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Mughal: Science and technology

Mughal: Science and technology

Background

  • After the coming of the Turks, there was a greater interaction of Islamic or what was called Arab science with India.
    • Many new technologies were introduced, such as paper, the spinning wheel, the carder’s bow, an improved version of the water wheel or rahat, and widespread use of the iron-stirrup.
    • In the fields of science, interaction was mainly in the field of astronomy, mathematics and medicine, though agricultural and animal sciences were not completely neglected.
  • Jalal al-Din Khilji (d.1296) is the first Muslim sultan of Delhi to have showed some intellectual curiosity for Hindu learning and Sanskrit studies. selfstudyhistory.com
  • Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1351) was a great scholar versed in logic, Greek philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and physical sciences.
    • He had knowledge of medicine and was skillful in dialectics.
    • He also was an expert calligrapher.
    • He enjoyed the society of Hindu yogis and extended his patronage to Jain divines.
  • The Sultans of Delhi were very much interested in mechanical machines like pulleys and piers.
    • In the book Sirat Feroz Shahi (1370) 13 such instruments were listed which were used in transporting stones and heavy building materials.
  • Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1388) set up hospitals for free treatment of the poor and encouraged physicians in the development of Unani medicine.
    • He commissioned translations of medical works from Sanskrit.
    • He ordered a work on Hindu astronomy and astrology to be translated into Persian under the name of Dalaile Firoz Shahi.
  • Earlier, from the eleventh century onward, there had been a heavy onslaught on reason and science (in the name of philosophy) in the Islamic world.
    • Al-Ghazali (1111) considered the great teacher played an important part in the assault on reason.
    • As a result of this continuing campaign, science was virtually submerged under religion, mysticism, aesthetics etc.
    • Various works on science were written during the period including those in India which have yet to be evaluated.
    • They covered newer areas such as geography, physics especially optics and specific gravity, magnetism and concepts of motions and time.
    • However, scientific works were generally mixed up with religion, mysticism, aesthetics etc.
    • This was not a new feature because science, religion, magic and myth were mixed up in many religions.
    • However, a sphere of rationality was a necessary condition for the growth of science. In Europe, science had grown from the 15th century onwards by setting out a sphere of rationalism away from religion.
    • The inability of science to delink itself from religion or mysticism became an inhibiting factor in India and elsewhere in the Islamic world.

Science and Technology under Mughal

  • Study of science and technology of this period can be divided as:
    • Indigenous development:
      • In Science:
        • No noteworthy contribution by the Indians.
      • In technology:
        • some inventions were made and new methods employed, especially in the military sector. In the chemical sector also, e.g: rose-scent and the use of saltpetre for water-cooling was new.
    • Indian response to European Science and Technology:
      • The Indian response in this respect was not uniform.
        • Positive, negative and indifferent responses.
        • For example, in shipbuilding- some positive responses but not with glass technology.
      • As for Science, the Indians do not appear to have profited from the European experience.

Science:

  • No breakthrough in physics, astronomy, chemistry medicine, geography and mathematics.
  • A French traveler, Careri observes about the Muslim scholars in India:
    • “As for sciences they can make no progress in them for want of Books; for they have none but some small manuscript works of Aristotle and Avicenue in Arabic”.
  • But there were some very learned and able scientists:
    • Mir Fathullah Shirazi who joined Akbar’s court at Agra in 1583 (d. 1588).
      • His major contribution:
        • invented some mechanical devices
        • introduced a ‘true’ solar calendar (called Ilahi) at Akbar’s order.
      • But he did not propound any new scientific theory or formula distinct from the traditional ones in India at that time.
  • Indians were exposed to European learning.
    • Abul Fazl was aware of the discovery of America by Europeans and expressed appreciation of European painting. But this knowledge does not appear to have become a normal part of the teaching of geography in India.
    • The governor of Junnar interrogated Fryer in 1670 on “the state of Europe, the government, policy and learning”.
    • Danishmand Khan, was interested in the philosophy of Descarte, and was interested in scientific matters, such as astronomy, geography and anatomy.
      • Bernier, a French physician, was patronized by Mughal noble Agha Danishmand Khan in second half of 17th century, to whom he used to explain the new discoveries of Harvey and Pecquet concerning circulation of the blood.
        • Bernier held a very poor opinion of the Indian’s knowledge of anatomy.
        • Our hakims and vaids did not show any interest in Harvey’s discovery.
    • These contacts did not, however, spread out, or induce a more systematic study of the western sciences.
  • Galileo’s discovery (in contrast to Ptolemy’s world-view) that it is the Earth that moves round the Sun did not reach the Indian scientists.
  • Newton’s three Laws of Motion as well as his Law of Gravity were unknown in India at this time.
  • As Bernier lamented, there were no academies (except madrasas for religious study) where such subjects could be taken up for study. Thus, interest in western science and philosophy was individual, and died with the individual.

