Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by praneet.bajpaie, May 4, 2014.
Till 1720, when the wife of the then British Ambassador in Turkey, having got her children successfully inoculated, (as existed in India) began to advocate its introduction into Britain, the practice of inoculation was unknown to the British medical and scientific world. Proving relatively successful, though for a considerable period vehemently opposed by large sections of the medical profession and the theologians of Oxford, etc., an awareness grew about its value and various medical men engaged themselves in enquiries concerning it in different lands. The two accounts of inoculation reproduced here (in the book cited) are a result of this post- 1720 quest.
The drill plough is said to have been first used in Europe by one Joseph Locatelli of Carinthia (Austria) in 1662.3 Its first introduction in England
dates to 1730. But it took perhaps another 50 years before it was used on any scale. It was used in India (according to the authors of Chapters XII and XIII) from time immemorial. Observations of its use, by the British, however could only begin in the last decades of the eighteenth century, after its awareness had dawned on the more observant amongst them.
(It is) in this context of widening horizons as well as the urgent need for materials and processes (partly resulting from constant warfare in which the Europeans were engaged during the greater part of the eighteenth century) that accounts of the kind presented here (in the book) were written and submitted by individual Europeans to their respective patrons. It is in these European writings of the period (i.e., from about 1720 to 1820), that one
discovers the observed details about science and technology as well as about the societies, institutions, customs and laws of various parts of the non-European world. Before this period, the European ability to comprehend this new world was limited; after about 1820, the knowledge and institutions of the non- European world also began to have much less usefulness to the problems of Europe. Further, by the 1820s, most parts of the
non-European world are no longer themselves. Their institutions, sciences and technologies are not what they were 50 or a 100 years earlier, and have met the same fate as their political systems and sovereignty. By the 1820s or so, most of the non-European world had become, at least in European
theory and most conventional history texts, if not actually in practice, â€˜backward and barbarianâ€™.
About Banaras observatory;
The widespread prevalence (no less amongst the learned and scholarly) of European ethnocentric bias is dramatically
demonstrated by the post-1780 writings on Indian astronomy and the observatory at Benares. It comes through even in the
very learned review (p.48-93) which Prof John Playfair, professor of mathematics in the University of Edinburgh, an academician
of distinction, did of the then accumulated European knowledge on Indian astronomy. After a detailed examination, he arrives at
the conclusion that the Indian astronomical observations pertaining to the period 3,102 years before Christ appeared to be correct by
every conceivable test. Such correctness of observation was possible either through complex astronomical calculations by
the Indians or by direct observation in the year 3102 B.C. He chooses the latter explanation. The reason for the rejection of the
explanation that these could have been arrived at by the Indians through astronomical calculation would have implied that â€˜there
had arisen a Newton among the Brahmins, to discover that universal principle which connects, not only the most distant
regions of space, but the most remote periods of duration, and a De La Grange, to trace, through the immensity of both its most
subtle and complicated operations.â€™4 It became intellectually easier for him to concede this astronomyâ€™s antiquity rather than
its sophistication and the scientific capacities of its underlying theories.
But even the conceding of its mere antiquity was of very short duration. With the strengthening of the fundamentalist
and evangelical Christian tendencies, this concession began to look like blasphemy. Keeping in view the European historical
premises, originating in the Old Testament, it was just not conceivable for anything except the stated items to have survived
â€˜the Delugeâ€™ which was computed to have taken place in the year 2348 B.C. By 1814, though things Indian were still being halfheartedly
defended by a journal like the Edinburgh Review, even the mere antiquity of Indian astronomy had received a final
About Banaras observatory;
The observatory at Benares described by Sir Robert Barker, after a visit to it in 1772, still exists more or less intact and is at present known as the Man Mandir. It stands only a few hundred yards away from the Dasasvamedha Ghat. Its appearance today seems even more neglected (It is tragic that one of the five celebrated observatories of the world (and in India the most celebrated), though still intact, remains in complete neglect. Its counterparts in Britain, France, etc. are greatly cherished and serve as the repositories and centres of their respective astronomical knowledge. India owes that much to itself and its people that places like the Man Mandir are duly cherished and looked after.) than that described two centuries ago, except that a few plates have been fixed indicating the names of the various yantras (instruments) in Hindi and English.
