Monday, 22 March 2021

Chemistry in India - from the Vedic era to the sixteenth century - a VSF lecture

Around ten years ago, at a team meeting of Tamil Heritage Trust to discuss topics for monthly lectures, Sittannavasal, Mamalapuram, Kanchi, Tanjavur, Srirangam, etc were suggested. Music, literature, painting, food, etc also came up as topics.

I suggested that we should consider science too as part of our heritage, and we should have a lecture on a science topic like astronomy. Prof Swaminathan our founder, enthusiastically agreed and "volunteered" me to speak on the subject. It has been a wonderful voyage of discovery. The sheer volume of books, scholarship, the long tradition of Indian astronomy (older than the Ramayana and Mahabharata) were an absolute revelation. The sheer ignorance among the scientific public and what must be considered malignant suppression of this history have been heartbreaking. But also eye-opening.

In December 2019, I attended a series of lectures organized by KV Sarma foundation, which included a lecture Prof BN Jagtap on Indian Chemistry.

I thought he would talk on the Delhi iron pillar, wootz steel, and the everlasting paints of Ajanta, and the dyes of Indian textiles. Modern chemistry began only with Antoine Lavoisier and his discoveries in the late 18th century. Most of Indian chemistry I assumed, was empirical, the discoveries of practical experimenters and professionals. But Prof Jagatap showed that Indian chemistry has as glorious and rich and awesome a history and heritage as astronomy and several of our arts. And he says, he too had a voyage of discovery in the field that is only over a decade old! He himself quote Acharya Prafaull Chandra Ray for extensive research on this subject and publications in English for a society that has almost totally given up Sanskrit as a language of science.

Our great fortune is that he has agreed to speak at the Varahamihira Science Forum. He will deliver a lecture this Saturday 27 March 2021 at 5pm.

I hope many of you can listen in, watch and have your mind blown away.

This youtube link below is for both the live webcast and recorded video

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