The volumes of the Project ON THE HISTOR OF SCIENCE, PHILOSOPHY AND CULTURE D
INDIAN CIVILIZATION aim at discovering the main aspects of India's heritage and present them I an interrelated way. These volumes, in spite of the unitary look, recognize the difference between the areas of material
civilization and those of ideation; culture. The Project is not being executed by a single group of thinkers and writers who are methodologically uniform or ideologically identical; in their commitments. In fact, contributions are
mad by different scholars with different ideological; persuasions and methodological approaches. The Project is marked by what may be called 'methodological pluralism'.
In spite of its primary historical character, the Project, both in its conceptualization and execution has been shaped by many scholars drawn for different disciplines. It is for the first time that a endeavor of such a unique and
comprehensive character has been undertaken to study critically major world civilization like India.
The V aisestkadarsana of Kanaka is one of the old: among the Indian systems of philosophy. But comprehensive history of the subject has not as yes been attempted presumably for want of publisher materials. There is a
long gap between Canada any Prasastapada. But Jain scholars inform us of brisk activities during this dark period. The Ancient any Modern Nyaya sub-schools regarded the V asepsis as their samiina-tantra. The Buddhists
as their worthy rivals. The printed V cassia texts an but a fraction of their former rich literature. Bu important texts have recently been discovered I’m manuscripts. As the V cassias had intimate reline with the Nyaya,
Buddhist and Jain systems, though. Viselike materials could be traced from them and other non-Viselike texts offering important
information on the Vaisestka history and exegesis they were first presented in the form of articles and ultimately integrated in the present volume.
It is true that considering the time span and the rich heritage of the V aisesikas the attempt made hen is very small. It is expected that more manuscripts 0 lost Vaisesika works and more references and quotations may be
gathered from non-Vaisesiks sources especially the Tibetan versions of the Buddhis logical works and commentaries of the Dlgnaga and
D. P. CHATIOPADHYAYA (b. 1931), M.A., LL.B., Ph.D. (Calcutta and London School of Economics),
D.l..itt. (Honoris Causa), studied, researched, and taught at various Universities of India, Europe and USA from 1954-1994. Founder-Chairman of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (1981-1990) and President-
cum-Chairman of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (1982-1991), Chattopadhyaya is currently the Project Director and General Editor of
the multidisciplinary seventy-seven volume Project of History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization [PHISPC] and Chairman of the Centre for Studies in Civilizations [CSC]. Among his notable
publications are Individuals and Societies (1967), Individuals and Worlds (1976), Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx (1988), Anthropology and Historiography of Science (1990), Induction, Probability and Skepticism(1991),
Sociology, Ideology and Utopia (1997), Societies, Cultures and Ideologies (2000), Philosophy of Science, Phenomenology and Other Essays (2002), and Science,
Society, Value and Civilizational Dialogue (2002). Besides, he has published nearly 300 research papers, discussions and book reviews in various journals, anthologies and encyclopedias.
Annandale THAKUR (b. 1916) is a former Director of the KP. J ayaswal Research Institute, Patna,
He also served as a Professor of Indian Philosophy at the Mithila Research Institute, Darbhanga, Prakrit Jain Institute, Vaisali, Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University, Darbhanga, and Burdwan University. He has edited and
published the Nyiiyacaturgranthika (consisting of Nyiiyasiitra and Nyayabha~ya, Nyiiyabha~yaviirttika, Nyayabha~yaviirttika-tatParya- tikii, and Nyiiyabha~yaviirttikatatParyapariSuddhitlka) Nyiiyalarrtkara of
Tiitparya-vivaraTJ.a-paiijika of Aniruddha, Vaisesika- viirttika of Bhatta Vadindra, an anonymous Vaisesika- ortti, Madhyiintavibhaitgabh~ya-tlka ofVasubandhu, ]iianaSrlmitranibandhavall, Ratnakirti-nibandhiioali,
Asokanibandhas, etc. He has contributed about a hundred research papers on Nydya philosophy, Vaisesika philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, religion and literature, manuscript logy, general Indian culture, history, etc.
It is understandable that man, shaped by Nature, would like to know Nature. The human ways of knowing Nature are evidently diverse, theoretical and practical, scientific and technological, artistic and spiritual. This
diversity has, on scrutiny, been found to be
neither exhaustive nor exclusive. The complexity of physical nature, life-world and,
particularly, human mind is so enormous that it is futile to follow a single method for
comprehending all the aspects of the world in which we are situated.
One need not feel bewildered by the variety and complexity of the worldly
phenomena. After all, both from traditional wisdom and our daily experience, we know
that our own nature is not quite alien to the structure of the world. Positively speaking,
the elements and forces that are out there in the world are also present in our body-mind
complex, enabling us to adjust ourselves to our environment. Not only the natural
conditions but also the social conditions of life have instructive similarities between them.
