India lives in its past. It has been one of the earliest civilizations which had made earliest advancements and progress in many areas such as art, literature, philosophy, medicine, religion and spiritual aspects, astronomy, mathematics, metallurgy, science and technology. There are many literary, and material(not as many) evidences and sources to prove this. Indology studies many facets India.
Since industrial revolution, western countries have made huge advancements in science and technology. The whole world is seeing them, and also benefiting from them, whereas India’s contribution to this has in last 200-300 years has been very negligible. Now this has many reasons, including India being under siege of British for long time. So called Indian Renaissance, and awareness of India’s glorious past, and the fact that India lagging behind on the modern advancements, various people started thinking on the lines searching their pride in India’s past. This has lead a keen interest to study, postulate, prove India’s progress on science and technology.
There two schools of thoughts on this, among experts and Indologists. I, myself, having studied Indology, have witnessed few times severe debates on whether India’s past had any scientific and technological achievements. The famous example is that ancient Indians new how to fly areoplanes, by giving references to pushpak viman from literature texts such as Ramayana and others. We also come across messages floating on forums such as WhatsApp, listing India’s achievements in the past. I feel that we need to be pragmatic, and follow approach of going under the hood and talk based on facts and evidences, rather than being emotional about it.
Deccan College in Pune which is premier and one of earliest institutes studying archaeology, India’s ancient past, has arranged a international conference on the same topic. The conference is titled ASTRA 2016(Ancient Science and Technology-Retrospection and Aspirations). The glance at the agenda will inform you extent and range of the topics being discussed and presented. Some of the are very unique, new and interesting. For example, a paper titled “Experimental comparison of Agasthya Batteries with Contemporary Batteries”, a paper on ancient ports and jetties(obvious reference here is to Dholveera), ancient techniques on weather forecast and few others. It is surprising to me that I don’t see any papers on pure chemistry topics.
Such conferences and seminars on ancient Indian science and technology keep taking place every now and then. Even recently concluded Mysore’s Indian Science Congress covered some topics on this. I, myself, have witnessed few of such conferences and seminars. One them was very interesting. It was a open public debate on the opposite views on ancient Indian science and technology. Attending open public debate was one such thing I have never done in the past, except my school days where these are very popular. I will write more about it later. My point is that we need go beyond such conferences and seminars. We need to take concrete steps to apply, re-apply those advancements in science and technology in modern contexts. I know a least one such organization making efforts on this direction. This is Pradyna Vikas Sanstha and is spearheaded by Satish Kulkarni.
Eager to hear back from you on this topic and your experiences.