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Roots of Indian Science: Part E – Physics in Ancient India

This part features astronomy and physics in Vedic times which are described in the two schools of Nyaya and Vaisheshika.



If you are a new reader, we request you to first read the previous parts of the series here:
Roots of Indian Science: Science in the Vedas – Part A
Roots of Indian Science: Science in the Vedas – Part B
Roots of Indian Science: Part C – Ancient Indian Universities
Roots of Indian Science: Part D – Indian Science During the Colonial Era

Abstract –

Achievements of the glorious era of physics in ancient India are highlighted in this article. Our seers and scholars in the Vedic era made pioneering contributions to astronomy and basic physics, most of which have now been vindicated by rigorous theory and/or experiments. However, their findings remained largely confined to India and did not reach the west in the absence of lack of exchange of information as well as people in Vedic times. This was the major reason for Indian contributions not getting the due recognition they rightfully deserved. The major drawback of Indians in those days was lack of proper instruments, particularly in the field of astronomy, as a result of which some of their findings were rather speculative. In contrast to this, the western scientists had either developed or had access to relevant instruments and obtained results that stood the test of time.

5.1 Introduction:

The two schools of Nyaya and Vaisheshika are two important Vedic texts which throw light on contemporary science, especially astronomy and physics, in the Vedic era. The existence of natural forces such as earth’s gravitation and magnetic fields were well known during the Vedic period. Subhash Kak and Raja Ram Mohan Roy studied Vedic texts and brought out some interesting aspects of physics described in various Vedas, as summarized below [1-4].

1. Energy and mass are equivalent.
2. Both heat and light radiation are a manifestation of energy.
3. Light comprises discrete particles.
4. A particle also has a wave nature, called the wave-particle duality now.
5. Radiation has wave nature.
6. A wave can be absorbed, reflected or refracted by certain materials.
7. Space-time constitutes a frame of reference in which the physical universe exists.
8. All the physical elements are made of discrete and distinct paramanus (atoms).

These aspects are dealt with in the present day physics, through the laws of motion, gravitation, thermodynamics, wave mechanics, hydrostatics, classical and quantum mechanics, nuclear and atomic physics, and electromagnetic theory.

The Nyaya and Vaisheshika philosophies encouraged a scientific culture in ancient India. However, we do not find reference to any working instrument in these texts in support of scientific principles enunciated. The Vedic texts basically offer a theoretical interpretation of various natural phenomena in terms of laws of physics, expressed through Sanskrit verses.

5.2 The Nyaya Sutras (NS) and Vaiseshika Darshan (VD):

Physics has some distinct aspects which distinguish it from other science subjects [5]. Study of matter involves its dimensions, physical properties, changes in its state etc. These quantities can be measured experimentally and expressed quantitatively. This makes it possible to express the various phenomena and their interrelationships quantitatively with the help of mathematical equations which define the governing laws. The philosophical part of Nyaya-Vaisheshika deals with this distinct aspect of physics.

The Nyaya Sutras (NS) of Akṣapāda Gautama (550 BC) deal with Tarka-Vidyā or the science of logic, and Vāda-Vidyā or the science of debate. The Nyāya sutras are divided into five books; each book is further subdivided into two āḥnikas. It is believed that Mahāṛśi Akṣapāda Gautama discussed all the Nyāya sutras in ten lectures, corresponding to the 10 āḥnikas.

Vaiseshika Darshan (VD) of Kanada explains the entire physics in two volumes in the verse form. The Nyaya-Vaiseshika Sutra (in 12 chapters) has 575 sutras in it.

An English translation of the Nyaya-Vaisheshika, written by Umesh Mishra

Several centuries after Kanada, Prashastapada explained the contents of Vaisheshika in his commentary Svartha Dharma Sangraha. He described the composition of earth, water, air and fire in terms of their atomic constituents that excludes space since its nature is taken to be non-atomic.

5.3 Amsu Bodhini:

The Amsu Bodhini of Maharshi Bharadwaj is another cosmological text that deals with the evolution of the universe. It propounds that the evolution of the universe is due to Bindu Vishput/Maha Vishput (big bang) which leads to the formation of the various solar systems as well as their Suns.

5.4 Matter:

The Nyaya-Vaisheshika system recognized nine elements or substances, namely earth, water, fire, air, ether, time, space, soul, and mind that are responsible for the formation of the universe as well as the evolution of life. Atomic particles take part in the physical and chemical reactions between different substances (Padarthadharma Sangraha). In the process of creation of matter, energy is conserved (Samkhya). The property of the matter (Satva), the principal activity of matter (Rajas) and inactivity (inertia) of matter are recognized in Samkhya philosophy. Integration and disintegration of matter are basically atomic phenomena [6-8].

The matter was perceived through the characteristics manifested by it, such as sound, taste, touch and smell. The Nyaya-Vaishesika philosophy also propounds ‘duality of matter’ by assigning a numeric property corresponding to the relationship of the “whole” matter in relation to its “component” parts.

It is well known now that matter exists in four different forms: solid, liquid gas, and plasma (which were then known as Fire, Air, Water, and Earth respectively). We now know that matter consists of molecules and atoms. An atom is characterized by its atomic number.

Two or more atoms/ molecules combine to form new substances characterized by different properties. Further, there is the existence of wave-particle duality.

5.5 Motion:

The Vaisheshika recognized motion as an inherent property of matter. Prasastapada (600AD) classified motion into twelve different types [4] that include rectilinear motion, curvilinear motion (gamana), rotatory motion (bhramana), and vibratory motion (spandana). He differentiated between impressed motion (samskara) and the three types of samskara – vega (momentum/persistent tendency), bhavana (mental impression), and stithisthapaka (elasticity). Prasastapada believed that when a body falls under the influence of gravity, the motion is due to gravity as well as samskara. Samskara persists till the motion lasts.

However, these texts mention that at any given time there can be only one motion in a body, which is, however, not true. Since the Vaisheshika did not explore the subject further, they did not arrive at the logical expression which was later given mathematically by Newton as F=m.a.

5.6 Space and time:

Vachaspati Misra (840AD) in his Nyayasuchi-Nibandha, states that the position of a particle in space could be calculated by assuming that its motion takes place relative to another particle and measuring it along three (imaginary) axes. Eight centuries later Rene Descartes (French, 1644AD) introduced the Cartesian coordinate system which is still in use.

