"India is the world's most ancient civilization. Nowhere on earth can you find such a rich and multi-layered tradition that has remained unbroken and largely unchanged for at least five thousand years. Bowing low before the onslaught of armies, and elements, India has survived every invasion, every natural disaster, every mortal disease and epidemic, the double helix of her genetic code transmitting its unmistakable imprint down five millennia to no less than a billion modern bearers. Indians have demonstrated greater cultural stamina than any other people on earth. The essential basis of Indian culture is Religion in the widest and most general sense of the world. An intuitive conviction that the Divine is immanent in everything permeated every phase of life" says Stanley Wolpert.

Indic civilization has enriched every art and science known to man. Thanks to India, we reckon from zero to ten with misnamed "Arabic" numerals (Hindsaa - in Arabic means from India), and use a decimal system without which our modern computer age would hardly have been possible.

Science and philosophy were both highly developed disciplines in ancient India. However, because Indian philosophic thought was considerably more mature and found particular favor amongst intellectuals, the traditions persists that any early scientific contribution came solely from the West, Greece in particular. Because of this erroneous belief, which is perpetuated by a wide variety of scholars, it is necessary to briefly examine the history of Indian scientific thought. Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in his book The Discovery of India: "Till recently many European thinkers imagined that everything that was worthwhile had its origins in Greece or Rome ." From the very earliest times, India had made its contribution to the texture of Western thought and living. Michael Edwardes author of British India, writes that throughout the literatures of Europe, tales of Indian origin can be discovered. European mathematics  - and, through them, the full range of European technical achievement – could hardly have existed without Indian numerals. But until the beginning of European colonization in Asia, India’s contribution was usually filtered through other cultures.

"Many of the advances in the sciences that we consider today to have been made in Europe were in fact made in India centuries ago." - Grant Duff British Historian of India. Dr. Vincent Smith has remarked, "India suffers today, in the estimation of the world, more through the world's ignorance of the achievements of the heroes of Indian history than through the absence or insignificance of such achievement."

Medical Science
Earthquakes and Meteorology
Fables, Music and Games 
Martial Arts
Government and Constitution

Logic in Ancient India

Art and Architecture 
Art of Writing in Ancient India

Medical Science 

The science of medicine, like other sciences, was carried to a very high degree of perfection by the ancient Hindus. Their great power of observation, generalization and analysis, combined with patient labor in a country of boundless resources, whose fertility for herbs and plants is most remarkable, place them in an exceptionally favorable position to prosecute their study of this great science. 

Lord Ampthill, British Governor, (February 1905) said at Madras: "Now we are beginning to find out that the Hindu Sashtras also contain a Sanitary Code no less correct in principle, and that the great law-giver, Manu, was one of the greatest sanitary reformers the world has ever seen!"

Sir William Jones (1746-1794) came to India as a judge of the Supreme Court at Calcutta. He said with prophetic warning " Infinite advantage may be derived by Europeans from the various medical books in Sanskrit, which contain the names and descriptions of Indian plants and minerals, with their uses, discovered by experience, in curing disorders."

(source: Eminent Orientalists: Indian European American - Asian Educational Services. p.21).

Horace Hyman Wilson (1786-1860) says: "The Ancients attained a thoroughly a proficiency in medicine and surgery as any people whose acquaintance are recorded. This might be expected, because their patient attention and natural shrewdness would render them excellent observers, whilst the extent and fertility of their native country would furnish them with many valuable drugs and medicaments. Their diagnosis is said, in consequence, to define and distinguish symptoms with accuracy, and their Materia Medica is most voluminous."

(source: Wilson's Works, Volume III, p. 269.)

Albrecht Weber (1825-1901) writes: "The number of medicinal works and authors is extraordinarily large."

(source: Indian Literature Albrecht Weber p. 269).

Medicine appears to have been the oldest Indian science, its roots going back to Yoga practices, which stress a holistic approach to health, based primarily on proper diet and exercise. Ancient Indian texts on physiology, identified three body "humours" wind, gall, and mucus - with which are associated the sattva, (true or good), rajas (strong), and tamas, (dark or evil) "strands" of behavior, as primary causal factors in determining good or ill health. Ayurveda focused on longevity, honey and garlic were often prescribed. A wide variety of herbs were listed in ancient India's pharmacopoeia. Some of these medicinal herbs or plant oil have been indeed proved to be cures for specific diseases. Oil from the bark of chaulmugra trees remains the most effective treatment for leprosy. India's oldest medical texts were far superior to most subsequent works in the field. 

Anatomy and physiology, like some aspects of chemistry, were by-products of medicine. As far back as the sixth century B.C. Indian physicians described ligaments, sutures, lymphatics, nerve plexus, facia, adipoe and vascular tissues, mucous and synovial membrances, and many more muscles than any modern cadaver is able to show. They understood remarkably well the process of digestion - the different functions of the gastric juices, the conversion of chyme, into chyle, and of this into blood. 

Anticipating Weismann by 2400 years Atreya (ca 500 B.C.) held that the parental seed is independent of the parent's body, and contains in itself, in miniature, the whole parental organism. Examination for virility was recomended as a prerequisite for marriage in men; and the Code of Manu warned against marrying mates affected with tuberculosis, epilepsy, leprosy, chronic dysepsia, piles, or loquacity. Birth control in the latest theological fashion was suggested by the Indian medical schools of 500 B.C. in the theory that during the twelve days of the menstrual cycle impregnation is impossible. Foetal development was described with considerable accuracy; it was noted that the sex of the foetus remains for a time undetermined, and it was claimed that in some cases the sex of the embryo could be influenced by food or drugs.

The records of Indian medicine begin with the Arthava-veda; here embedded in incantation, is a list of diseases with their symptoms. Appended to the Atharva-veda is the Ayur-Veda ("The Science of Longevity"). In this oldest system of Indian medicine illness is attributed to disorder in one of the four humors (air, water phlegm and blood), and treatment is recommended with herbs. Many of its diagnoses and cures are still used in India, with a success that is sometimes the envy of Western physicians. The Rig-Veda names over a thousand such herbs, and advocates water as the best cure for most diseases. Even in Vedic times, physicians and surgeons lived in houses surrounded by gardens in which they cultivated medicinal plants. 

The great name in Indian medicine are those of
Sushruta in the fifth century B.C. and Charaka in the second century A.D. Sushrata professor of medicine at the University of Benares, wrote down in Sanskrit a system of diagnosis and therapy whose elements had descended to him from his teacher Dhanwantari. His book dealt at length with surgery, obstetrics, diet, bathing, drugs, infant feeding and hygiene, and medical education. Charaka composed a Samhita (or encyclopedia) of medicine, which is still used in India, and gave to his followers an almost Hippocratic conception of their calling: "Not for self, not for the fulfilment of any earthly desire of gain, but solely for the good of suffering humanity should you treat your patients, and so excel all." Only less illustrious than these are Vaghata (625 A.D.), who prepared a medical compendium in prose and verse, and Bhava Misra (1550 A.D), whose voluminous work on anatomy, physiology and medicine mentioned, a hundred years before Harvey, the circulation of blood, and prescribed mercury for that novel disease, syphilis, which had recently been brought in by the Portuguese as part of Europe's heritage to India."

Medical Instruments of the Hindu Scriptures - Susruta (1000 B.C.E) enumerates 125 sharp and blunt instruments
Surgical instruments - Courtesy: Institute of History and Medicine - Hydrebad, India.

Refer to Indian Institute of Scientific Heritage


Sushruta described many surgical operations - cataract, hernia, lithoromy, Caesarian section, etc - and 121 surgical instruments, including lancets, sounds forceps, catheters, and rectal and vaginal speculums. Despite Brahmanical prohibitions he advocated the dissection of dead bodies as indispensable in the training of surgeons. He was the first to graft upon a torn ear portions of skin taken from another part of the body; and from him and his Indian successors rhinoplasty- the surgical reconstruction of the nose-descended into modern medicine. "The ancient Hindus," says F. H. Garrison, "performed almost every major operation except ligation of the arteries." Limbs were amputated, abdominal sections were performed, fractures were set, hemorrhoids and fistulas were removed. 

(source: History of Medicine - By F. H. Garrison Philadelphia., 1929 and The Story of civilizations: Our Oriental Heritage - By Will Durant ISBN: 1567310125 1937 p.531).

Mrs. Charlotte Manning says: "The surgical instruments of the Hindus were sufficiently sharp, indeed, as to be capable of dividing a hair longitudinally." "Greek physicians have done much to preserve and diffuse the medicinal science of India. We find, for instance, that the Greek physician, Actuarius, celebrates the Hindu medicine, called triphala. He mentions the peculiar products of India, of which it is composed, by their Sanskrit name, Myrobalans."

(source: Ancient and Medieval India Volume II. p. 346).  Refer to Sciences of the Ancient Hindus: Unlocking Nature in the Pursuit of Salvation – By Alok Kumar

Sushruta laid down elaborate rules for preparing an operation, and his suggestion that the wound be sterilized by fumigation is one of the earliest known efforts at antiseptic surgery. Both Sushruta and Charaka mention the use of medicinal liquors to produce insensibility to pain. In 927 A.D. two surgeons trepanned the skull of a king, and made him insensitive to the operation by administering a drug called Samohini. For the detection of the 1120 diseases he enumerated, Sushruta recommended diagnosis by inspection, palpation, and ausculatation. Taking of the pulse was described in a treatise dating 1300 A.D. Urinalysis was a favorite method of diagnosis. 

In the time of Yuan Chwang Indian medical treatment began with a seven-day fast; in this interval the patient often recovered; if the illness continued drugs were at last employed. Even then drugs were used very sparingly; reliance was placed largely upon diet, baths, inhalations, urethral, and vaginal injections. Indian physicians were especially skilled in concocting antidotes for poison. 

William Ward (1769-1823) notes: 

"Inoculation for the small pox seems to have been known among the Hindoos from time immemorial." The method of introducing the virus is made by incision just above the wrist, in the right arm of the male, and the left of the female. At the time of inoculation, and during the progress of the disease, the parents daily employ a brahmin to worship Sheetula, the goddess who presides over the disease."

(source: A View of the History, Literature, and Mythology of the Hindoos - By William Ward volume I I  p 339 London 1822).

Vaccination, unknown to Europe before the eighteenth century, was known in India as early as 550 A.D. if we may judge from a text attributed to Dhanwantari, one of the earliest Hindu physicians. "Take the fluid of the pock on the udder of the cow...upon the point of a lancer, and lance with it the arms between the shoulders and elbows until the blood appears; then, mixing the fluid with the blood, the fever of the small-pox will be produced."

Modern European physicians believe that caste separateness was prescribed because of the Brahmin belief in invisible agents transmitting disease; many of the laws of sanitation enjoined by Sushruta and "Manu" seem to take for granted what we moderns, who love new words for old things, call the germ theory of disease. Hypnotism as therapy seems to have originated among Indians, who often took their sick to the temples to be cured by hypnotic suggestion. The Englishmen who introduced hypnotherapy into England-Braid Esdaile and Elliotson- "undoubtedly got their ideas, and some of their experience, from contact with India."

(source: The Story of civilizations: Our Oriental Heritage - By Will Durant 1937 p.531)

Susruta calls surgery, "the first and best of medical sciences." He insisted that those who intend to practice it must have actual experimental knowledge of the subject. He says: "No accurate account of any part of the body, including even its skin, can be rendered without a knowledge of anatomy, hence anyone who wishes to acquire a thorough knowledge of anatomy must prepare a dead body, and carefully examine all its parts." For preliminary training, students were taught how to handle their instruments by operating on pumpkins or cucumbers, and they were made to practice on pieces of cloth or skin in order to learn how to sew up wounds. Major operations, as described by Susruta, included amputations, grafting, setting of fractures, removal of a foetus and operation on the bladder for removal of gallstones. The operating room, he declares should be disinfected with cleansing vapors. He describes 127 different instruments used for such purposes as cutting, inoculations, puncturing, probing and sounding. Cutting instruments, Susruta maintains, should be of "bright handsome polished metal, and sharp enough to divide a hair lengthwise."

(source: The Pageant of India's History - By Gertrude Emerson Sen p. 66 - 68).

"The specific diseases whose names occur in Panini's grammar indicates that medical studies had made great progress before his time (350 B.C.). The chapter on the human body in the earliest Sanskrit dictionary, the Amara-kosha presupposes a systematic cultivation of the science. The works of the great traditional Indian physicians, Charaka, and Susruta, were translated into Arabic not later than the 8th century. The chief seat of the science was at Benares. The name of Charaka repeatedly occurs in the Latin translations of Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Rhazes (Al Rasi), and Serapion (Ibn Serabi).



(image source: Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America. Inc - 2002 calendar).


Indian medicine dealt with the whole area of the science. It described the structure of the body, its organs, ligaments, muscles, vessels, and tissues. The materia medica of the Hindus embraces a vast collection of drugs belonging to the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdom, many of which have been adopted by the European physicians. Their pharmacy contained ingenious processes of preparation, with elaborate directions for the administration and classification of medicines. Much attention was devoted to hygiene, to the regimen of the body, and to diet. 

The surgery of the ancient Indian physicians appears to have been bold and skilful. They conducted amputations, arresting the bleeding by pressure, a cup-shaped bandage, and boiling oil. They practiced lithotomy; performed operations in the abdomen and uterus; cured hernia, fistula, piles; set broken bones and dislocations; and were dexterous in the extraction of foreign substances from the body. A special branch of surgery was devoted to rhinoplasty, or operations for improving deformed ears and noses, and forming new ones. They devoted great care to the making of surgical instruments, and to the training of students by means of operations performed on wax spread out on a board, or on the tissues and cells of the vegetable kingdom, and upon dead animals. Considerable advances were also made in veterinary science, and mongraphs exist on the diseases of horses and elephants. "

(source: The Indian Empire - By Sir William Wilson Hunter p.148-150).

Ancient India possessed advanced medical knowledge. Her doctors knew about metabolism, the circulatory system, genetics, and the nervous system as well as the transmission of specific characteristics by heredity. Vedic physicians understood medical ways to counteract the effects of poison gas, performed Caesarean sections and brain operations, and used anesthetics.  

Sushruta (5th century BC) listed the diagnosis of 1,120 diseases. He described 121 surgical instruments and was the first to experiment in plastic surgery.

(source: We Are Not The First – By Andrew Tomas - A Bantam Book 1971 New York p. 15 - 49).

The most remarkable part of Charaka's work is his classification of remedies drawn from vegetable, mineral and animal sources. Over two thousand vegetable preparations, derived from the roots, bark, flowers, fruits, seeds or sap of plants and trees, are described vy Charaka, who also gives the correct time of year for gathering these materials and the method of preparing and administering them. Charaka sounds surprisingly modern. He devotes a good deal of attention to children's diseases, and discusses proper feeding and hours of sleep. He stresses the care of the teeth and the necessity of cleaning them. The universal custom among Hindus of using a medicinal stick to clean the teeth and of rinsing the mouth thoroughly after every meal is so firmly established that it must go back to very ancient times. Diagnosis in Charaka's time was primarily based on careful study of the pulse, and that Charaka had a good idea of blood circulation is apparent from this passage in his treatise: "From that great center (the heart) emanate the vessels carrying blood into all part of the body - the element which nourishes the life of all animals and without which it would be extinct."

Charaka's treatise was based on the teaching of Atreya, whose date has been assigned to the sixth century B.C. Previous to Atreya, Ayurveda, "the science of life" was one of the recognized Vedic studies. High ethical standards which should be maintained by medical profession were also stressed by Charaka. He says: "Not for money nor for any earthly objects should one treat his patients. In this the physician's work excels all vocations. Those who sell treatment as a merchandise neglect the true measure of gold in search of mere dust."

(source: The Pageant of India's History - By Gertrude Emerson Sen p. 66 - 67).

Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860) Eminent Orientalist, observed:

"That in medicine, or the astronomy and metaphysics, the Hindus have kept pace with the most enlightened nations of the world: and that they attained as thorough a proficiency in medicine and surgery as any people whose acquisitions are recorded." He says further: "It would easily be supposed that their patient attention and national shrewdness would render the Hindus excellent observers."

(source: Eminent Orientalists: Indian European American - Asian Educational Services. p. 77).

The great picture of Indian medicine is one of rapid development in the Vedic and Buddhist period, followed by centuries of slow and cautious improvement. In the time of Alexander, says Garrison, "Hindu physicians and surgeons enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for superior knowledge and skill," and even Aristotle is believed by some students to have been indebted to them. So too with the Persians and Arabs.

We find Persians and Arabs translating into their languages, in the eighth century A.D., the thousand-year-old compendia of Sushrata and Charaka. The great Caliph Haroun-al-Rashid accepted the preeminence of Indian medicine and scholarship, and imported Indian physicians to organize hospitals and medical schools in Baghdad. 

Lord Amphill concludes that medieval and modern Europe owes its system of medicine directly to the Arabs, and through them to India. 

(source: The Story of civilizations: Our Oriental Heritage - By Will Durant ISBN: 1567310125 1937 p.531).

Dorothea Chaplin mentions in her book, Matter, myth and Spirit or Keltic and Hindu Links (pp 168-9), "Long before the year 460 B.C., in which Hippocrates, the father of European medicine was born, the Hindus had built an extensive pharmacopoeia and had elaborate treatises on a variety of medical and surgical subjects....The Hindus' wonderful knowledge on a variety of medicine has for some considerable time led them away from surgical methods as working destruction on the nervous system, which their scientific medical system is able to obliviate, producing a cure even without preliminary crisis." 

(source: Proof of Vedic Culture's Global Existence - By Stephen Knapp. World Relief Network ISBN: 0961741066  p 31).

The practice of medicine, like all other sciences, was regulated by a code of social ethics. A physician (vaidya) was to be devoted to the service of the sick. Charaka's advice to his students contained the gist of the professional ethics:

"If you want success in your practice, wealth and fame, and heaven after your death, you must pray every day on rising and going to bed for the welfare of all beings and you must strive with all your soul for the health of the sick. You must not betray your patients, even at the cost of your own life. You must not get drunk, or commit evil, or have evil companions. You must be pleasant, of speech and thoughtful, always striving to improve your knowledge."

Free hospitals were maintained by the kings and merchants. Nursing and attending the sick was considered to be one of the highest service to dharma. 

(source: Ancient Indian History and Culture - By Chidambara Kulkarni p. 273).

Ancient Hospitals

The Hindus were the first nation to establish hospitals, and for centuries they were the only people in the world who maintained them. The Chinese traveler, Fa-hien, speaking of a hospital he visited in Pataliputra says: "Hither come all poor and helpless patients suffering from all kinds of infirmities. They are well taken care of, and a doctor attends them; food and medicine being supplied according to their wants. Thus they are made quite comfortable, and when they are well, they may go away."

"The earliest hospital in Europe," says historian Vincent A. Smith, "is said to have been opened in the tenth century."

(source: Early History of India - By Vincent Smith p. 259).


Smallpox inoculation started in India before the West

Smallpox inoculation is an ancient Indian tradition and was practiced in India before the West.

In ancient times in India smallpox was prevented through the tikah (inoculation). Kurt Pollak (1968) writes, "preventive inoculation against the smallpox, which was practiced in China from the 11th century, apparently came from India". This inoculation process was generally practiced in large part of Northern and Southern India, but around 1803-04 the British government banned this process. It's banning, undoubtedly, was done in the name of 'humanity', and justified by the Superintendent General of Vaccine (manufactured by Dr. E. Jenner from the cow for use in the inoculation against smallpox).

Dharmapal has quoted British sources to prove that inoculation in India was practiced before the British did. In the seventeenth century, smallpox inoculation (tikah) was practiced in India. A particular sect of Brahmins employed a sharp iron needle to carry out these practices. In 1731, Coult was in Bengal and he observed it and wrote (Operation of inoculation of the smallpox as performed in Bengall from Re. Coult to Dr. Oliver Coult in 'An account of the diseases of Bengall' Calcutta, dated February 10, 1731): 

"The operation of inoculation called by the natives tikah has been known in the kingdom of Bengall as near as I can learn, about 150 years and according to the Bhamanian records was first performed by one Dununtary, a physician of Champanagar, a small town by the side of the Ganges about half way to Cossimbazar whose memory in now holden in great esteem as being through the another of this operation, which secret, say they, he had immediately of God in a dream.'

English physician Jenner is credited with discovering vaccination on a scientific basis with his studies on small pox in 1796. A group of Fellows of the Royal Society had earlier studied the method of inoculating people in India and submitted its report in the 1760s. Dr J. Z. Holwell, one of the members who was in the Bengal Province for more than ten years to study the Indian vaccination method, lectured at the London Royal College of Physicians in 1767 "that nearly the same salutary method, now so happily pursued in England,... has the sanction of remotest antiquity (in India), illustrating the propriety of present practice".

Dr. J. Z. Holwell writes the most detailed account for the college of Physicians in London in 1767 (An account of the manner of inoculating for the smallpox in the East Indies, by J. Z. Holwell, F.R.S. addressed to the President and Members of the College of Physicians in London). He wrote:

"Inoculation is performed in Indostan by a particular tribe of Bramins, who are delegated annually for this service from the different Colleges of Bindoobund, Eleabas, Benares, & c. over all the distant provinces: dividing themselves into small parties, of three or four each, they plan their traveling circuits in such wise as to arrive at the places of the operation consists only in abstaining for a month from fish, milk, and ghee (a kind of butter made generally of buffalo's milk). When the Bramins begin to inoculate, they pass from house to house and operate at the door, refusing to inoculate any who have not, on a strict scrutiny, duly observed the preparatory course enjoined them. It is no uncommon thing for them to ask the parents how many pocks they choose their children should have."

(source: An account of the manner of inoculating for the smallpox in the East Indies - by J. Z. Holwell M.D., F.R.S.).

On the efficacy of this practice Holwell has the following to say:

"When the before recited treatment of the inoculated is strictly followed, it is next to a miracle to hear, that one in a million fails of receiving the infection, or of one that miscarries under it.. Since, therefore, this practice of the East has been followed without variation, and with uniform success from the remotest unknown times, it is but justice to conclude, it must have been originally founded on the basis of rational principle and experiment."

Holwell's detailed account, not only describes inoculation, but also shows that the Indians knew that microbes caused such diseases.

(source: Indian Science And Technology in the Eighteenth Century; some contemporary European accounts - By Dharampal 1971.  An Account of the manner of inoculating for the Smallpox in the East Indies. Mapusa, Goa: Other India Press. Chapter VIII p. 142 -164.  The Healers, the Doctor, then and now - By Pollack, Kurt 1968.English Edition. p. 37-8.).

Also refer to Indian Institute of Science - Prevention of Small Pox in ancient India).

The Sactya Grantham - ancient Brahman medical text ~ 3,500 years old describing brain surgery and anaesthetics, contains the following passages giving instructions on small pox vaccination

“Take on the tip of a knife the contents of the inflammation, inject it into the arm of the man, mixing it with his blood. A fever will follow but the malady will pass very easily and will create no complications.”  Edward Jenner (1749-1823) is credited with the discovery of vaccination but it appears that ancient India has prior claim!"  

(source: We Are Not The First – By Andrew Tomas - A Bantam Book 1971 New York p. 15 - 49). and   http://www.habtheory.com/1/habrefs.php).

The Brahmins had a theory of their operations. They believed the atmosphere abounded with imperceptible animalculae (refined to bacteria within a larger context today). They distinguished tow types of these: those that are harmful and those not so. The Brahmins therefore believed that their treatment in inoculating the person expelled the immediate cause of the disease. How effective was the inoculation? According to Dr. J. Z. Holwell, FRS, who had addressed the College of Physicians in London: 

“When the before recited treatment of the inoculation is strictly followed, it is next to a miracle to hear, that one in a million fails to receiving the infection, or of one that miscarries under it.” 

A later estimate by the Superintendent General of Vaccine in 1804 noted that fatalities among the inoculated counted one in 200 among the Indian population and one in 60 to 70 among the Europeans. There is an explanation for this divergence. Most of the Europeans objected to the inoculation on theological grounds.  

Small pox has a long history in India; it is discussed in the Hindu scriptures and even has a goddess (Sitala, literally “the cool one") devoted exclusively to its cause. It seems therefore almost natural to expect an Indian medical response to the disease. The inoculation treatment against it was carried out by a particular caste of Brahmins from the different medical colleges in the area. These Brahmins circulated in the villages in groups of three or four to perform their task.

The person to be inoculated was obliged to follow a certain dietary regime; he had particularly to abstain from fish, milk, and ghee, which, it was held, aggravated the fever that resulted after the treatment. The method the Brahmins followed is similar to the one followed in our own time in certain aspects. They punctured the space between the elbow and the wrist with a sharp instrument and then proceeded to introduce into the abrasion “various matter” prepared from inoculated pistules from the preceding year. The purpose was to induce the disease itself, albeit in a mild form; after it left the body, the person was rendered immune to small-pox for life.  

The Brahmins had a theory of their operations. They believed the atmosphere abounded with imperceptible animalculae. They distinguished two types of these: those harmful and those not so. The universality of this practices ceased to obtain with the arrival of the British. Like many specialists in India, including teachers, the Brahmin doctors had been maintained through public revenues. With British rule, this fiscal system was disrupted and the inoculators left to fend for themselves. 

