India: Crash Course History of Science #4


You might have recognized the names of some
of the Greek natural philosophers. They were individuals with quirky theories,
and we have records about them. But they weren’t the only people making
knowledge back in the day. India had major urban centers, centralized
administrative states, and complicated metaphysical traditions long before the Greeks had anything
big— just goats, which are small. And olive trees, which are bigger than goats but still small. And a few gods and goddesses doing normal
stuff like cheating on each other. In Indian scriptures, thousands of gods and
demons made perpetual war, destroying and recreating reality itself! Ancient Indian thinkers didn’t give rise
to the same natural philosophy as the Greeks. India presents a convenient counterpoint to Greece because knowledge-making in india was indeparable from a long religious tradition, sponsored by the state, and focused on applications. At the same time, both regions exchanged ideas
with each other and the wider world. Today we’ll dive into a couple of major
aspects of Indian natural philosophy, underlying philosophy–philosophy, and math. Oh, and we’ll talk about everyone’s favorite
large mammal—the elephant! [Intro Music Plays] Ancient India was home to several schools
of thought, including what would become Hinduism, its more austere rivals Buddhism and Jainism,
and a super-fatalistic faith called Ajivika that isn’t around anymore. The most important Hindu texts were the Vedas. The word “veda” literally means “knowledge.” These sacred texts are passed along orally,
even today. But they had also been written down for centuries
by the time Alexander the Great invaded western India in 326 BCE. Science and religion were entangled in both
Greece and India. True, the Greek natural philosophers began
to break with a mythological tradition, or at least repurposed it, proposing new ways
of thinking about nature. Even so, we can never neatly separate out
science from religion: they mutually affect one another. In India, “knowledge” systems were essentially,
well, vedic. The Vedas were written in a sacred language,
Sanskrit, which was standardized around the time of the first Greek natural philosophers. The greatest Sanskrit scholar, Panini, wrote
a book on grammar listing almost four thousand rules! These covered phonetics, meter, semantics,
etymology—everything about the language and how it should be used. In fact, Panini’s theory of how words are
formed was so advanced that it was directly studied into the twentieth century! So you can say that the first science in India
was linguistics. And this tradition of memorizing the Vedas
and trying to understand words eventually led to the study of acoustics and musical
tones. But is studying a language, which is a very
human thing, the same kind of knowledge-making as studying fire or gravity? Yes, totally! Linguists make hypotheses, take careful observations,
and put together testable theories about how languages change. They might be frustrated by the seeming randomness
of their subjects… but then again, so are quantum physicists, and medical doctors! Some parts of the Vedas concerned math and
astronomy. But mostly they concerned gods and rituals. The Vedas taught that the cosmos is clearly
ordered, as is human society. What happens in the reality you perceive is
the result of a complicated ethical algorithm running in the background—so you have to
sacrifice a lot of animals and stay in your social position. Thus the Vedas functioned not only as a basis
for a whole language, but as a way of teaching people how society should be: a mirror of
an orderly cosmos. And so we arrive at the present year: 321
BCE… It’s not actually 321. But it was, at one point. At that time, in Greece, Aristotle had been
dead for only one year. Over in Babylon, in what is now Iraq, Aristotle’s
former boss Alexander the Great had been dead for two years. But in eastern India, a young adventurer named
Chandragupta Maurya was very much alive: that year he became emperor of
nearly the entire subcontinent. Alexander had only recently invaded India,
wisely choosing not to start beef with the powerful kingdom of Magadha. When Alexander died, India consisted of a
lot of small kingdoms. Maurya, inspired by the model of Alexander
and coached by a brilliant older adviser, led a coup in Magadha. From there, Maurya conquered the weaker kingdoms