Bhaskaracharya (1150AD), in his Siddhanta Shiromani and Ganitadhyaya, gave an expression for the average velocity of an object as v=s/t where‘t’ is the time taken by it to cover a distance‘s’ with the average velocity ‘v’. According to Bhaskaracharya, the instantaneous position of a planet is determined from its position at two successive instants of time, assumed to move with a uniform velocity.

The modern unit of time is second (s) which is defined as 1/86400th of the length of a mean solar day. This agrees with the ancient Indian method of measurement of time in terms of ‘kshana’ which equals 0.044s = 44ms.

It is remarkable that ancient Indians were capable of measuring time up to millisecond accuracy! According to this unit, length of one day equals 19, 44,000 kshanas, which is equal to 85556 seconds, a value close to the present value (86400 seconds).

Truti (= 2.9625 x 10-4s) is the smallest unit of time measured by ancient Indian astronomers. The Shilpashastra records the smallest measure of length as the paramanu =1/549525 of an inch. This measure corresponds to the smallest beam thickness of the Nyaya-Vaisheshika school – the trasarenu, which is the size of the smallest particle (mote) that is visible when a sunbeam illuminates the space inside a dark room through a hole.

Varahamihira (600 AD) propounded that 86 trasarenus equal one anguli, which in turn equals three-fourths of an inch.

5.7 Elasticity:

Deformation of a substance by application of a force and regaining of its original shape after the force is withdrawn were well known in ancient India. The Vaisheshikas were familiar with the concept of elasticity (stithisthapaka) as a type of samskara, and the property of dense materials comprising closely packed molecules. Displacement of these molecules gives rise to the property of elasticity of a substance which makes its material to regain its original shape after the applied force is withdrawn.

Elasticity can essentially be considered as a force. For example, when a bow is bent for shooting an arrow, the very act of the impelling that generates an opposing pull which is activated as soon as the impelling pull is withdrawn. This act restores the original shape of the bow – a manifestation of the property of elasticity, and initiates motion of the arrow.

Hooke’s Law deals with the former aspect of elasticity while the Vaisheshika emphasized the latter aspect. According to the present day physics, stress (the external force applied) and strain (the degree to which an object yields in response to a given stress) remain proportional so long as the strain produced in the object is within certain limits.

5.8 Fluidity:

Ancient Indians described a fluid as “An extremely subtle, supernatural fire that imparts the property of fluidity to water atoms”. Prasastapada visualized fluidity as a property of water, earth and fire, expressed by the act of flowing just as gravity manifests by falling down of a body towards the earth’s surface. Natural fluidity was seen as an exclusive property of water, incidental fluidity belonged to earth and fire. This was because fire melts both butter and gold, which become fluid upon melting. The property of fluidity was ascribed to earth because it offers an easy flow of earth particles. However, water can lose this property upon solidification, e.g. as snow and hail. The property of fluidity is also a cause of motion – a substance can flow only if it possesses this property.

5.8.1 Viscosity:

Viscosity (sandrata) is the property that causes cohesion between water molecules and the smoothness of water itself. It was thus seen as an operative cause of conjunction. According to physics, viscous fluids can hold the fluid molecules together withstanding finite velocities.

A ‘perfect liquid’ is characterized by zero viscosity but, however, no such natural liquid is known as yet.

5.8.2 Surface Tension:

The cause of surface tension/capillary motion (abhisarpana) was unknown and unseen (adrshta) but the ancient Indians were fully aware of this phenomenon. Sankara Misra (1500AD) gave two examples of this phenomenon in his treatise Upaskara as follows:

1. The ascent of sap from root to stem and eventually to the branches and leaves of a plant, and
2. The ability of liquids to penetrate through pores of porous vessels, such as earthen pots made of clay.

5.8.3 Evaporation:

Evaporation was considered to be due to dispersion of fluid particles caused by nodana (impelling push) or abhigata (impact) of the heat rays of the sun, while the ascent of fluid particles was considered as a result of the impact or push due to contact of the surface of the fluid with the surrounding air.

Sankara Misra observed that boiling involved a similar process – the ascent of water particles caused by the tejah-paramanu (heat corpuscles).

Vedic texts mention the evaporation of water from oceans and open water bodies due to Sun’s heat and subsequent condensation of water vapour in the atmosphere resulting in the formation of clouds and rain.

5.9 Hydrostatics:

Vallabhacharya (1200AD) in his Nyaya-Lilavati pointed out the resistance offered by water to an object falling thorough it but stopped short of discussing the principle involved. It is interesting to note that Archimedes principle, discovered much later (in the 3rd century BC), finds no mention in the scientific literature describing contributions of ancient India in this regard. This shows that there was no interaction between India and western world in those times. It was only after the Arabs who visited India and made bridges between India and the western world that resulted in the exchange of scientific information.

5.10 Heat:

Parispanda, the atomic and molecular motions in the matter (substances), such as whirling, circling, or harmonic, was known in ancient India. The Nyaya-Vaisheshika believed that all matter except akasha (ether) contained parispanda, and that all atoms are in a state of constant motion. Akasha, being non-atomic in nature, is nishkriya (inert). Parispanda was considered to be responsible for generating heat.

Sankara Misra in his Upaskara dwelt on the properties of heat, but lack of relevant instruments prevented him from making any quantitative measurement of heat. During the 10th-11th century AD, Udayana recognized Sun as the source of heat responsible for all chemical changes that take place on the Earth. Vijnanabhikshu (17th century AD) discussed heat as a latent factor in the earth element. Baking of an earthen pot by fire is explained in two ways, viz. pilupakavada (action of fire particles on isolated atoms) and the pitharapakavada. The tejas element discussed by Prasastapada referred to the heat particles that affect molecular groupings (vyuhas), i.e. those responsible for causing chemical changes.

The Pilupakavada theory explains baking of an earthen pot due to the transformation of the molecules of the pot into atoms; a constant action of heating of atoms by fire results in changing the colour of the pot from black to red. His Nyaya School disagreed with the Vaisheshika – pointing out that if the fire particles were indeed responsible for reducing molecules into their atomic state, the pot should eventually vanish!

Clearly, the fire particles act upon the pot as a whole, resulting in atomic conjunctions and disjunctions. Thus, there is no change in the shape of the pot, but only its colour.

5.11 Light:

Akṣapāda Gautama, the author of Nyaya-sutra, states that rays of light from the eye come in contact with an object, similar to the light emanating from a lamp that illuminates various objects around it. This mistaken belief was based on the then prevailing view that rays of light emanate from the eyes of felines.

