Indians were an advanced society more than 2000 years ago and had vast knowledge about our world and heavenly bodies. Colonel
James Todd (British East India Company) said of India “Where else can
we look for sages like those whose systems of philosophy were prototypes
to whose works Plato, Thales Pythagorus were disciples? Where do I
find astronomers whose knowledge of planetary systems yet excites wonder
in Europe as well as the architects and sculptors whose works claim our
admiration, and the musicians who could make the mind oscillate from
joy to sorrow, from tears to smile with the change of modes and varied
culture and nationalism have been evolved and fostered over the
millenia by India’s ancient rishis, who at the banks of holy rivers of
Saptasindhu and Saraswati had composed the Vedic literature – the very
foundation of Indian civilization. The term “rishi” or “rsi” originally
denoted the composers and singers of Vedic hymns. However, the rishi is
also a “sage” to whom the Gods revealed the Vedas (knowledge of the
eternal truths about the Creator, His creation and means to preserve
three chief classes of Rishi are the Brahmarshi, born of the mind of
Brahma, the Devarshi of lower rank, and Rajarshi or Kings who became
Rishis through their knowledge and austerities, such as Janaka,
Ritaparna, etc. The Shrutarshi are makers of Shastras, as Sushruta. The
Kandarshi are of the Karmakanda, such as Jaimini. Sapta rishis are two
Sanskrit words meaning “Seven Sages”. Some of the great Rishis (sages)
of India are:
Vyasa is the most important rishi in the Hindu pantheon of religions,
for he is the one who compiled the Vedas. He is also the author of the
Hindu epic Mahabharata and the important characters in many Puranas.
was an ancient Indian Muni (sage) and he is known as author of
religious Hindu texts. It may be a surprise to many people that
Markandeya was a devotee of both Lord Vishnu (vaishnavas) or Lord Shiva
(shaivas). Markandeya is one of the Chiranjeevin – the immortals in
Hinduism. On the basis of his interactions of people known in Hinduism,
it is sure that Markandeya lived through more yugas. He is sometimes
called Maha Muni (Great Sage) and he is the author of important Hindu
scriptures like Markandeya Purana, which says that sage Jaimini, the
disciple of Ved Vyasa, asked Markandeya to explain to him some difficult
parts of the Mahabharata. Rishi Markandeya composed the ‘Devi
Saptashati’ or the seven hundred hymns extolling the virtues of the
Divine Goddess at the shakti peetha in Nashik.
Charaka (600 BCE)
Charaka has been crowned as the Father of Medicine. His renowned work,
the “Charak Samhita”, is considered as an encyclopedia of Ayurveda.
Acharya Charaka revealed through his innate genius and enquiries the
facts on human anatomy, embryology, pharmacology, blood circulation and
diseases like diabetes, tuberculosis, heart disease, etc. In the “Charak
Samhita” he has described the medicinal qualities and functions of
100,000 herbal plants. He has emphasized the influence of diet and
activity on mind and body. He has proved the correlation of spirituality
and physical health contributed greatly to diagnostic and curative
sciences. He has also prescribed an ethical charter for medical
practitioners two centuries prior to the Hippocratic oath.
a master Astronomer and Mathematician, born in 476 CE in Kusumpur
(Bihar). In 499 CE, he wrote a text on astronomy and an unparallel
treatise on mathematics called “Aryabhatiyam” He formulated the process
of calculating the motion of planets and the time of eclipses.
Aryabhatta was the first to proclaim that the earth is round, it rotates
on its axis, orbits the sun and is suspended in space – 1,000 years
before Copernicus published his heliocentric theory.
is also acknowledged for calculating p (Pi) to four decimal places:
3.1416 and the sine table in trigonometry. Centuries later, in 825 CE,
the Arab mathematician, Mohammed Ibna Musa credited the value of Pi to
the Indians, “This value has been given by the Hindus.” And above all,
his most spectacular contribution was the concept of zero without which
modern computer technology would have been non-existent.
Sushruta (600 BCE)
to sage Vishwamitra, Sushruta is the father of plastic surgery. 2600 years ago,
he and health scientists of his time conducted complicated surgeries
like cesareans, cataract, artificial limbs, Rhinoplasty (restoration of a
damaged nose), 12 types of fractures, 6 types of dislocations, urinary
stones and even plastic surgery and brain surgery. Usage of anesthesia
was well known in ancient India. Author of the book “Sushruta Samhita”,
in which he describes over 300 surgical procedures and 125 surgical
instruments, including scalpels, lancets, needles, catheters and rectal
speculums; mostly designed from the jaws of animals and birds. He has
also described a number of stitching methods; the use of horse’s hair as
thread and fibers of bark.
known as Bharadwaj Gotra, a descendant of rishi Angira (vedic sage who
wrote most of the Atharva Veda). Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana
(in the epic Ramayana) met many rishis and sages including Bharadwaja.
