Ancient India has a massive contribution to the fields of Mathematics and Science, including Medical Science, Ayurveda, Yoga, Astronomy, Astrology, etc. Surprisingly, scientific knowledge has evolved in ancient India, so many years ago.
MATHEMATICS & ASTRONOMY
During the ancient period in India, science and mathematics were highly developed. Most interestingly many theories which the modern-day mathematician follow were actually known to ancient Indians. However, the work and contribution of ancient Indian mathematicians did not find the place in the modern western world as they were not keen on the documentation. Moreover, the western world ruled over most of the world for a long time, which empowered them to claim superiority in every way, including in the field of knowledge.
Later the western world rediscovered his several concepts in Mathematics. Most importantly, he is the one who calculated the value of pi. Hence, pi is useful in calculating the area and circumference of a circle. Even the Pythagoras theorem that we know today is already found in Baudhayan’s Sulva Sutra, which was written several years before the age of Pythagoras.
Aryabhatta belongs to the fifth century who is a well-acclaimed mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, and physicist. Hence, he is the pioneer of mathematics. Aryabhattiya which he wrote at the age of 23 is a summary of mathematics of his time. His scholarly work has four sections where the first section, he describes the method of denoting big decimal numbers by alphabets. In the second section, includes the difficult questions related to the modern-day Mathematics like number theory, geometry, trigonometry and Beejganita (algebra).
The other two remaining sections are on astronomy. Aryabhatta showed that zero was not a numeral only but also a symbol and a concept. To find out the exact distance between the earth and the moon Aryabhatta used zero.
Therefore, the discovery of zero also opened up a new dimension of negative numerals. As we have seen, the last two sections of Aryabhattiya were on Astronomy. Aryabhatta also contributed greatly to the field of science, especially Astronomy.
In ancient India, the science of astronomy was well advanced which is Khagolshastra. Khagol was the famous astronomical observatory at Nalanda, where Aryabhatta studied.
Brahmgupta is a popular mathematician who belonged to the 7th century. He propounded methods of multiplication where he also used place value in the same way used today.
The mathematician even introduced negative numbers and operations on zero into mathematics. Most importantly he also authored Brahm Sputa Siddantika through which the Arabs came to know our mathematical system.
The leading light of 12th Century Bhaskaracharya wrote a book Siddhanta Shiromani. He was born in Bijapur, Karnataka. The book includes four sections: Beejaganit (Algebra), Lilavati (Arithmetic), Goladhyaya (Sphere) and Grahaganit (mathematics of planets).
He introduced Chakrawat Method or the Cyclic Method to solve algebraic equations. However, even after six centuries, a European mathematician rediscovered the inverse cycle method.
During the 19th century, an English man, James Taylor, translated Lilavati (Arithmetic) and made this great work known to the world.
The Jain Guru, Mahaviracharya wrote the first textbook on arithmetic Ganit Sara Sangraha in 850A.D. Moreover, in Jain literature (500 B.C -100 B.C) there is an elaborate description of mathematics. Jain gurus even knew how to solve quadratic equations. The ancient literature also described algebraic equations, fractions, set theory, series, and exponents in a very interesting manner. He also described the current method of solving the Least Common Multiple (LCM). Thus, long before John Napier introduced it to the world, Indians already knew about it.
Ancient Indians have immensely contributed in the field of Science. Let us explain the contribution of some scientists of ancient India.
Kanad was a sixth-century scientist of Vaisheshika School. The Vaisheshika School was one of the six systems of Indian philosophy. Originally he was called Aulukya but he got the name Kanad for his keen interest in very minute particles called “kana” since his childhood. Even in the sixth century, he propounded the atomic theory that matches any modern atomic theory.
In his theory, Kanad mentioned that the material universe is made up of kanas, (anu/atom) which is not visible to the human eye. Hence, they are indivisible and indestructible.
Varahamihira us a well-known scientist from the Gupta period. His great contribution to the fields of hydrology, geology, and ecology is a milestone for India.
Most interestingly, he was the first scientist to claimed that termites and plants could indicate the presence of underground water. Moreover, he also suggested a list of six animals and thirty plants which were the indicators of the presence of water.