WE need to collect all such information from various sources.
on the Astronomy of the Brahminsâ€™, by John Playfair
on the Astronomy of the Brahminsâ€™, by John Playfair, read by him in 1789. In this article, the author begins by referring to
certain astronomical tables received from the East Indies by European scholars at an early stage in their contact with the
East. Some of these tables were received from Siam and their â€˜epochâ€™ corresponded to 21 March 638 A.D. But the point to note
was that the â€˜meridianâ€™ of these tables was not Siam but Benares!
Other tables received from South India had one thing in common. Their â€˜epochâ€™ coincides with the era of Kaliyuga, that
is, with the beginning of the year 3102 B.C. Prof Playfair begins by enquiring whether the â€˜epochâ€™ was real or fictitious; that is,
whether the planetary positions at that time were actually observed or were merely calculated back from the â€˜epochsâ€™ of more
modern tables to coincide with a mythical Kaliyuga.
Prof Playfair observes that it is not for astronomy, even in its most perfect state, to go back 46 centuries and to ascertain
the situation of the heavenly bodies at so remote a period, except with the help of lately developed Integral Calculus and the
Theory of Gravitation. He finds that the positions of the planets as given in these tables is very close to the position as calculated
back with the help of modern Integral Calculus and the Theory of Gravitation. All other systems of calculation, whether
Chaldean or Egyptian or Greek which the Hindus might have used for their purpose gave very different results. So for him, the inescapable conclusion is that these positions were observed by the Brahmins, and it is rather a wonder that the Brahmins could do so rather precisely at so distant a past. Prof Playfair also observed that the construction of these tables implied a good knowledge of geometry and arithmetic, as well as the possession of a Calculus equal to Trigonometry.
Colonel T.D. Pearse Wrote
We cannot pass this interesting communication without offering some reflection upon the subjects it embraces. The
circumstances of the four girls dancing round the figure of Jupiter, as they ought to be according to the Brahminâ€™s
statement to Colonel Pearse, is a strong argument in favour of the superior knowledge of the heavenly bodies which the
ancient Arabians and Hindus possessed. The four dancing girls evidently represent the four satellites of Jupiter. These
circumjovial satellites (as they are styled by modern astronomers from the quirk of their motions in their orbits)
were not known in Europe before the year 1609, and the third and fourth only are visible, and this but rarely and in
the clearest atmosphere to the naked eye. But it is truly interesting and curious that the figure of Saturn should be
represented with seven arms. At the time Colonel Pearse wrote his letter to the Royal Society, the sixth satellite of
Saturn had not been discovered: it was first discovered by Herschel on the 28 August 1789; and the seventh satellite,
which the seventh arm of the figure, without dispute, must be intended to represent, was not discovered by Herschel
until he had completed his grand telescope of 40 feet focal length, when it was first observed by him on the 17
September 1789. All the satellites of Saturn are so small, and the planet is so remote from the earth, that the best
telescopes are necessary for observing them. May not the seventh arm having hold of the ring denote a circumstance
connected with the orbits of these planets, which is that the planes of their orbits so nearly accord with that of the
ring, that the difference is not perceptible? Undoubtedly, the ancient astronomers must have possessed the best
instruments: probably differing from modern ones, but fully as powerful.