Bharadwaja had a hermitage in the holy city of Prayag, authored the ”
Yantra Sarvasva ” which includes astonishing and outstanding discoveries
in aviation science, space science and flying machines. He has
described three categories of flying machines: (1) One that flies on
earth from one place to another. (2) One that travels from one planet to
another. (3) And one that travels from one universe to another.
ancient rishi, the Saptarishi. He was the father of the Devas, Asuras,
and all humankind. He was the son of Marichi and Aditi.
Patanjali (200 BCE)
the father of Yoga. The Science of Yoga is one of several unique
contributions of India to the world. It seeks to discover and realize
the ultimate Reality through yogic practices. Acharya Patanjali , the
founder, hailed from the district of Gonda (Ganara) in Uttar Pradesh .
He prescribed the control of prana (life breath) as the means to control
the body, mind and soul. This subsequently rewards one with good health
and inner happiness.
Patanjali ‘s 84 yogic postures effectively enhance the efficiency of
the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, digestive and endocrine systems
and many other organs of the body. Yoga has eight limbs where Acharya
Patanjali shows the attainment of the ultimate bliss of God in samadhi
through the disciplines of: yam, niyam, asan, pranayam, pratyahar, dhyan
Kanad (600 BCE)
of Atomic Theory. As the founder of “Vaisheshik Darshan” – one of six
principal philosophies of India – Acharya Kanad was a genius in
philosophy. He is believed to have been born in Prabhas Kshetra near
Dwarika in Gujarat. He was the pioneer expounder of realism, law of
causation and the atomic theory. He has classified all the objects of
creation into nine elements, namely: earth, water, light, wind, ether,
time, space, mind and soul. He says, “Every object of creation is made
of atoms which in turn connect with each other to form molecules.” His
statement ushered in the Atomic Theory for the first time ever in the
world, nearly 2,500 years before John Dalton . Kanad has also described
the dimension and motion of atoms and their chemical reactions with each
other. The eminent historian, T.N. Colebrook , has said, “Compared to
the scientists of Europe, Kanad and other Indian scientists were the
global masters of this field.”
Kapila (3000 BCE)
the Father of Cosmology. Acharya Kapil was born in 3000 BCE to the
illustrious sage Kardam and Devhuti. He also gifted the world with the
Sankhya School of Thought. His pioneering work threw light on the nature
and principles of the ultimate Soul (Purusha), primal matter (Prakruti)
and creation. His concept of transformation of energy and profound
commentaries on atma, non-atma and the subtle elements of the cosmos
places him in an elite class of master achievers – incomparable to the
discoveries of other cosmologists. On his assertion that Prakruti, with
the inspiration of Purusha, is the mother of cosmic creation and all
calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun hundreds of
years before the astronomer Smart; Time taken by earth to orbit the sun:
(5th century) 365.258756484 days. Born in the obscure village of
Vijjadit (Jalgaon) in Maharastra, Bhaskaracharya’s mathematical works
called “Lilavati” and “Bijaganita” are considered to be unparalleled. In
his treatise “Siddhant Shiromani” he writes on planetary positions,
eclipses, cosmography, mathematical techniques and astronomical
equipment. In the “Surya Siddhant” he makes a note on the force of
gravity: “Objects fall on earth due to a force of attraction by the
earth. Therefore, the earth, planets, constellations, moon, and sun are
held in orbit due to this attraction.” Bhaskaracharya was the first to
discover gravity, 500 years before Sir Isaac Newton.
Chanakya (370–283 BCE)
or Vishnu Gupta or Kautilya (his gotra) was a teacher to the first
Maurya Emperor Chandragupta – the first emperor in the archaeologically
recorded history to rule the complete Indian Subcontinent.
authored the ancient Indian political treatise called Arthasastra.
Chanakya is considered as the pioneer of the field of economics and
political science and his work is thought of as an important precursor
to Classical Economics. Chanakya’s works predate Machiavelli’s by about
1,800 years. Chanakya was a teacher in Takshashila, an ancient centre of
Hindu philosopher who lived during the reign of the Gupta Empire (4th –
6th century AD), is believed to be the author of the Kama Sutra. In the
second chapter , Vatsyayana describes 64 kama-kalas, or ways to make
love. These are not 64 positions, but the categories of different modes
of lovemaking, namely ‘embracing, kissing, scratching, biting, the
positions, moaning, the woman playing the man’s part, and oral sex.’ As
each of these modes of sex is supposed to have eight different
particular manifestations, there are thus sixty-four ways in which a man
or woman could be said to be having sex in its broadest sense. But
kama-kalas are not just tools for successful love making, they also lie
at the heart of what constitutes an educated man.
The famous poet and the author of the epic Ramayana.