Two of the more important medical arts of India – plastic surgery and inoculations against small pox. Both were indigenously evolved and the accounts we have, come from Westerners sent out to study them. One of these curious facts was the inoculation against small pox disease, practiced in both north and south India till it was banned or disrupted by the English authorities in 1802-3. The ban was pronounced on “humanitarian” grounds by the Superintendent General of Vaccine.

(source: Homo Faber: Technology and Culture in India, China and the West 1500-1972 - By Claude Alvares p. 65-67 and  Decolonizing History: Technology and Culture in India, China and the West 1492 to the Present Day - By Claude Alvares  p.66-67).

European colonists from the sixteenth century onwards, gained knowledge of plants, diseases and surgical techniques that were unknown in the West. One such example is rauwolfia serpentia, a plant used in traditional Indian medicine. The active ingredient is today used to treat hypertension and anxiety in the West.

Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone has written: "Their use of these medicines seems to have been very bold. They were the first nation who employed minerals internally, and they not only gave mercury in that manner but arsenic and arsenious acid, which were remedies in intermittents. They have long used cinnabar for fumigations, by which they produced a speedy and safe salivation. They have long practiced inoculation."

"They cut for the stone, couched for the cataract, and extracted the fetus from the womb, and in their early works enumerate not less than 127 sorts of surgical instruments!" "Their acquaintance with medicines seems to have been very extensive. We are not surprised at their knowledge of simples, in which they gave early lessons to Europe, and more recently taught us the benefit of smoking dhatura in asthma and the use of cowitch against worms."

(source: History of India - Mountstuart Elphinstone London: John Murray Date of Publication: 1849 p. 145).

The Englishman (a Calcutta Daily), in a lead story in 1880, said: "No one can read the rules contained in great Sanskrit medical works without coming the conclusion that in point of knowledge, the ancient Hindus were in this respect very far in advance not only to the Greek and Romans but also to Medieval Europe."

(source: Sanskrit Civilization - By G. R. Josyer p. 28).


Ayurveda or the Veda of Longevity 

Ayurveda is a 3,000- to 5,000-year-old holistic healthcare system, which looks at the individual, addresses diet, lifestyle and spirit, and strives for balance in each person. It focuses on prevention, and sees, many illnesses not as a collection of symptoms but as imbalances within the body, mind or spirit that, once balance is restored, eats disease at its root.

"The science of Medicine was cultivated early in India and modern researches have disclosed the fact that the Materia Medica of the Greeks, even of Hippocrates the "Father of Medicine," is based on the older Materia Medica of the Hindus.... Charaka's work is divided into eight books, describing various diseases and their treatment; and Susruta's work has six parts, and specially treats of surgery and operations which are considered difficult even in modern times. Various chemical processes were known to the Hindus. Oxides, sulphates, and suphurets of various metals were prepared, and metallic substances were administered internally in India long before the Arabs borrowed the practice from them, and introduced it in Europe in the Middle Ages."

(source: The Civilization of India - By Romesh C. Dutt p. 64).

A tree resin used in Indian medicine for 2,000 years as a folk remedy for a variety of ailments works to lower cholesterol in lab animals, and in a new way that might lead to the development of improved drugs for people, U.S. researchers report. The tree is known in India as guggul, or the myrrh shrub. It’s been used there since at least 600 BC to battle obesity and arthritis, among other ailments.

(source: Ancient remedy could lead to alternative to today’s drugs  - msnbc.com).

"Indian medicine's influence on Portugal was fairly wide. You had echoes of Indian or Ayurvedic practices that come into Portuguese usage. Tamarind, for example, is a plant widely used in Ayurveda. It is applied in Portuguese hospitals. It is used as a cooling agent, in combination with other medicinal plants to help the absorption of those plants and it is used in a poultice, placed on the skin.  

(source: West has always benefited from Indian medicine).

"Hindu literature on anatomy and physiology as well as eugenics and embryology has been voluminous. The Hindus knew the exact osteology of the human body 2,000 years before Vesalius (c. 1545) and had some rough ideas of the circulation of blood long before Harvey (1628). the internal administration of mercury, iron and other powerful metallic drugs were practized by the Hindu physicians at least 1,000 years before Paracelsus (1540). And they have written extensive treatises on these subjects."

(source: Creative India - By Benoy Kumar Sarkar published Motilal Banarsi Dass, Lahore 1937. p. 5).

Ayurveda is a traditional healing system of India, with origins firmly rooted in the culture of the Indian subcontinent. Some 5000 years ago, the great rishis, or seers of ancient India, observed the fundamentals of life and organized them into a system. Ayurveda was their gift to us, an oral tradition passed down from generation to generation. Ayurvedic teachings were recorded as sutras, succinct poetical verses in Sanskrit, containing the essence of a topic and acting as aides-memoire for the students. Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, reflects the philosophy behind Ayurveda and the depth within it. Sanskrit has a wealth of words for aspects within and beyond consciousness.

A few treatises on Ayurveda date from around 1000 B.C. The best known is Charaka Samhita, which concentrates on internal medicine. Many of today’s Ayurvedic physicians use Astanga Hrdayam, a more concise compilation written over 1000 years ago from the earlier texts. 

(source: The Book of Ayurveda: A Holistic Approach to Health and Longevity - By Judith H. Morrison  p. 15 -20).

US medical schools to teach Ayurveda  

American medical schools will teach students the goodness of Ayurveda with visiting Indian specialists offering a 12-hour crash course programme on the medical system based on herbs.

Schools in the United States are offering the course taught by Dr Palep under the aegis of Complementary Alternative Medicine and include topics like Ayurveda philosophy, anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, clinical exam and treatments. It also teaches Yoga, meditation and panchkarma therapy (process of detoxification and rejuvenation).

(source: US medical schools to teach Ayurveda - sify.com).

Veterinary science in Ancient India

Since animals were regarded as a part of the same cosmos as humans, it is not surprising that animal life was keenly protected and veterinary medicine was a distinct branch of science with its own hospitals and scholars. Numerous texts, especially of the postclassical period, Visnudharmottara Mahapurana for example, mention veterinary medicine. Megasthenes refers to the kind of treatment which was later to be incorporated in Palakapyamuni's Hastya yur Veda and similar treatises. Salihotra was the most eminent authority on horse breeding and hippiatry. Juadudatta gives a detailed account of the medical treatment of cows in his Asva-Vaidyaka.  

(source: India and World Civilization - By D. P. Singhal Pan Macmillan Limited. 1993. p.187-188).

According to Stanley Wolpert, " Veterinary science had developed into an Indian medical specialty by that early era, and India's monarchs seem to have supported special hospitals for their horses as well as their elephants. Hindu faith in the sacrosanctity of animals as well as human souls, and belief in the partial divinity of cows and elephants helps explain perhaps what seems to be far better care lavished on such animals... A uniquely specialized branch of Indian medicine was called Hastyaurveda ("The Science of Prolonging Elephant Life"). 

(source: An Introduction to India - By Stanley Wolpert p. 193-194).

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The science of astronomy flourishes only amongst a civilized people. Hence, considerable advancement in it is itself proof of the high civilization of a nation. Hindu astronomy has received the homage of numerous European scholars. 

Sir William Hunter (1840-1900) says "The Astronomy of the Hindus has formed the subject of excessive admiration."

"Proof of very extraordinary proficiency," says Lord Elphinstone, "in their astronomical writings are found."

Hindu Superiority - By Har Bilas Sarda p. 332 - 348).

William Robertson wrote: "It is highly probable that the knowledge of the twelve signs of zodiacs was derived from India."

(source: An Historical Disquisition Concerning the Knowledge which the Ancients had of India  - By William Robertson p. 280).

India has left a universal legacy determining for instance the dates of solstices, as noted by 18th century French astronomer Jean-Claude Bailly (1736–93) 18th century French astronomer and politician. His works on astronomy and on the history of science (notably the Essai sur la théorie des satellites de Jupiter and History of Astronomy) were distinguished both for scientific interest and literary elegance and earned him membership in the French Academy, the Academy of Sciences, and the Academy of Inscriptions. Bailly, who was guillotined during the French Revolution, maintained that the Brahmins of India had been tutors of the Greeks and, through them, of Europe. 

Jean-Claude Bailly said: 

" The motion of the stars calculated by the Hindus before some 4500 years vary not even a single minute from the tables of Cassine and Meyer (used in the 19-th century). The Indian tables give the same annual variation of the moon as the discovered by Tycho Brahe - a variation unknown to the school of Alexandria and also to the Arabs who followed the calculations of the school... "The Hindu systems of astronomy are by far the oldest and that from which the Egyptians, Greek, Romans and - even the Jews derived from the Hindus their knowledge." 

(source: The Politics of History - By N. S. Rajaram Voice of India ISBN 81-85990-28-X. 1995 p. 47).

The paper of John Playfair (1748-1819) (FRS and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh) is a detailed review (published in 1790) of the book 'Traite de ';astronomie Indienne et Orientale,' by J. S. Bailly (Paris 1787), the famous French historian of astronomy. Taken as if by surprise by Bailly's rather positive evaluation of the origin, antiquity and achievements of Indian astronomy, Playfair states that: "I entered on the study of that work, not without a portion of skepticism....The result was, an entire conviction of the accuracy of the one, and of the solidity of the other.' Both Bailly's book and Playfair's article examine in detail some of the astronomical tables (based on Indian astronomy) that the French had procured from Siam (Thailand), Playfair's main conclusions are the following:

1. The observations on which the astronomy of India is founded, were made more than three thousand years before the Christian era; and in particular, the places of the sun and the moon, at the beginning of the Kali-yoga/Calyougham (i.e., 17/18 February 3102 B.C.), were determined by actual observation.

2. Though the astronomy which is now in the hands of the Brahmins, is so ancient in its origin, yet it contains many rules and tables that are of later construction. 

3. The basis of the four systems of astronomical tables which we have examined, is evidently the same.

4. The construction of these tables implies a great knowledge of geometry, arithmetic, and even of the theoretical part of astronomy.

Playfair argues that 'communication is more likely to have gone from India to Greece, than in the opposite direction."

(source: India Through The Ages: History, Art Culture and Religion - By G. Kuppuram p.671-672).

Hindu astronomy received considerable homage from European scholars. Sir William Hunter (1840-1900) says: "The astronomy of the Hindus has formed the subject of excessive admiration." "In some points the Brahmins made advances beyond Greek astronomy. Their fame spread throughout the West, and found entrance into the Chronicon Paschale (commenced about 330 A.D. and revised under Heraclius 610-641). "The Sanskrit term for the apex of a planet's orbit seems to have passed into the Latin translations of the Arabic astronomers. The Sanskrit uccha became the aux (genaugis) of the later translators." "The Arabs became their (Hindus) discipline in the 8th century, and translated Sanskrit treatises, Siddhanats, under the name Sindhends." 

Albrecht Weber (1825-1901) says: 

"The fame of Hindu astronomers spread to the West, and the Andubarius (or probably, Ardubarius), whom the Chronicon Paschale places in primeval times as the earliest Indian astronomer, is doubtless none other than Aryabhatta, the rival of Pulisa, and who is likewise extolled by the Arabs under the name of Arjabahar."

(source: Indian Literature - By Albrecht Weber ISBN: 1410203344 p. 255).

Research scholars like Sylvain Bailley (1736-1793) and Charles Francois Dupuis (1742-1809) aver that the Hindu Zodiac is the earliest known to man and that the first calendar was made in India in about B.C. 12,000. 

(Refer to Bailley's Histoire de Astonomie Ancienne p. 483 as well as the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology - December 1901 part I).

The Hon. Emmeline M. Plunket (1835- ) in the great work Ancient Calendars and Constellations p. 192 - says that there were very advanced Hindu Astronomers in B.C. 6,000.

(source: Hinduism: That Is Sanatana Dharma - By R. S. Nathan p. 38 published by Central Chinmaya Mission Trust. Bombay).

Horace Hyman Wilson (1786-1860) wrote: "The science of astronomy at present exhibits many proofs of accurate observation and deduction, highly creditable to the science of the Hindu astronomers. The division of the ecleptic into lunar mansions, the solar zodiac, the mean motions of the planets, the procession of the equinox, the earth's self-support in space, the diurnal revolution of the earth on its axis, the revolution of the moon on her axis, her distance from the earth, the dimensions of the orbits of the planet, the calculations of eclipses are parts of a system which could not have been found amongst an unenlightened people."

But the originality of the Hindus is not less striking than their proficiency. Wilson says: "The originality of Hindu astronomy is at once established, but it is also proved by intrinsic evidence, and although there are some remarkable coincidences between the Hindu and other systems, their methods are their own." 

(source: History of British India  - by James Mill Volume II p, 106-107).

Mountstuart Elphinstone wrote: "Proofs of very extraordinary proficiency in their astronomical writings are found."

The Hindu astronomy not only establishes the high proficiency of our ancestors in this department of knowledge and exacts admiration and applause: it does something more. It proves the great antiquity of the Sanskrit literature and the high literary culture of the Hindus. "Monsieur Bailly, the celebrated author of the History of Astronomy, inferred from certain astronomical tables of the Hindus, not only advanced progress of the science, but a date so ancient as to be entirely inconsistent with the chronology of the Hebrew scriptures. His argument was labored with the utmost diligence and was received with unbounded applause. All concurred at the time with the wonderful learning, wonderful civilization and wonderful institutions of the Hindus!" 

(source: History of British India  - By James Mill Volume II. p. 97-98).

Albrecht Weber (1825-1901) says: "Astronomy was practiced in India as early as 2780 B.C."  "The fame of Hindu astronomers spread to the West, and the Andubarius (or probably, Ardubarius), whom the Chronicon Paschale places in primeval times as the earliest Indian astronomer, is doubtless none other than Aryabhatta, the rival of Pulisa, and who is likewise extolled, by the Arabs under the name of Arjabahar."

(source: Indian Literature - By Albrecht Weber p. 30-255).

But some of the greatest modern astronomers have decided in favor of a much greater antiquity. Cassini, Bailly, Gentil and Playfair maintain "that there are Hindu observations extant which must have been made more than three thousand years before Christ, and which evince even then a very high degree of astronomical science." 

Count Magnus Fredrik Ferdinand Bjornstjerna (1779-1847) proves conclusively that Hindu astronomy was very far advanced even at the beginning of the Kaliyug, or the iron age of the Hindus (about 5,000 years ago). He says: "According to the astronomical calculations of the Hindus, the present period of the world, Kaliyug, commenced 3,102 years before the birth of Christ, on the 20th of February, at 2 hours 27 minutes and 30 seconds, the time being thus calculated of the planets that took place, and their tables show this conjunction. Bailly states that Jupiter and Mercury were then in the same degree of the ecliptic, Mars at a distance of only eight, and Saturn of seven degrees; whence it follows, that at the point of time given by the Brahmins as the commencement of Kaliyug, the four planets above-mentioned must have been successively concealed by the rays of the sun (first Saturn, then Mars, afterwards Jupiter and lastly Mercury)....The calculation of the Brahmins is so exactly confirmed by or own astronomical tables, that nothing but an actual observation could have given so correspondent a result." 

The learned Count continues: "He (Bailly) further informs us that Laubere, who was sent by Louis XIV as ambassador to the King of Siam, brought home, in the year 1687, astronomical tables of solar eclipses and that other similar tables were sent to Euorpe by Patouillet (a missionary in the Carnatic - India), and by Gentil, which later were obtained from the Brahmins in Tirvalore, and that they all perfectly agree in their calcuations although received from different persons, at different times, and from places in India remote from each other. On these tables Bailly, makes the following observation. The motion calculated by the Brahmins during the long space of 4,385 years (the period eclipsed between these calculations and Bailly's), varies not a single minute from the tables of Cassini and Meyer; and as the tables brought to Europe by Laubere in 1687, under Louis XIV, are older than those of Cassini and Meyer, the accordance between them must be the result of mutual and exact astronomical observations." Then again, "Indian tables give the same annual variation of the moon as that discovered by Tycho Brahe, a variation unknown to the school of Alexandria, and also to the Arabs, who followed the calculation of this school."

"These facts," says the erudite Count, "sufficiently show the great antiquity and distinguished station of astronomical science among the Hindus of past ages." The Count then asks "if it be true that the Hindus more than 3,000 BC., according to Bailly's calculation, had attained so high a degree of astronomical and geometrical learning, how many centuries earlier must the commencement of their culture have been, since the human mind advances only step by step on the path of science."

The length of the Hindu tropical year as deduced from the Hindu tables is 365 days, 5 hours, 50 minutes, 35 seconds, while La Callie's observation given 365-5-48-49. This makes the year at the time of the Hindu observation longer than at present by 1'46". It is however, an established fact that the year has been decreasing in duration from time immemorial and shall continue to decrease. 

(source: The Theogony of the Hindoos with their systems of Philosophy and Cosmogony - By Count Bjornstjerna p. 32).

W Brennand had said in his book Hindu Astronomy:

"It is certain that the ancient Hindu astronomers, many centuries before the Christian Era, were in possession of knowledge, derived from observations made by them of the motions of the heavenly bodies, which they were able to use, and did actually use, in very accurate computations of time. "  

"Upon the first point (the antiquity of that system), it may be remarked, that no one can carefully study the information collected by various investigators and translators of Hindu works relating to Astronomy, without coming to the conclusion that, long before the period when Grecian learning founded the basis of knowledge and civilization in the West, India had its own store of erudition. Master minds, in those primitive ages, thought out the problems presented by the ever recurring phenomena of the heavens, and gave birth to the ideas which were afterwards formed into a settled system for the use and benefit of succeeding. Astronomers, Mathematicians, and Scholiasts, as well as for the guidance of votaries of religion."  

It is in the light of such consideration as these, that the investigator of the facts relating to Hindu Astronomy, is compelled to admit the extreme antiquity of the science. An impartial investigation of the circumstances relating to the question whether the Grecian Astronomy was original in its nature, and was copied by the Hindus, places it beyond doubt that the Hindu system was essentially different from and independent of the Greek.  

“No nation in existence can afford to compare to latter [India] in many tenets of science, with its earliest theories and cosmography, without a smile at the expense of ancestors, but the Hindus, in this view, may, with not a little justifiable pride, point to their science of astronomy, arithmetic, algebra, geometry and even of trignometry, as containing within them evidence of a traditional civilisation compared formally with that of any other nation in the world.”

Hindu Astronomy - By W Brennand p. 34 and 320 - 323).

Paul G Johnson has observed in his book, God and World Religions:

"In 600 B.C.E. the writer of Genesis perceived Earth to be the motionless centerpiece of creation, and above its flat surface were two great lights – the Sun and the Moon. Fourteen centuries before, the Hindu scripture The Rig Vedahad a more accurate picture. Not only did the Sun, Moon, and Earth revolve in orbits, but “the Earth in its orbit revolves around the Sun.” (8:2).

God and World Religions - By Paul G Johnson p. 3).

"In India, we see the beginning of theoretical speculation of the size and nature of the earth. Some one thousand years before Aristotle, the Vedic Aryans asserted that the earth was round and circled the sun. A translation of the Rig Veda goes: " In the prescribed daily prayers to the Sun we find..the Sun is at the center of the solar system. ..The student ask, "What is the nature of the entity that holds the Earth? The teacher answers, "Rishi Vatsa holds the view that the Earth is held in space by the Sun." 

"Two thousand years before Pythagoras, philosophers in northern India had understood that gravitation held the solar system together, and that therefore the sun, the most massive object, had to be at its center." "Twenty-four centuries before Isaac Newton, the Hindu Rig-Veda asserted that gravitation held the universe together. The Sanskrit speaking Aryans subscribed to the idea of a spherical earth in an era when the Greeks believed in a flat one. The Indians of the fifth century A.D. calculated the age of the earth as 4.3 billion years; scientists in 19th century England were convinced it was 100 million years."  

(source: Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science - By Dick Teresi   p. 1 - 8 and 159 and 174 -239).  For more on Dick Teresi refer to chapters Quotes301_320, GlimpsesVI and GlimpsesVII ).

Historian A. L. (Arthur Llewellyn) Basham wrote: 

"The procession of the equinoxes was known, and calculated with some accuracy by medieval astronomers, as were the lengths of the year, the lunar month, and other astronomical constants. These calculations were reliable for most practical purposes, and in many cases more accurate than those of the Greco-Roman world. Eclipses were forecast with accuracy and their true cause understood." 

These were achieved without the help of a telescope. Accurate measurement was made possible by the decimal system of numerals, invented by the Indians. 

It is certain that the Vedic Indians knew something of astronomy and that it had a high utilitarian value for them as it did for all peoples of antiquity. The Vedic priests had to make careful calculations of times for their rituals and sacrifices, and also had to determine the time of sowing and harvest. Moreover, astronomical periods played an important role in Vedic thought for they were considered to be successive parts of the ever returning cosmic cycle. 

The Rig Veda lists a number of stars and mentions twelve divisions of the sun's yearly path (rashis) and also 360 divisions of the circle. Thus, the year of 360 days is divided into twelve months. The sun's annual course was described as a wheel with twelve spokes, which correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac. 

The theory of the great cycles of the universe and the ages of the world is of older origin than either Greek or Babylonian speculations about the "great year," the period within which all the stars make a round number of complete revolutions. But there is remarkably close numerical concordance in these theories. The Indian concept of the great year (mahayuga) developed from the idea of a lunisolar period of five years, combined with the four ages of the world (yugas) which were thought to be of unequal perfection and duration, succeeding one another and lasting in the ration of 4:3:2:1. 

The last, the
Kaliyuga, was one-tenth of the mahayga or 432,000 years. This figure was calculated not only from rough estimates of planetary and stellar cycles, but also from the 10,800 stanzas of the Rig Veda, consisting of 432,000 syllables. The classical astronomers calculated the great period as one of 4,320,000 years, the basic element of which was a number of sidereal solar years, 1,080,000 a multiple of 10,800. According to Berossus, the Babylonian great year was a period of 432,000 years, comprising 120 "saroi" of 3,600 years apiece. 

The Rig Veda talks about the annual motion of the earth. The diurnal motion is described in the Yajur Veda. The Aiteriya Brahmana explains that "the sun neither sets nor rises, that when the earth, owing to the rotation on its axis is lighted up, it is called day" and so on. 

Haug's Aitreya Brahmana Volume II. p. 242).

The Indian astronomer, Aryabhata lived in during the period in which the Surya Siddhanta was composed. He was born in 476 and reputedly completed his famous work, Aryabhatiya, at the age of twenty-three. A concise and brilliant work of astronomy and mathematics. 

The Aryabhatiya introduced certain new concepts, like Aryabhata's new epicyclic theory,
the sphericity of the earth, its rotation on its axis and revolution around the sun, the true explanation of eclipses and methods of forecasting them with accuracy, and the correct length of the year were his outstanding contributions. The Arabs preserved the theory of sphericity of earth, and Pierre d'Ailly employed it in 1410 in his map, which was used by Columbus. 

As regards the stars being stationary, Aryabhatta says:

"The starry vault is fixed. It is the earth which, moving round its axis, again and again causes the rising and setting of planets and stars." He starts the question: "Why do the stars seem to move? and himself replies: "As a person in a vessel, while moving forwards sses an immovable object moving backwards, in the same manner do the stars, however immovable, seem to move daily." 

The Polar days and nights of six months are also described by him. T. E. Colebrooke says: "Aryabhatta affirmed the diurnal revolutions of the earth on its axis. He possessed the true theory of the causes of solar and lunar eclipses and disregarded the imaginary dark planets of mythologists, affirming the moon and primary planets to be essentially dark and only illuminated by the sun."

(source: T. E. Colebrooke's Essays, Appendix G. p. 467). For more refer to Surya Siddhanta

Centuries ago Aryabhatta told Pluto is not a planet

"Indian astrology did not include Pluto as a planet and the latest announcement by leading global astronomers after a marathon week-long meeting at Prague on Thursday only endorsed the Indian mathematical astrology of Aryabhatta and Varahamihira in the sixth century," eminent mathematical astrologer Mangal Prasad told PTI. "Western astrology uses Pluto as a planet while Pluto was always out of Indian astrology and we do not use it in our calculations. This is the practice from the days of Aryabhatta and Varahamihira," Prasad said. 

"Indian astrology is mathematically concerned with the nine planets, two of which are Rahu and Ketu that are nothing but derivatives from the diameter of the Earth, which is a circle having a value Pi (22/7) imbedded in the equator of earth," he said.

"This was discovered and mathematically shown by Aryabhatta and Varahamihira in the sixth century during the golden period of the Guptas," said Prasad, the author of books based on the work of the two great sixth century scientists.Indian astrology is concerned more with astronomy and the derivations are from the equator of the Earth, diameter of the moon, the solar year and how the planets are viewed in the northern lattitudinal region during January and February, soon after the sun has crossed the Tropic of Capricon and moved towards the northern part of the hemisphere.

(source: Pluto demotion vindicates Aryabhatta - ibnlive.com).

As regards to the size of the earth, it is said: "The circumference of the earth is 4,967 yojanas and its diameter is 1,581 1/24 yojanas. A yojanas is equal to five English miles, the circumference of the earth would therefore be 24, 835 miles, and its diameter 7, 905 5/24 miles.

The Yajur Veda says that the earth is kept in space owing to the superior attraction of the sun. The theory of gravity is thus described in the Siddhanta Shiromani centuries before Newton was born:

"The earth, owing to its force of gravity, draws all things towards itself, and so they seem to fall towards the earth." etc..

