Title: A stronomy, Geography and Geology in Scriptures: Facts and Fictions
Speaker: Dr. O. N. Bhargava, FNA, Director (Retired), Geological Survey of India & INSA Honorary Scientist
Date & Time: August 30, 2014 at 10:00 AM
Venue: Physics Auditorium, Department of Physics, Panjab University, Chandigarh.
Chandigarh, August 30, 2014: Ancient India had made valuable contribution to several scientific disciplines including astronomy and geology. This was stated by Dr. Om Narain Bhargava, a distinguished geologist and former director of Geological Survey of India, in his thought-provoking lecture ‘Astronomy, Geography and Geology in Scriptures: Facts and Fictions’ delivered under the aegis of ‘monthly lecture series’ of the Society for Promotion of Science & Technology in India (SPSTI). The lecture was held in the Seminar Room of the Physics Department of Panjab University.
Dr. Bhargava said that the mysteries of universe, geological processes and evolution of life have evoked curiosity amongst human beings since time immemorial and almost all civilizations have made contribution to the understanding of astronomy and geology. In India, most of the findings and conclusions in several disciplines have been incorporated in various scriptures, most notably in the Vedic literature, comprising Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and Surya Sidhanta. Most of the references are philosophical and even symbolic that require deep understanding of Sanskrit and their philosophical interpretation. For example, Shani (Saturn) is mentioned as son of the Sun. The interpretation could be that the Saturn evolved out of the Sun; but then all planets had similar origin.
Citing several examples, Bhargava said that some of the facts mentioned in the Vedic literature are stunningly accurate, while others are quite off the mark. For example, dimension of the Universe (=Brahamand= Supreme Egg), diameters of various planets, distance of the Moon and the Sun from the Earth and the age of the Earth given in Surya Sidhanta are quite close to modern scientific findings. The universe according to scripture originated from a BINDU, akin to the Big Bang. The speed of light and diameters of several planets calculated are nearly precise, though in case of the Jupiter it is quite off the mark. The time of Pralaya and Mahapralyaya roughly coincide with major orogenies (mountain building activities) and important geological events, but it is difficult to say if these were based on some scientific evidence or just conjectures.
There is also a reference to the incarnation of God in form of a tortoise on the back of which Samundra Manthan had taken place with Meru Parvat as a churning rod. The modern finding is that the tortoise appeared in the Cretaceous time and that was also the period when wide-spread drifting of plates took place and India, like ‘Noah’s Arc, embarked on its most spectacular journey from Madagacar to its present position. There is a reference in Samundra Manthan about suturing of plates in Africa (Kenya and nearby localities).
The evidence of cold climate around Panchvati mentioned in the Ramayan can be substantiated by modern studies. The Saraswati River, mentioned in the Rig Veda, has been found to be correct on the basis of detailed scientific findings. The studies have shown that Dwarka of Krishna had existed in ancient times and was destroyed by a major earthquake and tsunami. The evolution of life as worked out by the modern paleontologists has a crude parallel in the Puranas.
The lecture was followed by intense discussion. There was a general consensus that the subject requires concerted research and the same should be funded by government of India. The research may lead to better understanding of Indian contribution to cosmology and geology.