Dr. Naveen Kumar : The systematic documentation of the research appears to be started late, mostly after 16-17th century. The epics like Mahabharat and Ramayan indicates the existence of high level of science in Ancient India. For example, in the Mahabharat the Korav’s were believed to be produced via some embryo transfer like technology, plastic surgery like technology for implantation of elephant’s face on human body (Ganesha), Aeroplane (Udan Khatola) like those used by Lord Rama and many more. However modern scientific basis of such knowledge does not exist, though the scientific basis of some of such knowledge has been drawn. For example (i) According to the traditional Indian medicine, the Ayurveda, the human body is of 3 types (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) defined as “Prakriti”. Recently in 2015 Indian scientists proved (published in the Scientific Reports of the Nature) that each Prakritis has its unique DNA or that the phenotypic (Prakriti) classification of individuals in the Ayurveda has genetic basis. This study will contribute in understanding molecular basis of why two individuals with similar disease respond differently with a same medicine. (ii) Phosphorus which is a critical element for crops is found in abundant amount in the bones. In order to easily access water for irrigation of crops and human consumption, in ancient time, the human population inhabited near rivers. The ancient Indian scientists would have acquired the knowledge about phosphorus at that time, therefore, ever since beginning, in the Hindu religion, the bones of dead body following cremation is being released in the river so that the phosphorus can be recycled back to the ecosystem (iii) ultrasounds generated by bell in temples is believed to kill the microorganisms and hence clean the environment (Pavitra). These are just few examples, a lot more is likely to unravel soon (iv) It is being taught in the immunology books that the Edward Jenner was the man who first time invented the vaccination (small pox) in 1798, but in fact Indians are practicing it since Vedic period (1000 BCE). The mention of inoculation in the Sact’eya Grantham, an Ayurvedic text, was noted by the French scholar Henri Marie Husson in the journal Dictionaire des sciences médicales suggesting the tradition of inoculation have originated in India about 1000 BCE. Similarly, Chankya (350-275 BCE) who was a teacher and advisor of Chandragupt Maurya, the king of Maurya dynasty (322-185 BC) used to supplement small doses of poison to the food eaten by Emperor in order to make him immune to the poisoning attempts by the enemies, suggesting the knowledge of inoculation was well practiced in ancient India. (v) Sushruta, the ancient Indian surgeon mentioned that medical people should act with compassion and should not practice for gaining money, very much before the Hippocratic Oath was given to people in the field of medicine. Sushruta and all great ancient Indian surgeons have mentioned the whole world about plastic surgery of nose. Their surgical instruments were so precise that they could split the hair into two.
All these examples are just a tip of iceberg, in fact the proof of concept of significant proportion of many scientific inventions of modern science has been described in the ancient Indian literature, origin of which is being taught in the current science book that these discoveries started appearing after 16-17th century. The little ancient Indian scientific literature that later survived was carried by Chinese traveler Huen T’sang (A.D. 603-64) along with him during his visit in India in 7th Century. The Caliph of Baghdad got Indian traditional knowledge of Ayurveda in the 9th century and translated it into the Arabic and Persian languages. It is believed that later it was translated into the European languages in the 17th century and a significant portion of it came back to India in the form of modern medicine through the route of the Americas and Europe.
However, still there is significant gap in our understanding about the modern scientific basis of Indian traditional knowledge. There may be two potential reasons (i) the Principles/method of acquiring the knowledge by the scientists (Rishi/Muni) in ancient India was different than what used in modern scientific method (ii) During Medieval period, most of the scientific literature was either looted or set on fire during several successive invasion conducted by Muslims invaders. During Muslims invasions in India which started in 7th Century and persisted till 16th -17th century, the scientific literature, majority of which was present in Nalanda University (600 BCE to 500 AD) and Taxila University (413 AD-1200 AD) was either looted or destroyed. The Nalanda University was completely destroyed in 1193 AD by Bakhtiar Khilji, a general of Qutubuddin Aibak, out to uproot Buddhism. Thousand of horoscope complied by Mahrishi Brighu along with all the scientific and other miscellaneous literature were completely set on fire. The library was so vast that it burnt for more than 6 months and vanished all the recorded literature. Today it stands ruined, its magnificent library was burnt and its teachers slaughtered because it had no Quran. Similarly, Taxila also faced the brunt of attacks and invasions from the Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Shakas, Kushanas, Huns and finally Muslims who completely destroyed this institution in 12th century. The University was almost ruined when the Chinese traveler Huen T’sang visited Taxila and hence had lost all its great international character. Though the country witnessed many invasions during which ancient Indian literature would have been stolen by the conqueror, the most destructive one was the destruction of the Nalanda library. If all survived, such precious scientific literature would have greatly facilitated understanding of the modern scientific basis of the Ayurveda in the current time. Emphasis of the current Modi Government on leveraging traditional knowledge through modern science will definitely help finding solutions for national challenges.