Did the Muslim Invasion Destroy the Scientific Tradition in India?(Reality versus Myth-4)

This is fourth article on  “SCIENCE IN ANCIENT INDIA Reality versus Myth” series. We think history of science should be analyzed unbiasedly and should not be used in a propagandist way. Collective effort is required to stop spreading of lies and to protect the history from manipulation. These articles are being published keeping that goal in front.

In recent times it is being claimed that the reason behind the decline
and fall of Indian science were the Muslim invasions. It is said that the
Muslim rulers destroyed the scientific books and institutions, resulting
in the decline of science. We have seen that the great scientist Acharya
Prafulla Chandra Ray attributed entirely different reasons to the decline
of science in India. But is it factually true that the Muslim rule had a
negative influence on the cultivation of science?
To seek the answer, let us first look at the relationship between the two
cultures. It was the Muslim scholar Al-Khwarizmi who took zero and the
place value system to the Islamic world, and Europe got to know about it
in the 12th century through Arab texts! In the 9th century, translations
of Sushrutha and Charaka Samhita appeared in Arabic. Ayurveda was
partly absorbed into Arabic medicine. The great scholar Al Biruni learned
Sanskrit in exile and translated Brahmagupta’s book (Sindh-Hind) in the
year 1035. The book is an encyclopedic treatise on Indian sciences,
philosophy and astronomy. The efforts of Al-Khwarizmi and Al-Biruni
resulted in an exchange of ideas between the two cultures and the Arab
world looked at Indian science with respect and drew inspiration from
its developments. In this background, is it believable that, when Muslim


Statue of Al Khwarizmi in Uzbekistan


rulers came to India, they would destroy the things that their own scholars
revered so deeply?
The second issue concerns timing. We have seen that the decline
of Indian science started in the 9th-10th centuries and was practically
dead after the 12th century. Yet, at that time the Muslim rulers were
only making inroads through the Western fringes and had not yet established
themselves in a major part of the subcontinent. The first
conquest happened in the early 11th century, whenMahmud of Ghazni
defeated Raja Jayapala of the Hindu Shahi Dynasty of Gandhara (in
modern Afghanistan), and advanced as far as Peshawar (now in Pakistan).
In 1173,Muhammad Ghori launched an offensive from the Ghor region of
Afghanistan and by 1187 defeated the Ghazni rulers. In 1192 he defeated
Prithviraj of Ajmer and expanded his empire to a part of western India.
Delhi Sultanate was founded by his successors around 1206. QutbUd
Din Aibak, a slave of Ghori, became the first Sultan of Delhi. Timurlane
invaded Delhi in 1398. He looted, plundered, but did not establish a
rule there. Babur Shah entered India in 1526 and established the Mughal
dynasty. The Mughal Empire succeeded in conquering much of India.

Thus we see that the Muslim rulers were not ruling much of India
during the onset of the decline of science. It was only in the 13th century
that the Delhi Sultanate was first established, and the Mughals set foot
only in the 16th century.
Thus, there is every reason to believe that the reason behind the
decline and fall of Indian science was internal. There is no point in
blaming an imaginary culprit.



*This article was published in the book “Science in Ancient India—Reality versus Myth” published by Breakthrough Science Society.

**Articles will be published one by one in the course of time.

Curiosity Circle Monthly Talk- A March For Science Follow Up, Topic: Science, Rational thought and Justice in Indian Society

Dear all,
Curiosity Circle continues with its series of engaging talks with this month’s public talk by Dr. Ram Puniyani on “Science, Rational thought and Justice in Indian Society”. We look forward to your presence.

Speaker: Dr. Ram Puniyani, former Professor, Biomedical Engineering, IIT-B


Topic:  Science, Rational thought and Justice in Indian Society


Date & Time: 13th October 2018, Saturday at 5:00 pm.


Venue:  PF AG 14, Annabhau Sathe Bhawan, University of Mumbai, Kalina Campus, Santacruz East, Mumbai – 400098

[Nearest Railway stations: Kurla, Santacruz, Bandra.