A god write up on the subject:
pA~ncharAtrika vaiShNava elements in the astronomy textbook sUrya-siddhanta and other notes | mAnasa-taraMgiNI
Below is a quote from an early American missionary indologist who collected Hindu astronomical texts:
â€œIt is now well known that Hindu culture cannot pretend to a remoter origin than 2000 B.C., and that, though marked by striking and eminent traits of intellect and character, the Hindus have ever been weak in positive science; metaphysics and grammarâ€”with, perhaps, algebra and arithmetic, to them the mechanical part of mathematical scienceâ€” being the only branches of knowledge in which they have independently won honorable distinction. That astronomy would come to constitute an exception to the general rule in this respect, there is no antecedent ground for supposing. The infrequency of references to the stars in the early Sanskrit literature, the late date of the earliest mention of the planets, prove that there was no special impulse leading the nation to devote itself to studying the movements of the heavenly bodies. All evidence goes to show that the Hindus, even after they had derived from abroad a systematic division of the ecliptic, limited their attention to the two chief luminaries, the sun and moon, and contented themselves with establishing a method of maintaining the concordance of the solar year with the order of the lunar months. If, then, at a later period, we find them in possession of a full astronomy of the solar system, our first impulse is to inquire, whence did they obtain it? A closer inspection does not tend to inspire us with confidence in it as of Hindu origin. We find it, to be sure, thoroughly Hindu in its external form, wearing many strange and fantastic features which are to be at once recognized as of native Indian growth; but we find it also to contain much true science, which could only be derived from a profound and long-continued study of nature. The whole system, in short, may be divided into two portions, whereof the one contains truth so successfully deduced that only the Greeks, among all other ancient nations, can show anything worthy to be compared with it; the other, the framework in which that truth is set, composed of arbitrary assumptions and absurd imaginings, which betray a close connection with the fictitious cosmogonies and geographies of the philosophical and Puranic literature of India.â€
In this context one may also see another American indologist Whitneyâ€™s comment in our earlier partial note on the vedA~Nga jyotiSha.
While one one might object that citing an old American missionary is anachronistic in this day and age of studies on â€œPre-modern knowledge systems of Indiaâ€, it is remarkable to note that Euro-American indologists in the tradition of Neugebauer, Witzel, Pingree and his successors, Minkowski, and the like essentially say the same thing in a sugar-coated fashion.
(Pingree was particularly nasty and mischivious bent upon proving that Indian astronomy and astrology was nothing but Greek)
It appears that Indian medical men (with whatever names
they may be termed at the end of the eighteenth century) made
considerable use of surgical techniques in different parts of
According to Colonel Kyd in â€˜Chirurgery (in which they are
considered by us the least advanced) they often succeed, in
removing ulcers and cutaneous irruptions of the worst kind,
which have baffled the skill of our surgeons, by the process of
inducing inflammation and by means directly opposite to ours,
and which they have probably long been in possession of.â€™
Dr H. Scott (Chapter XVII) seems to corroborate the above and
further reports the prevalence of plastic surgery in Western
India [Pune], in his letters to the President of the Royal Society, London.
In 1972, he states:
In medicine I shall not be able to praise their science very
much. It is one of those arts which is too delicate in its
nature to bear war and oppression and the revolutions of
governments. The effects of surgical operation are more
obvious, more easily acquired and lost by no means so
readily. Here I should have much to praise. They practice
with great success the operation of depressing the
crystalline lens when become opaque and from time
immemorial they have cut for the stone at the same place which they now do in
Europe. These are curious facts and I believe unknown
before to us
Two years later he refers to the â€˜putting on noses on those
who lost themâ€™ and sends to London a quantity of â€˜Cauteâ€™, the
cement used for â€˜uniting animal partsâ€™.
Inoculation against the smallpox
Inoculation against the smallpox seems to have been
universal, if not throughout, in large parts of Northern and
Southern India, till it was banned in Calcutta and other places
under the Bengal Presidency (and perhaps elsewhere) from
around 1802-3. Its banning, undoubtedly, was done in the name
of â€˜humanityâ€™, and justified by the Superintendent General of
Vaccine (A vaccine (the Latin vacca, meaning cow) from the cow,
for use in the inoculation against smallpox was manufactured by
Dr E. Jenner in 1798. From then on, this vaccine replaced the
previous â€˜variolousâ€™ matter, taken from human agents. Hence the
method using the â€˜vaccineâ€™ came to be called â€˜Vaccine
Inoculationâ€™.) Inoculation in his first report in March 1804.24
The most detailed account of the practice of inoculation
against the smallpox in India is by J.Z. Holwell, written by him
for the College of Physicians in London.
After giving the details of the indigenous practice, Holwell
stated (Chapter VIII, pg 158 of the cited book): â€˜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.â€™ It is possible that Holwellâ€™s
information was not as accurate as of the newly appointed
Superintendent General of Vaccine Inoculation in 1804.