As regards to the solar and lunar eclipses it is said: "When the earth in its rotation come between the sun and the moon, and the shadow of the earth falls on the moon, the phenomenon is called lunar eclipse, and when the moon comes between the sun and earth the sun seems as if it was being cut off - this is solar eclipse. 

The following is taken from Varahamihira's observations on the moon:

"One half of the moon, whose orbit lies between the sun and the earth, is always bright by the sun's rays; the other half is dark by its own shadows, like the two sides of a pot standing in the sunshine."

About the eclipses, he says: "The true explanation of the phenomenon is this: in an eclipse of the moon, he enters into the earth's shadow; in a solar eclipse the same thing happens to the sun. Hence the commencement of a lunar eclipse does not take place from the west side, nor that of the solar eclipse from the east."

(source: Brihat Samhita Chapter V v. 8).

Brahmagupta who was born in 598 and worked in Ujjain, foreshadowed Newton by declaring that " all things fall to the earth by a law of nature, for it is the nature of the earth to attract and keep things". But the law of gravitational itself was not anticipated.

Recognition of the superiority of the Vedic mathematics was also recorded as long as 662 A.D. by Severus Sebokht, the Bishop of Qinnesrin in North Syria. As reported in Indian Studies in Honor of Charles Rockwell (Harvard University Press. Cambridge, MA. Edited by W. E. Clark, 1929), Sebokht wrote that the Indian discoveries in astronomy were more ingenious than those of the Greeks or Babylonians, and their numerical (decimal) system surpasses description.  

"I will omit all discussion of the science of the Hindus [Indians], a people not the same as Syrians, their subtle discoveries in the science of astronomy, discoveries more ingenious than those of the Greeks and the Babylonians; their valuable method of calculation [the decimal system]; their computing that surpasses description. I wish only to say that this computation is done by means of nine signs. If those who believe because they speak Greek, that they have reached the limits of science should know these things, they would be convinced that there are also others who know something."

(source: Proof of Vedic Culture's Global Existence -
By Stephen Knapp. World Relief Network ISBN: 0961741066 p 22)

The celebrated European astronomer, John Playfair (1748-1819) says: "The Brahmin obtains his result with wonderful certainty and expedition in astronomy." 

(source: Playfair on the astronomy of the Hindus. Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Volume II. p. 138-139).

Professor Sir M. Williams wrote: "It is their science of astronomy by which the (Hindus) heap billions upon millions, trillions upon billions of years, and reckoning up ages upon ages, eons upon eons, with even more audacity than modern geologists and astronomers. In short, an astronomical Hindu ventures on arithmetical conceptions quite beyond the mental dimensions of anyone who feels himself incompetent to attempt a task of measuring infinity."

Mrs. Charlotte Manning exclaimed: "The Hindus had the widest range of mind of which man is capable."


Bramin's Observatory At Benares - By Sir Robert Barker 

Benares in the East Indies, one of the principal seminiaries of the Bramins or priests of the original Gentoos of Hindostan, continues still to be the place of resort of that sect of people; and there are many publick charities, hospitals, and pagodas, where some thousands of them now reside. Having frequently heard that the ancient Brahmins had a knowledge of astronomy, and being confirmed in this by their information of an approaching eclipse both of the Sun and Moon, I made inquiry, when at that place in the year 1772, among the principal Bramins, to endeavor to get some information relative to the manner in which they were acquainted of an approaching eclipse.

(source: Indian Science and Technology in the 18th Century - By Dharampal).


Sun the center of the Solar System

Dick Teresi has observed that:

"The Vedas recognized the sun as the source of light and warmth, the source of life, and center of creation, and the center of the spheres. This perception may have planted a seed, leading Indian thinkers to entertain the idea of heliocentricity long before some Greeks thought of it. An ancient Sanskrit couplet also contemplates the idea of multiple suns: 

"Sarva Dishanaam, Suryaham Suryaha, Surya." 

Roughly translated this means, "There are suns in all directions, the night sky being full of them," suggesting that early sky watchers may have realized that the visible stars are similar in kind to the sun. A hymn of the Rig Veda, the Taittriya Brahmana, extols, nakshatravidya (nakshatra means stars; vidya, knowledge)."

"Two thousand years before Pythagoras, philosophers in northern India had understood that gravitation held the solar system together, and that therefore the sun, the most massive object, had to be at its center. "

(source: Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science - By Dick Teresi  p. 1 and 130). For more refer to Surya Siddhanta.

Ancient Indians knew Atlantic Ocean

Buddhist Jataka stories wrote about large Indian ships carrying seven hundred people. In the Artha Sastra, Kautilya wrote about the Board of Shipping and the Commissioner of Port who supervised sea traffic. The Harivamsa informs that the first geographical survey of the world was performed during the period of Vaivasvata. The towns, villages and demarcation of agricultural land of that time were charted on maps. Brahmanda Purana provides the best and most detailed description of world map drawn on a flat surface using an accurate scale. Padma Purana says that world maps were prepared and maintained in book form and kept with care and safety in chests. 

Surya Siddhanta speaks about construction of wooden globe of earth and marking of horizontal circles, equatorial circles and further divisions. Some Puranas say that the map making had great practical value for the administrative, navigational and military purposes. Hence the method of making them would not be explained in general texts accessible to the public and were ever kept secret. Surya Siddhanta says that the art of cartography is the secret of gods. This being the general thinking at those times, yet, there was one group of people who realized that the maps or the secret texts that contained the geographical surveys will not last a very long time. Only cryptology using words and names would last longer than any.

(source: Ancient Indians knew Atlantic Ocean - By Dr. V.Siva Prasad Retired Professor of Engineering. Andhra University, India).

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Earthquakes and Meteorology

The concept of "earthquake clouds", has been dealt with in detail in the 32nd chapter of Varahamihira's Brihat Samhita.

The greatness of philosopher, mathematician and astronomer Varahamihira (505-587 AD) is widely acknowledged. The Ujjain-born scholar was one of the Navaratnas in the court of King Vikramaditya Chandragupta II. His works, Pancha-Siddhantika (The Five Astronomical Canons) and Brihat Samhita (The Great Compilation), are considered seminal texts on ancient Indian astronomy and astrology. 

Varahamihira  was a celebrated astronomer-astrologer-mathematician sought to study earthquakes on the Indian subcontinent. He drew correlations between terrestrial earth, the atmosphere and planetary influences. He described earth as a mass floating on water and spoke of unusual cloud formations and abnormal animal behavior as precursors to earthquakes."

What has astonished scientists and Vedic scholars here and has renewed interest in the Brihat Samhita, are references to unusual "earthquake clouds" as precursor to earthquakes. The 32nd chapter of the manuscript is devoted to signs of earthquakes and correlates earthquakes with cosmic and planetary influences, underground water and undersea activities, unusual cloud formations, and the abnormal behavior of animals. "I find it rather odd that the description of earthquake clouds in Brihat Samhita matches the observations made by Zhonghao Shaou at the Earthquake Prediction Centre in Pasadena, California," said B D Kulkarni, head of the National Chemical Laboratory's Chemical Engineering Division.

Varahamihira categorises earthquakes into different kinds and says that the indications of one particular kind will appear in the form of unusual cloud formations a week before its occurrence: "Its indications appearing a week before are the following: Huge clouds resembling blue lily, bees and collyrium in colour, rumbling pleasantly, and shining with flashes of lightning, will pour down slender lines of water resembling sharp clouds. An earthquake of this circle will kill those that are dependent on the seas and rivers; and it will lead to excessive rains."

(source: A temblor from ancient Indian treasure trove?).

Angirasa’s Tract on Meteorology 

Maharishi Angirasa, whose name occurs in the Puranas frequently, is the Author of the interesting work on Cloud formation named “Meghotpatti-Prakarna.” This book contains detailed descriptions regarding formation of water by electric discharges during thunder and lightning; thunder bolts and their description; also different varieties of lightning, some of which are beneficial as they are water forming while others are ‘destructive’(as they contain electric charge which is killing, causing thunder-bolts). There is  another similar book by the same author Maharishi Angirasa called “Karaka Prakarana.” The title signifies “Thunders and thunderbolts.” But in fact, the book deals with different forms of electric discharges and energy-emissions from the Sun as well as from the atmosphere; also described in the book are the different properties of sun’s rays and how different kinds of cloud-formations are caused by the different rays of the sun. 

This second book is strikingly original in its theories about the origin of various precious stones and crystals in the earth which result from different kinds of Solar flares or Sun’s radiations. It has a very interesting theory regarding the origin of insects, different animals and plants which occur as sudden outbursts at certain times and again as suddenly disappear with the change in atmosphere at other times (like locust swarms, for instance). These sudden waves of seasonal or periodic changes in plant and animal life, according to Angirasa Rishi, are caused by different kinds of weather which in turn, is a result of difference of Sun’s rays. All such atmospheric changes, cloud-formations, thunder and lightning, outbursts of plant and vegetable life, electric discharges in the atmosphere, are all dealt with in this marvelous book “Karakaprakarana” which is a masterly analysis of the Sun’s rays. 

(source: Hinduism in the Space Age - by E. Vedavyas Published for Vedavyasa Bharathi, University of Vedic Sciences, Yoga Brotherhood of America (Inc) USA; ASIN: 8174600000  p. 143-144).

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Fables, Music and Games


Lin Yutang (1895-1976) Chinese scholar and author of the book, The Wisdom of China and India, writes:

"India is the home of fables...one must say that the Hindu mind is fabulous. The genius for creating fables seems inexhaustible in Indian literature...."

Ernest Rhys (1859-1946) in his Introduction to Fable, Aesop and Others justly remarks, "We have to admit that the beast-fable did not begin with him (Aesop), or in Greece at all. We have, in fact, to go East and to look to India and burrow in the 'tale of tales' of Hitopadesa to get an idea how old the antiquity of the fable actually is. When one remembers also that many of the stories in the Arabian Nights, including that of the famous Sindbad the Sailor, are of Hindu origin, it is not easy to accept the view that such tales are not of native Indian growth."

The Wisdom of China and India - By Lin Yutang   p. 265-7).

The Hindu achievements in this branch of literature establish once for all their intellectual superiority. It is this part of their literature that has made its way to the remotest corners of Europe and America. Its sway over the mind of the civilized world is almost complete.

Professor Horace Hyman Wilson (1786-1860) observed: "Fables constitutes with the Hindus practical ethics - the science of Niti or Polity - the system of rules necessary for the good government of society in all maters not of a religious nature - the reciprocal duties of the members of an organized body either in their private or public relations. Hence it is specially intended for the education of princes, and proposes to instruct them in those obligations which are common to them and their subjects, and those which are appropriate to their princely office; not only in regard to those over whom they rule, but in respect to other princes, under the contingencies of peace and war."

Sir William Wilson Hunter (1840-1900) says: "The fables of animals, familiar to the Western world from the time of Aesop downwards, had their original home in India. The relation between the fox and the lion in the Greek versions had no reality in nature, but it was based upon the actual relation between the lion and his followers, the jackal, in the Sanskrit stories. Panchatantra was translated into the ancient Persian in the 6th century A.D. from that rendering all the subsequent versions in Asia Minor and Europe have been derived. The most ancient animal fables of India are at the present day the nursery stories of England and America. This graceful Hindu imagination delighted also in fairy tales, and the Sanskrit compositions of this class are the original source of many of the fairy stories of Persia, Arabia and Christendom."

Friedrich Max Muller (1823-1900) says: 

"The King of Persia, Khusro Nausherawan (531-579 A. D) sent his physician, Barzoi, to India in order to translate the fables of the Panchatantra from Sanskrit into Pahlavi." 

Hitopdesa (hita = good and updesa = advice) as Mrs. Manning says, is the form in which the old Sanskrit fables became introduced into the literature of nearly every known language. She remarks on the Panchtantra: "Each fable will be found to illustrate and exemplify some reflection on worldly vicissitude or some precept for human conduct; and instead of being aggregated promiscuously or without method, the stories are all strung together upon a connected thread and arranged in a framework of continuous narrative, out of which they successively spring."

Fabel maintains the Indian origin of the fables common to India and Greece, which proves the antiquity of the Hindu fables.

Professor Albrecht Weber (1825-1901) says: " Allied to the fables are the fairy tales and romances, in which the luxuriant fancy of the Hindus has, in the most wonderful degree, put forth all its peculiar grace and charm."

Professor Horace Hyman Wilson (1786-1860) writes: "The Fables of the Hindus are a sort of machinery to which there is no parallel in the fabling literature of Greece and Rome." He also says that the Hindu literature contained collections of domestic narrative to an extent surpassing those of any other people. "In a manuscript of the Parable of Sendebar (Sindbad), which existed in the British Museum, it is repeatedly asserted in anonymous Latin notes that the work was translated out of the Indian language into Persian and Arabic, and from one of them into Hebrew. Sendebar is also described as a chief of the Indian Brahmins, and Beibar, the King, as a King of India." (source: Metrical Romances - By George Ellis Vol. III.).

A careful study of the subject will show that event the books which appear to have a distinctive Persian character and are generally regarded to be of Persian origin are in reality Hindu to the core. Count Bjornstejerna remarks: "The thousand and one Nights, so universally known in Europe, is a Hindu original translated into Persian and thence into other languages. In Sanskrit the name is Vrihat Katha. Professor Lassen of Paris asserts that "the Arabian Nights Entertainments are of Hindu origin."

Jean-Louis-Auguste  Loiseleur-Deslongchamps (1774-1849) says: "The book of Sindabad is of Indian origin"

A decisive proof of Sindbad being an Indian is the direct evidence on the subject, of the eminent Arabic writer, Masudi. In his Golden Meadows (Mirajul Zeheb), in a chapter on the ancient Kings of India, he speaks of an Indian philosopher named Sindebad, who was contemporary with Kurush, and was the author of the work entitled, "The Story of Seven Vaziers, the tutor, the young man and the wife of the king." "This is the work," he adds, "which is called the book of Sendebad."

(source: Hindu Superiority - By Har Bilas Sarda p. 262-268).

Franklin Edgerton wrote: "No other work of Hindu literature has played so important a part in the literature of the world as the Sanskrit story-collection called the Pancatantra. Indeed, the statement has been made that no book except the Bible has enjoyed such an extensive circulation in the world as a whole. This may be---I think it probably is---an exaggeration. Yet perhaps it is easier to underestimate than to overestimate the spread of the Pancatantra." 

It has been claimed that India is the original home of literary fiction and intellectual games. There is no doubt that stories of Indian origin have long been told in distant lands of Asia and Europe in a variety of forms, giving delight to countless people, often without reference to or awareness of their sources. Centuries before Kalidasa's Sakuntala captured the fascination of Western intellectuals at the end of the eighteenth century, Indian myths and tales were widely known, and the influence of Visnusarma, the legendary author of the Pancatantra, the most famous collection of Indian fables was widely felt. Once again it was mainly the Arabs, and the Iranians, before them, who transmitted Indian fables and folklore to Europe, either through Turkey and Spain. From Constantinople Indian stories were transmitted to Venice and Naples through trade contacts and thence they found their way into the works of Boccaccio, Chaucer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Le Sage, La Fontaine, Voltaire, and other famous Western writers. With each story-teller the story assumed a new look, eventually reaching a stage at which it often bore only a feeble resemblance to the original. It was not until Western scholars discovered Sanskrit language and literature in the latter part of the eighteenth century that the Indian contribution to the world's fiction came to be appreciated, although its full extent is yet to be systematically assessed. 

Throughout mediaeval Christendom, Barlaam and Josaphat, was accepted as an exposition of the ideals of Christian monasticism and asceticism. The churches celebrated the festival days associated with the Indian hermit Barlaam and his royal pupil Prince Josaphat (Buddha) with appropriate solemnity, and "their relics were invested with exceptional healing power." In the literary world too, the influence of the Barlaam story was deep and lasting. It inspired outstanding writers such as Guy de Cambrai, and Lope de Vega, Leo Tolstoy, and Shakespeare, who borrowed from it the story of the Caskets.

The worldliness and sensuality of the Indian fables must have helped to bring European literature back to its natural course.
Hence, almost immediately after their arrival in Europe, Indian fables appeared in Giovanni Boccaccio's (1313-1375) Decameron and Don Juan Manuel's Conde Lucanor, unrivalled example of mediaeval prose. 

Other popular European storybooks such as the fourteenth century Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; La Fontaine's Fables; and Grimm's Tales include fables of Indian origin. The Indian fables became known in Europe as the Fables of Bidpai (Pilpay) because in the translation one of the wicked kings is reclaimed to virtue by a Brahman sage, Bidpai.

Jean de La Fontaine  (1621-1695) French poet, in his second edition of Fables, published in 1678, expressly confessed his indebtedness to Indian tradition. 

In the Preface he says: " It is not necessary that I shall say whence I have taken the subjects of these new fables. I shall only say, from a sense of gratitude that I owe the largest portion of them to Pilpay the Indian sage." The story of the ebony horse in Geoffrey Chaucer's "Squires' Tale"  came from India via Persia, Egypt, and Spain to France. (Le Cheval de Fust) and thence to Chaucer's ears. 

The theme of the three caskets and of the pound of flesh in the Merchant of Venice are of Buddhist origin, and stories derived from the Pancatantra - the " Gullible Husband" and the "Butler and the Blinded Brahman" - were adapted by Boccaccio (1313-1375). Many of the immensely popular tales found in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, such as the "Magic Mirror" "Jack and the Beanstalk" and the "Purse of Fortunatus," have been traced to Indian sources. Many of these tales are also traced to the Jatakas, Kathasaritsagara, So are the Arabian Nights which have been traced to Indian sources.
The world famous story of Sindabad is a tale of Indian origin. The Arab historian Al Masudi expressly said that the Kitab el Sindbad was derived from India.


Music - Sangita

Charles Coleman writes in his book Mythology of the Hindus preface p. ix:

 "An account of the state of musical science amongst the Hindus of early ages and a comparison between it and that of Europe is yet a desideratum in Oriental literature. From what we already know of the science, it appears to have attained a theoretical precision yet unknown to Europe, and that too in a period when even Greece was little removed from barbarism." 

Anne C. Wilson adds: "It must, therefore, be a secret source of pride to them to know that their system of music, as a written science, is the oldest in the world. Its principles were accepted by the Mahommedan portion of the population in the days of their pre-eminence, and are still in use in their original construction at the present day." 

Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) the late curator of Indian art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and author of The Dance of Shiva: Essays on Indian Art and Culture, has written:

"Music has been a cultivated art in India for at least three thousand years. The chant is an essential element of Vedic ritual; and the references in later Vedic literature, the epics, the scriptures of Buddhism, show that it was already highly developed as a secular art in centuries before the beginning of the Christian era. Its zenith may perhaps be assigned to the Imperial age of the Guptas - from the 4th to the 6th century A.D. This was the classic period of Sanskrit literature, culminating in the drama of Kalidasa; and to the same time is assigned the monumental treatise on the theory of music and drama."

(source: The Wisdom of Ananda Coomaraswamy - presented by S. Durai Raja Singam 1979 p. 84).

Music in India has a history of at least three thousand years. The Vedic hymns, like all Hindu poetry, were written to be snug; poetry and song, music and dance, were made one art in the ancient ritual. Sangita, the Indian tradition of music, is as old as Indian contacts with the Western world, and it has graduated through various strata of evolution: primitive, prehistoric, Vedic, classical, mediaeval, and modern. It has traveled from temples and courts to modern festivals and retaining a clearly recognizable continuity of tradition. 

Sangita which originally meant drama, music and dance, was closely associated with religion and philosophy.

According to Indian philosophy the ultimate goal of human existence is moksha, liberation of the atman from the life-cycle, or spiritual enlightenment; and nadopasana (literally, the worship of sound) is taught as an important means for reaching this goal.  The highest musical experience is ananda, the "divine bliss." This devotional approach to music is significant feature of Indian culture.
The Indian music tradition can be traced to the Indus (Saraswati) Valley civilization. The goddess of music, Saraswati, who is also the goddess of learning, is portrayed as seated on a white lotus playing the vina. 

Indian music is based upon a system of ragas and is improvised or composed at the moment of performance. The notes which are to convey certain definite emotions or ideas are selected with extreme care from the twenty-five intervals of the sruti scale and then grouped to form a raga, a mode or a melodic structure of a time. It is upon this basic structure that a musician or singer improvises according to his feeling at the time. Structural melody is the most fundamental characteristic of Indian music. The term raga is derived from Sanskrit root, ranj or raj, literally meaning to color but figuratively meaning to tinge with emotion. 

German author Albert Weber writes in his book, Indian Literature - By Albrecht Weber ISBN: 1410203344 (p. 27):

"The Hindus scale - Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Nee has been borrowed by the Persians, where we find it in the form of do, re, ma, fa, so, le, ci. It came to the West and was introduced by
Guido d' Arezzo in Europe in the form of do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti....even the  'gamma' of of Guido (French gramma, English gamut) goes back to the Sanskrit gramma and Prakrit gamma and is thus a direct testimony of the Indian origin of our European scale of seven notes." 

He observes: "According to Von Bohlen and Benfrey, this notation passed from the Hindus to the Persians," and from these again to the Arabs, and was introduced into European music by Guido D'Arezzo at the beginning of the 11th century." 

More information on how the Indian system of music traveled to Europe is provided by Ethel Rosenthal's research in her book, The Story of Indian Music (South Asia Books; ; 1 edition (August 1, 1990) ISBN 8186142908) and its Instruments, on page 3, in which she observes, "In The Indian Empire, Sir William Wilson Hunter remarked that:

"A regular system of notation had been worked out before the age of Panini and the seven notes were designated by their initial letters. This notation passed from the Brahmins through the Persians to Arabia, and was then introduced into European music by Guido d' Arezzo at the beginning of the 11th century....Hindu music after a period of excessive elaboration, sand under the Muhammadans into a state of arrested developments......."

Sir William Wilson Hunter (1840-1900) further observes, "Not content with the tones and semi-tones, the Indian musicians employed a more minute sub-division, together with a number of sonal modifications which the Western ear neither recognizes or enjoys. Thus, they divide the octave into 22 sub-tones instead of 12 semi-tones of the European scales. The Indian musician declines altogether to be judged by the new simple Hindu airs which the English ear can appreciate." 

The two phenomena, which have already been stated as the foundation of musical modes, could not long have escaped the attention of the Hindus, and their flexible language readily supplied them with names for the seven Swaras, or sounds, which they dispose in the following order: Shadja, pronounced Sharja, Rishabha, Gandhara, Madhyama, Pachama, Dhaivata, Nishada, but the first of them is emphatically named Swara, or the sound, from the important office, which it bears in the scale; and hence, by taking the seven initial letters or syllables of those words, they contrived a notation for their airs and at the same time exhibited a gamut, at least as convenient as that of Guido: they call it Swaragrama or Septaca, and express it in this form:

Sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni, 

three of which syllables are, by a singular concurrence exactly the same, though not all in the same places, with three of those invented by David Mostare, as a substitute for the troublesome gamut used in his time, which he arranges thus: Bo, ce, di, ga, lo, ma, ni.

(source: The Story of Indian Music - By Ethel Rosenthal p. 3 and 177-178).

The ancient Western world was aware of the existence of a highly developed system of Indian music. According to Curt Sachs, it was the South Indian drum tambattam that was known in Babylonia under the name of timbutu, and the South Indian kinnari shared its name with King David's kinnor.  Strabo referred to it, pointing out that the Greeks believed that their music, from the triple point of view of melody, rhythmn, and instruments, came to them originally from Asia. Arrian, the biographer of Alexander, also mentions that the Indians were great lovers of music and dance from earliest times. The Greek writers, who made the whole of Asia, including India, the sacred territory o fdionysos, claimed that the greater part of music was derived from India. 

Sir Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999), American-born violinist, one of the foremost virtuosos of his generation, was convinced that: 

" We would find all, or most, strands beginning in India; for only in India have all possible modes been investigated, tabulated, and each assigned a particular place and purpose. Of these many hundreds, some found their way to Greece; others were adopted by nomadic tribes such as the Gypsies; others became the mainstay of Arabic music." 

(For additional information on Indian Music, Visit -
Music of India http://trumpet.sdsu.edu/M345/Music_of_India1.html).

Regarding the growth and development of music in India, Yehudi Menuhin, the well known violonist who visited India (1952) writes in an American literary magazine The Saturday Review of Literature that he found "there was so much new and satisfying to him that in India the equilibrium of life is better balanced than elsewhere, a greater unity of thought and feeling prevail than in the West." In his view Indian music, culture and philosophy "are quite sufficient, soundly conceived and adequate for the needs not only of Indian but capable of being beneficial if adopted in a wider sphere of humanity. Indian music is a traditional crystalized form of expression in which the performers and auditors partake of the resignation of environment and fact. It invites to attain a sense of meditation, of oneness with God."

(source: Ancient Indian Culture At A Glance - By Swami Tattwananda p. 147-148).

The Sakuntala furor has lasted till almost today. One of the noblest "overtures" in European music is the Sakuntala overture of the Hungarian composer Carl Goldmark (1830-1915).

(source: Creative India - By Benoy Kumar Shenoy p. 110).

The Hindus first developed the science of music from the chanting of the Vedic hymns. The Sama Veda was especially meant for music. And the scale with seven notes and three octaves was known in India centuries before the Greeks had it. Probably the Greeks learnt it fromt he Hindus. It is interesting to know that German composer, Richard Wagner was indebted to the Hindu science of music, especially for his principal idea of the "leading motive"; and this is perhaps the reason why it is so difficult for many Western people to understand Wagner's music. He became familiar with Eastern music through Latin translations, and his conversation on this subject with Arthur Schopenhauer. (refer to Quotes1-20 page for Schopenhauer).

