Hindu superiority: An Attempt to Determine the Position of the Hindu Race in the Scale of Nations By Har Bilas Sarda, B. A., F. R. S. L

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What cannot Art and Industry perform. When Science plans the progreSs of their toil ?

BEATTIE.: Minstrel.

THAT in addition to the astronomical, the mathematical, the medical and the military sciences, many other equally-important sciences flourished in ancient India is evident from the remains of some of the most important achievements of the Hindus. Mr. Elphinstone says: “In science we find the Hindus as acute and diligent as ever.”‘

Medical science in a flourishing condition presupposes the existence in an advanced state of several other sciences, such as Botany, Chemistry, Electricity, etc. The Ashtar Vidya (see Military Science) presupposes the existence of the sciences of chemistry, dynamics, meteorology, geology, physics,, and other cognate sciences in a much more advanced state than what we find them in at the present day; while the V iman Vidya presupposes an intimate acquaintance with an equally great number of such sciences. The huge buildings of ancient India and

those gigantic temples hewn out of lofty rocks with the most incredible labour at Elephanta, Elora and at many other places,” which have not only excited admiration but have been a standing puzzle to some people, could not have come into existence. if the ancient Hindus had not been masters of the science of engineering. The engineering skill of the ancients was truly marvellous. With all its, advanced civilization, modern Europe has yet to

ElPhinstone’s History of India, p. 133.

produce engineers able to build the Pyramids, or to turn huge rocks into temples. Mons. de Lesseps was no doubt an admirable representative of triumphant engineering skill, and was an honour to France, but he only followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, who were equally great, and who, too, had at one time connected the Red Sea with the Mediterranean. Mr. Swayne says: “A French engineer repeats the feat of the old native kings and the Greek Ptolemies in marrying by a canal the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, an achievement which will make the name of Lesseps immortal, if the canal can only be kept clear of sand.” The sands still maintain a threatening aspect.

As regards the Pyramids, the early fathers of the Church (Christian teachers before 500 A. D.), believed them to have fallen from Heaven, while others in Europe believed them to have sprung out of earth or to have been built by Satan and his devils.

The Mahabharata shows that the ancient Hindus had achieved wonderful advancement in mechanics. In the description of the Mftyftsabha (Exhibition), which was presented by MAyasar to the Pandavas, mention is made of microscopes, telescopes, clocks, etc.

An American critic says: “Such, indeed, was the mechanism of the Mayasabha, which accommodated thousands of men, that it required only ten men to turn and take it in whatever direction they liked.” There was, he also says, “ the steam or the fire-engine called the agni rath.”

1 Swayne’s Herodotus (Ancient Classics), p. 41.

That there were powerful telescopes in ancient India is, doubtless, quite true. One is mentioned in the Mahabharata. It was given by Vyasajee to -Sanjai at Indraprasta, in order to witness the battle going on at Kurukshetra.’

As regards the science Of botany, Professor Wilson says: “They (the Hindus) were very careful observers both of the internal and external properties of plants, and furnish copious lists of the vegetable world, with sensible notices of their uses, and names significant of their peculiarities,”2 If the Akhbar-ul-Sadeeq3 is to be trusted, a Sanskrit dictionary of botany in three volumes was discovered in Kashmir in 1887.

In the play Malati and Madhava,4 it is stated that the damsel drew Madhava’s heart “like a rod of the ironstone gem,” which clearly shows that the Hindus were acquainted with artificial magnets as well as with the properties of the loadstone. Professor Wilson, too, supports this view. He further says: “The Hindus early adopted the doctrine that there is no vacuum in nature, but observing that air was excluded under various circumstances from space, they devised, in order to account for the separation of particles, a subtle element, or ether, by which all interstices, the most minute and inaccessible, were pervaded, a notion which modern Philosophy intimates some tendency to adopt, as regards the planetary movements, and it was to this subtle element that they ascribed the property of conveying sound: in which they

I See Mahabharata, Bheeshma Parva; Chapter II, sloka 10. 2 Mill’s History of India, Vol. II, p. 97, footnote. 3Akhbar-ul-Sadeeq, dated 25th November 1887, p. 7.

4See also. Manning’s Ancient and MecliTal India, Vol. II, p. 209.

were so far right that in vacuo there can be no sound. Air again is said to be possessed of the faculty of touch, that it is the medium through which the contact of bodies is effected —ether keeps them apart—air impels them together. Fire, or rather light, has the property of figure—Mr. Cole.- brooke renders it of colour. In either case the theory is true; for neither colour nor form is discernible except through the medium of light. Water has the property of taste, an affirmation perfectly true; for nothing is sensible to the palate until it is dissolved by the natural fluids.”‘ This shows that the Hindus were in no way behind the scientists of the nineteenth century.

