This year’s meeting of Indian Science Congress remained in news on account of the ‘Hindu revivalist scientists’ who tried to prove the superiority of Ancient Indian science and technology over that of the western scientists by presenting several papers. This would not have been a matter of controversy had it not happened after the statement by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi claiming that ancient Indians were master in almost every field including science and technology which has always been the thing that the western world bolsters about. He even added that ancient Indian physicians were aware of the technique of plastic surgery either, which is evident from the mythological tell describing the origin of Ganesha – elephant headed Hindu goddess. This statement had stirred rows in the field of both science and history.
As per the view of many prominent scientists, the Indian Science Congress was established with the purpose of promoting the pure scientific values in Indian society. And hence the use of such dais for promoting politically motivated studies is harmful to India’s scientific community. They also think that it was not a problem if this study was based on strong evidences and facts but as the papers were mainly based on the ancient Indian mythological and literary texts, their genuineness can hardly be accepted.
This is the point where historians enter into the debate. As there are several schools in history, ranging from imperialistic, nationalistic to socialistic, each one of them has its own distinct beliefs and methodologies of studying the past. What Modi claimed in their statement is actually the view of the nationalistic historians which assumes that India was once a land of peace, prosperity and excellence and it is after the series of foreign invasions that the beautiful land became the victim of exploitation and thus lost its glory. The nationalistic historians structure the history of India based on the Ancient historical texts like Vedas and mythologies the things that other schools of history gave little importance to. Once one accepts the historical genuineness of every ancient scripture then it becomes very easy for him to claim the superiority of its creators just by showing the references in the texts which might have been created just as a fantasy. This is the reason why other schools of history gave little importance to mythology and accepts the descriptions given by them only if it is supported by other sources like archaeology. Thus according to mythologies like Ramayana and Mahabharata, India was an extremely developed country even 5000 years ago. But, according to the archaeologists, the evidences of this ‘development’ are not found in the excavations carried out at the popular places mentioned in these scriptures, so these scriptures don’t have any other value than their literary importance.
The reason why this issue came into debate is because ‘Bharatiya Janata Party’ has been associated with the nationalistic school of history which was necessary for their political ideology. Every ruling class targets the history to spread its ideology into society. History is the best medium to reach to the common man. This is the reason why every new government moves its attention to the syllabus of history in order to make changes.
Science and history are generally considered to be two separate streams of knowledge. But what happened on the platform of Indian Science Congress made scientists think about history and historians think about science in history.