one by one, forging them into a powerful state called —wait for it, what name did he name it? who knows!— it’s the Maurya Empire. The dynasty that Maurya founded lasted from
322 to 180 BCE. It sponsored research into astronomy, hydraulic
engineering, and forestry. Chandragupta’s grandson Ashoka
became one of the most powerful and culturally influential rulers of India, as well as a
serious convert to Buddhism. He outlawed hunting and other unnecessary
acts of violence towards animals, opened public hospitals, and spread Buddhism as far as Athens! When the Buddhist monk Faxian
visited India from Jin Dynasty China, starting in 399 CE, he favorably compared the two empires:
both were civilized societies where Buddhism could flourish. Increased travel between states brought increased
trade in goods as well as ideas. Under the Maurya Empire, more than half of
the arable land in ancient India was irrigated, producing two harvests a year. That sustained a lot of people… and required
a lot of planning. Thus Indian states developed whole government
departments to supervise the building and maintenance of irrigation systems. They controlled a vast system of canals and
sluices, funded by taxes. Breaching a dam was punishable… by death! The centralized Maurya Empire—like the Egyptian,
Sumerian, and Chinese ones—was a “hydraulic” state: its control of water allowed harvests
stability, keeping large populations alive. To control nature, the people running these
big states needed to know lots of things about the lands, plants, animals and especially
rivers they controlled. And most especially about the people who owed
them taxes. First rule of history: nobody ever, ever liked
paying taxes. Another key to running a big state in India
was the elephant. Training hundreds of war elephants was important
to continued military power. So the Mauryas created a forestry department,
because elephants lived in the forests, and made the slaying of elephants punishable by,
you guessed it, death. Forestry management and regulating land and
water would eventually develop into sciences in their own right. The Mauryas’ administrative or “useful”
science, such as their pioneering work in land management, was not the same as the abstract
theorizing of the Greek natural philosophers. The Greeks left behind their names, thanks
to their writings and their cults—I mean—schools. The work of those who maintained early hydraulic
states tended to be anonymous. A debate about the relative merits of applied
versus pure science—knowledge of the immediately useful versus the abstractly true—is still
raging today. Just compare a scientist applying for a grant
to study, say, lichen versus an engineer working on computer guidance for missiles… But useful and abstract systems are not diametric
opposites, and they were never fully separate. India had been open to Persian and Chinese
influences before Alexander. The Chinese had already introduced alchemy—or
systematic questioning about what is stuff—to Indian thought. But India definitely became more Greek-ish
when a bunch of Greeks–some trained by Aristotle himself—pranced in talking about elements
and perfectly circular star-paths. Astronomy was important to all of the ancient
states. This is because, alongside their war-making
and tax-taking, states were also religious institutes, which cared about astrological
schedules. Because, if you’re a god, you can fly around
the heavens, you have houses in different parts of the sky, and you want to be worshipped
when you’re in the right house. In India, as all over the ancient world, “religion”
and “science” were not separate ideas in the way we might think of them today. Practicing astrology meant carefully observing
stars and planets—and thus also practicing astronomy. People who knew a lot about the night sky
made up a high-status professional class. These stargazers were part-priest, part-astronomer,
and part-mathematician. As astronomers, they divided the solar year
into months, crafting calendars to regulate religious ceremonies. They developed a calculation for adding a
leap month when necessary to keep the religious calendar in sync with the solar one. And they investigated the moon’s cycles,
as well as constellations. As mathematicians, they came up with names
for very large numbers—such as 10 to the 40th—related to the very long cosmic cycles
in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. In fact, astronomy and related math really
