[A review of the book 'Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century, Some Contemporary European Accounts" by Dharampal, Impex India, Delhi 1911 ]

It is generally held that the non-western societies, prior to their colonization, either did not have any science or had what can be best described as 'pseudo-science . A logical corollary of this position is the statement that the non-western societies did not have any science-based technologies. If one defines the term science as synonymous with modern western science and considers any body of systematic knowledge different from it either unscientific or pseudo-scientific, then of course the above propositions reduce to mere tautologies and there is no sense in asking for confirmation or refutation of these propositions on empirical grounds. One may at best question the semantic appropriateness of equating science with modern western science, drawing attention to the fact that several of the features which are supposed to characterize modern western science are also equally characteristic of non-western knowledge systems.

However, the statement that non-western societies before their colonization had neither any science nor any science-based technology is never interpreted as a mere definition of science and technology. It is in fact generally understood (and asserted) as a historico-empirica position. Given the almost universal acceptance of this position, one would think that the evidence in support of it must be overwhelming. However, this position is taken to be so obvious that collecting historical material on the science and technology of the colonized countries just before colonization (around the mid-eighteenth century) is not generally considered a worthwhile task. Hardly any work on the history of these times has been done. Shri Dharampafs book, 'Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century', is indeed an exception to the general trend, and to some extent breaks this conspiracy of scholarly silence.

Dharampal's book contains in all seventeen papers of which six are on science and eleven are on technology. These papers were written by Englishmen who had come to India in various capacities in the 18th and early 19th centuries, on the subject of contemporary Indian science and technology. As Dharampal has noted in his preface, ' according to the European scholarly canons of the time all these were experts in their respective fields and were considered to be competent to report on what they observed or studied': Most of them spent a substantial period of time in India, and their articles were published in various reputed journals such as the ' Philosophical "Transactions of the Royal Society'. The papers collected in Dharampal's book provide important insights into the nature of Indian science and technology of the eighteenth century as ..distinguished from the (then emerging) modern science and technology of the west. If one is to go .by the, Information collected in this book, it seems quite difficult to maintain the position "that Indian society in mid-eighteenth century had no science or science-based technology. It is surprising that the only available historical material should contradict the position so tenaciously held by almost all scholars—western or non-western. The first part of this review presents a summary of the various papers reprinted in Dharampal's book.

Besides throwing some light on the science and technology practices prevalent in the India of the eighteenth' century, the papers collected in Dharampal's book also indicate how the position, that the pre-colonial Indian and other non-western societies had no viable science and technology, started slowly building up even during the early phase of the colonial rule. It t is interesiing to see how the European observers of Indian science and technology, after" their first expression of wonder and appreciation, start slowly replacing it. first, by doubts and skepticism and then by vehement denials of any scientific or technological merit of the practices observed. Dharampal, in the preface to the book, comments in detail about this process of devaluation of Indian science and technology in the scholarly European eyes, and about how this devaluation was then transplanted onto a locally grown westernized intelligentsia. Dharampal also discusses how this intellectual denigration was put into practice by the educational system, the fiscal policy, and various other economic and political measures deliberately introduced and pursued by the Britishers. The second part of this review is devoted to presenting a summary of these developments, and also discusses the relevance today of this whole study, as presented by Dharampal.


A. Science

The six papers on science, collected in Dharmapal's book, are concerned with astronomy and mathematics. The paper ' Brahmin's observatory at Benares' by Sir Robert Barker (Commander-in-Chief in Bengal, and later a member of British Parliament), gives a description of the famous observatory ' Man Mandir ' at Benares . As Dharampal notes, this observatory was ' treated as one of the five " celebrated observatories "of the world by.the Encyclopaedia Britannica in its editions till 1823'. The account of Barker, which was published in 1777, states that the observatory was said to have been ' built by the order of the emperor Ackber ' and ' erected two hundred years ago '. In a supplementary note, Col. T. D. Pearse who had visited the observatory along - with Barker in 1772, states that it was ' built by Mawnsing, the son of jysing, about 200 years ago'. It is also noteworthy that Barker nofes that he was taken to this observatory when he wanted to know where ' the learned Bramins' made their observations.

The paper of John Playfair (FRS and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh) is a detailed review (published in 1790) of the book ( Traite de astronomie Indienne et Orientale', by J. S. Bailly (Paris 1787), the famous French historian of astronomy. Taken as if by surprise by Bailh’s rather positive evaluation of the origin, antiquity and achievements of Indian astronomy, Playfair states that: 11 entered on the study of that work, not without a portion of the skepticism, which whatever is new and extraordinary in science ought always to excite, and set about verifying the calculations, and examining the reasonings in it, with the most scrupulous attention. The result was, an entire conviction of the accuracy of the one, arid of the solidity of the other '. Both Bailly's book and Playfair's article examine in detail some of the astronomical tables (based on Indian astronomy) that the French had procured from Siam (Thailand), 'Chris-nabouram' Narasapour ' and ' Tirvalore Playfair's main conclusions are the following:

  1. The observations on which the astronomy of India is founded, were made more than three thousand years before the Christian era ; and in particular, the places of the sun and the moon, at the beginning of the Calyougham , were determined by actual observation.

  2. Though the astronomy which is now in the hands of the Brahmins, is so ancient in its origin, yet it contains many rules and tables that are of later construction.

  3. The basis of the four systems of astronomical tables which we have examined, is evidently the same.

  4. The construction of these tables implies a great knowledge of geometry,arithmetic, and even of the theoretical part of astronomy.

We should also mention that Playfair's article is one of the few investigations which try to discuss the ways in which the two corrections (tnanda and sighrd) are combined in Indian planetary theories. This is a subject which is hardly touched upon even in modern scholarly reviews, which devote most of the space to the question of how Indian astronomy has its origin in Babylonian or Greek or Persian etc. sources. On this latter question Playfair argues that communication is more likely to have gone from India to Greece, than in the opposite direction .

The paper Hindu Algebra of H. T. Colebrooke (Member. Governor General's Council) is the introduction to his translation of some portions of Brahmasphuta Siddhanta of Brahmagupta (7th century A. D.) and LUavati and Bijaganita of Bhaskaracharya (12th century A. D.); and was published in 1817 under the title ' Algebra with Arithmetic and Mensuration, from the Sanscrit of Brahmagupta and Bhascara Colebrooke's essay shows how the astronomers in Ujjayani were clearly aware of the exact dates of these ancient texts and also how these texts were meticulously preserved because of the fact that various later astronomers wrote commentaries on them. From his study of these texts, Colebrooke arrived at the following conclusions :

The points in which the Hindu Algebra appears particularly distinguished from the Greek, are, besides a better and more comprehensive algorithm, 1st, The management of equations involving more than one unknown term. (This adds to the two classes noticed by the Arabs, namely simple and compound, two or rather three, other classes of equations.) 2nd, The resolution of equations of a higher order, in which, if they achieved little, they had, at least, the merit of the attempt, and anticipated a modern discovery in the solution of biquadrates. 3rd General methods for the solution of indeterminate problems of 1st and 2nd degrees, in which they went far, indeed, beyond Diophantus, and anticipated discoveries of modern Algebraists. 4th, Application of Algebra to astronomical investigation and geometrical demonstration : in which also they hit upon some matters which have been reinvented in later times.

On the subject of demonstrations, it is to be remarked that the Hindu mathematicians proved propositions both algebraically, and geometrically

While we are on the subject of the early European accounts of Indian astronomy
and mathematics, we may add that Dharampal's book could have profitably included also the paper On the Hindu quadrature of the circle and the infinite series of the proportion of the circumference to the diameter exhibited in the four Sasiras, the Tantra Sangraham,Yuctibhasha, Caranapaddhati and Sadratnamala \ by Charles M. Whish (Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 3 (1835) pp. 509-523). This paper clearly records the continuing tradition of astronomy and mathematics in Kerala inC 16-18th centuries and also presents an account of the remarkable work done by the Kerala mathematicians on infinite series and approximation to IT. However, we are sure that Dharampal could not have found references to Whish's article in any of the European accounts, as the paper (and the whole subject) seems to have been completely ignored and forgotten, till Prof. C. T. Rajagopal and co-workers started looking into « , these works around 1945 .

Another European account of 18th century (referred to by Dharampal in his preface), which gives an idea of how the Indian astronomers (and their theories) of that period worked, is the memories ('Memoire sur 1' IndeParis (1771—1772) of Le Gentil (assistant to Cassini in the newly founded observatory of Paris), who visited Pondicherry in 1769 to observe the transit of Venusj. We shall quote the following version of the story from O.Neugebauer's ' A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy ' (Springer Verlag (1975) p. 820):

With the help of an interpreter he [Le Gentil] succeeded in having computed for him the circumstances of the lunar eclipse of 1765 August 30 which he himself had observed and checked against the best tables of his time, the tables of Tobias Mayer [1752]. The Tamil method gave the duration of the eclipse 41 seconds too short, the tables of Mayer I minute 8 seconds too long, for the totality the Tamil was 7 minutes 48 seconds too short, Mayer 25 seconds too long. These results of the Tamil astronomer were even more amazing as they were obtained by computing with shells on the basis of memorized tables and without any aid of theory. Le Gentil says about these computations : " They did their astronomical calculations with swiftness and remarkable ease, without pen and pencil; their only accessories were cauries (kind of shells) which they arranged on a table, like our chips, and more often than not on the ground. This method of calculation appears to me to be more advantageous, in that it is faster and more expeditious than ours ". It is indeed a pleasant idea to see the members of the Academie Royale compute on the floor with cauri shells Sankalita, a collection of Memories on the various modes according to which the nations of the southern parts of India1 divide time' (Madras 1825). Having heard about Le Gentil's experiences, Warren wanted to make an independent investigation (again in Pondicherry.) Of the way Indian astronomers worked. According to Neugebauer (ioc.cit., p. 821):

Le Gentil's experiences were repeated almost identically. The lunar eclipse of I825June I was the test case and the results were as good as one would expect, the error of its middle being only 23 minutes.All these accounts do indicate a significant level of development of mathematics; as also of theoretical and observational astronomy in India at the time of colonial conquest.