Agricultural technology:

  • No radical change in plough, iron plough share, irrigational devices, methods of sowing, harvesting, threshing and winnowing.
    • Dibbling (method of sowing):
      • Evidence of broadcasting, seed-drill and dibbling (for cotton cultivation).
      • Dibbling:- A hole was made into the ground and the seed was put into it and covered with earth.
  • Introduction of new crops, plants and fruits.
    • Many brought by Europeans, especially the Portuguese.
      • Tobacco, pineapple, cashew-nuts and potato are important fruits came from America.
      • Tomato, guava and red chillies were also brought from outside.
      • Maize is not listed in Abul Fazl’s Ain-i Akbari. It seems that it was introduced by Europeans from Latin America.
      • Tobacco led to huqqa-smoking.
    • Mughal elite had started growing Central Asian fruits (for e.g. melons, grapes around Agra) in India from the days of Babur.
      • Cherries were introduced in Kashmir during Akbar’s reign.
    • Fruits of better quality were grown by seed propagation.
    • Grafting techniques:
      • Prevalent in India only after A.D. 1550.
      • Mangoes of the best quality were exclusively produced in Goa through grafting by the Portuguese.
      • Alfonso: Some European travellers to India paid glowing tributes to this delicious mango of Goa.
  • Waterworks:
    • The first Mughal Emperor Babur is known to have patronized the construction of water channels used in gardens and orchards, ablution pools for his servicemen.
    • This tradition was continued by his grandson Akbar who built monumental waterworks in his capital at Fatehpur Sikri where he ordered the construction of a Dam with 13 gates.
    • This Dam created a shallow artificial lake during the Monsoon season every year. Water was then lifted into Fatehpur Sikri through large mechanical devices known as the Persian water wheel and Sakias.
    • Akbar’s engineers brought water from the lake constantly into the city in different stages. Gravity then brought flowing water down through a complex system of channels, pools and reservoirs.
    • However due to the shortfall of water and a brief drought Fatehpur Sikri was abandoned and Akbar had to relocate his capitol to Lahore.
    • It was due to the success of Mughal irrigations systems during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, patronized the digging of wells and build river embankments for irrigation.
    • Shah Jahan was only Mughal emperor who got two canals dug, which drew water from the Yamuna to various irrigated fertile lands:
      • Nahr-i-Faiz 
      • Shah Nahr
    • During his reign Agra also became known as the Waterfront garden city, which provided wealth for its 700,000 inhabitants.
    • Mughal Emperors were famed for their endowments to the construction irrigation systems in order to increase the amount of cultivated irrigated lands, that produced higher crop yields and increased the net revenue base of the empire.

Textile technology:

  • No radical addition or improvement.
  • But two major development:
    • carpet-weaving under Akbar’s patronage at Lahore, Agra and Fatehpur-Sikri.
    • production of silk and silk fabrics on a large scale.
  • The Europeans did not bring their own textile techniques to India, during the first half of the seventeenth century.
    • Italian silk filatures were introduced into India in the 1770s.
  • In the field of weaving and dyeing, Indian technology was hardly backward as compared to the technology available at the time.
    • Europeans complained of the width of the cloth produced, but this could be rectified easily.
    • So also certain colours and dyes for which they sent their own craftsmen to Murshidabad.
  • Although block printing on textiles had been developed in India, and was used in China for printing on paper, the same did not take place in India.
    • Whether it was due to the fact that scribes could work still more cheaply – a fact which suggests a far wider diffusion of literacy than accepted, or was due to other factors, it certainly limited the dissemination of knowledge.

Military technology:

