a commentary on lilavati – containing a number of illustrations.
- Krishna of the Valhalla family brought out Navankuraon on the Bijaganit of Bhaskara-ll and elaboration of the rules of indeterminate equations of the first and second orders.
- Nilakantha Jyotirvida compiled Tajik, introducing a large number of Persian technical terms.
Field of Biology
- Similarly, there were advancements in the field of Biology.
- Hamsadeva compiled a work in the field of Biology entitled Mriga-Paksi-Shastra in the 13th century. This gives a general account of some animals and birds of hunting.
- Jahangir, in his work – Tuzuk-i-jahangiri– recorded his observations and experiments on breeding and hybridization.
Field of Chemistry
- An important application of Chemistry was in the production of paper. The paper making technique was more or less the same throughout the country differing only in preparation of the pulp from different raw materials.
- The Mughals knew the technique of production of gunpowder and its use in gunnery, another application of Chemistry.
- The work Sukraniti attributed to Sukracarya contains a description of how gunpowder can be prepared using saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal in different ratios for use in different types of guns.
- The work Ain-i-akbari speaks of the regulation of the Perfume (attar) in the office of Akbar.
Field of Astronomy
- In astronomy, a number of commentaries dealing with the already established astronomical notions appeared.
- Mehendra Suri, a court astronomer of Emperor Firoz Shah, developed an astronomical, instrument ‘Yantraja’.
- Paramesvara and Mahabhaskariya, both in Kerala, were famous families of astronomers and almanac-makers.
- Nilakantha Somasutvan produced commentary of Aryabhatiyaa. Kamalakar studied the Islamic astronomical ideas. Fie was an authority on Islamic knowledge.
- Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh-ll of Jaipur was a patron of Astronomy. Fie set up the five astronomical observatories (Jantar Mantar) in Delhi, Ujjain, Varansasi, Mathura and Jaipur.
Field of Medicine
- The Ayurveda system of medicine did not progress as vigorously as it did in the ancient period because of lack of royal patronage. However, some important treatises on Ayurveda like the Sarangdhara Samhita and Chikitsasamgraha by Vangasena, the Yagaratbajara and the Bhavaprakasa of Bhavamisra were compiled.
- The Sarangdhara Samhita, written in the 13th century, includes use of opium in its material medica and urine examination for diagnostic purpose. The drugs mentioned include metallic preparation of the Rasa-chikitsa system and even imported drugs.
- The Rasachikitsa system, dealt principally with a host of mineral medicines, both mercurial and nonmercurial.
- The Siddha system mostly prevalent in Tamil Nadu was attributed to the reputed Siddhas, who were supposed to have evolved many life-prolonging compositions, rich in mineral medicines.
- The Unani Tibb system of medicine flourished in India during the medieval period.
- Ali-bin Rabban summarized the whole system of Greek medicine as well as the Indian medical knowledge in the book, Firdausu-Hikmat. The Unani medicine system came to India along with the Muslims by about the 11th century and soon found patronage for its growth.
- Hakim Diya Muhammad compiled a book, Majinye Diyae, incorporating the Arabic, Persian and Ayurvedic medical knowledge.
- Firoz Shah Tughalaq wrote a book, Tibbe Firozshahi. The Tibbi Aurangzebi, dedicated to Aurangzeb, is based on Ayurvedic sources.
- The Musalajati-Darshikohi of Nuruddin Muhammad, dedicated to Darashikoh, deals with Greek medicine and contains, at the end, almost the whole of Ayurvedic material medica.
Field of Agriculture
- In the medieval period, the pattern of agricultural practices was more or less the same as that in early India.
- Some important changes occurred in the introduction of new crops, trees as well as horticultural plants by foreign traders.
- Tobacco, chillies, potato, guava, custard apple, cashew, and pineapple were the important plants which were introduced to India during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
- The systematic mango-grafting was introduced by the Jesuits of Goa in the middle of sixteenth century.
- In the medieval period, agriculture was placed on a solid foundation by the State by introducing a system of land measurement and land classification, beneficial both to the rulers as well as the tillers.
Developments & Scientists in Modern India
- The development of scientific thought in modern India can be attributed to the scientists of this period. Towards the second half of the nineteenth century, Sir C.V. Raman brought about an unprecedented change in Indian scientific thought, Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, known as the father of our Nuclear Physics, predicted the future of Indian science. Dr. J.C. Bose, in the field of plant physiology, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, in the field of atomic energy and industrialization and Dr. Abdul Kalam, in the field of defence technology, brought about revolutionary changes to reawaken the glory of Modern India.