But, what is also interesting is that the process of denial of the scientific significance of the achievements of the Indian mathematicians and astronomers, seems to have already set in, even when these early accounts were being written. For instance, Colebrooke, after having noted the achievements of Indian algebra (quoted above) also expresses the following views

It [.Indian algebra] is observed to be nearly stationary through the long lapse of ages which have since passed, [from the time of Aryabhatta]: the latter additions being few.and unessential in the writings of Brahmagupta, of Bhascara, and of Jnyana Raja . though they lived at intervals of centuries from each other.

No doubt can be entertained that the Hindus received hints from the astro-nomical schools of the Greeks

If, however, it be insisted, that a hint or suggestion, the seed of. their knowledge, may have reached the Hindu mathematicians immediately from the Greeks of Alexandria, or Immediately through those of Bactria, it must at the same time be confessed, that a slender germ grew and fructified rapidly, and soon attained an approved state of maturity in Indian soil

Colebrooke s book was one of (he earliest (translations of the Indian source-works on astronomyjand mathematics, . But he also seems to be one of the pioneers in expressing views such as above. We must confess that the slender germ of a suggestion planted by Colebrooke, soon fructified into a complete historiographic edifice whose main purpose (till today) has been to prove wholesale borrowals of scientific theories by Indians from Babylonians, Greeks etc., with the added observation that Indians, being bound to their.' unscientific ' traditions, could not adopt alien scientific theories without •v introducing unscientific distortions' into them . Of course the 'evidence' on which such proofs' are based has changed considerably over the last two centuries. Be that as it may, we should point out that, when it all started, even the slender hint of Colebrooke did not go undisputed as can be seen from the following extract from the review of Cole-brooke's book that appeared in Edinburgh Review (Nov. 1817)

Mr. Colebrooke, after demonstrating the excellence of this algebra, and comparing its more perfect algorithm and its superior advancement with the Greek algebra, as explained in the work of Diophantus, seems nevertheless willing to admit, that some communication about the time of the last mentioned author, may have come from Greece to India, on the subject of Algebraic Analysis. Of this we are inclined to doubt; for this simple reason, that the Greeks had nothing to give on that subject which it was worth the while of the Indians to receive. Mr. Colebrooke seems inclined to this concession, by the strength of a philological argument, of the force of which we are perhaps not sufficiently sensible. It seems however certain, that the facts in the history of Algebraic Analysis, taken by themselves, give no countenance to the supposition

B. Technology

The papers in Dharampal's book on ihe subject of Indian technology are perhaps even more important than the' ones on science for, as Dharampal himself notes in his preface, as contrasted with eighteenth century consideration and discussion on Indian sciences, the accounts on Indian technology did not give rise to passionate controversy. Perhaps such passion was neither necessary, as it ordinarily did not challenge any fundamental European dogma or belief, nor [was it] possible. The results of the technology were there for all to observe and utilize. And it may incidentally be the lack of such controversy itself that explains [to some extent] the total current ignorance of most aspects of this technology'. Of the eleven articles on Indian technology, two are on the system of inoculation against small pox, one each on the manufacture of mortar,ice and paper, two on agriculture, three on iron and steel making, and the last article deals with a host of technical practices like plastic surgery, dyeing etc. As Dharampal notes, there are many other aspects of Indian technology such as textiles, armaments, horticultural techniques, breeding of animals, design and construction of boats and navigational aids, etc. However, the accounts presented are sufficient to show the widespread prevalence of an extremely efficient, sophisticated and simple, and decentralist

According to Dharampal, Inoculation against small pox seems to have been universal! if not throughout, in large parts of Northern and Southern India, till it was banned in Calcutta and other places under the Bengal Presidency (and perhaps elsewhere) from around 1802-3. Tts banning undoubtedly was done in the name of "humanity", and justified (by the Superintendent General of Vaccine Inoculation in his first report in March 1804'. The Accounts of Ro. Coult in 1731 and J.Z. Holwell (FRS, Governor of Bengal) in 1762, both describe the practice of inoculation in India as quite ancient . The process according to Coult, involved ' taking a little of the pus (when the small pox are come to maturity and are of a good kind) and dipping these in the point of a pretty large sharp needle. Therewith make several punctures in the hollow under the deltoid muscle ,or sometimes in the forehead, after which they cover the part with a little paste made of boiled rices . On the way this practice of inoculation was organized, Holwell notes the following :

Inoculation is performed in Indostan by a particular tribe of Bramins, who are delegated annually for this service from the different colleges of Bindoobund, Eleabas, Banaras and Calcutta over all the distant provinces ; dividing themselves.into small parties, of three or four each, they plan their travelling circuits in such wise as to arrive at the places of their respective destination some weeks before the usual return of the disease.

the Operator takes his fee which from the poor is a pund of Cowries, equal to about a penny sterling and goes on to another door, down one side of the street and up on the other, and is thus employed from morning until night, inoculating sometimes eight or ten in a house.' On the.efficacy of this practice Holwell has the following to say :

When the before recited treatment of the inoculated is strictly followed, it is next to a miracle to hear, that one in a million fails of receiving the infec-- lion, or of one that miscarries under it.... Since, therefore, this practice of the East has been followed without variation, and with unifom success from the remotest known times, it is but justice to conclude, it must have been originally founded on the basis of rational principles and experiment

Now, what were the rational principles behind the Indian practice of inoculation ? Holwell first notes that the Indian treatment prescribed cool regimen and free admission of air. Before the inoculation, there was a preparative course which consisted in abstaining from fish, milk and ghee. Holwell-did not have much problem with the simple explanation that was given for prohibiting these foods, based on some of their properties. But, what Holwell found very difficult to understand was the basic theoretical principles behind the Indian practice of inoculation. Holwell's account of these principles, not only shows that the Indians had some kind of;a theory of bacterial infection, but also reveals, to some extent, the basic philosophy of the Indian system of health science as contrasted with the Western system of medicine

Thus far the system of practice pursued by the Bramins will, I imagine, appear rational enough, and well founded ; but they have other reasons for particularly prohibiting the use of these three articles, which to some may appear purely speculative, if not chimerical. They lay it down as a principle, that the immediate (or instant) cause of the small pox exists in the mortal part of every human and animal form ; that the mediate (or second) acting cause, which stirs up the first, and throws it into a state of fermentation, is multitudes of imperceptible animalculae floating in the atmosphere; that these are the cause of all epidemical diseases, but more particularly of the small pox; that they return in particular seasons in greater or lesser numbers ; that these bodies, imperceptible as they are to the human organs of vision, imprison the most malignant tribes of the fallen angelic spirits: That these animalcule touch and adhere to everything, in greater or lesser proportions, according to the nature of the surfaces which they encounter : that they pass and repass in and out of the bodies of all animals in the act of respiration, without injury to themselves, or the bodies they pass through ; that such is not the case with f those that are taken in with the food, which, by mastication, and the digestive faculties of the stomach and intestines, are crushed and assimilated into the chyle, and conveyed into the blood, where, in a certain time, their malignant juices excite a fermentation peculiar to the immediate (or instant) cause, which ends in an eruption on the skin. That they adhere more closely and in greater numbers to glutinous, fat, and oily substances, by which they are in a manner taken prisoners; that fish, milk and ghee have these qualities in a more eminent and dangerous degree, and attach the animalculae. and convey them in greater quantities into the blood, and for these reasons, added to those before assigned , they are forbid to be taken in food during the preparative course. They add, that the small pox is more or less epidemical, more mild or malignant, in proportion as the air is charged with these animalculae, and the quantity of them received with the food. That though we all receive, with our ailment, a portion of them, yet it is not always sufficient in quantity to raise this peculiar ferment, and yet may be equal to setting the seeds of other diseases in motion ; hence the reason why any epidemical disorder seldom appears alone. That when once this peculiar ferment, which produces the small pox, is raised in the blood, the immediate (instant) cause of the disease is totally expelled in the eruptions, or by other channels; and hence it is, that the blood is not susceptible of a second fermentation of the same kind. That inoculating for this disease was originally hinted by the divinity presiding over theUmmediate (instant) cause, the thought being much above the reach of human wisdom, and foresight. That the great and obvious benefit, accruing from it, consists in this, that the fermentation being excited by the action of a small portion of matter (similar to the immediate cause) which had already passed through a state of fermentation, the effects must be moderate and benign : whereas the fermentation raised by the malignant juices of the animalculae received into the blood with the ailment, gives necessarily additional force and strength to the first efficient cause of the disease.

Holwell has also noted how (the Eastern practitioners, with great modesty, arraign the Europ'ean practice of phlebotomy and Cathartics in any stage of the disease'. Dharampal's book does not contain much else on the Indian medical practices except for the reference to the practice of plastic surgery, made in the last article (a collection of letters by Dr. Helenus Scott, M.D., to Sir Joseph Banks, President, Royal Society, London (Circa 1790—1801).. Dr. Scott sent to London a quantity of 'Caute the cement used for (uniting animal parts '. He had also the following to say on the general practice of surgery: ' Here I should have much to praise. They practice with great success the operation of depressing the Chrystalline lens, when become opake and from time immemorial they have cut for the stone at the same place which, they now do in Europe'. In his preface, Dharampal has noted the following remarks of one Colonel Kyd, on Indian surgery : ' In Chirugery (in which they are considered by us the least advanced) they often succeed, in removing ulcers and cutaneous irruptions of the worst kind, which have baffled the skill of our surgeons, by the process of inducing inflamation and by means directly opposite to ours, and which they have probably long been in possession of

The paper of Hon'ble Issac Pyke (sometime Governor of St. Helena), The Method of Making the Best Mortar at Madrass in East India' (published in 1732) and that of Lt. Col. Ironside on the 'Uses of the Son and Manufacturing of the Hindostan Paper' (Published in 1774), appear to us to be valuable even today for our scientists in search of 'appropriate technologies'. So is the paper of Sir Robert Barker on the process of making ice (published in 1775). Since Barker's paper was published at a time when the artificial making of ice was perhaps unknown in Europe, it gave rise to some debate in the European scientific circles. Barker notes that Boiling the water is esteemed [by the Indians] a necessary preparative to this method of congelation ; but how far this may be consonant with philosophical reasoning , I will not presume to determine. A possible motivation for such discoveries, Barker suggests, could be the .nature of the Asiatic,whose principal study is the luxuries of life.

