INDIA THE CRADLE OF SCIENCE, LITERATURE, AND ART

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INDIA THE CRADLE OF SCIENCE, LITERATURE, AND ART

“If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of the Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact, more truly human a life… again I should point to India.”

Max Müller,( German philologist and orientalist )

Today the world is poised to usher in a major scientific revolution. However, some historians particularly in the west have distorted facts to make everyone believe that India had been and still is a country of poverty, and illiteracy and hence incapable of advances in science and technology. It is conveniently forgotten by them, that India was the most civilised country in the world long before the Moghul and British inva­sions, and even centuries before the birth of Christ.

INDIA THE CRADLE OF SCIENCE, LITERATURE, AND ART

It is necessary to reveal to the world the triumphs in science, literature, music, art and architecture achieved by India centuries ago.

The first Indian university( the first in the world) was established in 700 BC at Takshashila( now in Pakistan about 40 km west of Rawal Pindi). It could impart learning in 60 subjects to about 10,500 students from all over the world. The great royal advisor, astute Politician, and philosopher, Chanakya( the Bismarck of ancient India) the grammarian Panini and the great  Ayurvedic physician Charaka were on the faculty of Takshashila.

The University of Nalanda, established in the fourth century BC was also a great centre for education. 

It is believed that there is a root language, related to Sanskrit, to which the origins of almost all European languages can be traced. 

The metrical grandeur of Sanskrit, the language of the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavat Gita and the Vedas and the excellence of rhyme and metre in Telugu, the sweetest Indian language, which Max Muller referred to as “The  Italian of the east” are unmatched by any other language except English.

In fact, Telugu is so sweet that Italian should be described as the Telugu of the west.

Rama with his wife Sita 
and brother Lakshmana during
exile in forest, manuscript, ca. 1780

Tamil is the oldest language in the world, older than even Sanskrit, Latin or Greek, and Hebrew. India can boast of great literary achievements. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey pale in comparison to the Ramayana and Mahabharata. In fact, the Mahabharata is eight times bigger than the Iliad and Odyssey put together The Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita are not rivalled by poetry in any other language with the exception of English. A mention must be made of the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore of the previous century, the first Indian Nobel Laureate. The impact of his genius and influence is felt in various fields, including music.

In addition, he has become part of the Indian psyche because he composed India’s national anthem.

Tanjavur-style Tambura

Coming to music India’s two great systems of classical music, Carnatic and Hindustani, based as they are on Raaga and Swara are unrivalled by other systems of classical music in the whole World.  Saint Thyagaraja, the great composer of Carnatic music has no equal in classical music- not even  Beethoven and Mozart of western classical music.

India’s achievements in architecture are revealed in the splendour of India’s great palaces, temples,( Amaravati, Ajanta, Ellora,  Khajuraho, and Konark) the beauty of Chola bronzes and the original Nataraja statue.

Statue depicting Aryabhata on the
grounds of IUCAAPune 

Let me revert to Sanskrit- many believe that it is the most suitable language for computer software today! India was once the centre of the world for astronomy and mathe­matics. The number system was invented by India. Aryabhatta, mathe­matician and astronomer, not only invented the concept of zero, but also introduced many other vital concepts such as the alphabetical system of expressing a number, rules relating to square root and cube root, and construction of trigonometric sine tables.

He wrote about the rotation of the earth and gave the most accurate value of Pi (symbol) as 3.141. The decimal and place system was known to Indians by 100 BC.

The word ” Navgathi” is the mother of the word ” navigation“.The first evidence of navigation can be traced to the river Sind 6000 years ago. Bhasker Acharya calculated the time taken for the Earth’s revolution as 365.2575648 days long before the age of Copernicus.

Branches of mathematics such as algebra and trigonometry came from ancient India. Sridharacharya discovered quadratic equations in the tenth century AD. Greeks and Romans could only conceive of 106 as the largest number whereas Indian mathematicians used the number as big as 10 to the power of 53 with specific nomenclatures as early as 5,000 BC.

To quote Albert Einstein” We owe a lot to the Indians who taught us how to count without which no worthwhile discovery could have been made”.

Charaka monument in the Patanjali
campus, India.

India’s early advances in the field of medicine were truly remarkable. Ayurveda is the earliest system of medicine known to man. Charaka, the father of Ayurveda, consolidated the discipline 2000 years ago. Another great scientist Sushruta pioneered surgery 2600 years ago. There is evidence to show that many complicated surgical procedures such as cataract, fractures, artificial limbs, and removal of urinary stones, were well known to Indian surgeons and physicians who also had an insight into digestion, anatomy and physiology. Over 125 pieces of surgical equipment were known to them as well as the healing power of many herbs, including some of which could cure insanity, jaundice and various stomach disorders.

For over a century the world had been regarding Marconi as the inventor of wireless communication. Now the US-based IEEE (Insti­tute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) believes on the basis of strong evidence that the true pioneer was Jagdish Chandra Bose and not Marconi.

