Aspects of culture and science in early medieval india from 650 – 1200 A



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HISTORY
Subject : History

(For under graduate student)


Paper No. : Paper - II

History of India


Topic No. & Title : Topic - 9

Science and Technology In Early Medieval India (650-1200 AD)


Lecture No. & Title : Lecture - 1

Science and Technology In Early Medieval India (650-1200 AD)




Science and Technology In Early Medieval India
DETERMINANTS OF RATIONAL CULTURE IN THE CONTEXT OF ANCIENT INDIA:
From 1000 B.C to the 4th C A.D (also described as the rationalistic period in early Indian intellectual history) treatises on astronomy, mathematics, logic, medicine and linguistics were produced. The philosophers of the Sankhya school, the Nyaya-Vaisesika schools and early Jain and Buddhist scholars made substantial contributions to the growth of science and learning.
To this were added the new ideas brought in from the Greaco – Roman intellectual traditions - developing on the western fringes of the subcontinent, which soon became a part of the subcontinent’s culture in the beginning of the Christian era. Since The rationalist tradition of early India broke the paths to enquiries, studies into subjects such as mathematics, astronomy, concepts of matter and material science, concepts of the plant and animal bodies and their treatment developed to substantial extents and technologies based on repetitions of scientific and standardized methods major advancements . Advances in the applied sciences like metallurgy, textile production and dyeing were also made. However, the world of science as in the culture of a given space – time paradigm involves much more than achievements in terms of inventions of theories and applications. It involves the development of a culture, a mind set of the contemporary society who nurtures that culture in which scientific rationalistic goals are attempted and attained. By the end of the sixth – seventh centuries A.D. the ground was made for certain such developments. However, such developments could substantially influence lifestyle and culture only in conjunction with the effects that other external factors would leave on the fabric of the society. These factors touched upon the following:

  • MATERIAL CULTURE

  • SOCIAL GOALS

  • KNOWLEDGE BASE

  • KNOWLEDGE DISSEMINATION AND MEDIUM OR LANGUAGE

  • DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN CATEGORIES OF KNOWLEDGE

  • SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE

  • ‘HIGHER KNOWLEDGE’

In all these matters the regulations imposed by the whole social system prevailing in early India, of which the primary were the caste system and socio – religious regulations, made a great impact. The effect was felt in how a social paradigm was bred that was characterized by hereditary occupations, restrictions on free access to all branches of knowledge for all individuals and the cloistered concept of ‘higher’ knowledge and ‘lesser’ occupations. This created serious constraints in the way of serious and all round progress in scientific rationalistic endeavours.
Some of these factors imposed restrictions on a freer development of the nexus of intellectual communication amongst the people whose professions were related to the uses of scientific and technical know – how. From the later Vedic times onwards the characteristics of the social base was defined by stratifications related to caste, class and gender. These stratifications limited the goal set for dissemination of knowledge and its output in terms of human achievements related to mental faculties and creativity. Yet, indications of continuous developments in material culture and associated scientific knowledge are available among the so – called lower caste workmen, especially in some limited fields of technology where the recognized formal knowledge branches like mathematics and medicine worked in nexus with each other even after the sixth century A.D.
We witness that it is mostly in the fields of applied sciences and related technology that positive signs of development were noted in the early medieval period (650 A.D. – 12th century A.D,).
A Brief review of MATHEMATICS AND Astronomy in the Early Medieval Period
The study of the developments in mathematics and astronomy in the early medieval context has to be conducted with reference to the early historical achievements. To make a review of what had already been accomplished we refer to the facts in brief.

By the 2nd - 3rd centuries A.D., Mathematics and Astronomy had been recognized as formal and significant science disciplines and they developed into comprehensive courses of study. The new astronomy formed the basis of a calendar computation which has continued down to our times. The new and developed astronomy combined the earlier Jaina Jyotisa principles, without some of the fallacies, with the new knowledge imparted by the Saka – Kushan traditions of astronomy, which is evident from the reference to a particular system – the Romaka Siddhanta. Many Greek names like Paulisa, Yavana, Sphujidhvaja, Bhaguri etc. are available to us in this field from the works of later commentators, which indicate an exchange of knowledge traditions. The new, refurbished astronomy came to be known as the Siddhantic astronomy. In the new calendar, the Caitra Sukladi cycle was devised and a zodiac with 12 signs was introduced. The discussions on planets and their motions were introduced. The astronomical parameters were perfected. Computation of the beginning and the end of eclipses were included in astronomy though comets were not regarded as astronomical objects. The luminaries, Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter – were identified as planets moving around the earth. That the planets do not move with uniform motion but some were sometimes faster and sometimes slower - was also known. This variation was accounted for by the epicyclic theory. But the Ptolemaic epicycles were not borrowed in entirety. With these scientific notions were added the popular Puranic concepts of time – the Yuga concept. The calculations of the yuga cycles according to zodiacal positions engaged a large part of astronomical researches around this time. Aryabhata and Brahmagupta of the 5th – 7th centuries A.D. were among these researchers too. With Aryabhata, the more formalized works on astronomy took off. Aryabhata is credited with the development of epicyclic astronomy in India and for formulating the computations of the Kali Yuga. But there were much more significant contributions that were presumably too radical for the times.