The Nyaya-Vaisheshika system propounds that just as the light from a lamp spreads in a circular geometry to illuminate the objects around it, the tejas (light) from an eye spreads out in concentric circles with increasing diameter to enable the objects encountered by it to be visible.

The Mimamsaka School believed that vision too fans out in circles of progressively increasing diameters, ending at the object. This was also regarded as the range of vision. It considered a flame to comprise light particles (now known as photons) that are in constant motion and forming some kind of radiation diffusing away from the wick. Chakrapani, however, felt that light rays move out in all directions quite similar to sound waves, with the difference that light travels faster than sound.

Both these sutras are, however, incorrect. Modern physics accepts a combination of these two views, but explains image formation due to light falling on an object which is reflected by it and is perceived by the eye as an image of the object formed on the retina.

5.11.1 Reflection of Light:

Reflection, as discussed by Varahamihira, was thought to be caused by back-scattering of light particles falling on an object (kiranavighattana, murcchana). Vatsyayana refers to this phenomenon as rashmiparavartana. This was propounded to explain the casting of the shadow of an object, opacity of materials etc.

5.11.2 Refraction of Light:

Refraction was considered to be due to ability of light to penetrate the inter-atomic spaces of translucent or transparent materials. Uddyotakara drew a comparison of this phenomenon with fluids moving through porous objects – tatra parispandah tiryaggamanam parisravah pata iti.

5.11.3 Mirrors and Lenses:

There are references in Vedic texts on prism, its setting, calculations and instructions to make lenses and prisms. Light can be absorbed, reflected or refracted by certain materials.

Vyaamanika Shastra mentions certain instruments, probably telescopes, lasers, hologram projectors, microscopes, spectrometers and solar cells.

Darpanaadhikaranam (mirrors and lenses), the third chapter of Vyaamanika Shastra, states that mirrors and lenses were used in vimanas (aeroplanes). Lalla in Mukura-kalpa mentioned seven types of mirrors, namely:

Vishwakriyaa darpana, or television mirror;
Shaktyaakarshana darpana, or power-capturing mirror;
Vyroopya darpana, or appearance changing mirror;
Kuntinee darpana;
Pinjulaa darpana;
Guhaagarbha darpana; and
Rowdree darpana, or terrifying mirror

These mirrors and lenses were used in different parts of vimanas; for example, Vishwakriyaa darpana was designed in such a way that when it was fixed on a revolving stand near the pilot, he could observe any object or obstacle encountered on the flight path of the aircraft[5].

5.11.4 Nature of Light:

Recognition of various colours by the human eye was explained by the Nyaya-Vaisheshika as being caused by the nature of human eye which was considered to be made up chiefly of unseen tejas particles. Buddhists, however, believed that the eye-balls were the physiological organs of eye and were able to see things due to light rays emanating from an external source.

They did not agree with the view that the eye itself was a source of light rays.

Light was thus understood in a variety of ways. Colour and touch are part of perception; for instance, the Sun’s rays can be seen by its reflection/scattering by various objects on which it falls by the eye and their heat is felt by the skin.

As we now know, light is an electromagnetic wave; a proper understanding of the nature of light took several centuries. Ultimately it was Newton who separated white light into its seven constituent colors. Ancient Indians calculated speed of light; they were aware of its wave nature and also the fact that white light consists of seven colours.

Light is a form of energy and is composed of discrete particles called photons. This fact was not understood till Max Plank and Albert Einstein in the 20th century propounded quantum theory after studying black body radiation and the photoelectric effect. The Mimamsa text reads: A flame of light produced by a burning wick is considered to comprise light particles that are in constant motion, forming a radiation diffusing away from the wick. The field of vision of human eye extends out in concentric circles of increasing diameters (wave-fronts) and ends at the object.

According to Ayurvedic texts light arriving at the retina serves to illuminate the world and thus constitutes the faculty of vision. Vachaspati Misra interpreted light as composed of minute particles emitted by materials that strike the eyes. The eyes were considered to be made up chiefly of unseen tejas particles (may be these refer to eye pigments). The Yoga Shastra and Upanishads list seven rays as constituents of white light, viz. red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. The Kundalini tantra lists seven main energy vortices in the human body, from the base of the spine to the top of the head, each vibrating with a certain frequency and characterized by a certain colour [9-10].

5.11.5 Spectrometer:

Maharshi Bharadwaj’s Amsu Bodhini mentions Dwanata Pramkar yantra (Radiation spectrometer), which indicates that Spectroscopy was practiced in India in Vedic times. It is a novel spectrometer that splits light into its constituent colours employing prisms. Three types of rays (gunas) are identified ‘sa’, ‘ra’ and ‘la’ which are now known as infrared, visible and ultraviolet. During the Vedic period, literature describing procedure for making prisms and lenses has been found.

Recently scientists at National Metallurgical Lab at Jamshedpur have constructed an ancient type of spectrometer based on the description given in Amsu Bodhini. It was also published in India’s prestigious scientific journal, Proceedings of Indian National Science Academy.

5.11.6 Radiation Spectrometer:

In the book Amsu Bodhini, electromagnetic radiation is explained as due to movement of high velocity positrons (anti- particles of electrons) and electrons that gives rise to three gunas, which are defined as infrared, visible and ultraviolet. In the Yantra Saraswana chapter of Amsu Bodhini, 109 different types of machines are described comprising 52 different components. The Dwanata Pramkar yantra comprises 15 components. The various shlokas in the chapter give the procedure for their construction.

5.11.7 Color of Light:

Rig Veda, verse- 4. 44. 9 reads “Seven horses draw the chariot of the sun, tied by snakes” In this poetic expression “horse” symbolizes a ray of light. As the path of a snake’s motion is tortuous, it would therefore imply that people knew that light travels in a curved path, a paradigm of the theory of relativity according to which space-time is curved. This is further corroborated by a verse in the Atharvaveda which says: there are seven types of sun’s rays ‘sapta surayasya rashmayah’.

5.12 Sound:

The Nyaya School propounded that sound waves originate in akasha (ether) and not in air. Vachaspati Misra and others held the view that sound is not to be considered as a kind of motion since akasha is nishkriya (inert, incapable of action). Prastapada hypothesized that sound was borne by air and propagates as concentric circles of increasing diameter, similar to the movement of ripples in water. Ganesa (14th century AD) in his Tattva-chintamani, believed that sound waves were carried by air. The Mimamsaka School held the view that the existence as well as propagation of sound were due to condensation and rarefaction of air molecules. This agrees with the modern view of propagation of sound in air. The intensity and timbre of sound was seen as a consequence of the varying kampasantana-samskara (vibrations) of air molecules. Sound also exhibited the property of reflection, – giving rise to
pratidhvani (echo).