Bus route nos to reach University main gate.:

From Santacruz Station- 306 LTD route 1, 306 LTD route 2, 313 route 1, 213, 433, 507 LTD, 517 LTD, 318

From Kurla Station- 313 route 1, 313 route 2, 37, 318, 330 LTD]


Entry is free


Curiosity Circle, a gathering of the public, meets once every month, on second Saturday, to engage with  an eminent speaker on an idea,  to understand how scientific exploration helps us to resolve some of the basic questions of society.



What is the talk on:

India has a rich tradition of growth in science and rational thought. Starting from Charvak, to Charat, Aryabhat and other thinkers enriched the Indian rational tought process. The early science of MAthematics and discovery of zero here had to do with laying the foundations of rational thinking. The process of Modern Science also takes off in India the introdcution of modern education. After Independence our Constitution gave the direction of promotion of scientific temper. The foundations of CSIR, IITs, BARC and later space research gave a big leap to Indian science.

Today the contribution of Indian science Institutions in the development of the country is a matter of great acknowledgement. With rational thought has also grown the social processes which called for justice in the society. Gautam Buddha who called for equality was talking of rational thought. SImilarly Ambedkar and Nehru, the major figures to call for justice in society based their understanding on rational thinking. Indian freedom movement on one hand was anti-colonial and on the other based on equality and justice. It is due to this that the striving for justice has been the major aspiration of our freedom movement, and these values find a prominent place in our Constitution.


Who is the Speaker:

Dr. Ram Puniyani (born 25 August 1945) is a former professor of biomedical engineering and former senior medical officer affiliated with the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay. HGe began his medical career in 1973 and served IIT in various capacities for 27 years, beginning 1977. In December 2004, he took voluntary retirement to work full-time for communal harmony in India. He is involved with human rights activities, communal harmony and initiatives to oppose the rising tide of fundamentalism in India. He is associated with the organisations All-India Secular Forum, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism and ANHAD. In 2006, he was awarded the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.


The talk would be followed by another 45 mins of discussion.

We would appreciate your presence for the talk and would be glad if you could invite others too who would take interest to participate in such talks. Let us gather together to question our long held answers.


Thanking you,


— CuriosityCircle Mumbai team

SCIENCE IN ANCIENT INDIA Reality versus Myth-3


This is third article on  “SCIENCE IN ANCIENT INDIA Reality versus Myth” series. We think history of science should be analyzed without any biasness and should not be used in a propagandist way. Collective effort is required to stop spreading of lies and to protect the history from manipulation. These articles are being published keeping that goal in front.

Stem cells, organ transplantation, genetic


Claims have been made in different quarters. It has been claimed
that the birth of one hundred Kauravas by Mother Gandhari was possible
with the help of ‘stem cell’ technology. It has been claimed that Karna’s
birth was possible due to development in genetic engineering. It has been
claimed that the ancients knew the technology of organ transplantation—
how else could an elephant’s head be planted on a human torso to give
shape to Lord Ganesha?
The claim of organ transplantation in ancient India is baseless, because
placing of elephant’s head on human body is quite impossible. In
spite of the huge development of human knowledge, one cannot defy
natural laws. We can only know the natural laws and can use them for
the benefit of humankind. The nervous system and the blood circulation
system of an elephant and of a man are entirely different. The nerves,
veins and arteries are positioned differently. That is why, if one places
the head of an elephant on the neck of aman, the nervous pathways and
the blood circulation channels cannot be connected, and so this organic
transplantation is impossible. Moreover, the ability of an elephant’s brain
is far inferior to that of the human brain. Even if such a transplant were
possible, the resulting being would not be capable of thinking. Even
placing a severed human head to a human torso is still not achievable.
Similar are the tales of Kunti’s hundred sons and the birth of Karna.
These are just mythological stories, and any attempt to find scientific
meaning to these leads to many inconsistencies. In Mahabharata, the
story of Karna’s birth goes as follows. As a young woman Kunti had been
granted a boon by sage Durvasa to be able to invoke any deity to give her
a child. Eager to test the power, while still unmarried, she called upon the
solar deity Surya and was handed a son Karna wearing armour (Kavacha)
and a pair of earrings (Kundala). Afraid of being an unwed mother and
having a bastard, Kunti placed the baby in a basket and set him afloat on
a river. Does it sound like she went to a biotechnology laboratory to have
the baby?


