Science In India: Past Present And Future

Dr. S. S. Verma, Department of Physics, S.L.I.E.T., Longowal, Distt.-Sangrur (Punjab)-148106

2018-04-24 08:05:41



Indian mythology divides the time cycle into four Yugas i.e., Satiyuga, Tretayuga, Duaprayuag and Kaliyuga with different versions of their time scales.  From the Indian scriptures which are an integral part of the civilization from time immortals till date, it is very clear that science and technology was totally developed for its advantageous or disadvantageous use.  It is supposed that in the era of Satiyuga (a time of self contentment without any greed) science and technology may not be as well developed as it was not required at that time as a tool of progress. 

Science and technology developed with a change in mindset of people with time from Tretayuga onwards when people started to think of a type of progress to acquire everything by any means.  Common people cannot recount each and every aspect of science and technology in ancient Indian scriptures. However, some of the major master strokes of science and technology in ancient India, e.g.,  transplanting of elephant head on Ganesha by Shiva, the use of pushpak bimaan (aeroplane) by Gods like Indra or Ravana in Tretayuga, live narration  of Mahabharta yudh   by Sanjay to king Dharitrashtra, use of various types of powers in the form of arrows, The iron pillar & Jantar Mantar of Delhi, introduction of zero and decimal  are always highlighted when discussion takes place on the status of history of science and technology in Indian contextCurrent available evidence shows that India was the world leader of science from the earliest times (Vedic Period) until the twelfth century. Bhaskaracharya II was the best mathematician and astronomer world over in the twelfth century. By the end of the twelfth century, Indian universities at Nalanda, Vikramashila and Odantpuri were destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji, propelling India into a Dark Age of ignorance. Any mathematics textbook from Vedic times has not survived till today. Yet from the stray mentions, we are able to arrive at an evidence based conclusion that the decimal system of numbering, geometry etc were present during the Vedic Age itself. According to great scientist of 21st centuary Sir Albert Einstein “We owe a lot to the ancient Indians, teaching us how to count. Without which most modern scientific discoveries would have been impossible.”

A civilization of thousands of years old when talk about its historical advanced uses of science and technology become a laughing stalk because we have no proof to strength our claims.  With the advent of modern science and technology, invading each and every aspect of human life, people give the whole credit for its modern science and technology to few western countries whose existence itself came into being just few hundred years before.  We Indians ourselves also argue on the existence of many S & T inventions and applications at earlier times (in history) which we are enjoying today.  Here it is to mention that S & T always progress as per the needs and requirement of the people who wants to make use of these developments. Science and technology is human driven vehicle of so called progress and people of ancient India may not have been interested in the present day type of science and technology progress.  We cannot predict the future of science and technology based progress in the coming few hundred years or so. May be today’s science and technology applications become totally obsolete in the times to come and there may be a totally different scenario of science and technology aspects of human life.

It is still surprising to read about the sources of knowledge of big stalwarts of science like Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and many more. Newton has remarkably accepted that “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”. It is a great question that who were those giants in all the fields of sciences in which Newton has laid the foundations. It is well known that from old times India has been a country of invasion for many people from other countries of the world in quest of not only SPECIES, GOLD, KNOWLEDGE, SPIRITUALITY but to learn about the progress in science and technology in India.  During these invasions many of the invaders have taken important written documents about the history of science and technology in ancient India. Which they used to convert the ancient science and technology facts into its modern form and we, unfortunately, left to boost these strengths through mouth words or stories shared with masses in the society from ancient times. It has been found that much of what Newton is credited for, and many of the European mathematical discoveries were actually brought to Europe as the translations of the works of the scholars of the Kerala school, and also the earlier Indian scholars like Bhaskara, Aryabhata and Brahmagupta. Pythagoras in the sixth century BCE came to India, where he learned Indian mathematics and then went back to Greece to establish the first mathematical tradition of Europe. The Baudhayana Sulba Sutra of the Vedic text Katyayana Kalpa Sutra is known to us today as the Pythagoras’s Theorem.

Without taking any credit and only due to patriotic from the core of the heats, statements made by our government representatives boosting about the country’s historical base of science and technology draws a lot of criticism not only from scientific community but also from general public.  India lacked and still lacking behind in the race of growth in modern science and technology. Physics considered as the mother of all sciences, producing only one Nobel Laureate in Physics Sir CV Raman in 1930 for his famous “Raman Effect”, India is waiting anxiously for its second Nobel laureate in Physics for the last 88 years.  We need not to bask in the past glory of science and technology base our country was enjoying but there is need to understand modern science and technology and work towards its progress which can be attributed solely to Indian scientists and engineers. Competing in the modern era of science and technology in order to utilize its benefits for the well being of human and mother earth is the need of the hour.