The paper on ' Indian Agriculture ' by Col. Alexander Walker is an extract from a larger report written by him around 1820 on the agriculture in Malabar and Gujarat. The whole report (so far unpublished) should be studied by all our present day agricultural scientists for whom, especially instances such as the following one, cited in the article, should prove educative

I remember that almost 40 years ago an experiment was made on salsette by delivering to the natives English ploughs and agricultural implements. Some active and enterprising Mahrattah Husbandmen who had but few prejudices were procured : A village was built for them, they were furnished with seed and cattle. They entered on the trial of their own accord and choice. Having adopted the measure it was their interest that it should succeed, and there was no reason that I could ever discover that it failed through any negligence or misconduct of theirs. That it did fail however is certain, and as usual we imputed the failure to the prejudices, sloth, and obstinacy of the natives. I firmly believe however that they judiciously rejected the whole of the cumbrous European machinery. They objected that the plough was too heavy: that the laborer and his oxen were needlessly fatigued : that it there fore performed less work', and that this was not better done for the purpose required than the work of their own plough. It was next observed that the plough was too costly, and similar objections were made to the greatest part of the European equipment. I would not say that this experiment was decisive, or that they have nothing to learn from us, but before we charge them with ignorance and obstinacy for neglecting to adopt our recommendations, we should first be sure of two things; that the new systems would give them more abundant harvests, at less expense and labour ; and that we have taken all the means and care that were within our power, for their instruction in the art ? It should also be well considered how far our agricultural process is suited to the cultivation of rice, the great crop of India, and of which we have no experience.

For our historians (and, shall we also say, politicians) who keep mouthing phrases such as ' the primitive character of our traditional agricultural practices ' or ' the comparative absence of artificial irrigation in pre-British India ' etc., the article by Walker should be an eye-opener. We shall present here a few select quotations from the article

The Hindoos have been long in possession of one of the most beautiful and useful inventions in agriculture. This is the Drill Plough. This instrument has been in use from the remotest times in India. 1 never however observed it in Malabar, as it is not required in rice cultivation in which its advantages have been superseded by transplanting. The system of transplanting is only in fact another method of obtaining the same object as by Drill Husbandry. It would but just to adduce this, as another proof of the ingenuity of this-people and of their successful attention to this branch of labour. They have different kinds of ploughs, both Drill and common, adapted to different sorts of seed, and soils. They have a variety of implements for husbandry purposes, some of which have only been introduced into England in the course of our recent improvements.

It has been objected to these instruments that they are simple, clumsy and crude. This does not however make them less useful.The practice of watering and irrigation is not peculiar to the Husbandry of India, but it has been probably carried there to a greater extent, and more laborius ingenuity displayed in it than in any other country. The vast and numerous tanks, reservoirs, and artificial lakes as well as dams of solid maso-nary in rivers which they constructed for the purpose of fertilizing their fields,show the extreme solicitude which they had to secure this object Besides the great reservoirs of water, the country is covered with numerous wells which are employed for watering the fields. The water is raised by a wheel either by men or by bullocks, and it is afterwards conveyed by little canals which diverged on all sides, so as to convey a sufficient quantity of moisture to the roots of the most distant planis.

In Malabar the soil is classed in point of productiveness under three sorts. They form their judgement of its quality by the following experiments and process It is curious and not a little interesting that these experiments correspond exactly with those of Lord Kairns in his theory of fertilizing soils It is equally remarkable that these experiments of the Malabar farmer, should correspond with Sir H. Davy's philosophical observation: " that the fertility of soils is in proportion to their power of absorbing moisture ". It is certainly a singular circumstance, that this theory, the discovery of science, should be understood and acted upon by the Hindoo peasants.'

In every part however that I have visited the application of manure for recruiting and restoring land is well understood. The people seem to have all the resources that we have in this respect.

The numerous ploughing of the Hindoo Husbandman have been urged as a proof of the imperfection of his instrument; but in reality they are a proof of the perfection of his art. It is not only to extirpate weeds that the Indian Husbandman re-ploughs and cross-ploughs; it is also to loosen the soil, apt to become hard and dry under a tropical sun ; and hence it becomes necessary to open earth for air, dew and rain.

' I have seen from Cape Comorin to the Gulph of Kutch details of the most laborious cultivation, of the collection of manure, of grain sown for. fodder, of grain sown promiscuously for the same purpose; of an attention to the change of seed, of fallows and rotation of crops.'

' I must repeat that I have seen in India the most abundant crops " the corn standing as thick on the ground as the land could well bear it "; fields neat, clean and generally without a weed. Infinite pains are taken to extirpate these, and several ingenious instruments have been contrived for the purpose.'

' In each region of India there is some peculiarity in the mode and articles of cultivation, which must be adapted to the climate, the difference of seasons, and the nature of the ground.'

' There is cultivated in Malabar upwards of fifty kinds of rice. They are each distinguished by a separate name, by some peculiar quality, and different modes of cultivation are of course pursued.'

' We ought also to remember that India has very little occasion for the introduction of new plants for food. There are more kinds of grain cultivated perhaps, than in any other part of the world. She has also a vast variety of
nutritive roots I am at a loss to know what essential present we can make
to India. She has all the grains that we have and many kinds more of her own.'„The whole world does not produce finer and more beautifully cultivated : fields than those in Guzerat. This appearance is no peculiar to. Guzerat: it may be found in many other countries of India. I am desirous .that, these remarks should not be considered as extending to Bengal, of which I; have .had n o personal bservation. The gentlemen who have resided in that province seem to agree in giving an unfavorable account of its agriculture, and) of its ..people: They describe the native as characterized by the lowest and most disgusting vices. If this be so, they should not be considered as affording a just notion of the rest of India.'

the last quotation once again-indicates that already by 1820, a certain opinion of the natives and their abilities was fast getting crystallized, and this was to form the basis of all later (' scientific ') explanations of the incidence of famines, epidemics etc. in the 19th century, and also of the growing poverty of our people. Walker, however, paints a very different picture of our rural society and our people :

'In Malabar the knowledge of Husbandry seems as ancient as their History. It is the favorite employment of the inhabitants. It is' endeared to them by their mode of life, and the property which they possess in the soil. . . it is a theme for their writers; it is a subject on which they delight to converse, i and with which "all ranks profess to be acquainted. They have provided a code of rule's forcgood husbandry. A system is laid down for .the proper cultivation of the soil. The rights of the proprietor and of the mere occupier of land are distinguished and explained. The Husbandman is protected. The proprietor .is secured, against bad management, while the cultivator or improver is encouraged.'

The, other article on Indian agriculture, ' On the -Drill - Husbandry in Southern India by Captain Thos Halcbtt (published in 1797), contains a detailed description of the drill plough" employed in South India. Halcott states: 'Until lately I imagined the drill plough to be a modern European invention; but a short time ago, riding over a field, I observed drill plough at work, very simple in its construction, which upon enquiry I find is in general use here, and has been so. time immemorial'. What is even more interesting is: the following confession by1 Halcott: But so far as I know at present, I am the first European that ever noticed it meaning the drill husbandry], for although it has been practiced under the eyes of everybody, in the Guntoor Circar, no one that I mentioned [it] to [had} ever observed it before, nor did I observe it myself till lately',

Dharampals book contains three very important articles on the Indian process of making steel 'which was called Wootz The process of,, making Wootz evokedS considerablewinterest in England after a sample of it was.sent by Dr. Helenus Scott to

Sir Banks, President of the British Royal Society, in 1794, along with the following note:

'I enclose in one.of the boxes a specimen of a kind of steel which is called wootz and is in high steem among the Indians. It appears to admit of a harder temper their anything we are acquainted with.. I should. be happy to have your opinion 'of its" quality and composition. It is employed here for1 covering that part of gun locks which the flint, strikes, for cutting iron on a lathe, for chissels for cutting stone, for files and saws and for every purpose where excessive hardness is necessary.'

As Dharampal notes : The sample [sent by Dr. Scott] went through thorough examination and analysis by several experts. It was found in general to match the best steel then available in Britain, and according to one user , "promises to be of importance to the manufactures " of Britain. He found it "'excellently 'adopted for the purpose of fine cutlery, and particularly for all edge instruments used for surgical purposes". After its being sent as a sample in 1794 and its examination and analysis in late 1794 and early 1795, it began to be much in demand'; and some IS years" later the afore quoted user of steel stated,- "I have at this time a liberal supply of wootz, and I intend to use it for many purposes. If a better steel'is offered to me, I will gladly attend to it; but the steel of India is decidedly the best I, have yet met with

Dharampal's book contains one of the earliest accounts of Indian iron works by Dr. Benjamin Heyne (published in 1795). Apart from a short description of the mines, smelting furnaces etc., Heyne's article also indicates how,' under the British administration, the number of smelting furnaces was on the decline. Heyne notes that in the village of Ramanakapettah ' before the famine, there were besides 40 smelting furnaces, a,.great number of silver and copper smiths who were in a state of affluence . The reference is to the famine of 1790-2 which reduced the population of the Noozeed Zemindary from around a lakh in 1786 to about 58,000 in 1793. The number of furnances had come down to 10 in 1795.