Musical pitches (shrutis) were seen as caused by momentum and frequency of vibrations. A swara (tone) was believed to consist of a shruti (fundamental tone) and some anuranana (partial tones or harmonics). The relationship between shruti and swara can be understood as – parinama (nodal change), vyanjana (manifestation), jativyaktyoriva tadatmyam (genus and species), and vivartana.

In the commentary by Prashastapada, as given in the Vedic texts, sound was considered as a form of energy which propagates as waves similar to those observed on a vibrating string.

The power of sound is demonstrated in various epics, such as King Ravana of Sri Lanka transporting blocks of gold to far off Mount Kailash located in the Himalayas employing the resonance effect of sound.

5.13 Magnetism:

While there is no specific mention of magnetic needles and magnetic phenomena in the early texts, Sankara Misra in his treatise Upaskara, did report the attraction of an iron needle towards a magnet. He also discussed the production of magnets by rubbing together potential magnetic materials and placing them along the magnetic poles of a magnet.

King Bhoja in his Yuktikalpataru (1100AD) cautioned ship builders against using iron in the bottom of vessels, for this would render them vulnerable to hitting magnetic rocks, if present, at the sea bottom.

Magnetism finds reference in Rig Veda Mandala, verse I.164.9 (The text is organized in the form of 10 books, known as Mandalas, of varying age and length) describing magnetic field surrounding the earth as well as its atmospheric layers. This indicates that the ancient Indians knew of the existence of earth’s magnetic field. Sushruta (600BC), the first Indian surgeon used magnets for surgical purposes for treating various diseases. Magnets were believed not only to attract iron but also known to possess mysterious healing properties. The Atharvaveda also mentions the treatment of certain diseases with ‘Sikta’ and ‘Ashman’ which mean ‘sand’ and ‘stone’ respectively and are now known as ceramic magnets. Movement of an iron rod towards a magnet (electromagnetic induction) is highlighted in the various VD sutras. The para-physical energy described in these sutras may be indicative of the phenomenon of electrostatic attraction.

5.14 Electricity:

Electrostatic attraction was observed by Sankara Misra – grass and straw were attracted by amber. The exact cause for this phenomenon, however, was not known at that time and it was, therefore, deemed adrshta (invisible).

5.14.1 Electricity in Atharvaveda:

According to the Rigveda, Atharvan produced fire by using mechanical devices and Vishvakarma created an instrument of attrition for the purpose of harnessing fire. The device called Adimanthana consisted of a string and a stick fixed on two pieces of wood. Chariots were known during the period of the Satpatha Brahmana (written in the third or fourth century BC). Means of grinding corn, pounding it, and macerating and straining devices for extraction of juice from fruits were similar to those used by people in the Vedic era.

5.14.2 Military Applications of Electricity:

“Piercing weapons like the thunderbolt”, electricity has the striking power of a deadly weapon indicating the use of electrical weapons in warfare in ancient India. Remotely controlled electronic weapon systems are described in these hymns. However, any sketches or specific details of these weapons are not given anywhere in these hymns, indicating that either it was a well known technology of those days or else these descriptions are only hypothetical, akin to the present day science fiction writings.

There are several such references to electrical energy in the Atharvaveda, It is, therefore, desirable to thoroughly analyze and learn from the invaluable knowledge bank that our ancestors have left for us in the form of the Vedas and other Vedic texts.

Kautilya’s Arthashastra (500 BC) mentions weapons and projectile like devices, as also furniture making, construction and interior furnishing of passenger ships.

5.15 Mechanics (Vega):

King Bhoja’s Samarangana-sutradhara (1100AD) describes chronometers (putrika-nadiprabodhana) much before inventions of Galileo, Hooke and Huygens were made in the 17th century. These chronometers also had chiming devices! Other developments that came about by the 12th century AD are: water supply systems, astronomical models, vehicles, and wooden robots. Almost the entire modern mechanics is covered in the sutras of Vaisheshika Darshan.

Thus mechanics was known in ancient India. Three laws of motion are mentioned in three sutras of VD, viz. VD 1.1.15, 1.11.6, 1.1.20. Some other important results that are also mentioned in VD are: force is a vector (guna), gas particles are in constant motion, air is a mixture of a number of gases, and freezing and melting of fluids result from change in their heat content. Some apparently solid substances (see e.g., VD 4.2.9) like clarified butter (ghee), lac and wax are in reality liquids, as their particles are naturally “heat-conjoined” or disorganized as in the case of water. Other truly solid substances, such as tin, lead, iron, silver and gold need their atoms to be supplied with external heat to disorder them before they liquefy. Some of the prominent results mentioned in various sutras presented in VD are:

“atoms” form a molecule; various combinations of atoms produce molecules resulting in the formation of substances with states that are quite different from those of the original particles. Prashastpada, a 5th-century commentator on VS mentioned two forms of physical force, viz.

Vega (mechanical)
Sthitisthapakata (elasticity)

Prashastpada has defined ‘Vega’ in the following ways:

It results from the application of a mechanical force that produces an action. It is proportional to the amount of work done and acts in a given direction.

It opposes matter combining with each other and sometimes one Vega produces other Vegas in sequence.

According to the Rigveda, Atharvan produced fire employing mechanical devices and Visvakarma created an instrument of attrition for the purpose of harnessing fire from natural substances. This device, called Adimanthana, consisted of a string and a stick placed over two pieces of wood. Chariots were known during the period of the Satpatha Brahmana (written in the third or fourth century BC.

5.15.1 Kanada’s Laws of Motion:

1. In the production or increment of karma (i.e. motion), the root cause is the application of a force which gives rise to an incremental or decremental change in motion.
2. This law gives a measure of the applied force, according to which so long a
mechanical force acts on an object, it continues to move, i.e. it acquires momentum.

Its magnitude is given by the amount of work done per unit time.

As we know now, the rate of change in momentum, i.e. the increment in work done per unit
time, is proportional to the force applied. Also, this change is in the direction of the force.
Assuming that the mass of an object is ‘m’ and the time interval for which the force acts on it
is ‘t’, the velocity of the object changes from ‘u’ to ‘v’.