  • Guns and Pistols: Matchlocks technique (to fire a gun) was in use mostly till Aurangzeb.
    • Mughal-paintings regularly depict matchlocks.
    • Abul Fazl claims the manufacture of handguns (flint-locks) without matchcord in Akbar’s arsenal but they were produced on a limited scale probably for Akbar’s personal use.
    • Europe knew about wheel-lock and flint-lock in which matchcord was dispensed with.
      • Europeans gave pistols in gifts to Indians. But the Indians did not learn the art of wheel-lock.
  • Swords:
    • Indians preferred curved swords, in contrast to the European’s straight double-edged rapiers.
    • The Mughal Emperor Akbar is known to have built large foundries producing the best quality sword blades.
      • Akbar himself is known to have preferred Damascus steel Talwars, which were considered the sharpest blades ever used in battle in South Asia.
  • Abul Fazl writes:
    • For cleaning gun-barrels: “Akbar invented a wheel, by the motion of which sixteen barrels may be cleaned in a very short time. The wheel is turned by a bullock.”
    • Akbar invented a mechanism by which seventeen guns were joined in such a manner as to be able to fire them simultaneously with one matchcord.
  • Fathullah Shirazi (d. 1582):
    • He was a Persian polymath and mechanical engineer who worked for Akbar, developed a volley gun with multiple gun barrels similar to hand cannons.
    • One of his inventions, a military weapon, was designed for killing infantry.
    • Another cannon-related machine he invented which could clean sixteen gun barrels simultaneously, and was operated by a cow. (also attributed to Akbar)
    • He also developed 17 barrelled cannon, fired with a matchlock. (also attributed to Akbar)
  • Canon Foundry:
    • Cannons manufactured in India for the Indian rulers.
    • During the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, Jaigarh Fort, became one of the worlds most efficient Cannon foundries mainly due to the abundance of Iron ore mines in the vicinity of the fort.
      • The Mughal cannon foundry Jaigarh Fort had a massive wind-tunnel that sucked air from the high mountains into its furnace creating temperatures as high as 2400 degrees Fahrenheit, the heated air would melt the metal.
    • Most of those Mughal Cannons were massive mostly 16 ft long and had to be prepared within a single day.
    • The Mughals also built a large ingenious mechanical device that had a precision gear system driven by four pairs of Oxen, the device was used for hollowing out the Cannon barrels.
    • Mughal cannon production reached its zenith during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, in fact one of the most impressive Mughal cannons is known as the Zafar baksh, which is a very rare composite cannon, that required skills in both wrought iron forge welding and bronze casting technologies.
  • Rocket:
    • Akbar was the first to initiate and utilize metal cylinder rockets against War elephants, during the Battle of Sambal.
    • In the year 1657, the Mughal Army utilized rockets during the Siege of Bidar. Prince Aurangzeb’s forces discharged rockets and grenades while scaling the walls.
    • Later, the Mysorean rockets were upgraded versions of Mughal rockets utilized during the Siege of Jinji by the progeny of the Nawab of Arcot.
      • Hyder Ali realized the importance of rockets and introduced advanced versions of metal cylinder rockets.
      • These rockets turned fortunes in favor of the Sultanate of Mysore during the Second Anglo-Mysore War.
    • Rockets were also made with gunpowder in them.
      • Some rockets went in the air and some  went along the surface.
      • Tipu Sultan (d.1799) and his father Hyder Ali (d.1782) are  regarded as pioneers in the use of solid fuel rocket technology or missiles for military use.
      • A military tactic they developed was the use of mass attacks with rocket brigades on infantry formations.
      • Tipu Sultan wrote a military manual called Fathul Mujahidin in  which 200 rocket men were assigned to each Mysore a “cushoon” (brigade).
      • Mysore had 16 to 24 cushoons of infantry.
      • The areas of town where rockets and fireworks were  manufactured were known as Taramandal Pet (“Galaxy Market”).
      • It was only after Tipu’s death that the technology eventually reached Europe.
    • The rocket men were trained to launch their rockets at an angle calculated from the diameter of the cylinder and the distance to the target. In addition, wheeled rocket launchers capable of launching five to ten rockets almost simultaneously were used in war
  • Although a number of scientific inventions, such as a devise for cleaning many gun-barrels at the same time, a moving carriage for grinding-corn which developed under Akbar show a spirit of inventiveness, this did not spread out because the ruling class had little interest in devices affecting the labouring classes.

Shipbuilding:

  • Entire vessel in medieval times constructed of wood.
    • To join the planks rabbeting was widely practiced in India.
    • The next step was to smear the planks with indigenous pitch or tar, and lime with the double purpose of stopping up any fissures and preserving the timber from sea worms.
  • The Indians did not adopt the European method of caulking because:
    • Caulking did not have any technical superiority over the indigenous method.
    • It was more expensive.
  • India adopted use of iron nails and clamps from the Europeans.
    • Abul Fazl: for a ship of Akbar 468 mans of iron were used.
    • Mughal paintings establish the presence of iron nails, strips and clamps for constructing vessels.
  • Iron anchors were also adopted from Europeans during the seventeenth century. Earlier, anchors were made of big stones.
  • Earlier buckets were used to bail out the leaked water in the ships. The European Iron chain-pump was started to be used in India.
    • But it was not used widely as these were not manufactured in India: they were purchased or borrowed from Europeans.
  • As early as 1612, the ships at Dabul were reported to have been made “Christian like with topps and all their tackings (sails) accordingly”.
  • Another contemporary, Bowrey, thought that the master carpenters of the Krishna-Godavari delta on the Coromandal coast could construct and launch ships as any shipwright.
    • Many of them had learned the techniques of European construction from European craftsmen.
  • Surat was another centre for such ship construction.
  • By the end of the seventeenth century, “European country-traders made little technical distinction between ships built in the west and those built in the countries of the Indian Ocean.”
  • Side by side with the improvement of ship-design, there was strengthening of their hulls to absorb the shock of artillery.
    • Indian merchantmen began to carry guns and armed men for defence.
    • The Ganj-i-Sawai, the biggest ship of Aurangzeb, was armed with 80 cannons and 400 muskets.
    • However, the cannons of these ships were useless against European ships because of their often faulty location, the unskilled marksmenship of the Indian gunners, and their poor navigational skills. Thus, the Ganj-i-Sawai fell to an English ship even without a proper combat.
  • All this shows the capacity of the Indian craftsmen to copy and produce a model indistinguishable from the original, using primitive tools.
    • An example of this was a horse-carriage on the English model built for Jahangir.
    • But such models were often not disseminated, nor improved upon.

