Calcutta Notebook


Claims were made in the recently held Indian Science Congress that ancient India produced test-tube babies, and that Ravana had 24 types of airplanes and guided missiles. It is indeed gratifying that we have started to become aware of our glorious past! That instills a sense of self-esteem and enables us to move ahead in future. However, we have two types of ancient heritage—one that is supported with modern science and other that is not substantiated by the same. Our self-esteem is strengthened by the glorification of both these heritages. We have to choose which of these we shall anchor our self-esteem on.

There were three major civilisations in the Bronze Age that began at about 3500 years before the present Common Era. Generally speaking this is same as 3500 years before Christ. The three civilisations were of Egypt, Iraq and India. Evidence suggests that the origin of the first two lay in India. The ancient Egyptians believed that they had come to Egypt from the Land of Punt which was reached by a boat and where the sun rose. This means that the Egyptians came from the east from across the ocean. The Egyptian Papyrus of Ani says that the sun rises in the "land of Manu." Now, Manu was the first man in the Hindu tradition. Thus the Egyptians acknowledge that they had come from the land of Manu that lay across the ocean in the east. That could only be India. Similarly, French historian Pierre Grimal says that the ancient Iraqis believed that the birth of life took place in the country of Dilmun, which historian of ancient Iraq Samuel Noah Kramer has identified with India. These quotations indicate that the origins of the ancient Egyptian and Iraqi civilisations lay in India. This possibility is supported by the fact that the cities of Mohenjo Daro and Kalibangan were about 10 times bigger than the largest cities of ancient Egypt and Iraq. The Indian cities were made with advanced burnt bricks while those in Egypt were made with primitive mud bricks.

There is also compelling evidence that the four Prophets of the Christian and Muslim religions may have lived in India. The Bible tells of Adam having lived at the Garden of Eden where four rivers flowed from a mountain. We find four rivers flowing from Pushkar in Rajasthan. The Bible says that the flood waters at the time of Noah stayed for 150 days. The area of Jalore in Rajasthan has a bowl like structure. Flood waters stay for more than three months in the villages near here even today. The Bible says that Moses led the Exodus across the dry bed of a water body. The Quran says that the sand came pouring down and drowned the Pharaoh who was pursuing the Hebrews. These descriptions match with the flow of the Indus River having been obstructed for a short time by the eruption of a mud volcano. These volcanic eruptions in Baluchistan spew out mud instead of lava. These evidences suggest that the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Prophets may have lived in India and migrated to Israel from here.

A study in the Atlantic Magazine suggests that 40 percent of the world GDP was produced in India, 30 percent in China, 20 percent in Egypt and Iraq, and the remaining 20 percent in rest of the world at the time of Jesus Christ. India exported textiles, jaggery, spices and steel to rest of the world. These glories of ancient India are strongly substantiated. Then the decline of India set in around 1000 years after Christ, we failed to stand against the gun powder of the Mongols and canons of the British. Thus, our share in the world GDP declined to as little as three percent at the time of Independence in 1947.

We could not march with the technological advances in the Western countries, the United States in particular, after Independence either. The atom bomb was invented during the Second World War. This became the precursor of nuclear power. Jet airplanes, computers, internet and Genetic Modification were all invented in the last 50 years. India has been nowhere in the reckoning.

We were the most technologically advanced and prosperous area of the world till about 1000 years ago but we faltered thereafter. It is good that we are remembering our past glory. That will raise our self-esteem. But there are two components to this our past glory. One component is of test-tube babies, and airplanes and guided missiles. This glory is based entirely on particular interpretation of our scriptures and is not substantiated by modern science. For example, the Sanskrit word "vimana" only means a vehicle that moves. It could be a chariot, ship or an airplane. We have no archaeological evidence of airplanes at 2000 BCE at the time of Ravana. Therefore, these assertions remain dicey in the eyes of the world scientific community. At the same time we have compelling evidence of India being the origin of the ancient Egyptian and Iraqi Civilisations and of the Christian and Muslim religions, and being the richest area till about 1000 years ago. These assertions are based on solid historical evidences and are substantially accepted by the world scientific community.

We have two paths open in front of us. We could assert that ancient India had test-tube babies, and airplanes and guided missiles and be made fun of by the world scientific community; or we could assert that India was the origin of the ancient Egyptian and Iraqi Civilisations and of the Christian and Muslim religions, and the richest and most technologically advanced area till about 1000 years ago and receive kudos from the world scientific community. Our self-esteem would be strengthened equally by both the assertions.

It is tragic that we are focused on Sanskrit language, cow and caste-based reservations and wasting our energies in making unsubstantiated claims of test-tube babies, airplanes and guided missiles and the like. There is a need to change track urgently. Instead of making such unsubstantiated claims we must make those that are based on sound scientific evidence. It is as if we are glorifying the shine of the window glass when we have a diamond sitting in our palm.

[Formerly Professor of Economics at IIM Bengaluru]

Vol. 51, No.30, Jan 27 - Feb 2, 2019