Science and Technology in Ancient India

In ancient India, the people of the country made significant advances in the various fields of sciences such as mathematics, astronomy, metallurgy and medical science.

Early Ancient Period

We know that the people in the early ancient India worshipped the Sun and the planets. It shows that they had some knowledge of astronomy. The Furanas tell us that the people had knowledge about astronomy
and astrology.

The study of exact sciences received great impetus in the Gupta Age. The great scholars of this period occupy a high place in the history of sciences
not only in India but also of the whole world. Their researches in Arithmetic, Astronomy and medicine guided scientists in other lands for centuries. They exercised a direct influence on scientific thought in
Arabia and other Islamic countries and indirectly in Europe. The following Indian scientists made notable contribution to the advancement of exact sciences.

Aryabhatta

Among the notable astronomers and mathematicians of the ancient India, Aryabhatta stands out as the most important. A few of his works
such as Aryabhattiyam, Dasagitikasutra and Aryashatasata have come down to us. He was the first to treat mathematics as a distinct subject. His
most epoch making achievement was the discovery of the principle of place value of the first nine numbers and the use of zero which simplified
arithmetical calculations. He gave value for p more accurate than any suggested before him. Aryabhatta was the first Indian astronomer to declare that the earth was a sphere, that it revolved round the sun and rotated round its axis. He was the first to describe the causes of solar and lunar eclipses and the method of calculating them precisely. His calculation of the size of the earth is very near to that estimated by modem astronomers.

Varahamihira

The other notable astronomer of this period was Varahamihira. In his work Pancha Sidhanta, he has given a description of the five systems of
astronomy in use in his times. His work on astrology Birhat Samhita is
a collection of all available knowledge on technical sciences like
architecture, matallurgy, Physiognomy etc.

Brahmagupta was another eminent scientist of this period. He
wrote his Brahmasaphuta and Khandakhayaka. His works deal with ordinary arithmetical equations, square and cube roots, rules of interest, geometry, elementary mensuration and simple. algebric identities. He anticipated Newton when he declared that “all things fall to the earth by a law of nature, for it is the nature of the earth to attract and hold things”.

Bhaskaracharya

Another astronomer Bhaskaracharya held that the earth is round and not flat. He also tried to explain the power of gravitation.

Medieval Period

During the medieval period, Shridhara, the author of Ganita Sara, and Bhaskra the author of Lilavati made some contribution to mathematics. But not much work was done in these spheres. The writers devoted themselves to preparation of commentaries on the earlier works of mathematics.

During the Medieval period, Sawai Jai Singh, the ruler of Jaipur set up astronomical observatories at Delhi, Ujjain, Varanasi, Mathura and Jaipur for calculation of time. Sawai Jai Singh also developed numerous instruments for observation of astronomical phenomena. Most of these were missionary. Most of the books produced during the medieval period were commentaries on earlier works or translation of Sanskrit treatises. The astronomical works of Brahmagupta were translated into Arabic. Sawai Raja Jai Singh wrote ZiJ-Jadia’-Muzammad Shahi, which is by far the most outstanding work on astronomy.