took off in ancient India. Let’s take a closer look with ThoughtBubble: During the Gupta Empire, which lasted from
319 to 605 CE, families of professional astronomer–mathematicians passed down their teachings about the stars. And they competed with each other: six regional
schools of thought all fought for state patronage. This period also saw the rise of the siddhantas
or “the solutions,” meaning high-level astronomy textbooks. Two of the major siddhanta writers were Aryabhata and Brahmagupta. They were both brilliant polymaths, but unfortunately they disagreed about astronomy. Which was really too bad, because these guys
would have made a team of unbeatable geniuses. Written around 500 CE, Aryabhata’s book
of solutions includes a place-value system, decimal notation, the familiar numbers that
we call “Arabic” today, the number zero, and the irrational number pi calculated to
four places. And Aryabhata famously posited that the earth
rotates… daily… on its axis. This idea was a major breakthrough in astronomy:
Egyptian, Greek, and earlier Indian thinkers argued that the sky rotates around the earth. Aryabhata figured out that the apparent “movement”
of the stars is actually caused by the rotation of the earth itself. But Brahmagupta thought that a rotating earth
defied common sense: just look at the birds, all not flying off into the heavens! Meanwhile, in his own siddhanta, Brahmagupta
calculated the circumference of the earth with astonishing precision, and he worked
with negative and irrational numbers. Thanks Thought Bubble. Indian mathematicians were working on many
topics that writers in Greece were not. But the most advanced branch of natural philosophy
in ancient India was more founded in Vedic teachings. Ayurveda, literally life-knowledge,
or the science of life, began with oral traditions about sacrificial animals. By the sixth century BCE, it was a standardized
system of medicine and way of answering the question what is life? Ayurvedic approaches to diseases and cures
were rational. There were reasons for every choice. Good physicians didn’t believe in strictly
divine cures, but practiced medical judgment based on years of study and then more years
of experience. The influential medical textbook Charaka Samhita,
for example, calls for physicians to apprentice with a master, then get royal permission to
treat patients. It also lists 300 bones, 500 muscles, 210
joints, and 70 vessels in the human body. This was written some time before 200 CE. And today’s med school students complain
about organic chemistry! Ayurveda, which is still around today, is
so complex and important that we’re devoting another episode to it, alongside ancient European
medicine. For now, just note that, Indian medicine and
surgery was probably the most advanced of any contemporary ancient civilization. Rich in people and faiths, India was not a single culture even under the highly successful
Mauryas and Guptas. But certain features of ancient Indian natural
philosophy stand out. The ancient Vedas—literally, the knowledges—influenced
a wide variety of thinkers across a large geographic region. There were no sharp breaks with Vedic ways
of knowing—although Buddhism, and influences from China and Greece, added new layers of
philosophy on top of the Vedic one. And the Maurya and Gupta states were wealthy
and well-administered, known for their skilled artisans and able to control vast plains in
order to feed teeming cities. As ancient states exchanged goods and proto-scientific
ideas, Indian ideas spread far and wide: we have accounts of Ayurvedic physicians, or
vaidyas, working in eighth-century Baghdad, then one of the largest cities on
earth and a center of knowledge production. Next time—we’ll travel to The Americas to ask questions like, “When are we? What is time? And how to we measure it?” Crash Course History of Science is filmed
in the Dr. Cheryl C. Kinney studio in Missoula, Montana and it’s made with the help of all
this nice people and our animation team is Thought Cafe. Crash Course is a Complexly production. If you wanna keep imagining the world complexly
with us, you can check out some of our other channels like Healthcare Triage, How to Adult,
and Scishow Psych. And, if you’d like to keep Crash Course
free for everybody, forever, you can support the series at Patreon; a crowdfunding platform
that allows you to support the content you love. Thank you to all of our patrons for making
Crash Course possible with their continued support.