The influence of the moon in causing tides seems to have been known to the Hindus from the earliest times. Raghuvansa (V. 61) says :

That the Hindus were excellent observers and became great Naturalists becomes clear from Professor Wilson’s note on a verse of the drama of Mrichchhakati. Charudatta says :

“ The elephants’ broad front, when thick congealed The dried.-up dew, they visit me no more.”

Wilson says: “At certain periods a thick dew exhales from the elephant’s temples, This peculiarity, though known to Strabo, seems to have escaped Naturalists till lately, when it was noticed by envier.’

Facts regarding diamonds, pearls, sapphires, etc., are mentioned with care, which show that the ancient

Mill’s India, Vol. II, pp. 95, 96.

2The Theatre of the Hindus, Vol, I, p. 22, footnote,

Hindus were thoroughly well-versed in the sciences and the arts relating to fishery and to mining, and the processes of separating and extracting various substances from the earth.

That the ancient Hindus were masters of the sciences of chemistry, mechanics, meteorology is proved by one of the most wonderful of human achievements. This was the Viman Vidya. The baloons of the Western world give us an idea of what vimans may have been like. Fifty years ago a viman was considered an impossibility. But happily those days of Western scepticism are over, and a viman, for its practical advantages, is looked upon as an ideal of scientific achievement. A. European critic says: “Viman .Vidya was a complete science amongst the ancient Hindus. They were its masters and used it for all practical purposes.”

This indicates their mastery of all the arts and sciences on which the Viman Vidya is based, including a knowledge of the different strata and the currents of the atmospheric air, the temperature and density of each, and various other minor particulars. Viman Vidya is thus clearly mentioned in the Vedas. The Yajur-Veda (VI, 21) says :

Manu also says :

This science is said by some to have been a part of the more comprehensive science called “ the Vayu Vidhya” mentioned in the SatpatBrahnzana,XI and XI V. Prof. Weber says: “Sarpa Vidya (serpent science) is mentioned in the Satpat Brahanzana XI II, as a separate science and Vish .Vidya (science of poisons) in the

Asvalayana Sutra.”‘ “ Sivedasa, in his Commentary of Chakrapani, quotes Patanjali as an authority on Lohasastra, or the Science of Iron’.”2

The Greeks derived their knowledge of electricity from India. Thales, one of the Greek sages, learned during his tour in India that when amber was rubbed with silk it acquired the property of attracting light bodies.

Not only were the sciences of electricity and magnetism extensively cultivated by the ancient Hindus, but they received their highest development in ancient India. The Veclantist says that lightning comes from rain. This can be easily demonstrated by the well-known experiments of Touilet and others: all these prove that Hindu sages perfectly understood all the electrical magnetic phenomena. The most significant proof of the high development of these sciences is to be found in the fact that they were made to contribute so much to

the every-day comfort and convenience’ of the whole com

Weber’s Indian Literature, p. 265.

2History of Hindu Chemistry, Vol. I, p. 55.

3As an instance of such practical adaptations of their scientific discoveries, the following may be useful: Visitors to Simla are familiar with the sight of young native children placed in a position in which they are exposed to the constant trickling of a stream of water. This custom is generally considered a cruel one, although it has not been shown that it promotes a high rate of mortality, The object is to put the young ones to sleep, and the means are probably not more injurious than many of the latent foods and medicines which are the civilized substitutes. At the same time it is startling to find that Sir Joseph Fayrer, President of the Medical Society, is trying to introduce the hill custom in England. He says that the flowing of water on the vertex df the cranium never fails to induce sleep and that parents who are tormented with fretful children have only to pop them under an improvised water-spout.

munity, and that their teachings were embodied in the daily practices of the ancient Hindus, which does the highest credit to their practical wisdom and their scientific temperament.

Sleep is necessary not only to enjoy sound health but to keep the body and soul together. The question now is in what way to sleep to derive the greatest benefit from this necessary operation of nature. Its solution by the ancient Hindus not ‘only proves them to have been masters of the sciences of magnetism and electricity, but shows the spirit of Hinduism, which cannot, be commended too highly for its readiness at all times and in all directions to adopt and assimilate the teachings of science. Every Hindu is instructed by his or her mother and, grandmother to lie down to sleep with the head either eastward or southward.

Babu Sita Nath Roy cites slokas from the Shastras, which enjoin this practice. The Anhilca Tuttwa, a part of our Smiriti Shastras, says: “1. The most renowned Carp rishi says that man should lie down with his head placed eastward in his own house, but if he long for longevity he should lie down with his head placed southward. In foreign places he may lie down with his head placed even westward, but never and nowhere should he lie down with his head placed northward.”