Therefore, a unit force is defined as the force that produces unit acceleration in an object of
unit mass. The VD goes further and states that force is a result of work done and is not
merely a physical quantity, a concept which is superior to the Newton’s law of motion that
describes it as a mere physical quantity.

5.15.2 Present View of Mechanics:

Mechanics is a branch of science concerned with the behaviour of physical bodies when subjected to a force or displacement, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment. This scientific discipline has its origin in ancient Greece with the writings of Aristotle (584-522BC) and Archimedes (287-212BC). During the early part of the modern period, scientists such as Galileo Galilei (1564-1642AD), Johannes Kepler (1571-1650AD), and especially Isaac Newton (1642-1727AD), laid the foundation for what is now known as “classical mechanics”.

5.16 Energy:

Vaisheshika Darshan defines energy as a radiant entity (i.e. equivalence of energy and radiation) which is related to the temperature of the object as well as its motion. Prashastapada has discussed four types of energy:

1. Terrestrial energy (created by burning of fuels),
2. Celestial energy (produced by the sun and in the atmospheric electricity),
3. Jatharagni (Abdominal energy produced in the human body that is responsible for digestion of food), and Akaraj (metals like gold and platinum have this kind of energy).

5.16.1 Modern View of Energy:

In the western world, energy was first called as vis viva. Gottfried Leibniz (German, 1646-1716) was the first to define energy as a product of the mass of an object and square of its velocity; further he believed that the total energy of a system is conserved. In 1807, Thomas Young (British, 1775-1829) was possibly the first to use the term “energy” instead of vis viva, in its modern sense. Gustave-Gaspard Coriolis (French, 1792-1845) described “kinetic energy” in 1829 and in 1855; William Rankine (British, 1820-1872) first used the term “potential energy”. The law of conservation of energy was postulated in the early 19th century.

In 1845 James Prescott Joule (British, 1818-1889) discovered the connection between mechanical work and the generation of heat. This led to the principle of conservation of energy, and development of the first law of thermodynamics. Finally, William Thomson (also known as Lord Kelvin, British, 1824-1907) amalgamated these concepts into the laws of thermodynamics, which led to the explanation of chemical processes by Rudolf Clausius (Polish, 1822-1888), Josiah Willard Gibbs (American, 1859-1905) and Walther Nernst (Persian, 1864-1941). It also led to the mathematical formulation of the concept of entropy by Clausius as well as to the laws of radiant energy by Jožef Stefan (Austrian, 1855-1895).

5.17 The Big Bang:

The Amsu Bodhini is a cosmological text that deals with the evolution of the universe. It mentions that the evolution of the universe is caused by bindu vishput/maha vishput (big bang) which has created the various solar systems along with their Suns.

5.18 Atomic and Nuclear Physics:

According to the Buddhist teacher Pakudha Katyayana who lived around the 5th or 4th century BC, there are seven eternal “elements”: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Joy, Sorrow and Life.

Pakudha further asserted that these elements do not interact with one another. In the Brahmajala Sutta, theories such as Pakudha’s are termed as “Atomic theory” (Pali/Sanskrit: anu vaada).

5.19 Conclusions:

The paper highlights the contemporary science, especially astronomy and physics, in Vedic times which are described in the two schools of Nyaya and Vaisheshika. It is rather remarkable that ancient Indians propounded concepts such as composition of elements comprising distinct paramanus (atoms), wave nature of radiation, wave-particle duality, mass-energy equivalence, the curvature of space-time, etc which were essentially hallmarks of 20th century physics. Further, ancient Indians were capable of measuring time up to a millisecond accuracy and were able to calculate the length of a day, the value being quite close to the present value.


[1] Rakesh Prabhakara, Vedic Physics: The best-kept secrets
http://analogis fun:
[2] Roopa Hulikal Narayan, The Theory of Matter in Indian Physics,
[3] S. Kak, the Astronomical Code of the Rigveda (Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1994).
[4] Justice Markandey Katju, Sanskrit literature and the scientific developments in India
Lecture delivered at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
[5] Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Vedic Physics, Scientific Origin of Hinduism (Golden Egg
Publishing, Toronto, 1999).
[6] Indian heritage, a living portrait of India,
[7] The Cultural Heritage of India, Editors Priyadaranjan Ray & S.N. Sen, The
Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture
[8] History of Science & Technology in India, Editors G. Kuppuram & K. Kumudamami,
Sandeep Prakashan
[9] Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, McGraw-Hill.
[10] Masters of the Millennium – 100 Indians who shaped the century, The Sunday
Observer (special edition)

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the authors. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

This article was first published in the journal ‘Laboratory Experiments‘, published by Kamaljeeth Instrumentation and Service Unit, Bengaluru, India.

Jeethendra Kumar P K
+ posts

A PhD in physics, Dr Jeethendra Kumar P K worked as a physics lecturer at Mangalore University for eight years. He is the founder of a physics instrument manufacturing company (1990) and Lab Experiments journal (2001), Bengaluru, India.

Prabhakar Sharma
+ posts

Dr Prabhakar Sharma, Scientist (Retd.), is Ex-Head of the Academic Servies, Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, India.

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Mumbai’s Iconic CST Station Building Completes 130 Years

This magnificent monument was originally planned as the office of GIP (Great Indian Peninsular) Railway.



MUMBAI (Maharashtra): Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (earlier Victoria Terminus) has completed 130 years of its construction on 20th May 2018.

The present-day Headquarters building of Central Railway popularly known as Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) is an architectural marvel.

This magnificent monument was originally planned as the office of GIP (Great Indian Peninsular) Railway.

This is the most photographed building (in India) after Taj Mahal and was designed by Frederick William Stevens, a consulting architect.

Thus taking almost a decade to build it at a princely sum of Rs. 16,13,863/- Stevens designed the monumental Terminus which was the largest building then erected in Asia and which even today is a standing testimony of his innovative talent.

The magnificent CST Building lit up for India’s Independence Day on August 15

The construction started in 1878 and on Jubilee Day in 1887, it was named after Queen-Empress Victoria.

Later in 1996, it was renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. It was again renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in July 2017.

In 2004, UNESCO has enlisted this building as World Heritage Site for its architectural splendour.

From December 2012, this heritage building has been opened for public viewing on working days.

Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (earlier Victoria Terminus) was constructed at a cost of Rs.16.14 lakh and is designed in the Gothic style adapted to suit Indian context. It is a C shaped building planned symmetrically about the east-west axis.