100 thoughts on “India: Crash Course History of Science #4

  1. thanks for studying India so deeply .. so telling the truths, u know more than the majority of Indians about India,, and btw India's ancient name was "BHARATA" or "BHARAT"

  2. Wootz steel was the best steel in the world during the 1st millennium BCE. The name came from old Tamil/Malayam word 'Urukku'. Ancient Chera kingdom of Tamilakam (south India) exported this steel to various other civilizations of the world at that time.
    This was before Vedic culture even reached south India.
    Rarely anybody acknowledges this metallurgical advancement of southern India because no one cares about non-Vedic cultures of India.

  3. There is only one culture in India that is there "Caste System'
    Killing and oppressing "Untouchables" is Hinduism.

  4. You told the British to leave.
    Then followed them back to the west.
    Any who have talent our wealth have left, to take advantage of the generous western culture.
    Stay home and fix the problems in your own back yard instead of jumping the fence and bringing the same problems with you.
    Make both cultures great again.

  5. Once upon a time I went to a neurologist for my headache issues. He gave me painkillers and I was fine for a while…but I began to suffer from excessive sleep problem which occurred due to painkillers I was taking. I went back to neurologist for advice and he changed my painkillers to some other painkillers…the problem was solved for a while and then after few month the same problem came back…thats a typical case happen with every psychologist,/neurologist. Later I went to ayurvedic doctor and he gave me herbal painkillers,but after some analysis he also told me that I should focus on cause of headache which at that point was eating lot of junk food and improper timing in having lunch/dinner,and I should have a balanced life style. From than I don't have any headache and excessive sleep problem

  6. 90 % of the viewers are Indian cause Indians love to hear nice things about India instead of doing nice things throw plastic bags anywhere

  7. Actually, the Surya Siddhanta (ancient book on Astronomy) calculates not only the circumference of earth, but also the diameters of all the visible planets (not the numerical, but as a projection on the moon). This was shown to be accurate to about within 10% of the modern values. A couple of calculations are exactly off by 50%, which seem to indicate that they are talking about radii in those cases. The distance to all the planets are also accurate. However, the distance to the SUN and its diameter are way off (Off by several orders of magnitude).

  8. listening about my country's History, Power and advanced civilizations from other country people gives me Goosebumps. Jai Hind

  9. We were living in societies long before people were living in America or Europe…just because the won the war and made colonies of Asia and Africa. Doest not mean their culture is superior..

  10. @1.44 Alexander returned from Beas River since Chandragupta Maurya was far stronger than Alexander 👍

  11. Fun fact-
    There wasn't any religion in India, this is imported ideology in recent times. If you go by the definition religion then every village in India have its own religion even today. That's why the science and the whole culture wasn't fragmented from each other. 🙏

  12. a lot of proud Indians here, including me. But it would be wise to also look at the weaknesses of India, and acknowledge the deficiencies within it.

  13. I thought you guys would featured that female Indian host in one of your other video to talk about her own home country. Shucks what a disappointment!

  14. This is minuscule to what India's contribution to the world is. India has given YOGA (don't imagine bending your body in ridiculous ways)
    The word YOG or YOGA means UNION. Union with the cosmos.
    And also the most celebrated Fibonacci numbers were discovered by an Indian scientist called pingala.
    Indians learnt to train the mind (YOGA)
    Google the number 108 in Indian culture.

  15. and then Nalanda got destroyed othervise the list he showed would have had been even bigger and humans would have had been 100 times advanced than what we are right now☺

  16. Alexander the so-called great did not inspire Maurya, in fact he had nothing to offer to Indians. Indians have all the required philosophy that's why after thousands of years of invading, destruction, loots, rapes, today Indians are thriving.

  17. #0:40 Please correct, Rakshak doesn't mean daemon (Hinduism philosophy is not like Christianity, It's not black and white). Rakshak means "the protector", these are the people who live mainly in the forest and protect tree and wildlife. Just like every one they can take bad steps, bad decision, but it doesn't make them evil.

  18. Surprising to see a good video on India considering typical Western media attitude to our country and cultures not to mention our innovativeness/contribution to the world. It's good to see! Thank you and keep talking! People want facts nowadays not propaganda so I am sure you will grow even bigger! You got a new sub!
    P.S.: You're giving the Greeks too much credit for everything – to be honest, Chanakya who was Maurya's advisor wrote a treatise called "Arthsastra" for administration which is read even today and much more relevant than Machiavellian thought. We had republics a thousand years before the Greek polises as it has been recorded in a historical book talking about 16 ancient Indian states – some were monarchies and some were republics. Also, Alexander barely touched what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan and never made it into the core of India – the Ganges plains. So the Greeks had little to no effect on Chandragupta Maurya. He was a Shudra or peasant who rose up and formed his own empire then married the daughter of one of Alexanders Generals to secure a treaty. That was when real Greek influence through traders and diplomats came in and our influence spread over there.