The papers, 'The Mode of manufacturing Iron in Central India' by Major James Franklin FRS/MRAS (Circa 1829).. and ' Manufacture of Bar Iron in Southern India' by Captain J. Campbell, are detailed reports of the iron mines in India and the Indian method of manufacturing iron. As Dharampal suggests both these papers should be studied seriously by our experts, who should also note, in particular, the following remarks of Campbell:

'Because the English mode of manufacturing iron has been found to be the most profitable in England, it has been supposed that a similar process could alone answer in India, This process has also been styled " Scientific but the fact is, that the principles of the mode of operation are still totally unknown. Such being the state of our present knowledge of the subject, it may be doubted if a careful examination of the principles of the long established, cheap, and simple mode of manufacture of the native of India, might not lead to improvements and modifications, which would be found to answer better, than the operose methods of the English manufacture, which require much capital, costly building, and a considerable trade to make them profitable.

What comes out very clearly from these articles is the extreme simplicity and, (at the same time), the sophistication of the Indian smelting furnace, the various implements and accessories used, and in fact the whole iron and steel making process itself. Franklin notes that:

'Their smelting furnaces, though rude in appearance are nevertheless very exact in their interior proportions, and it has often surprised me to see men who are unquestionably ignorant of their principle, construct them with precision, in so simple a manner..- All this serve to show that the original plan of this singular furnace must have been the work of advanced intelligence, and that its geometrical proportions have been preserved by simple measures ; x hence though its original form might be changed by caprice or ignorance, its principle never can be lost so long as hands and fingers remain.

In conclusion Franklin states 'the following :

The Indian forge is able to make crude metal for two pounds six shillings, and good malleable iron for five pounds ten shillings per English ton ; it is moreover susceptible of improvement ; it requires but little outlay; it is portable and may be transported from place to place, the implements being the' only things necessary to carry ; it may be erected in places which combine the advantages of proximity of ore and fuel and where other furnaces requiring a large supply of water cannot be set up and it may be erected for temporary purposes and abandoned when the object is fulfilled without material loss, the furnaces being the only part which would be lost and their cost is about 6 shillings each.

Dharampal notes that a cursory examination of the data [presented in these two papers]! seems to indicate that the proportion of iron recovered from the ore and the amount of charcoal required to produce a given quantity of crude iron in Central India is comparable with the respective ratios pertaining to the manufacture of iron and steel in Sweden etc. . Dharampal also presents the following estimate of the overall production of iron in the country around that period : ' It is not easy to estimate the total number of such furnances which may have been in operation in various parts of India in the eighteenth century. Certain mid-nineteenth century enumerations however place the number of furnaces operating in certain districts, talooks etc., in hundreds. It is therefore, probable that the number of the iron and steel furnaces functioning throughout India in the later part of the eighteenth century was in the region of 10,000. According to the data given in Chapter-XV [the paper of Franklin] the production of iron per furnace amounted to somewhat above half a ton per week. Assuming that a furnace on an average worked about 35—40 weeks a year, the production of iron per furnace may be assumed at 20 tons annually.

Having summarized the various accounts given in Dharampal's book, we feel that there is no longer any need (or justification, for that matter) to be ambivalent on the question as to whether India had science and science-based technology at the time of British conquest, and immediately thereafter. What we would like to emphasize is that these accounts also provide some important insights into the nature of Indian science and technology (as distinguished from the modern science and technology of the West), which should of course be further investigated in relation with the socio-political set up that was prevalent. For the present, we would like .to draw particular attention to what Dharampal has himself to say on this matter:

'The seventeeth, eighteenth and nineteenth century European view of society, and thus of science, technology, politics, etc., was diametrically at variance to the views about them held by non-European societies. Consequently, the sciences and technologies of the non-European world also had different seekings and developments to those of Europe. Further, in countries like India, their organisation was in tune with their more decentralist politics and there was no seeking to make their tools and work places unnecessarily gigantic and grandiose. Smallness and simplicity of construction, as of the iron and steel furnaces or of the drill ploughs, was in fact due to social political maturity as well as arising from "understanding of the principles and processes. Involved. Instead of being crude, the processes and tools of eighteenth century India appear to have developed from a great deal of sophistication in theory and an acute sense of the aesthetic'


Dharampal's book should be viewed, as he himself states in the preface, 'as a part of an attempt to understand the functioning of Indian state and society some eight to ten generations back, i.e., around the period 1750, when India began to fall under European domination firstly in Tamil and Telugu areas and afterwards in Bengal and elsewhere'. It is for this reason that Dharampal's book is almost unique among the various works on Indian science and technology in the pre-colonial and colonial periods. In fact, while drawing attention to the various practices of Indian science and technology and while emphasizing some Of their distinct features, Dharampal. has also addressed 'himself, in his preface to the book, to several important questions such as the following :

  1. How have the various hypotheses, (on the state of Indian society at the time of European conquest), such as ' the eighteenth century being the darkest periodic Indian history-' emerged, and how is it that such views have come uto be held almost universally among our present day intelligentsia ?'

  2. What is the particular relevance today of questioning such generally held hypotheses and of evolving an entirely new perspective ?
Below we summarize some of the essential points of Dharampal's analysts, bearing on the above questions.

A. 'Growth of the Imagery of a Backward and Barbaric (Pre-Colonial) India and Concomitant Uprooting of the Indian Society.

a) The Period of Discovery

Dharampal first draws attention to the fact that practically all European accounts relating to the sciences and technologies and other aspects of the non-European societies Till 1720, when the wife, of the then British 'ambassador in turkey, having got her children successfully inoculated [against small pox], began to advocate its introduction' into Britain, the practice of inosculation was unknown to the ' British medical and scientific world. Proving relatively-successful, though for a considerable period vehemently opposed by large sections of the medical profession and the theologians of Oxford etc., an awareness grew about its value and various medical men engaged themselves in enquiries concerning it in different lands. The two accounts of inoculation reproduced here [reviewed by us in Part l] .are a result of this post-1720 quest. Similarly about the drill plough The drill plough is said to have been: first used in Europe by one Joseph Locatelli of Carinthia (Austria) in 1662. Its first introduction in England dates to 1730. But it took perhaps another 50 years before it was used on any scale. It was used in India (according to the authors of chapters XII and XIII [reviewed Part-I] from time immemorial. Observation of its use, by the British, could' only begin in the last decades of the eighteenth century after its awareness had dawned on the more observant among them.'

Dharampal hence notes it was only in the eighteenth century that the Europeans started observing the details of the non-European sciences arid technologies and even this was in the context of their growing sophistication and urgent need for materials and processes, partly due to the demands of constant warfare (amongst themselves), and the colonial conquests that the Europeans were engage , in, in the greater part of the 18th century. Most of the accounts collected in Dharampal's book roughly belong to the period between 1720 and 1820.

(b) The Period of Denigration : Contribution of Academics and Administrators.

By 1820, with the industrial revolution already on much of the knowledge and the practices of non-European societies had become less relevant to the needs of Europe, which was already set on a very different course of development. Even more important is the fact that by 1830's, the non-European societies had ceased to be what they' were before the European conquest, and there was now also the growing need to keep them under European domination. All this resulted in the propping up of an image of the non-European societies as being stagnant, backward and barbarian even in the centuries prior to European colonization—there being no doubt of course, in the Europeaneyes, of their backwardness at the time under consideration.

But, as Dharampal notes, it is very important to keep in mind that;

'The imagery of backwardness and barbarism which still serves. as a descriptive label for most of them European world was no sudden product of the 1820's or any other decade. It grew over a fairly long period but at a much accelerated pace after about 1780. .Many of the post-1780 accounts .reflect the growth of this attitude amply.

Earlier, in Part-I, we did note some instances of this European, ethnocentric bias as was apparent in the accounts collected in Dharampal's book. Dharampal, in his preface, has presented several instances of how one can clearly see the germs of all the later European attitudes (of doubt, skepticism and contempt) regarding the nature and worth of Indian sciences and technologies (as also of the Indian society), in almost all the earlier writings of the European scientists (like Playfair, Laplace, Colebrook etc.) and technologists (like Heath) in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. We shall consider this question, separately, in the Appendix.

What is perhaps more important, is the fact that these views of the European scientists and technologists did influence (and were also, in turn, considerably influenced by) the views and opinions expressed by the British policy makers and administrators in India, on Indian sciences and technologies, Indian social institutions etc. As Dharampal says, ' Given the doubts of academicians like Playfair, and of Laplace, Delambre etc., and the supporting role of the fast multiplying tribe of " oriental scholars " amongst the servants of the British authorities in India (including those amongst the missionaries) Macaulay's verdict on Indian science and learning was inevitable. Only Macaulay expressed such (louts and contempt with greater drama and bombast. But what he said, in his minute of February 2, 1835 , was shared fully not only by the then British Governor-General of India. Bentinck (" I give my entire concurrence to the sentiments expressed in this minute"), but practically by every other learned or powerful1 European'.

Macaulay's pronouncements were merely, in some sense, a culmination of the mounting propaganda that was carried on by the influential and powerful sections of the British administration, that the Indian society was in a state of utter decadence. As an example of this' we can cite the very influential work ' Observations on the State of Society among the Asian subjects of Great Britain, particularly with respeet to Morals, and on means of improving it', written in 1792 by Charles Grant who" was then a Director of the East India Company (after a long career in India where he amassed a huge wealth), and who was later (in 1805) to become the Chairman of its Board of Directors. This work was considered,important enough (at least in the period 1792-1835) to be 'reprinted twice (in 1813 and 1832) as a Parliamentary paper. The main conclusion of Grant was the following:

' Upon the whole then, we cannot avoid recognizing in the people of Hindustan, a race-of men lamentably degenerate and base; retaining but a feeble sense of moral obligation ; yet obstinate in their disregard of what they know to be right, governed by malevolent and licentious passions, strongly exemplifying the effects produced on a society by a great and general corruption of manners and sunk in misery by their vices, in a country particularly calculated by its natural advantages, to promote the prosperity of its habitants The true cure of darkness is the introduction of light.

We shall quote later from this.