The crowning point of the whole building is the central main dome carrying up a colossal 16’-6’’ high figure of lady pointing a flaming torch upwards in her right hand, and a spoked wheel low in the left hand, symbolizing `Progress’.

This dome has been reported to be the first octagonal ribbed masonry dome that was adapted to an Italian Gothic style building.

The station was constructed with 6 platforms at a cost of Rs.10.4 lakh and in 1929, the first remodelling took place to have 13 platforms. Further modifications were done to the yard and the station had two more platforms thus making it a total of 15 platforms in 1994.

Today it has 18 platforms with a spacious east side entry as well.

In April 2018, a heritage gully was inaugurated adjacent to platform no.18, wherein Sir. Leslie Wilson, the GIP Heritage Electric Loco, and other heritage items are displayed.

During Centenary celebrations of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Building, a postal stamp was released.

In 2013, when the building celebrated quasi-centennial (125 years) anniversary, a special postal cover was released on the occasion.

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Roots of Indian Science: Part F – Scientific Activities in India During the Colonial Era

Experimental development was by and large neglected during the colonial era.



If you are a new reader, we request you to first read the previous parts of the series here:
Roots of Indian Science: Part A – Science in the Vedas
Roots of Indian Science: Part B – Science in the Vedas
Roots of Indian Science: Part C – Ancient Indian Universities
Roots of Indian Science: Part D – Indian Science During the Colonial Era
Roots of Indian Science: Part E – Physics in Ancient India


The British government in India needed a scientific base in the country not only for educating their ward but also to satisfy their intellectual curiosity to unravel the mysteries of nature. The clear skies and bright sunshine almost round the year in India was an added attraction for the study of Sun which was not possible in Europe due to frequent overcast sky conditions. The basic need for having trained manpower necessitated the development of human resources from native Indians for which they established schools, colleges and universities in India. This offered an opportunity to Indians to get training in scientific methods using state of art technology developed in Europe which resulted in producing Indian scientists, engineers, and doctors.

6.1 Early Observations on Venus Transit in India:

The space observations of Aryabhata and others did not continue further in a significant way. After the arrival of Europeans in India, the western science developed in India. During December 9, 1874 transit of Venus both British and the French were in fierce scientific competition to showcase their superiority in science. This resulted in sending their own delegations to various countries to observe Venus transit events. Under the guidance of British Astronomer Royal, Sir George Biddel Airy, three field stations, viz. Roorkee, Visakhapatnam and Madras were selected for this purpose under the overall supervision of Col. James Francis Tennant and Norman Robert Pogson of the Madras Observatory.

At Roorkee, more than 100 photographs of Sun were taken and sent to Airy in England. Photographs from all the field stations were reduced by Captain G. L. Tupman who wrote a book in which he said: “There is only one really sharp image in the whole collection, including the Indian and Australian contingents, and that is one of Captain Waterhouse’s wet plates taken at Roorkee”. Other than British astronomers, Italian astronomer Pietro Tacchini led an expedition to Muddapur, India.

Indian and European team members observing the transit of Venus at Daba Gardens Observatory in Visakhapatnam, India (Picture: Royal Astronomical Society Library)

The Venus transit was also observed by an enthusiast and amateur astronomer Ankitam Venkata Narasinga Row [1, 2], from his private observatory in Visakhapatnam (Daba Gardens Observatory, also called Chukkala Meda).

He used a 6” telescope with a locally made clockwork mechanism to turn it for pointing at various celestial objects. His findings were reported and published in the Proceedings of Royal Astronomical Society.



6.2 Dehra Dun Observatory (1878-1925):

The 1874 transit of Venus led to the institutionalization of astrophysics in India, although the state had no major stake in astronomy. The motivation and the peer pressure came from European solar physicists who wanted to use the benefit of India’s sunny weather and clear sky conditions for their astronomical research. The government was also interested in the work as it was believed that a study of the Sun would help understand and predict the periodic failure of the Indian monsoon, a phenomenon that was not really well understood.

Accordingly, starting from early 1878 solar photographs were regularly taken at Dehra Dun under the auspices of Survey of India, and sent to England every week. Dehra Dun observatory continued solar photography till 1925 [2].

6.3 St. Xavier’s College Observatory, Calcutta:

In 1859 the Superior General of the Society of Jesus entrusted the opening of a college to the Jesuit Province of Belgium for the native Catholics of West Bengal. The superior of the Jesuit community at Namur, Henri Depelchin S.J., was sent to India as the head of a group of Jesuits which was entrusted with this task. St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta was opened for classes in January 1860. Aware of Lafont’s talent in the field of science, Delpelchin requested that he be assigned to the mission. Lafont left for India and arrived in Calcutta on 4th December 1865 [3].

Soon after arriving in the capital city of British India, Lafont was appointed to teach science. Since science could not be taught without conducting practical experiments, he promptly established a laboratory in the college, the first such science laboratory in India. In November 1867 he made headlines in the local press for establishing a makeshift observatory on the terrace of the college. He recorded daily meteorological observations which enabled him to accurately anticipate the arrival of a devastating cyclone.

The government authorities were informed and immediate measures were taken that prevented loss of many lives. Thereafter meteorological forecasts made by Lafont were regularly published in the Indo-European Correspondence, a major weekly newspaper published from Calcutta.

From 1870 onward Lafont began to deliver scientific lectures for the general public, in which he demonstrated his expertise in popularizing science. Various new scientific discoveries and inventions of the second half of the 19th century were thus disseminated, generally with empirical evidence. These include the magic lantern, telephone, phonograph, X-rays, photography, etc. Through his contacts in Europe, Lafont had procured and brought along with him the latest scientific tools available at that time, such as the meteograph of Angelo Secchi (meteorology remained his favourite field of interest). His lectures were a huge success and continued until he retired and moved to Darjeeling where lived there till his death in 1908.

In 1873, when Lafont was the Rector of St. Xavier’s College, a high level international scientific expedition visited Calcutta on its way to the nearby town of Midnapore for observing a rare astronomical phenomenon – the transit of planet Venus before the Sun.

Lafont also joined the group and his observations made him known internationally and the following year he secured financial assistance that was needed in order to build an astronomical observatory in the college premises. The observatory was equipped with the most modern telescope available at that time.