  19. so you have a complex view of astrology but if an ancient scientist believed in reincarntion, then they were the head of the cult? I'd love to see you guys do a sociology of science because ancient beliefs even among scientists are rather less simplistic than "cult"-like. Just loving tis series other wise.

  20. I feel like we are living in a renaissance of vedic wisdom, it's in a baby stage but it's growing and more people are becoming interested in yoga philosophy

  21. Ashoka also founded one of the best chains of Indian restaurants in the world, in Glasgow, Scotland. That led to some of the most creative new fusion dishes, one of the most famous being Haggis Pakora. It is believed by some that the creator of that delicacy, on bringing his offering to perfection, immediately experienced moksha. Others have argued that the account cannot be exactly right because Haggis Pakora is so good that no one tasting it would willing to then give it up in exchange for something as trivial as escape from samsāric existence and eternal freedom from all suffering.

  22. FACT—In Sanskrit you can't abuse anyone bcoz it doesn't contain any abusive word that's why it is called god language in India

  23. Proud to be a hindu💗 ahimsa parmo dharma💗the land who have always adovocated peace and prosperity of the whole world. Jai hind

  24. Hah it's funny plastic surgery which was invented by India is used mostly by foreigners. And even first operation was performed by Indians.

  25. Only now there is arab..few thousand years ago that is india ..Afghanistan destroyed large statue of buddha..what else had been destroyed no one knows..if buddha can reach there at that time,,Hinduism why not?? And see how much similarities betweens Persians and Indian..map divided and named there arab,but before arabs? I don't tell we knew it

  26. Sacrifice animals!!!!! In Vedas???????? Impossible!!!!! Orthodox Hindus and Jains used to carry brooms to sweep the floor, just to avoid killing an insect!!!!!

  27. This is a great video about India and Hinduism. India and Hinduism both have significant contributions in the advancement of humanity. 🙏🏼🇮🇳
    Respect from Bangladesh 🇧🇩

  28. y "sacrificial animals" again and again ?????? "yagya" don't mean sacrificial animals or sacrifice animals, its wrong translation……calendar and astronomy was used for agriculture, weather forecast, time keeping, compass, sea route,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  29. we Indians always had something to offer to the world and still do we just need some time to recover from the Bad aftereffects of the colonial and Mughal periods. our wealth was looted but not our wisdom, it is still encoded in our genes. we just need to unlock those genetic secrets and bring together the people while still giving the rights to practice and honour individual customs and traditions. a little time and India will soon be wholeheartedly contributing knowledge and wisdom. turning the pages of our ancient texts and mixing that knowledge with today's technology will take the world of science to new heights. I believe my country and my countrymen and women.

  30. Western people often misunderstand the connection between Indian religious traditions and science. Indian traditions are that, traditions, but they come from a deep knowledge of the mind, which is written in sanskrit. Most of that knowledge, particularly what is called Vedanta, is scientific, meaning, is strongly based on evidence (evidence on the behaviour of the mind).

  31. this is amazing i never knew that India was actually important i thought they were those cow loving hippies untill now thank you for showing me!!

  32. Sir please study something that is not written by romans and steriotypical brits…. if u really want to learn something about India break ur biases….

  33. Alexandar conquer western India then his belly got upset so he went back to babylone for using toilet… give me a break use your brain at least if any one from rome didn't use it at the time of cooking up stories….

  34. [Nasadiya Sukta] spoken 3000 years ago speaks about origins of the universe.(small part)

    नासदासीन्नो सदासीत्तदानीं नासीद्रजो नो व्योमा परो यत् |

    किमावरीवः कुह कस्य शर्मन्नम्भः किमासीद्गहनं गभीरम् ॥ १॥

    Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,

    There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.