The Hindoos err, because they are ignorant; and their errors have never fairly been laid before them. The communication of our light and knowledge to them, would prove the best remedy for their disorders; and this remedy is proposed, from a full conviction that if judiciously and patiently applied, it would have great and happy effects upon them, effects honorable and advantageous to us With our language, much of our useful literature might, and would, in time, be communicated Hence the Hindoos would see the great use. we make of reason on all subjects, and in all affairs; they also would learn to reason ; they would become acquainted with the history of their own species, the past and present state of the world; their affections would gradually become interested by various engaging works, composed to recommend virtue, and to deter from vice; the general mass of their opinions would be rectified; and, above all, they would see a better system of principles and morals. New views of duty, as rational creatures, would open upon them; and that mental bondage in which they have long been holden would gradually dissolve.

Grant's indictment of India was followed by similar ones by several notable Englishmen like William Wilberforce (see for example, his speeches in the British — Parliament in 1813), James Mill (see for example, his 'History of British India', published in 1817) etc. For example, James Mill in his famous education despatch of 18th February 1824 (from the Court of Directors at London, to the Indian Government) had the following to say on the proposal to establish a Sanskrit College at Calcutta :

' The great end should not have been to teach Hindoo learning, but useful learning In professing on the other hand to establish seminaries for the purpose of teaching mere Hindoo or mere Mahomedan literature, you bound yourselves to teach a great deal of what was frivolous, not a little of what was purely mischievous and a small remainder indeed in which utility was in any way concerned.'

He also added that as regards sciences, ' it was worse than waste of time to employ persons either to teach from or to learn them [i. e. sciences] in the state in which they are found in the original books'.

We shall now turn to the famous minute on education written in 1835 by Macaulay as the president of the General Committee on Public Instruction (GCPI, formed in 1835). It should perhaps be noted that the main mission on which Macauley was sent to India was the formulation of the Indian Penal Code. But, it appears that he is more known today for the service he rendered for the cause of civilization in India, by bringing in English education, and even more so by demolishing the so called ' native education'. ""'It is perhaps not generally known [see for example, the article on Indigenous Education in PPST Bulletin 2] that the 'native education ' was somehow managing to survive, with no state support, even after seventy-five years of colonial rule. To give some idea of the way this system still functioned, we may quote ;the following from the minute of 1821 due to G. L. Prendergast, member, Governor's Council, Bombay :

1 need hardly mention what every member of the Board knows as well as do, that there is hardly .a village, great or small, throughout, our territories', in which there is not at least one school, and in larger villages more, many in and n(.larger cities in every division; where young natives are taught reading, writing and arithmetic, upon a system .so economical, from' a handful or two of grain, to parhaps a rupee per month, to the school master according to. ,the ability of the parents, and at the same time so simple and effectual that, there is hardly a cultivator or petty dealer who is not competent to keep his own accounts with a degree of accuracy, in my opinion, 'beyond what we meet with amongst the lower orders in our own country ; while there more splendid dealers and bankers keep their books with a degree of ease, conciseness and clearness,„ ;"1 rather think fully equal to those of any British Merchant.'

The context in which the minute of Macaulay was written, was the following. As is well known, the Charter Act of 1813, empowered the Governor-General to spend one lakh rupees per annum for ' the revival and improvement of literature and encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the introduction and1 promotion of a knowledge of the science [emphasis ours] among the inhabitants of the British, territories in India'. This sum of one lakh rupees (which was barely equal to the annual 'salary of the British Chief Justice m Bombay in 1805) was not made 'available, at least till 1823. To give' some idea of the amount of money that was needed 'to keep the indigenous schools (Bengal and Bihar alone) barely running, we quote from the report of William Adam (1835):

Indigenous Elementary Schools;.. By this description, are meant those schools in which instruction in the elements of knowledge is communicated, and« which have been originated and are supported, by, the Natives ,themselves, in contra-distinction from those that are supported by religious or philanthropic societies. The number of such schools in Bengal is supposed to be very great.' A distinguished member of the General' Committed of !Public; Instruction in a Minute on the subject 'expressed the opinion, 'that if one rupee per menses were expended on each existing village school [including the private houses Where instruction is given] the Lower-j Provinces,, the amount. would, "probably fall little short of T2 lakhs, of rupees, per annum. This , supposses that there, are 11,00,000 such.,school in bengal and Bihar, and assuming, the population of those two provinces to(be 40,000,000, there would
' be a village- school for every 40O persons.'

The 'issue on which the 1835 minute of Macualay was written had to do with the misconceived notions" of some of the members "of GCPI (the ' orient lists. such as.1 Mac naught en) James arid H.T. Prinsep),1 that perhaps -a(fraction of the money totted"-, . for education could be Used' to' support': the- native education also and that perhaps' English would not be all that suitable a medium for educating the natives-of India

We shall now quote the following passages from the minute of Macaulay, which sufficient to bring out the litter contempt' He" had' for everything that was Indian;

I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic. - But I have-done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. Lhave .read translations of the most celebrated 'Arabic and Sanscrit works. I have,. conversed both here and at home With men "distinguished' by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. Lam quite 'ready to take the Oriental learning at 'the valuation of Orientalists -themselves. I have1 never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is, indeed, fully admitted by those members of the committee [GCPI] who support the oriental plan of education.

It will hardly be disputed, I suppose, that the department of literature in which the Eastern writers, stand highest is poetry. And I certainly never met with any Orientalist who, ventured to maintain that Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. but when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded, and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is. I believe no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in 'f the. Sanscrit language is less valuable,, than what may be found in the most ' paitry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy, the.- relative position of the two nations is nearly the same ,Whether we look at the intrinsic value of our literature, _or at the, particular situation of this country [India], we shall see the strongest reason to think that, of all foreign tongues, the English tongue is that which would be the most useful to our native subjects.

The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach this language [English]: we shall teach languages [Sanscrit and Arabic] in which, by universal confession, there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our .own ; whether,, when we can teach European science, we shall teach systems which, by universal confession, whenever they differ from those of Europe, differ for the worse; and whether, when we can patronize sound philosophy, and true history, we shall countenance, at the public .expense, medical doctrines which would disgrace an English farrier [horse—doctor], astronomy which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, history abounding with kings thirty feet high and reigns thirty thousand years long, and geography, made up of seas of treacle and sea.

Assuredly it is the duty of the British Government in India to be not only tolerant, but neutral on all religious questions . But to encourage the study' of a literature admitted to be of small intrinsic value, only because that literature inculcates the most serious errors on the most important subjects, is a course hardly reconcilable with reason, with morality, or even with that very neutrality which ought, as we all agree, to be sacredly preserved. It is confessed that a language is barren of useful knowledge. We are to teach it because it is fruitful of monstrous superstitions. We are to teach false history,false astronomy, false medicine, because we find them in company with a false religion

I feel that it is impossible for us with our limited means to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a. class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrow-wed from Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of population

If on the other hand, it be the opinion of the Government that the present system [of some assistance to Indian learning] ought to remain unchanged I beg I iriay be permitted to retire from the chair of the committee I believe that the present system tends not to accelerate the progress of truth but to delay the natural death of expiring errors. I conceive that we have at present no right to the respectable name of a Board of Public Instruction. We are a Board for wasting the public money, for printing books [of Indian learning] which are of less value than the paper on which they are printed while it was blank for giving artificial encouragement to absurd history, absurd metaphysics, absurd physics, absurd theology—for raising up a breed of scholars who find their scholarship an incumberance and a blemish, who live on the public while they are receiving their education, and whose education is so utterly useless to them that, when they have received it, they must either starve or live on the public all the rest of their lives. Entertaining these opinions I am naturally desirous to decline all share in the responsibility of a body which, unless it alters its whole mode of proceedings, I must consider not merely as useless, but as positively noxious.'

As Dharampal notes, ' remarks, observations, threats and declamations like those quoted above, have shaped all the writing and teaching about India' in the last two centuries. If today there is ignorance and apathy and utter confusion, particularly about the life-and society in 18th century India, it is largely a product of such writing and teaching and, in fact, of the whole system of 'English Education' (that was ushered in by the minute of Macaulay) that prevails in India even today. As is clear, this system of education 'was from the beginning given the ideological burden of the moral and intellectual regeneration of a depraved and superstitious society' . And, as Dharampal notes, the lack of appropriate awareness and the prevailing indifference of our intelligentsia to our pre-colonial past, is to a large measure due to our system of education 'which by nurturing indifference, even contempt, for everything indigenous, effectively blocks such enquiries'.

However, it is not merely a certain lack of awareness or indifference that lies at the root of the generally held views that our traditional sciences and technologies were primitive and that our society was backward before the dawn of modern western civilization here. After all, as Dharampal has pointed out, much of the information on our sciences and technologies that is contained in the papers collected in his book, is generally available and even well-known to some scholars and specialists both in India and abroad. But, the fact that this awareness in itself has not led them (or others) to seriously question the generally held views on our sciences, technologies, and our society,, has to do with far 'deeper issues which pertain to conflicting hypotheses about state and society', as also about the nature of science and technology. As we emphasied earlier (in Part-I), much of the confusion stems from the belief that the modern western science and technology is the pardigm and that all other sciences and technologies are to be evaluated on the basis of how far or how much they could anticipate or approximate the modern western science and technology. Such a belief (or 'faith') has rendered all enquires concerning non-western sciences and technologies into barren 'academic' exercises, providing no insights into the nature of the non-western societies, or for that matter, of the non-western sciences and technologies themselves. What Dharampal wants to emphasize is that any serious questioning of the generally held hypotheses regarding the Indian society at the time of colonial conquest, should be based on the understanding that our sciences and technologies of that period were ,no less scientific or efficacious merely because they were related to "the socio-political organization, needs, values and the historical traditions of our people,'in the same way that the modern science and technology of the West would not be thought of to be unscientific or ineffective for the reason that this science and technology, in their origin and developement, have been closely related to the (totally different) organisation, needs, values and traditions of the European society of the past four to five hundred years. As Dharampal states :

(It appears that in most respects the sciences and technologies of India had reached a desirable balance and equilibrium much before the eighteenth century. In the context of the values and aptitudes of Indian culture and social norms (and the consequent political structure and institutions) the sciences and technologies of India, instead of being in a state of atrophy, were in actuality usefully performing the tasks desired by Indian Society. It is the application of unrelated standards and judgments (particularly those emanating from eighteenth-nineteenth century Europe)which hide and distort the actual situation and relationship.'

