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From The Land Of Mythology, Here Are 6 Ancient Indian Contributions To Science And Technology

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It is a common misconception held by many that India has been the land of only sages and peers who composed and studied mythological texts and stories. On the contrary, the historic Indian civilization has had a very vibrant and comprehensive tradition of science and technology since ancient times.

Historian James Grant Duff once wrote, “Many of the advances in the sciences that we consider today to have been made in Europe were made in India centuries ago.”

Intrinsic fundamental principles of modern sciences have been provided with a foundation by the numerous postulates and scientific methods discovered by the Avant grande ancient Indians. While some of these important contributions have been acknowledged, many remain unknown. Here are some ancient Indian contributions in the field of science and technology-

 Indian Sages and Priests Doubled Up As Great Thinkers: It is true India was a land of sages and priests, but what is also important is to acknowledge that they doubled up as great thinkers and scientists too. Almost all the prime aspects of human knowledge like mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry and the practical procedures in which this knowledge was put in practice like surgery, architecture, shipbuilding, etc were covered in great detail by science and technology prevalent in ancient India. 
  1. The Binary Numerical System

 

Binary numbers that are used as a language to write computer programs are a set of two numbers- 1 and 0 called Bits and Bytes respectively. They were mentioned by Pingala in his work “Chandahśāstra”, a treatise on prosody. Pingala is credited with using binary numbers in the form of short and long syllables a notation similar to Morse code.

  1. The Concept Of Zero

The Indian contribution to introducing the concept of ‘Zero’ is relatively well known. It was formulated by the mathematician Aryabhatta. This invention is of great importance as it enables one to write numbers no matter how large, by adding zeroes at the end.

A. L. Basham, an Australian Indologist writes, “…The world owes most to India in the realm of mathematics…”

Aryabhatta- The Legendary Indian Mathematician
  1.  Theory Of Atom

Famous English chemist, John Dalton is now credited with the development of the atomic theory. However, a theory of the atom was formulated centuries ago by Indian sage Acharya Kanad who speculated the existence of small, indestructible particles called “Anu” strikingly similar to an atom.

  1. Plastic Surgery and Cataract Surgery

Ancient Indian physician, Sushruta had composed in the 6th century BCE the Sushruta Samhita, one of the most detailed books on surgery which mentioned complex techniques of plastic surgery, like Rhinoplasty, as well as surgery to cure cataract amongst thousands of other procedures and medicines to cure illnesses.

Sushruta performing Cataract Surgery
  1. Heliocentric Theory

Aryabhatta, the man credited with discovering 0 had also made other contributions to the field of science like propounding the curvature of the Earth as well as the fact that it rotates on its axis around the sun. The mathematical genius also made predictions of solar and lunar eclipses, the duration of a day as well as the distance between the celestial bodies of the Earth and Moon.

 

  1. Theory of Gravity

When we think about the concept of gravity, the first name that pops into our minds is Sir Isaac Newton. Most of us may be aware of the story of how Newton was inspired to formulate the “Universal Law Of Gravitation” when an apple fell from the tree. The world believes that gravity was discovered by Newton, however ancient Indians knew of gravity way before him. India’s familiarity with gravity began with Varahamihira (505-587 CE) who was an Astronomer and Mathematician who thought of the concept of gravity. He claimed there must be a force which might be keeping bodies stuck to the Earth, and also keeping heavenly bodies at specific places. Interestingly, another Indian Mathematician, Brahamagupta had commented on the concept of gravity. He exclaimed, “Bodies fall towards the earth as it is like the earth to attract bodies, just as it is like water to flow.”

Varahamihira, Who Discovered Gravity Before Newton
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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