    What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?

    Was there then cosmic water, in depths unfathomed?

    न मृत्युरासीदमृतं न तर्हि न रात्र्या अह्न आसीत्प्रकेतः |

    आनीदवातं स्वधया तदेकं तस्माद्धान्यन्न परः किञ्चनास ॥२॥

    Then there was neither death nor immortality

    nor was there then the shine of night and day.

    The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.

    There was that One then, and there was no other.

    तम आसीत्तमसा गूहळमग्रे प्रकेतं सलिलं सर्वाऽइदम् |

    तुच्छ्येनाभ्वपिहितं यदासीत्तपसस्तन्महिनाजायतैकम् ॥३॥

    At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness.

    All this was only unillumined cosmic field.

    That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,

    arose at last, born of the power of heat.

    को अद्धा वेद क इह प्र वोचत्कुत आजाता कुत इयं विसृष्टिः |

    अर्वाग्देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यत आबभूव ॥६॥

    But, after all, who knows, and who can say

    Whence it all came, and how creation happened?

    the devas (gods) themselves are later than creation,

    so who knows truly whence it has arisen?

    इयं विसृष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न |

    यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे व्योमन्त्सो अङ्ग वेद यदि वा न वेद ॥७॥

    Whence all creation had its origin,

    the creator, whether she/he fashioned it or whether she/he did not,

    the creator, who surveys it all from highest heaven,

    she/he knows – or maybe even she/he does not know.[11

  35. Great video!

    It's pleasantly surprising to see western experts taking interest in Indian history, knowledge and talking about it. Sadly, in modern India it is considered taboo to talk of ancient Indian knowledge.

    I just want to point out Vedas were perhaps from pre-Sanskrit era. That means, originally they may have been written in the mother language of Sanskrit, the Prakrit, or an even older language. There doesn't seem to be an agreement on the correct age of Vedas, hence hard to conclude what language they might have originally been written in.

  36. For those who r complaining about the things he left pls calm down because India has given so much that he would not be able to tell that all in 1 life so calm down guys .

  37. I was hooked with the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and the western civilization that I found this episode of the CrashCourse "History of Science" highly informative. Thank you!

  38. India is an oustanding country because of their cultures, religions and so on. Aside from that they contribute a lot in science . Thank you for this video, I learn a lot.

  39. India is indeed a big proponent of knowledge in science way back then. I love how they connect the concept of Religion and Science, base on how they understand both. Hats off to Panini for being the first to study linguistics which opened them to venture into musics. I also appreciate how they study natural philosophy and contemplating their belief in God by consistently doing their rituals up to this time.

    Vedas functioned to teach people how a society should be, It adds up to their thought of mirroring the cosmos into social context. Really interesting fact!

    Maurya Empire was exceptional, sponsoring research, into astronomy, hydraulic engineering and forestry. Ashoka's act if protection towards animals and giving them right is inspiring. Thanks to their good governance which I think powerful to the development of their country and the indians as a whole.

    I have to agree that even today, the debate between pure and applied science of which is more useful cannot be compared because of chinese and greek influences to Indians. They cannot be separated, enough said.

  40. India was a land of sages and seers as well as a land of scholars and scientists. As well as India was actively contributing to the field of science and technology centuries long before modern laboratories were set up. Many theories and techniques discovered by the ancient Indians have created and strengthened the fundamentals of modern science and technology up until now. And with the advancement in science we are becoming familiar with all the natural processes that place around us because of the help of the Indian people. Thanks to this video I'm aware that the ancient India having the contribution for the science and technology so we can able to know their history. I'm amazingly grateful;)

  41. In India there are some Greek Natural Philosopy. First science in india was linguistic, they trying to understand the words , which study of acoustic and musical tones. But, Vedas not only foccuses on society maths and astronomy , they also focused God and Rituals . For them they want to make science not just only for expirement but to know the importance of science . India was inseparable from a long religious and tradition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *