Since the nineteenth century, texts of classical Indian mathematics and astronomy have at least received some attention, their contributions increasingly recognized in recent decades. Indeed, Professor R.N. Iyengar has distinguished himself with several path-breaking research papers on pre-Siddhantic astronomy, eclipses, comets and meteors, and with the landmark publication in 2013 of a reconstruction of an ancient text on astronomy and natural sciences, Parasara tantra, which so far was available only through scattered extracts. Paradoxically, other scientific or technical fields remain largely unexplored, civil engineering perhaps most of all, despite its great importance.
Why is that a paradox? Because India's tangible heritage offers a loud testimony to the excellence of civil engineering skills, from the meticulous planning and execution of Harappan cities, wells, reservoirs, sanitation systems to the breath taking rock-cut structure of the Kailasanatha temple at Ellora, the stepwells of Gujarat and Rajasthan, irrigation devices or Delhi's rust-resistant pillar.
Engineering heritage is not just about buildings and architecture, but includes construction of water resources for which the country is equally famous. Research scholars interested in indigenous methods of water management look for texts in Sanskrit on lakes and ponds. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise when a student from IIT Delhi approached me with the manuscript of Mirada Silpasastras (NSS) and wanted to know whether the text has a chapter on dams and bridges. Indeed, the text had a chapter on check-dams but not on bridges.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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