Marxist historian DN Jha, in an interview to a newspaper, said, “there is no science in the Vedas”. More than his lack of knowledge about the Vedas and India’s rich tradition of alchemy, the statement betrays his deep ideological biases which always seek to show ancient Hindus and Hinduism in poor light. Left historians and intellectuals have always been reluctant to acknowledge the profound contributions of the Hindus of old in the fields of philosophy, alchemy, medicine, mathematics, including astronomy, arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry and geometry. Moreover, there has been a concerted effort to devalue the contributions of Hindus in various fields.
For instance, although ancient Indians have contributed immensely to the growth of chemistry, no university in India has a book prescribed for students which makes a fair assessment of ancient Indians’ contributions.
In India, chemistry has evolved as a “handmaid of medicine” and later on as an “adjunct of the Tantric cult”, states Dr PC Ray, legendary Chemist, in his book A History of Hindu Chemistry.
The Rig Veda eulogizes the twin gods of healing Aswins, who fitted an iron limb on Vispala whose leg was cut off in a conflict.
The many gods in the Rig Veda are personifications of elements and natural phenomena. While Tulsi plant having many medicinal values is regarded as mother, herbs endowed with potent and active properties have been given status of gods. The scriptures extol the magic powers of Soma rasa which has “conferred immortality to the gods”.
Ancient rishis were aware of the therapeutic qualities of the preparations made out of plants. The plant apamarga, which is used in the preparations of medicines, is invoked as the “mistress of remedies”.
The Atharva Veda has slokas explaining the qualities and advantages of using pearl, gold and lead. This shows that people in the Vedic period had alchemical notions about gold and lead.
The science of alchemy witnessed much development since Charaka’s period, about 1000 years after the Atharv Veda. Charaka, in his medical treatise, regards Ayurveda as an upanga (subsidiary) of Atharv Veda. In the treatises of Charaka and Sushruta, there are descriptions about minerals and natural salts being used in the medicines. Buddhist monks also contributed greatly to the growth of alchemy. Many treatises like Rasarnava, Rasartna samuchaya, etc. were written by Buddhist scholars.
Certain European scholars, like the Leftists of today, were keen to show that all Hindu treatises were of recent origin and Indian scholars were influenced by Greeks, despite mounting evidence.
Al-Baruni, well-versed in Arabic, Greek, astronomy and alchemy, who visited India in the XI century has written extensively about Indians’ proficiency in chemistry. He says: “The adepts in this art try to keep it concealed, and shrink back from intercourse with those who do not belong to them. Therefore, I have not been able to learn from the Hindus which methods they follow in this science and what element they principally use, whether a mineral or an animal or a vegetable one. I only heard them speaking of the process of sublimation, of calcination, of analysis and of the waxing of talc, which they call in their language “talaka”, and so I guess that they incline towards the mineralogical method of alchemy. …They have a science similar to alchemy which is quite peculiar to them. They call it Rasayana, a word composed with rasa, i.e, gold (rasa actually means mercury).”