Metallurgy:

  • The main features of metallurgical practices in India:
    • Fuel: for smelting was wood charcoal (coal not known).
    • The smelters used small furnaces.
    • The bellows were ribless and small which did allow efficient air-blast to generate very high temperature in the furnaces.
    • Iron and bronze was melted in diverse small furnaces. Since the quality of the molten metal in each furnace was not same, the fabricated object was not of high quality.
  • Abul Fazl describes the technique of making iron canons and handgun barrels at Akbar’s arsenal.
    • Perhaps these techniques were newly invented. Cannons were made of bronze, brass and iron.
  • “wootz” iron: Since 400 B.C it’s production was happening in India. It was exported to centres of sword-making like Damascus in Syria.
  • Various types of weapons were made in India.
  • Zinc was not known in Europe, but  extracted in India.
  • Many alloys were made, iron, steel, brass, bronze used in making  weapons.
  • These kinds of weapons were produced in a plant called Karkhana. Descriptions of castings of cannons are found in Babur Nama.
  • Screw cannon:
    • In order to carry heavy cannons on hill tops the cannon was made in  pieces and assembled subsequently.
    • Multi-barreled cannons were made in order to fire 17  barrels successively.
  • For coating the surface of copper with a mixture of zinc and tin,  threads were made from various metals like gold, silver which were used in textile.
    • Gold  & silver leaf was produced for use in goods and medicines.
  • Another dimension of  metallurgy was production of gold, silver and copper coins
  • Considered one of the most remarkable feats in metallurgy, the seamless globe was invented in Kashmir by Ali Kashmiri ibn Luqman in 998 AH (1589-90 CE),
  • Muhammad Salih Tahtawi:
    • He was  Mughal Metallurgist, Astronomer, geometric expert and Craftsman during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.
    • He is  remembered for the completion of the monumental Shah Jahan Mosque built in 1647-49)
    • In 1659, Muhammad Salih Thattvi headed the task of creating a massive, seamless celestial globe using a secret wax casting method in the Mughal Empire.
      • It was inscribed with Arabic and Persian inscriptions.
      • Twenty other such globes were produced in Lahore and Kashmir during the Mughal Empire.
      • It is considered a major feat in metallurgy..

Glass technology:

  • With the arrival of Muslims, pharmaceutical phials, jars and vessels of glass cane to India from the Islamic countries, but there is no evidence of fabricating these objects in imitation.
  • European brought variety of glass articles to India e.g.:
      • Looking-glasses (We did know how to make mirrors of metals but not of glass),
      • Spectacles,
      • drinking-glasses,
      • magnifying or burning glasses
      • telescopes.
    • Europeans gave these things to Indians as gift or sold them.
    • Thus, the Indians started using European glass articles without manufacturing them. Manufacturing started only in 2nd half of 17th century.
    • Mughal paintings exhibit European made sand or hour glasses only. Evidence for its manufacture in India comes from the 2nd half of the 17th century.

Printing press:

  • European movable metal types were brought to Goa around A.D. 1550 by the Portuguese.
  • Jahangir is once reported to have expressed doubt about types being cast in Persian or Arabic scripts during a discussion with the Jesuits, whereupon the latter promptly showed him a copy of the Arabic version of the gospel.
  • Bhimji Parekh was a chief broker of the English Company at Surat, took a keen interest in this technology. A printer was sent to India in A.D. 1674 at Bhimji’s request.

Time reckoning devices:

  • Clocks and watches:
    • Babur also describes the water-clock in the Baburnama. Abul Fazl, too, takes note of the details.
    • Europeans’ clocks and watches were often given in gift to Indians elite groups (Jahangir was presented a watch by Sir Thomas Roe).
    • The Jesuit church at Agra had a public clock-face with a bell
    • Indians didn’t accept European clocks:
      • One important reason for non-acceptance was the incompatibility of the Indian time-reckoning system with that of Europe at that time.
      • The Indian system had 60 “hours” (of 24 minutes) to the full day, and the European consisted of 24 hours of 60 minutes each.

Miscellaneous:

  • Building:
    • True Arch, dome and lime-mortar were already introduced in India by the Turks.
    • No significant development in building technology during 17th century.
    • Practice of preparation of a sort of “blue print” of the building to be constructed was started. This was called tarh (outline) in Persian.
    • The Indian buildings did not have window-panes and chimneys which Europeans used back home.
  • Boilers:
    • Indian continued with earthen pots to refine saltpetre and did not employ copper boilers like the Europeans.
  • Communication:
    • Oxen-drawn carts were in common use for transporting commercial goods.
    • Horse-drawn carriages were very rare: they were meant only for passengers.
      • Sir Thomas Roe presented to Jahangir an English coach drawn by four horses. The Emperor enjoyed a ride in it (he called it rath firangi).
      • The sovereign, and some nobles got such coaches built by Indian carpenters for their use. But this interest was short-lived.
  • Chemical discovery:
    • Itr Jahangir was the rose-scent which was a chemical discovery made in the early years of Jahangir’s reign. The Emperor records in his Memoirs (Tuzuk-i Jahangiri).
    • Saltpetre: Used for cooling water.
      • Abul Fazl comments that saltpetre, which in gunpowder produces the explosive heats, is used as a means for cooling water. He also gives the details of how to do so.
  • For grinding:
    • Akbar invented an oxen-drawn cart which, when used for travelling or for carrying loads, could grind corn also.
    • Watermill and windmills (asiya-i bad; pawan chakk) were scarcely used.
      • One Mughal painting (A.D. 1603) depicts an undershot watermill to illustrate a story set outside India proper.
      • One Windmill was erected at Ahmedabad in the seventeenth century whose partial remains could be seen there.
    • Handmills made of two stones were generally used for this purpose. It was a very old practice.
  • There were development in science and technology in several areas during Mughal period though it could not catch up with European which was one of the main reasons of the decline of Mughals and rise of British in India.