2. Markandaya, one of the much revered Hindu sages says that man becomes learned by lying down with his head placed eastward, acquires strength and longevity by lying down with his head placed southward, and brings upon himself disease and death by lying down with his head placed northward.”

The learned writer found another sloka in the Vishnu Parana, which says: “Oh king! It is beneficial to lie down with the head placed eastward or southward. The man who always lies down with his head placed in contrary directions becomes diseased.”

After stating certain facts regarding magnetism and electricity necessary to enable a man (unacquainted with the elements of these sciences) to understand his explanation, Babu Sitanath Roy says: “According to what has been just now said, it is not very difficult to conceive that the body of the earth on which we live is being always magnetised by a current of thermal electricity produced by the sun. The earth being a round body, when its eastern part is heated by the sun its western part remains cold. In consequence a current of thermal electricity generated by the sun travels over the surface of the earth from east to west. By this current of thermal electricity the earth becomes magnetised, and its geographical north pole being on the right-hand side of the direction of the current, is made the magnetic north pole, and its geographical south pole being on the left-hand side of the same current, is made the magnetic south pole. That the earth is a great magnet requires no proof more evident than that by the attractive and repulsive powers of its poles, the compass needle, in whatever position it is placed, is invariably turned so as to point out the north and the south by its two ends or poles. In the equatorial region of the earth the compass needle stands horizontally, on account of the equality of attraction exerted on its poles by those of the earth; but in the polar region the needle stands obliquely, that is, one end is depressed and the other end is elevated on account of the inequality of attraction exerted on its poles by those of the earth. Such a position of the needle in polar regions is technically termed the dip of the needle.

“It has been found by experiments that the human body is a magnetisable object, though far inferior to iron or steel. That it is a magnetisable object is a fact that cannot be denied, for in addition to other causes there is a large percentage of iron in the blood circulating throughout all the parts of the body.

“Now, as our feet are for the most part of the day kept in close contact with the surface of that huge magnet—the earth—the whole human body, therefore becomes magnetised. Further, as our feet are magnetised by contact with the northern hemisphere of the earth, where exist all the properties of north polarity, south polarity is induced in our feet, and north polarity, as a necessary consquence, is induced in our head. In infancy the palms of our hands are used in walking as much as our feet, and even later on the palms generally tend more towards the earth than towards the sky. Consequently south polarity is induced in them as it is in our feet. The above arrangement of poles in the human body is natural to it, and therefore conducive to our health and happiness. The body enjoys perfect health if the magnetic polarity natural to it be preserved unaltered, and it becomes subject to disease if that polarity be in the least degree altered or its intensity diminished.

“Although the earth is the chief source whence the magnetism of the human body is derived, yet it is no less due to the action of oxygen. Oxygen gas being naturally a good magnetic substance, and being largely distributed within and without the human body, helps the earth a good deal in magnetising it.

“Though every human body is placed under the same conditions with regard to its magnetisation, yet the intensity and permanance of the magnetic polarity of one are not always equal to those of another. Those two properties of the human body are generally in direct ratio to the compactness of its structure and the amount of iron particles entering into its composition.

“ Now it is very easy to conceive that if you lie down with your head placed southward and feet northward, the south pole of the earth and your head,—which is the north pole of your body, and the north pole of the earth and your feet, which are the two branches of the south pole of your body,—being in juxta-position, will attract each other, and thus the polarity of the body natural to it will be preserved; while for the same reason, if you lie with your head placed northward and feet southward, the similar poles of your body and the earth being in juxta-position will repel each other, and thereby the natural polarity of your body will be destroyed or its intensity diminished. In the former position the polarity your body acquires during the day by standing, walking and sitting on the ground, is preserved intact at night during sleep; but in the latter position, the polarity which your body acquires during the day by standing, walking and sitting on the ground is altered at night during sleep.

Now, as it has been found by experiment that the preservation of natural magnetic polarity is the cause of health, and any alteration of that polarity is the cause of disease, no one will perhaps deny the validity, of the s/okas$

which instruct us to lie down with our heads placed southward, and never and nowhere to lie down with our heads placed northward.

Now, why in those two slokas the eastern direction is preferred to the western for placing the head in lying down, is explained thus: “It has been established by experiments in all works on medical electricity that if a current of electricity pass from one part of the body to another, it subdues all inflammations in that part of the body, where it enters into and produces some inflammation in the part of the body whence it goes out. This is the sum and substance of the two great principles of Anelectrotonus and Catelectrotonus, as they are technically called by the authors of medical electricities.