And quantum mechanics, particle physics,


It is also being opined in various quarters that most of the ideas of
modern science—particularly quantum mechanics, particle physics, electromagnetic
theory, and the theory of relativity—were discovered by the
Vedic sages many millennia before these were “rediscovered” by modern
science. The proponents cite a few Sanskrit shlokas which contain words
like kana (particle), taranga (wave), shakti (energy), etc.
Prof. S. Balachandra Rao calls these “squeezing science out of the
Vedas” [7]. The actual meaning of the Sanskrit texts have no relation with
what they are claimed to be in an overzealous spirit of religious revivalism.
For example, there is a Rigveda mantra:
Yuvam padave puruvaaramashvinaa spridham shwetam
tarutaaram duvasyathah
sharyairabhidyumpritanaasu dushtaram
charkrityamindramiva charshaneesaham

                                                      (Rig VedaMandala 1, Shukta 119,Man. 10)

From this shloka Dayananda Saraswati extracts the meaning “Learn
the secret of telegraphy the benefits of which are manifold. It helps to
produce quick locomotion to achieve best results. The wire must be made
of pure metal charged with electricity. It can be used again and again
after charging with electricity.” But the actualmeaning of the shloka is:
“O Ashwi, you give the king Padu the white horse, which was desired by
all and which was capable of defeating the enemies. The unconquerable,
brilliant and multi-purpose horse was like Indra who triumphed over
Most of the references to ancient texts are of similar nature. Mostly
the Sanskrit texts are misrepresented or wrongly translated to fit certain
whimsical ideas. In many cases the text only contain words that have
commonplace meanings (like “wave”—which could simply mean the
waves seen on the surface of a pond, but are lifted out of context to mean
electromagnetic waves).

There are two theoretical reasons why these knowledge could not
have been obtained in antiquity. Firstly, all developments in science occur
on the basis of some earlier knowledge. In order to have an understanding
of electromagnetic waves, one has to know the character of electricity as
well as of magnetism and the laws governing their mutual interaction.
Einstein could formulate the arguments that led to the theory of relativity
based on the knowledge of the Newtonian mechanics and Maxwell’s
theory of electromagnetism. Quantum mechanics could be developed
only after we learned about radioactivity, photo electricity, and the character
of radiation emerging out of heated substances. None of these
developments happened in knowledge isolation. In fact, no development
in science can happen without the benefit of earlier knowledge. And
when the fringe groups make claim of some discovery in the antiquity,
they never make any claim on the antecedent discoveries.
Secondly, all these claims come only after a particular discovery has
been made by modern science. The fringe groups talk about the discovery
of atom bombs, aircraft, or theory of fundamental particles only after
these discoveries have been made by modern science. If these were really
discovered in the antiquity and are available in the Vedic literature, why
cannot someone make the discoveries using the Vedic texts? Why has
that never happened? That is because this knowledge was not there in the
antiquity. It cannot be there because knowledge advances progressively,
each generation making new advances on the basis of the knowledge
gained by the previous generation.


*This article was published in the book “Science in Ancient India—Reality versus Myth” published by Breakthrough Science Society.

**Articles will be published one by one in the course of time.


SCIENCE IN ANCIENT INDIA Reality versus Myth-2

Was the Ram Setu really built by Lord Rama?


According to the Ramayana, Lord Rama had built a bridge to reach the
island kingdom of Lanka with the help of his vanara-sena or the army of
monkeys. Citing a satellite image of the region between Tamil Nadu and
Sri Lanka (Fig-1), the fringe groups are claiming that the mythological
Ram setu really exists and assert that it is an ancient engineering marvel.
Regarding the so-called ‘Ram Setu’ it may be stated that the Archaeological
Survey of India has concluded and even reported to the Supreme
Court of India that there is no scientific evidence that the Ram Setu ever
existed. The fringe groups have misinterpreted the images taken by the
NASA. Refuting their claims the NASA spokesman Michael Braukus said:
“The age, substratum, geological structure or anthropological status of
the ocean bed in Palk strait cannot be determined by the astronauts’
photographs. So there is no basis for these claims.” Another NASA officer
Mark Hess said, “Remote sensing images or photographs from orbit
cannot provide direct information about the origin or age of a chain of
islands, and certainly cannot determine whether humans were involved
in producing any of the patterns seen.” He added, “The mysterious
bridge was nothingmore than a 30 km long, naturally-occurring chain of
sandbanks called Adam’s bridge. NASA had been taking pictures of these
shoals for years. Its images had never resulted in any scientific discovery
in the area.” [Source: Photos no proof of Ram Setu; The Hindustan Times,
14 September – 2007]
The fact is that such naturally occurring bridges between two landmasses
occur at many places in the world (see Fig-2), and are called
Tombolo. These form because the ocean currents are impeded by the
existence of an island on the way, causing movement of suspended
matter like silt and sand from one place to another and deposition at
specific places. As waves near an island, they are slowed by the shallow