(C) The Period of Denigration : The Disruption and Uprooting of Indian Society;

Dharampal next addresses himself to the question as to ' how sciences and technologies which seem to have been very much alive about 8-10 generations ago have been wholly eclipsed'. Of course, the causes of such an eclipse are very complex, and are yet to be studied in any detail. Firstly there have been several instances of direct onslaught by our colonial masters, on the various indigenous practices. The banning of small pox inoculation, the destruction of our textile and iron and steel industries, the disappearance of our indigenous education system and learning, are but a few instances of a policy, which was of course pursued for various political, economical or even cultural and ethnical reasons. The Fstory of the banning of smallpox inoculation, as told by Dharampal, clearly brings out how the policies of the colonial Government were directly responsible for the destruction of indigenous sciences and technologies and the concomitant disruption and uprooting of the Indian society. As we noted in Part-I, Holwell in his account of 1767 had stated that the indigenous practice of inoculation was so successful that when the treatment was strictly followed, ' it is next to a miracle to hear that one in a million fails of receiving the infection, or of one that miscarries under it'. As Dharampal notes:

It is possible that Holwell's information was not as accurate as that of the newly appointed Superintendent General of Vaccine Inoculation in 1804. According to the latter, fatalities amongst the inoculated were around one in two hundred amongst the Indian population and amongst the Europeans in Calcutta, etc. " one in sixty or seventy 'j. The wider risk, however, seems to have been in the spreading of disease by contagion from the inoculated themselves to those who for one reason or another had not been thus inoculated.

It is possible that there were some areas in India where inoculation did not .prevail. This, of course, is a matter for enquiry. But wherever it did, it appears to have been universal over a whole tract. After the imposition of British rule in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, areas of Madras Presidency, etc., this situation seems to alter. According to the Superintendent General of VaCcirie Inoculation a section of the people either " from indigence" or " from principle!' did not any longer (circa 1800) receive the inoculation. Those who did not receive it "from principle" seem to have been the Europeans in Calcutta, etc. Partly this may have been due to the greater mortality (i.e., one in sixty or seventy, as indicated above) amongst them. Further it may have also resulted from the persistence of Christian theological objections to any inoculation amongst them.

Not recieving it " from indigence " on the other hand pertained to sections of the Indian population. Like many other categories of specialists, (including school teachers, doctors, establishments of religious institutions and places, village establishments, etc.) it is probable that the inoculators jn India had also been maintained on subventions from public revenues. With the imposition of British rule, the Indian fiscal system began to collapse and various categories of specialists and functionaries were thrown out on the streets and left to wholly fend for themselves. It is this development and the simultaneous deepening of poverty amongst the people, that must probably resulted in many not being inoculated " from indigence ". Such a situation most have naturally made the practice of inoculation seem even more undesirable to the Europeans who, while they themselves did not like to be inoculated, yet could not function without whole contingents of Indian domestic servants.

So what, till the latter part of the eighteenth century, when practised universally in any tract, was a relatively successful method and involved no contagious effect, as all were then similarly inoculated, by 1800 had begun to seem a great hazard to the Europeans in Calcutta. But in spite of the bannings, prohibitions, etc. resorted to in Calcutta and other cities and towns, the introduction of vaccine inoculation was very halting. Such halting development must have been caused by insufficient provision of resources or by sheer indifference. Or. as hinted by the officiating Superintendent General of Vaccination for N.W.P. (the present U. P.) in 1870, it may also have been caused by the peoples' reluctance to get vaccinated as, according to this authority, the indigenous inoculation possessed " more protective power than is possessed by vaccination performed in a damp climate ". Whatever the causes, the indigenous inoculation seems to have been still practised around 1870. For areas near Calcutta those who were not so inoculated are estimated at 10 per cent of the population about 1870 and for the Benares area at 36 per cent. The frequent small pox epidemics which were rampant in various .parts of India in the nineteenth and early twentieth century may largely be traced back on the one hand to the state's backwardness and indifference in making the requisite arrangement for universal vaccination, and on the other hand to having made the existence of the indigenous practice of inoculation most difficult by not only withdrawing all support to it but also forcing it to be practised secretly and stealthily.'

Another factor, which contributed to the destruction of our sciences and technologies (apart from the direct assault on them by the colonial Government), has to do with the fact that there was a large scale economic breakdown in our country in the period I75&-1900. Much of it could be traced to the nature and extent of the exploitation of our agricultural and manufacturing population—which involved, for example, all forms of extortions of money and goods (such as the governmental land revenue being fixed at 50% of the gross agricultural product), much of which was repatriated. As Dharampal notes : ' the point that the breakdown of the economy was overwhelming and total is indisputable. No sciences or technologies can survive intact such a catastrophe'.

A more important point (in terms of its relevance even today) that Dharampal makes, has to do with the (contrary nature of the new [British imposed] state fiscal system as compared to the indigenous system (or systems) prevailing at the beginning of the European impact j. Dharampal states : ' It seems that the indigenous budgeting of state revenues (whether for larger or smaller political entities) left the overwhelming proportion of revenue, through various in-built devices, at the local levels. The British-created fiscal system on the other hand hot only doubled or trebled the rates of various assessments and effectively brought all people under its sway, but it took away the overwhelming proportions to the central exchequers and the. metropolises and places above them . The studied neglect and contempt, referred to above, added to the economic breakdown and the transformation of the fiscal system ', seem to have been the causes of such a total eclipse as we see today, of our indigenous. sciences and technologies.


Indigenous Fiscal Systems (in 1750).

British Fiscal System (in 1830).

Actual Producers



Religious, Cultural and Educational

Institutions and Individuals.



Economic services and Police



Militia and Political Aristocracy



Central Authority






One very important point", however, is that (as Dharampal emphasizes), (the notion that all these [indigenous] sciences and technologies have' wholely disappeared is not altogether true. Residues of many of them still exist and function [even today] but at a most neglected and impoverished level'. This is particularly true of the various Y practices (such as those in agriculture, medicine etc.) still prevalent in the 'hinterlands' of our country which are not yet totally swamped by the modern western civilisation, aided and abetted by its science and technology.

B. The Relevance Today of Questioning the Imagery of a Barbaric (Precolonial) India and Evolving a New Perspective : This brings us to the question : What is ihe particular relevance, today of this whole analysis [of Dharampal] pertaining to the nature and functioning of our sciences, technologies and our society in the eighteenth century ? If the purpose of such an analysis were merely to correct the historical distortions wrought by the colonisers and their local followers it will still be a worthwhile exercise. However, such an analysis acquires a special importance in the historical context of today when the western notions of development based on the modern science and technology, have totally failed in providing the non-western societies with the know-how OT the means to provide (in a self-reliant and non-exploitative manner) even the basic necessities for the vast majorities of their people, or for that matter, the basic dignity of a sociopolitical existence which is not subservient to their earlier colonizers and denigrators. An alternative to the present (western-inspired) mode of development is fast becoming an urgent need for all the third-world countries if they are to ensure a dignified survival for themselves. However, if alternative modes of development are to take root in these countries, it is important that they exorcise themselves of the illusion of the uniqueness of the western mode of development. They must therefore develop a new perspective on the nature and functioning of their own societies prior to their colonization by the Europeans. Such a perspective, is essentia! for understanding how these societies have been uprooted and disrupted in the past few centuries of European domination through military and political force. Such a perspective alone can help in evolving an understanding bf-how these societies can liberate themselves from western domination today (which continues unabated even after their so called 'political liberation'), and establish a just and equitable social order.

Dharampal's analysis shows that the new perspective on the nature and functioning of the non-European societies, should be based on the realisation that these societies, not only had their own sciences and science-based technologies, but also had social objectives, cultural values and traditions of their own, which led them to develop socio-political organisations and sciences and technologies much different from those of the post-renaissance Europe . ,' It is only from such a perspective that one can see that even today, the non-European (societies are, to some extent, the repositories of theories,techniques, social organisations and entire ways of life, which would throw light on the question 1 what could be the possible " alternatives " to the modern western civilization, and in particular, to its science and technology?' It should be emphasised that what is being sought is an entirely new (and non-western) perspective on the nature of Indian society; that would help us understand the present reality (as constituted .by the vast majority of our people) and evolve possible future' alternatives We do not see such a perspective emerging from the various reinterpretations of Indian history which are attempted with the objective of merely recapturing the ' glories ' of our past, or of underplaying the various inegalitarian values, institutions, practices or even tendencies in our, traditions, either in the past or in the way they survive today.

Dharampal's book goes a long way in helping the formation of a correct perspective on the processes which destroyed the Indian civilisation, and its science and technology with it; and on the viability and vitality of the Indian science and technology before this process of destruction started. Dharampal seems to be clearly aware of the relevance, scope and importance of this new perspective. It is best to let him speak for himself:

' It appears to the present researcher that, though organisationally weak in a military-political sense, in most respects the political and social ideas of India and its legal and administrative arrangements as well as sciences and technologies had achieved maturity and balance at some time previous to its present day contacts with the European world At the time of European onslaught, the indigenous tendencies in India seem to have been in ajstate of
slow resurgence. With the begining of European dominance in India, the resurgence got transformed into depression and unimaginable disorganisation.

It is for the same reason that the post-renaissance Europe, even though in ' close contact' with the non-European societies, could appreciate or some times even assimilate only those aspects of the non-European traditions of I science and technology, which it could in some sense separate from their socio-cultural Context and employ in the 'grand design' that Europe had already set for itself,

Foreign aggression and dominance was not wholly unknown in India before the resort to it by Europe in the mid-eighteenth century. But the Europeans of this period belonged to a wholly alien world in relation to India. They were not only armed with the concepts and hierarchical institutions of a long feudal European past but had also been preparing for the occasion for two to three centuries. The subsequent application of their concepts and values completed the destruction of Indian science and society which had been started by the political and military defeat of India at their hands.