(source: India And Her People - By Swami Abhedananda - p.221).

As M. Bourgault Ducodray (1840 - 1910) writes: "The Hindu music will provide Western musicians with fresh resources of expression and with colors hitherto unknown to the palate of the musicians." It seems Wagner got the idea of leading motive from India through Latin translations. The Gregorain mode in Western music introduced by Pope Gregory, the Great, are of Indian inspiration, which he got when he was ambassador at Constantinople. Indian music has ardent admirers in the West. Romain Rolland told Dilip Kumar Roy that by his capacity for continuous improvisation, the executant in Indian music was always a creator, while in European music he was only an interpreter. George Duhamel, the eminent French author and critic, told Roy that Indian music was "indeed a novel but delightful experience with me. The music of India is without doubt one of the greatest proofs of the superiority of her civilization." 

Leopold Stotowski, Yehudi Meuhudin and others have spoken in glowing words of the subtle intricacies of Indian rhythm from which the West has much to learn. Ravi Shanker has held spell-bound many a Western audience, by playing on his Sitar. 

(source: The Soul of India - By S. Patel p. 45-48).

Ancient Indians made 'rock music' 

Archaeologists have rediscovered a huge rock art site in southern India where ancient people used boulders to make musical sounds in rituals.

The Kupgal Hill site includes rocks with unusual depressions that were designed to be struck with the purpose of making loud, musical ringing tones. It was lost after its discovery in 1892, so this is the first fresh effort to describe the site in over a century. Granite percussion The boulders which have small, groove-like impressions are called "musical stones" by locals. When struck with small granite rocks, these impressions emit deep, "gong-like notes".

(source: Ancient Indians made 'rock music' - BBC.com).

In Shiva’s temple, stone pillars make music - an architectural rarity

Shiva is the Destroyer and Lord of Rhythm in the Hindu trinity. But here he is Lord Nellaiyappar, the Protector of Paddy, as the name of the town itself testifies — nel meaning paddy and veli meaning fence in Tamil. Prefixed to nelveli is tiru, which signifies something special — like the exceptional role of the Lord of Rhythm or the unique musical stone pillars in the temple.In the Nellaiyappar temple, gentle taps on the cluster of columns hewn out of a single piece of rock can produce the keynotes of Indian classical music. “Hardly anybody knows the intricacies of how these were constructed to resonate a certain frequency. The more aesthetically inclined with some musical knowledge can bring out the rudiments of some rare ragas from these pillars.”

The Nelliyappar temple chronicle, Thirukovil Varalaaru, says the nadaththai ezhuppum kal thoongal — stone pillars that produce music — were set in place in the 7th century during the reign of Pandyan king Nindraseer Nedumaran. Archaeologists date the temple before 7th century and say it was built by successive rulers of the Pandyan dynasty that ruled over the southern parts of Tamil Nadu from Madurai. Tirunelveli, about 150 km south of Madurai, served as their subsidiary capital.

Each huge musical pillar carved from one piece of rock comprises a cluster of smaller columns and stands testimony to a unique understanding of the “physics and mathematics of sound." Well-known music researcher and scholar Prof. Sambamurthy Shastry, the “marvellous musical stone pillars” are “without a parallel” in any other part of the country. “What is unique about the musical stone pillars in the Tiruelveli Nellaiyappar temple is the fact you have a cluster as large as 48 musical pillars carved from one piece of stone, a delight to both the ears and the eyes,” The pillars at the Nellaiyappar temple are a combination of the Shruti and Laya types.

This is an architectural rarity and a sublime beauty to be cherished and preserved.

(source: In Shiva’s temple, pillars make music - telegraphindia.com).


There are many pillar in the Vithalla temple in Hampi which sound like various musical instruments when struck. There is one at the Ajanta caves too. In fact these are 56 pillars of Vithala Temple Complex in Hampi ruins dating back to 13th century of Vijayanagara Empire. These type of pillars emanating the sa..re..ga..ma.. notes are also found in Belur and Halebid in Karnataka.

(For more refer to "If dreams were made out of stone, it would be Hampi" - karnataka.com).

For more on Music, please refer to chapter on Hindu Music).




Chess, the game of mind and intellect, was a gift of India to the world in the late 6th or early 7th century. 

Sissa's request and Chess

Among the fascinating legends told about the origin of chess is the story of Sissa, a Brahmin and the inventor of the game. In western India, Raja Balhait had asked his advisers to create a game that demonstrated the values of prudence, diligence, foresight, and knowledge. Sissa brought a chessboard to the raja and explained that he had chosen war as a model for the game because war was the most effective school in which to learn the values of decision, vigor, endurance, circumspection, and courage. The raja was delighted with the game and ordered its preservation in temples. He considered its principles the foundation of all justice and held it to be the best training in the art of war. 

The raja said to his subject Sissa, "Ask any reward. It will be yours." Being a scientist, Sissa felt rewarded by the pleasure his invention was giving others; but the kind insisted, and finally Sissa said, "Give me a reward in grains of corn on the chessboard (ashtapada). On the first square one grain, on the second two, on the third four, on the fourth double of that, and so on until the 64th and last square."

The raja would not hear of it. He insisted that Sissa ask for something of more worth than grains of corn. But Sissa insisted he had no need of much and that the grains of corn would suffice. Thereupon the raja ordered the corn to be brought; but before they had reached the 30th square, all the corn of India was exhausted. Perturbed, he looked at Sissa, who laughed and told his raja that he knew perfectly well he could never receive the reward he had asked because the amount of corn involved would cover the whole surface of the earth to a depth of nine inches. 

The raja did not know which to admire more: the invention of chess or the ingenuity of Sissa's request. The number involved is 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains. This number had been previously calculated by the early Indian mathematicians, who incidentally, had invented the decimal system long before it reached the Arabs and Europe. 

(source: Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables - By Rani p. 84).

For more on Chess refer to Indian Chess: From Origin To Fame - By K R Banerjee

Chess, one of the world's oldest war games, which was invented in northern India.  The original pieces were based on the infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots of the ancient Indian army. These troops were led onto the chessboard by the king and his chief minister, the vizier.

For a long time the invention of chess was ascribed to various peoples ranging from the Egyptians to the Welsh, and ever since the Arabs transmitted it to Europe more than a thousand years ago, it has been held in great esteem there. It commands an authority which no other board game has ever attained, and has been described as " a philosophy, a contest of mental athletics." It was after the discovery of Sanskrit by European scholars that the Indian ancestry of chess was realized and acknowledged.

Said al-Andalusi (1029-1070) Arabic scholar, focused on India as a major center for science, mathematics and culture.

“That which has reached us from the discoveries of their clear thinking and the marvels of their inventions is the (game) of chess. The Indians have, in the construction of its cells, its double numbers, its symbols and secrets, reached the forefront of knowledge. They have extracted its mysteries from supernatural forces. While the game is being played and its pieces are being maneuvered, there appear the beauty of structure and the greatness of harmony. It demonstrates the manifestation of high intentions and noble deeds, as it provides various forms of warnings from enemies and points out ruses as well as ways to avoid dangers. And in this, there is considerable gain and useful profit.”  

(source: In the eleventh-century, an important manuscript titled The Categories of Nations was authored in Arabic by Said al-Andalusi, who was a prolific author and in the powerful position of a judge for the king in Muslim Spain. A translation and annotation of this was done S. I.Salem and Alok Kumar and published by University of Texas Press: “Science in the Medieval World”. This is the first English translation of this eleventh-century manuscript. Quotes are from Chapter V: “Science in India”).

Sir William Jones (1746-1794) wrote that chess had been known to Indians in antiquity as Caturanga, meaning the four wings of the army, which are described in the Amarakosa as elephants, horses, chariots, and infantry. One of the early Sanskrit texts, the Bhavishya Purana, contains a tale of a prince who lost all his possessions in a game of chess played with dice. Chess must indeed go deep into early Indian history, because it was associated with astronomical symbolism throughout its growth. 

According to
H. J. R. Murray, who published his monumental study A History of Chess 
(Benjamin Prublisher. December 1985 ASIN 0936317019) in 1913, chess descended from an earlier Indian game called astapada, played on a board containing 8 x 8 cells. Chaturanga was taken to Persia in the sixth century during the reign of Anushirvan (531-579) where it came to be known as Chatrang, which according to the Arabic phonetic system it became Shatranj. The earliest reference to chess in Persia, is found in the Karnamak-i-Artakh Shatr-i Papakan, written about 600. In the tenth century, the poet Firdusi related a traditional story in his epic poem Shahnama of how chess came to Persia through an envoy of the Kind of Hind (India). Subsequently, it became known to the Arabs and also to the Byzantine court. For example, Al Masudi, writing about 950, mentions that chess had existed possibly as long as a thousand years before his generation. 

From India, Chaturanga traveled to China and then to Japan. The earliest reference to chess in China is found in Niu Seng-Ju's Yu Kuai Lu (Book for Marvels) written at the end of the eighth century. The countries of Southeast Asia learned chess both directly from India, and as in the case of Siam, indirectly from China. Indian games seems to have reached as far as Mexico. Writing in 1881, Edward Tylor, the first important exponent of parallelism in cultural development, pointed out that the ancient and popular Mexican game of patolli was very similar to the Indian pachisi, and and concluded that it must have come from India. 

In China the first indisputable sources appeared only around 800 AD. "The King of Kanauj had sent the game of chess to the court of Sasanian King Kusrau I Anshirvan (531-579).

Several games now familiar across the world owe their origins in India, particularly, the games of chess, ludo (including ladders and snake), and playing cards

The famous epic Mahabharata narrates an incidence where a game called Chaturang was played between two groups of warring cousins. In some form or the other, the game continued till it evolved into chess. H. J. R. Murray, in his work titled “A History of Chess”, has concluded that “chess is a descendant of an Indian game played in the 7th century AD”. The Encyclopedia Britannica states that “we find the best authorities agreeing that chess existed in India before it is known to have been played anywhere else.”

The game of cards also developed in ancient India. Abul Fazal was a scholar in the court of Mughal emperor Akbar. In his book, “Ain-e-Akbari”, which is a mirror of life of that time, records game of cards is of Indian origins.

Martial arts by the name of Kalaripayattu were a native of Kerala, a state of India. Kalaripayattu consists of a series of intricate movements that train the body and mind. These are believed to have traveled, through Buddhist monks, to eastern China, where they got merged with local martial traditions.

(source: Science and technology in ancient India - Wikipedia). Refer to chapter on War in Ancient India.

For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor

Snakes & Ladders / Mokshapat

The earliest version of Snakes and Ladders is credited to 13th century saint-poet of Maharashtra Gyandev, who called his creation Mokshapat (Moksha=Salvation, pat=cloth). The ‘game’, however, was not about entertainment; it was created to explain the basic tenets of Hinduism to the common man.

The game was drawn out on a cloth divided into blocks called houses, each representing emotions like daya, karuna and darr. The ladders represented virtues and the snakes, vices. The snake at hinsa would take one down to mahanarak while Vidyabhyas would take one to the Shastras. The game was played with dices and cowrie-shells.

The game travelled to Thanjavur in the 17-18th century. It was magnified in size and called Parama Pada Sopana Pata and went through other alterations as well. The morality of the game must have appealed to the Victorians, who took to the game when it was published in 1892 in England. 


The playing cards, too, had a religious sanction. They were circular in shape and varied from 20 mm to 120 mm in size. They were covered with various kinds of material or with lac and paintings, depending on the owner’s economic background. While the poor would use paper or starched cloth for their cards, the wealthy would go in for cards in ivory, tortoise-shell or mother-of-pearl.

There was a basic set of 12 cards featuring various aspects of Indian mythology, but the Dashavtari (referring to the 10 incarnations of Vishnu) Ganjipha was played with 120 cards and three players. The Navagraha Ganjipha was a game with 108 cards divided into nine suites, representing the nine planets. Ganjipha was popular right up to the 19th century among royal families.

(source: Ancient Wisdom Deals A New Hand - Indian Express).  


an Indian race game, that dates back at least 2,200 years. Pachisi (also spelt Parcheesi, Pachisi, Parchisi, Parchesi; also known as Twenty-Five) is the National Game of India. The name comes from the Indian word "pacis" which means twenty five, the highest score that could be thrown with the cowry shells.  Pachisi is, in fact, the younger sister of Chaupar (or Chausar or Chaupad), a more venerable, complex and skilful game that is still played in India.


Of the earliest forms of the equestrian game is said to have been played around 34 AD (some even date it to 2,000 BC) in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur where it was locally called Sagol Kangjei (lit. sagol = horse, kang = ball, jei = stick). Muslim settlers in India later introduced the Persian (Chaugan) and the Afghani (Buzkashi) version in the country. The first king of Delhi Sultanate, Qutub-ud-din Aibak, died in 1210 AD of injuries sustained after he fell off his horse during a game of Chaugan. The modern version was codified in the 19th century by British planters in northeast India. It consists of four horse-riders from two teams attempting to score goals, using long Polo sticks to move the ball while they remain on horseback. India also became home to the world's first Polo Club when the Calcutta Club was founded in 1865 by British Indian Army officers.

This game was also played at Angkor Vat. Polo players played under the eye of King Jayavarman VII, seated beneath a parasol on the royal Elephant Terrace at Angkor Thom. (please refer to the chapter on  Suvarnabhumi).


Though the modern version of the racket sport developed in England, badminton derives its origins from the 2,000-year-old game of battledore and shuttlecock played in ancient India. The first modern rules of the game were evolved in 1876 at Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. It is one of the Olympics newest sports, named after its place of origin at Badminton Hall in Gloucestershire, England, the seat of the Dukes of Beaufort.

(source: About.com)


Kabaddi is a game of speed, strength, strategy and, most importantly, lungpower. Kabaddi was developed about 4000 years ago to help Indian soldiers develop their self-defense skills (not to mention their pronunciation of the word Kabaddi skills).
It was known by various names in various places. For example Chedugdu, or Hu-tu-tu in Southern parts of India, Hadudu (Men),Chu kit-kit (Women) in Eastern India and Kabadi in Northern India.

(source: Kabadi http://www.geocities.com/kennykabb/).

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Martial Arts


"Fighting without weapons was a specialty of the Ksatreya (caste of Ancient India) and foot soldier alike.

Danger and Divinity: Originating at least 1,300 years ago, India's Kalaripayit is the oldest martial art taught today. It is also one of the most potentially violent. Weaponless but nimble, a karaipayit master displays for his students how to meet the attack of an armed opponent. 

For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor

Watch Kalari Martial Arts and Silambam Martial Arts video


According to author Terence Dukes:

"Fighting without weapons was a specialty of the Ksatreya (caste of Ancient India) and foot soldier alike.

For the Ksatreya it was simply part and parcel of their all around training, but for the lowly peasant it was essential. We read in the Vedas of men unable to afford armor who bound their heads with turbans called Usnisa to protect themselves from sword and axe blows.  

This indigenous martial arts, under the name of Kalari or Kalaripayit exists only in South India today. Kalarippayat is said to be the world's original martial art. Originating at least 1,300 years ago, India's Kalaripayit is the oldest martial art taught today. It is also the most potentially violent, because students advance from unarmed combat to the use of swords, sharpened flexible metal lashes, and peculiar three-bladed daggers. The “Urimi” is the most extraordinary weapon of Kalari, unique in the world. This double-edged flexible sword which the old-time masters used to wrap around the waist to keep coiled in one hand, to suddenly whip at the opponent and inflict mortal blows, is hardly used today in trainings, for it is much too dangerous. More than 2,000 years old, it was developed by warriors of the Cheras kingdom in Kerala. Training followed strict rituals and guidelines. The entrance to the 14 m-by-7 m arena, or kalari, faced east and had a bare earth floor. Fighters took Shiva and Shakti, the god and goddess of power, as their deities. From unarmed kicks and punches, kalarippayat warriors would graduate to sticks, swords, spears and daggers and study the marmas—the 107 vital spots on the human body where a blow can kill. Training was conducted in secret, the lethal warriors unleashed as a surprise weapon against the enemies of Cheras.

Kalari payatt was banned by the British in 1793.   

(Refer to chapter on European Imperialism).

Fighting on foot for a Ksatreya was necessary in case he was unseated from his chariot or horse and found himself without weapons. Although the high ethical code of the Ksatreya forbid anyone but another Ksatreya from attacking him, doubtless such morals were not always observed, and when faced with an unscrupulous opponent, the Ksatreya needed to be able to defend himself, and developed, therefore, a very effective form of hand-to-hand combat that combined techniques of wrestling, throws, and hand strikes. Tactics and evasion were formulated that were later passed on to successive generations.

This skill was called Vajramukhti, a name meaning "thunderbolt closed - or clasped - hands." The tile Vajramukti referred to the usage of the hands in a manner as powerful as the Vajra maces of traditional warfare. Vajramukti was practiced in peacetime by means of regular physical training sessions and these utilized sequences of attack and defense technically termed in Sanskrit nata."  

 "Prior to and during the life of the Buddha various principles were embodied within the warrior caste known as the Ksatreya (Japanese: Setsuri). This title - stemming from Sanskrit root Ksetr meaning "power," described an elite force of usually royal or noble-born warriors who were trained from infancy in a wide variety of military and martial arts, both armed and unarmed. 

In China, the Ksatreya were considered to have descended from the deity Ping Wang (Japanese: Byo O), the "Lord of those who keep things calm." Ksatreyas were like the Peace force - to keep kings and people in order. Military commanders were called Senani - a name reminiscent of the Japanese term Sensei which describes a similar status. The Japanese samurai also had similar traits to the Ksatreya. Their battle practices and techniques are often so close to that of the Ksatreya that we must assume the former came from India perhaps via China. The traditions of sacred Swords, of honorable self-sacrifice, and service to one's Lord are all found first in India.  

"In ancient Hinduism, nata was acknowledged as a spiritual study and conferred as a ruling deity, Nataraja, representing the awakening of wisdom through physical and mental concentration. 

However, after the Muslim invasion of India and its brutal destruction of Buddhist and Hindu culture and religion, the Ksatreya art of nata was dispersed and many of its teachers slain. This indigenous martial arts, under the name of Kalari or Kalaripayit exists only in South India today.

Originating at least 1,300 years ago, India's Kalaripayit is the oldest martial art taught today. It is also the most potentially violent, because students advance from unarmed combat to the use of swords, sharpened flexible metal lashes, and peculiar three-bladed daggers.

Watch Kalari Martial Arts and Silambam Martial Arts video

When Buddhism came to influence India (circa 500 B.c), the Deity Nataraja was converted to become one of the four protectors of Buddhism, and was renamed Nar (y)ayana Deva (Chinese: Na Lo Yen Tien). He is said to be a protector of the Eastern Hemisphere of the mandala."

Father and founder of Zen Buddhism (called C’han in China), Boddidharma, a Brahmin born in Kacheepuram in Tamil Nadu, in 522 A.D. arrived at the courts of the Chinese Emperor Liang Nuti, of the 6th dynasty. He taught the Chinese monks Kalaripayattu, a very ancient Indian martial art, so that they could defend themselves against the frequent attacks of bandits. In time, the monks became famous all over China as experts in bare-handed fighting, later known as the Shaolin boxing art. The Shaolin temple which has been handed back a few years ago by the communist Government to the C’han Buddhist monks, inheritors of Boddhidharma’s spiritual and martial teachings, by the present Chinese Government, is now open to visitors. On one of the walls, a fresco can be seen, showing Indian dark-skinned monks, teaching their lighter-skinned Chinese brothers the art of bare-handed fighting. On this painting are inscribed: “Tenjiku Naranokaku” which means: “the fighting techniques to train the body (which come) from India…”


Ksatreya Vajramukti


Bodhisattva Vajramukti


Trican Nata


Mahabhuta Pratima


Seng Cha

Pu Sa Chin Kang Chuan
(Bodhisattva Vajramukti

(Po Fu)   (Huo Ming)   (Pa She)  (Pai Chin)

Seng Ping

Chuan Fa or Kung Fu 

(Karate)  (Tae Kwon Do)  (Thai Boxing)  (Ju Jitsu) (Judo) (Aikido) 

(source: The Boddhisattva Warriors: The Origin, Inner Philosophy, History and Symbolism of the Buddhist Martial Art Within India and China p.3 - 158-174 and 242). 

The famous Shao-lin style of boxing is also attributed to Indian influence. Bodhidharma, (8th century AD) who believed in a sound mind in a sound body, taught the monks in the Shao-lin temple this style of boxing for self-defense for rejuvenating the body after exacting meditation and mental concentration.

According to the History channel martial arts were introduced in China by an Indian named Bodhidharma, who taught it to the monks so that they could defend their monasteries. He was also said to have introduced the concept of vital energy or chi ("prana" probably corresponds to this). This concept is the basis acupuncture.  

Chuan Fa, the Buddhist martial arts, preserved many Ksatreya techniques in their original forms. The monks to practiced Chuan Fa were often the sole preservers of the Ksatreya art of Avasavidya, called in Chinese Huo Ming or Hua Fa. 

(For more information please refer to the chapters on India and China and War in Ancient India).


Carl G. Jung the eminent Swiss psychologist, described yoga as 'one of the greatest things the human mind has ever created.'  Yoga is an integral part of the Hindu religion. There is a saying: “There is no Yoga without Hinduism and no Hinduism without Yoga." The country of origin of Yoga is undoubtedly India, where for many hundreds of years it has been a part of man's activities directed towards higher spiritual achievements.

Yoga sutra consists of two words only: yogash chitta-critti-nirodah, which may be translated: “Yoga is the cessation of agitation of the consciousness.”

Yoga, which means “to yoke,” is an ancient eight-pronged approach to achieving union with God, is a 5,000-year-old Indian tradition. While the Upanishads are the original source of yoga philosophy, yoga is expounded in many sections of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Bhagavad Gita gives universal expression to the yogic teachings. 

Yoga is not a religion. It is a method or a technique of training the mind and developing its subtle powers of perception to discover spiritual truths that provide the basis for religious beliefs and practices. The Sanskirt word yoga is derived from the root word yuj, meaning union with the divine. A man who seeks after this union is called yogin or yogi. There are four divisions of yoga: Karma, Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga. The science of Raja Yoga was systemized and codified by Sage Patanjali (250-350 BCE). His work, known as "Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" or "The Aphorisms of Yoga by Patanjali" consists of 196 sholkas (verses). 

The purpose of Raja Yoga is to purify the body and mind for developing perfect concentration. It is also called Ashtanga Yoga, "The Yoga of eight limbs or steps" Ashta means eight and anga means limb or part. 

The Hindu Mind - Fundamentals of Hindu Religion and Philosophy for All Ages - By Bansi Pandit p. 61-75). 

The Sanskrit dhyana becomes Ch’an in Chinese which becomes Thom in Vietnamese, Son in Korean, Zen in Japanese.

(source: Yoga and The Teaching of Krishna - By Ravi Ravindra p. 48). For more on yoga refer to chapter on Yoga and Hindu Philosophy).

Silambam – Indian Stick Fighting

The art Nillaikalakki Silambam, which exists for more than five thousand years, is an authentic art which starts with the stick called Silambamboo (1.68 meters long). It originates from the Krunji mountains of south India, and is as old as the Indian sub-continent itself.

The natives called Narikuravar were using a staff called Silambamboo as a weapon to defend themselves against wild animals, and also to display their skill during their religious festivals. The Hindu scholars and yogis who went to the Krunji mountains to meditate got attracted by the display of this highly skilled spinning Silambamboo. The art Nillaikalakki Silambam therefore became a part of the Hindu scholars and yogis training, as they were taught by the Narikuravar.

They brought the art to the royal court during the reign of the Cheran, Cholan and Pandian emperors, once powerful rulers of India.

(source: Silamban – Indian Stick Fighting).

Watch Kalari Martial Arts and Silambam Martial Arts video

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"On action alone be thy interest,
Never on its fruits
Abiding in discipline perform actions,
Abandoning attachment
Being indifferent to success or failure."    

Bhagavad Gita I:25

As a religion, Hinduism has set side by side in peaceful coexistence every shade of belief ranging from the most primitive sort of animism to a highly sophisticated monism, with this has come a corresponding range of worship of practice extending from the simplest disease spirits to the most concentrated mediation designed to produce knowledge of abstract impersonal deity.

Swami Vivekananda describes it thus, " From the high spiritual flights of the Vedanta philosophy, of which the latest discoveries of science seem like echoes, to the low ideas of idolatry with its multifarious mythology, the agnosticism of the Buddhists, and the atheism of the Jains, each and all have a place in the Hindu religion."

Unlike other religions, Hinduism has no founder. It does not depend for its authority on the personality of any man - a messiah, a savior, a prophet or guru. Its authority is eternal Truth which has revealed itself through the minds of great rishis who perfected themselves by long penances and are said to have heard in their hearts eternal truths as Sruti. Thus it has become a cumulative record of metaphysical experimentation.

Rig Veda is the Veda par excellence, the real Veda that traces the earliest growth of religious ideas in India. It is in poetical form, has one thousand twenty eight hymns called Samhita. It is much full of thought that at this early period in history no poet of any nation could have conceived them. The sublimity, the nobility, the natural justice, the equality, the love and welfare of all humanity as a whole is the theme of the Rig Veda. The Vedic God has no partisan attitude of the jealous and vindictive God. 