According to the latter, fatalities amongst the inoculated were
around one in two hundred amongst the Indian population and
amongst the Europeans in Calcutta, etc., â€˜one in sixty or seventyâ€™.
25 The wider risk, however, seems to have been in the spreading
of disease by contagion from the inoculated themselves to
those who for one reason or another had not been thus
After the imposition of British rule in Bengal,
Bihar, Orissa, areas of Madras Presidency, etc., this situation
seems to alter. According to the Superintendent General of
Vaccine Inoculation, a section of the people, either â€˜from
indigenceâ€™ or â€˜from principleâ€™, did not any longer (circa 1800)
receive the inoculation. Those who did not receive it â€˜from
principleâ€™ seem to have been the Europeans in Calcutta, etc.
Partly this may have been due to the greater mortality (i.e. one in
sixty or seventy, as indicated above) amongst them. Further it
may have also resulted from the persistence of Christian
theological objections to any inoculation amongst them.
The frequent smallpox epidemics which
were rampant in various parts of India in the nineteenth and
early twentieth century may largely be traced back, on the one
hand, to the stateâ€™s backwardness and indifference in making
the requisite arrangement for universal vaccination; and on the
other hand, to having made the existence of the indigenous
practice of inoculation most difficult not only by withdrawing all
support for it, but also forcing it to be practised secretly and
Very nice thread.....
Do download the Book from the link and it is an eye opener read from a Gandhian scholar ...
Similarly interesting accounts are available on Indian agriculture. The observation by Alexander Walker (Chapter XII of the book), that â€˜the practice of watering and irrigation is not peculiar to the husbandry 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,â€™ is in dramatic contrast to present day text-book accounts of â€˜the comparative absence of artificial irrigationâ€™ in eighteenth century India.
How Indian agricultural principles, implements and practices (and these may have somewhat varied in different parts of India itself) compared with those elsewhere (China, Egypt, various countries of Europe, etc.), can only be known after a detailed comparative study of the subject. The causes of relative scarcity of resources constantly facing the Indian husbandman also need to be enquired into. It is probable that in most parts of India such scarcity was of late eighteenth century origin, and directly resulted from political causes.
But it seems clear that besides widespread artificial irrigation, the practices of
(i) crop rotation,
(iii) sowing by means of the drill plough, and
(iv) use of a variety of other implements were fairly widespread.
The nature and quality of soils seemed to be well understood and in areas like Malabar, certain species of paddy are propagated by cuttings. The use of the drill plough, however, (and perhaps also of some other implements and practices), as noted in Chapter XIII, varied from husbandman to husbandman, the poor not being in a position to use it as it required larger resources not only in implements but also in draught cattle. The latter-day decline in the variety and efficiency of agricultural implements seems to be a result of the general economic impoverishment brought about by the state appropriating all it possibly could in the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. (The material concerning the proportion of the gross produce of agriculture taken away by the state constitutes a major portion of British Indian archival documents.
Theoretically, the land revenue due to government was fixed at 50%.
In large parts of India under British rule till 1855 or so, the proportion that during most years
actually went towards governmental land revenue was appreciably higher. For instance, according to certain enquiries
in the Madras Presidency Ryotwary areas during the 1850s, about one-third of the irrigated land had over the years altogether gone out of cultivation as the amount of land revenue on such land had begun to approximate the gross produce itself, and at times even exceeded it.)
on the process of making ice
Various accounts on the process of making ice, however, are still more fascinating. (the first paper) It was first
published in 1775 in London. But it appears that this subject and the manner in which ice was made had been observed even earlier
by a number of Britishers in India and had given rise to considerable scientific curiosity in England. The artificial making of ice seems to have been till then unknown in Britain (and perhaps also in other European countries). The observation that â€˜boiling the water is esteemed a necessary preparative to this
method of congelationâ€™ aroused particular interest.