Fig-1:A satellite picture showing the submerged tombolo between the
Southern tip of India and Sri Lanka

water surrounding it. These waves then bend around the island to the
opposite side as they approach. The wave pattern created by this water
movement causes a convergence of longshore drift on the opposite side
of the island, resulting in deposition of sediments. The beach sediments
that are moving by lateral transport on the lee side of the island will
accumulate there. Eventually, when enough sediment has built up, the
beach shoreline connects with an island and forms a tombolo.
Interestingly, a few videos are being circulated on YouTube
which claim that the monkey-army built the bridge with the help of stones
that float. The videos apparently show a stone floating in water. It is
known that all stones have specific gravity greater than that of water, and
so stones cannot float. However, there are some rocks formed out of
solidification of volcanic material, where air pockets are trapped. Hence


Figure-2: Examples of tombolos in different parts of the world. Would
the proponents of “Ram-setu” theory have us believe that these were also
constructed by monkey-armies of those lands?


these rocks, called geodes, are hollow—giving them a lower specific
gravity. But even geodes have specific gravity exceeding that of water,
and cannot float—though the possibility exists that in extremely rare
circumstances such amount of air may be trapped that may make them
float. But abundance of such rocks in sufficient numbers to forma 40 km
long bridge is impossible.
Moreover, can one really build bridges with floating rocks? Won’t the
flowing water move them away and scatter them around as soon as these
are placed to float in the ocean? The fringe groups are hoodwinking the
people with such videos, shot using artificial material constituting the
“rock” (possibly fiber-glass) and/or “water” (probably some transparent
liquid with larger density).


*This article was published in the book “Science in Ancient India—Reality versus Myth” published by Breakthrough Science Society.

**Articles will be published one by one in the course of time.



The part of the world which is known today as India had a rich
scientific tradition in the past. When we study the relics of the ancient
times—from the pre-Vedic Indus Valley civilization, through the Vedic
age and to the post-Vedic or Siddhantic period—we find evidence of this
scientific tradition. This land witnessed a gradual enrichment of human
knowledge about nature and the natural processes, each generation
building on the knowledge acquired by the earlier ones. In certain periods,
the social conditions and the prevalent philosophical outlook accelerated
the pace of development of science in this land, and in some other times
it retarded the process.
Yet, instead of being proud of this scientific heritage and building
on it, we are witnessing a disturbingly growing trend. The spread of
unscientific beliefs is on the rise and ludicrous claims are being made
about the achievements in of science in ancient India. In particular, a
fanciful picture of the Vedic period is being painted with the express view
to foment obscurantismand religious jingoism, which, if successful, will
strike the death knell of the development of a scientific culture in India.
Here we intend to do a thorough reality check. What were
the real contributions of this land in science? We approach this question
with an unprejudiced mind, and rely only on dependable and objective
evidence to piece together the achievements in different areas of science
and technology, in different periods of our history. We also examine the
credibility of the various myths being deliberately created and circulated
by passing off mythology as history.
We hope that these articles will contribute to creating scientific and
secular ethos in the country, left to us by the great personalities of the
Renaissance and the Indian freedom struggle.

Were there flying machines in ancient India?


In addition to the above, many other wild claims are being made in
different forums. Importantly, the following claims were made in the
Indian Science Congress held in Mumbai from 3rd to 7th January 2015.

1. Ancient Indian sages built cars and airplanes in Vedic period around
7000 years ago.
2. Those planes could move forward as well as backward and in left and
right directions.
3. The planes used mercury vapour, solar energy, as well as atmospheric
air as fuel.
4. These planes could travel not only from one country to other but also
to other planets.
5. Some of the planes were over 200 feet. Five-storied Sundara Vimana
could fly with a speed of 12800 mph with a fuel made of urine of cows
and elephants.
6. The pilots’ clothes were made of underwater vegetation.