The first work of Aryabhata – the Aryabhatiya - is a treatise with 121 slokas. But Aryabhata’s second work, the Aryabhata Siddhanta is lost and is known only from quotations of Bhaskara I (AD 522) Brahmagupta (born AD 598).

Aryabhatiya is a compendium of Aryabhata’s works on mathematics and astronomy. The Aryabhatiya deals with both mathematics and astronomy and is divided into four parts: Gitikapada (preliminaries), Ganitapada (mathematics), Kalakriyapada (reckoning of time) and Golapada (astronomy).  

Under arithmetic, the treatise discusses an alphabetic system of notation and place value including fundamental operations like squaring, square – root, cubing and cube – root of numbers. The geometrical problems deal with the area of triangle, circle, trapezium, plane figures, volumes of right pyramid, sphere, properties of - similar triangle, inscribed triangles and rectangles. Under algebra the following principles were discussed: sum of natural numbers, cubes of natural numbers, formation of equation, use of rule of three for application (both direct and inverse rule), solution of quadratic equation, solution of indeterminate equations of the first order, where solution of x and y are obtained by repeated division (the term used here Kuttaka Kuta means: to pulverize) etc. In trigonometry, jya (R sine ) is defined, and 28 jya table at an interval at 30 54, (R= 3438’ ) (R= 3438’ ) was constructed. Aryabhata correctly assessed the π to be an irrational number. Aryabhata’s value of π comes to 3.1416 which is a surprisingly accurate value. In fact π = 3.14159265 is correct up to 8 places after decimal point.
In case of astronomy the most significant and revolutionizing principles were expounded by Aryabhata, the primary theory being the Bhu Bhraman Vada – or the principle that the earth rotates on its axis. According to him the period of one rotation of the earth is 23 hours 56 mn 4.1s while the modern value is 23 hours 56 mn 4.091s.  His accuracy regarding this is amazing. Aryabhata was also among the first astronomers to make an attempt at measuring the Earth's circumference and he accurately calculated the Earth's circumference as 24,835 miles, which was only 0.2% smaller than the actual value of 24,902 miles.     
Three basic important hypotheses were made – a) The mean planets revolve in geocentric circular orbits (b) The true planets move in epicycles or in eccentric circles

(c) All planets have equal linear motion in their respective orbits.

The use of half – cords for studying the properties of arcs was a primary innovation by Aryabhata and all later astronomers in India except Brahmagupta used the system. Aryabhata was bitterly criticized both by his admirers and detractors for enunciating this principle. Even his followers did not attempt to defend his position. It is clear that many of the astronomers were prompted by defensiveness against the strong current of the commonly held belief in ancient India that the earth was at the center of the universe and that the sun, planets and the fixed stars revolve to the west in one revolution and that this motion was caused by the wind.  Aryabhata’s theory was completely at variance with the commonly held belief. Aryabhata’s theory would have violated the sacred religious texts.  Opposition from religious priests would have created great difficulty for the astronomers and it would have constituted political opposition.  This problem with the religious clerics would have been similar to the problem faced by Copernicus and Galileo when they violated sacred religious scriptures in modern Europe.  It would explain why even his followers attempted to misinterpret his theory rather than look at it from a critical point of view. 

Bhaskar I followed Aryabhata and discussed in further detail topics such as the longitudes of the planets; conjunctions of the planets with each other and with bright stars; risings and settings of the planets; and the lunar crescent. Again, these studies required still more advanced mathematics and Bhaskar I expanded on the trigonometric equations provided by Aryabhata, and like Aryabhata correctly assessed pi (π) to be an irrational number. Amongst his most important contributions was his formula for calculating the sine function which was near to being accurate. He also did pioneering work on indeterminate equations and considered for the first time quadrilaterals with all the four sides unequal and none of the opposite sides parallel.

Varahamihira is the eminent exponent of certain astronomical features and the most important contribution made by him was the composition of Pancasiddhantika, which constitutes a summary of the five previous Siddhantic texts –Saura Siddhanta, Paulisa Siddhanta, Romaka Siddhanta, Vasistha Siddhanta and Paitamaha Siddhanta. Varahamihira made important additions to Aryabhata's trigonometric formulas. His works on permutations and combinations complemented what had been previously achieved by Jaina mathematicians and provided a method of calculation of nCr that closely resembles the much more recent Pascal's Triangle. However, he severely criticized Aryabhata’s theory of Bhu Bhramana Vada, which described the Geocentric theory.