The theory explains the fact that termites that destroys wood go deep down to the surface of water level to bring water to keep their houses we
He also propounded the earthquake cloud theory which he mentioned in his Bharat Samhita. The theory suggests the fact that earthquakes influence planets, undersea activities, underground water, unusual cloud formation and abnormal behavior of animals. Even Varahamihira contributed to Jyotish or Astrology. Since ancient times until today astrology has continued. Jyotish means the science of light, originated with the Vedas. Aryabhatta and Varahamira explained the scientific concept of astrology.
In the court of the King Vikramaditya, Varahamihira was one of the nine gems. Moreover, all his astrological predictions were so accurate that king Vikramaditya gave him the title of ‘Varaha’.
Nagarjuna belonged to the tenth-century scientist. His experiment mainly aimed to transform base elements into gold, like the alchemists in the western world. However, he did not succeed in his endeavor but he made an element with gold-like shine. So, this technology is still used in making imitation jewelry. In his treatise, Rasaratnakara, he has discussed methods for the extraction of metals like gold, silver, tin, and copper.
MEDICAL SCIENCE IN ANCIENT INDIA (AYURVEDA & YOGA)
The literal meaning of the word Ayurveda means the science of good health and longevity of life. Ayurveda not only treats diseases but it also finds the cause and symptoms of the ailment. This ancient system of medicine guides for the healthy as well as sick.
According to Ayurveda, it defines health as an equilibrium in three doshas. So, diseases disturb the three doshas. Therefore, the herbal medicines strike at the roots to remove the disease.
The oldest medical book in the world is Atreya Samhita. Sushruta also called the father of surgery and Charak as the father of ayurvedic medicine.
During the ancient period Susruta, Charak, Madhava, Vagbhatta and Jeevak were noted, ayurvedic practitioners. However, in the later centuries the western origin Allopathy gained its ground.
Sushruta the pioneer of surgery considered it “the highest division of the healing arts and least liable to fallacy”. He studied human anatomy by dissecting the dead body. In Susruta Samhita, there is a mention of over 1100 diseases including jaundice of eight kinds, fevers of twenty-six kinds and urinary complaints of twenty kinds. He also described over 760 plants where all parts, roots, bark, juice, resin, flowers, etc. were used.
Even today, as a household remedy we use sesame, cinnamon, cardamom, peppers, ginger. The Susruta Samhita also described the method of selecting and preserving a dead body for the purpose of its detailed study.
In those days, the punishment for the culprit was cutting off the nose or soldiers lost their limbs in battles. Henceforth, restoration of limbs lost in wars was a great blessing.
In Susruta Samhita, there is a very accurate step-by-step description of these operations.
Moreover, Susruta Samhita also illustrates 101 instruments used in surgery.
The father of the ancient Indian science of medicine, Charak was the Raj Vaidya (royal doctor) in the court of Kanishka. He wrote Charak Samhita which is a remarkable book on medicine. This book describes a large number of diseases and also gives methods of identifying their causes as well as treatment.
In the history of medical science, Charak first talked about digestion, metabolism, and immunity as important for health. Charak Samhita emphasizes more on removing the cause of disease rather than simply treating the illness. He even had knowledge about the fundamentals of Genetics.
Yoga & Patanjali
The science of Yoga is an allied science of Ayurveda for healing without medicine at the mental and physical level.
The word Yoga has been derived from the Sanskrit work Yoktra which literally means “yoking the mind to the inner self after detaching it from the outer subjects of senses”.
The inception of yogic science is deeprooted in the Vedas. Yoga defines Chitta which means dissolving thoughts, desires, and emotions of a person’s consciousness. Yoga is a practice of physical as well as a mental exercise. Physical yoga or Hathyoga aims at removing disease and maintaining a healthy body. On the other hand, Rajayoga is a mental yoga that leads to self-realization and liberation from bondage by achieving emotional and spiritual balance.
In ancient times yoga was passed on from one sage to another through word of mouth. Patanjali is credited with a systematic presentation of this great science.