What has developed in India in the field of science and technology during the past century, and at a greater pace since 1947, is mainly a transplanting of some of that which has developed during this period in the European world. Such transplanting has happened not only at the level of theories but even more so as regards the organization of technology and the direction of research. It is largely due to such transplanting and its unthinking acceptance that though many individual Indian scientists and technologists are as creative and inventive as their colleagues in the European world, the impact of this science and technology on the larger society of India is in fact minimal. It is perhaps no exaggeration to add that the field of science and technology in India as far as it concerns its ordinary life is only a little less barren than the fields of India's state system as well as its politics.

Borrowing of ideas and practices in themselves need not be obstructive to development or creativity. During the centuries India must have borrowed many ideas and practices from other lands in the same way as Europe received much in the field of science and technology from the Arabs etc., or the Arabs and others did from India. To the extent that such borrowings lead to further innovation and creativity they are:greatly to be welcomed. But unfortunately, so far, the past century's unthinking transplanting of European sciences and technologies in India have mainly resulted in retarding and blunting of indigenous innovation and creativity.

The problem for India today, as perhaps for many other lands which are still recovering from the effects of eighteenth and nineteenth century European dominance, is how to achieve and increase such innovation and creativity. Such innovation and creativity can however arise only from a widespread indigenous base. Such a base has yet to be identified (and the superstructure accordingly modified and linked with it) in countries like India. For that, knowledge and comprehension of how they functioned before the beginning of this dominance seem to be essential. Even for the purposeful adaptations from European (or for that matter Japanese, Chinese or any other) science and technology and the integration of these with the more indigenous concepts, knowledge and forms, it is necessary that these countries achieve such knowledge and comprehension at the earliest possible.'


European Accounts of Indian Sciences; and Technologies : Story of Ethnocentri-cism and Deliberate Distortions.

One of the main points that Dharampal has made in his preface is that the image
of the non-European societies as being backward, barbarian, and stagnant (for several centuries) that we find in most of the European writings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was not a sudden product of the 1820's or 1830's or any such decade, but was merely a culmination of the predominant European (ethnocentric) attitudes, that are apparent in many o'f their earlier writings. To illustrate this point, we shall summarise in this Appendix some of the instances discussed by Dharampal, which clearly show the growth of these attitudes in the European accounts Of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

One such instance, has been the way the Benares observatory, Manmandir, has been dated. As we noted earlier, both Barker and Pearse who visited the observatory in 1772, stated in their paper of 1777 that the observatory was nearly 200 years old, built by Raja Marising at the instance of Akbar. In 1793, one . L. Williams of Benares sent a report at the instance of the'Royal Society, and now the story was that the building was originally built by 'Raja Maunsing for the repose of holy men and pilgrims', and that the observatory was built during 1737-39 by ' Raja Jey Singh '. In support of this, Williams stated that he had the opinion of the Indian magistrate of Benares and also the Brahmins of Benares, who it appears agreed that 4 this observatory never was used, nor.... capable of being used for any nicer observations; and it was built more for ostentation than
the promotion of useful knowledge '. It was but logical that the next Englishman who wrote on the Benares observatory. Sir William-Hunter, came up with the next version of the story (cf. Asiatic Researches 5, 177-211, 1798) that Raja Jayasinha ' arising superior to the prejudices of education, of national pride and religion' strove to enrich his country with scientific truth derived from a foriegn source' the source being of course Europe. Hunter quoted a mid-eighteenth century document, Zij Muhammed Shahi, (supposed to be the astronomical catalogue prepared by Raja Sewai Jaising), which talks of Jayasinha as i have always thought, that after having convinced the eastern nations of our superiority in policy and in arms, nothing can contribute more to the extension of our national glory, than the diffusion among them of a taste for European science. And as the means of promoting so desirable an end, those among the natives who have penetration to see, and ingeniousness to own its superior accuracy and evidence ought to be cherished having bound the girdle of resolution about the loins of his soul, and constructed [at Delhi] several of the instruments of an observatory. And in order to confirm the truth of these observations [at Delhi] he constructed instruments of the same kind in Sewai Jeypoor and Matra and Benares and Oujein'. Around that time, there were various accounts of this observatory all of which gave very different dates for its construction . The subject was soon forgotten, till in the 20th century when it perhaps" became necessary for the Archaeological Survey of India to supply an ' official' date. Then, and ever after wards, the article of Hunter has been taken as the Gospel , and so it has come to be accepted' that the Benares observatory (or, at least, the astronomical instruments there), is the work of Raja Jai Singh in 1737 A. D. The point at issue is not so much the actual date of the observatory, but the nature of evidence that was found acceptable in the 18th century, (in order to dismiss summarily Barker's statements to the contrary), as also the authority that the opinions of someone like Hunter have wielded ever since, in 'fixing' the date once and for all

Another curious 'dating' procedure appears in the paper of Playfair that we reviewed earlier. When Playfair examines the usual Indian assumption of a planetary conjunction at the beginning of Kaliyuga in 3102 B.C., with his knowledge of modern astronomy as was available in 1790, it turned out that he arrived at an exact agreement if only he employed all the ' recent refinements due to Lagrange and others. For Playfair, it was inconceivable that the Indians could be aware of such a conjunction unless they had actually observed it in 3102 B. C. As he states,

'Of such antiquity, therefore, must we suppose the origin of this astronomy, unless we can believe, that all the coincidences which have been enumerated, are but the effects of chance ; or what indeed were still more wonderful, that, some ages ago, there had arisen a Newton among the Brahmins, to discover that universal principle which connects, not only the most distant regions of space, but the most remote periods of duration ; and a De La Grange, to trace, through the immensity of both, its most subtle and complicated operations

We should caution the reader that the point at issue here is not whether the ssumed conjunction of 3102 B. C. is vindicated or refuted by the even more 'modern ' theories of today. It is merely that even in 1790, it was impossible for the western world to conceive of alternative means for arriving at the theories they had so painfully discovered, there being no question, of course, of any alternatives to these the ones themselves.

It turned Out! their most of the theoretical issues raised by Playfair and Bailly were totally ignored and a debate started on their conclusions regarding the ancientness of Indian astronomy Apart from famous men like Laplace and Delambre, this issue was forcefully taken up by John Bentley , 'who very soon proved, for example, that Varaha-mihira (6th century A. D.) and Bhaskaracharya (12th century A. D.) were contemporaries of Akbar and also 't showed that almost all the Indian authors of antiquity wee guilty of interpolations and forgeries of every description : which system of forgeries and impositions has continued to the present day unabated, nay, rather with many new additions and improvements '. Another issue which, (as we mentioned earlier in connection with Colebrooke's essay), attracted almost universal attention, and continues to do so till today, has been that of Indians1 wholesale borrovval of astronomical theories and mathematical methods from Greek and other foreign sources. Finally, around the same period, there also emerged the clear opinion that Indian sciences, by then, had already been in a state of stagnation for several centuries. For instance, Playfair states the following in his review of Colebrooke's book (Edinburgh Review. Nov. 1817):

Among many subjects of wonder it is not one of the least that algebra
has existed in India, and has been cultivated for more than 1200 years, without any signal improvement, or the addition of any material discovery. The works of the ancient teachers of science have been commented on, elucidated, and ' explained with skill and learning ; but no new methods have been invented, nor any new principle introduced. Playfair then goes on to provide, .what is even today the canonical ' explanation “for the ' stagnation ' of Indian sciences ;

'But they [the medieval Indian astronomers, mathematicians etc.] never
pass far beyond the line drawn by their predecessors, which probably seemed even to those learned and intelligent men as the barrier within which it was to be confined. In India, indeed, everything seems equally insurmountable, and truth and error are equally assured of permanence in the stations they have once occupied. The politics, the laws, the science, and the manners, seem all nearly the same as at the remotest period to which history extends. Is it because the power which brought about a certain degree of civilizations, and advanced science to a certain height, has either ceased to act, or has met with such'a resistance as it is barely able to overcome ? Or is it because the discoveries which the Hindoos are in possession of are an inheritance from some more inventive and more ancient people, of whom no memorial remains but some of their attainments in science?'

It is beyond the scope of the present article to trace the evolution of the European accounts on Indian astronomy and mathematics in the period after the 1820's. It is generally true of these later accounts that they did not bother to study or describe, any further, the various theories and methods that were characteristic of Indian astronomy and mathematics. In fact, most of these later accounts, also concentrated almost entirely on the same kind of issues that we have noted above as the major themes of the pre-1830 writings namely, spuriousness of the Indians' claims regarding the ancientness of their science, wholesale borrowal of theories and methods by Indians from Greek and other sources' stagnation and decay of Indian sciences in the 'medieval' period etc. Often, the later versions displayed particular ingenuity in quoting selectively from their 'primary sources, of the pre-1830 period. For instance, the article on Algebra in the 8th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (published in 1850), included only the quotation cited above from the 1817 article of Playfair, but made no reference what so ever to any of the passages in the article which would have suggested a slightly more favorable estimate of Indian mathematics. The article also went on to add that ' Delambre speaks slightingly of their [i.e. Indian] algebra' and that 'Professor Leslie, in his very learned work on "The Philosophy of Arithmetic " (p. 225 and 226), calls the Liiavati " a very poor performance, containing merely a few scanty precepts couched in obscure memorial verses'.

The European ethnocentric bias is no less evident in their eighteenth century {and. later) accounts of Indian technology. We already noted how the very simplicity ' of the Indian tools and processes was completely misunderstood by the Europeans who often referred to Indian technologies as crude and primitive. But even more interesting has been the constant doubts expressed in several of the early accounts by Europeans (and, of course, by. almost everyone today) as to whether there was any scientific theory (or philosophical reasoning') behind the Indian techniques. We have already commented on the the way Holwell was skeptical of the fundamental theoretical framework behind the Indian practice of inoculation. This is, of course, partly due to a lack of comprehension of a totally alien theory. The predominant European attitudes to the question of the scientificity of the Indian technological practices is more clearly brought out by the following account given by Dharampal of the European views on the process of making wools steel.