Philosophically, Hindus accept no dogma, no laws, no rules, no rites or rituals and no requirements of temple or place of worship. 

According to
Romain Rolland (1866-1944) author of Inde Journal, French Nobel laureate, professor of the history of music at the Sorbonne and thinker: 

"Religious faith in the case of the Hindus has never been allowed to run counter to scientific laws, moreover the former is never made a condition for the knowledge they teach, but there are always scrupulously careful to take into consideration the possibility that by reason both the agnostic and atheist may attain truth in their own way. Such tolerance may be surprising to religious believers in the West, but it is an integral part of Vedantic belief." 

The goal is not to find God, a god, the heaven, a kingdom of God on earth, permanent youthfulness, or eternal life, but it is the abolishment of individual identity for merger into the Ultimate. 

"As flowing rivers disappear in the sea, losing their name and form, thus a wise man, freed from name and form, goes to the divine person who is beyond all." This philosophy has satisfied the philosophical Hindu mind with astonishing continuity. 

Albrecht Weber (1825-1901) in his book The history of Indian literature p. 126, says: “It is in this field and that of grammar that the Indian mind attained the highest pitch of its marvelous fertility.”

“The Hindu, says Friedrich Maximilian Muller (1823-1900) “were a people remarkably gifted for philosophical abstraction.” 

Frederich von Schlegel (1772-1829) in his book, History of Literature p. 109, says: “India is preeminently distinguished for the many traits of original grandeur of thought and of the wonderful remains of immediate knowledge.” 

Like all other things in India, the Hindu philosophy, too, is on a gigantic scale. Every shade of opinion, every mode of thought, every school of philosophy has found its expression in the philosophical writings of the Hindus and received it full development. 

(source: Hindu Superiority  - By Har Bilas Sarda p.276 -277).

William Enfield (1741-1797) wrote: “We find that it (India) was visited for the purpose of acquiring knowledge by Pythagoras, Anaxarchus, Pyrrho, and others who afterwards became eminent philosophers in Greece.” “Some of the doctrines of the Greeks concerning nature are said to have been derived from the Indians. 

(source: The History of Philosophy from the earliest times to the beginnngs of the present century; drawn upon Brucker's Historia Critica Philosophiae - By William Enfield p 70).

Hopkins says "Plato is full of Samkhyan thought worked out by him but taken from Pythagoras. Discussing the historical genesis of Greek antiquity, J. P. Mayer observes: " Egyptian, Persian and Indian cultural influences were absorbed into the Greek world from very early times." (source: Political Thought, The European Tradition, p.7).

John Bowle categorically declares that Plato was influenced by Indian ideas. 

(source: A New Outline of World History - By John Bowle p. 91).

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Government and Constitution

The saying of the greatest English exponent of Political Philosophy, Edmund Burke, that no country in which population flourishes can be under a bad government, introduces us to the subject of the political constitution of Ancient India. 

Megasthenes says that “there are 120 nations in India.” Arrian admits that the Indians were the most numerous people and that it was impossible to know and enumerate the cities in Aryavarta. Prof. Max Dunker says “the Indians were the largest of the nations.” Ctesias states that “they (Hindus) were as numerous as all the other nations put together.” 

Arrian mentions with admiration that every Indian is free. Lt. Colonel Mark Wilks, while discussing the political system in its provincial working, says, “ Each Hindu township is, and indeed always was, a particular community or petty republic by itself.” “The whole of Inida,” he says again, “is nothing more than one vast congeries of such republics.” 

Sir Charles Metcalf (1785 -1846) says: “The village communities are little republics having nearly everything they can want within themselves and almost independent of any foreign nation. They seem to last where nothing lasts. Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down, revolution succeeds revolution, and Pathan, Moghuls, English are all masters in turn, but the village communities remain the same. This union of village communities, each one forming a separate little state in itself, is in a high degree conducive to their (Hindu) happiness, and to the enjoyment of a great portion of freedom and independence.” 

The benevolent nature of the Hindu civilization is proved by the fact that the Hindu civilization is proved by the fact that the Hindu colonies and dependencies enjoyed the same Constitution as the mother country. Sir Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) says about Bali, an island east of Java: “Here together with the Brahminical religion, is still preserved, the ancient form of Hindu municipal polity. “ 

Abu Sabhbad had the Rajniti translated into Persian in 1150 A.D. Buzarchameber, the renowned minister of Nausherwan the Just, received his political education and training in India.

Sir William Jones (1746-1794) wrote: "The laws of Manu very probably were considerably older than those of Solon or even of Lycurgus, although the promulgation of them, before they were reduced to writing, might have been covered with the first monarchies established in Egypt and India."

(source: Land Tax of India - By Colonel Briggs p. 24).

Sir William Jones also points out: "Although perhaps Manu was never in Crete, yet some of his institutions may well have been adopted in that island, whence Lycurgus a century or two after may have imported them into Sparta." 

(source: Preface to Haughton's Institutes of Hindu Law p xii).

Louis Jacolliot (1837-1890) writes in The Bible in India: "The Manu Smriti was the foundation upon which the Egyptian, the Persian, the Grecian and the Roman codes of law were built, and that the influence of Manu were still felt everyday in Europe."

Horace Hyman Wilson (1786-1860) says that the Hindus had " a code of laws adapted to a great variety of relations which could not have existed except in an advanced condition of social organization."

(source: History of British India - By James Mill Volume II p. 282).

A writer in the Asiatic Journal (p. 14) says: "All the requisite shades of care and diligence, the corresponding shades of negligence and default are carefully observed in the Hindu law of bailment, and neither in jurisprudence nor in the legal treatises of the most civilized States of Europe are they to be found more logically expressed or more accurately defined. In the spirit of Pyrrhus, observation on the Roman legions, one cannot refrain from exclaiming: "I see nothing barbarous in the jurisprudence of the Hindus."

Of the Commentary of Calluca on Manu, Sir William Jones says: "It is the shortest yet the most luminous; the least ostentatious yet the most learned; the deepest yet the most agreeable commentary ever composed on any author ancient or modern, European or Asiatic."

(source: Preface to Haughton's Institutes of Hindu Law p. 18 and Hindu Raj in the World - By K. L. Lal p.1-22). 

Before the Greeks, before Buddhism, India had developed a style of local government which endured up to modern times, just as it had developed an amazingly modern system of town and village planning and almost fool proof economic and social structure. That’s what kept the country so stable through all disturbances and invasions, and gives a definite continuity to its culture. 

(source : The Power of India – Michael Pym p. 218-219).

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Law is a test of good government. The great Hindu work on law is a marvel of simplicity and wisdom. Without being complex, it satisfied all the diverse wants of the people. Sir William Jones says: “The laws of Manu very probably were considerably the promulgation of them, before they were reduced to writing, might have been coeval with the first monarchies established in Egypt and India.”

The Bible in India says that the Manu Smriti was the foundation upon which the Egyptian, the Persian, the Grecian and the Roman Codes of Law were built, and that the influence of Manu was still every day felt in Europe.

Horace Hyman Wilson (1786-1860) says, the Hindus had a code of Laws adapted to a great variety of relations which could not have existed except in an advanced condition of social organization.” 

H. T. Coleman in his book, Mythology of the Hindus, p. 8, says: The style of it (Manu) has a certain austere majesty that sounds like the language of legislation and extorts a respectful awe. The sentiments of independence on all beings but God, and the harsh administrations even to kings are truly noble, and the many panegyrics on the Gayatri prove the author to have adored the divine and incomparably greater light which illumines all, delights all, from which all proceed, to which all must return, and which can alone irradiate our intellect.” 

William Robertson in his book, An Historical Disquisition Concerning the Knowledge which the Ancients had of India p. 217 says: 

“ With respect to the number and variety of points that Hindu code considers it will bear a comparison with the celebrated Digest of Justinian, or with the systems of jurisprudence in nations most highly civilized. The articles of which the Hindu code  is composed are arranged in natural and luminous order. They are numerous and comprehensive, and investigated with that minute attention and discernment which are natural to a people distinguished for acuteness and subtlety of understanding, who have been long accustomed to the accuracy of judicial proceedings, and acquainted with all the refinements of legal practices. Whoever examines the whole work cannot entertain a doubt of its containing the jurisprudence of an enlightened and commercial people. Whoever look into any particular title will be surprised with a  minuteness of detail and nicety of distinction which, in many instances, seem to go beyond the attention of European legislation; and it is remarkable that some of the regulations which indicate the greatest degree of refinement were established in periods of the most remote antiquity.” 

An eminent authority, the late Chief Justice of Madras, Sir Thomas Strange (1756-1841) says of the Hindu Law of Evidence:

 “It will be read by every English lawyer with a mixture of admiration and delight, as it may be studied by him to advantage.” 

(source India - By James Mill Volume II. p. 512 and Hindu Superiority  - By Har Bilas Sarda p. 13- 26).

Louis Francois Jacolliot (1837-1890), who worked in French India as a government official and was at one time President of the Court in Chandranagar, translated numerous Vedic hymns, the Manusmriti, and the Tamil work, Kural. His masterpiece, La Bible dans l'Inde, stirred a storm of controversy.

Manu – Hindoo Law 

The Hindoo law were codified by Manu more than 3,000 years before the Christian era, copied by entire antiquity and notably by Rome, which alone has left us a written law – the code of Justanian, which has been adopted as the base of all modern legislations. 

Besides, what antiquity wholly overlooked, but what we cannot too much admire in India, is its respect for women, almost amounting to worship. This extract from Manu (shloka 55) will not be read without surprise: 

“Women should be nurtured with every, tenderness and attention by their fathers, their brothers, their husband, and their brother-in-law, if they desire great prosperity.” “Where women live in affliction, the family soon becomes extinct, but when they are loved and respected, and cherished with tenderness, the family grows and prospers in all circumstances.” This veneration of women produced in India an epoch of adventurous chivalry during which we find the heroes of Hindoo poems accomplishing high deeds, which reduce all the exploits of Amadis, knights of the Round Table, and the Paladins of the Middle Ages, to mere child’s play.” 


“Observe, enpassant, this striking coincidence with French law, that the Hindoo wife, in default of her husband’s authority may release from her incapacity, by authority of justice. “ 

“The contract made by a man who is drunk, foolish, imbecile or grievously disordered in his mental condition….” Manu further adds – “What is held under comprehension – held by force is declared null.” 

Would not this be thought a mere commentary on the Code of Napoleon? Of 4-5,000 years after “How far is all this from those barbarous customs of first ages, when every question was solved by violence and force, and what admiration should we feel for a people who, at the epoch at which Biblical fall would date the world’s creation, had already reached the extraordinary degree of civilization indicated by laws so simple and so practical.” 

(source: La Bible dans l'Inde - By Louis Jacolliot  p. 40 - 45).

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Arrian mentions with admiration that every Indian is free. (refer to Indica, ch. X and Ephinstone's India p. 239).

Will Durant, American Historian says: " India is the mother of democracy" He points out that the Greek Assembly, the Roman Agora or the German Moot, the antecedents of modern democracy, were derived from the Indian institution known as Samiti or Sabha recorded in the Vedas. In fact, there was a democratic deity called Samajnana to whom the last hymn of the Rig Veda makes salutation."

(source: The Soul of India - By Satyavrata R Patel p.137).

Luigi Miraglia (1846-1903) author of Comprehensive Legal Philosophy, wrote: "Among the Aryans there was never arisen that all-controlling despotism which blots out man, as in Egypt, Babylon, China, among the Mussalman and Tartar tribes; or if it has appeared, it has not been of long duration."

(source: Comprehensive Legal Philosophy - By Luigi Miraglia p. 120).

Lt. Colonel Mark Wilks, (1760?-1831) while discussing the political system in its provincial working says:

"Each Hindu township is, and indeed always was, a particular community of petty Republics by itself. The whole of India is nothing more than one vast congeries of such Republics."

(source: Historical Sketches of the South of India, Volume I. p. 119).

Even historian James Mill (1773-1836) was force to admit that "in examining of the spirit of these ancient constitutions and laws, we discover evident traces of a germ of republicanism. "The village communities are little Republics having nearly everything they could want within themselves and almost independent of any foreign nation. They seemed to last where nothing else lasted."

(source: Hindu Raj in the World - By K. L. Lal Akshat Publications ASIN: 8185069085 p.1-22).

Old inscriptions recently discovered also furnish incontestable proof of the representative form of government prevailing in India in ancient times. 

Indeed, in ancient India, monarchical thinking was constantly battling with another vision, of self-rule by members of a guild, a village, or an extended kin-group, in other words, any group of equals with a common set of interests. Though evidence for non-monarchical government goes back to the Vedas, republican polities were most common and vigorous in the Buddhist period, 600 B.C.-A.D. 200. But the literature, Pali and Sanskrit, Buddhist and Brahmanical, shows that non-monarchical forms of government were omnipresent. There was a complex vocabulary to describe the different types of groups that ran their own affairs.

Such an organization, of whatever type, could be designated, almost indifferently, as a gana or a sangha; and similar though less important bodies were labeled with the terms sreni, puga, or vrata. Gana and sangha, the most important of these terms, originally meant "multitude." By the sixth century B.C., these words meant both a self-governing multitude, in which decisions were made by the members working in common, and the style of government characteristic of such groups. In the case of the strongest of such groups, which acted as sovereign governments, the words are best translated as "republic." 

That there were many sovereign republics in India is easily demonstrated from a number of sources. Perhaps it is best to begin with the Greek evidence, even though it is not the earliest, simply because the Greek writers spoke in a political language that is familiar.

Perhaps the most useful Greek account of India is Arrian's Anabasis of Alexander , which describes the Macedonian conqueror's campaigns in great detail. The Anabasis, which is derived from the eyewitness accounts of Alexander's companions, portrays him as meeting "free and independent" Indian communities at every turn. What "free and independent" meant is illustrated from the case of Nysa, a city on the border of modern Afghanistan and Pakistan that was ruled by a president named Aculphis and a council of 300.  

Such a development is hinted at in Kautilya: according to him, there were two kinds of janapadas, ayudhiya-praya, those made up mostly of soldiers, and sreni-praya, those comprising guilds of craftsmen, traders, and agriculturalists.  As Panini's most thorough modern student has put it, there was "a craze for constituting new republics" which "had reached its climax in the Vahika country and north-west India where clans constituting of as many as one hundred families only organized themselves as Ganas." Furthermore, power in some republics was vested in a large number of individuals. In a well-known Jataka tale we are told that in the Licchavi capital of Vesali, there were 7707 kings (rajas), 7707 viceroys, 7707 generals, and 7707 treasurers.

(source: Democracy in Ancient India - By by Steve Muhlberger).

Then came the British, who, like a heavy steamroller, confounded and dejected the soul of India. But yet at the village level democracy flourished in the form of the Gram-Panchayats. Sir Charles Napier Metcalfe in an official report to the British Parliament writes, "The village communities are little republics having nearly everything they want within themselves. They seem to last when nothing else lasts. Dynasty after dynasty tumbles, revolution succeeds revolution, but the village community remains the same." 

(source: The Soul of India - By Satyavrata R Patel p.144).

C. E. M. Joad (1891-1953) British philosopher and author. He became head of the department of philosophy at Birbeck College, Univ. of London, in 1930 wrote:

The Sabha, Vidathaand Sena: A feature of the social organization of the Vedic age was the Sabha, a word which means literally, "a body of men shining together", and conveys the suggestion that those who were entitled to a seat in the Sabha were thereby invested with luster. The Sabha seems to have been a sort of standing committee of selected persons of the kind whom the English call "elder statesmen", appointed by the Samiti and acting under its supervision as the judicature of the community. The religious life of the community was organized through the assembly known as the Vidatha, which also performed certain civil and military functions. The Sena, or army, which was in those early times more or less identical with the whole community in arms, ranked as a separate constitutional unit.

The characteristic form of government of post-Vedic times is Republicanism. Megasthenes, writing about 300 B.C. records that sovereignty (kingship) was dissolved and that democratic governments were set up in a number of places. The historians of Alexander's campaign also mention a number of States as "free, autonomous and independent." During his retreat Alexander actually came across a number of Indian republics. Indeed, all the states with which he made contact on his way back appear to have been under republicanism form of government. The most powerful of these were the Khudrakas and the Malavas. From the description in the writings of Greek historians, we gather that the populations of the republics were large, their territories wide; that they contained a number of cities and that some of them were very rich. In a word they were independent, wealthy, prosperous and highly organized. 

The Buddha himself was born in a republican country, and it is not without significance that he should have called the monastic order he founded the Republic of the Bhikkus (Monks), the name "Republic" suggesting that he transferred the constitution of a political to a religious order. Thus, independent democratic and aristocratic republics seem to have flourished widely throughout the continent of India for a period of nearly a thousand years, a period which ended with the establishment of the Gupta Empire in A.D. 300. The outstanding feature of the republican system during this period is known as the "gana rajya", or rule of numbers, that is to say, the rule of many persons. 

(source: The Story of Indian Civilization - By C. E. M. Joad p. 108-111).

American Rev. Jabez T. Sunderland (1842-1936) has written:

"The fact is, not Europe but Asia seems to have been the cradle of political liberty, the cradle of democratic and republican government, in the world...research makes it clear that the democratic and republican institutions of Europe and America actually send their roots back to Asia, and especially to India. Republics actually existed in India at least as early as the days of the Buddha (6th century before Christ). The republican form of government in ancient India had a duration of at least a thousand years. We have records of no other country, ancient or modern, where republics have existed and continued for so long a period. Even more important than her republics has been the spirit of freedom and democracy which has manifested itself in many forms among the Indian people from the earliest ages. The Vedas show that the principle of representative government were held by the ancient Aryans 12-13 centuries before the Christian era."

(source: India in Bondage: Her Right to Freedom - By Rev. Jabez T. Sunderland p 196 -197).

The Marquess of Zetland former Viceroy of India, has written:

"And it may come as a surprise to many to learn that in the Assemblies of the Buddhists in India, 2,000 years and more ago, are to be found the rudiments of our Parliamentary practice of the present day. The dignity of the Assembly was preserved by the appointment of a special officer - the embryo of 'Mr. Speaker' in our House of Commons. A second officer was appointed whose duty it was to see that when necessary a quorum was secured - the prototype of the Parliamentary 'Chief Whip' in our own system. A member initiating business did so in the form of a 'motion' which was then open for discussion. In some cases this was done once only, in others three times, thus anticipating the practice of Parliament in requiring that a Bill be read a third time before it becomes a law. If discussion disclosed a difference of opinion, the matter was decided by a vote of the majority, the voting being a ballot."

(source: The Legacy of India - edited By G. T. Garrett p. x-xii).

The state of Nysa was an oligarchy, governed by a Council of 300 aristocrats, while another was democratic, with an Assembly 0f 5,000 members. The Yaudheyas, the Malavas, and the Arjuneyas had democratic constitutions. It is interesting to study the working of the village-republics of which we have definite and widespread evidence. It was about the survivals of these, in the early 19th century, that Sir Charles Metcalfe in the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, London, 1832, wrote in admiration: "They seem to last where nothing else lasts. Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down; revolution succeeds revolution; but the village-communities remain the same. This union of the village-communities, each one forming a separate little State in itself, has, I conceive, contributed, more than any other cause, to the preservation of the peoples of India, through all the revolutions and changes which they have suffered, and is, in a high degree, conducive to their happiness and to the enjoyment of a great portion of freedom and independence.

Sir George Birdwood, author of Industrial Arts of India, remarked that, though India has undergone more religious and political revolutions than any other country in the world, these village communities have stood like a rock in the midst of the rising and the falling tide, 'in full municipal vigor all over the peninsula.'

(source: Our Heritage and Its Significance - By Shripad Rama Sharma  p. 90-103).

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Logic in Ancient India 

Rabindra Chandra Dutt (1912- ) says: “Comapring dates, we are disposed to say of this as of many other sciences, the Hindus invented logic, the Greeks perfected it.” We must not forget the historical fact that there was a close intercourse between the Greeks and the Hindus from the time of Pythagoras, who, it is said, went to India to gather the wisdom of the Hindus. Alexander himself was so deeply impressed, when he heard about the Hindu philosophers,  that he desired to make their acquaintances. It is also said that he brought back many Hindu philosophers back to Greece with him. These two schools of philosophy, the Vaisheshika and the Nyaya, supplement each other, and have at present many followers in some parts of India, especially in Bengal and among the Jains. 

Then comes the Sankya system of Kapila. Kapila lived about 700 B.C. He is called the father of the evolution theory in India. His system is more like the philosophy of Herbert Spencer. He rejected the atomic theory by tracing the origin of atoms to one eternal cosmic energy, which he called Prakriti (latin, procreatrix, the creative energy). He maintained that the whole phenomenal universe has evolved out of one cosmic energy which is eternal. Kapila defined atoms as force centers, which correspond to the Ions and Electrons of modern science. It was Kapila who for the first time explained creation as the result of attraction and repulsion, which literally means love and hatred of atoms, as Empedocles puts it. 

The Sankhya philosophy of Kapila, in short, is devoted entirely to the systematic, logical, and scientific explanation of the process of cosmic evolution from that primordial Prakriti, or eternal Energy. There is no ancient philosophy in the world which was not indebted to the Sankhya system of Kapila. The idea of evolution which the ancient Greeks and neo-Platonists had can be traced back to the influence of this Sankhya school of thought.

E. W. Hopkins says: “Plato is full of Sankhyan thought, worked out by him, but taken from Pythagoras. Before the sixth century B.C. all the religious philosophical ideas of Pythagoras are current in India. (L. Schroeder, Pythagoras). If there were but one or two of these cases, they might be set aside as accidental coincidences, but such coincidences are too numerous to be the result of change. "

And again he writes: "Neo-Platonism and Christian Gnosticism owe much to India. The Gnostic ideas in regard to a plurality of heavens and spiritual worlds go back directly to Hindu sources. Soul and light are one in the Sankhyan system, before they became so in Greece, and when they appear united in Greece it is by means of the thought which is borrowed from India. The famous three qualities of the Sankhyan reappear as the Gnostic 'three classes.'

In his Hindu Philosophy John Davies, speaks of Kapila’s system as the first recorded system of philosophy in the world, and calls it “the earliest attempt on record to give an answer, from reason alone, to the mysterious questions which arise in every thoughtful mind about the origin of the world, the nature and relations of man and his future destiny.” 

Furthermore, Mr. Davies says, in reference to the German philosophy of Schopenhauer and of Hartmann, that it is “a reproduction of the philosophic system of Kapila in its materialistic part, presented in a more elaborate form, but on the same fundamental lines. In this respect the human intellect has gone over the same ground that it occupied more than two thousand years ago; but on a more important question it has taken a step in retreat. Kapila recognized fully the existence of a soul in man, forming indeed his proper nature,  - the absolute of Fichte, - distinct from matter and immortal; but our latest philosophy, both here and in Germany, can see in man only a highly developed organization.” 

It is most startling to find that the ultimate conclusions of this Sankhya system harmonize and coincide with those of modern science. It says:

  1. Something cannot come out of nothing
  2. The effect lies in the cause, that is, the effect is the cause reproduced
  3. Destruction means the reversion of an effect to its caused state
  4.  The laws of nature are uniform and regular throughout
  5. The building up of the cosmos is the result of the evolution of the cosmic energy. These are some of the conclusions which Kapila arrived at through observation and experiment, and by following strictly the rules of inductive logic.

(source: Hindu Philosophy: The Sânkhya Kârikâ of Îúwara Krishna. An Exposition of the System of Kapila - By John Davies  Elibron Classics reprint. Paperback. New. Based on 1881 edition by Trьbner & Co., London).

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Religion, the balm for afflicted minds, is, as Bacon observed: “the chief bond of human society.” 

The Vedic religion is the knowledge, the recognition of the eternal principles of being, of God, of spirit and matter, and their relation to one another as revealed to them in the Vedas. 

Frederich von Schlegel says: “It cannot be denied that the early Indians possessed a knowledge of the true God. All their writings are replete with sentiments and expressions, noble, clear, severely grand, as deeply conceived as in any human language in which men have spoken of their God.” 

Charles Coleman in his book, Wisdom of Ancient Indians, wrote: “The Almighty, Infinite, Eternal, Incomprehensible, Self-existent Being; He who sees everything though never seen; He who is not to be compassed by description, and who is beyond the limits of human conception is Brahman, the one unknown true Being, the Creator, the Preserver and Destroyer of the universe. Under such and innumerable other definitions is the Deity acknowledged in the Vedas, or the sacred writings of the Hindus.” 

An eminent Frenchman says that the Hindu Revelation is “of all Revelations the only one whose ideas are in complete harmony with modern science.” 

Count Bjornstjerna author of The Theogony of the Hindoos with their systems of Philosophy and Cosmogony, after giving a quotation from the Vedas, says: 

“These truly sublime ideas cannot fail to convince us that the Vedas recognize only one God, who is Almighty, Infinite, Eternal, Self-existent, the Light and the Lord of the Universe.”  “The Vedic dharma, however, never feared scientific advancement, nor was it ever guilty of the terrors of the Inquisition. It never shed the blood of a Galileo, a Copernicus or a Bruno.” 

