History is not a fairy tale

Time and again, archaeologists have proved that the knowledge that our ancients had, though primitive in comparison to our own, did not originate in a single region. These facts were not observed only by a certain faction of people but was observed simultaneously in many places of the ancient world. Everywhere, people started observing natural phenomena and explaining things rationally amidst the ongoing religious turmoil. But, as seen in many places, some of these ideas were rejected on the religious basis or due to inadequate evidence supporting the idea.

Now ever and anon I see people priding on the discoveries made by ancient Indians; their discoveries, some say, were far superior to that of their contemporaries and ahead of their time and blame the invaders from the later centuries for our present state of insecurity and backwardness. Well, I assure you that Indians have contributed to science and technology, but unfortunately, not many discoveries made by mankind can be attributed to them.

What was it that the Indians discovered that we now take for granted? Are we special in some way as many people within and without the country suggest? Or perhaps, is it just vanity?

 

  1. The age of primitive Communication: Well, for the record, I shall provide a brief timeline of human history and migration.

 

Timeline

Event

70,000-60,000

Human migration out of Africa

60,000-45,000

First cave paintings appeared in Eurasia

45,000-30,000

First Settlements across Asia and Australia

25,000-15,000

First permanent settlements in Europe

10,000-9,000

Settlement in Byblos (first city in the world) and domestication of animals
 9,000-3,000

First civilisations appeared using primitive farming techniques

Even after the first 50,000 years of migration and settlement, humans, in most parts of the world including India (until the 7th millennium BCE), were nomads. This clearly disproves the idea that the Indians were an advanced civilisation nearly 10,000 years before the Common Era. And NO, there is clearly no solid evidence of any Chieftain or King wielding nuclear weapons of mass destruction and all.

To those people who believe that the Europeans, in the 19th and the 20th centuries, fabricated our history or perhaps changed our ancestral view of our past, rest assured that we only follow that which has been proved by the invaders, so to call them, and not something that has been philosophically propagated (I shall explain it in a moment). Science can prove these facts beyond doubt even to-day. Radiocarbon dating, used to measure the age of artefacts, is highly accurate but is generally limited to dating samples no more than 50,000 years old.

The first site where the nomads in the sub-continent settled down is called Mehrgarh in present-day Pakistan; sometime around 7000 BC. This was the first ever settlement in the sub-continent and was a precursor to the Harappan civilisation which began in the first half of 4th Millennium BCE. Sanskrit was not even an idea during this time (However, we don’t yet know the language that was spoken by the natives of Mehrgarh). Then came the Early Harappan period from the 3500 BC onward, whose language is mostly undeciphered (Still no evidence of Sanskrit in any form).

However, it is assumed that Sanskrit was used from well before the rise of the first known civilisation in India (even before the rise of Mehrgarh). Clearly, after extensive excavations, there is no evidence of Sanskrit in any form which dates back to the Harappan age or before.

Historians, with the help of planetary formations mentioned in the Mahabharatha, place the Kurukshetra war (which allegedly marks the end of an epoch) somewhere between 2500 BCE and 1500 BCE. Perhaps, this was a family feud between chieftains of the earliest civilisation of India exaggerated to an appreciable extent over the ages. It is also seen that, around this time, one of the world’s first river valley civilisations near the Indus collapsed abruptly. Seems coincidental, maybe. However, there is no evidence of the use of Sanskrit until the end of Harappan civilisation (until the first half of 2nd millennium BC). Clearly, the language did not evolve into a full-fledged spoken language until the second half of 2nd millennium BC.

Ironically, however, it is said that people during the war spoke Sanskrit; but the Vedas, which is believed to be the first manuscript in Sanskrit, were compiled nearly 1000 years after the war took place. Is it purely human imagination in action? Nobody knows for sure. All we know is that Sanskrit is not even close to being one of India’s first languages. By this time, the old Harappan was already used in administration using intelligible symbols and scripts.

The history of India as we know it has no record beyond the 2nd millennium BC; we can only speculate that the language might have been spoken by the tribes of northwestern India some 500 years before the fall of the Indus Valley Civilisation which still places Sanskrit nearly 1000 years after the early Harappan language.