As Dharampal notes, in the 1790 s the qualities of wootz were entirely 'ascribed to the quality of the ore from which it came and these qualities were considered to have little to doiwith the techniques and processes employed by the Indian manufacturers. In fact it was felt that the various cakes of wootz were of uneven texture and the cause of such imperfection and defects was thought to lie in the crudeness of the techniques employed.

It was only some three decades later that this view was revised. An earlier revision in fact, even when confronted with contrary evidence as was made available by other observers of the Indian techniques and processes, was an intellectual impossibility. That iron could be converted into'cast steel by fusing' it in a close vessel in contact with carbon "was yet to be discovered and it was only in 1825 that a British manufacturer ' took out a patent for converting iron into steel by exposing it to the action of carburated hydrogen gas in a closed vessel, at a very high temperature, by which means the process of conversion is completed in a few hours, while by the old method, it was the work of from 14 to 20 days".

According to J, M. Heath, founder of the Indian Iron and Steel Company, and later prominently connected with the development of steel making in Sheffield, the Indian process appeared to combine both of the above early nineteenth century British discoveries. He observed, "Now it appears to me that the Indian process combines the principles of both the above described methods In no other way can I account for the fact that iron is converted into cast steel by the natives of India, in two hours and a half, with an application of heat that, in this country, would be considered quite inadequate to produce such an effect; while at Sheffield it requires at least four hours to melt blistered steel in wind-furnaces of the best construction, although the crucibles in which the steel is melted, are at a white heat when the metal is put into them, and in the Indian process, the crucibles are put into them quite cold ".

The above quoted British authority however did not imply that the Indian practice was based on a knowledge " of the theory of his operations " by the Indian manufacturer. He felt it to be impossible " that the process was discovered by any scientific induction, for the theory of it can only be explained by. the lights of modern chemistry". And feeling that " all speculation upon the origin of the discovery seems useless " he proceeded to deal with the more practical matters.'

The above account of Dharampal clearly shows that there never was any question, in the minds of the European scientists and technologists, of looking into the rationale behind the Indian practices (even when they admired some of them) for, they were convinced (even in the beginning of the 19th century) that the only possible rational explanations, if indeed our processes were rational, could come from their own sciences and in no other way. What appears to Us equally noteworthy is the fact that the Europeans' ethnocentric bias even led them on to introduce deliberate distortions in their accounts. One such instance, quoted in Dharampal's book, has lo do with the statement of Dr. Helenus Scott (referred to earlier) on wootz steel that ' it appears to admit of a harder temper than anything we are acquainted with' [italics ours]. The editors of the 'Philoso phical Transactions of Royal Society' [cf. Vol. 85, p. 322], while referring to the above statement, deemed it fit (or necessary) to modify it to the form : 1 [ it ] admits of a harder temper than anything known in that part of India ' [italics ours]

Author: Madras Group


* We suspect that the only way in which our science and technology practitioners I of today would [have had a glimpse of this observatory could be by seeing ' Satyait Ray's film ' Sonar Kella \ which had a fighting sequence filmed on this )' locale

* i.e., 17/18 February, 3102 B.C. We shall later explain why Play fair was led to this conclusion.

* i.e. symbolism and general rules.

* i.e. problems where only integral (or, sometimes rational) solutions are sought.

* For further references on this subject, see C. T. Rajagopal and M. S. Rangachari, Archive for the History of Exact Sciences, 19, 89—103 (1978)

* It may be of interest to note that the Encyclopedia Britannica (1823 (?) edition) had the following to say on Le Gentils experiences: 'During the time of his stay in Hindustan, the Brahmins had been much more familiar with him on account of his astronomical knowledge, than they usually were with Europeans, and he thus had an opportunity of obtaining considerable insights into their methods of calculation

* Translated from French.

* There is the following reference to Le Gentil's experiences in the article of Playfair: * In two eclipses of the moon, calculated in India by their method, and likewise observed there by M. Le Gentil, the error in neither case, exceeded 23- of time........ and in the duration and magnitude of the eclipse, their calculation came still nearer to the truth.'

* Of 16th century A. D.

* Lihvati was translated into English by J. Taylor in 1816. E. Strachey in 1815 published an English translation of a 17th century Persian version of Bijaganita. At the risk' of stating1 the obvious, it may be remarked that "all these English translations, were then meant only for the European audience. To cite merely an example. J. L. E Dreyer in his book 'A History of Astro nomy from Thales to Kepler' (Dover 1953, original edition 1906) "states: ' Hindu astronomy seems to have been chiefly astrology, and there is no sign of any accurate knowledge of the planetary motions earlier than about the third century of our era. From henceforth astronomy, which had hitherto only formed a subject of poetical effusions, appears as a science, treated in the course of the next thousand years in a series of ext-books, the Siddhantas, the contents of which,1 though supposed to be derived from divine sources, are strongly influenced by or simply borrowed from Greek authors'. Later : ' Hindu astronomy is thus a curious mixture of old fantastic ideas and sober geometrical methods of calculation. The latter, being of foreign origin, could not drive the older notions from the field. As remarked by Colebrooke. Greek planetary theory must have been introduced in India between the times of Hipparchus and Ptolemy / This review is supposedly by Playfair. We should also note that by then (1817) Playfair had, under the existing climate, altered his views considerably from the rather ' favourable * report he gave on Indian astronomy in 1790.

* One can find an excellent discussion of various aspects of Indian technology of this period in Chapter 2 of the book ' Homo Faber ' by Claude Alvares(Allied Publishers 1979) ; this book also contains a good summary of some of the papers on technology collected in Dharampal's book.

* In this context it may be noted that a vaccine from the cow for use in 1978

* Notice, for example, that the Indian system holds the bacteria to be merely the ' mediate ' (or acting) cause, and insists that the ' immediate ' (or primary) cause of any desease ' exists in the mortal part of every human and animal form '.

* Practices of letting blood and evacuating the bowels,

* Scientific method, in modern jargon.

* This is supposed to be Stoodart who many-years later assisted Faraday in preparing and investigating a large number of steel alloys.

* Which were used as standards of measurement.

* To cite, merely, one more example, we may note that in the 17th century some of the astronomical tables based on Indian astronomy were 'unintelligible torthe Jesuit fathers who wrote them down while in Siam. It was first Cassini [famous for his discovery of four satellites of Saturn, of the axial rotation of the Sun, Jupiter etc.j'who penetrated the purposes of these procedures and explained them...... in the Memoires of the French academy [1692-93], (O. Neugebauer, op. cit. p. 822). John Playfair, in his article on Indian astronomy which we reviewed earlier* gives the following account of this story:

* We owe our first knowledge of this [i.e. Indian] astronomy to M; La Loubre, who, returning in 1687, from an embassy to Siam, brought4 with him an extract from a Siamese manusC'ript 'which contained tables, and rules, for calculating the places of the sun arid the moon. The manner in A 'which these rules were laid down, rendered the principles, on which they : we're founded, extremely 'obscure; and it required'a commentator, as conversant with astronomical calculation as the celebrated Ciissihi, To explain' the meaning of.-this curious fragment.'

* It is interesting to note that Macaulay himself never believed that the ' English ' education' could be truely 'neutral', at least in terms of its consequences. In a letter to his father (dated 12th October 1836), he states:

'No Hindoo, who has received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. Some continue to profess it as a matter of policy ; but* many profess themselves pure Deists, and some embrace Christianity. It is my firm belief that, if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolator among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And this will be effected without the smallest interference with
religious liberty; merely" by the natural operation of knowledge and reflection. T heartily rejoice in the Prospect.'

* As regards- these ' vernacular dialects ", Macaulay's opinion was that they 'contain neither literary nor scientific information, and are moreover so poor and rude that, untillfhey are enriched from some other quarter, it will not be easy to translate any valuable work into them.'

* K. K. Chatterjee, English Education in India„. Macmillan India, 1976.

* Dharampal's. own estimate of the way in which, the total gross produce from agriculture and manufactures was allocated and distributed between the actual producers, various social institutions and the central authority, is summarised in the following table [based on unpublished work of Dharampal, reproduced in the book 'Homo'Faber' by Claude Alvares (Allied. Publishers, 1979, pp. 174-175)], where we take 1000 as the total gross produce : .

* To cite merely an instance, Dharampal refers to a recent article of S,C. Almast. 'History and Evolution of ..Indian method of Rhinoplasty' [Proceedings of Fourth International Congress on Plastic Surgery, Excerpta Medica Foudation, Amsterdam 1969], wherein is reported that 'some aspects, of indigenous plastic surgery were being practised till recently in places as far apart as Kangra and Junagadh'. We may also note that several of the indigenous practices of the 18th and early 19th centuries described in this review, did manage to survive (the continous and unrelenting onslaught by the colonial Government) right into 1 the 20th century. For example, in 1907 (the year in which the Tata Iron and Steel Company was founded),, the Imperial Gazetter of India [Vol III, p. 145] had to admit that: 'The native iron-smelting, industry has been practically stamped out by cheap imported iron and steel within the reach of the raiways, but it still per sits in the more remote parts of the peninsula'.

* It is for the same reason that the post-renaissance Europe, even though in ' close contact' with the non-European societies, could appreciate or some times even assimilate only those aspects of the non-European traditions of I science and technology, which it could in some sense separate from their socio-cultural Context and employ in the 'grand design' that Europe had already set for itself,

* It must,be mentioned to the credit of Sir.William Hunter that he was quite ahead of his times and should perhaps be given, due recognition for having anticipated Macaulay, when he states (in the same paper) that:

* I have always thought, that after having convinced the eastern nations of our superiority in policy and in arms, nothing can contribute more to the extension of our national glory, than the diffusion among them of a taste for European science. And as the means of promoting so desirable an end, those among the natives who have penetration to see, and ingeniousness to own its superior accuracy and evidence ought to be cherished

* We are indebted to Sri Satish Jain (Delhi) for his help in the preparation of this article

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