The Countess of Jersey says in the Nineteenth Century: “Bu to the higher caste Hindu, Christianity offers no solution to his doubts and to his fears. The doctrines of the Upanishads (the philosophical speculations of the Vedas) satisfy the utmost longings of the mind. The acute logic of the ancient Rishis has raised a bulwark of arguments to support the huge fabric of Hindu thought. The doctrine of Karma offers the simplest and most reasonable answer to the obvious inequalities and striking contrasts in this visible world, of happiness and suffering. The ferment and unrest of the soul in the search of knowledge is soothed and laid at rest when the object of contemplation is reduced to a figure head and finally a point in space. This contemplation of point in space results in a self absorbing delight which knows no end, and which places the  soul high above all carnal wants and aspirations. This is the goal of the Hindu philosophy."

(source: Hindu Superiority  - Har Bilas Sarda p.431 - 454 - For more quotes on Hinduism, refer to chapter on Quotes).

Houston Steward Chamberlain (1855 - 1927) an important thinker, admits India's uniqueness. He says: "Indian thought is unsurpassed in depth and many sided comprehensiveness."

(source: The Soul of India - By Satyavrata R Patel p.73).

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Art and Architecture

American historian Will Durant has said, " Before Indian art, as before every phase of Indian civilization, we stand in humble wonder at its age and its continuity. Probably no other nation known to us has ever had so exuberant a variety of arts."  "Textiles were woven with an artistry never since excelled; from the days of Caesar's to our own the fabrics of India have bee prized by all the world. Every garment woven in India has a beauty that comes only of a very ancient, and now almost instinctive, art."

Sir John Marshall, one of the acknowledged authority of the Indus Valley, has said,

" To know Indian art in India alone, is to know but half its story. To apprehend it to the full, we must follow it in the wake of Buddhism, to central Asia, China, and Japan; we much watch its assuming new forms and breaking new forms and breaking into new beauties as it spread over Tibet and Burma, and Siam; we must gaze in awe at the unexampled grandeur of its creations in Cambodia and Java. In each of these countries, Indian art encounters a different racial genius, a different local environment, and under their modifying influence it takes on a different garb. " 

Indian architecture can be traced to the Indus Valley civilization. The great Bath at Mohenjodaro is finely built brick structure with a layer of bitumen as waterproofing, and adjoining well that supplied water and an outlet that led to a large drain. Surrounding the bath are porticoes and set of rooms, while as stairway led to an upper level. The well planned residential areas were laid out on a grid pattern ,with main thoroughfares aligned north-south. The people lived in multi-roomed houses, with a bathing room which were connected to a street drain. An estimated 700 wells supplied Mohenjodaro residents with water and even the smallest house was connected to a drainage system. The impressive infrastructure of the Indus cities suggests an effective central authority. The Indus people adorned themselves with beads and ornaments of shell and terracotta, as well as silver and gold necklaces. 

During the Gupta period, the Golden Age of India, the caves of Ellora and Ajanta Ellora and Ajanta Ellora and Ajanta were dug out and frescoes painted. The Mighty caves of Ellora were carve out of solid rock with the stupendous Kailasa temple in the center; it is difficult to imagine how human beings conceived this or having conceived it, gave body and shape to their conception. The caves of Elephanta, with the powerful and subtle Trimurti, date also to this period. 

K M Pannikkar (1896-1963) has observed: "the two hundred years of the Gupta rule may be said to mark the climax of Hindu imperial tradition."

(source: Indian Heritage and Culture - By P. R. Rao Publisher: Sterling ISBN: 81-207-0930-6 p. 21)

"Stupendous work," wrote British artist James Wales in 1792 of his first view of the Buddhist rock cave temple at Karli. Carved in the face of the Western Ghats, the steep hills separating the coastal plain and the central plateau southeast of Bombay, the temple dated from the first century A.D. Unlike anything Wales had ever seen before, Karli, along with other cave complex in the area, had been hollowed out of the rock by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains as places of worship and monastic residence through the ages. 

Wales arrived in Bombay, intrigued by sketches he had seen of a rock temple on the island of Elephanta. The images inspired Wales to visit the great cave there with its high, pillared hall, housing a towering three-headed bust of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Wales took meticulous measurements, copied inscriptions, and sketched the ornate interior of the caves. Following Wales's lead, artist Henry Salt visited Karli in 1804. A companion wrote of their awe at coming upon the temple: "The entrance to the temple was through a very lofty gateway, I should suppose about one hundred feet high, covered with carved work to the summit." So much earth and rock had been gouged by hand, then carved with great delicacy, all with rudimentary tools, that the explorers were overwhelmed by the devotion of the followers of the ancient faith.

(source: What Life Was Like in the Jewel of the Crown: British India AD 1600-1905 - By The Editors of Time-Life Books. p. 106).

Shiva Nataraja:  According to Epstein, "Shiva dances, creating the world and destroying it, his large rhythms conjure up a vast eons of time, and his movements have a relentless magical power of incantation. Our European allegories are banal and pointless by comparison with these profound works, devoid of the trappings of symbolism, concentrating on the essential, the essentially plastic." 

(source:  The Discovery of India - By Jawaharlal Nehru Oxford University Press. 1995 p. 214).

For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor

Lost Temples of India

If you switch on The History Channel, you are overwhelmed with documentaties on Egypt. Every pyramid, every pharoah and every single grain of sand has a documentary. “Ancient Secrets of Egypt”, “Really Ancient Secrets of Egypt”, “The secret of the pyramids”, “The Pharoah’s slave’s wife’s second cousin’s story”, so goes the list. But if you ask which Indian emperor has moved more stone than the pyramid in Giza to construct a temple, everyone would blink.

It was refreshing to see the documentary called The Lost Temples of India on the Big Temple at Tanjore, constructed by Raja Raja Chola. The documentary talks about how Raja Raja selected elephants for battle, how he moved 40 tonne granite stones to build the temple and the techniques used for cutting granite. They even find the remains of the ramp which could have been used for sliding up the stones.

(source: Lost Temples of India).

Also the group of monuments at Mamallapuram in South India. The Ajanta frescoes are very beautiful. They take one back to some distant dream-like and yet very real world. 

Hindu Art in the Old Indian Colonies:

It is the magnificent art and architecture of the old Indian colonies that the Indian influence is most marked.

At Ankor Wat, bas-reliefs of the legends of Lord Rama and Krishna are reproduced. Of Angkor, Mr. Osbert Stilwell has written: " Let it be said immediately that Angkor, as it stands, ranks as chief wonder of the world today, one of the summits to which human genius has aspired in stone, infinitely more impressive, lovely and, as well, romantic....The material remains of a civilization that flashed its wings, of the utmost brilliance, for six centuries, and then perished so utterly that even his name has died from the lips of man." 

"From Persia to the Chinese Sea," writes Sylvain Levi, "from the icy regions of Siberia to the islands of Java and Borneo, from Oceania to Socotra, India has propagated her beliefs, her tales and her civilization. She has left indelible imprints on one-fourth of the human race in the course of a long succession of centuries. She has the right to reclaim in universal history the rank that ignorance has refused her for a long time and to hold her place amongst the great nations summarizing and symbolizing the spirit of Humanity."  

The Discovery of India - By Jawaharlal Nehru Oxford University Press. 1995 p .208- 210). For more information please refer to chapter on Suvarnabhumi).

In Shiva’s temple, stone pillars make music - an architectural rarity

Shiva is the Destroyer and Lord of Rhythm in the Hindu trinity. But here he is Lord Nellaiyappar, the Protector of Paddy, as the name of the town itself testifies — nel meaning paddy and veli meaning fence in Tamil. Prefixed to nelveli is tiru, which signifies something special — like the exceptional role of the Lord of Rhythm or the unique musical stone pillars in the temple.In the Nellaiyappar temple, gentle taps on the cluster of columns hewn out of a single piece of rock can produce the keynotes of Indian classical music. “Hardly anybody knows the intricacies of how these were constructed to resonate a certain frequency. The more aesthetically inclined with some musical knowledge can bring out the rudiments of some rare ragas from these pillars.”

The Nelliyappar temple chronicle, Thirukovil Varalaaru, says the nadaththai ezhuppum kal thoongal — stone pillars that produce music — were set in place in the 7th century during the reign of Pandyan king Nindraseer Nedumaran. Archaeologists date the temple before 7th century and say it was built by successive rulers of the Pandyan dynasty that ruled over the southern parts of Tamil Nadu from Madurai. Tirunelveli, about 150 km south of Madurai, served as their subsidiary capital.

Each huge musical pillar carved from one piece of rock comprises a cluster of smaller columns and stands testimony to a unique understanding of the “physics and mathematics of sound." Well-known music researcher and scholar Prof. Sambamurthy Shastry, the “marvellous musical stone pillars” are “without a parallel” in any other part of the country. “What is unique about the musical stone pillars in the Tiruelveli Nellaiyappar temple is the fact you have a cluster as large as 48 musical pillars carved from one piece of stone, a delight to both the ears and the eyes,” The pillars at the Nellaiyappar temple are a combination of the Shruti and Laya types.

This is an architectural rarity and a sublime beauty to be cherished and preserved.

(source: In Shiva’s temple, pillars make music - telegraphindia.com).


  Hindu Architecture and the Taj Mahal

Percy Brown has remarked, "Konark (Temple) should be the wonder, not the Taj Mahal".

Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India (1890-1905) was the first British ruler to admire Indian civilization and to acknowledge that India’s architectural heritage constituted ‘the greatest galaxy monuments in the world’ As well as his contemporary, the first man to attempt an exposition of Indian art, was Dr. Ernest Binfield Havell.

Havell’s is not a name writ large in the annals of the British Raj. He came to India as principal to the Madras College of Art in the 1890s and left as principal of the Calcutta College of Art some 20 years later. But during this period his work and writings exercised considerable influence both in India and in the West.  

Havell (1861-1934) insisted that the Islamic architecture in India was influenced by the Hindus. He supplied the following quotes from the opening quotes of his book, Indian Architecture - Its Psychology, Structure and History from the First Mohammedan Invasion to the Present Day. These give evidence at the admiration the Muslims had for Indian architecture: " Albiruni, the Arab historian, expressed his astonishment at and admiration for the work of Hindu builders.  "Our people, he said, "when they see them, wonder at them and are unable to describe them, much less to construct anything like them." 

Abdul Fazal (wrote), "It passes our conception of things, few indeed in the whole world can compare with them." 

On page 321, Historian Vincent Smith in his book Akbar the Great Moghul, says: 

" It is surprising to find unmistakable Hindu features in the architecture of the tomb of a most zealous Musalman saint, but the whole structure suggests Hindu feeling and nobody can mistake the Hindu origin of the column and struts of the porch." 

(source: Proof of Vedic Culture's Global Existence - By Stephen Knapp p. 280-9). 

Islamic architecture was one of  rapid capitulation to the superior indigenous art of India. Akbar was not the exception but the classic example. His wholesale adoption of Hindu styles and his patronage of Indian craftsmen marked the end of a brief experiment with non-Indian forms (Tughlak’s tomb for example), and the beginning of one of the greatest periods of purely Indian building. 

Taking the bull firmly by the horn Havell turned to the classic age of Moghul architecture, the reign of Shah Jehan (1628-58), and in particular to none other than the Taj Mahal. The great dome of subtle contour, the soaring minarets, the formal Persian garden, the chaste inlay work and tracery, the clustered cupolas – nothing, surely, could be more typically Mohammedan. But Havell was a determined polemicist and uniquely qualified scholar. His first point was that whatever the inspiration, ‘there is one thing which has struck every writer about the Taj Mahal and that is its dissimilarity to any other monument in any other part of the world..’  

Outside India, its supposed precursor, Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, or the other two white marble tombs, those of Itimad-ud-Daula in Agra and Salim Chishti at Fatehpur Sikri, were so inferior as to be unworthy of comparison. There was no precedent in the strictly non-representational art of Islam. If the inspiration for the building was to be sought in sculpture rather than the architecture, then it must be sought in Indian sculpture. The purity of line and subtlety of contour which characterized it were precisely the qualities that distinguished the Mathura Buddhas or the Khajuraho apsaras.     

There is also evidence that the building known as Humayun's Tomb is none other than a captured Lakshmi Temple. Abul Fazal says Humayun is buried in Sirhind. French writer G. Le Bon has published in his book The World of Ancient India (Publisher: Editions Minerva - Spain Date of Publication: 1974) a photo of marble footprints found in the building. He describes them as the footprints of Lord Vishnu. This is typical of a Vedic temple, to have the footprints of the main Divinity of the shrine. In this case, it is the husband of Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu.

And only an Hindu artist with his purely conceptual approach could have created a building that was so blatantly seductive.  

It was a measure of the Taj’s uniqueness that some Englishmen suggested that its designer might have been one of the Europeans employed by Shah Jehan. It was just another example of foreigners trying to find a non-Indian inspiration for anything in Indian culture that took their fancy. James Todd had mentioned a Jain temple of the fifteenth century with something similar. Besides, the records showed that the inlay artists employed on the Taj were all Hindus. 

The gardens, too, which add so much to the staging of the Taj, were the work of a Hindu, from Kashmir. Havell had studied the Silpa-sastras - the traditional manuals of the Hindu builder – and believed that even the bulbous dome conformed more closely to Indian ideals than those of Samarkhand. There was even a sculptural representation of such a dome in one of the Ajanta cave temples. Moreover, the internal roofing arrangement of four domes grouped round the fifth, central, dome conformed exactly to the panch-ratna, the ‘five jewel’ system so common to Indian buildings of all sorts.  

All this was not enough to shake the traditional views, but Havell was not finished. In the 19th century, as now, people were inclined to concentrate too much on the buildings of Delhi and nearby Agra. For most, the style were the sum total of Islamic architecture, because they were inclined to concentrate too much on the buildings of Delhi and nearby Agra. Havell, was convinced that away from the political turmoil of north-west India, the architectural continuity before and after the Mohammedan conquest was unbroken; and that it was from these provincial centers that the ideals and craftsmen used by Shah Jehan had been drawn. In Gujarat, some of the mosques of the first Mohammedan dynasty are indistinguishable from temples; also in Gujarat, white marble had been used extensively by both Hindu and Jain. 
At Bijapur the Mohammedans also inherited a local building tradition, for nearby lay the great Hindu capital of Vijayanagar. European accounts of Vijayanagar before its destruction only hint at its architectural wonders, but certainly the dome and the pointed arch were in general use. It was no coincidence that the great building period in Mohammedan Bijapur began immediately after the fall of Vijayanagar. Encouraged to concentrate on the dome, the erstwhile Hindu architects produced first the Bijapur Jama Masjid and then the giant Gol Gumbaz with one of the largest domes in the world.  

According to Havell, it was on the skills of these master dome builders that Shah Jehan drew for the Taj Mahal.

The Rajput palaces, are arguably the most impressive and certainly the most romantic group of  buildings in India. For, as Havell rightly observed, there could be no argument that in secular architecture the styles of Hindu and Mohammedan, of Rajput and Moghul, were one and the same.  Moreover, the origins of this style were wholly Indian. 

Witness the great fifteenth-century Man Singh palace in the Gwalior fort.

  One of the finest specimen of Hindu architecture that I have seen…the noblest specimen of Hindu domestic architecture in northern India.”  Noted General Sir Alexander Cunningham.  Babur, the first of the Moghuls, evidently agreed. His official diary shows that he admired and coveted this building above all others in India. In due course it became the inspiration for all the palaces of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, for the Moghul forts of Delhi and Agra as well as for the Rajput forts of Orchha, Amber and Jodhpur. 

 If our poets had sung them (wrote Havell of the Rajput palaces), our painters pictured them, our heroes and famous men had lived in them, their romantic beauty would be on every man’s lips in Europe. Libraries of architectural treatises would have been written on them.” 

Bishop Heber had been equally impressed when he toured the palace of Amber a century earlier.

“ I have seen many royal palaces containing larger and more stately rooms – many the architecture of which was in purer taste, and some which have covered a greater extent of ground – but for varied and picturesque effect, for richness of carving, for wild beauty of situation, for the number and romantic singularity of the apartments, and the strangeness of finding such a building in such a place, I am unable to compare anything with Amber….The idea of an enchanted castle occurred, I believe, to all of us, and I could not help thinking what magnificent use Ariosto or Sir Walter Scott would have made such a building. “ 

James Ferguson, historian of India’s architecture, was not blind to the romantic appeal of the Rajput palaces. He praised their settings and lack of affectation.  

Havell noted the way these buildings seemed to grow organically out of the rocks on which they stood ‘ without self-conscious striving after effect.’ Thus, above all, their romantic appeal; but there is also a grandeur and an elegance of detail beside which the Moghul palaces pale into mere prettiness. Here was Hindu architecture both more virile and more noble than its Islamic equivalent. 

Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect of New Delhi, thought the palaces of Datia one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in India. It is also one of the most impressive. Conceived as a single unit, unlike the Moghul palaces, it towers above the little town of Datia like the work of an extinct race of giants. Each side is about 100 yards long rises from the bare rock so subtly that it is hard to tell where nature’s work ends and man’s begins. The impression is of immense strength, and only the skyline of flattened domes and cupolas gives any hint of the treasures within. Datia was built by Rajah Bir Singh Deo in the seventeenth century. The palaces of Orchha were also his work, and here there are more painted halls and dappled pavilions as well as some of the finest carved brackets. Today hardly anyone visits these masterpieces. It is a setting one of ruination – miles of crumbling stables, overgrown gardens and forgotten temples. Forlorn masterpieces indeed.....

(source: India Discovered - By John Keay 1981. chapter 9. pg- 111-130)  

For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor


Taj Mahal, a Hindu Temple?

E. B. Havell,(1861-1934) the English architect, principal to the Madras College of Art in the 1890s and left as principal of the Calcutta College of Art some 20 years later), has all along stressed that the Taj is entirely a Hindu structure in design and execution. Within its three floors - basement, ground and first floors - the marble structure has a nearly 25 room palace suite. The four towers used to sport multi-colored lights. The Taj precincts are a huge building complex encompassing over three hundred rooms. 

Many believe that the Taj Mahal was a 12th century temple-palace seized from Raja Jaisingh of Jaipur and converted to accommodate Mumtaz's tomb. Mullah Abdul Hamid Lahori, Shah Jehan's own official chronicler, has written, that Mumtaz's body was laid to rest in a "lofty sky-high palace with a majestic dome" procured from Raja Jaisingh.

The journals of Tamerlane (1336-1405) and Babur (1483-1530) show that this palace pre-dates Shah Jehan and also points to the notable absence of any claim by Shah Jehan himself for its construction.

A passage from Shahjahan’s court chronicle, the Badshahnama, which despairingly admits that the Taj Mahal is a commandeered Hindu palace. Mansingh’s mansion (manzil) was then in the possession of his grandson Jaisingh – says the Badshahnama.    

"In a paper that Professor Mills read in Chicago on November 4, 1983 at the 17th Annual Meeting of Middle East Studies Association of North America, based on his preliminary research endeavors involving an archaeometric analysis of the so-called Muslim buildings in ancient Spain, Mr. Mills observed, 'Two specific potentially fertile monuments for the application of archaeometry are the Taj Mahal and the (so-called) Mosque of Cordoba. Neither face Mecca. 
The (so-called) mosque that is part of the Taj complex faces due west whereas Mecca from Agra is 14 degrees 55 minutes south of west. It is oriented to the cardinal directions as would be typical of a Hindu temple in India." 

Prof. Mills then describes how a wood sample he took from the rear, river-level doorway of the Taj and had it tested for carbon-14 dating by Dr. Evan Williams, Director of the Brooklyn College Radiocarbon Laboratory, provided that even the door was pre-Shah Jahan. Similar samples taken from the Fatehpur Sikri also proved that the township, usually attribute to the third generation Moghul emporer Akbar, is also much more ancient." 

(source: Proof Vedic Culture's Global Existence -
By Stephen Knapp p. 273-274)

Tejo Mahalaya?

In the course of his research, P. N. Oak discovered the Shiva temple palace was usurped by Shah Jahan from then Maharaja of Jaipur, Jai Singh. Shah Jahan then remodeled the palace into his wife's memorial. In his own court chronicle, Badshahnama, Shah Jahan admits that an exceptionally beautiful grand mansion in Agra was taken from Jai Singh for Mumtaz's burial. The ex-Maharaja of Jaipur still retains in his secret collection two orders from Shah Jahan for surrendering the Taj building. Using captured temples and mansions, as a burial place for dead courtiers and royalty was a common practice among Muslim rulers. For example, Humayun, Akbar, Etmud-ud-Daula and Safdarjung are all buried in such mansions. Oak's inquiries begin with the name Taj Mahal. He says this term does not occur in any Moghul court papers or chronicles, even after Shah Jahan's time.

The term "Mahal" has never been used for a building in any of the Muslim countries, from Afghanistan to Algeria. "The unusual explanation that the term Taj Mahal derives from Mumtaz Mahal is illogical in at least two respects. Firstly, her name was never Mumtaz Mahal but Mumtaz-ul-Zamani," he writes. "Secondly, one cannot omit the first three letters 'Mum' from a woman's name to derive the remainder as the name for the building." Taj Mahal, he claims, is a corrupt version of Tejo-Mahalaya, or the Shiva's Palace.

Oak also says the love story of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan is a fairy tale created by court sycophants, blundering historians and sloppy archaeologists. Not a single royal chronicle of Shah Jahan's time corroborates the love story. But she as not Shah Jahan’s first wife. Shah Jahan’s first wife, the queen, was a great grand-daughter of the ruler of Persia – Shah Ismail Safwi. Shah Jahan had numerous other wives and many consorts. He not only was married before taking Mumtaz as his wife but also married again after her death. In between these  weddings he also used to take consorts by the hundreds into his harem. It is, therefore, futile to argue, as is traditionally done, that Shah Jahan was so devoted to Mumtaz as to lose all interest in life after her death and that he, therefore, perpetuated her memory in a magnificent monument. 

During the 18 years of her married life she bore 14 children of whom 7 survived her. That meant in no single year was she free from pregnancy, which shows Shah Jahan’s utter disregard to his wife’s health, so much so that Mumtaz died soon after her last delivery. She was only 37 years of age. 

Furthermore, Oak cites several documents suggesting the Taj Mahal predates Shah Jahan's era, and was a temple palace dedicated to Shiva worshipped by the Rajputs of Agra city. For example, Professor Marvin Miller of New York took a few samples from the riverside doorway of the Taj. Carbon dating tests revealed that the door was 300 years older than Shah Jahan.

Shah Jahan is often misrepresented in Indian histories as a fabulously rich Mughal. The image o his derives from the belief that he built a number of costly buildings while he actually did not build even a single one. Far from being a monarch possessing fabulous wealth Shah Jahan could hardly command any resources worth his name because his near – 30 –years reign was marred by 48 military campaigns.  Shah Jahan’s relative poverty is fully borne out by Tavernier’s remark  that from “want of wood” the scaffolding, including the support of arches, had all to be made of bricks. The reader may well consider whether a monarch who cannot muster even the timber necessary for a scaffolding, in a country like India which had vast stretches under dense forest, can ever hope or dream of ordering a building as magnificent and majestic as the Taj Mahal???   

European traveler Johan Albert Mandelslo, who visited Agra in 1638(only seven years after Mumtaz's death), describes the life of the city in his memoirs. But he makes no reference to the Taj Mahal being built. The writings of Peter Mundy, an English visitor to Agra within a year of Mumtaz's death, also suggest the Taj was a noteworthy building long well before Shah Jahan's time. Oak points out a number of design and architectural inconsistencies that support the belief of the Taj Mahal being a typical Hindu temple rather than a mausoleum. Many rooms in the Taj Mahal have remained sealed since Shah Jahan's time, and are still inaccessible to the public. Oak asserts they contain a headless statue of Shiva and other objects commonly used for worship rituals in Hindu temples. Fearing political backlash, Indira Gandhi's government tried to have Oak's book withdrawn from the bookstores, and threatened the Indian publisher of the first edition with dire consequences. 

(source: The Taj Mahal: The True Story - By P. N. Oak).

Nicolo Conti described the banks of the Ganges (ca 1420) as lined with one prosperous city after another, each well designed, rich in gardens and orchards, silver and gold, commerce and industry. 


The City of Jaipur 

The building of Jaipur began in 1727. The city turned out to be an astonishing well-planned one, based on the ancient Hindu treatise on architecture, the Shilpa Shastra.  The town planner was a talented, young scholar and engineer, Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, whose family had been invited to settle in Jaipur from the distant state of Bengal by Raja Man Singh I. 

Jaipur was built on a grid system. Its main streets, 119 feet wide were intersected at right angles by secondary streets, 60 feet wide, which were further criss-crossed by lanes and bylanes, 30 feet and 15 feet wide respectively. The streets were lined with fine buildings of uniform design and shaded by trees. In the middle of the main road run an aqueduct, and there were wells for drinking water at regular intervals, many of which are still used today. The city was divided into nine rectangular sectors (representing the nine divisions of the universe). Different streets were allotted for different professions such as potters, weavers, dyers, jewelers, and bakers. 

Louis Rousselet, the well-known 19th century French traveler, wrote, 

"The town is built in a style of unusual magnificence....I doubt whether at the time it was built there were many cities in Europe which could compare with it." 

The 19th century English bishop, Heber, wrote that it was comparable to the Kremlin in Moscow. Raja Sawai Jai Sing II named the new city after himself (fortuitously Jaipur also means "City of Victory").


