• India had a rich tradition of science and technology, advance in these fields had slowed down after the eighth century but not come to a standstill, as the works of Shripati and Bhaskaracharya II (AD 1150) in the field of mathematics show.
  • Al-Biruni (d.1053) ascribed the decline of Indian science to the arrogance and growing insularity of the brahmans. He was the first scientist of Islam who made a deep study of Hindu sciences. He was the first scholar to study India and the Hindu scientific literature. He has been described as the founder of Indology. He studied Sanskrit diligently. In his Kitab-al-Hind (Researches on India), he  described India’s cultural, scientific, social and religious history. Due to military  incursions of King Mahmud of Ghazna in India, Hindu scholars had moved to remote religious centres. Biruni’s approach to Hindu sciences was comparative, making analogies between Greek and Hindu civilizations. His comparison of two civilizations led him to the conclusion that Hindus could not bring sciences to classical perfection, and that scientific theories of  the Hindus “are in a state of utter confusion, devoid of any logical order, and in the last instance always mixed up with the silly notions of the crowd”. Biruni regarded the essence of Hindu religion as a form of monotheism, idol worship as ignorant passions of the people. He was the first to introduce the study of Bhagavad Gita to the Muslim world, and the first Muslim to study the Puranas and to translate Patanjali and Samkhya into Arabic. In considerable detail he outlined the principles of Hindu astronomy, geography, mathematics and medicine.
  • After the coming of the Turks, there was a greater interaction of Islamic or what was called Arab science with India. Thus, 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. 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. Zia al-Din Nakhsabi’s adaptation of 52 short stories from Sanskrit into Persian in 1330 entitled Tuti Nama (Book of Parrot) is the outstanding achievement of Tughlaq’s reign (not related to Science &Tech).
  • 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:


  • 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. While there appears to have been little concern for theoretical astronomy, 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. In particular, 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.
  • Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh (d.1743) was an astronomer of the first order. 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. As he found the prevalent tables 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 at Delhi huge masonry instruments. 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 Zijey Jadid Muhammad Shahee. He was fluent in Persian and Arabic and was acquainted with Zij-i-Ulugh Beg. 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. Zije-i-Jadid 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 & Moon, the appearance of the new Moon.
  • The Jantar Mantar is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Sawai Jai Singh.It still exist in Delhi and Jaipur.
  • There are three instruments within the observatory of Jantar Mantar in New Delhi:
    • Samrat Yantra: The Samrat Yantra, or Supreme Instrument, 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.
    • Misra Yantra: The Misra Yantra was designed as a tool to determine the shortest and longest days of the year. It could also be used to indicate the exact moment of noon in various cities and locations regardless of their distance from Delhi. It was the only structure in the observatory not invented by Jai Singh II.

    Jantar Mantar observatory, New Delhi
  • 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.
  • The samrat yantra which 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.

    samrat yantra, Jaipur


  • 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 capitol 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 ordered the construction of two notable canals: Nahr-i-Faiz and Shah Nahr, which drew water from the Yamuna to various irrigated fertile lands. 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.


  • 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.


  • 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 Jehan. 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. Maharajh Sawai Singh made major contributions in trigonometry, which was to find the sine of one degree and its parts, namely minutes and seconds.


  • 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 (d1406).
  • During the reign of Emperor Jehangir, 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 Dehli 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.


  • 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),
  • 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.(Muhammad Salih Tahtawi 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).

    File:Islamic Celestial Globe 01.jpg
    Celestial globe using a secret wax casting by Muhammad Salih Tahtawi

Volley gun:

  • Fathullah Shirazi (d. 1582), a Persian polymath and mechanical engineer who worked for Akbar, developed a volley gun with multiple gun barrels similar to hand cannons.
  •  Fatehullah Sherazi reformed the Calendar. 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. He also developed 17 barrelled cannon, fired with a matchlock.


  • Akbar was the first to initiate and utilize metal cylinder rockets known as bans particularly against War elephants, during the Battle of Sanbal.
  • 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

Damascus steel:

  • 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.

Canon Foundry:

  • 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. The liquid molten metal would fill a reservoir chamber and into a cannon mold in the casting pit. 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.
  • 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.
  • The European impact on India was first felt with the coming of the Portuguese. 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.
  • In the field of ship-building, we are told that 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. If anything, they seems to have preferred the local ships, as the standard of finish and general workmanship remained high.”
  • 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. As a contemporary, Fryer, remarked in 1670 that “… some of their ships carry 30 or 40 pieces of cannon, more for show than service…” Thus, the Ganj-i-Sawai fell to an English ship even without a proper combat.
  • It were not so much the technological factors, as political and societal factors including individual dedication which were responsible for the Indian weakness on sea. When the Indians fought for themselves i.e. as pirates, than for a distant master, they did better. Even the Omani fleet built in India was able to deal with English piracy and threaten Surat.
  • 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.

Why with an abundance of skilled craftsmen, and abundance of liquid capital, India remained backward in the field of technology during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, although with the arrival of the English and the Dutch traders, there was increasing contact with the Europeans at various levels, and knowledge about Europe was growing?

  • 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.
  • However, the Indian ruling class was not concerned with “toys” only. Abul Fazl was aware of the discovery of America by the Europeans and expressed appreciation of European painting. The governor of Junnar interrogated Fryer in 1670 on “the state of Europe, the government, policy and learning”.
  • Bernier’s patron, Danishmand Khan, was interested in the philosophy of Descarte, and was interested in scientific matters, such as astronomy, geography and anatomy
  • These contacts did not, however, spread out, or induce a more systematic study of the western sciences.
  • 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.
  • Even 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 seems to have been rectified by Mir Qasim in Bengal later, and by Ranjit Singh in the Punjab.
  • Efficient water pump was another weak point. 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. However, the rich Indian tradition of mining zinc, brass and silver in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh is a point which cannot be forgotton.
  • The absence of the humble screw and spring in India made manufacture of machinery difficult. In place of a screw, a piece of wire was soldered on.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. One reason for not accepting the house-clock was the different system of time reckoning in India. However, this did not prevent China from adopting the house -clock.
  • 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.
  • India was backward in silk reeling where European technology was slowly adopted despite much opposition.
  • India also 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.
  • It has been argued that Indian response to western science was “scrupulously selective in its nature, depending on convenience, utility, exigencies, or other material or pragmatic considerations.” It has also been argued that 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.
  • 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.
  • It has been argued further that “extreme specialisation” was promoted by the caste system, with the father training his son in the same profession since he had no option to move to another station. However, this argument has limited validity. 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.
  • Regarding resistance to labour saving devises, this again was not peculiar to India, as the Luddite movement in Britain during the 18th century shows.

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?

  • Regarding the merchants, although they 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.
  • Regarding the ruling classes, they 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.
  • Finally, it must be conceded that 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 this 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.

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