I’ve got into a lot of online debates in the past few years about the scientific prowess of ancient India. For the record, if you aren’t sure what this website is all about, I maintain they weren’t really good at it – science, that is. I repeat, India wasn’t great at science. Yes, I know they did a lot of clever stuff but their feats are not really impressive. Their accomplishments do not exceed expectations of them at any given time in history. Finding evidence of the use of nuclear weapons in the stone age is newsworthy; discovering spears and tools made of rock is not.
As for claims that seem too good to be true, they nearly always are. I’ve encountered hundreds of unsubstantiated assertions that Indians possessed technologies far superior than the world does today. I admit it’s fun to think of ourselves as the descendants of a once thriving culture of humans who excelled in every field imaginable. We’d all like to believe we’re on a perpetual knowledge hunt and a mission to reinstate valuable works of our ancestors to their rightful positions. Facts, however, don’t care about your beliefs.
Every time I debate though, those on the side of bad information inevitably throw me a link to an article or a video, a compilation of “great things” that Indians once did. They don’t understand that their argument only defeats the point they’re trying to make as most of the great things listed are complete bullshit. It’s become commonplace recently to fabricate false information to mislead the less informed. Some do it for the viewcount – there is no better clickbait than one that makes you proud of something intangible. The rest, well, they capitalise on your latent patriotism to sell you something non existent. One such scumbag Khurshed Batliwala of the Art of Living Foundation gave a talk at Ruia College, Mumbai. The talk was supposed to be about some nonsense about spirituality he made up, but he prefaced it with 15 minutes of bullshit.
Those 15 minutes have been my worst nightmare. I’ve spent many a sleepless night writing rebuttals to the “facts” presented in the video, only to have it fall on deaf ears (or should I say blind eyes?). Today, I’ve decided to pen it down once and for all. I’ll not be linking to the video as it is the easiest of things to find. Instead, I’ve transcribed the annoying part of his talk myself word for word.
Earth’s sphericity and movement
Today I thought I would just… er… go a little bit into ancient history. Yeah?! And then come… to where we are today. Okay?! So, all of you have heard of the Varaha avatar? Yes?! If not, which country are you in? Huh, the Varaha avatar is when lord… lord Vishnu, right? Hmm, he takes the shape of the boar, and then for some reason the earth is drowning in water, we don’t know why and how, but the boar lifts the earth up and brings it out of the water. Saves the earth, so to speak. Right?! Now, umm… that may be a fantastic story and all that, but check out the shape of the earth. What is it? (One among the crowd affirms, “Round.”) It’s round, right? Which means that more than 10,000 years ago we knew that the earth was round. Yes?! Which… Europe only accepted once they saw the Apollo… pictures from space. Right? In fact, er… ahem… we call geography भूगोल, right? It is गोल, round, isn’t it? It’s not भू-टट्टे. Right? Okay?! It is भूगोल, okay? So we knew a very long time ago that the earth was round, and then we call the earth जगत. जगत means what? जिसकी गति है वो, meaning that which moves. Right?! So, er… we knew that the earth was round, we knew that the earth was round, we know that it was… moving. This was thousands of years ago. Yes? Interesting, huh?! Okay? Okay.
On भूगोल and जगत
- The word भूगोल, is a compound word made of the words भू which means earth, and गोल which is an adjective that usually denotes circularity or rotundity. The word गोल can be used as a common noun to denote circles, or near circular curves like ellipses. It’s nearly never used to mean spheres or make mentions of sphericity.
- The गोल in भूगोल does not retain its conventional meaning. It does not literally translate to ‘earth round’, but rather something like ‘an all round account of the land’ or ‘the all encompassing knowledge of the earth’. It is equivalent to ‘geography’.
- The word गति means speed and not movement. गत which means one’s present state (or condition or circumstance), and गति are not related words. Rather the words जगत and जग might be related; जग means the world (as in one’s current environment or reality).
- जगत means the universe, not earth.
- Sanskrit words formed by conjugating smaller words always start with the noun. The syntax of भूगोल is like ‘earth: all about it’. If earth was really to be known as ‘that which moves’, assuming गत means movement (which it isn’t), गत would be the start of the word. Words that denote movement however start with गति, for instance, गतिक्षम means motile and गतिशील which means mobile.
- The mythology of the Varaha avatar, an incarnation of Vishnu, describes him lifting up a flat earth away from an endless ocean of water.
- The picture of the boar form of Vishnu holding up a spherical earth is a recent illustration of the myth, now that the sphericity of the earth is common knowledge. Statues of the Varaha avatar usually have him holding up a woman in his arms, which is the earth personified as the goddess भूदेवी (Bhudevi). Earlier paintings depicting the Varaha avatar all show him holding up a flat earth with his tusks.