                                                             Wrote Rudyard Kipling, Letters of Marquee, 1899

Raja Sawai Jai Singh II’s observatory prompted the Portuguese Viceroy in Goa to send an emissary to Jaipur in 1729 to study it. Later, as its fame spread, French and German scholars, astronomers, and priests also came here. Through his Portuguese friend, Padre Manuel de Figueredo, Raja Sawai Jai Singh II procured the latest astronomical texts and instruments from Europe. 

Using his huge masonry instruments, he was able to detect errors in the well-known astronomical tables of Pere de la Hire, who like other European astronomers, used only standard-sized brass instruments. Raja Sawai Jai Singh II’s eclectic collection of astronomical instruments and manuscripts from all over the then known world are displayed at Jantar Mantar and the City Palace Museum. The astrolabe, is a kind of celestial map engraved on a 7 foot wide metal disc. He called it the Raj Yantra, and wrote two volumes on the principles and utility of the device, which became one of his proudest possessions.

Samrat Yantra - His great Samrat Yantra, for example, is basically a sundial, except that it is a massive 89 feet high and 148 feet wide. As a result, when the sun moves across the sky it casts a shadow on the finely calibrated quadrants on either side, which moves at a precise and measurable 0.08 inch every second. It was designed to measure local time as well as such things as zenith distances, meridian pass time as well as such declination of the stards with remarkable precision. Interestingly, the Samrat Yantra at each of his five observatories varies slightly in shape in order to ensure that the hypotenuse of its great triangle is aligned perfectly with the axis of the earth and the flanking quadrants are perfectly parallel to the Equator. 

Other Instruments

In all, Raja Sawai Jai Singh II invented fifteen different instruments, all of them based on his principle of accuracy through gigantic size. They ranged from Ram Yantra, which determines the azimuths and altitudes of various heavenly bodies, to Misra Yantra, which, among other things, tells the time at four different foreign observatories. The instruments are in such a good condition that, surprisingly, they are still used today. Samrat Yantra, for instance, is consulted every year on the full moon night of
Guru Purnima, along with the ancient Sanskrit texts, to predict the onset of the monsoon. One of the instruments on display at Jantar Mantar and the City Palace Museum is a telescope, indicating just how aware the Raja was of the latest technology of his time.

(source: Knopf Guide India : Rajasthan : Jaipur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Mount Abu Kota, Bharaatpur (Knopf Guides) pg 132-141).

For more information on art, please refer to chapter on Hindu Art). For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor

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Art of Writing in Ancient India

Shyamji Krishnavarma, Oriental Lecturer of Balliol College, Oxford, in the paper he read before the International Congress of Orientalists at Leyden in 1883, which he attended as the delegate of the Government of India, has dealt with the subject in a masterly way, and shown that the art of writing has been in use in India since the Vedic times. 

He says: “I feel no hesitation in saying that there are words and phrases occurring in the Samhitas of the Vedas, in the Brahmanas and in the Sutra works, which leave no doubt as to the use of the written characters in ancient India. It may be confidently asserted that the systematic treatises in prose which abounded at and long before Panini could never have been composed without the help of writing. We know for certain that with the exception of the hymns of the Rig Veda, most of the Vedic works are in prose, and it is difficult to understand how they could possibly have been composed without having recourse to some artificial means.” 

Katyayana says: “When the writer and the witnesses are dead.” Yagyavalka mentions written documents; and Narada and others also bear testimony to their existence. 

Even Max Muller himself is compelled to admit that “writing was known to the authors of the Sutras.” 

The supposition that writing was unknown in India before 350 B.C. is only one of the many instances calculated to show the strange waywardness of human intellect.  

Har Bilas Sarda a member of the Royal Asiatic Society and author of Hindu Superiority has written: “The extraordinary vocal powers of the Hindus, combined with their wonderful inventive genius, produced a language which, when fully developed, was commensurate with their marvelous intellectual faculties, and which contributed materially in the creation of a literature unparalleled for richness, sublimity and range. The peculiar beauties inherent in the offspring of such high intellectual powers are greatly enhanced by its scientific up-bringing and by constant and assiduous exercise it has developed into what is now such a model of perfection as to well-deserve the name of deo-bani, or “the language of the gods.” The very excellence of the language  and the scientific character of its structure have led some good people to doubt if this polished and learned language could ever have been the vernacular of any people. 

(source: Hindu Superiority - By Har Bilas Sarda p. 215-217).

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Literature is only a reflection of the national mind of a people. 

Indians have always worshipped "sacred utterances" (Brih) as divinities incarnates. Story telling has, moreover, been a fine Indian art since the creation of epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, more than 3,000 years old. Thanks to the prodigious powers of memory Brahmins have captivated countless attentive ears with tales of gods and demons, heroes and villains enrapturing village audiences of every age and stage of life to this day. Valmiki, author of the Ramayana, was a wandering bard inspired to recite his great Epic when he saw a hunter shoot down a dove, and watched its heartbroken mate fly in anguished circles over that corpse. Valmiki was so moved by what he saw that he sat pondering the cruelty and poignant beauty of life until his body was covered with an anthill. 

``Indian literature alone has been able to blend successfully the best features of tradition with modern concepts. Although deeply bound to tradition, it offers answers to contemporary issues and problems'  says Dr. Martin Kampchen, the German writer.

Kalidasa, who lived in the reign of Chandragupta II, who named his greatest work for its heroine, Shakuntala.  The best Sanskrit work of dramatic art, has been translated into every major language and is almost as as well known outside India as the Mahabharata is. As the great Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German Poet, Dramatist, Novelist himself put it after first reading Shakuntala 

"Wills du den Himmel, die Erfe, mit einem Namen begreifen; Nenn'ich, Shakuntala, Dich, und so is Alles gesagt." ("Would you capture heaven and earth with a single name? I say to you then, Shakuntala, and all is said!") The idea of giving a prologue to Faust is said to have originated from Kalidasa's prologue, which was in accordance with the usual tradition of the Sanskrit drama. 

In Russia part of Kalidasa's play Shakuntala was translated by Nikolai Karamzin in 1792-1793. In the preface of this publication Karamzin wrote that the play contained poetry of outstanding beauty and was an example of the highest art.

(source: A History of India - By K. Antonova, G. Bongard-Levin, and G. Kotovsky  Moscow, Volume I and II 1973 p. 169).

The Sakuntala furor has lasted till almost today. One of the noblest "overtures" in European music is the Sakuntala overture of the Hungarian composer Carl Goldmark (1830-1915).

(source: Creative India - By Benoy Kumar Shenoy p. 110).

 H. H. Wilson who used to be professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University, has said:

"It is impossible to conceive language so beautifully musical or so magnificently grand, as that of the verses of Kalidasa.'" 

(source:  The Discovery of India - By Jawaharlal Nehru  Oxford University Press ISBN: 0195623592 p 160 ).

Soviet historians, K. Antonova, G. Bongard-Levin, and G. Kotovsky, authors of A History of India, Moscow, Volume I and II 1973, refer to work of Kalidasa: 

"one of the pearls of ancient Indian literature." and as "an illustrious page of history of world's culture."

(source: A History of India - By K. Antonova, G. Bongard-Levin, and G. Kotovsky  Moscow, Volume I and II 1973 p. 169).

Of all these Muslim scholars, Alberuni (AD 973 - 1048), a Muslim scholar, mathematician and master of Greek and Hindu system astrology, wrote twenty books. He left the most detailed accounts of India's civilization. In the introduction to his translation of Alberuni's famous book, Indica, the Arabic scholar Edward Sachau summarizes how India was the source of considerable Arabic culture:

“The foundations of Arabic literature was laid between AD 750 and 850. It is only the tradition relating to their religion and prophet and poetry that is peculiar to the Arabs; everything else is of foreign descent… Greece, Persia, and India were taxed to help the sterility of the Arab mind… What India has contributed reached Baghdad by two different roads. Part has come directly in translations from the Sanskrit, part has traveled through Eran, having originally been translated from Sanskrit (Pali? Prakrit?) into Persian, and farther from Persian into Arabic. In this way, e.g. the fables of Kalila and Dimna have been communicated to the Arabs, and book on medicine, probably the famous Caraka.”

(source: Alberuni (AD 973 - 1048), a Muslim scholar, mathematician and master of Greek and Hindu system astrology, wrote twenty books. In his seminal work, "Indica" (c. 1030 AD). he wrote Alberuni's India - by Edward Sachau. Low Price Publications, New Delhi, 1993. (Reprint). First published 1910 -- translated in 1880s.)

Long before Kalidasa, another famous play was produced - Shudraka's "Mrichhkatika" or Clay Cart, a tender rather artificial play, and yet with a reality which moves us and gives us a glimpse into the mind and civilization of the day. 
The Little Clay Cart offers interesting insight into Guptan society and ancient Indian legal procedures, and its poor hero, Charudatta, is human enough to fall hopelessly in love with a courtesan. 

An English translation of Shudraka’s  “Mrichhkatika” was staged in New York in 1924. 

Mr. Joseph Wood Krutch, (1893-1970) the dramatic critic for The Nation, and author of The Measure of Man on Freedom Human Values, Survival and the Modern Temper. He wrote of the play as follows: 

“Here, if anywhere, the spectator will be able to see a genuine example of that pure art theatre of which theorists talk, and here, too, he will be led to meditate upon that real wisdom of the East which lied not in esoteric doctrine but in a tenderness far deeper and truer than that of the traditional Christianity which has been so thoroughly corrupted by the hard righteousness of Hebraism …..A play wholly artificial yet profoundly moving because it is not realistic but real….Whoever the author may have been, and whether he lived in the fourth century or the eighth, he was a good man and wise with the goodness and wisdom which comes not from the lips or the smoothly flowing pen of the moralist but from the heart. An exquisite sympathy with the fresh beauty of youth and love tempered his serenity, and he was old enough to understand that a light-hearted story of ingenious complication could be made the vehicle of tender humanity and confident goodness….Such a play can be produced only by a civilization which has reached stability; when a civilization has thought its way through all the problems it faces, it must come to rest upon something calm and naïve like this. Macbeth and Othello, however great and stirring they might be, are barbarous heroes because the passionate tumult of Shakespeare is the tumult produced by the conflict between a newly awakened sensibility and a series of ethical concepts inherited from the savage age. The realistic drama of our own time is a product of a like confusion; but when problems are settled, and when passions are reconciled with the decisions of an intellect, then form alone remains….Nowhere in our European past do we find, this side the classics, a work more completely civilized.”  

(source: The Discovery of India - By Jawaharlal Nehru  Oxford University Press ISBN: 0195623592 p. 164).

For more information on Indian literature, please refer to the chapter on Sanskrit.

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Agriculture has flourished in India under all changes of dominion, and was practiced even in the early period of Rig Veda, where fields are frequently mentioned and the produce carried home in carts.

Models of ancient ploughs were exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851, and a species of drill-plough is attributed to Dr. Royle to the ante-Christian centuries of which we are treating. And not only of seed were these ancient farmers economical, but also of the soil, sowing “plants which require transplantation in the same field with rice-plants, which mature in sixty days; and swing mudga and masha beneath a tall cereal, called in the Code barley, but which is in fact a millet. 

Rotation of crops is also practiced by the native farmers, who alternate the pulses, which improve the land, with the cereal grasses, which exhaust it; and to India Dr. Roxburgh believes the western world to be indebted for this system. In a country so luxuriant in coco-nuts and other fruits, edible roots, and water-plants, it bespeaks considerable civilization to make laws in favor of agriculture; and we therefore read with interest that 

“If the land be injured by the fault of the farmer himself, as if he fail to sow it in due time, he shall be fined ten times as much as the King’s share of the crop that might otherwise have been raised.” 

Indigo refers itself to India by the name which it has certainly borne in Europe since the time of Pliny; in its own country it is called Nili or blue. It is supposed to have been early exported to Arabia, Tyre, and Egypt, and to have been adulterated or imitated; for Pliny writes, “Cast the right indigo upon live coals, it yieldeth a flame of most excellent purple.”  Indigo is a common looking little plant, with a bluish-green juice, and is only converted into a handsome color and a permanent dye by a process of oxygenation; and Bancroft thinks it wonderful that so many thousand years ago, the natives of India should have discovered means by which the colorable matter of the plant “might be extracted, oxygenated, and precipitated from all the other matter combined with it.” 

(source: Phases of Indian Civilization – by Mrs. C. Speir p. 15-153). 

Dr. Voelcker, a Consulting Chemist with the Royal Agricultural Society of England wrote in 1889: 

“On one point there can be no question, that the ideas generally entertained in England, and often given expression to even in India, that Indian agriculture is, as a whole, primitive and backward, and that little has been done to try and remedy it, are altogether erroneous…At his best, the Indian Ryot, or cultivator is quite as good as, and in some respects the superior of, the average British farmer….” 

Nor need our British farmers be surprised at what I say, for it must be remembered that the natives of India were cultivators of wheat centuries before those in England. 

Abul Fazl, found agriculture flourishing “in high degree” in Bihar, where rice, “which for its quality and quantity was rarely to be equaled.” 

The variety of agricultural produce is well documented too. Writing about the indigenous plantations of south India, Buchanan noted the practice of having a separate piece of ground allotted for each kind of plant. “Thus one plot is entirely filled with rose-trees, another with pomegranates, and so forth.” The coconut tree supplied a great deal of necessities; pith, liquor, fruit, “cloths,” roofs, sails, and ropes. In Bengal, notes another traveler, “the plantations have no end.” He mentions mangoes, oranges, citrons, lemons, pineapples, coconuts, palm-fruits, and jack-fruits. Stavorinus adds bananas, and guavas. Other fruits, grown in large scale plantations, included melons, apples, peaches, figs, and grapes. Ives refers to “the endless variety of vegetables” used by Indians in their curries and soups. 

Bengal itself produced a surplus that was traded all over the country: grains, spices, and pulses. “To mention all the particular species of goods that this rich country produces is far beyond my skill.” Rice was grown in such plenty that, writes Orme, “it is often sold at the rate of two pounds for a farthing.” In general, the valleys of all rivers consisted of “one sheet of the richest cultivation.” Berar, with its black soil, produced cotton, wheat, barley, and flax. Nagpur wheat matured in three months. The Northern Circars are described as “the granary of the Carnatic.” The spices of Malabar, including pepper, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon found their way into Europe.” 

Irrigation Technology

India, have been under continuous irrigation from ancient times. The earliest reservoir and dam for irrigation was built in Saurashtra. According to Saka King Rudradaman I of 150 BC a beautiful lake aptly called 'Sudarshana' was constructed on the hills of Raivataka during Chandragupta Maurya's time.

In the Rgveda there are copious mentions of flood-irrigation. Indra dug channels for flood waters to flow through them. Kareze, a sloping horizontal bore to bring underground water to the ground level was developed by Indra so as to use this water for irrigation purpose. The famous Dasarajna battle between king Sudasa and other tribal kings is described in the Rgveda. It reveals that changing of a river course was a technique well known to Indians even at that ancient time.

The Kautiliya Arthasastra gives information on irrigation laws and irrigation cess. An interesting building called 'Himagriha' is described in the Kadambari of Banabhatta. It is an air-cooled house, the summer temperature being brought down by a flowing water channel and innumerable water-sprays.

The Grand Anicut built by the Chola king across the river Kaveri is the best example of the great achievements of southern engineers in irrigation engineering. They have perfected flood irrigation method and took utmost advantage of the flat land slope in the Krishna, Kaveri delta systems. They have also created irrigation system in which there were innumerable interconnected small reseviors with their network of irrigation channels. This system not only ensured assured supply of water even in the summer season but also it was the best solution to avoid devastation by the river in spate.

(source: Irrigation In Ancient And Medieval India - Dr. R.P. Kulkarni).

The opinion, however, that India’s irrigation works, were of little or no consequence has been so influential that even Indian historians have glibly accepted. Alexander Walker comments: 

“the practice of watering and irrigation is not peculiar to the husbandary of India, but it has probably been carried there to a greater extent and more laborious ingenuity displayed in it than in any other country.” 

In Bengal, dykes were the usual response to floods, and tanks and reservoirs stored water if rains proved scarce. Wells were a common feature; even today, every village continues to have its own well. Where there were no rivers, deep extensive tanks, measuring from three hundred to four hundred feet at their sides, were constructed, with a short temple alongside for adornment.  

Lord Elphinstone reports that extensive embankments had been constructed on the rivers of Khandesh for irrigation purposes, and in Rohilkhand the local chiefs had built aqueducts “traversing corn-fields in all directions.”  In the hilly regions, dams blocked streams. Bishop Heber, in the early part of the 19th century described Bharatpur State as “one of the best cultivated and watered tracts which I have seen in India.”  

 Alexander Walker observed: 

“The vast and enormous tanks, reservoirs, and artificial lakes as well as dams of solid masonry in rivers which they constructed for the purpose of fertilizing their fields, show the extreme solicitude which they had to secure this object. Besides the great reservoirs for water, the country is covered with numerous wells which are employed for watering the fields. The water is raised by a wheel either by men or by bullocks, and it is afterwards conveyed by little canals which diverged on all sides, so as to convey a sufficient quantity of moisture to the roots of the most distant plants.” 

(source: Homo Faber: Technology and Culture in India, China and the West 1500-1972 - by Claude Alphonso Alvares p. 48-54).  

India invented sugar

It would be interesting to many to learn that “it was in India that the Greeks first became acquainted with sugar.” It was known to Pliny as a medicine. Sugar bears a name derived from Sanskrit. With the article the name traveled into Arabia and Persia, and thence became established in the languages of Europe.

Sugar from sugar-cane was pre-eminently an Indian commodity and there is reason to believe that the rest of the world derived their equivalent of sugar from the Indian 'Sakara' (and Shakar) (Compare Arabic 'Shakar'  Latin 'Sacharum', French 'Sucere' German 'Zucker' and English 'sugar.'

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American historian Will Durant (1885-1981) has remarked: "Textiles were woven with an artistry never since excelled; from the days of Caesar to our own the fabrics of India have been prized by all the world. From homespun khaddar to complex brocades flaming with gold, from picturesque pyjamas to the invisibly-seamed shawls of Kashmir, every garment woven in India has a beauty that comes only of a very ancient, and now almost instinctive art."

(source:  Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage - By Will Durant MJF Books.1935 p. 585).

From the scrap of indigo dyed `ikat woven cloth found in a Pharaoh's tomb pointing to 5,000-year-old trade connections with India, to an England-bound East India Company Shipman's meticulous record of "bales of muslin stuffs and Masulipatnam Palampores" is testimony to the widespread popularity of the textiles of India. In fact, by the 18th Century, Indian mulls and "cashmeres" were much sought after fashion wear in the courts of Europe. 

India's textile tradition is an elegant legacy perfectly preserved over millennia. The extraordinary range of Indian textiles reflects the cutural richness and adaptability from the royal courts of the Mauryas.


Ceremonial cloth and sacred heirloom, Coromandel coast, India,

The textiles of Indonesia have, across time, also incorporated and integrated Hindu's symbols such as the Garuda, the naga, the lotus, the elephant, the "mandala diagrams" 

For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor


The royalty and artistocracy of South East Asian ruling kingdom too favoured the flamboyant gold shot woven cottons and silks of India, the gossammar thin muslin, the intricate weaves and motifs which embellished textiles. The genesis of the lasting impact on South East Asia of Indian culture perhaps lies in the "Greater India" Hindu kingdoms of Khamboja, Champa, Annam Srivijaya and Madajahit, which flourished in (modern day) Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines and lasted from Second Century A.D. to the 15th Century. Founded by merchant princes from South India and perhaps even Orissa and Bengal, these kingdoms had well organised cities with temples (Angkor Vat being the most famous of all), priests, rituals, artisans and brisk trade with the mother country. Along with trade came the religious myths and beliefs of India. Although Islam and Buddhism were eventually to emerge as dominant religions in the region, the deep impress of Hindu civilisation can be felt every where. In the place names of many cities and the inclusion of Sanksrit words in the local languages, in the pervasive influence of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in both classical and folk expressions of art, particularly in Indonesia. The textiles of Indonesia have, across time, also incorporated and integrated Hindu's symbols such as the Garuda, the naga, the lotus, the elephant, the "mandala diagrams" and so on. In fact, the country's textiles — from apparel to ritualistic hanging, ship cloth and sacred religious cloth — demonstrate the remarkable exchane of ideas, materials, designs and images resulting from Indonesia's Indian trade links.

(source: Textiles as History - By Pushpa Chari - hindu.com). for more refer to chapter on Suvarnabhumi: Greater India).

Indians, even of the present day, are remarkable for their delicacy of sense, especially their nicety of touch. 

Indians were the first to perfect the art of weaving. Enchanting and very fascinating in appeal, the traditional Indian textiles have a romantic story that dates back several centuries. No other land enjoys such a profusion of creative energies for the production of textiles as the subcontinent of India. The interaction of peoples-invaders, indigenous tribes, traders and explorers- has built a complex structure legendary for its vitality and color. 

William Ward has observed in his books:

“muslins are made which sell at a hundred roopees a piece. The ingenuity of the Hindoos in this branch of manufacture is wonderful. Persons with whom I have conversed on this subject say, that at two places in Bengal, Sonar-ga and Vikrum-pooru, muslins are made by a few families so exceedingly fine, that four months are required to weave one piece, which sells at four or five hundred roopees. When this muslin is laid on the grass, and the dew has fallen upon it, it is no longer discernible.” 

"...the making of chintz appears to be an original art in India, long since invented, and brought to so great a pitch of excellency, that the ingenuity of artists in Europe has hitherto added little improvements...."

(source: A View of the History, Literature, and Mythology of the Hindoos - By William Ward volume I  p 127 and 130 London 1822).

Albrecht Weber (1825-1901) says: “The skill of the Indians in the production of delicate woven fabrics, in the mixing of colors, the working of metals and precious stones, the preparation of essences and in all manner of technical arts, has from early times enjoyed a world-wide celebrity.”

James A. B. Scherer, author of Cotton as World Power, "India is the original home of cotton. Cotton cloth was first seen in Europe when the soldiers of Alexander brought some of it back, as a curiosity, in the 4th century before Christ. All India was clothed with it then, as today; some of the ancient textiles being so delicate and beautiful as to give rise to the poetic description, "webs of the woven wind."

(source: Cotton as World Power - By James A. B. Scherer).

Cotton was indigenous to India and from her soil its knowledge and cultivation spread to the rest of the world. The name of this plant has been borrowed by all the nations of antiquity from India. thus Sanskrit 'Karpasa' (Kapas in Hindi) became 'Kapas' in Hebrew and 'Carposos' in Greek and Latin. Handspun, hand-made Indian muslins are still the pride of India. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in Indian muslins 2000 years ago. 

Next to agriculture, cotton and cotton goods constituted the principal industry in the Indian sub-continent, as did the woolen industry in England. Up to 1800, no country produced a greater abundance or variety of textiles in the world. In 1700 itself, India was the largest exporter of textiles in the world.  Wrote Andre Dubois

“With such simple tools the patient Hindus, thanks to his industry, can produce specimens of work which are often not to be distinguished from those imported at great expense from foreign countries.” 

From the Roman times till their decline in the 19th century, the main textile areas on the subcontinent had been the same: 

“They are described in the Periplus of the 1st century A.D. in much the same terms as they were described by travelers of the 17th and 18th centuries. These main areas were three: South India, comprising the Coromandel (Cholamandal) Coast as it used to be known, stretching from the Krishna Delta to Point Calimere; and North-east India including Bengal, Orissa and the Gangetic Valley.”

From Abbe de Guyon, in the middle of the 18th century, we have the following account of Ahmedabad in western India: 

“People of all nations, and all kinds of mercantile goods throughout Asia are to be found at Ahmedabad. Brocades of gold and silver, carpets with flowers of gold, though not so good as the Persian velvet, satins, and taffeta of all colors, stuffs of silk, linen and cotton and calicoes, are all manufactured here.” 

Surat “an emporium of foreign commerce”,  manufactured the “finest Indian brocades, the richest silk stuffs of all kinds, calicoes and muslins”. 

“Painted and printed calicoes constituted the most important class of Indian fabric exported from Surat in the 17th century. They covered a wide range of quality, the best and the more expensive being painted rather than printed…In the former case, dyes and mordants were applied to the cloth, not with a wood-block, but free-hand with brush. Thus, each painted design had the character of individual drawing with the human and sensuous touch, instead of being limited to the repeat pattern imposed by the print-block. Sometimes painting and printing techniques were combined, but the finest decorative calicoes from both western India and the Coromandel Coast were of the painted kind.”

Within another fifty years, this entire picture would be of a great deal reversed. In England and the Continent, the textile industries were being revolutionized through the study and close imitation of the work of Asian craftsmen. And later, these improvements, harnessed to the machine, would turn the tide of events.   

Muslins of the finest sort

These are the muslins of the Dacca district, the most delicate of all the fabric of India, an ancient test of which was for the piece to be drawn through a finger-ring. Ventus textiles, or nebula, were names under which the Romans knew of them. They are mentioned in the Institutes of Manu, in a way to show the organization of the industry: “let a weaver who has received 10 palas of cotton thread give them back increased to eleven, by the rice-water and the like used in weaving; he who does otherwise shall pay a fine of 10 panas.” 