Brahmagupta (born 598 A.D.) became the head of the astronomical observatory at Ujjain which was the foremost mathematical centre of ancient India at this time. The principal work done by him is contained in the compendium Brahmasphutasiddhanta (dtd. 628 A.D.) The Brahmasphutasiddhanta contains twenty-five chapters but the first ten of these chapters seem to form what many historians believe was a first version of Brahmagupta's work and some manuscripts exist which contain only these chapters. The topics contained in these chapters deal with calculations of the mean longitudes of the planets; true longitudes of the planets; the three problems of diurnal rotation; lunar eclipses; solar eclipses; risings and settings; the moon's crescent; the moon's shadow; conjunctions of the planets with each other; and conjunctions of the planets with the fixed stars. As already discussed Brahmagupta believed in a static Earth and he gave the length of the year as 365 days 6 hours 5 minutes 19 seconds. However, he changed the value to 365 days 6 hours 12 minutes 36 seconds in his second book the Khandakhadyaka. This second values is not, of course, an improvement on the first.


But the foremost contribution of Brahmangupta lay in his invention of the place value of zero. Brahmagupta's understanding of the number systems went far beyond that of others of the period. In the Brahmasphutasiddhanta he defined zero as the result of subtracting a number from itself. In addition to listing the algebraic properties of zero, he also listed the algebraic properties of negative numbers. In the Brahmasphutasiddhanta Brahmagupta gave remarkable formulae for the area of a cyclic quadrilateral and for the lengths of the diagonals in terms of the sides. The second work on mathematics and astronomy - the Khandakhadyaka was written in 665 A.D. when he was 67 years old. However, a brilliant mathematician like Brahmagupta like many others before him, also failed to appreciate the Bhu Bhramana Vada theory of Aryabhata. It would probably not be wrong to attribute the whole generation of post - Aryabhata mathematicians’ and astronomers’ scepticism to the contemporary social and religious ambiance. Brhamagupta may be held to be the first eminent Mathematician par excellence of the early medieval era.
A number of noted mathematicians and astronomers followed Brahmagupta. In the 9th C, Mahaviracharya ( Mysore) wrote Ganit Saar Sangraha where he described the currently used method of calculating the Least Common Multiple (LCM) of given numbers. He also derived formulae to calculate the area of an ellipse and a quadrilateral inscribed within a circle (something that had also been looked at by Brahmagupta) The solution of indeterminate equations also drew considerable interest in the 9th century, and several mathematicians contributed approximations and solutions to different types of indeterminate equations.

In the late 9th C A.D. Sridhara (probably Bengal) provided mathematical formulae for a variety of practical problems involving ratios, barter, simple interest, mixtures, purchase and sale, rates of travel, wages, and filling of cisterns. Some of these examples involved fairly complicated solutions and his Patiganita is considered an advanced mathematical work. Sections of the book were also devoted to arithmetic and geometric progressions, including progressions with fractional numbers or terms, and formulas for the sum of certain finite series are provided. Mathematical investigations continued into the 10th C. Vijayanandi of Benares whose Karanatilaka was translated by Al-Beruni into Arabic and Sripati of Maharashtra were amongst the prominent mathematicians of the century.



In astronomy the last phase of the Early Medieval achievements is graphed in the text of Suryasiddhanta, an anonymous treatise on Astronomy dated to 10th – 11th centuries. It contained 14 chapters, of which the first 11 deal with astronomical calculations and the last three dealt with cosmology, astronomical instruments and time. The Suryasiddhanta discussed the motion of moon. It dealt with the yogatara coordinates some of which match with the calculations in Brahmasphutasiddhanta. The calculation of the shift of the vernal equinox at Kali epoch with the concept of the oscillatory motion was carried out in complete agreement with the Aryabhata tradition. The research on the text by A.K. Chakravarty on the astronomical principles contained in the text reveal that a foundational knowledge of geometrical principles for calculation related to astronomy was provided in the text followed by calculations of time and celestial motions and various planetary phenomena. The inclusion of discussions on astronomical instruments and observations related to such studies mentioned in the text paved the foundation of the medieval astronomical researches of the likes carried out by Sawai Jai Singh. It was a comprehensive text and popular among the students of astronomy in early medieval and medieval times.
In the field of Mathematics Aryabhata's equations were elaborated on by Manjula (10th C) and Bhaskaracharya II (12th C) who derived the differential of the sine function.
The latter figure probably constitutes the leading among the scientists of early medieval times. He had produced the Siddhanta Shiromani – a compendium of four separate books – each important including the Lilavati, the Bijaganita, Ganitadhaya and the Goladhyaya, an astronomical text. He was the first to recognize that certain types of quadratic equations could have two solutions. His Chakrawaal method of solving indeterminate solutions of the second order preceded the European solutions by several centuries. In the field of astronomy he made a significant contribution by preceding Newton in postulating that the earth remained in space without support due to its ‘akrsta sakti’ in his Siddhanta Shiromani, thereby signifying that that the earth had a gravitational force. He also went into the subject of infinitesimal calculation and integration. The Siddhanta Shiromani contained several chapters relating to the study of the sphere and its properties and applications to geography, planetary mean motion, eccentric epicyclical model of the planets, first visibilities of the planets, the seasons, the lunar crescent etc. He also discussed astronomical instruments and spherical trigonometry. Of particular interest are his trigonometric equations.
BUILDING TECHNOLOGY AS REVEALED IN TREATISES:
So far as what we may regard as the architectural science is concerned this era saw the emergence of the discipline reflected through the compositions of special treatises on the subject, for example the Manasara, Samarangana Sutradhara, Mayamata etc. The early traces of technical discussions are found in the later Vedic Brahmanas and more in the Vedic sulbasutras. The sulba texts throw light on geometrical concepts as foundational to the building formats, technical terminology, derivative inferences or riders on main principles of geometry and mensuration in a grammarized form as early as the 8th century-6th century B. C. times.
It is curious to observe how this manual approach to geometry and construction work was followed up in later days. If we take the two principal early and important treatises on architecture, viz., the Manasara and the Mayamata as cases to be studied for this survey of a legacy, we find continuities in grammar of architectural geometry, while we also observe a lacuna in format of technical discussions. For example, the measurement systems in the sulbas were followed by those in the Manasara and the Mayamata texts and yet the full three dimensional procedure of building is completely neglected in the discussions in both the later treatises.
It is noticeable in the Puranas, including the Agni Purana (4) and the agama texts of South India (post sixth century A. D.), tantra works like, Hayasirsapancaratram (5), etc, that they contain mere descriptions and categorizations of temples, ranging in time from the sixth to the tenth century A. D. than any real technical illumination. It is evident that the post 6th century A. D. times had witnessed the genesis of both civic and temple architecture in practice and in theory, although the theoretical representation of the technology was in its rudiments. The Samarangana Sutradhara of king Bhoja of Malwa (eleventh century AD) can be said to have contained more details, especially on the Lata or Gujatara group of Vairajadi temple structures. The classification of temples into nagara, vairata, dravida and bhumija are referred in the texts. What is most noticeable about all these texts is that they all contain a lot about religious, symbolic and astrological dimensions of building activity. Astrology is clearly seen to have penetrated deeply into the procedural aspects of architecture.

