From the Back of the Book:
Science is a passion for facts and a constant and systematic search for truth. It flourishes in an atmosphere of freedom. Such an atmosphere used to exist in ancient India where the passion for truth seeking could find expression and sustenance. The people of ancient India made immense contributions in the fields of philosophy, religion, pure science and technology. This is the reason why India is considered as one of the hot beds of human civilization, which has made enormous contribution to enrich the intellectual heritage of mankind. At the end of the first millennium India was at the pinnacle of its glory, when the so called "New World" was not yet discovered and the birth country of industrial Revolution was not yet well known to the world.
This encyclopedia is the outcome of the sustained work put in for several years by the well known author Shri M. S. Sreedharan in collecting collating and writing up the information on prevailing ancient sciences in the form of a thesaurus. This work is a glowing tribute to the erudite scholarship of the author, who is not amidst us any more. This book will be a great guide and source of inspiration for the readers, especially the youth of India.
Malayalam reading public are already acquainted with the encyclopedic Bharatiya Sastra Manjusha (1500 pages; 3 volumes) compiled by Shri MS. Sreedharan, It is a comprehensive publication of ancient India’s contributions to science and technology, as available in the Malayalam and Sanskrit literature.
I had gone through those volumes and admired at the large amount of scientific contributions made by our people when the western world had not woken up for any good work in this field. It is true that they have overrun us now. It has made Indians feel (incorrectly though) that their own contributions have been negligible even in the past.
All have accepted that this part of the earth, called India by foreigners, and adopted by us, but originally called Bharat, had a glorious civilization beginning with the Vedic times. The age of the Vedas has been the subject of much research. The internal astronomical evidence first presented by Tilak and subsequently endorsed by German Indologists, suggests that the Rigveda was probably composed around 3500 BC. Apart from being beautiful literary compositions, the Vedas contain many universal, philosophical and scientific truths. They form the composition of a civilized people and not of primitive people. People belonging to such a civilization could not have remained intellectually idle or stagnant for thousands of years since the Vedic times, till modem science began to grow in Europe.
The thoughts of the inhabitants of Bharat, originating in their intrinsic curiosity and applied to the needs of the human society would have grown and borne fruit. Often they have started. “loka: samasta : sukhino bhavantu, Sarve bhavantu nirmaya :‘‘ as their ideal Their contributions have been in the field of philosophy, pure science and technology. Their contributions in the field of philosophy are still considered great, while those in the fields of science and technology have been superseded, or rediscovered. Yet they are or were substantial. Those major contributions have been in mathematics, astronomy, medicine, metallurgy, architecture, etc. During the time of Sushruta. surgery was extensively practiced; cowpox and its inoculation into humans for alleviating smallpox had been advocated by him. Three infinite series for giving the value of (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter) have been formulated, at least by the 7th century AD, by the astronomers of our land. There are names for the powers of ten up to 1023, while in the West there are no names for powers higher than 10 (Tera).
Due to poor communications in those days, and perhaps an unfortunate desire to keep knowledge confined to a selected few, the scientific and technological- knowledge was transmitted only by word of month within the same family or to a closed group of scholars. It was only much later that it got transcribed into written matter on palmyra leaves.
This knowledge is our rich heritage. ft is necessary that we do not lose it al together in the huge volume of information now available.
The Bharatiya Vigyan Manjusha is an admirable attempt to make this rich heritage available to the present and future generations. The author rightly expects that his work will kindle new feelings of admiration and pride in the achievements of our ancestors. Such a morale boost could enable the Indians to achieve great heights equal to or even better than what has been achieved in the west. Here I would like to mention that some of the medicine Ayurvedic and Siddha described it the Manjusha are worth further investigations at the hands of the Indian Coucil of Medical Research. If they lag multinationals will catch hold of these medicines and we will have to pay for the medicines discovered by our own ancients.
I am happy that Shri Sreedharan has brough out an English edition with 228 articles on subjects from Abhrakam to zircon. This edition contains 32 more articles that that Malayalam edition and 23 Appendices.
Many of our young boys and girls leave their schools and colleges with a subconscious feeling that all science and technology are contributions from the scientists born outside India. Thereby they have an inferiority complex lurking in them. I am confident that a reading of this encyclopaedia would go a long way to dispel that inferiority complex. It would generate self confidence and thereby enable India become once again great in the field of science and technology also.
I congratulate Shri Sreedharan the author for the sustained hard work put in for several years in collecting collating and writing up the information in the form of a magnum opus. In the process he mush have read through several printed book and many rare manuscripts in Malayalam on Palmyra leaves. Perhaps what I should do is to thank Shri Sreedharan on my behalf and on behalf of the several Indian scholars who like me have an abiding faith in India’s past scientific and technological achievements.
The author’s request to write a foreword to this gigantic work is an honor bestowed. Giving me the manuscript to read through is a rare privilege accorded to me. It is as a mark of gratitude that I write this foreword. I am confident that the Manjusha would serve to destroy the defeatist spirit prevalent among many in the country.
