WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8568

Date uploaded in London – – – 25 August 2020   

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Chapter – 10


Indian Science and Technology-1
Dismal knowledge of Indians about Indian Science 

Indians who have been through the Indian school and college mills now take some pride about the state of science and technology in India. Few however reflect on the fact that all this is transplanted, borrowed or imitated from abroad. Most Indians believe that for science and technology we have to look to the West. Most have been fed on the colonial lie that India was backward and barbarous when the British came, and all our science and technology date from then and came with them. A few might have heard of an Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Bhaskara, Brahmagupta,Susruta and Charaka but know pretty little beyond the names. Why, for that matter, most educated Indians, including so called science students  who have heard of Ramanujam, C.V.Raman, J.C.Bose  cannot tell what they discovered or are famous for. 

Even those Indians who might concede our achievements in languages & literature, arts and philosophy would hesitate to claim anything in the matter of science and technology. It is now generally known among top economists that India, together with China, was a leading economic power in the world till the mid-18th century. [See the work of Dr. Angus Maddison, British Economist] And that this strength was derived through our performance in manufactures ( what would be called industries today). However, this knowledge is yet to percolate though our idiotic state-controlled education system and enter the public domain. Few people then pause to enquire whether such economic performance would have been possible without an adequate base in appropriate  science and technology.

Accounts of Foreign Visitors

Foreign visitors to India were of various types. They were interested in the goods for trade, , gold, diamond, spices, etc and did not bother much about the state of our science and technology. However, in the 18th century many visitors came with a curious mind, and competence to make observations. They have left behind papers which throw light on the scene. 

During his researches in the Archives in Britain, Dharampal was able to identify a number of such papers. These have been brought together in Vol.1 of his Collected Writings.
These papers do not just record what they saw, but also attempt to raise questions and controversies. As the colonial power consolidated its stranglehold on India, the general approach was to belittle Indian achievements.  There was the sense of white-superiority, religious bigotry, and  fundamentalist Christian foolishness. But today we can show them  in their proper place.. The truth could not be fully hidden, nor credit denied.

Observatory in Benares.

Four of the papers presented in the volume concern the astronomical Observatory at Benares. It was visited by Sir Robert Barker (Commander in Chief of British Indian Army) in 1772. (along with Col.Pearse) He said that it had been erected 200 years previously. This account appeared in the journal of the Royal Society, London. Later, in 1793 another account appeared which said that it had been raised just 35 years prior to Barker’s visit! Other accounts too appeared, disputing Barker’s view, but giving no documentary evidence or solid proof.

Yet we know from the writings of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier the French merchant who visited the place in 1655-6 that the observatory existed then! This is what Tavernier wrote:

” Near to this great Pagod, upon the summer- west, stands a kind of a college which the Raja Jessing the most potent of all the idolaters in the Mogul’s empire, built for the education of the youth of the better sort.”


Next we have the curious case of the ‘Astronomy of the Brahmins’. The British received some tables of astronomical calculations from Siam. These related to the Siam epoch of 21 March 638 AD. But the curious fact was that the ‘meridian’ of these tables was not Siam, but Benares!

They also received some tables from south India which uniformly corresponded to the beginning of Kali Yuga, 3102 BC. Immediately, the question arose: whether the Hindus could calculate so far back? whether the theory was real or fictitious? 

in a review, Prof.John Playfair, Prof. of Mathematics in the University of Edinburgh said in 1789 that calculations based on modern calculus and theory of gravitation did show the planetary positions indicated in the tables to be very close to the correct position. The position of planets as of 3102 BC shown in the tables was correct according to every conceivable test. This implied good knowledge of arithmetic and geometry, as also calculus and trigonometry.

Then the question arose whether the Indians had arrived at it by some sophisticated theoretical calculations or direct observations! His white pride stood in the way of his granting this ability for sophisticated calculations to Indians, but he conceded that they arrived at it by direct observation!
Yet how could they observe without a theory or method to back it? We have seen in the previous post on education that Astronomy was widely taught and studied in different parts of India. Obviously, those who looked at these things did not know about our educational system! This is how vested interests or plain idiots tried to belittle Indian science.

                         *** chapter 10 to be continued

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