The first reservoir and dam in the world were constructed in India at Saurashtra. There is evidence to show the earliest man-made lake was also constructed in Chandragupta Maurya’s time.

No wonder many western are beginning to realise that  India is the cradle of science, literature and art. 

Mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan, who for sheer manipulative ability in tangled algebra, does not have a rival except Jacobi and Abel, was born to poor parents in an obscure town in South India. Ramanujan had to fight adverse circumstances including poverty and lack of opportunity. By sheer luck, his genius was recognised by England’s great mathematician Hardy who invited him to Cambridge, where he created mathematical history. He died young but in his short life made spectacular discoveries in pure mathematics. Many of his theorems have opened up several new branches in mathematics, that will keep mathematicians busy for a hundred years. His equations will lead to new inventions and discoveries in various fields. 

Our greatest contribution to astro-physics was Nobel Laureate Chandrasekhar

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

He showed, somewhere in the mid-thirties of the previous century that there is a limit to the mass of a White Dwarf star called the “Chandrasekhar limit” which is 1.4 times the mass of the sun.  Only If its mass remains below the limit, it will remain a white dwarf star. 

Chandrasekhar’s illustrious uncle Sir C.V. Raman, discovered Raman Effect for which he was given the Nobel Prize in 1930. He found that when monochromatic light was passed through a trans­parent substance some of the light is scattered. The spectrum of the scattered light contains weaker lines in addition to the original wave­length. These lines are caused by the loss or gain of the energy of photons as a result of this interaction with vibrating molecules of the substance

Raman sent two papers to the journal Nature positing that the colour of the sea was due to light scattering by the water molecules—a phenomenon he called molecular diffraction.

The Raman Effect has a wide range of uses e.g it is a powerful tool to analyse the molecular structure.

Jagdish Chandra Bose was an eminent scientist generally known for his experiments explaining the response of plants to stimuli. However, what is not known is the fact that he is believed to have invented a wireless transmission system before Marconi! He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1920.

Satyendranath Bose put forth a theory explaining the behaviour of subatomic particles. His work on quantum statistics applicable to particles with integral spin is also known as Bose-Einstein statistics because of Einstein’s association with the same discovery. 

Meghnad Saha‘s work on stellar spectra is very useful in determining either the temperature of a star or the relative abundance of the chemi­cal elements being investigated. The Saha equation explains how the various observed spectra of stars are related to their respective tempera­tures. Saha ought to have been given the Nobel Prize

Hargobind Khurana was the third Indian scientist to win a Nobel Prize (1968). Crick and Watson, had elucidated the structure of DNA in molecular biology. The four bases guanine, thiamine and cytosine present in the DNA chain are read sequentially in groups of three codons—since there are 21 amino and 4 bases, coding was done in the form of triplets. His synthesis of the gene is of paramount importance in Molecular biology.

Khurana succeeded in synthesising all the 64  codons. 

Homi Bhabha described the ways of determining the proba­bility of electron-positron scattering in an atom. He explained the phenomenon of Cascade ray showers in cosmic rays.

Bhabha was a man of vision who supervised India’s nuclear energy programme and was the first chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Com­mission.

Vikram Sarabhai did useful work on the time variation of cosmic rays and set up the space science and technology centre near Thumba. Indian scientists have put satellites in orbit. 

Research institutes and universities like Indian Institute of Science and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, and Raman Research Institute have churned out very good researchers and their work is published in various international journals.

Indian engineers from the Institutes of Technology are making their presence felt in multinationals, and companies that specialise on internet- related services from Silicon Valley to New York, in the United States. Also, many of our doctors are scattered throughout the United States as well as the United Kingdom.

In addition, Indian Scientists have achieved significant triumphs in various scientific disciplines. 

Venky Ramakrishnan originally from Cambridge shared the Nobel prize for Chemistry with  Thomas A Steitz and Ada Yonath, in 2009. for his studies of the structure and functions of the Ribosome. He is currently the President of the Royal Society – the only Indian ever to adorn that chair.

Manjul Bhargava has won the Fields Medal in mathematics. This is given to 3 or 4 persons below the age of 40, once every four years, it is considered as prestigious as the Nobel Prize.

Ramachandran standing next
to the original mirror box

Vilayanur Ramachandran,  who is currently the Head of the Brain and Perception Laboratory in the University of California at San Diego invented a “mirror box” to treat phantom limb pain which people experience in an amputated limb.

This is already being used in big hospitals like Walter Reed. The “mirror box” also figures  in the popular television series” Grey’s Anatomy”

A new generation of Indian novelists has made its mark in literature-e.g Kushwant Sing, Amrita Pritam, R.K. Narayan, Ruskin Bond, Dom Moraes, and Chetan Bhagat, who is the biggest selling English Novelist in India’s history.

So then India has to maintain the tempo in all these fields to remain in the forefront as an advanced nation with scientific, literary artistic achievements that will be the envy of less successful nations.

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