“Now, in lying down with the head placed eastward, the current of thermal electricity which is constan tly passing over the surface of the earth from cast to west, passes through our body also from the head to the feet, and therefore subdues all inflammation present in the head, where it makes its entrance. Again, in lying down with the head placed westward, the same current of electricity passes through our body from the feet to the head, and therefore produces some kind of inflammation in the head, whence it goes out. Now, because a clear and healthy head can easily acquire knowledge, and an inflamed, or, in other words, congested head is always the laboratory of vague and distressing thoughts, the venerable sage Markandaya was justified in saying that man becomes learned by lying down with his head placed eastward, and is troubled with distressing thoughts by lying down with his head placed westward.”‘

lArya Magazine for December 1883, p. 21i.

There are other time-honoured practices, which are founded upon a knowledge of the principles cf electricity and magnetism. For instance, we find that (1) Iron or copper rods are inserted at the tops of all temples ;

(2) Miiidulies (metallic cells) made of either gold, silver or iron, are worn on the diseased parts of the body ;

(3) Seats made of either silk, wool, kusa grass or hairy skins of the deer and tiger are used at the time of saying prayers. Those who are acquainted with the principles of electricity will be able to account for these practices. They know that the function of the rod or the tristila (trifurcated iron rod) placed at the top of the Hindu temples is analogous to a lightning conductor. The mindulies perform the same functions as electrical belts and other appliances prescribed in the electrical treatment of diseases. The golden temple of Vishweshwar at Benares is really a thunder proof shelter. Professor Max Muller recommends the use of a copper envelope to a gunpower magazine to exclude the possibility of being struck by lightning. The woollen and the skin asans (seats) protect our lives during a thunderstorm from the action of a return shock, and keeps our body insulated from the earth.

There is another practice among the Hindus which is explained by an Austrian scientist. In representation, “around the head of each of the Hindu gods is the aureole.” But why they should be so represented was a mystery until now. Baron Von Reichenbach, an Austrian chemist of eminence, thus explains it. He says: “The human system, in common with every animate and inanimate natural object, and with the whole starry heavens, is pervaded with a subtle aura, or, if you please, imponderable fluid, which resembles magnetisim and electricity in certain respects, and yet is analogous with neither. This aura, while radiating in a faint mist from all parts of our bodies, is peculiarly .bright about the head, and hence the aureole. “In fact,” says Col. Olcott, “we see that Reichenbach was anticipated by the Aryans (Hindus) in the knowledge of the Odic aura.” And yet “we might never have understood what the nimbus about Krishna meant, but for this Vienna chemist, so perfect is the sway of ignorance over this once glorious people.”‘

Another practice of the Hindus which is ridiculed by non-Hindus, and the importance of which is only dimly perceived by some of the European scientists, is that 44 when they sit down to eat, every man is isolated from his neighbours at the feast; he sits in the centre of a square traced upon the floor, grandsire, father and son, brother and uncle, avoiding touching each other quite as scrupulously as though they were of different castes. If I should handle a Brahmin’s brass platter, his lotah or other vessel for fOod and drink, neither he nor any of his caste would touch it, much less eat or drink from it until it had been passed through fire: if the utensil were of clay it must be broken. Why all these? That no affrontis meant by avoidance of contact is shown in the careful isolation of members of the same family from each other. The explanation, I submit, is that every Brahmin was supposed to be an individual evolution of psychic force, apart from all consideration of family relationship: if one touched the other at his

Col. Olcott’s lecture delivered at the Town Hall, Calcutta, on 5th April, 1882.

particular time when the vital force was actively centred upon the process of digestion, the psychic force was liable to be drawn off, as a leaden jar charged with electricity is discharged by touching it with your hand. The Brahmin of old was an initiate, and his evolved psychic power was employed in the agnihotra and other ceremonies. The case of the touching of the eating or drinking vessel, or the mat or clothing of a Brahmin by one of another caste of inferior psychic development, or the stepping of such a person upon the ground within a certain prescribed distance from the sacrificial spot, bear upon this question. In this same plate of Baron Reichenbach’s, the figure F represents the aura streaming from the points of the human hand. Every human being has such an aura, and the aura is peculiar to himself or herself as to quality and volume. Now, the aura of a Brahmin of the ancient times was purified and intensified by a peculiar course of religious training—let us say psychic training—and if it should be mixed with the aura of a less pure, less spiritualized person, its strength would of necessity be lessened, its quality adulterated. Reichenbach tells us that the odic emanation is conductible by metals, slower than electricity, but more rapidly than heat, and that pottery and other clay vessels absorb and retain it for a great while. Heat he found to enormously increase quantitatively the flow of odyle through a metal conductor. The Brahmin, then, in submitting his odylicaly-tainted metallic vessel to the fire, is but experimentally carrying out the theory of Von Rcichenbach.

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