Manasara and the Mayamata dwell exclusively with vastuvidya. Neither of the texts can be called true manuals for beginners, as they do not consist of the full stage by stage details of technical processes. The discussions seem rather to meant for technicians already conversant with the basics of the building parameters. We do have to realize that the composers took it for granted that the readers of the treatises would not be lay persons. In fact the introductory auspicious slokas are meant to be recited by sutradharas etc before venturing on work. As a result much of the discussion is foreshortened. Not only that the knowledgeable sutradharas were probably expected to be well groomed in the advanced mathematical principles of the times. Therefore it might be important to link these architectural ventures with the trends in contemporary mathematical works.

Manasara was composed originally around the sixth century AD. It was later compiled in the 11th century AD. The Mayamata too belongs to the 11th century. The Ganitarasasamgraha of Mahavira was composed in the late 9th century AD, Ganita Tilaka of Sripati was composed around 1039 AD and the Lilavati was composed around 1150 AD or the 12th century AD. The correlation is necessary to note how the progress of mathematics in theory might have affected that of the technology of architecture. Arithmetic, algebra as well as geometrical formulations related to these two developed to a considerable extent by the 11th century AD. The tradition of computing science had been established, which is an important premise for the development of the technology of architecture. The other point to note is that when we look at the actual building enterprise, we come up with ample evidence of developments. The contributions of Aryabhata II (10th century) and Bhaskara II are concurrent with the developments in the building technology. Lilavati is substantially complex to have been preceded by a long and eminent tradition of mathematical research in the early medieval period. So the ground-work of expertise was prevalent when the treatises of Manasara and Mayamata were being composed or the magnificent temple structures were being built.
Glancing through the text of the Manasara one would find certain chapters containing substantial amount of technical discussions or descriptions. For example, in the chapter on "Sanku-sthapana vidhana" or "Erection of gnomons and pegs", or "nagara vidhana", "Bhumilamba Vidhana" and "Garbhanyasa Vidhana". But, firstly, most of these chapters also contain a heavy input of religious, symbolic, ceremonial and astrological predictions and prescriptions. On the other hand, the chapters on Stambhalakshanavidhana, Prastaravidhana, Dvaramanavidhana etc., contain relative measurements of the different parts of the constructions. Mayamata is similar in nature. It contains a substantial portion dealing with rudiments of measurements given in ratio and relative dimensions, throwing light on the actual construction work going on in the contemporary society. In the Vimanavidhana chapter in Manasara there are comparatively extensive measurements given discussed for different kinds of dwellings. The features discussed include those for both civic buildings from that of the commoner to those of princes and kings, and religious structures or temples. The Bhumilamba Vidhana chapter also discusses both types of buildings with an emphasis on palaces and temples. It would be rather interesting to observe some portions in details.

Laying the Foundation of Buildings:

For example, the Manasara discusses the gnomon placing in greater details than the sulba rendition, in the chapter on sanku-sthapana-vidhana.