This is not to underrate in any way the difference between the human ways of life all over
the world. It is partly due to the variation in climatic conditions and partly due to the
distinctness of production-related tradition, history and culture.
Three broad approaches are discernible in the works on historiography of civilization,
comprising science and technology, art and architecture, social sciences and institutions.
Firstly, some writers are primarily interested in discovering the general laws which govern
all civilizations spread over different continents. They tend to underplay what they call
the noisy local events of the external world and peculiarities of different languages,
literatures and histories. Their accent is on the unity of Nature, the unity of science and
the unity of mankind. The second groups of writers, unlike the generalist or transcendentalist ones, attach primary importance to the distinctiveness of every culture.
To these writers’ human freedom and creativity are extremely important and basic in
character. Social institutions and the cultural articulations of human consciousness, they
argue, are bound to be expressive of the concerned people's consciousness. By implication
they tend to reject concepts like archetypal consciousness, universal mind and providential
history. There is a third group of writers who offer a composite picture of civilizations,
drawing elements both from their local as well as common characteristics. Every culture
has its local roots and peculiarities. At the same time, it is pointed out that due to
demographic migration and immigration over the centuries an element of compositeness
emerges almost in every culture. When, due to a natural calamity or political exigencies
people move from one part of the world to another, they carry with them, among other
things, their language, cultural inheritance and their ways of living.
In the light of the above facts, it is not at all surname that comparative
anthropologists and philologists are intrigued by the striking similarity between different
language families and the rites, rituals and myths of different peoples. Speculative
philosophers of history, heavily relying on the findings of epigraphy, ethnography;
archaeology and theology, try to show in very general terms that the particulars and
universals of culture are 'essentially' or 'secretly' interrelated. The spiritual aspects of
culture like dance and music, beliefs pertaining to life, death and duties, on analysis, are
found to be mediated by the material forms of life like weather forecasting, food
production, urbanization and invention of script. The transition from the oral culture to
the written one was made possible because of the mastery of symbols and rules of
measurement. Speech precedes grammar, poetry prosody. All these show how the 'matters' and 'forms' of life are so subtly interwoven.
The PHISPC publications on History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian
Civilization, in spite of their unitary look, do recognize the differences between the areas
of material civilization and those of ideational culture. It is not a work of a single author.
Nor is it being executed by a group of thinkers and writers who are methodologically
uniform or ideologically identical in their commitments. In conceiving the Project we have
interacted with, and been influenced by, the writings and views of many Indian and non-
The attempted unity of this Project lies in its aim and inspiration. We have in India
many scholarly works written by Indians on different aspects of our civilization and
culture. Right from the pre-Christian era to our own time, India has drawn the attention
of various couritries of Asia, Europe and Africa. Some of these writings are objective and
informative and many others are based on insufficient information and hearsay, and
therefore not quite reliable, but they have their own value. Quality and view-points keep
on changing not only because of the adequacy and inadequacy of evidence but also, and
perhaps more so, because of the bias and prejudice, religious and political conviction, of
Besides, it is to be remembered that history, like Nature, is not an open book to be
read alike by all. The past is mainly enclosed and only partially disclosed. History is,
therefore, partly objective or 'real' and largely a matter of construction. This is one of the
reasons why some historians themselves think that it is a form of literature or art.
However, it does not mean that historical construction is 'anarchic' and arbitrary. Certainly,
imagination plays. An important role in it.
But its character is basically dependent upon the questions which the historian raises
and wants to understand or answer in terms of the ideas and actions of human beings
in the past ages. In a way, history, somewhat like the natural sciences, is engaged in
answering questions and in exploring relationships of cause and effect between events
and developments across time. While in the natural sciences, the scientist poses questions
about nature in the form of hypotheses, expecting to elicit authoritative answers to such
questions, the historian studies the past, partly for the sake of understanding it for its own
sake and partly also for the light which the past throws upon the present, and the
possibilities which it opens up for mounding the future. But the difference between the
two approaches must not be lost sight of. The scientist is primarily interested in discovering
laws and framing theories, in terms of which, different events and processes can be
connected and anticipated. His interest in the conditions or circumstances attending the
concerned events is secondary. Therefore, scientific laws turn out to be basically abstract
and easily expressible in terms of mathematical language. In contrast, the historian's main
interest centers round the specific events, human ideas and actions, not general laws. So,
the historian, unlike the scientist, is obliged to pay primary attention to the circumstances
of the events he wants to study. Consequently, history, like most other humanistic
disciplines, is concrete and particularistic. This is not to deny the obvious truth that
historical events and processes consisting of human ideas and actions show some trend or
other and weave some pattern or other. If these trends and patterns were not there at all
in history, the study of history as a branch of knowledge would not have been profitable
or instructive. But one must recognize that historical trends and patterns, unlike scientific
laws and theories, are not general or purported to be universal in their scope.
