Did Ancient Indian Sage Kanad Invent Atom for Real?

Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, a staunch Modi-supporter and now a BJP MP, has stirred another row over Ganesh Surgery, Kanad atom research and modern day plastic surgery.

While many modern scientists and of course, the Left party members will be annoyed at the glorification of Vedic culture and knowledge, the pertinent question is whether there is a missing link somewhere with our so-called glorious past or not?

The emphatic reference to casual air travel by Pushpak Viman in epics Ramayana and Mahabharata needs an explanation and so is the Akashvani that told Karna about his future and hundreds of such instances which were made in our puranas cannot be dismissed as wild imagination just because modern science fails to explain.

It may be a gigantic exercise but without finding that MISSING LINK with our past, we face the prospect of ridicule like so many believers in ancient tradition face today. Also, there is confusion in what our sages told us through Puranas, epics and sutras and what we see today.

Turning to what Kanad, a sage traceable to the 2nd century BC near Dwaraka, said about “ANU”, it could be interpreted as an atom in modern parlance or as a molecule going by the story about him.

It was attributed to Kanad that he found that the idea that anu (atom) was an indestructible particle of matter. The legend goes that it occurred to him while he was walking with food in his hand. As he nibbled at the food in his hand, throwing away the small particles, it occurred to him that he could not divide the food into further smaller parts and began to probe the smallest particle possible.

While he called the indivisible matter ANU, it could mean a molecule or even an atom. He also reportedly mentioned that ANU can have two states — an absolute static one and another in a state of motion.

His compilation of principles known as “Vaiseshikas” also focus on fusion of ANU with other particles to produce dvyanuka (Diatomic molecules) and tryanuka (triatomic molecules). While modern science cannot epirically prove what Kanad said, credit goes to the intellectual imagination of the sages of our ancient period.

This idea of smallest particle came to be known in India prior to the Greco-Roman world. But all Indian inventions or theories were based on logic and not on empirical or scientific experimentation. Even A.L. Basham, the Australian Indologist wrote about it as: “They were brilliant imaginative explanations of the physical structure of the world, and in a large measure, agreed with the discoveries of modern physics.”

Indian author Dilip M. Salwi said, “if Kanada’s sutras are analysed, one would find that his atomic theory was far more advanced than those forwarded later by the Greek philosophers, Leucippus and Democritus.”

From Narendra Modi to Nishank, it is anybody’s guess and imagination to bring forth those ancient Hindu Civilization’s scientific references. But what we lack is scientific explanation and empirical evidence as Basham said.

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