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The forgotten science of ancient Hindus

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kanchan
मनस्वी म्रियते कामं कार्पण्यं न तु गच्छति । अपि निर्वाणमायाति नानलो याति शीतताम् ॥

The purpose of this article is to present the link and logical affinities between Hindu scientific investigation and that of Greeks, Chinese, and Saracens, as well as to provide a comprehensive, albeit brief, account of middle ages India’s entire scientific work in terms of the development of other lands. Details about the migration of findings have been ignored in general since they require more technical treatment than the current scope allows.

Arithmetic:

The following observations of De Morgan can give us a sense of what the hindu brain is like as he admits– “Hindu arithmetic is greatly superior to any which the Greeks had. Indian arithmetic is that which we use now”.[1] The Hindus were the greatest antiquity’s mathematicians. It was child’s play for them to extract square or cube roots. The most important foundation of arithmetic were discovered by Hindus:-

  1. The symbols of numbers or numerals as they called.
  2. The decimal system of notation.

If the minor rock edicts of Ashoka the great (256 B.C) is studied, it can be understood that numerals have been used in India since 3rd Century B.C. In modern times the numerals are wrongly known as “Arabic” because the European nation got it from the Saracen (Arab) teachers. [2]  The decimal system was known to Aryabhatta (A.D. 476) & Brahmagupta (A.D. 598-660) , and fully described by Bhaskaracharya (1114) and  in “Vyasa Bhasya” the system is referred to. “The Vyasa Bhasya” cannot have been composed later than sixth century A.D. The decimal system was therefore known to hindus long before it’s appearance in the writings of Arabs and Graeco Syrians.[3]

It was learned from the hindus by the Saracens (Arabs), and traces of it may be seen when a Hindu scientific mission arrived at Mansur’s court from Sindh in 773. Muslims were first exposed to Hindu astronomy tables as a result of this. Musa, the caliph Mamun’s librarian (813-33) learned and conveyed this information to his people. They’ve acknowledged their gratitude to the hindus since then. “The number signs that we utilise are drawn from the greatest forms of the Hindu signs,” AL Beruni remarked. The Europeans learned the Hindu sign from the Saracens (Arab) rulers in the 12th century.

Therefore Musa, the distinguished Muslim Mathematician, was thus the connecting link between the algebra and arithmetic of the hindus and the medieval European mathematics.

Surgery:

In India, surgery is one of the oldest areas of medicine. It’s called “Shalya” in Hindu, which means “the technique of removing foreign matter from the body, especially the arrow.”

The hindu surgeons performed lithotomy and were able to extract the deceased foetus as well as external matter such as iron, stones, hair, bones, and wood that had been mistakenly put into the body. At least 127 instruments were in the hindu surgical laboratory. The operators were used to manipulating lancets, needles, blades, and scissors, among other things.

Medicine:

Since at least the third century B.C., the Hindus have possessed hospitals and clinics. In this sense, Asoka the Brilliant was a great educator and publicist, while Constantine established the first Christian hospital in the fourth century A.D. The Hindus were the first people in the field to understand blood circulation. Though they did not fully comprehend the process, they were far ahead of the Europeans, who believed that blood circulation was limited to veins prior to Harvey’s groundbreaking discovery.

The hindus were the first in the world to advocate the “internal” use of Mercury. Pliny knew only it’s external use (First century A.D). It is mentioned in “Varaha- Mihira” along with iron.[4]

There are many other fields in science relating to astronomy, physics, chemistry, mettalurgy where Hiindus were the first in the field. But one thing that is to be noted is that scientific investigation was not confined to any particular province of India or to any race or class of the Hindu population. It was a cooperative undertaking, a process of cumulative effort in Intellectual advance.

Thus, among the heroes of Hindu medicine, Charaka (600 B.C.) hails from Punjab, Susruta hails from both Punjab and Benaras, Vagbata hails from Sindhu, Vrinda hails from the Deccan, and Chakrapani hails from Bengal. Rajputana claims Sharamgdhara, Vijaynagara claims Vishnudeva, and Kashmir claims Narahari.

There was no single hypothesis that dominated Hindu thought. The Hindus’ intellectual universe was “pluralistic.” Different schools were critiquing, correcting, and altering each other’s inquiries.


[1] Mitra—”Hindu Mathematics,” The Modern Review Office, Calcutta, 1916.

[2] Smith and Karpinski—”Hindu-Arabic Numerals,” Boston, 1911.

[3] Seal—”The Positive Sciences of the Ancient Hindus,” London, 1916.

[4] Hoernle—”Medicine of Ancient India,” Oxford, 1907.

[5] Wise—”Commentary on the Hindu System of Medicine,” Calcutta, 1845.

[6] Benoy Kumar Sarkar – “Hindu Achievement in Exact Science, Cornell University”

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kanchan
kanchan
मनस्वी म्रियते कामं कार्पण्यं न तु गच्छति । अपि निर्वाणमायाति नानलो याति शीतताम् ॥
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