Firstly the gnomon is to be made of the wood of only certain prescribed trees. It may be 24, 18 or 12 angulas. It tapers from the bottom towards the top. For the purposes of ascertaining the cardinal points a gnomon of 12, 18 or 24 angulas is erected from the centre of a watered place (salila sthala) and a circle is describe with the bottom of the gnomon as its centre and with a radius twice its length. Two points are marked where the shadow (of the gnomon) after and before noon meets the circumference of the circle. The line joining these two points is the east-west line or prachi. From each of these east and west points a circle is drawn with their distance as radius. The two intersecting points, which are called the head and tail of the fish (timi), are the north and south points. The intermediate regions are found in the same way through the fish formed between the points of the determined quarters. As regards the principle of dialing, each of the twelve months is divided into three parts of ten days each and the increase or decrease of shadow, or apacchaya are calculated for these several parts of the different months.

Thus a most important preliminary task before the foundation is laid is both technically laid.

However, in the sphere of building technology too as in astronomy, the dominant spirit of religiosity and hierarchical social paradigm had evolved and took shapes in Sastra formats. The Vastuvidya had assumed the shapes of Vastusastra with the additions of astrological and ritual pronouncements and regulations.

The political and social background to these developments was marked by the following features. The post sixth century society was cut up in political regionalization, characterized by perpetual rivalries and political disturbances between the regional political powers, like the Palas, Gahadavalas, Kalachuris, Gurjara Pratiharas, Rashrtakutas, Calukyas, Pallavas, Gangas, Pandyas, Ceras and finally the Colas. There was constant shift in the balance of power. Meanwhile Vedic Brahmanism had culminated into bhaktivada and different cults like Vaisnavism and Saivism and other sects as well as sub-sects had evolved within them. Southern India had opened up to these religious influences with great fervour. The society was under the control of Brahmanical dharma and varna folds. The sastra regulations influenced social as well as political lives. The regional rulers relied largely on the support from the brahmanical authorities for social and political sanctions. The institutions of dana and dakshina had grown till they created large scale feudatory bodies in the form of temples and associated regulating organizations at the village and district levels. This feature was more pronounced in southern India, where political power structure gradually got intimately concerned with the dominant religion. Temples were built and maintained by the royal patrons with heavy inputs of donations from the mercantile community as well. Temple building and its technology received a lot of attention in these times. A number of historical researches have been conducted on this phenomenon in the context of both south and northern India.

The study of these two most important treatises on architecture or vastuvidya in early medieval India indicates that the formal theory of vastuvidya had got closely integrated with the contemporary socio-religious belief systems. T.P. Bhattacharya had almost touched upon this issue when he remarked that: "Indian vastuvidya, to the scholars (of early medieval times) meant only several canons dealing with the religious rites to be performed on the occasion of building a house and a few astrological data for calculating the best time for house building. These portions of the vastuvidya were incorporated in the Puranas, Tantras, Agamas and other works on ceremonial rites and asronomy or astrology. These have therefore been better preserved that the main topics of the vastuvidya dealing with the technical aspects of the subjects".

It is not so much that the technique was not understood to be important for the actual task but that it was not the topic most concerning the grammarians of the times. Knowledge was compartmentalized and technology was left to the artisans.


‘NATURAL PHILOSOPHY’: UNIVERSE AND MATTER IN NYAYA VAISESIKA
In the Indian rationalist tradition the cosmos was infinite with a postulated connection between the inner and the outer while in ancient Greek thought that is the foundation of the current western science the universe was a finite system. These differences in the underlying cosmology find expression in the way the two cultures dealt with scientific problems. It may also be noted that the Indian tradition used careful definition of linguistic terms, that were subject to philosophical analysis and, therefore, the tradition was somewhat in the manner of physics as “natural philosophy”.
In the Nyaya Vaisesika system matter was understood as something in which attributes inhere that is associated with action which in its widest class is generic and in the smallest is particular. This broad definition seems to correspond to the commonsensical idea of matter, where it is something situated in space and time that has certain attributes associated with it. The difference is that in addition to whatever attributes one may associate with the object and its action, there are further categories associated with the relationships that the object can enter with other objects Substance (padartha) is defined as the substratum of qualities and in terms of what alone can be an inherent cause. A quality (guna) may be defined as what is neither substance nor action (Karma) and yet is the substratum of universals (Samanya) - for universals are supposed to inhere only in substances, qualities, and actions. Universal is defined as that which is eternal and inheres in many. Ultimate particularities (visesa) belong to eternal substances, such as atoms and souls, and these account for all differences among particulars that cannot be accounted for otherwise. Inherence (samavaya) is the relation that is maintained between a universal and its instances, a substance and its qualities or actions, a whole and its parts, and an eternal substance and its particularity. This relation is such that one of the relations cannot exist without the other (e.g., a whole cannot exist without the parts). Negation (abhava), the seventh category, is initially classified into difference ("A is not B") and absence ("A is not in B"), absence being further divided into absence of a thing before its origin, its absence after its destruction, and its absence in places other than where it is present. For these schools, all that is knowable and also nameable.
Padartha with its chief characteristics: Bhava – Abhava i. e., Existence - Non-existence.

Properties of Padartha or Matter as defined in physical terms: Dravya, were the following:

a) Samanya/Universal, i. e., those characteristics that reside in many objects conjointly; b) Visesa: Characteristics that reside in individual things singly

Attribute or Guna of Dravya are the following:

a) Stationary as against

b) Karma or Action or

c) Evanescent.

