Predicting an eclipse isn’t exactly rocket science. Home minister Rajnath Singh says you need not turn to US observatories to predict a lunar or solar eclipse because such information is available with local pandits.
Singh’s comments are the latest in a flurry of controversial claims by scientists and political leaders – many of them connected with the Hindu right-wing -- over the past few months about scientific achievements in ancient India.
The home minister – a former Physics lecturer – hailed the contribution of ancient India to science and mathematics, saying no other country could match the knowledge of this nation.
“Many times our media is confused. They say an US observatory has informed us about lunar and solar eclipse on a particular date. Don’t look at an observatory, ask any pandit next to you. They will open the 'Panchang' (Hindu calendar) and tell you the dates of eclipses 100 year ago and 100 years hence," Singh said at the convocation ceremony at Lucknow University.
The senior BJP leader claimed Indian cosmological calculations were in tune with modern scientific discoveries. "Our saints had said Earth existed 1.96 arab (196 crore) years ago. Earlier, science did not accept this but later it had to," he said.
The home minister also asked students to follow tradition and touch the feet of their elders. "Today, young people say hi and bye even to their parents. Instead, they should touch their parents' feet as a mark of respect," Singh said.
Vedic-era science has been in the news for the past few months with three universities introducing courses on Vedic maths by February. At a session on ancient science at the recently-concluded Indian Science Congress in Mumbai, papers claimed Indians had operated planes before the Wright brothers and knowledge of aviation was present even in ancient India.
Pointing to highly-educated terrorists, Singh also said knowledge devoid of values is "disastrous" for society.
"When knowledge is cut-off from traditional values, it becomes disastrous. Civilisations that get cut-off from their traditions and values do not survive for long. It was India which showed a big heart and gave the message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (universal brotherhood)," he said.