Hindu nationalists have believed for a very long time that several discoveries of modern science and technology were known to people living in ancient India but now, for the first time, the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has publicly made similar claims, asserting reproductive genetics and cosmetic surgery were in fact practiced in India thousands of years ago.
Modi’s remarks resulted in criticism from scientists and educators across India.
“I’m not happy about this,” said Yash Pal, a scientist turned educator who has tried to spread the scientific temper through television programmes. “I view him (Modi) as quite scientific and rational, so he must have said this in jest. But a Prime Minister should not say things like this. Those who understand will recognise it for what it is, but others might start believing it.”
Modi made the controversial comments on October 25 at Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai. To substantiate his claims, he cited warrior Karna from the epic Mahabharata as well as Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god.
“We can feel proud of what our country achieved in medical science at one point of time,” the prime minister told a gathering of doctors and other professionals at a hospital in Mumbai on Saturday. “We all read about Karna in the Mahabharata. If we think a little more, we realise that the Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb. … We worship Lord Ganesha. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.”
Even though Modi’s speech largely focused on ways in which healthcare facilities in modern India can be improved, he also laid stress on ancient India’s contribution to various fields.
“There must be many areas in which our ancestors made big contributions,” he said. “Some of these are well recognised. If we talk about space science, our ancestors had, at some point, displayed great strengths in space science. What people like Aryabhata had said centuries ago is being recognised by science today. What I mean to say is that we are a country which had these capabilities. We need to regain these.”
As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi has made such claims earlier as well, but this is the first time since Modi became India’s prime minister that he has made such remarks. Reportedly, during his stint as chief minister, Modi also wrote the foreword of a textbook for school students in Gujarat, which implied among many other things that Rama, another Hindu god, was the first person to fly an airplane. He had also said then that those living in ancient India knew about stem cell technology.
“Our mythology has made rich contributions to our identity and has an important place in our culture,” said Shuba Tole, a neurobiologist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. “However, painting it with scientific overtones takes away some of the symbolism and the sheer poetry of the metaphors. I think the Prime Minister could have used other examples from our rich historical past — not mythology — to illustrate our ancient scientific achievements.”
Subhash Lakhotia, a biologist from Banaras Hindu University involved in Ayurvedic research, said the more Indians focus on ancient achievements, the less they will pay attention to what needs to be done today.
“I’m sure the Prime Minister doesn’t take this seriously but if he does, I would be worried,” he said. “Basking in what we had done, even if true, doesn’t take us far today.”
Photo Credits: Flickr
The muted complacency of India's scientists, intellectuals and media is more frightening than the twisted beliefs of its PM. These statements were not jokes, nor is Narendra Modi is not famous for his sense of humor. They reveal the full perverted view of the Hindu nationalists - not only attempting to pass off religious mythology as scientific achievements, but projecting "ancient India" as the center of the universe and the origin of all things "great," even as the real India struggles with poverty, malnutrition and a myriad of other serious challenges. Ask the PM why all these supposed achievements disappeared from India, and you'll see the blame fall on Muslims, Christians and the "West" in general - just like so many other fanatical sects..
See articles by Vish Carvaka