Engineering Applications in Ancient Indian Literature

Indian Veda and other ancient Indian Literature have contributed a lot for the development in Engineering, Technology and Science. Enough evidences are present in the text to show that there were innovative scientific methods and engineering concepts that showcase a charisma of our Rishis, who we believe are true Engineers. On the occasion of Engineer’s day, birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, a legend who served as one of the chief Engineers in the country, we will discuss some important aspects of Engineering in Ancient India.

                    Manu Smruti gives a gentle touch mentioning that the Indian Vedas are full of knowledge and all the concepts of modern subjects were already present in Vedas.

स सर्वोsभिहितो वेदे सर्वज्ञानमयो हि सः (मनू स्मृती २.७)

It means ‘Sutras of knowledge’ about all Arts, Engineering and Sciences (Social life, Politics, Economics, and Medicines etc.) are present in Indian Vedas.

In all Vedas, Energy has been declared as Universal and Omnipresent and has power of transmission [Yajurveda: 15.33-34].

Maharshi Bhardwaj is the first Scientist of the World. His three inventions are mentioned in Rigveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda as follows: (Ref: Contributions of Indian Vedas in Art, Science and Technology- Madan Lal Ghai, Shiv Dev Shahi, Satya Bir Singh)

 (i) He produced fire by friction. [त्वामग्ने पुष्करादघ्यथर्वा निरमन्थत {Yajurveda:11.32}].

Fire was produced by friction of two stones [Rigveda: 2.12.3].

(ii) He produced Hydroelectric, Hydel from waters of a Pond through friction [Rigveda:6.16.13] [Yajurveda: 11.32][Samveda: 9].

(iii) He produced Oil (Petrol) and Natural Gas from the inner Earth and Ocean through excavation [Yajurveda: 11.32; 11.28; 11.29; 11.31]

 There are many books in Sanskrit devoted to Engineering and technology such as Yantra Sarvaswa, Samarangana Sutradhara, Tantra Pradipika, Shilpatantra Rahasya, Yukti Kalpataru etc. Several other books pertaining to other sciences also contain technical sections such as Artha Shastra, Rasa Shastra, Ganita Shastra, Vastu Tantra, Sthapatya Shastra etc.

  • Aircrafts:

There is an article “Aircrafts in ancient India” written by P. H. Thatte and published in Vedic Magazine  Gurukul Samachar, Lahore, Vol.21, No.7,Dec.1923,  and  reprinted  in magazine Shilpa Sansar Vol.20,23 April 1955,Pages  246 to 250. The article mostly deals with information in Agastya Samhita. Maharshi Agasti has mentioned some interesting aspects about the aircrafts mentioned below:

व्योमयानं विमानं स्यादग्नियानं तदेवहि {अगस्त संहिता}

There are many names given to Vimanas in Agastya Samhita. It therefore appears that the vehicles were common in Agastya period.

लघुयत्सुघटं काष्ठं कोमलंब्रम्हजाति तद 

विमानो सर्वदाग्राह्यं लघुत्वादुत्तमं स्मृतं ॥{अगस्त संहिता}

The wood used in the construction of these vehicles used to be top class with properties such as light in weight, flexible and easy to work (soft). The lighter it was better.

कृमीकोषसमुद्भूत कौषेयमितिगद्यते

सूक्ष्मासूक्ष्मौ मृदुस्थूलौ ओतप्रोतौ यथाक्रमं ।

वैतानत्व च लघुता च कौषेयस्य गुणसंग्रहः

The cloth used for it was silken. It was broad and soft. It was called “Kousheya” (made from cells of silk worms).

यवक्षारमयो धानौ सुशुक्तकजलसन्निधौ

आच्छदयति तत्तम्रं स्व्र्णेनरजते नवा ।

स्वर्णलिप्तं तत्ताम्रं  शातकुंभमिति स्मृतं ।

Electro-plating: Gilding electricity covers copper with gold or silver when contact with acidulated water and solution of metal salts i.e. contains metal full of ‘Yavakshara’, copper covered with gold was called ‘Shat Kumbha’. This gilding by means of gold or silver is called electroplating.

  • An Iron Pillar of Delhi:

Another most interesting work in this field is an Iron Pillar of Delhi that does not rust at all. It is said that this pillar was constructed by a “King Chandra”, probably Chandragupta II (reigned c. 375-415 CE), and now stands in the Qutub complex at Mehrauli in Delhi.

The iron pillar in India was manufactured by the forge welding (Forge welding (FOW) is a solid-state welding process that joins two pieces of metal by heating them to a high temperature and then hammering them together) of pieces of wrought iron. In a report published in the journal Current Science, R. Balasubramaniam of the IIT Kanpur explains how the pillar’s resistance to corrosion is due to a passive protective film at the iron-rust interface.

  • Zinc by Distillation Process:

The next significant Engineering in Ancient India is that, India was the first to smelt Zinc by distillation process. Zinc is a metal which was responsible for the innovation of utensils of mock-silver and coins of mock gold. As the boiling point of Zinc is low i.e. around 907°C , it is difficult to smelt. Brass however is known from even 3rd Millennium BC in China, but that can be produced from naturally occurring minerals containing Zinc and Copper. Pure Zinc could be produced only after the mastery of distillation techniques which have been described in our ancient chemical treatise. The mines of Rajasthan have given definite evidence of Zinc production going back to 6th Century BC.  Hence, it can be very well said that distillation process however was being used only from the 12th century AD, thus India is the first to produce zinc by distillation processes.

There are lot of such evidences mentioned in our Ancient Indian Texts that could clearly depict the picture that how brilliant was our Technology before we entered into Macaulay Education System. The traditional Gurukul method of Education enhanced the status of learning to the extent that could produce high class Engineers and more than that a responsible citizen which would serve the nation in a better way. The ancient texts contain ample amount of knowledge treasures which are hidden and it is the responsibility of every citizen of India to decipher and bring it on the top so that the world realizes that Bharat was, and however is, always at the position of Vishwaguru.

References:

1)  Advances in Wireless Communication and Mathematics ISBN 978-93-85446-98-6 – Chapter-24 – CONTRIBUTIONS OF INDIAN VEDAS IN ART, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – Madan Lal Ghai, Shivdev Shahi, Satya Bir Singh.

2) “Aircrafts in ancient India” by P. H. Thatte.

3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_pillar_of_Delhi

8 thoughts on “Engineering Applications in Ancient Indian Literature”

  1. Govind Keshaorao Joshi

    Perused the article published on the website of Deonath Ved Vidyalaya. I am very much thankful to you all for enlightening the masses of treasures hidden in the Vedas. Knowledge in the different faculties of Science and technology. It is simply amazing. Let these efforts to be continued by the scholars of your esteemed institution in the interest of Nation.

  2. One feels very proud that we belong to such a rich culture. We need to now work towards re emerging as an original thought place with a scientific and philosophical bent of mind. For that, politics, corruption and short cuts will have to be given up by all of us

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