Indian history (at least since the advent of Sanskrit or Hinduism) does not go beyond 3000-3500 years before present. Sanskrit is certainly not among the earliest languages of India, still less the world.

    2. “0” was naught new to the ancients outside India: Egyptian hieroglyphics mention the concept (nfr or beautiful) as early as 1700 BC. The ancient Babylonians used a blank space in place of Zero. The Indians, however, first mention it only after 500 Anno Domini. It is even speculated that Zero was mentioned in the Atharvana Veda as early as 1200 BC.

The fact is, we did not invent the numeral but only explicitly named it “शून्य (Shunya)” as early as 200BC, which the western world, did not. In AD 813, astronomical tables were prepared by a Persian mathematician, Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, using Hindu numerals. These numerals were later named Hindu-Arabic numerals and were accepted by the Europeans, replacing the Latin/Roman system that was used thitherto.

Well, the number system as we know it today was truly a revolutionary invention which can be accredited solely to the Indians.

Indians were not the first to use or invent “Nothingness or Zero”. However, we were the first to name it Shunya. We also invented the Hindu numerals which the Arabs spread across the western world naming it the Hindu-Arabic number system which is in constant use since the middle ages.  

     3. Who discovered Atoms? While there is still a continuous debate and speculation on who gave the first observational hypothesis on Atomism, it is clearly seen that people in the Orient and the pre-Hellenistic Pagan west agreed upon the fact that atoms make up everything in the universe at almost the same time in history while the Christian schools accepted only in the 18th century. Leucippus and his pupil Democritus were the first among the pre-Hellenistic world to theorise the concept sometime in the 5th and 4th century BC while atheist schools like Ajivika and Carvaka from about the same period theorised atomism in India. Kanada, a sage from the western part of Indian sub-continent, also proposed the atomic theory in the 2nd century BC.

Though the discovery was groundbreaking, it was founded in philosophical and theological reasoning rather than evidence and experimentation. As a result, views on what they looked like and how they behave were incorrect.

Indians were one of the many people who theorised atomism. Were we influenced by the Greeks or perhaps, did we influence the Greeks? This still awaits further evidence.

Indians were certainly not the pioneers in this regard, but they were among the first to discover atoms (perhaps under the influence of western philosophers).

     4. Cosmology: How many times have you heard that word भूगोल (Bhugol) stated with reference to the earth? Well, honestly, Indians believed that Sun circumambulated the Earth while the other 5 known planets orbited the Sun, in turn orbiting the Earth as well. In fact, we believed that the moon was farther away from us than the Sun and all the planets, the Sun, and the Moon revolved on a single reference plane.

Any religion which believes that the Sun orbits the Earth and not the other way round could not have understood the sphericality of the earth. Is this not proof enough to disprove the Indians’ perception of the solar system and most importantly, Earth?

However, there is also this concept of Bhugol wherein the word, in itself, stood as a testimony that our ancients knew about the sphericality of Earth. Well, we weren’t the first to discover it!

The concept of a spherical earth emerged as early as 600 BCE. Pythagoras, Herodotus, and Plato believed that the Earth was spherical. Pythagoras even proposed the idea of Heliocentricity nearly 400 years before the common era; 2000 years before it was officially declared by the Christians around the world. Herodotus in his Histories ridiculed the belief that water encircled the world. However, their claims were ignored as the concept of a spherical earth was not justifiable at that time.

With the spread of culture, Hellenistic astronomy filtered eastwards to India where its influence became apparent in the early centuries AD. This helped the astronomer-mathematician Aryabhatta to propose a rough estimation of the circumference of the Earth. His estimate of 39,968 km is ridiculously close to the modern estimate of 40,075 km. Moreover, it seems like Aryabhatta was more of a rationalist than a believer.

Indians were not the first to propose that the earth is spherical or the concept of Heliocentricity, but, nevertheless, our discoveries in the early centuries AD were significant.

This is not all, there are innumerable discoveries that trace their origin from before the Hindu era and not everything can be attributed to the ancient Indians. 
After all, I have only scratched the surface!

– Immortal Chiron

 

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