It is significant that the school defines matter not in terms of something gross that is anchored to the commonsensical notion of an object, but rather in terms of something that has attributes associated with it. Matter or padartha, is whatever is knowable within the framework of the overarching space – time paradigm, which is taken to be continuous and infinite.

The most surprising aspect of this conception is the idea of “nothingness” or “vacuum” – as a condition conceived physically. It is defined as a unique category in itself, subject to analysis by determining its relationship to the observer. Probably the development of Sunyavada in early Indian Philosophy was concomitant with the concept of zero which however gained a place value.
If concepts developed in early Indian philosophy interacted with the cognitive paradigms of contemporary or later evolved mathematics, such interactions are also noted to have taken place between philosophical parameters and concept of how the body and medicines react. Both B.N. Seal and Acharya P.C. Roy had found the philosophical foundations of the Caraka and Susruta Samhitas to have been linked with the contemporary theories generated within the auspices of the Schools of Indian Philosophy. According to Seal the prevailing schools of medicine and surgery were based on Sankhya teaching with a methodology derived from the Nyaya – Vaisesika doctrine - with the aid of which they had founded an elaborate theory of inorganic and organic compounds. These early historical philosophical parameters set the foundation for the early medieval Rasayana or Rasavidya genre, which, for the lack of practicable goal, appear cloaked in a shadow of mysticism. However, as P.C. Ray and later B.V. Subbarayappa have illuminated, these texts contain the germs of early concepts of padartha, rasa in their particle format and the organic and inorganic chemistry in minerals, metals and plant and animal extracts, often mixed together.

THE LOKAYATA, CHEMISTRY, MEDICINE AND ALCHEMY


One of the most ancient of India's rationalist traditions is the "Lokayata". Their world view was sharply atheistic and scientific for their time.
One of the most notable aspects of the Lokayata belief system was their intuitive understanding of dialectics in nature. Lokayatas countered the prevalent concept of changeless soul by citing the example of fermentation -- how an intoxicating drink could be produced from something that was not itself an intoxicant. In essence they had discovered the principle that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Those physical and chemical processes could lead to dramatic changes in the properties of the substances combined. They were able to understand how special transformations could produce new qualities that were not evident in the constituent elements of the newly-created entity.
As keen observers of nature, they were probably amongst the first to understand the nature of different plants and herbs and their utility to human well-being. As such, it is likely that Indian medicine gradually evolved from the early scientific knowledge and understanding of the Lokayatas. The science of applied chemistry as in the fields of pharmacy and medicine, metallurgy and ceramic manufacturing, cosmetology and rasayana and paints and wine distilling continued to develop through the sixth to the tenth – eleventh centuries A.D.
We can trace the early concepts of healing and health treatments from the Atharva Veda of the 8th – 7th centuries B.C., especially the Kausika Sutra. The efflorescence of medicine as a formal rational discipline is observable from the 2nd century B.C. onwards with the compilations and repeated additions and modificsations of compilations of the Caraka Samhita followed by the Susruta Samhita and the Astangasamgraha and Astangahridaya in the 6th – 7th centuries A.D. The tradition of Ayurveda as a medicinal science continues with inputs of Salakya Cikitsa from the Susruta tradition in the post – Gupta or early medieval times.

All ayurvedic studies conducted on herbal and holistic medicine in ancient India, followed from the fountainhead of the two principle ayurvedic schools. The School of Physicians (Atreya) and the School of Surgeons (Dhanvantari) epitomized the eight main areas of ayurvedic studies and specialization during ancient times. The details of these eight branches of this natural alternative medicine are present in the three ancient ayurvedic texts of: Caraka, Susruta and Astanga Hridaya.