The aim of this Project is to discover the main aspects of Indian culture and present them
in an interrelated way. Since our culture has influenced, and has been influenced by, the
neighbouring cultures of West Asia, Central Asia, East Asia and South-East Asia, attempts
have been made here to trace and study these influences in their mutuality. It is well
known that during the last three centuries, European presence in India, both political and
cultural, has been very widespread. In many volumes of the Project considerable attention
has been paid to Europe and through Europe to other parts of the world. For the purpose
of a comprehensive cultural study of India, the existing political boundaries of the South
Asia of today are more of a hindrance than help. Cultures, like languages, often transcend
the bounds of changing political territories.
If the inconstant political geography is not a reliable help to the understanding of the
layered structure and spread of culture, a somewhat comparable problem is encountered
in the area of historical per iodization. Per iodization or segmenting time is a very tricky
affair. When exactly one period ends and another begins is not precisely ascertainable.
The periods of history designated as ancient, medieval and modern are purely
conventional and merely heuristic in character. The varying scopes of history, local,
national and continental or universal, somewhat like the periods of history, are
unavoidably fuzzy and shifting. Amidst all these difficulties, the volume-wise details have
been planned and worked out by the editors in consultation with the Project Director and
the General Editor. I believe that the editors of different volumes have also profited from
the reactions and suggestions of the contributors of individual chapters in planning the
Another aspect of Indian history which the volume-editors and contributors of the
Project have carefully dealt with is the distinction and relation between civilization and
culture. The material conditions which substantially shaped Indian civilization have been
discussed in detail. From agriculture and industry to metallurgy and technology, from
physics and chemical practices to the life sciences and different systems of medicines-all
the branches of knowledge and skill which directly affect human life-form the heart of
this Project. Since the periods covered by the PHISPC are extensive-prehistory, proto-
has Lorry, early history, medieval history and modern history of India-we do not claim to have gone into all the relevant material conditions of human life. We had to be selective. Therefore, one should not be surprised if one
finds that only some material aspects of Indian civilization have received our pointed attention, while the rest have been dealt with in principle or only alluded to.
One of the main aims of the Project has been to spell out the first principles of the
philosophy of different schools, both pro-Vedic and anti-Vedic. The basic ideas of
Buddhism, Jainism and Islam have been given their due importance. The special position
accorded to philosophy is to be understood partly in terms of its proclaimed unifying
character and partly to be explained in terms of the fact that different philosophical
systems represent alternative world-views, cultural perspectives, their conflict and mutual
Most of the volume-editors and at their instance the concerned contributors have
followed a middle path between the extremes of narratives and theoretic. The
underlying idea has been this: If in the process of working out a comprehensive Project
like this every contributor attempts to narrate all those interesting things that he has in
the back of his mind, the enterprise is likely to prove unmanageable. If, on the other
hand, particular details are consciously forced into a fixed mould or pre-supposed
theoretical structure, the details lose their particularity and interesting character.
Therefore, depending on the nature of the problem of discourse, most of the writers have
tried to reconcile in their presentation, the specificity of narratives and the generality of
theoretical orientation. This is a conscious editorial decision. Because, in the absence of
a theory, however inarticulate it may be, the factual details tend to fall apart. Spiritual
network or theoretical orientation makes historical details not only meaningful but also
interesting and enjoyable.
Another editorial decision which deserves spelling out is the necessity or avoid ability
of duplication of the same theme in different volumes or even in the same volume.
Certainly, this Project is not an assortment of several volumes. Nor is any volume intended
to be a miscellany. This Project has been designed with a definite end in view and has a
structure of its own. The character of the structure has admittedly been influenced by the
variety of the themes accommodated within it. Again it must be understood that the
complexity of structure is rooted in the aimed integrality of the Project itself.
Long and in-depth editorial discussion has led us to several unanimous conclusions. Firstly, our Project is going to be unique, unrivalled and discursive in its attempt to integrate different forms of science, technology,
philosophy and culture. Its comprehensive
scope, continuous character and accent on culture distinguish it from the works of such
Indian authors as P.C. Ray, B.N. Seal, Binoy Kumar Sarkar and S.N. Sen and also from
such Euro-American writers as Lynn Thorndike, George Sarton and Joseph Needham.
Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to suggest that it is for the first time that an
endeavour of so comprehensive a character, in its exploration of the social, philosophical
and cultural characteristics of a distinctive world civilization-that of India-has been
attempted in the domain of scholarship.
