Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Superb Ancestors of India

The Times of India published an article in its edition of the Saturday the 10th January 2015:

Though the article made an interesting reading but it is felt that it is totally negating the contribution of Indian Science whatsoever. In other words the article appeared to be very harsh.

There have been several contributions of Indian Science which can't be negated today. For instance, if one takes the case of 'Last rites', the Indian diasporas i.e. the Hindus follow certain rituals as follows (The scientific analysis of the ritual has been given in the next column. This analysis makes sense and appeals even to logically and sensibly thinking layman).:

Possible Scientific Logic
a) To cremate the body after death
Burns the infectious organisms thus prevents epidemics, saves space
b) The son had to get the head tonsured
Infectious organisms can cling to bodily hair
c) The son-in-law was barred from coming closer to body of dead father-in-law
Son-in-law used to be from other village, can carry germs from the dead if a person has died from infection;  thus prevent epidemics
d) Before setting the pyre on fire, the son will go around it with a water leaking pitcher
This will prevent fire from pyre to spread to nearby fields
e) A stick is used to break the skull of burning body
Skull with brain being voluminous will not readily burn otherwise
f) The next day the relatives pick the unburnt bones and then offer them to river
Unburnt leftover of bones are surrendered to river where even the stones in its bed become round; the bony leftovers will progressively diminish in size. Rivers originating from mountains used to possess anti-infective properties
g) Son does not go out of the house for 13 days
Usually it is son (males) of the family who go out for job, this is a sort of self ‘quarantine’

There are many more rituals which are followed even today, thousands of years after when they were formulated. One can also note that these rituals have been linked to Religion. It makes sense when rituals are linked to religion because this can ensure compliance. The intention here is not to hurt the feelings of followers of a particular religion but is to tell that their ancestors knew how to ensure compliance so that benefits prevail.

Time and again, news appear in the newspapers that: this or that has been discovered by a particular scientist or research group. Sometimes, these 21st century findings are those which were discovered in India thousands of years ago. For instance, it was reported that eating a sugary dish at the start of the meal prevents obesity. Many of Indian meals/feasts start with a sugary dish like 'laddoo', etc. There may be many such Indian rituals which have a scientific basis.

Similarly, due to shortage of space, West now recommends cremation over burial. Ancient Indians were already practicing the same. Possibly ancient Indians had more advanced thinking. The lack of written evidence does not mean that ancient Indians were morons. History is replete with reports when foreign invaders vandalised Indian schools and burnt their literature. It is also not hidden that Indians were not given due credit to their contribution. Even today they face discrimination in certain foreign countries. Even after thousands of years, Lothal, Mohenjo Daro and Harrapan civilisations are living evidence of scientific development of Ancient Indians.

Coming to next part of the discussion:

It is agreed that there may be certain fantasies involved while describing the achievements of ancient India, but more important thing is:

Why it can't be reproduced today ?

Does the governance has to play a role in how the science is promoted in a country ?

Answer to this question is: yes. The scientific temper is not given the deserved impetus. When the countrymen feel that they are left behind in this world, they look for alternative ways of sustaining the glory of their country. For instance, people feel a lift when India beats other country in Cricket or other sports. It is good that sports can be a good means of entertainment but in the long run it is real development of the country that matters and for this the scientific temper needs to be nurtured. ‘Runs’ can’t develop the country but ‘Marks’ can.

It is a great shame that majority of Indian scholars who pursue doctoral course leave the country after obtaining PhD: Doctor of Philosophy. One will find still today innumerable institutions offering PhD in Basic sciences and Medical sciences but less than 10% get a job in India. Are we producing doctorate holders for foreign countries ? One can imagine the national financial waste if such a talent is not retained. Should we stop this waste ? Or should we try to use their expertise ?