The Charaka Samhita is the most important scripture on kayachikitsa. It discussed the basic principles of treatment (mentioned above), various types of therapies and purification or detoxification methods i.e. pancakarma. But, its thrust area has been diagnosis of a disease. Detail account of various methods of diagnosis, study of various stages of symptoms and the comprehensive management of debilitating diseases like diabetes mellitus, tuberculosis, asthma and arthritic conditions have been laid out n the treatise.
Contrary to the modern concepts surgery was pioneered by ayurveda in ancient India. It is a significant branch of ayurveda. The name of the sage-physician Susruta is synonymous with surgery. From his treatise Susruta Samhita we come to know that thousand of years ago sophisticated methods of surgery were practiced in India. The original text of Susruta discusses in detail about an exhaustive range of surgical methods including about how to deal with various types of tumors, internal and external injuries, and bone fractures, complications during pregnancy and delivery, and obstruction in intestinal loop. Susruta was the first surgeon to develop cosmetic surgery. His surgical treatment for trichiasis can be to some of the modern operative techniques used for this eye disease.
The use of various surgical instruments is also described in the Susruta Samhita for the treatment. The instruments described were made from stone, wood and other such natural materials.
Agada tantra or Toxicology branch of ayurveda described about various methods of cleaning the poisons out of the body as well as recommends antidotes for particular poisons. It deals with a wide range of natural toxins originating from wild lives (animals, birds, insects etc.), plants/herbs (belladonna, aconite etc.), vegetables, minerals (leads, mercury, arsenal etc.) and artificial poisons prepared from poisonous drugs. This branch also deals with air and water pollution, which were known by the practitioners of Ayurveda as the basic causes of various dangerous epidemics. (The concept of viruses was not in evidence).
Rasayana to Rasasastra or Rasavidya some time between the 7th century and the 11th the Rasatantra had evolved as a full and formal discipline.
According to Acharya P.C. Ray the Buddhist tantras had emerged around the sixth - eighth centuries A.D. The Rasaratnakara has been dated by various scholars in the 8th century A.D. (Mira Roy and B.V. Subbarayappa, Introduction, Rasarnavakalpa, INSA, New Delhi, 1993 reprint, 2) However, the tradition seems to have developed within the Mahayanist Buddhism even before as Ray refers to a tantra MS from Japan which went from Central India around the sixth Century A.D. to China and from thence to Japan carried there by a Chinese monk, Kanshin, in the 8th century. (P.C. Ray, op. cit, 2002, Kolkata, vol 2, xxxv.) P.C. Ray however, places the Rasaratnakara around the 7th – 8th centuries. In fact the Siddha Yoga tantra text of Vrinda is dated by him to the 9th century. The 11th – 12th century texts on Rasavidya reveal developments in terms of the use of different apparatus or yantras for the alchemical processes. The Rasarnava mentions several of them with brief descriptions in some cases. (P.C. Ray, op. cit., reprint 2000, vol I, 65 – 69.) The experts in Rasavidya are referred to as Rasasiddhas in the early medieval and medieval texts on Rasatantra.
David Gordon White cites Guiseppe Tucci’s observation that the Siddhas were eminent personalities in medieval India’s esoterism and that they represent the ideal link between Saivism and Vajrayana. (David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions n Medieval India, University of Chicago Press, 1996, 80.). These Siddhas were mostly invoked in the later Rasatantra texts as experts. Among the Siddhas we get the names of Rasasiddhas, to begin with mostly Buddhist and later of Saiva – Sakta sects. Nagarjuna, the expert alchemist and composer of the Rasaratnakara is of solid pedigree in the tradition of Indian Rasavidya and in fact the tradition can be traced back to Rasartnakara only. Goraksa of Goraksa Samhita also has an imposing medieval reputation as a Siddha virtuoso. (Ibid, 123 ff) They are clearly not referred as bhisags nor are they linked with the Ayurvedic tradition.
SPIRIT OF ENQUIRY AND RATIONALISM: WAS IT ALL LOST?
Contrary to the popular perception that Indian civilization has been largely concerned with the affairs of the spirit and "after-life", India's historical record suggests that some of the greatest Indian minds were much more concerned with developing philosophical paradigms that were grounded in reality. The premise that Indian philosophy is founded solely on mysticism and renunciation emanates from a colonial and orientalist world view that seeks to obfuscate a rich tradition of scientific thought and analysis in India.
Much of the evidence for how India's ancient logicians and scientists developed their theories lies buried in polemical texts that are not normally thought of as scientific texts. While some of the treatises on mathematics, logic, grammar, and medicine have survived as such -- many philosophical texts enunciating a rational and scientific world view can only be constructed from extended references found in philosophical texts and commentaries by Buddhist and Jain monks. However, gradually from the Gupta period onwards, we note that there was a growing trend of regulating knowledge into some set disciplines and modes of dissemination, sanctioned as formal knowledge to be pursued by the higher castes and those with access to advantageous positions in the society. The theoretical works reveal a gradual creeping in of ritualistic and sastric dogma even in the practices related to sciences. This was evident in the shrinking of the texts on Ayurveda in matters of innovations; in the ritualization of the job of he builders; and in the development of an esoteric Rasasastra tradition.
The full circle of theoretical rasayana beginning with magical prescriptions in the Atharvaveda with glimpses of rational cognition and ending with a much more advanced, yet jumbled up concept of technical practices mixed up with esoteric religious beliefs – opium to the soul. However, in the process the concepts of Rasa had metamorphosed into a single item: mercury. While the alchemical concepts in the Rasatantra directed the perusal of substances, their properties and uses towards the surrealist path, the rational ideas about dravya and dhatu, obtained through the practical arts of metallurgy, pharmacy, cosmetology, cooking and distillation of wine etc, had found place in a separate genre of literature in the late medieval period. There was the appearance of innumerable texts devoted to the discussions on dravya and food, generally given the title Dravya Prakasa, Dravya Samgraha, etc. This body of literature emerged as a corollary to Ayurvedic knowledge.
In case of the treatises on architecture too the lacuna in technical knowledge reached serious dimensions if we observe between the lines of these texts A reading of the texts like Manasara and Mayamata reveal that the manuals were meant to be studied by the actual workmen or their director, not essentially for the technical details but for the ritual and astrological regulations. The lacuna in the treatises with regard to stage by stage technical discussion, therefore, can only be ascribed to the fact that the technicalities were not thought to be essential for inclusion, while the rituals were. There is a clear implication of the creation of a stylized format of knowledge, especially if we look at these treatises, which were declared to be focused on craft and technology. Compared to the vastu treatises, those on ayurveda are more elaborate in stating certain fundamental rules of human medical treatment processes and of the names and uses of specific herbs. However, they too are sometimes obscure and often do not reach of the standard of scientific manuals per se. The 6th century BC sulba sutras appear to belong to another genre by comparison.