Astronomy:

  • The 16th and 17th centuries saw a synthesis between Islamic astronomy and Indian astronomy, where Islamic observational techniques and instruments were combined with Hindu computational techniques.
  • Mughal astronomers continued to make advances in observational astronomy and produced nearly a hundred Zij treatises.
  • The Mughal Emperors (1526-1858) took a keen interest in the development of astronomy.
    • They patronized astronomers in their royal courts.
    • The works thus produced were mainly  zijes (astronomical tables) and calendars
  • Humayun built a personal observatory near Delhi.
    • The instruments and observational techniques used at the Mughal observatories were mainly derived from the Islamic tradition.
    • One of the most remarkable astronomical instruments invented in Mughal India is the seamless celestial globe
    • Mulla Chand, a court astronomer of Emperor Humayun produced “Tashil Mulla Chand”, which was a redaction of Zije Ulugh Beg.
  • Fariduddin Munajjum, a court astronomer of Shah Jahan (d.1666), compiled Zije Shah Jehani.
    • The first section of the tables dealt with various calendars,
    • second section dealt with spherical astronomy,
    • third section dealt with determination of the motions of the planets and their positions in the sky.
  • Malajeet was an astronomer at Shah Jahan’s court.
    • He wrote Parsiprakasa (1643) which gave Arabic, Persian astronomical terms and their Sanskrit equivalents.
    • Two Hindu scholars namely Nitya Naad, & Menisvara, used Arabic, Persian and Greek works to synthesize Islamic traditions with those of India.
    • Mulla Mahmud Jaunpuri was a versatile scholar, expert in mathematics and astronomy.

Sawai jai Singh as an astronomer

  • Raja Sawai Jai (d. 1743) belonged to the Kacchawwa dynasty who entered imperial services as a Mansabdar during the reign of Aurangzab and am eminent position under Muhammad Shah.
  • His contribution towards the development of astronomy in 18th century is remarkable.
  • He had some Greek works on mathematics (including Euclid) translated into Sanskrit as well as more recent European works on trigonometry, logarithms and Arabic texts on astronomy.
  • Astronomical Observatories:
    • He was the founder of five major observatories (called Jantar Mantar) at
        • Delhi,
        • Jaipur,
        • Ujjain,
        • Mathura and
        • Banaras
      • of which the last three are now extinct.
    • The observatories consisted of geometric devices for
      • measuring time,
      • predicting eclipses,
      • tracking stars’ location,
      • ascertaining the declinations of planets, and
      • determining the celestial altitudes.
    • A sundial was very precise which can be used to tell the time to an accuracy of few seconds.
  • Astronomical Tables (Zij):
    • As he found the prevalent astronomical tables (Zij) in use at that time defective, he decided to prepare new ones.
    • First he built metal instruments which, however, did not come up to his idea of accuracy.
    • Therefore he constructed huge instrument in observatory at Delhi.
    • He was fluent in Persian and Arabic and was acquainted with Zij-i-Ulugh Beg.
    • Subsequently, to verify the correctness of his observations, he constructed instruments of the same type in Jaipur, Mathura, Banaras and Ujjain observatories.
    • In his five observatories Hindu and Muslim observers were employed and produced a set of astronomical tables called Zij-i-Jadid-i- Muhammad Shahi.
    • Zij-i-jadid-i-Mohammad Shahi‘s
      • first section deals with calendars,
      • the second deals with determination of heavenly bodies and
      • third covers the motions of the Sun, Moon and the rest of the planets, eclipses of the Sun and Moon.
    • He incorporated in his works latest European astronomical knowledge as is evidenced from the Zij which was based on Latin tables of Phillipe de Hire.
    • He was fluent in Persian and Arabic and was acquainted with Zij-i-Ulugh Beg.
  • Drawbacks in Jai Singh’s astronomy:
    • A great lacuna was the absence of the use of telescopes till the eighteenth century in India.
      • It made Jai Singh’s observatories outdated because he did not use the telescope for observation.
      • He did send a series of embassies to Portugal, but Portugal itself was out of touch with new developments in astronomy in England and Holland based on observation.
    • Jai Singh’s observatories were based on the Ptolemic view, repeated by Ulugh Beg, of the world as the centre of the universe, rather on Brahmagupta’s and Copernican view of the sun being the centre.
  • Jantar Mantar of New Delhi:
    • Following instruments within the observatory of Jantar Mantar in New Delhi:
      • Samrat Yantra:
        • The Samrat Yantra is a giant triangle that is basically an equal hour sundial.
        • At the time of the Samrat Yantra’s construction, sundials already existed, but the Samrat Yantra turned the basic sundial into a precision tool.
      • Jayaprakash Yantra:
        • The Jayaprakash consists of hollowed out hemispheres with markings on their concave surfaces.
        • From inside, an observer could align the position of a star with various markings.
Jantar_Mantar_Delhi_27-05-2005
Jantar Mantar observatory, New Delhi
  • Jantar Mantar of Jaipur:
    • The observatory in Jaipur consists of fourteen major geometric devices like  Smarat Yantra, Jai Prakash, Ram Yantra, Misra Yantra etc. for
      • measuring time,
      • predicting eclipses,
      • tracking stars’ location as the earth orbits around the sun,
      • ascertaining the declinations of planets, and
      • determining the celestial altitudes and related ephemerides.
    • Samrat yantra:
      • It is a sundial, can be used to tell the time to an accuracy of about two seconds in Jaipur local time., its shadow carefully plotted to tell the time of day. Its face is angled at 27 degrees, the latitude of Jaipur.
Laghu_samrat_yantra
samrat yantra, Jaipur

