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Science fiction

Ever since the BJP took over the reins in New Delhi, its government has been rabidly promoting, through rhetoric and action, the narrative of lost scientific discoveries that they believed are hidden in India’s ancient texts. One can comfortably suggest that certain advances were made in Ancient India, which laid the foundation for modern science. However, it is rather ridiculous to claim that all scientific knowledge and discoveries, which were made only centuries later, were locked up in these ancient texts. Such claims neither possess the requisite academic rigour, nor are they based on any definitive historical fact. Critical discussion on scientific treatises in ancient India should be pursued without the unnecessary patriotic jingoism. All that the Indian government has done is to promote the worrying tradition of clubbing cultural traditions with scientific fact. In the recent Indian Science Congress, held at Mumbai University, two academics presented a paper claiming that sophisticated flying vehicles existed in Vedic times. Their paper was based on the ancient text called the Maharshi Bhardwaj Vaimanika Sastra, a text they say was written around 400 BC.  Scholars from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, however, debunked this theory and said that it was actually written between 1900 and 1922. Claims were also made by some its participants that Manjul Bhargava, the only Indian to win the prestigious Fields medal in Mathematics, owed his entire intellectual pursuit to his grandfather, who had taught him Sanksrit.  Although Bhargava acknowledges his debt to ancient Indian mathematics, he also stated other advanced mathematical solutions from ancient Egypt and Mesapotamia that predated the ones presented in India.  The vision of the science congress in Mumbai is “to inculcate scientific temper among the common people”, not patriotic chest-thumping. Unfortunately, the attitude pursued by the present government revolves around presenting science as an object of piety that needs to be glorified, rather than a genuine intellectual pursuit. 

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