Sir Robert Barker, the author of this article, while referring to this point wondered
â€˜how far this may be consonant with philosophical reasoningâ€™ (i.e., with scientific proof). As a consequence, after
carrying out various experiments, the professor of Chemistry at Edinburgh University provided the following explanation:
The boiled and common water differ from one another in this respect; that whereas the common water, when
exposed in a state of tranquility to air that is a few degrees colder than the freezing point, may easily be cooled to the
degree of such air, and still continue perfectly fluid, provided it still remains undisturbed: the boiled water, on
the contrary, cannot be preserved fluid in these circumstances; but when cooled down to the freezing point,
if we attempt to make it the least colder, a part of it is immediately changed into ice; after which, by the continued
action of the cold air upon it, more ice is formed in it every moment, until the whole of it gradually congealed
before it can become as cold as the air that surrounds it. From this discovery it is easy to understand, why they find
it necessary to boil the water in India, in order to obtain ice.'
the substance which seems to have evoked most scientific and technical interest in the Britain of the 1790s was
the sample of wootz steel sent by Dr Scott to Sir J. Banks, the President of the British Royal Society. The sample went through examination and analysis by several experts.35 It was found in general to match the best steel then available in Britain, and according to one user, â€˜promises to be of importance to the manufacturesâ€™ of Britain.36 He found it â€˜excellently adapted for the purpose of fine cutlery, and particularly for all edge instruments used for surgical purposes.â€™ After its being sent as a sample in 1794 and its examination and analysis in late 1794 and early 1795, it began to be much in demand; and some 18 years later the afore-quoted user of steel stated, â€˜I have at this time a liberal supply of wootz, and I intend to use it for many purposes. If a better steel is offered to me, I will gladly attend to it; but the steel of India is decidedly the best I have yet met with.'
Whatever may have been the understanding in the other European countries regarding the details of the processes
employed in the manufacture of Indian steel, the British, at the time wootz was examined and analysed by them, concluded â€˜that never been in the state of wrought iron.â€™ Its qualities were thus ascribed to the quality of the ore from which it came and these qualities were considered to have little to do with the techniques and processes employed by the Indian manufacturers. In fact it was felt that the various cakes of wootz were of uneven texture
and the cause of such imperfection and defects was thought to lie in the crudeness of the techniques employed. It was only some three decades later that this view was revised. An earlier revision in fact, even when confronted with contrary evidence as was made available by other observers of the Indian techniques and processes, was an intellectual impossibility. â€˜That iron could be converted into cast steel by fusing it in a close vessel in contact with carbonâ€™ was yet to be discovered, and it was only in 1825 that a British manufacturer â€˜took out a patent for converting iron into steel by exposing it to the action of carburetted hydrogen gas in a close vessel, at a very high temperature, by which means the process of conversion is completed in a few hours, while by the old method, it was the work of from 14 to 20 days.â€™
DHARAMPAL â€¢ COLLECTED WRITINGS. Volume I, INDIAN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
The design, measurements, and construction of the furnaces and accessory implements, (described in Chapter XV of the Book), require much detailed examination by experts. Similar examination is essential of the large amounts of data provided in Chapters XV and XVI. But a cursory study of the data seems to indicate that the proportion of iron recovered from the ore and the amount of charcoal required to produce a given quantity of crude iron in Central India is comparable with the respective ratios pertaining to the manufacture of iron and steel in Sweden, etc. It is possible that these quantities varied considerably in different parts of India. Maybe, with the continuous deterioration which had set in, the consumption of fuel in the production of iron increased considerably. It is perhaps due to this later development, or basing himself on the data from some selected areas, that Mahadeva Govind Ranade remarked (in the 1890s) that indigenous Indian â€˜processes involve a great waste of power and resources, as much as fourteen tons of fuel being required to produce one ton of iron.â€™ And thus he concluded: â€˜Besides the effects of foreign competitors, the collapse of the iron industry has been brought about by the increasing scarcity of fuel.â€™ According to Chapter XV,45 140 seers of charcoal produced 70 seers of crude iron at Aggeriya, etc., in the district of Jabalpur. At Jowli, in the same district, 165 seers of charcoal were required to produce 77 seers of crude iron. How much charcoal was required to convert the crude into malleable and wrought iron is not indicated in Chapter XV. However, considering that the amount of charcoal required to convert the ore into crude iron is of the same order as the quantities required in European countries, it may be inferred that the requirement of fuel in subsequent processes would not have been very different.
Separate names with a comma.