Panini (600 BCE)
is known for his Sanskrit grammar, particularly for his formulation of
the 3,959 rules of Sanskrit syntax and grammar known as Ashtadhyayi
(“eight chapters”), the foundational text of the grammatical branch of
the Vedanga, the auxiliary scholarly disciplines of Vedic religion.
Nagarjuna (100 CE)
in the village of Baluka in Madhya Pradesh, his dedicated research
produced maiden discoveries and inventions in the faculties of chemistry
and metallurgy, like “Ras Ratnakar”, “Rashrudaya” and “Rasendramangal”.
As the author of medical books like “Arogyamanjari” and “Yogasar,” he
also made significant contributions to the field of curative medicine.
He was appointed as Chancellor of the famous University of Nalanda.
of the Saptarishis. He was the Maanasa-putra (“a brain child”) of
Brahma. He possessed the divine cow known as Kamadhenu and the
Kamadhenu’s child Nandini. Vashishtha is the author of some parts in the
ancient rishi, a great philosopher of the Mimansa school. He was the
son of wandering rishi Parashara, and a disciple of Veda Vyasa.
Varahamihira (499-587 CE)
book “panch siddhant”, noted that the moon and planets are lustrous not
because of their own light but due to sunlight. In the “Bruhad Samhita”
and “Bruhad Jatak”, he has revealed his discoveries in the domains of
geography, constellation, science, botany and animal science. In his
treatise on botanical science, Varahamihir presents cures for various
diseases afflicting plants and trees.
Some of the other sages were:
Astika (the son of Manasa and Jaratkaru, the Vyasa of the twenty-seventh Dwapara)
Atri (A legendary scholar and a son of Brahma – a Sapta Rishi)
(One of the Saptarishis and one of the Prajapatis (and Maanasa Putra – a
brain child) that Brahma created as facilitators of creation)
Kraustuki (Markandeya’s disciple)
Kripacharya (an important character in the Mahabharata; one of the Chiranjivin (the “immortals”).
Marichi (The son of Brahma and also one of the Saptarishis)
Narada (A divine sage (son of Brahma) in the Vaishnava tradition)
(A Rigvedic Maharishi and author of many ancient Indian texts. He was
the grandson of Vasishtha and the author of some verses in the Rigveda)
Prahlada (amahajana – that is, a “great devotee”, in the puranic Vaishnava traditions).
(One of the ten Prajapatis – sons of Brahma, and one of the
Saptarishis. He was the spiritual vibration through the power of which
some texts of the Puranas were written)
Shukra (son of Bhrigu)
Vaishampayana (the original teacher of the Black Yajur-Veda)
Yajnavalkya (A legendary ancient sage, a pupil of Vaishampayana)
are several notable female rishikas who contributed to the composition
of the Vedic scriptures. The Rig Veda mentions Romasha, Lopamudra,
Apala, Kadru, Visvavara, Ghosha, Juhu, Vagambhrini, Paulomi, Yami,
Indrani, Savitri, and Devajami. The Sama Veda adds Nodha,
Akrishtabhasha, Sikatanivavari and Gaupayana.
India’s other contributions to the world:
India’s greatest gift to Humanity – Mathematical innovations include ZERO; use of DECIMAL NUMBERS and DICE.
explained in the 6th century, the concept of what is known as the
Pythagorean Theorem, long before the European mathematicians.
trigonometry and calculus came from India; Quadratic equations were by
Sridharacharya in the 11th century; The largest numbers the Greeks and
the Romans used were (10 to the power of 6) whereas Hindus used numbers
as big as (10 to the power of 53) with specific names as early as 5000
BC during the Vedic period. Even today, the largest used number is Tera
1012 (10 to the power of 12).
1,500 BC, Indians used figures like square, circle, rectangle, angles,
triangle, fractions, algebraic formulae and astronomy and metaphysics.
art of Navigation was born in the river Sindh 6000 years ago. The very
word Navigation is derived from the Sanskrit word NAVGATIH. The word
navy is also derived from Sanskrit ‘Nou’.
earliest reservoir and dam for irrigation was built in Saurashtra.
According to Saka King Rudradaman I of 150 BC a beautiful lake called
‘Sudarshana’ was constructed on the hills of Raivataka during
Chandragupta Maurya’s time.
in India – Pharmacology, brain surgery, medicine, artificial colors and
glazes, metallurgy, re-crystallization, chemistry, textile production,
hydraulic engineering, water powered devices, etc.
are several success stories like Rabindranath Tagore (1913 Nobel Prize
in Literature), CV Raman (1930 Nobel prize for Raman effect), JC Bose’s
discovery of microwaves by 1895 and Prof. Jagdeesh Bose (USA based IEEE
has proved what has been a century-old suspicion in the world scientific
community that the pioneer of Wireless communication was not Marconi).