AN EXAMPLE OF CONTINUED ENDEAVOUR TOWARDS SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS MADE BY UNKNOWN MULTITUDES OF ARTISANS IN METALLURGY:


Metallurgy and knowledge of gems and minerals often found a small niche among Dravya literature, however, no text was composed which was exclusively devoted to the science of either chemistry or metallurgy.
We may end with a brief reference to the feats achieved by the early medieval Indian metallurgists in order to illustrate the capacity that existed among the workmen of the times, whose knowledge remained within the bounds of their workroom and was not matched with by the formal preceptors of knowledge at the time, and whose deliberate exclusion resulted in the gap between technology and science.
Metallurgy has remained central to all civilizations, from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, and later. In ancient India, the science of smelting reached a high level of refinement and precision. In the 5th century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus observed that "Indian and the Persian army used arrows tipped with iron." Ancient Romans used armour and cutlery made of Indian iron. India has been reputed for its iron and steel since Greek and Roman times with the earliest reported finds of high-carbon steels in the world coming from the early Christian era, while Greek accounts report the manufacture of steel in India by the crucible process.
The corrosion free Mehrauli iron pillar made in the Gupta period is a marvel in example of the Indian ironsmiths’ excellence. Analyses have revealed that the pillar is a solid body with good mechanical strength ultimate tensile strength UTS of 23.9 tons/in and 5% elongation. The relatively high strength is indicative of the composite structure of the DIP iron. In fact, a cannon ball fired at the DIP in the 18th century (either by Nadir Shah in AD1739 or Ghulam Qadir in AD1787) failed to break the pillar [23], which also suggests that slag does not coat the individual lumps that were forge welded. The results of chemical, metallographic, physical and x-ray diffraction studies and atmospheric corrosion -- resistance exposure, salt spray attack test -- -on samples of the Delhi iron pillar and Adivasi iron are recorded. The high corrosion resistance of the samples appears to be related to the mode of smelting and their intimate kneading with each other during subsequent forging operations.
(Report from Conservation Information Network (BCIN) Author: A.K Lahiri,.; T. Banerjee, B.R. Nijhawan, "Some observations on the corrosion resistance of ancient Delhi iron pillar and present-time Adivasi iron made by primitive methods", National Metallurgical Laboratory Technical Journal (Jamshedpur, India) AATA Number: 5-4207, Volume Number: 5, Date of Publication: 1963.)
By the 10th – 11th centuries A.D. ironsmiths of southern India were producing the wootz steel. Wootz is the anglicized version of ukku in the languages of the states of Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, a term denoting steel. Literary accounts suggest that steel from the southern part of the Indian subcontinent was exported to Europe, China, the Arab world and the Middle East. In the 12th century the Arab Idrisi says ‘The Hindus excel in the manufacture of iron. It is impossible to find anything to surpass the edge from Indian steel’. The Geniza records of the 11th – 12th century A.D. reveal that Deccan exported steel to the Middle East. (S.D. Goitein, Studies in Islamic History and Institution, Leiden, 1966, 339, ref. no. 8). The literary references provide evidence that wootz steel was made by crucible processes over a fairly vast geographical area of Southern India and that wootz ingots were sent to places such as Persia. India was not only known during this period for its mastery in making the raw material of steel, but was also highly reputed for its swordsmithy as exemplified by accounts of the unsurpassed excellence of a swordsmith of Thanjavur.
Similar growth could be observed in the fields of agricultural science as related in the Vrksayurveda section first incorporated in a compendium (Brhatsamhita) by Varahamhira as a specific discipline and then enlarged upon as a single treatise by surapala. It seems Varahamihira laid the foundation of classifying tree diseases based on humors such as vata, pitta, and kapha, which were formalized in later centuries in Surapala’s Vrikshayurveda. This treatise dealt with arbori-horticulture and provides considerable information on topics such as importance of trees, soil types, classification of plants, seed, sowing, planting, plant protection recipes, nourishment, types of gardens, locating groundwater, and bio-indicators for suitability or otherwise for raising crops and animals. On the other hand a full technical treatise on rice cultivation the Krsiparasara - was composed in the 10th – 11th centuries.
Thus we find that while the growing gap between scientific enquiry and technological innovations was widening in all practical sense, the sciences which were closely integrated with human life like Ayurveda and Mathematics were accepted in the formal body of knowledge that all sanctified by the society could aspire for, many other branches of related sciences remained locked within the ken of the respective practitioners of the techniques and arts and crafts only. Scientific theories were not experimented upon in practice and thus science gradually took a backseat and, in the absence of applications of scientific theory in the form of technological outputs, technology too gradually lost its innovative springboard of intellection.



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