History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2007: Q.5 (a)

History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2007: Q.5 (a)

Q.4 (a) Write a short essay on: “Alberuni on science in India”.


Alberuni was among first who made a deep study of Hindu sciences. He was the first scholar to study India and the Hindu scientific literature. Alberuni was impressed most by the Indian knowledge of astronomy, metrology, arithmetic, alchemy and geography which he mentioned in Kitab al-Hind.


He makes observation that science of astronomy is thr most popular wih the Indians because in various ways it is connected with their religion and that is why Indian astronomer should also be a good astrologer. He mentions the planets and their motions, the 12 signs of the Zodiac, the motion and different stages of the moon. He also describes the composition of the Earth and the Heavens as given in the Hindu sculptures. He discusses various astronomical terms such as kalpa, adhimasa etc and analyzes them. He makes comparison between Geek science of astronomy and the Indian.

Alberuni discusses the five Siddhantas (standard books) on the Indian astronomy:

(a) Surya Siddhanta
(b) Vasishtha Siddhanta
(c) Pulisa Siddhanta
(d) Romaka Siddhanta
(e) Brahma Siddhanta


In meterology, Alberuni enlists contemporary weights and measures like Suvarna, tola, Masha and Yava, Kala, Pada, Kudava, Prastha, Adhaka, Dropa and Surpa.
An interesting comparison has been made between tola and the Arabic Mithkal and Alberuni also worked out the equivalent weight of the two.


In arithmetic, Alberuni’s interest lies in the Indian order of numbers. He mentions the eighteen orders of numbers listed in Sanskrit literature.
Alberuni quotes the famous Indian astronomer  Brahmagupta on the science of numerical writing. Brahmagupta wrotes: “If you want to write one, express it by everything, which is unique, as the earth; two by everything which is double,as, e.g. black and white; three by everything which is three-fold.”


He refers to chemistry mainly in the context of alchemy. He condemns such ideas though he concedes the efficacy of some metals and chemicals for medicinal purposes. He had idea of Ayurvedaa and was aware of the Charak Samhita though not of Sushruta Samhita. Consequently, he has nothing to say on the art of surgery.

Criticism of Science in India

Although Alberuni regarded the Hindus as excellent philosophers, good mathematicians and astrologers, he considers his own knowledge superior. To prove his point of superiority he takes to the method of comparing Greek theories because of their being near akin and of their strictly scientific character as contrasted with those of the Hindus. He identifies Indian knowledge of alchemy (Rasayana) almost with witchcraft and Hindus with socerers.

He says : “The Hindus believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no kings like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs.They are haughty, foolishly vain, self-conceited, and stolid. Their haughtiness is such that, if you tell them of any science or scholar in Khorasan and Persian, they will think you to be both an ignoramus and a liar.”

Alberuni ascribed the decline of Indian science to the arrogance and growing insularity of the Brahmans.He condemns the hypocrisy of Brahmin Scholars, who inspite of knowing the scientific explanation of various natural phenomenon preferred to mislead the masses and keep them steeped in ignorance and supersitious.


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