Medieval Science & Technology of India

Medieval Science & Technology of India
Posted on 06-08-2023

Science and Knowledge in Medieval India under Mughal Rule

During the Mughal era, education in India encompassed a diverse range of subjects, taught in various institutions like Maktabs and Madrasas. The Madrasas at Sambal and Agra were headed by respected scholars Sheikh Abdullah and Sheikh Azizullah.

Primary education covered an array of subjects, including Arithmetic, Mensuration, Geometry, Astronomy, Accountancy, Public Administration, and Agriculture. Additionally, large workshops known as karkhanas served not only as manufacturing centers but also as hubs for technical and vocational training.

Mathematics flourished during this period, with prominent scholars making significant contributions. Narayana Pandit, son of Narsimha Daivajna, authored works like Ganitakaumudi and Bijaganitavatamsa. Gangadhara in Gujarat presented works such as Lilavati Karamdipika, Suddhantadipika, and Lilavati Vyakhya, which included rules for trigonometric terms.

Nilakantha Somasutvan's Tantrasamgraha elaborated on trigonometrical functions, and Ganesa Daivajna's Buddhivilasini offered a commentary on Lilavati with numerous illustrations. Krishna of the Valhalla family produced Navankura, focusing on Bhaskara-II's Bijaganit and rules for indeterminate equations.

In the field of Astronomy, scholars like Mehendra Suri and Paramesvara made significant advancements. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh-II of Jaipur was a notable patron of astronomy, establishing observatories in Delhi, Ujjain, Varanasi, Mathura, and Jaipur.

The Mughals were also well-versed in the field of Chemistry, possessing knowledge of gunpowder production and its use in gunnery. The Sukraniti attributed to Sukracarya described the preparation of gunpowder using saltpeter, sulphur, and charcoal. Additionally, the Ain-I-Akbari spoke about the regulation of the Perfume office of Akbar.

Medicine thrived during this period, with the Unani Tibb system gaining popularity. Various works, such as Sarangdhara Samhita, Chikitsasamgraha, and Firdausu-Hikmat, incorporated knowledge from Greek, Persian, and Ayurvedic sources. Unani medicine came to India along with the Muslims and found significant patronage under the Mughals.

In summary, the Mughal era in India was a period of flourishing scientific and knowledge advancements in various fields, leaving behind a rich legacy that shaped the country's intellectual history.

Medieval India, roughly spanning from the 6th to the 16th century, witnessed significant advancements in science and technology across various fields. During this period, Indian scholars made notable contributions in areas such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine, metallurgy, architecture, and more. Here are some key aspects of medieval Indian science and technology:

  1. Mathematics: Indian mathematicians developed significant achievements during this period. The concept of zero as a numeral and its use in arithmetic was established in India. The decimal numeral system, including the use of place value, was also devised. The most famous work on mathematics during this time is the "Aryabhatiya" (5th century) by Aryabhata, which dealt with algebra, trigonometry, and astronomical calculations.

  2. Astronomy: Medieval Indian astronomers made noteworthy observations and calculations. Aryabhata and Varahamihira were prominent astronomers during this period. They accurately calculated the length of the solar year and the duration of planetary revolutions. The "Brihat Samhita" by Varahamihira included information about astrology, eclipses, and planetary positions.

  3. Medicine: The practice of medicine flourished during medieval India. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, was further developed and refined. Prominent texts like the "Charaka Samhita" and the "Sushruta Samhita" were composed during this time, providing valuable insights into surgery, herbal remedies, and various medical treatments.

  4. Metallurgy: Indian metallurgists excelled in extracting and processing metals. Techniques for extracting iron and copper were well-established, and metal artisans created intricate designs through metal casting. The process of producing high-quality steel through the crucible technique was also developed.

  5. Architecture: Medieval India saw the construction of magnificent structures and temples. Notable examples include the Sun Temple at Konark, the Khajuraho temples, and the various rock-cut caves like Ajanta and Ellora. Architectural marvels like the Qutub Minar and Red Fort were also built during the later medieval period under Islamic rulers.

  6. Water Management: Medieval India saw the development of sophisticated water management systems. Stepwells (baoris) and tanks (talabs) were constructed to store water for irrigation and drinking purposes. These structures showcased the remarkable engineering skills of the time.

  7. Navigation and Shipbuilding: Indian sailors were skilled in navigation and maritime trade. They had a deep understanding of monsoon winds, which facilitated successful voyages to Southeast Asia, East Africa, and the Middle East. Indian shipbuilders constructed sturdy vessels that played a crucial role in these maritime activities.

  8. Literature and Scientific Works: Sanskrit texts continued to be the primary medium for scientific knowledge dissemination. Many scientific treatises were written during this period, covering diverse subjects like astronomy, mathematics, alchemy, botany, and more.

Medieval Indian science and technology left a lasting impact on subsequent generations and laid the foundation for further advancements in various fields. It's essential to recognize the rich heritage of Indian achievements in science and technology during this period.

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