Srinivas Ramanujan (1887-1920)
- Srinivasa Iyengar Ramanujan, one of India’s greatest mathematical genius was born in Tamil Nadu on 22 December, 1887.
- In 1911, he published in the same journal a brilliant research paper on Bernoulli Numbers. This got him recognition and he became well known as a mathematical genius.
- While working as a clerk at Madras Port Trust, he came in contact with many people who had training in mathematics. He found a book ‘Orders of Infinity’ written by G. H. Hardy. A letter by Ramanujan to Hardy helped him getting enrolled at Trinity College.
- He published many papers in London. He was the second Indian to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London and the first Indian to be elected Fellow of Trinity College.
Chandrasekhara V. Raman (1888-1970)
- Chandrasekhara V. Raman, popularly known as C.V. Raman, was not only a great scientist but also believed in the promotion of human well being and human dignity. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930. He was the first Asian to receive this award.
- Due to his deep love of music, he started working on musical instruments like the veena, violin, tabla and mridangam.
- In 1921, he read a paper on the theory of Stringed Instruments before the Royal Society of London. In 1924, he was made Fellow of the Royal Society.
- On his journey to England, he was greatly attracted by the blue colour of the sea. He was curious to know why it remained blue even when big waves rolled up. He explained it through the Raman Effect theory.
- When a beam of monochromatic (having single colour) light passes through a transparent substance, it scatters. Raman studied the broken light.
- He found that there were two spectral lines of very low intensity (strength) parallel to the incident monochromatic light. This showed that broken light was not monochromatic, though the incident light was monochromatic.
- Thus a great phenomenon hidden in nature was revealed to him. This phenomenon became famous as Raman Effect and spectral lines in the scattered light as Raman Lines.
- While scientists had been debating over the question whether light was like waves or like particles, the Raman Effect proved that light is made up of particles known as photons.
Jagdish Chandra Bose 1858-1937
- J.C. Bose another great scientist of modem India brought glory and respect for the country.
- For his paper on “The Electromagnetic Radiation and Polarization of Electric Ray” , he was made a Knight in 1917 and Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1920. He was the first Indian scientist in Physics to receive this honour.
- Dr. Bose is famous all over the world as the inventor of Crescograph (device for measuring growth in plants) that can record even the millionth part of a millimeter of plant growth and movement. Dr. Bose proved through graphs taken by the Crescograph that plants have a circulatory system too.
- Dr. Bose also made many other instruments famous all over the world as Bose instruments.
- Bose’s instruments have shown, how even steel and metals used in scissors and machinery get tired and regain efficiency after a period of rest.
- His wireless inventions too antedated those of Marconi. He was the first to invent a wireless coherer (radio signal detector) and an instrument for indicating the refraction of electric waves.
Homi Jehangir Bhabha (1909-1966)
- Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha was a great scientist who led India into atomic age. He is called the father of Indian Nuclear Science.
- While working as a Professor of Physics at Indian Institute of Sciences, he got the idea of building a research institute for some of the new areas of Physics. As a result, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) was started in 1945.
- India’s first atomic research centre now called Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) was established at Trombay. India’s First atomic reactor, Apsara was also established under his expert guidance.
- He served as the chairman of international conference on peaceful uses of atomic energy, supported by the United Nations.
Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai (1919-1970)
- Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai is another great genius of modem India and was the main personality behind the launching of India’s first satellite Aryabhatta.
- He studied cosmic rays under the guidance of Dr. C .V. Raman and received his Ph.D. degree from Cambridge University. His studies of cosmic rays have made it clear that cosmic rays are a stream of energy particles coming from the outer space. While reaching the earth, they are influenced on the way by the sun, the earth’s atmosphere and magnetism.
- He also helped in saving crores of rupees for India by starting the mission of manufacturing military hardware and producing antibiotics and penicillin in India which were being imported from abroad.
- Dr. Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai established many institutes which are of international repute. Most notable among them are Indian Institutes of Management (IIMS) which are considered world class for their management studies.
- He directed the setting up of Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS).
- He also made plans to take education to the villages through Satellite communication.
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
- Dr. Kalam served in Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from 1963 to 1982.
- At Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, he developed the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV 3), which put the satellite Rohini into orbit.
- In 1982, as Director, Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), he was given the responsibility of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). He developed five projects for defence services – Prithvi, Trishul, Akash, Nag and Agni.
- He is a real follower of Indian tradition and religion. He has integrated science with religion and philosophy. He strongly believes in being guided from inside i.e. “relying more on inner signals and less on external cues” as well as doing duties selflessly.