Amid the controversy over hosting a session based on mythology alongside paper presentations in modern science, the symposium ‘ancient science through Sanskrit’ was a crowd-puller on Sunday morning at the 102nd Indian Science Congress (ISC).
And it lived up to the billing. The papers presented made all kinds of claims. Some samples: In ancient medical science, autopsies were conducted by leaving the dead body to float in water for three days.
When the muscles and nerves swelled, the body was dissected with surgical instruments that carried the names of animals and birds. The description for making an electric battery can be found in the ancient text Agastya Samhita. The Garbhopanishad talks about the monthly development of the foetus.
This was the first time in its century-old history that the ISC organised a conference that delved into surgery methods, aviation, architecture, engineering applications in India during the Vedic period, and the neuroscience of yoga.
“The objective of today’s symposium is secular and purely academic. We should pay attention to Sanskrit knowledge and use it for human development,” said Prakash Javadekar, union minister for environment, forests and climate change. “Even though Germany had no colony in India, the Germans were the first to recognise the language of ancient India globally. India herself has not done so well enough.”
“Any knowledge past or present should be considered. The relevant will survive, the irrelevant will perish,” Javadekar said.
The symposium at the university sports complex on Kalina campus was attended by a crowd that included students and professors from pure science backgrounds, scientists, Brahma Kumaris and the public.
A paper on ‘Engineering applications of ancient Indian botany’ talked about how herbal paste made of seeds and roots mixed with cow’s urine when applied to a person’s feet could locate underground water sources. Also, cow dung, jaggery, coconut water, egg whites and green algae were used as natural polymers.
The Sushruta Samhita was the basis for a paper on “advances in surgery in ancient India”, which described surgical instruments and claimed plastic and reconstruction surgeries were performed more than 3500 years ago. “We are asking for due credit to be given to Shushruta to be known worldwide as the father of surgeons,” said professor Ashok Nene.
Explaining the materials used in building an aircraft, the radar system, the diet and clothing for pilots, a paper presented on ‘Ancient Indian aviation technology’ claimed the first human flight took off in Chowpatty eight years before the Wright brothers flew an aircraft.
“We must look at ancient sciences with academic and scientific vigour. If we want to unlock the ancient theories, then we must read the original texts and not the translations that carry an anti-Indian viewpoint,” said Uma Vaidya, vice-chancellor, Kavikulguru Kalidas Sanskrit University, Ramtek, Nagpur.