These claims were made on the basis of a book titled Vaimanika
Shastra claimed to have been written by a mythological figure—Maharshi
Bhardwaj. Five scientists of the Aeronautical Engineering Department
of the Indian institute of Science, Bangalore—Prof. J. S. Mukund, S. M.
Deshpande, H. R. Nagendra, A. Prabhu and S. P. Govindraj—studied the
book carefully and wrote a research paper titled, ‘Critical Study of the
Work Vaimanika Shastra’, which was published in 1974. They proved that
the so called Vaimanika Shastra was not written 7000 years ago, rather
it was the brain-child of a Sanskrit scholar Subbaraya Shastri who wrote
it in 1923! This book was made public in 1951 by Sri A. M. Joysar, the
founder of International Sanskrit Academy ofMysore. The sketches of the
planes depicted in the book (some of which are shown in Fig. 6.2) were
drawn by Sri Alappa, a draftsman of an engineering college of Bangalore
and inserted in the English edition of this book in 1973. They proved
that it was not possible for those planes to fly according to the laws of
aerodynamics and Newton’s laws of motion; any plane manufactured
based on these ideas would surely have met with a horrible accident.
Earlier in his book Rigveda Bhaashya Bhoomika,MaharishiDayananda
Saraswati tried to establish that flying machines existed in India during
the Vedic period by citing the following mantra:

… Trayah skambhaasah skabhitaasah aarabhe
trirnaktam yaathastrirvityashwinaa diwaa…
(Rig. ashta 1; adh. 3; varga 4; man.2)
He translates it as “… going from one island to another with these (air-)
crafts in three days and nights …”


fig: The sketches of the so-called Rukma Vimana, Shakuna Vimana,
                                  Sundara Vimana, and Tripura Vimana.

While Dayananda Saraswati sees “aircraft” in the mantras, it is interesting
to see what the celebrated commentator Saayana had to say on this shloka:

“There are three wheels to your honey-bearing chariot as all
the gods have known it to be when attending the marriage of Vena, the
beloved of Soma; O Ashwins, there are three pillars fixed in the chariot
for support and in it thrice you drive by night and thrice by day.”

Dayananda Saraswati had wrongly translated the Sanskrit text to fit his
fanciful ideas.
If the claimed aeroplanes really existed at some time in the past, some
relics—metallic fragments of the engines, wings, and other components—
must be found in the archaeological sites. None has been found so far—
not a single broken piece. Again, if ancient India possessed planes and
modern war-machinery, why could it not defeat the invaders? There is no
answer to such natural questions.
The most important point is that the idea of a technological marvel
like an aeroplane does not emerge out of nothing. Only when our understanding
of the laws of thermodynamics, aerodynamics, metallurgy and a
host of other fields developed to a certain extent, the idea of construction
of a flying machine could develop. Ideas from all these fields go into the
making of an aircraft. Hence it is not possible for aircraft to exist in ancient
India unless the knowledge in these fields developed before that. There is
no evidence of any advancement in aerodynamics, thermodynamics etc.
in the Vedic literature (interestingly, the proponents have not claimed
that also).
Anybody conversant with rudimentary chemistry knows that the
urine of cows and elephants cannot be used as fuel. Mercury vapour
also cannot be used as fuel because it does not produce heat when it
reacts with oxygen. Air aids burning because of the presence of oxygen in
it, but cannot itself be used as fuel. Solar energy can provide power for
various purposes, but the rate at which solar energy is incident on the
Earth’s surface (about 1 kW/m2) is not sufficient to power aircraft made
with metal.
The drawings of the aircraft in the book Vaimanika Shastra (Fig. 6.2)
show propellers. Even if we assume that propellers had been invented by
the Vedic sages, they cannot work in vacuum. How can such aircraft fly to
other planets? Anybody conversant with anthropology knows that 7000 years ago
man was still in the stone age. Would the proponents have us believe that
the aircraft were made of stone?


*This article was published in the book “Science in Ancient India—Reality versus Myth” published by Breakthrough Science Society.

**Articles will be published one by one in the course of time.