17th century, French traveler, Tavernier tells of a Persian ambassador who took his sovereign, on returning home from India, “a coconut of the size of an ostrich’s egg, enriched with precious stones; and when it was opened a turban was drawn from it 60 cubits in length, and of a muslin so fine that you would scarcely know that you had it in your hand.” 

The history of cotton spinning in India goes back to remote antiquity, being associated with Vedic gods and goddesses who are described and pictured as wearing woven garments. The patterns of such garments, showing great skill in both woven and tinted design are abundantly reproduced from early temples.

(source: Periplus of the Erythrean Sea - W.H. Schoff p. 256).

Country after country tells the same tale in Europe. P. R. Schwartz and R. de Micheauieux, in their book, A century of French fabrics: 1850-1950, state that in France: 

“the term indiennes (chintz) is found in Marseilles inventories since at least 1580, and on 22 June, 1648, a card-maker and engraver of this too was associated with the dyeing of cloth to make indiennes”. The imitation printing of these chintz was banned in due course, but the indiennes continued to grow in popularity, “despite the heavier fines imposed, the ripping off by the police of the offending print dresses from the backs of women walking in the streets and the destroying of stocks of garments”.  

Once the ban was lifted (1759), the designers began to introduce designs at first based solely upon Indian patterns. The same may be observed in Germany, where in order to protect the home industry, Fredrick William I banned the wearing, importing or selling of any kind of printed or painted calicoes. Again these laws were flouted and in 1743, print works were established in various parts of the country, imitation printing being officially permitted in 1752. Textile workers in Italy, from the late 17th century to about 1855 had their earlier patterns based on indiennes. More obvious is the case of the Netherlands

“The Dutch merchants and explorers were some of the first to bring back the painted and printed Coromondel clothes from the East during the early 17th century…and Dutch textile printers attempted to imitate the brilliantly colored Indian cotton which were not only fast to water but became more beautiful and brilliant when washed. Their first attempts with the oil or water colors long used in Europe, that either smelt badly or would not wash, bore no comparison with the Eastern cloths printed or painted with mordant dyes and indigo.

The first European print works was founded in Amersfoot in Holland in 1678 and attempted to use Indian methods.”  

Success came after nearly 70 years, when Dutch printers succeeded in copying the sheer Indian cottons by using copper plates.  The first Spanish calico print works started by the Esteban Canals in Barcelona in 1738, copied indiennes and used the imported Eastern textiles as a source of pattern. Switzerland repeats the story, and in the United States too, the earliest evidence of textile printing shows Eastern influences in the patterns. It has not been any different with the circulation of ideas in Europe. Literature-wise, three large documents found in European libraries are representative, having been written with the express purpose of informing Europeans about Indian processes and techniques. The letters of Jesuit, Coeurdoux, for example, were sent out in 1742 and 1747. The earlier letter begins typically: 

“I have not forgotten that in several of your letters you have urged me to acquaint you with the discoveries I might make in this part of India,…..Recently, with a little leisure, I have used it to find out the way in which Indians make these beautiful cloths, which form part of the trade of whose Companies established to extend commerce, and which, crossing the widest seas, come from the ends of Europe into these distant climes to search for such things.” 

(source: Decolonizing History: Technology and Culture in India, China and the West 1492 to the Present Day - By Claude Alvares  p.55-67).

Though the British had initially been drawn to India by the spice trade, textiles soon became the major export. Using handlooms and spindles and building on more than 5,000 year history of weaving, Indian artisans created such fine fabrics that one 19th century Briton characterized them as "the work of fairies or insects rather than of men."

From yarn described as the
"web of the woven wind." Bengali weavers produced delicate cotton muslins so sheer that they were named "running water" and "evening dew." Silk brocades from the city of Benares in northern India glittered with threads of gold or silver.  In Kashmir, enormous shawls - so finely woven that they could be drawn through a ring - were made from the inner fleece of a rare mountain goat, which left its hairs behind when it rubbed against shrubs on Himalayan peaks. Indian chintz - calico that was hand painted or printed by artisans-was renowned for brilliant colors that seemed to improve with repeated washings. 

A rage for Indian fabric swept across Britain, causing a serious drain of gold and silver from the West. "From the greatest gallants to the meanest Cook Maids, nothing was thought to fit to adorn their persons as the Fabric from India," grumped an English politician in 1681. Despite stiff import duties, Indian textiles threatened England's own manufacturers. "Europe bleedth to enrich Asia," complained another 17th century Englishman. An act of Parliament in 1700 made it illegal to wear or use Indian fabrics in Great Britain, but clandestine trade flourished nonetheless. 

A little century later, however, the tide turned. Britain's restrictive economic policies, combined with the Industrial Revolution, spelled doom for India's textile industry. England produced and flooded the market with - inexpensive machine made textiles. The result was tragic. - "The bones of weavers," said one 19th century observer, were left "bleaching on the plains of Hindustan."

(source: What Life Was Like in the Jewel of the Crown: British India AD 1600-1905 - By The Editors of Time-Life Books. p. 91-93).

The quality of the textile goods were fine and delicate. Marco Polo remarked of the elegant and light buckrams manufactured in several parts of the Deccan: "These are the most delicate buckrams and of the highest price; in sooth they look like the tissue of spider's web. there can be no king or queen in the world but might be glad to wear them."

(source: India Through The Ages: History, Art Culture and Religion - By G. Kuppuram p. 574).

Toile - India's design inspired the style

In medieval and early modern France, people [of rank and wealth] wore fabrics such as silk and velvet that were rarely printed. During the sixteenth century, Portuguese navigators opened the trade routes to India and introduced Europe to Indian painted cottons. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Indiennes - brightly printed Indian cotton fabrics that were lighter than velvet, and washable - were famous and widely used for clothing.

In 1686 Colbert's mercantilist and protectionist policies forbade the import of foreign fabrics, with highly prejudicial results for the French fabric industry. This embargo lasted for 73 years, but it was unable to stop the success of the Indiennes.

Although we think of it as French, toile's founding father was Francis Nixon of Ireland, who, inspired by printed fabrics from India, created the first toile fabric in 1752. His techniques quickly spread to England and then France -- the country that gave the style its name and assured its place in design history.

The mother of all toiles is Toile de Jouy -- the brain-child of Christophe Philippe Oberkampf who established a manufactory for printed cottons in Jouy-en-Josas (a town near Versailles) in 1760. The idea was to emulate the printed cottons of India while keeping the process (and profits) at home in France.  And it was an unbridled success. In 1806, the Emperor and Empress, Napoleon and Josephine, one day surprised Oberkampf with a visit to the factory, nor did Napoleon fail to ask a thousand questions after his usual manner. So pleased was the Emperor that he made of Oberkampf a member of the Legion of Honor, supplying him with the decoration which he detached from his own coat. Napoleon came again—this time with the new Empress, Marie Louise. 


Chintz - printed cotton fabric from India: a printed or stained calico fabric made in India. Early 17th century. Earlier chints , from chint  “calico cloth,” from Hindi chīṭ  “stain,” from Sanskrit citra  “variegated.”]

The painted cloths from India were rich in color, and full of ancient tradition in design. The manner of making them was intricate, requiring not only talent but infinite patience and the employment of several arts. And these charming exotics that were spread before those lovely ladies of Europe in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century, are the ancestors of the mountains of chintz that fill our shops today.

Palampores, or bed covers, they called the oblongs from India, and at this time the most favored design for these was the Tree of Life, a straying meander of slender branches all aflower with blooms of many kinds, the tree-trunk small and planted in a pyramid of rocks. But its exquisite tones and shades were impossible to describe, also the symbolism of the border which reaches back to far antiquity. In France as in England the first imported cottons from India arrived in the second half of the Seventeenth Century and awakened at once the desire for possession in the breast of every person of wealth or social consequence. The more they bought, the more the returning ships brought to them. And the greater the consumption of this artistic novelty, the less was the demand for French silks and woolens.

It became therefore the pleasure and duty of domes-tic print weavers to protest, and of the State to pass laws of prohibition. Between 1686 and 175o no less than thirty decrees were issued in France in restraint of the use of printed cottons. But prohibition fails to exclude. There is a naughtiness in human nature, a half-humorous rebellion that makes us snatch at things denied. All the well planned restrictions of France failed to abolish the use of printed cottons.

Indian prints were ever very high in price. All who appreciated could not afford them. Thus it came that French textile workers set about making an imitation to sell at low cost.  The origin of chintz is a Hindu word which signified colored or flowered—chint. In the time of Samuel Pepys it was so spelled ("bought a chint for my wife"), and only later was an s added which time changed to z.  

(source: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/lifestyle/190289_toileside11.html and http://www.oldandsold.com/articles06/draperies-19.shtml and http://www.domestications.com/emails/043003.htm and http://www.w-w-d.com/toile.html and http://www.cnn.com/STYLE/9905/20/toile.de.jouy/ and http://rico21.chez.tiscali.fr/cadre_musee.htm ).  


Lord Elphinstone, speaking of Indian cotton cloth, says, "the beauty and delicacy of which was so long admired, and which, in fineness of texture, has never yet been approached in any country." 

John Murray wrote in The History of India, p. 27: "Its fabrics, the most beautiful that human art has anywhere produced, were sought by merchants at the expense of the greatest toils and dangers."

Indian textile technology had a profound influence in Britain during the industrial revolution, stimulating inventors there to devise methods to attain similar results – the brightness and permanence of the colors, the delicacy of the cotton yarn – with machines. The British had little success in attaining the quality of hand-made Indian textiles. British spinners showed little interest in how their Indian counterparts achieved the high quality of their textiles and would have been disappointed had they known. The secret was painstaking and laborious hand spinning.

(source: Lost Discoveries - Dick Teresi  p. 354).

As regards to dyeing of fabrics, Lord Mountstuart Elphinstone says: “”The brilliancy and permanence of many of the dyes have not yet been equaled in Europe.” He adds: “the brilliancy of their dyes is remarked on as well as their skill in manufactures and imitations of foreign objects.”

The Hindus were the earliest nation who discovered the art of extracting colors from plants. The names by which several plants are known in foreign countries bear testimony to this fact. Indigo is called after India. Pliny used the word indico. 

Bancroft gives much praise to the “natives of India for having so many thousand years ago discovered means by which the colorable matter of the plants might be extracted, exygenated and precipitated from all other matters combined with it.” Even James Mill is constrained to say: “Among the arts of the Hindus, that of printing and dyeing their clothes has been celebrated; and the beauty and brilliancy, as well as durability of the colors they produce, are worthy of particular praise.”

John Forbes Watson, in his work on the Textile Manufactures and Costumes of People of India gives an interesting account of a series of experiments made on both the European and the Indian muslins, to determine their claims to superiority. The results were altogether in favor of the Indian fabrics. He concluded: "However viewed therefore, our manufacturers have something still to do. With all our machinery and wondrous appliances we have hitherto been unable to produce a fabric which, for fineness or utility, can equal the woven air of Dacca, the product of arrangements, which appear rude and primitive, but which in reality are admirably adapted for the purpose."

Arnold Hermann Ludwig Heeren (1760-1842) an Egyptologist says: "The variety of cotton fabrics mentioned even by the author of Periplus as articles of commerce is so great that we can hardly suppose the number to have increased afterwards."

(source: Hindu Superiority - By Har Bilas Sarda p.397 – 404).

According to NY Times: "Considering that it is the country historically credited with giving the world paisley, seersucker, calico, chintz, cashmere, crewel and the entire technique of printing on cloth, it is anybody's guess why India barely registers on the global map of fashion."

(source: Fashion From India, Beyond the Bangles - NY Times May 13 ' 2003).


The Sari

A charming folktale explains the origin of the Sari as follows:

"The Sari, it is said, was born on the loom of a fanciful weaver. He dreamt of Woman. The shimmer of her tears. The drape of her tumbling hair. The colors of her many moods. The softness of her touch. All these he wove together. He couldn't stop. He wove for many yards. And when he was done, the story goes, he sat back and smiled and smiled and smiled".

Noted psychologist Carl Jung has waxed lyrical about the elegance of the sari thus:

"It would be a loss to the whole world if the Indian woman should cease to wear her native costume. India is practically the only civilized country where one can see on living models how woman can and should dress".

Couturier Valentino Garavani ( ? ) Italy’s most famous designer says: 

‘‘I consider the sari deeply elegant—it is one of the most grounding elements of what haute couture is all about,’’ he adds. ‘‘In India, modernity and tradition can find a fine balance without erasing a unique heritage. Homogeneity is never a good thing.’’

‘‘India’s heritage is one of the most fascinating and inspirational of all,’’ he says. ‘‘My 2002 haute couture collection was entirely inspired by India. But there have always been Indian themes running through all my collections. It’s definitely a reference for my idea of beauty and grace.’’

The discovery of several spindles, and a piece of cotton stuck to a silver vase, revealed that the spinning and weaving of cotton was known to the Harrappans, nearly five million years ago. References to weaving are found in the Vedic literature on the method of spinning, the various materials used.

The foundations of the Indian textile trade with other countries began as early as the second century BC. A hoard of block printed and resist-dyed fabrics, mainly of Gujarati origin, found in the tombs of Fostat, Egypt, are the proof of large scale Indian export of cotton textiles to the Egypt in medieval times.

In the 13th century, Indian silk was used as barter for spices from the western countries. Towards the end of the 17th century, the British East India Company had begun exports of Indian silks and various other cotton fabrics to other countries. These included the famous fine Muslin cloth of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Painted and printed cottons or chintz was extensively practiced between India, China, Java and the Philippines, long before the arrival of the Europeans.

" India, undoubtedly the greatest exporter of textiles from 1600 to 1899, not only revolutionized European taste and fashion with its chintz but struck at the very roots of economic stability. Chintz, which captured the fabric market with ease in the 18th century, caused hardship among weavers, provoked riots, and finally inspired satirical poems about noble ladies who preferred exotic finery to honest, English home-spun products. "

(source: Much Maligned Monsters: A History of European Reactions to Indian Art - By Partha Mitter p. 221 and I am inspired by India’s heritage).

Sir Charles Trevelyan, Finance Minister of India in the 1860s, was anxious to see the disappearance of the Indian weaver as a class, a development he thought best for both Britain and India: India would benefit because the weaver, faced with competition from machine-made goods, would be forced to give up his craft and turn to agriculture; the increased labor supply would then raise output and England would benefit since makers of cloth would be converted into consumers of Lancashire goods."

(source: Decolonizing History: Technology and Culture in India, China and the West 1492 to the Present Day - By Claude Alvares p. 152).

Paisley pattern stretches across millennia

The lacy teardrop pattern known as paisley is Indian in origin, but its name derives from a town in southern Scotland. Paisley, which today is a suburb west of Glasgow, was a major site for the manufacture of printed cotton and wool in the 19th Century, according to the Paisley Museum in Scotland.

Resembling a large comma, paisley is one of the most recognized patterns in the world. The pattern can be traced back more than 2,000 years. The design was copied from the costly silk and cotton Kashmir shawls brought back by Scottish soldiers serving in India and later shipped by members of the East India Company.

The explorer Marco Polo has said: " Embroidery is here produced with more delicacy than anywhere in the world."

(source: India: Living Wisdom - By Richard Waterstone p. 116).

Printed “Paisley”  in the 19th century

The word Cashmere, or Kashmir, has various connotations, all evoking luxury. The cloth, known as cashmere, is woven from the winter coat of a mountain goat found in the Kashmir region of India. When woven, the woollen cloth is of an incomparable softness and refinement. The design motif, known as Cashmere, or Paisley, was created by Indian weavers and is easily definable by it's shape in the form of a teardrop.

(source: http://www.musee-impression.com/gb/collection/indiennes.html).

Note: Just as Delftware (named for the town of Delft in The Netherlands) blue and white pottery was inspired by Chinese porcelain, the lacey teardrop pattern was inspired by India but was later named Paisley after a town in Scotland.

Pashmina Shawls

The exquisite pashmina, whose history dates back to the days of Mohenjadaro, the soft fine fabric draped around the statue of a woman found at Mohenjadaro was probably pashmina from the valley. It was popular amongst the Indian aristocracy The famous pashmina shawls of Kashmir are made of the finest wool and have a luxuriant silky texture. The Chandra goat from which the pashmina wool is extracted is found at a height of 14,000 feet in Ladakh.


Benares - Fabled bazaars 

From the earliest times traders passed this way on their way to Pataliputra, to the time of the Muslim invaders, the British invaders, and now the tourist invaders, the bazaars of Benares have dazzled the imagination. In his famous description of Benares in the late 18th century, Lord Thomas Babbington Macaulay (1800-59) is best known for introducing English education in India. Macaulay was the first Law Member of the Governor-General's Legislature, and was also known for his notorious 1835 Minute, wrote: 

"Commerce had as many pilgrims as religion. All along the shores of the venerable stream lay fleets of vessels laden with rich merchandise. From the looms of Benares went forth the most delicate silk adorned the balls of St. James's and of Versailles; and in the bazaars, the muslins of Bengal and the sabres of Oude were mingled with the jewels of Golconda and the shawls of Cashmere."

(source: The Sacred City of the Hindus: in Ancient and Modern Times - By M. A. Sherring p. 10).

Sir Edwin Arnold, (1832-1904) poet and scholar, principal of the British government college at Pune, India. Although his interest in India was primarily spiritual, he was nonetheless captured by the wares of Benares. In his book, India Revisted, he describes the "dazzling flood of gold and silk kincobs, embroidered cloths and scarves, cashmere shawls of marvellous make, texture, and tints, slippers for princesses, turbans for kings, and cholis glittering with gems and gold laces."

(source: India Revisted - By Edwin Arnold p. 220).

Blue Jeans originated in India

One of India's lasting contributions to Western life was the export of a thick cotton cloth known as "Dungaree" which, in the sixteenth century was sold near the Dongarii Fort in Bombay. Portuguese and Genoan sailors used this durable blue broad cloth, dyed with indigo, for their bellbottom sailing pants. Thus, blue jeans, originating in India, were widely adopted by farmers, cowboys, working-class men, teen-agers, suburban moms; almost everyone in the West has at least one pair of blue jeans. They are the hallmark of American fashion and in vogue across the world.

According to Webster Dictionary: dungaree n. hindi dungri - 1. a coarse cotton cloth; specif, blue denim. 2. work trousers or overalls made of this cloth.

(source: Infinity Foundation).

History of Indigo

The word Indigo is derived from the Greek Indikon and the Latin Indicum, meaning a substance from India. Evidence for the use of Indigo in India before the medieval age is based on the writings of a trader in Egypt in the first century A D. India was then the pivot of trade both Westwards and Eastwards. Indians were highly accomplished in textile arts. As with other subjects such as mathematics, much earlier on, knowledge from India was dispersed through the trade route. Indigo, the last natural dye, was a highly priced commodity on the "Silk route". From 1600 onwards, the documents of the East India Company mention the production of indigo in India and its export. Gujarat and Sind were the major sources then. From mid 17th century, Europeans arriving on India's East Coast picked up finished textiles, cotton and silk, rather than the raw material indigo. Indigo was a major dye used in these fabrics. In the 19th century, Bengal was the world's biggest producer of indigo in the world! An Englishman in the Bengal Civil Service is said to have commented, "Not a chest of indigo reached England without being stained with human blood". Indigo was part of the national movement. Champaran in Bihar witnessed indigo riots in 1868.

(source: The Colorful history of Indigo - chennaionline.com).

Distillation of Perfumes

The distillation of scents, perfumes and fragrant liquids and ointments was one area where the knowledge of chemistry was applied in India since ancient times. In fact the very word 'scent' which is of unexplained origin according to the Oxford Dictionary, is possibly derived from the Sanskrit term Sugandha which literally means 'good or aromatic paste'. This word could have been transmitted to European languages through the Greek langua which has borrowed (and lent) many words from Sanskrit. Other instances of such transmission are the English words like 'cotton' which is derived from the Sanskrit Karpasa or the word 'sugar' derived from the Sanskrit Sharkara, etc. Many present day perfumes had existed in India since ancient times and perhaps had originated here. In ancient times perfumes and fragrant ointments were of two typ viz., Teertha (liquids) and Gandha (slurries or ointments). During the coronation Kings or during any auspicious occasion person was sprinkled with aromatic oils. Fragrant ointments based on sandalwood were applied during ceremonial bathing. Even today during some festivals like Diwali aromatic slurries and pastes are prepared out of a powder called Sugandhi. Utne and are used during the ceremonial bath which is taken during that festival. Even in other religious rites, Sandalwood, Ochre and Camphor are traditionally used by Hindus.

Sandalwood: Since very early times Sandalwood and Sandalwood oil were items of export. The Greek text of the 1st century A.D., Periplus mentions sandalwood as one of the items being imported from India. The word Sandal (wood) is derived from the Latin terms Santalum Album or Santalacae. These terms used by the Romans to describe sandalwood were, according to the Oxford Dictionary, derived from the Sanskrit term Chandana, for sandalwood.

The Sandalwood tree is native to India and is found mainly in South-western India in t he state of Karnataka. Sandalwood has been a known item of export from India since ancient times. Authors of Sanskrit texts on botany which in Sanskrit is called Vanaspati-Shastra had classified Sandalwood into three types viz. white sandalwood Shrikanda (which perhaps is an abbreviation of the term Shewta-Chandana ), the second is yellow sandalwood or Pitta-Chandana and the last is red sandalwood or RaktaChandana

The reference to Sandalwood in the Periplus is perhaps the earliest available western reference to Sandalwood. It has been mentioned in later times by Comas Indiwpleustes in the 6th century A.D. as Tzandana and thereafter it is frequently referred to by Arab traders. Oil was also extracted from Sandalwood. This oil which was a thick but refined liquid was extracted in specially constructed oil mills called Teyl-Peshani and Teylena-Lip. The oil extracted from these mills was a thick, dark yellow liquid. Along with Sandalwood, the Sandalwood oil was also an item of export from India during ancient times. Sandalwood oil was mainly bought by the Romans between the 1st and 3rd centuries A.D.

Musk: Musk is also a fragrant substance which is secreted in the gland by a male musk-deer. Musk is redish-brown in colour and is used as a base for perfumes and also as an ingredient for soaps to give it a musky smell. In Sanskrit, Musk is known as Muska which means the scortum i.e. the pouch of skin containing the testicles of the deer. The English term Musk originates from the Sanskrit term Muska according to the Oxford Dictionary.

The Sanskrit word Muska is perhaps derived from the words Maunsa or Masa which means 'flesh'. In Sanskrit, other words used for musk are Kasturi, Kastutrika and Mruga-Nabhi. The last term literally means 'a deer's navel'.

Spikenard: Spikenard was a costly aromatic ointment extracted since ancient times from an Indian plant known in Sanskrit as Nardostachys Jatamansi which perhaps means 'the braid of hair (Jataa) of (Narada). The English word Spikenard is derived from the Greek term Nardostakhus and the Latin term Spica Nardi; both the terms are derived from the Sanskrit term Nardostachys Jatamansi. This plant has purplish-yellow flower heads and is very rarely found. Its smell is quite pleasing and hence it had been in great demand since ancient times.

In Sanskrit, other terms used to refer to this plant are, Jatila which means 'difficult', Tapasvini which literally means 'concentration and devotion'. These words used to describe Spikenard indicate that it was very difficult to obtain and cultivate this plant. In India this herb was available only in the Himalayas. Spikenard, which is aromatic and bitter, yields on distillation a pleasant smelling oil.

In India, it had been used since ancient times as an aromatic adjunct in the preparation of medicinal oils and was popularly believed to increase the growth and blackness of hair. The Roman historian Pliny observes the Spikenard was considered very precious in  Rome and it was stored in alabaster boxes by persons of eminence.

Contribution of Ancient Hindu Society - http://www.angelfire.com/super/pride/mech.html).

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Jawaharlal Nehru has said: " It is not some secret doctrine or esoteric knowledge that has kept India vital and going through these long ages, but a tender humanity, a varied and tolerant culture, and a deep understanding of life and its mysterious ways. Her abundant vitality flows out from age to age in her magnificent literature and art, though we have only a small part of this with us and much lies hidden still or has been destroyed by nature or man's vandalism. The Trimurti, in the Elephanta (Gharapuri ) caves, might well be the many faced statue of India herself, powerful, with compelling eyes, full of deep knowledge and understanding, looking down upon us. The Ajanta frescoes are full of tenderness and love of beauty and life, and yet always with a suspicion of something deeper, something beyond."


Sources for this chapter :  

1. A Discovery of India -  By Jawaharlal Nehru 
2. India and World Civilization - By D. P. Singhal
3. Our Oriental Heritage - By Will Durant
4. India - By Staley Wolpert 
5. A Philosophy of Hinduism - By Galav
6. Hindu Superiority - Har Bilas Sarda

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Did You Know

Vasishtha Head - Vedic Aryan Head

In 1990, the Journal of Indo-European Studies carried an article entitled "Analysis of an Indo-European Vedic head- Fourth Millennium B.C."

The life size head has a hairstyle that the Vedas describe ad being unique to the family of Vasistha, one of the great seers who composed parts of the Rig-Veda. The hair is oiled and coiled with a tuft on the right, and their ears are riveted...Carbon -14 tests.. indicate that it was cast around 3,700

This questions the Aryan Invasion Theory. 

For more information about the Aryan Invasion, please refer to the chapters on
Aryan Invasion Theory  First Indologists and History of Hinduism.

The Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys into India - By Paul William Roberts  pg 306.

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For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor

Continue to Hindu Culture Part I






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Updated - October 28, 2008