Alchemy:

  • Sake Dean Mahomed had learned much of Mughal Alchemy and understood the techniques used to produce various alkali and soaps to produce shampoo.
    • He was also a notable writer who described the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and the cities of Allahabad and Delhi in rich detail and also made note of the glories of the Mughal Empire.
  • Sake Dean Mahomed was appointed as shampooing surgeon to both Kings George IV and William IV.

Mathematics:

  • Faizi (1547-95) was a poet laureate of Emperor Akbar. At the suggestion of Akbar, Faizi translated Bhaskar Acarya’s (1114-60) Sanskrit work on mathematics Lilavati into Persian in 1587; containing theorems of arithmetic and algebra.
  • One of the distinguished families of Punjab that made significant contributions to mathematics was Ustad Ahmad Lahori (1580-1649) the architect of Taj Mahal & Red Fort.
    • One of his sons Ataullah Rashedi translated Bij Ganita describing the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan.
      • He also wrote Khulasa Raaz in Persian which dealt with arithmetic, algebra, and measurement.
      • His other book Khazinatul A’adad dealt with arithmetic, geometry of Euclid and algebra.
    • Another son Lutfullah Muhandis wrote Risala Khaws A’adad dealing with properties of numbers.
  • It appears that mathematics was not only associated with accountancy and revenue collection, but with astronomy and architecture as well.
    • A number of translations were made from Persian & Arabic into Sanskrit.
    • Maharaja Sawai Singh made major contributions in trigonometry, which was to find the sine of one degree and its parts, namely minutes and seconds.

Pharmacy:

  • Sultan Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316) had several eminent Hakims in his royal courts.
    • This royal patronage was a major factor in the development of Unani practice in India, but also of Greco-Islamic (Unani) medical literature with the aid of Indian Ayur-vedic physicians.
  • During the reign of Mughul kings of India several Qarabadains were compiled like
    • Qarabadain Shifae’ee,
    • Qarabadain Zakai,
    • Qarabadain Qadri and
    • Elaj-ul-Amraz.
  • In these pharmacopoeias quantities of drugs in a given prescription were specified, and methods of preparation.
  • The court physicians supervised the preparations of royal medicine, which were sealed to ensure safety.
  • Hakeem Ali Gilani was not only a physician but a renowned mathematician and a scientist.
    • He was the chief physician of Emperor Akbar. He invented a kind of sweet wine for getting rid of traveling fatigue.
  • Akbar ordered Abul Fazl to translate from Arabic into Persian Hayatul Haiwan, the celebrated zoological dictionary, compendium of folklore, and popular medicine, authored by Musa al-Damiri (d. 1406).
  • During the reign of Emperor Jahangir, Itr-i-Jehangiri was discovered by Noor Jehan.
  • Hakim Ain-ul-Mulk Shirazi composed for his royal patron emperor Shah Jahan Alfaz-al-Adwiyya (vocabulary of drugs).
    • It was printed in 1793 in Calcutta, and rendered into English by Gladwin.
  • Muhammad Raza of Shiraz wrote a treatise Riaz-i- Alamgiri on medicine, food and clothing, and was dedicated to Aurangzeb.
  • Hakim Akbar Arzani, was a court physician of Emperor Aurangzeb.
    • He wrote Tibbe Akbari, and Mizan al-Tibb.
  • During the British rule, Eastern medicine in India declined.
    • However the famous house of Hakim Sharif Khan of Delhi made a concerted effort to rejuvenate the decaying art of Unani medicine.
    • Hakim Ajmal Khan founded the Hindustani Dawakhana and the Tibbiya College in Dehli.
    • At the Tibbiya College, Dr Salimu-Zaman Siddiqui carried on chemical investigation of certain potent drugs and Ajmailain was produced.
    • At Lucknow, the Talim al-Tibb college was established under the auspices of Hakim Abdul Aziz.