On 10th March 2014 the astronomy observatory was re-commissioned and a solar observatory was established and inaugurated by Fr. Felix Raj SJ, the then Principal of the St. Xavier’s College and was dedicated to the memory of Fr. Eugene Lafont. Fr. Lafont was a favourite teacher of Acharya Jadish Chandra Bose and he introduced Bose to the excitement of pursuing science.

Observatory of Fr. Lafont at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata

This observatory set up by Fr. Eugene Lafont in 1865 is one of the oldest in the subcontinent. Father Lafont is regarded as “Father of Modern Science in India.” This observatory made headlines in various Indian newspapers in November 1865 for predicting a severe cyclone which saved hundreds of lives due to prompt preventive measures taken by the government authorities. It was listed among the active observatories of the world at that time and had close collaboration with the Observatory of Vatican. It is the oldest observatory in the country and the biggest one in an educational campus.

6.4 Takhtasinghji’s Observatory, Poona (1888- 1912):

Kavasji Dadabhai Naegamvala

The observatory was a personal facility of Kavasji Dadabhai Naegamvala (1857-1938), a lecturer in Physics in Elphinstone College, Bombay [1]. His original plan was to establish a spectroscopy laboratory at Elphinstone College for use by students. Naegamvala received the seed money of Rs 5,000/- from the Maharaja Takhtasinghji of Bhavnagar and a matching grant from the Bombay Government. While in England in 1884 for buying equipment, he was persuaded by Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer, Astronomer Royal of United Kingdom, and Lockyer to build a spectroscopy observatory. Since Poona was a better site than Bombay, Naegamvala was transferred to College of Science, Poona in 1885 where the Observatory came up in 1888. After Naegamvala’s death in 1912, the observatory was demolished and the equipment was transferred to the Kodaikanal Observatory [2].

6.5 Nizamia observatory, Hyderabad:

Nizamia observatory Hyderabad

Nizamia observatory was an optical observatory established in 1908 during the reign of the Nizams of Hyderabad state. It was founded by British educated noble Nawab Zafar Yar Jung Bahadur, who was the minister for defence in the Nizam’s government. It had an 8″ Cooke Astrograph and a 15″ Grubb refractor telescope. Taken over by the government in 1907, the observatory worked for many years on an ambitious programme of photographing and charting a large segment of the sky. It was originally established in Ameerpet, Hyderabad but was later shifted in the premises of the Osmania University campus in Hyderabad but is defunct now and is being used as a dump store for old furniture and unused equipment in the University.

6.6 The Survey of India:

In the process of surveying the Coramandal region of the south-east part of India, the British East India Company established a training school at Fort St. George at Madras (1794), which later became Civil Engineering School (in 1858) and subsequently (in 1861) the College of Engineering. It is now renamed as College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG) in Chennai, and is located in the main campus of Anna University [4]. This was the first such training institute started by the British to develop human resources for the survey work in India. Later the British started similar training schools in the northern part of India, such as the Survey of India in Dehra Dun (in 1767) which is one of oldest institutions started by the British for the purpose of mapping and surveying length and breadth of India.

The Survey of India’s illustrious history includes handling of the mammoth Great Trigonometric Survey under the leadership of William Lambton and George Everest and the discovery of Mt. Everest. It is a tribute to the foresight of such Surveyors that at the time of India’s independence the country inherited a survey network of the country built on scientific principles. The great trigonometric series spanning the country from North to South and East to West are some of the best geodetic control series available in the world. The scientific techniques of surveying have since been augmented by the latest technology to meet the multi-disciplinary requirement of data by planners and scientists [5].

6.7 Establishment of Engineering colleges in India:

The British government needed schools, colleges and universities in India not only for educating their ward but also for having trained manpower from native Indian population to work for their development projects. This made the government start schools, colleges and universities in India. The first engineering college in India was established in Roorkee on November 25, 1847.

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee

After the death of Raja Ramdayal in 1813, a Bargujar king of Landhaura state, British East India Company took charge of Roorkee city. Till 1840, Roorkee was a tiny hamlet consisting of thatched mud huts on the banks of Solani rivulet. Digging work on the Upper Ganges Canal formally began in April 1842, under the aegis of Proby Cautley, a British officer. Soon, Roorkee grew into a town. The canal, which was formally opened on 8th April, 1854, irrigated over 767,000 acres (3,100 km²) of land in about 5,000 villages [6].

To look after the maintenance of the canal, the Canal Workshop and Iron Foundry was established in 1843 in the civil lines area of the town on the canal bank. This was followed by the establishment of Civil Engineering School which started functioning in 1845 to train local youth for assisting in the civil engineering work of the Upper Ganges Canal. This became the first engineering college established in India. On November 25, 1847, the college was formally constituted, through a proposal by Sir James Thomason, Lt. Governor of North Western Province (1843–53). After his death in 1853, the college was rechristened as Thomason College of Civil Engineering. The college was later upgraded and became
University of Roorkee in 1949. On September 21, 2001, through an Act of Parliament, it was made Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee

6.8 Establishment of Medical Colleges in India:

6.8.1 Indian traditional medicine

Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine existed in India much before the British rule, since Vedic times. The oldest known Ayurvedic texts are the Suśruta Saṃhitā and the Charaka Saṃhitā. These classical Sanskrit texts constitute the foundation of the Ayurvedic system of medicine [7].

Ayurvedic practitioners developed a number of medicinal preparations and also surgical procedures for treatment of various ailments. Ayurveda is well integrated now with the Indian National health care system, with Ayurvedic hospitals for established across the country.

6.8.2 The first medical college in India

The Europeans who came to India ostensibly for trade needed their European medicines frequently which were difficult to procure from Europe. Further, they wanted to have their own medical facilities for treatment. The French were the first to start a medical college in India in 1823 [8]. The first medical college “Ecole de Médicine de Pondichéry,” was established at Puducherry (now renamed as Pondicherry) on 1st January 1823 for training French citizens in Pondichéry by the French imperial government in India. Two more medical colleges were started by the British, one at Calcutta (on 28th January 1835) and the other at Madras (on 2nd February 1835). After independence, the medical college “Ecole de Médicine de Pondichéry” was taken over by the Government of India in 1956 and renamed as “Dhanvantari Medical College”. On 13th July, 1964, it was renamed as “Jawaharlal Institute
of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research” (JIPMER).

