ICHR, ISRO to trace India’s roots as ‘vishwa guru’ of science, tech

Updated on Nov 29, 2022 02:14 PM IST

The project, which will cost ₹1.5 crore, will see the production of six volumes, two each dedicated to the ancient, medieval and modern periods.

ICHR and Isro will shortly sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to take up the project titled “History of Indian Science and Technology” (AFP File Photo) PREMIUM
ICHR and Isro will shortly sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to take up the project titled “History of Indian Science and Technology” (AFP File Photo)
By, New Delhi

The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) and the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) have decided to work together to trace the history of India’s contribution in the field of science and technology using evidence from ancient scriptures, with the objective of establishing India as the “vishwa guru” (global leader) in several scientific domains, officials said on Monday.

ICHR and Isro will shortly sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to take up the project titled “History of Indian Science and Technology”. The project, which will cost 1.5 crore, will see the production of six volumes, two each dedicated to the ancient, medieval and modern periods.

ICHR member secretary Umesh Ashok Kadam said that the project will involve a pool of academicians from the sciences, and historians . “There is a huge amount of information available in our ancient dharam granthas (religious scriptures) about India’s rich history of science and technology but, unfortunately, that has not been tapped by historians as yet who refute it and call it myth. We will read the texts properly and understand their historical and scientific content.”

A top Isro official hailed the move, saying the project will bring modern and ancient knowledge together. “Isro is happy to be on board . We recently had a conference where we discussed our aim to bring modern knowledge of science and ancient knowledge together. This is what holds us apart from the rest of the world and we need to embrace our history,” he said, asking not to be named.

Kadam said that people should not ascribe motives to ICHR.

“ICHR is a body that is completely dedicated to academics and it has nothing to do with politics. Let our work come out and then decide for yourself. Our work will be released in the public domain and if it is not up to the mark people won’t follow it. The people who accuse ICHR of being “politically driven” themselves belong to “politbureaus”,” he added, while referring to the politbureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that raised concerns over ICHR’s concept note titled “India: mother of democracy” on November 18.

ICHR recently launched a project to “rewrite” India’s history – from the time of the Indus Valley civilisation till present day — using sources available in vernacular languages and scripts, with an aim to give “due credit” to dynasties who have been “missed out” and “correct” texts that have been written in a “Euro-centric” way, HT reported on November 22.

Kadam said that while academics, including Indian ones accept “astronomical or astrological theories” of the Egyptians, Greeks and Persians at face value, they term those involving Indian rishis (sages) as “myths”. “The problem is that the true history of India has gradually become legend and the legend has become myth. Now, we have to review that myth and reassess the legend and tell the world about India’s true contribution in the sciences . The rishis should not be seen as religious personalities. They should be seen as academicians.”

He added that ICHR decided to involve Isro in the project because everything related to astronomy, astrology and mathematics is related to space. “We are preparing a concept note further detailing the project and it will be shared with ISRO soon.”

Describing India’s contribution in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), ICHR’s member secretary said that Indian mathematicians gave the basis of mathematics “zero” to the world, and also calculated the value of pi. “India has contributed to the field of metallurgy. The world has learnt from India how to make steel and how to mix metals. India’s contribution in arms and ammunition is also immense. Even in ancient times, India had advanced arms and ammunition techniques which the world discovered much later. All this knowledge has travelled from India to other continents.”

Kadam added that the project will also cover India’s contribution in the field of maritime navigation, extraction and distillation, medicine and cosmetics, and irrigation and water resources. “The knowledge of Indians in weather forecasting is commendable… Even our shepherds can predict when it is going to rain. When their sheep and goats start sniffing the ground, the shepherds get to know that it will rain in the next six hours.”

He said that “Marxist historians” did not talk about people like Jagdish Chandra Bose” when they talked about environmental science. “Jagdish Chandra Bose was completely against patenting the research. He said that he would keep it open for everyone for the betterment of society.”

The approach will be scientific, Kadam said. “A team of geologists, geographers, mathematicians, and engineers will provide inputs and suggestions. All we want to do is to have a proper historical understanding of what exact contribution has been made in the field of science, and technology in the ancient, medieval and modern world by India and to establish that India has always been the ‘vishwa guru’ in the field of science and technology.”

IIT-Hyderabad professor M Vidyasagar said that there have been some areas where India’s contribution has been downplayed so far. “There has been a massive downplay of Indian contribution in the field of astronomy and metallurgy. We were very strong in these fields. Not just ancient but even medieval India was extremely advanced in astronomy. Earlier, there was essentially no difference between astronomy and astrology. Astrology is determining your future based on planetary motion but in order to do that you first have to determine planetary positions. People in India developed a lot of skills in predicting the planetary motions including things like eclipses, and start and end of sessions. We were pretty advanced in all these things to determine astronomical predictions,” he said.

Vidyasagar welcomed Isro’s involvement in the project. “It is important to involve people who know about contemporary science and technology. I think with the involvement of Isro the information will be scientifically evaluated without any ideological influence,” he said.

ICHR also plans to launch a similar project to trace India’s economic history soon. “We want to do a project with the AYUSH ministry and trace India’s contribution in the field of medicine,” Kadam said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Fareeha Iftikhar is a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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