Indian responses to European technology during the Mughal period

  • An important and interesting feature of the Mughal period was the exposure of the Indians to European science and technology.
  • The response of the Indians to European technology was not uniform. There were positive, negative and neutral (indifferent) responses which varied from one technology to another due to diverse valid reasons.
  • Positive response to European technology:
    • Response towards Ship building technology:
      • Planks of Indian ships were joined together by stitching or sewing them with ropes made of coir or wooden nails.
      • But Indians lost no time in adopting European technique of using iron nails and clamps which made ships stronger and durable.
      • In addition, anchors made of big stones were replaced by European iron anchors.
      • Indians used buckets to bail out the leaked water in the ships but during the second half of the 17th century, European iron chain pumps began to be used.
    • Response towards agricultural technology:
      • A number of crops were introduced by Europeans like Tobacco, Potato, maize, pine apple etc.
      • The technique of grafting was used by Portuguese to produce mangoes of best quality.
    • Response towards Astronomy:
      • Raja Sawai Jai Singh had some Greek works on mathematics and some European works on trigonometry, logarithms translated into Sankrit.
        • He incorporated into his works latest European astronomical knowledge as is evidenced from the Zij which was based on Latin tables of Phillipe de Hire.
    • The rulers and the nobles were constantly on the look out for European novelties.
      • Thus, we hear of globes of the world, glasses, spectacles, substantial house-clocks being purchased or presented.
    • India was backward in silk reeling where European technology was slowly adopted despite much opposition.
    • Portuguese ships and guns were seen at the basis of Portuguese superiority at sea, and an attempt was made to copy them.
      • Thus, the Zamorin of Calicut weaned away two Milanese from the Portuguese to manufacture guns for him. A
      • Portuguese writer, Castanheda, writes that four Venetians came to Malabar in 1505 to cast guns.
  • Negative response to European technology:
    • Response towards medical science:
      • Bernier held a very poor opinion of Indian knowledge of anatomy.
      • Indian hakims and vaids did not show any interest in European discovery of bood circulation by Harvey and Pecquet.
    • Response towards glass technology:
      • Europeans introduced a variety of glass articles like looking glasses, spectacle made of glass lenses etc. But the Indian response was not enthusiatic.
      • India remained backward in the sphere of glass technology.
        • Although bangles and jars were made, English drinking glasses, and mirrors were always in demand, so also spectacles.  None of them was manufactured in India.
        • A great lacuna, however, was the absence of the use of telescopes (dur-bin) till the eighteenth century. This meant hostile ships could not be sighted on sea.
          • It also made Jai Singh’s observatories outdated because he did not use the telescope for observation.
          • He did send a series of embassies to Portugal, but Portugal itself was out of touch with new developments in astronomy in England and Holland based on observation.
          • Also, Jai Singh’s observatories were based on the Ptolemic view, repeated by Ulugh Beg, of the world as the centre of the universe, rather on Brahmagupta’s and Copernican view of the sun being the centre.
    • Janhagir rejected British offer to construct water lifting device as it would lead to loss of works of labour and will endanger their livelihood.
      • An Englishman had offered to Jahangir to pump water out of the Jamuna, like the Thames at London, for the use of the ordinary people.
      • But the idea was pooh-poohed by Sir Thomas Roe, and went no further.
      • The water-pump on ship was rejected in favour of water bailed out by the khalasi or labourer on board ships.
      • However, the use of iron nails, the iron anchor, and the capstan to raise and lower it were accepted.
      • Absence of water-pumps meant that mining could not go below water-level in mines.
    • In the field of manufacturing cannons and muskets India remained technologically backward.
      • This was because the guns were not cast together as a single piece, but holes were made through the mould, and then brought together by a hot-ring placed over the pieces so that it fused with the barrel.
      • A single piece could not be cast because the furnaces were too small, because of poor bellows.
      • Good cast-iron could only be produced in large furnaces given high temperature by power-driven bellows.
      • By 1550, bellows in Europe were being worked by “trip-lugs on water-driven shafts, or by system of cranks, levers and weights.” In India, there was no improvement on the skin-bellows worked by wood or hands. 
    • According to Babur iron from seven or eight furnaces was used for making one cannon.
      • Since all the pieces could not be of the same quality, they were liable to burst.
      • But it is a mystery why the European employed by Mir Jumla in 1666, and later at Bengal to cast guns did not teach the Indians the right method to cast guns. This have been rectified by Mir Qasim in Bengal later, and by Ranjit Singh in the Punjab.
    • The technique of oil painting was rejected by the Indian painters.
  • Neutral response or Indifferent response to European technology:
    • Response towards time measuring devices:
      • European clocks and watches were gifted to Indians especially elite group.
        • For ex – Jahangir was presented a watch by Sir Thomas Roe.
        • However, there is no evidence to indicate its acceptance by any social group in India.
        • The absence of the screw and the spring may explain refusal to accept the European house clocks.
          • House-Clocks were a representation of the new science of physics growing in Europe and depended on cranks, levers and weights.
        • The one important reason for non-acceptance was the incompatibility of the Indian time reckoning system with that of European system.
      • Response towards Printing Press:
        • Jahangir once expressed doubts about types being cast in Persian and Arabic scripts but when he was an Arabic version of the gospel, Jahangir did not ask for it again.
        • However, in 1670s, Bhimji Parak, the chief broker of the English company at Surat took a keen interest in this technology.
  • Indian response to western science was “scrupulously selective in its nature, depending on convenience, utility, exigencies, or other material or pragmatic considerations.”
  • Abundance of skilled labour combined with low subsistence costs inhibited improvement in tools.
    • A finer product could be attained more cheaply by a larger application of labour and manual skill than by adopting a mechanical contrivence.
    • But there were cases where use of more labour or skill the product could not be attained, or invention and improvement would be cheaper than enormous use of muscle power.
    • Refusal to accept printing presses, and draw loom for weaving patterns have been given as examples of this.
  • Other reason of not adopting  new technology is given as “extreme specialisation” which was promoted by the caste system, with the father training his son in the same profession.
    • However, in all pre-modern societies, including Europe, artisanal skills were passed on from father to son.
    • Also, whenever a new profession, such as paper-making, making fire-works, dyeing, printing, painting of cloth arose, caste was no barrier for enlisting new entrants.