Secondly, we try to show the linkages between different branches of learning as
different modes of experience in an organic manner and without resorting to a kind of
reductionism, materialistic or spiritualistic. The internal dialectics of organicism without
reductionism allows fuzziness, discontinuity and discreteness within limits.
Thirdly, positively speaking, different modes of human experience-scientific, artistic,
etc., have their own individuality, not necessarily autonomy. Since all these modes are
modification and articulation of human experience, these are bound to have between
them some finely graded commonness. At the same time, it has been recognized that
reflection on different areas of experience and investigation brings to light new insights
and findings. Growth of knowledge requires humans, in general, and scholars, in
particular, to identify the distinctness of different branches of learning.
Fourthly, to follow simultaneously the twin principles of: (a) individuality of human
experience as a whole, and (b) individuality of diverse disciplines, are not at all an easy
task. Overlap of themes and duplication of the terms of discourse become unavoidable at
times. For example, in the context of Dharmasiistra, the writer is bound to discuss the
concept of value. The same concept also figures in economic discourse and also occurs in
a discussion on fine arts. The conscious editorial decision has been that, while duplication
should be kept to its minimum, for the sake of intended clarity of the themes under
discussion, their reiteration must not be avoided at high intellectual cost.
Fifthly, the scholars working on the Project are drawn from widely different
disciplines. They have brought to our notice an important fact that has clear relevance to
our work. Many of our contemporary disciplines like economics and sociology did not
exist, at least not in their present form, just two centuries ago or so. For example, before
the middle of nineteenth century, sociology as a distinct branch of knowledge was
unknown. The term is said to have been coined first by the French philosopher Auguste
Comte in 1838. Obviously, this does not mean that the issues discussed in sociology were
not there. Similarly, Adam Smith's (1723-90) famous work The Wealth of Nations is often
referred to as the first authoritative statement of the principles of (what we now call)
economics. Interestingly enough, the author was equally interested in ethics and
jurisprudence. It is clear from history that the nature and scope of different disciplines
undergo change, at times very radically, over time. For example, in India 'Arthasiistra'
does not mean the science of economics as understood today. Besides the principles of
economics, the Arthasastra of ancient India discusses at length those of governance,
diplomacy and military science.
Sixthly, this bhrigns us to the next editorial policy followed in the Project. We have tried to remain very conscious of what may be called indeterminacy or inexactness of
translation. When a word or expression of one language is translated into another, some
loss of meaning or exactitude seems to be unavoidable. This is true not only in the
bilingual relations like Sanskrit-English and Sanskrit-Arabie, but also in those of Hindi-
Tamil and Hindi-Bengali. In recognition of the importance of language-bound and
context-relative character of meaning we have solicited from many learned scholars,
contributions, written in vernacular languages. In order to minimize the miseffect of
semantic inexactitude we have solicited translational help of that type of bilingual scholars
who know both English and the concerned vernacular language, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu,
Bengali or Marathi.
Seventhly and finally, perhaps the place of technology as a branch of knowledge in
the composite universe of science and art merits some elucidation. Technology has been
conceived in very many ways, e.g., as autonomous, as 'standing reserve', as liberating or
enlarge mental, and alimentative or estrange mental force. The studies undertaken by the
Project show that, in spite of its much emphasized mechanical and alimentative
characteristics, technology embodies a very useful mode of knowledge that is peculiar to
man. The Greek root words of technology are techno (art) and logos (science). This is the
basic justification of recognizing technology as closely related to both epistemology, the
discipline of valid knowledge, and axiology, the discipline of freedom and values. It is in
this context that we are reminded of the definition of man as homo techniques. In Sanskrit,
the word closest to techno is kola which means any practical art, any mechanical or fine
art. In the Indian tradition, in Saivatantra, for example, among the arts (kala) are counted
dance, drama, music, architecture, metallurgy, knowledge of dictionary, encyclopedia
and prosody. The closeness of the relation between arts and sciences, technology and
other forms of knowledge are evident from these examples and was known to the ancient
people. The human quest for knowledge involves the use of both head and hand. Without
mind, the body is a corpse and the disembodied mind is a bare abstraction. Even for our
appreciation of what is beautiful and the creation of what is valuable, we are required to
exercise both our intellectual competence and physical capacity. In a manner of speaking,
one might rightly affirm that our psychosomatic structure is a functional connector
between what we are and what we could be, between the physical and the beyond. To
suppose that there is a clear-cut distinction between the physical world and the
psychosomatic one amount to denial of the possible emergence of higher logic-
mathematical, musical and other capacities. The very availability of aesthetic experience
and creation proves that the supposed distinction is somehow overcome by what may be
called the bodily self or embodied mind.
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