Ancient Indian astronomers were keen to follow the Sun and the Moon to make a workable calendar. So they determined a reference framework of stars with respect to which positions of Sun or Moon could be ascertained. They adopted the 12 zodiacal constellations from Greeks and called them rasis. But, following the moon's motion, they also divided the path in 27 naksatras (or 28 in some texts), whose names were interpreted both as stars and as lunar mansions. While Greeks formed philosophical model of the universe and later Europe practiced positional astronomy, Indians were adept in mathematical astronomy in the form of Siddhantas (Final Solutions). Indian astronomers from Aryabhata (498 CE) to Bhaskara II (1150 CE) predicted and explained eclipses, determined the diameter of the earth and moon and calculated precision of equinoxes and the mean and real position of planets. They developed Indianized armillary sphere that could simulate position of star and planets for any time of the night. Later Indian astronomers like Nilakanth and Parameswara (16th Century CE) mathematically formed a kind of heliocentric model of the Solar system, in which, the Sun still goes around the earth but all other planets are shown to rotate around the Sun.


Figure 6: Jantar Mantar is located in the modern city of New Delhi. It consists of 13 architectural astronomy instruments, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, in 1724 onwards.




Al-Biruni, the famous 11th century Persian scholar and the first Muslim scholar to study India, recorded that Indians were among the leading medical practitioners, researchers and educators. The science of the body and mind, in India, had its origin in the healing art of the Vedic times. This knowledge and practice, called Ayurveda, emerged as a holistic medical science par excellence by about the fifth century BCE. The two great classics of Ayurveda,the Caraka and SusrutaSamhitas, present a vivid and cogent account of the medical knowledge and surgical practices respectively that were in vogue. Indians were adept in using various medicinal plants and metallic bhasmas about 1800 years ago that continue to be used in Ayurveda today. It was in surgery, above all, that the ancient Indians excelled. The SusrutaSamhita which accords pride of place to surgery describes more than three hundred different operations and 121 surgical instruments (20 sharp and 101 accessory) such as tongs, forceps, scalpels, catheters, syringes, speculums, needles, saws, probes, scissors and the like. The outstanding feats of ancient Indian surgery related to laparatomy, lithotomy and plastic operations. The SusrutaSamhita is regarded as the earliest document to give a detailed account of rhinoplasty (plastic reconstruction of the nose). However, it was not before the eighteenth century that plastic surgery made its appearance in Europe.


Figure 7 : A page from Sushruta Samhita

Figure 8 : Surgical instruments used by Sushruta (Recreation)