- All water that exists and is of any consequence to humanity lies in the many water masses on the outer side of the spherical earth. Also a spherical earth doesn’t rest on top of anything. Those facts ought to be known by anyone who knows that the earth is a sphere. A spherical earth drowning in a mass of water and a being lifting away from it would make no sense.
- The legends of the earth’s shape and position in India at different places and times were as diverse as they could be, but in none of them does it mention that the earth is a sphere. One such legend affirmed that the earth is a flat circular piece of land that rested atop four elephants, who themselves stood on the shell of a huge tortoise that was lying above a serpent who floated on an endless ocean. Another myth suggests earth was a flat circular land mass supported by twelve enormous pillars. These versions of the known earth are consistent with the idea of a gigantic being lifting the earth away from an infinite water mass.
- The legend of the Varaha and the other nine (or twenty three, depending on which version you’d like to believe) avatars of Vishnu can be traced back to the origins of Hinduism which came from the Vedic civilisation, between 1750 and 500 BCE. That’s, at best, four thousand years old.
- The Indus valley civilisation, the oldest civilisation nearby known to humankind, that goes back to about 3300 BCE, is still 5300 years old. Nearly all of recorded or inferred human history is less than six thousand years old.
- Aryabhatta, mathematician and astronomer, discovered that the earth was spherical and attempted to find the circumference of the earth with certain precision, assuming his calculations were accurately converted to modern measurements. He existed between 476 and 550 CE, which is about fifteen hundred years ago.
On Europe’s ignorance
- The ancient Greeks, you know, citizens of Greece, a land in Europe, had the concept of a spherical earth as early as 600 BCE. By the 3rd century BCE, Hellenistic astronomy had established the earth’s sphericity.
- The earth’s shape was known throughout Europe and was demonstrated in Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation expedition in the years 1519 to 1522.
- The artistic representations of the earth all around Europe clearly show that they were aware of the earth’s sphericity.
- The Erdapfel, the oldest known globe, dates back to 1492. It certainly didn’t get the land masses quite right or even place the known lands correctly, but it was a globe nonetheless, which should suggest that they were confident enough in the notion of earth’s sphericity, that far back, to have created a globe.
- A prerequisite to a mission to outer space is the knowledge that the earth is a sphere. It would make no sense otherwise. While not an express consideration, all of the work that leads up to the Apollo mission is based on the notion that the earth is a sphere.
- The Apollo program retrieved what came to be the first pictures of the earth from space seeing toward in 1968. The Soviets, in 1957, already put the worlds very first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 into orbit. It would not be possible to justify all that spending on a flat earth.
Let’s go a little bit into space. Now there is this star called Antares, okay, Antares. Ares means Mars, red. This is also a red star, so it is called Antares, which means like Mars, okay? Now it is the 15th or 16th brightest object in the sky. Alright? Er… yet, our elders, our ancients, they called it ज्येष्ठ. Okay? Now what does ज्येष्ठ mean, you know what ज्येष्ठ mean, ज्येष्ठ means the biggest, the oldest, the eldest. Now why would they call the fifteenth brightest object, meaning there are many more brighter objects than th… than this star in the sky, why would they call it the biggest? Yes? Intuitively, something that is brighter should be bigger. Yes or no? Right? But they called this one, the fifteenth brightest, they called it the biggest. Turns out they were right. It is 40,000 times bigger than our sun, in fact it is one of the biggest objects known to man. Yes? Now just imagine… you’ve got this group of people who have managed to name a star… the biggest… and this was five / seven thousand years ago – yeah? – which is just a point in the sky. Okay? Okay.
- Biggest too much of a subjective term when you’re talking about stellar masses suspended in space.
- Antares has a radius that’s 883 times that of the sun. That’s nowhere near the 40,000 figure, not even near the ballpark. That’s a 44300% error which should rule out the possibility that Indians were any good at astronomy.
- But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and check if they meant it was 40,000 times bigger in terms of projected area or volume. At 883 times the radius of the sun. The projected area would be 779,689 times the sun’s projected area and its volume 688,465,387 as much, both of which exceed the 40,000 figure. I’m starting to think it a complete fabrication.
- Antares is not even the biggest known star. There are over 25 stars larger than that. NML Cygni has a radius 1650 times of the sun. UY Scuti, the largest known star as of now, has a mean radius is 1708 times the sun’s. Much well known stars like Betelgeuse and VY Canis Majoris, which are much larger than Antares, are still only 1074 and 1420 times bigger than the sun. VY Canis Majoris has a mean density less than earth’s atmosphere and it’s that large for this reason.
- A star that could in theory be 40,000 times bigger, and have a density small enough for it to survive as a star that large, it would not glow in a colour on the visible light spectrum and thus would not be observable without instruments. No such star has been detected.
- Maybe the name doesn’t suggest that Antares is the biggest. Perhaps they mean it’s the oldest. Antares is not very old. It’s aged about 11 to 12 million years which is less than a quarter of a percent of the sun’s age.
- They might have meant one of the other two stars is the oldest. What? Two other stars? Yes, Antares is formally known by the name α Scorpii. The stars σ Scorpii and τ Scorpii, along with Antares forms what is known as ज्येष्ठ. They seem to have been conveniently left out of the mix.
- σ Scorpii and τ Scorpii are aged 8 million years and 5.7 million years respectively. So, there is no astronomically valid reason to refer to them as the oldest.
- Of course, if we just admit that ज्येष्ठ was just a fantasy dreamt up by astrology quacks in the Vedic ages rather than confabulating a lie to further one’s agenda, we’d not be having this conversation.
- Intuition values for squat when it comes to obtaining objective factual information about the universe. Anyone who has come across Newton’s laws of motion – the first thing one ever learns in physics – would know that inferences based on intuition don’t count.
- Even if one were using intuitions to base their worldview upon, a walk outside would be sufficient for one to conclude that brighter doesn’t mean bigger.
- Again with the ancientness exaggeration. The idea of the नक्षत्र, which is a superset of ज्येष्ठ, has its roots in Hindu astrology which is a product of Vedic traditions. They go back no further than four thousand years. No, they didn’t “know” it five / seven thousand years ago.
Not done with stars yet. Heard about the great bear? The big bear constellation? Yes? Okay. We’re interested in that star (focusing on an area in the Ursa Major constellation). Okay? It is actually not a star, it is two stars. Yeah? Now, this itself is a big deal… to figure out that that particular point of light in the sky is two stars. Okay? And it is called the अरुंधती वासिष्ठ (Arundhati Vasishta). It’s called अरुंधती वासिष्ठ and in south India, there is a tradition where after marriage – yeah? – the husband and wife are supposed to go out, in the night, and look at this particular star. Okay now, funny tradition. Right? Okay? Now most twin star systems rotate like this, like one star is in the middle and the other star is going… around it. This is definitely not the way a husband and wife should be. Isn’t it? Right? But अरुंधती वासिष्ठ, this particular system moves like that. (He points to an illustration depicting objects that revolve around their common centre). Now, first, to figure out that that is a twin star system, second, to figure out that it rotates in this way and not in that way. This is not something which is… easy of obvious, is it? Yes? Third, to do it without telescopes. Yeah?!
On “figuring out”
- Mizar and Alcor, the stars that have been referred to here as वासिष्ठ (Vasishta) and अरुंधती (Arundhati), can be seen as two distinct but extremely close points of light on a clear night sky.
- Alcor is far less brighter than Mizar but it is not invisible. Anyone with an average eyesight can point that out in sufficient darkness. In fact, being able to see the two as different masses was a sign of keen eyesight in cultures around the world.
- The knowledge of the existence of Alcor was so pervasive in the Arabic world that it made into the local idioms one of which can be translated to, ‘he saw Alcor but not the moon’, which is equivalent to, ‘he didn’t notice the elephant in the room.’ It was based on the notion that Mizar and Alcor were two separate bodies that appeared to be one to the untrained.
On rotation of “twin stars”
- Binary star systems nearly always have their constituent stars revolve around a common centre. The centre is always outside the bodies of the two stars.
- In fact, stars and their planets revolve around their mutual centres of gravity. It’s just that stars, for their planets, are two large and heavy to sway around too much. The centre of gravity of most star systems lie within the stars. The same goes with planets and their satellites. This almost never happens with stars.
- Pluto and Charon, which are planet-like bodies in the Kuiper belt, function like binary stars. They revolve around their common centre of gravity.
- The only times a binary star system might have one revolving around the other is if one if them is supremely heavy as compared to the other. Binary star systems which contain one black hole, or one neutron star can behave like planetary systems – their common centre of gravity will reside within the body of the heavier star. However, those stars will likely not be visible since massive objects like that do not emit light; their existence will have to be inferred by the movement of it’s companion star. In any case, they’re the exception and not the rule.
On “two stars”
- To detect Mizar and Alcor as two separate entities is not a big deal. However, they are not two stars.
- Alcor, in itself, is a binary star system, i.e. Alcor alone is two stars.
- Mizar is a quadruple star system composed of two binary systems. That’s two sets of two stars.
- Mizar Alcor is a complex system of six stars, a sextuple system.
- Even if we forget for a moment that Mizar Alcor is a sextuple system, there is no evidence that suggests Indians knew of the dynamics of binary stars or complex star systems of any kind.
- Now that you’ve learnt that Mizar Alcor is a total of six stars, I invite you all to try and ponder the implications of that tradition for the newly married.
Okay. Metallurgy. Dinesh is BTech Metallurgy from IIT, Bombay. You know… er… there is… there are these pillars which are rustproof in India. Do you know about them? The most famous one is in… in front of Qutub Minar. Yes? This is a thousand year pillar, one thousand years old, and even the pollution of Delhi has not touched it. Yeah? It is still… not rusting. Yeah? And the other one, this is near Bangalore in Kollur, where er… there is seven hundred and fifty centimetres of rain a year, six to eight months a year and this is been there for 2,400. Yeah? And it is rust proof, no rusting. About this second pillar, what is more interesting is it was not built by any expert. It was built by the tribal, the aboriginals of that area to welcome आदि शङ्कराचार्य (Adi Shankaracharya) when he came to their village. Yeah? So this technology was there not even with like the learned Brahmins or something like that, it was available to the tribals. Yeah?
- The pillars are not rustproof. However it is highly resistant to corrosion due to the process employed in their creation.
- An analysis of the composition of the pillar at Delhi reveals it has a high concentration of phosphorus, perhaps upto 0.25 percent.
- The pillar is covered with an fine and even layer of iron hydrogen phosphate. This film isolates the pillar from the environment thus preventing it from rusting further.
- Rusting further? Yes, any exposed area on the pillar would make the surface vulnerable to rust. Any new crevices on the artefact would rupture the film that isolated it. However, and here’s the brilliant part, the rust is just more iron hydrogen phosphate.
- In other words, if and when the pillar rusts, the rust protects it from further rusting. Its creation process makes it function somewhat similar to aluminium.
- It’s considered good luck if a person is able to make their hands meet with their back facing the pillar and arms around the it. Superstitious nonsense of course, but that caused significant wear on the bottom few metres of the Delhi pillar. So, the pillar is not resilient to everything.
- I’m not insinuating that the pillars aren’t worthy of marvel. They are, but I’d rather appreciate them for what they are, rather than what one wants them to be.
- A search for ‘Delhi iron pillar tribal’ returns, among other articles, one hosted on the Indian Institute of Science’s website, entitled ‘The iron pillar at Kodachadri in Karnataka‘ by T.R. Anantharaman of the Metals and Alloys Group, National Physical Laboratory, Delhi.
- An excerpt from the article:
It is obvious from these preliminary investigations that the Kodachadri iron pillar is not a product of modern iron making processes. The composition of the material of the pillar, viz. less than 0.05% carbon in what looks like almost pure iron, without the usual silicon, manganese and sulphur contents one associates with modern iron and steel, and with inclusions of only iron oxide and silicate, strongly suggests age-old indigenous methods for making the so-called Adi-vasi (tribal) iron with pure iron ore and wood charcoal.
- The claim that tribals built the pillar at Kollur is likely a misinterpretation of that excerpt. The only thing said there is that unlike modern manufacturing processes employed for production of iron and steel, evidence was found that the iron pillars were made using indigenous methods. The word ‘Adi-vasi’, in this context, doesn’t refer to people (much less tribal people); instead it refers to the process of iron production or the final iron product itself built by the natives of the land.
- Adi Shankaracharya was known to have existed around the 8th century CE. That at best places him at a little over 1200 years ago.
- The pillar at Kollur, if it was built 2,400 years back, could not have been built to welcome Shankaracharya. That’s, of course, unless you’re willing to entertain the possibility of premonitions, which I’m not.
- There is no evidence that the pillar at Kollur is 2,400 years old. It’s likely not older than the manufacturing process used to build it, which evidently goes only as far back as 200 CE or a little over 1800 years ago.
Then there is this mystery of zinc. You know India held the sole knowledge of how to remove zinc from zinc ore for four thousand years. Yeah? Zinc er… it’s a very… very interesting thing. Zinc, from the ore, the zinc becomes liquid at 997 °C. But that same zinc then vaporises and becomes gas at one thousand degrees Celsius. So it is only a three degree window that you have to pull that zinc out, and it is incredibly difficult. Yeah? You know what we did? It was very interesting. See, usually if you see a furnace क्या होता है (what happens is), there is the furnace and then something is coming out and being accumulated. Isn’t it? This is the way most distillation is done, yes or no? You’ve got the heat from the bottom and something comes out and it is collected. Now, when the heat was coming from the bottom, what would happen, the zinc would become liquid it would go down or it would just evaporate and go out. Right? So, what… what did these people do, they turned it upside down. They put the heat on the top and they put an ice bath below it. Cold. So, it would come down, then it would go in the cold, it would solidify and you would get the zinc. Yeah? For four thousand years we kept this technique secret over here. All the zinc in the world was made only by India, nobody else could make it only. Yeah? Then one Chinese fellow stole it. Yeah? And then one British fellow stole it from the Chinese. There was this guy called William Champion, who made the first zinc distillery in Great Britain in the year 1543. Before that for four thousand years, if you wanted zinc you had to come to us.
On properties of zinc
- The melting point of zinc is 419.5 °C. So, it does not “become liquid at 997 °C”. In fact, the figure 997 does not come close to any of zinc’s chemical properties.
- Zinc vaporises at 907 °C.
- The extraction of zinc from zinc oxide requires a temperature of over 1000 °C which is greater than 93 degrees past its boiling point. It’s already a vapour when the oxide reduces to zinc.
- The difficulty in the extraction of zinc has nothing to do with the small window of temperature between reduction and vaporisation, but rather because zinc vapours have a tendency to oxidise quickly.
On zinc extraction
- Indian metallurgists knew of the existence of zinc around 10th century BCE. That’s 3,000 years ago. Zinc smelting processes, however, only dated back about 2,500 years. They knew about it and they used it but hadn’t found an efficient method to extract it.
- The work on an efficient distillery setup for production of zinc started in the 11th century CE only to have yielded large quantities per unit weight of the ores by 13th century CE – 800 years ago, not 4,000. The earliest evidence of pure zinc is estimated to be not earlier than the 9th century CE at Zawar, Rajasthan.
- The Chinese learnt of this technique in the 17th century.
On William Champion
- William Champion is known to have lived between 1709 and 1789, which makes it rather unlikely for him to have set up a distillery in 1543. Europe only learnt of zinc in towards the end of the 16th century.
- The patent he obtained for his zinc distillery in July of 1738 was not for an ad hoc implementation of the set up in Zawar. He experimented for a few years with the process and found a way to overcome the problem of zinc vaporising at 907 °C.
- His initial patent for the zinc extraction process was rejected on grounds of plagiarism – it was no different from the setup at Zawar. This ought to suggest that zinc mining and extraction wasn’t a closely guarded secret that needed to be stolen, but rather common knowledge at the time.
- There is no evidence that he “stole it from the Chinese.” It’s much more likely that he adapted the process of zinc distillation by studying and improving upon the Indian process.
On distillery inversion
- I’ve spent over 3 hours trying to find the inverted distillery or any mention of ice baths in zinc smelting. There are no such things.
- Zinc distillation is just like the distillation of any other substance. Zinc vapours are passed through a a downward sloping condenser that converted vapours to liquid zinc and subsequently solid zinc.
- Some variations of the setup do have condensation happening at a height lower than the furnace, however there is no inversion of the distillery in the way Batliwala illustrated.
Now, this is a nice shloka in the praise of lord Krishna.
गोपीभाग्यमधुव्रात-श्रुग्ङिशोदधिसन्धिग ॥ खलजीवितखाताव गलहालारसंधर ॥
When you look at this shloka do you think that there is anything special about it? It is like all other shloka, “Oh Krishna, you’re great, you’re this, you’re that.”, yes or no? Right? Only thing is there is thing… there is a protocol called the कटपयादि संख्य. Okay? Took me a long time to learn to pronounce that. Yeah? So, there is this कटपयादि संख्य where they give particular alphabets particular numbers. So for example क, ट, प, य is one, and so on. And then, if you substitute these numbers in this shloka, you know what you get? The value of pi correct to… thirty decimal places. Yeah? So we knew how to do encryption also. Yeah? अच्छा (Alright) now don’t you like this what I’m talking about? तो (So) clap and tell me no. Yeah! You know, I’m not used to… just talking to the audience, I want audience feedback also, alright? Okay. If you don’t like it then, (illustrates yawning) do like that, so I know.
On कटपयादि संख्य
- In this system, consonant glyphs are assigned digits 1 to 9 and 0. That way numbers can be represented as words. Digits 1 to 5 have four different glyphs to choose from, 6 to 8 have three, and 9 and 0 have two.
- Since the focus is only on consonant glyphs, vowels and diphthongs as well as spacing between words or punctuation have no effect on the number being encoded.
- While it’s definitely a chore to dream up words to fit the numbers they represent, considering there are hundreds of synonyms for words in Indian languages, it shouldn’t be surprising that a quatrain could encode 30 decimal places of pi.
- The system isn’t set in stone. Different regions follow different rules. In some instances, consonant glyphs without a consecutive vowel are considered valueless. Some implementations, allow vowels to represent digits too (however, that would be akin to playing a game with the difficulty set to ‘expert’).
- In south India, the कटपयादि संख्य was common knowledge. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of this system could deconstruct the words to numbers. It makes no sense to use it as a system for encryption.
- The कटपयादि system was almost exclusively used to construct sentences and poetry around well known numbers, numbers of mathematical significance, to showcase their vocabulary or word construction skills. It was not used to encrypt information.
- The shloka would’ve been just another shloka if it wasn’t for the number hidden in it. The particular shloka in question was expressly intended to represent pi to 30 decimal places, or was it?
- That’s all there really is to कटपयादि. It’s a mnemonic device.
On the shloka in question
- The shloka goes like this:
गोपीभाग्यमधुव्रात-श्रुग्ङिशोदधिसन्धिग ॥ खलजीवितखाताव गलहालारसंधर ॥
- Constructing a few tables around the first line, because those are ones I’m interested in, I get the following.
गो पी भा ग्य म धु व्रा त 3 1 4 (3/1) 5 9 (4/2) 6I’ve placed the number each consonant represents. Also, I’ve placed the numbers denoting conjunct consonants in brackets in the order of pronunciation. श्रु ग्ङि शो द धि स न्धि ग (5/2) (3/5) 5 8 9 7 (0/9) 3
- If we consider only the first of the consonants in conjunct glyphs, the number we end up with is 3143594653589703. Similarly considering only the second consonant among the conjuncts, we get 3141592625589793. Let’s put them in a table now. The first row is pi upto 15 decimal places.
3 1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3 5 8 9 7 9 3 3 1 4 3 5 9 4 6 5 3 5 8 9 7 0 3 3 1 4 1 5 9 2 6 2 5 5 8 9 7 9 3
- As you can see yourself, there is no consistency in the कटपयादि system. It suffices to say that the value correct answer is only known to the one who encoded it. It can be arrived at if one takes creative liberties, of course, but mathematical concepts don’t need ex post facto rationalisation. It is ridiculous to think of such a system as an encryption device.
- The shloka goes like this:
Oceans of nonsense
Now recently I had been to Goa, and in Goa there is this place called Vasco da Gama. You’ve heard of it, right? Now, why is Vasco da Gama called Vasco da Gama? Because there was this fellow from Portugal, who… came and supposedly discovered India. Right? Okay, let me tell you the true story. This story is there in Vasco da Gama’s own journal which is there in Lisbon today. Okay? Er… there were two guys who went searching for India. One of them was Christopher Columbus, the other was Vasco da Gama. Okay? Now Christopher Columbus, he went in the opposite direction, from Europe he went up. Okay? And he found America, only he thought America was India. Okay? That is why the natives of Americans are called (crowd affirms, “red Indians”) Indians. That’s where the Indian name comes, because he thought मेरे को India मिल गया (I found India). Right? So he called them Indians, he called them Indians actually, then the other people came and called them red because they were not white. Yes? So that was Christopher Columbus’ story.
- He mentions that Vasco da Gama is said to have supposedly discovered India and immediately after that he states that Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama went searching for India.
- Vasco da Gama did not discover India and no such claims have ever been made, nor is such a thing taught in schools. He simply intended to look for a route to India via waters to establish a trade network. Before he did so, Europeans had to travel to Arabian countries through the Mediterranean sea and, from there, through land via arguably hostile Arabia.
- Vasco da Gama, Goa isn’t named so for having docked at that place in his “discovery” of India. He landed at Calicut, Kerala.
On Columbus’ blunders
- First, let’s take a moment to think if Batliwala is deliberately using vague inaccurate terms to describe Columbus’ voyage. What is “up” supposed to mean in cardinal directions? Does he mean north? That’s not the direction Columbus took.
- Columbus was very well aware of the existence of India. He was also convinced that the world was spherical and he would end up docking on the east side of India if he travelled westward.
- Knowing that that was Columbus’ plan all along, I would hardly call that as him going in the opposite direction.
Vasco da Gama, he went in the opposite direction, if you know your geography, he came down from er… Africa, and he was too chicken to go out into the main sea. You know, he would only sail keeping the coast in… in view. Okay? And he was having the biggest, biggest ship available that time in Europe. Alright? So he came all the way down to the cape of good hope. Okay? And over there he was wondering now how do I cross? Because from there to go to India you have to go across the ocean, across the sea. Right? Over there he met a Gujarati whose name was कान्हा. Okay? He does not mention the surname, possibly Patel. Okay? Yeah? So he met this कान्हाभाई, who was a trader from India, from Gujarat, who had ships twelve times the size of this ship. Twelve times. And remember Vasco da Gama’s ship was the biggest ship in Europe at that time. Okay? He had ships which were trading ships, forget about military ships. Trading ships, which were ten to twelve times the size of Vasco da Gama’s ship, and Vasco da Gama’s ship was escorted with three ships in formation, his ship was in the middle, those three of our Indian ships escorted this guy to Goa, to India. Yeah? So maybe we should call कान्हा, no? Yes.
On da Gama’s chicken
- The reason Vasco da Gama went in the “opposite direction”, from the south of Africa, was that he looked for a more palatable route he could take for trade with India.
- Considering world geography in the 1490s was still an incomplete subject then, it was safer to keep one’s boats sailing with an eye on the coasts.
- Vasco da Gama’s own writing mentions that the person whose services he contracted was a Christian. Different sources also however mention that he might have been a Muslim or a Gujarati.
- The contract wasn’t in any way a result of an amicable discourse. Vasco da Gama blackmailed his contractor to provide him a navigator who knew the sea route that led to India. Plus, there were likely no escorts to da Gama’s fleet – neither his journal nor any other historical text suggests anything of the sort.
- Nowhere in his own journal does he state that his ship was the biggest in the whole of Europe.
- São Gabriel – Vasco da Gama’s flagship had a length of 25.7 metres. Not quite that big. It doesn’t even make it to the list of largest wooden ships.
- The Grace Dieu, King Henry V’s flagship was 66.4 metres long and existed between 1420 and 1439. So Europe had larger ships even before Vasco da Gama.
On twelve times
- A ship that is twelve times the size of São Gabriel would have to be a little over 300 metres long. That’s longer than Titanic which was 269 metres. A ship that existed in the 1920s, made of steel was smaller than an Indian ship made of wood. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It is.
- The largest wooden ship with iron cladding ever built, the Rochambeau, in the 1860s at 115 metres long was able to make only one voyage before their owners scrapped it. The Schooner Wyoming, the largest American nearly purely wooden ship, with a length of about 100.4 metres, became increasingly susceptible to flexing, twisting and buckling under the force of the heavy seas, which let water through its hold. The ship used pumps to keep the water out but it ultimately sank in 1924 after nearly 15 years of service.
- Pretoria, an American wooden ship of length 103 metres, with steel reinforcements, served for five years until it too sunk. The inclusion of metal couldn’t save it.
- With such a track record, what are the odds that a ship as large as 300 metres would even be possible? There are practical limits to building entirely wooden ships. They’re almost always going to sink.
On the existence of such ships
- There are absolutely no records of ships, the kind Batliwala mentioned, having existed. Neither the trade ships nor the “military” vessels have been listed anywhere.
- India hadn’t really had a pleasant time during da Gama’s visits. His four voyages to India all comprised brutal violence. He managed to kidnap, extort, blackmail, murder, plunder and engage in unspeakable atrocities every single time with ease. The military ships either proved useless or likely didn’t exist.
Close your eyes and mind
Now, I mean we could go on and on and on, the… the… the amount of history, the amount of knowledge that this country had was phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal. Yeah? And what was even more phenomenal was that these guys had this knowledge five / seven / ten thousand years ago. Yes? When Europe was still you know, using bow and arrow to kill deer, our people were distilling zinc. Yes? Now how did they have this knowledge? Yes? Now there is only one reason. All our scientists were saints. All of them did प्राणायाम, all of them did yoga, all of them meditated. Yes? So what happened was, when you have trained your mind like this, when you have meditated, when you know how to do this and you have done this for appreciable number of years, then you’re no longer limited by physical instruments.
If you want to go into outer space, close your eyes, doom, you can go. If you want to go into the depth of the atom, you close your eyes, you can get there. And then you are seeing it, right? So it has to be accurate. That is how Arundhati Vasishta happens to be a twin star system which rotates around each other. Yeah? Are you getting what I’m saying? Yes? That is how you can figure out to make rust proof iron, which even till today we have not figured out. Yeah? So, the basis of science is spirituality. Yeah?! And this wealth that our country has, I will not say had, this wealth that our country has, was systematically destroyed by the British when they came in. Yeah?! They rewrote our history. So that when they left, they left us with a legacy of being ashamed of our own culture and our own tradition.
- Sure, the amount of history and knowledge that the people had in this land now known as India was phenomenal, but the same can be said for any piece of land around the world. What matters is how consequential the knowledge was to the world or, at the very least, itself.
- The world has not benefited from India having all the supposed knowledge they did. All of Batliwala’s claims have been wrong, but even if they, by some miracle, were right the world does not know them because of India.
- It has been said that many mathematical and scientific breakthroughs were made in India far far earlier than the rest of the world. But did India help bring the world where they are today? No. Calculus and the laws of motion, that the world knows today, has been a result of Newton’s work and not some obscure text in Indian scriptures that vaguely mention them in passing.
- We know of earth’s sphericity because of the works of many Greek philosophers like Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle. Astronomer and mathematician Eratosthenes was the first to estimate the circumference of the earth. Even if a few ancients of India did manage to deduce that the earth was spherical, they didn’t actually contribute to the world’s knowledge.
- Forget about the world. India themselves don’t benefit from this supposed knowledge. The land of India housed civilisations which were by all means far more modern than the rest of the world with their immensely innovative drainage systems. The India of now, however, still requires actual human people to cleanse their sewers off waste. What use is it to pat one’s back for knowing and having things in the past when they don’t do them any good?
- Meditation is a brilliant tool for humans to attain and maintain a state of mental and physical health. Its effects are quite well studied and documented. Meditation is known to reduce anxiety and depression while increasing one’s tolerance to pain. It can improve one’s ability to process and retain information.
- That being said, meditation cannot teach you things you don’t already know or believe. You cannot learn things you were never instructed.
- Meditating and going into outer space is nothing but enacting one’s imagination based on what they already know about space. A person claiming to visit another planet, say Mars, using the unscientific concept of astral projections is simply misinterpreting creative imagination for actual teleportation. In that case, even if they manage to see red soil and feel the turbulent atmosphere, it’s only because they already knew what it would be like.
- A similar thing can be said about exploring the depths of the atom. A person, whose idea of the atom is a nucleus of protons and neutrons with electrons whizzing about in perfectly circular orbits, will see exactly that. The one who understands quantum mechanical models of atoms would see wave functions if anything. That’s of course discounting the possibility that such a person knows that at the level of the atom, they’re nothing more than different arrangements of energy and they cannot really be seen the way they’re illustrated in books.
On systematic destruction
- Of the many things the British attempted to destroy, one is the practice of sati where a widow was required to incinerate with her husband during his cremation ritual. Child marriages and female foeticide, which are still happening by the way, were outlawed by the British. Many Indian freethinkers who were troubled by these traditions took the help of their British overlords to eradicate them.
- Education, in the medium of the English language, was provided to all those who could get it to bring Indians at par with the rest of the world.
- The idea that the British destroyed the Indian “wealth” is a recent hoax concocted to shift the blame from the ones truly guilty of bringing India to its present state – complacent Indians. Even when most of India wasn’t under siege, the people were not really better off. The divide between the rich and the poor existed even then, unlike the idea of uniform richness, most of those stories about ancient India portray.
- Why does it matter that Europe hunted deers with bows and arrows while Indians extracted zinc? Neither of those acted as an impediment to the British rule. Furthermore, why is it that the people of the country pride themselves on possessing ancient technology (that never existed) when it didn’t prevent the hundreds of invasions of the land of India?
The basis of science
- The basis of science is and always was the scientific method, whether it was codified or not. Revelations are not scientific.
- Like every scientists that has ever existed, ancient Indian scientists too were driven by curiosity and a desire to learn about as much of the world around us as they possibly could. Indian scientific texts – the real scientific ones and not religious scriptures – despite all of their flaws, were compilations of inferences drawn from observing the real world with their senses and not by keeping their eyes shut. None of them suggest meditation as a means to understand the workings of the universe.
- Think about it. If it were so easy to have all of the world’s knowledge (granted after an appreciable number of years of mastering meditations), that’s literally all we’d be doing. We’d need no schools, universities, libraries, or centres of learning of any kind. Heck, our defence forces would be people astrally projecting themselves on the border of their lands on the lookout for possibility of wars.
- To suggest hallucinating under the effect of meditation as a valid source of information and insinuating the scientists of ancient India attained their state of information via such a ridiculous process, is to belittle their achievements and the real progress brought forth by the use of the scientific method.
- I’d say the existence of people like Batliwala is a much more pertinent reason to be ashamed of the country than anything the British might have done. Spirituality, whatever that means, never was the basis of science.
And that’s it for now. Forgive me if you were expecting me to deconstruct the nonsensical explanations of how he thinks the mind works. That might come later.
Having discovered that none of Batliwala’s claims of India’s scientific achievements were true, I’m sure you’d find it easy to dismiss all of the other baseless claims he has made. Unfortunately, the world is not so lucky to have its fair share of sceptics. It’s our duty to actively battle against every piece of misinformation that happens to pass by. We can no longer afford to sustain enemies of science.
I encourage you all to do whatever you can to push back this wave of stupidity. Whether you write articles, make videos or engage in debates, every single opportunity you take in fighting irrationality will be a force for good.
Share this article if you like. If there are any factual errors, let me know. No criticism is off limits. Does it drive you nuts to have a friend of yours believe in bullshit? Throw a link my way and I’ll be sure to ruin it for them.
Most importantly, think!