Could the merchantile class provide the capital needed for new technology since the artisan was too poor to do so himself? And could the ruling class provide the necessary scientific input?

  • Although merchants did bring the artisan under their control through the putting out or dadni system, they showed no sign in investing in new technology, or changing the existing system of production.
    • Thus, the tools remained under the ownership of the artisans.
    • The merchants’ lack of interest in new tools is shown by the fact that although the artisans were able to build the European type of ships, they continued to use the old, primitive tools. Thus, we do not hear of use of big saws or pulleys.
  • Ruling classes had the utmost contempt for those who worked with their hands.
    • Akbar’s experiment of working in the karkhanas with his own hands was not continued by any of his successors.
    • Hence, an attempt of using science to improve productivity or the product was beyond their ken.
  • The world view of the Mughal and the Hindu ruling classes was the product of a long tradition which was shaped by religion.
    • The task of breaking this tradition entailed a long and difficult struggle.
    • Jai Singh wrote in Introduction to the Zich of Ulugh Beg,
      • Religion disperses like mist, kingdoms are destroyed, but the work of the scientist remains forever.”
    • But Jai Singh was an exception in his time.
  • Abul Fazl lamented:
    • the blowing of the heavy wind of taqlid (tradition) and the dimming of the land of wisdom. Of old the door of “how” and “why” has been closed and questioning and enquiry have been deemed fruitless and tantamount to paganism”.
  • Thus, insularity, arrogance towards outside knowledge, and reluctance to undertake rational enquiry about which al Biruni had lamented with reference to the brahmans had become the hall-mark of the Mughal ruling classes.
    • The Mughal ruling class which enjoyed the highest standard of living at the time, did not feel threatened by the European superiority at sea, and found no incentive to go out and learn their science and technology.
    • Science and technology could hardly thrive and prosper in such an atmosphere.
  • Major innovations in technology can only take place when the technical knowledge is well-developed, in a theoretical framework, and is applied to improve or change the technology.
    • It is detrimental to both society and science when the available scientific knowledge is divorced from technology, or when there is no inter-action between scientists and technologists or artisans and craftsmen due to social or other factors.

3 thoughts on “Mughal: Science and technology”

  1. The water distribution system then, was well equipped and is a great example of civil engineering of that time, most of part of the town still getting water supply from that old system. This water distribution system was executed in the year 1615 AD, in the supervision of Abdul Raheem Khankhana. Khankhana’s darbari historian, Abdul baki wrote in “mayansire reheemi” that some expert geologists found water resources in Satpura’s region, then water was being carried out to some secret undermines for distributing it in town. These mines are about 80 to 100 feet deep and there are well designed ventilation system for air, light & cleanness of the way. After seeing all these arrangements of water supply, it also reminds that how conscious mughals were in order to save the water on that time. Mughal engineers gifted exemplary water supply system to Burhanpur town which is still actively used in town. They made 8 water-supply system which provides sufficient water inflow for town in past. They are counted among some highly appreciated engineering works done during Mughal dynasty in India. Most of the work done during rule of Mughal emperors Shahjahan & Aurangzeb. Their are number of underground water flow channels in Satpura hills that avails water to Tapti river. Mughal engineers controlled those water channels at 3 points to develop water-reservoirs which are known by the names “Mool Bhandara”, “Sukha Bhandara” and “Chintaharan Bhandara”. They are located in north of Burhanpur town and are at a height of approx. 100 feet from town land. Taking advantage of this height engineers made small canal towards town . In the time of Aurangjeb a ‘hebtulmulk’ cannon was built here in the supervision of Mohammad Hussein, today which is kept in security in Nagpur.

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