I believe that the impact of Shri M.S. Sreedharan’s Bharatiya Vigyan Manjusha will go beyond India. It would make out foreign scientists have a glimpse of what India was before the science and technology revolution in the west.
The Bharatiya Vigyan Manjusha, which I may reasonably claim as the first encyclopaedia of Indian sciences, was compiled after a good deal of research and inquiry. This is a hook of basic information about various branches of ancient Indian scientific knowledge, rather, an annotated index of extant information.
The Malayalam edition of this encyclopaedia published in 1987 in three volumes was well-received by the Malayalam-speaking world and widely reviewed in the Press. The Government of Kerala approved the purchase of the book for school, college and university libraries as well as libraries in local bodies etc. The Indian National Science Academy. New Delhi, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and the State Committee on Science and Technology, and Environment, Government of Kerala extended assistance for its publication. A galaxy of distinguished personalities including Swami Ranganathanandaji. Dr E.C.G. Sudharshan, Prof M.G.K. Menon, Prof P.R. Pisharoti. Shri Vedahandhan Sarma, the late Dr. N.V. Krishna Warrior, Dr NA. Karim. Dr. Balakrishna Karunakaran Nair conveyed their appreciation through their messages and introductory notes.
Many scientists of the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi, who had gone through the manuscript in Malayalam suggested an English edition of the Manjusha. Swami Ranganathanandji in particular persuaded me in this and extended his help. But for his kind blessings I would not have ventured into bringing out an English edition of the Manjusha.
To a large extent I have tried to include all the topics of the Manjusha in this English edition. However, the matter could not be translated in toto because of several constraints. Also some topics which are of interest to the Malayalam readers only have been omitted. But in their place I have included certain new topics.
No knowledge other than ‘Western’ is seldom considered knowledge worth searching for. It is sad even our educated people are enveloped in this belief. To correct this misunderstanding of our scientific heritage, I thought of bringing out a book which would go a long way in achieving the objective.
Our dependence on western scientific tradition is so absolute that the ready answer of an average educated Indian to the question as to who discovered first that the earth we live on. is spherical will invariably he. ‘Magellam of Spain’. We are trained like that, in schools and colleges. But a thousand years before the birth of Magellan, Aryabhata (50 century AD) had (aught the people of India that the earth is round.
How this escaped the knowledge of our educationists and why they have not recognized the fact that even before the birth of Magellan the word Bhoogolam was in use among the people of India? This shows the blind belief of our people in western ideas and knowledge.
The British deliberately used the educational system in India to inculcate loyally to their empire and to instill in the minds of the colonial subjects the invincibility of the British Empire. Even the modern scientific world of India is unable to emancipate itself from this cultural slavery.
Quite often I am surprised when I come across usages like Hindus of the vedic age or the vedic Hindus etc. no ancient book in Sanskrit contains the word Hindu Amara Simha, known as a follower of Buddha Dharma Compiled a Directory in Sanskrit known as Amarakosa. The word Hindu does not occur in this too. The question arises as to where from this word Hindu came? It came from Central Asia from the ancient Pahlavi language the Iranian language which had contact with the Sindhu river valley. The Iranians could not pronounce the word Sindhu properly. The Pahlavi language did not have the sound represented by the sound of the latter S and so wherever S occurred they substituted with the sound represented by the latter H in English.
In the erstwhile state of Travancore during the reign of Maharaja Sri Chitra Tirunal the great scholar K. Sambasiva Sastri wrote the book Hindu Mata Pradeepika on the instructions of the Dewan. Sir C.P Ramaswamy Iyer. This book published in 1947 by the Travancore Devaswom Department particularly questions the accuracy of the usage of the word Hindu in the following extract.
The western countries got the name Hindu the name they gave to the Sindhu through the Arabs or the Greeks. British Imperialism used that word most for furtherance of hidden aims acquired by the piratical culture. They also printed it in government records textbooks and historical documents. The history of India ahs proved that later on it furnished the political testament to divide and rule India and the Indians.
How could the name which Iranians gave to the Indus valley be appropriate for the Bharata Varsha its people? The people of the Vedic age who inhabited the Indus valley were primitive Indian people and if they colonized other parts of India later there is some point in calling the primitive Indian people Sindhus. Further Indian languages have the letter to indicate the sound S itself. So there is no need to borrow fro Pahlavi language where the sound S is not used for S. that is why the word Sindhu has been used here instead of Hindus.
In the opinion of the western historians and for the same reason in the opinion of Indian historians too the Aryans on their arrival in India arrival in India could see civilized settlements here. The Harappan civilization was really Dravidian and this is accepted by all. For these and other reasons how can people who were not descendants of the Indus valley inhabitants and those who outnumbered them as the people of India then did be called Hindus.
Let me also quote here what Jawaharlal Nehru wrote about the origin of the Hindu in his discourse on Hinduism.
The foreigners says Vincent smith like their forerennuers the Sakas and the Yueh-chi universally yielded to the wonderful assimilative power of Hinduism and rapidly became Hinduised.
In this quotation Vincent Smith has used the words Hinduism and Hinduised I do not think it is correct to use them in this way unless they are used in the widest sense of Indian culture. They are apt to mislead today when they are associated with a much narrower and specifically religious concept. The word Hindu does not occur at all in our ancient literature. The first reference to it is an Indian book is, I am told in a Tantrik work of the eighth century A.C. where Hindu means a people and not the followers of a particular religion. But it is clear that the word is a very old one as it occurs in the Avesta and in old Persian. It was used then and for a thousand years or more later by the peoples of Western and central Asia for India or rather for the people living on the other side of the Indus river. The word is clearly derived from Sindhu the old as well as the present Indian name for the Indus. From this Sindhu came the words Hindu and Hindustan as well as Indus and India. The famous Chinese pilgrim I-tsing who came to India in the seventh century A.C. writes in his record of travels that he northern tribes that is the people of Central Asia called India Hindu but he adds this is not at all a common name and the Most suitable name for India is the noble land. The use of the word Hindu in connection with a particular religion is of very later occurrence.
The old inclusive term for religion in India was Arya Dharma. Dharma really means something more than religion. It is from a root word which means to hold together it is the inmost constitution of a thing the law of its inner being. It is an ethical concept which included the moral code righteousness and the whole range of man’s duties and responsibilities. Arya Dharma would include all the faiths that originated in India it was used by Buddhists and Jains as well as by those who accepted the Vedas. Buddha always called his way to salvation the Aryan Path.
It is therefore incorrect and undesirable to use Hindu or Hinduism for Indian culture even with reference to the distant past although the various aspects of thought as embodied in ancient writings were the dominant expression of that culture. Much more is it incorrect to use those terms in that sense today.
Imperialism made us consider Sanskrit a dead language. They taught us that Britain was the most culturally developed nation and their language and life style were lofty and a model for all. The successive generations of India wer nurtured in this attitude. Britishers did this as they wanted Indians to be their slaves. So they branded the richest language of the world as dead language. They did so because whether in art philosophy or science. India a rich country had in their interest to be portrayed as a land of savages before the succeeding generations.
Let us see what eminent people have written about the development of the Sastras in India.
Max Mueller wrote in the study of the history of the human mind in the study of ourselves our true selves India occupies a place second to no other country. Whatever sphere of the human mind you many select for your special study whether it be language or religion or mythology or philosophy, whether it be laws or customs primitive arts or primitive science everywhere you have to go to India whether you like it or not because some of the most valuable and instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India and India only.
Sebokht a Syrian priest astronomer of the seventh century A.D wrote I shall now speak of the knowledge of the Hindus of their subtle discoveries in the science of the astronomy discoveries even more ingenious than those of the Greeks and Babylonians of their method of calculations which no word can praise strongly enough. I mean the systems using nine symbols. If these things were known to the people who think that they alone have mastered the sciences because they speak Greek they would perhaps be convinced though a little late in the day that other folk not only Greeks but men of a different tongue know something as well as they.
The Swedish savant Count Bjornsterna says but if it be true that the Hindus more than 3000 years before Christ according to Baily’s calculation had attained a high degree of astronomical and geometrical learning how many centuries earlier must the commencement of their culture have been since the human mind advances only step by step in the path of science.
Prof. Wallace says however ancient a book may be in which a system of trigonometry occurs we may be assured it was not written in the infancy of the science. Geometry must have been known in India long before the writing of the Surya Sidhanta which is supposed by the Europeans to have been written before 2000 B.C.
Prof. Macdonnel says in modern says European surgery has borrowed the operation of rhinoplasty on the formation of artificial noses from India where English men became acquainted wit the art in the last century.
Not only did the British demean Sanskrit but they weakened all national sciences and declared them untouchable. They installed their own language English in the place of Sanskrit and tied us down to a system of education which destroyed our pride in physical labor and the indigenous professions and arts. I am reminded of what Karl Marx wrote on the basis of books written by the British the discussions in British Parliament and the reports that appeared in the press of England and America.
There cannot remain any doubt but that the misery inflicted by the British on Hindustan is of an essentially different and infinitely more intensive kind than all Hindustan had to suffer before. I do not allude to European despotism planted upon Asiatic despotism by the British East India Company forming a more monstrous combination than any of the divine monsters starting us in the temple of Salsette.
England has broken down the whole framework of Indian society without any symptoms of reconstruction yet appearing. This loss of old world with no gain of a new one imparts a particular kind of melancholy to the present misery of the Hindoo and separate Hindustan ruled by Britain from all its ancient traditions and form the whole of its past history.
What happened was British Imperialism with its naked piratical culture completely destroyed the foundations of genuinely India industry science education and culture. Indians in ever respect were taught to be west oriented. Those who became so westernized induced others to imitate them. has India the need to travel through this path. The relevance of Bharatiya Vigyan Manjusha is at this point. I believe it will bring to light our forgotten culture and heritage and make us proud to follow it rather than the western world.
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