Under the French rule in Pondicherry, the college was located in the heart of the town in the renovated buildings of the high court, opposite Le place de Gaulle, which is now the Legislative Assembly Hall of the union territory of Pondicherry. In 1959, SE Le Comte Stanislas Ostrorog, Ambassador of France in India, laid the foundation stone of the new medical college building located on the outskirts of the town which, in 1964, moved to its new campus at Gorimedu [8].

Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research

6.8.3 The British Medical Colleges in India:

Medical College, Bengal (now known as Calcutta Medical College), was established in 1835. This was the second college in Asia where European medicine was taught, after Ecole de Médicine de Pondichéry, which was the first to teach medicine in the English language. The establishment of this medical college on 28th January 1835 was soon followed by Madras Medical College on 2nd February 1835 [9].

On 9th May 1822, the British government took twenty young Indians to fill the positions of native doctors in the civil and military establishments of the Presidency of Bengal. The outcome was the establishment of “The Native Medical Institution”(NMI) in Calcutta on 21st June 1822, where teaching was done in the vernacular medium. Treatises on human anatomy, medicine, and surgery were translated into English from other European languages.

From 1826 onwards, the teaching of Unani and Ayurvedic medicine was also started at the Calcutta Madarsa and the Sanskrit college respectively. In 1827 John Tyler, an orientalist and the first superintendent of the NMI started teaching of Mathematics and Anatomy at the Sanskrit College. In general, the medical education provided by the colonial regime at this stage involved parallel instructions in western and indigenous medical systems. Translation of western medical texts was encouraged and though dissection was not performed, clinical experience was essential. Trainee medical students had to work in different hospitals and dispensaries. Successful native doctors were absorbed in government jobs [9].

Towards the end of 1833, a Committee was appointed by the government of William Bentinck in Bengal to report on the state of medical education in India and also to suggest whether the teaching of indigenous medicine should be discontinued. The Committee consisted of Dr John Grant as the president and J C C Sutherland, C E Trevelyan, Thomas Spens, Ram Comul Sen and M J Bramley as members. The Committee was critical of the medical education imparted at the NMI in respect of the teaching, with no courses on practical anatomy and also of the examination procedures adopted. The Committee submitted a report on 20th October 1834 with the recommendation that the state should found a medical college “for the education of the natives”. It also recommended that rather than the traditional medicine, the various branches of medical science promoted in Europe should be taught in this college. The aspiring candidates should possess adequate knowledge, both reading and writing, of the English language, in addition to knowledge of Bengali and Hindi and proficiency in Arithmetic. This recommendation, followed by Macaulay’s minutes and Bentinck’s resolution, sealed the fate of the college for native doctors and medical classes at the two leading oriental institutions of Calcutta. The NMI was closed and the teaching of medicine at the Sanskrit College and at the Calcutta Madarasa was discontinued by the government order of 28th January 1835 [10].

The proposed new college, known as the Calcutta Medical College (CMC), which was established by a government order of 28th January 1835, ushered in a new era in the history of medical education in India. Its stated purpose was to train native youths aged between 14 and 20 years irrespective of caste and creed, in accordance with the ethics of medical science that was in vogue with the model adopted in Europe. This marked the end of the official patronage of the teaching of the traditional medical system which in its turn evoked resentment among the Indian practitioners of indigenous medicine and later the nationalists also strongly criticised the government for withdrawal of patronage to the traditional Indian system of medicine. Different sections of the Indian population responded to this newly founded system of education in different ways. Among the Hindus, the Brahmins, Kayasthas, and Vaidyas were particularly enthusiastic about offering education of traditional Indian medicine.

6.9 Establishment of Universities in India:

During the colonial era, a need was felt for offering higher education as well as quality basic education. Those who had adequate resources could afford to their have higher education in England and other European countries. Moreover, the need for having ever increasing number of British soldiers, officers, and engineers in India was felt which necessitated the establishment of English medium schools and colleges in India. Christian missionaries established such schools in India. In West Bengal, a large number of missionary schools have started functioning since then [11].

In south India, the first ever demand for higher education in Madras Presidency was voiced in a public address to The Right Honourable Lord John Elphinstone G.C.H., Governor of Madras. A petition regarding this was signed subsequently by 70,000 native inhabitants. The public petition which was presented by the then Advocate General, Mr George Norton, to the Governor of Madras on 11th November 1839 emphasized for the need for having an English medium college in the city of Madras. Following this, Lord Elphinstone evolved a plan for the establishment of either a central collegiate institution or a university. It was suggested that this institution/university should have twin Departments: (i) a High School for promoting English literature, the regional language, philosophy, and science; and (ii) a college for teaching literature, philosophy and science [12].

The University Board was constituted in January 1840 with Mr George Norton as its President. This was the precursor to the present day Presidency College, Chennai. However, a systematic educational policy for India was formulated only after 14 years through the historic Dispatch of 1854 (Sir Charles Wood’s Education Dispatch), which pointed out the rationale for “creating a properly articulated system of education from the primary school to the university”. Establishment of Professorship positions was recommended in the universities “for the purposes of the delivery of lectures in various branches of learning including vernacular as well as classical languages”. As a sequel, the University of Madras,
organised on the model of London University, was incorporated on 5th September 1857 by an Act of the Legislative Council of India.

The British Court of Directors of the East India Company sent a dispatch in July 1854 to the Governor General of India, suggesting the establishment of universities in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. In accordance with this, University of Calcutta was founded on January 24, 1857, the University of Bombay on 5th September 1857 and Madras University on 18th July 1857. Later three more universities, viz. University of Punjab (1882), University of Patna (1917), and Nagpur (1923) University were established during the British rule in India. The universities adopted the pattern of the University of London and gradually introduced necessary modifications of their constitution.

6.10 Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS):

Mahendralal Sircar

Dr Mahendralal Sircar (1833–1904) was an allopath-turned-homoeopathic doctor, social reformer and proponent of scientific studies in the 19th century India. Along with Father Eugène Lafont, he founded the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in 1876. The main aim of the Association was to disseminate scientific knowledge and keep the general public abreast with the latest scientific developments taking place in the west. From its early days, the Thursday evening lectures given by Lafont were one of the main activities of the Association [13].

Further, it also aimed to create departments in basic science subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Geology, Botany, Zoology etc involving Indians in scientific activities. C V Raman, who was working at that time in Calcutta as Deputy Accountant General in the Finance Department, took a keen interest in the activities of the Association.

Subsequently, he quit the job and joined as Professor of Physics in the Calcutta University. Another notable member of the Association was Nagendra Nath Dhar (1857-1929) who made optical parts in his workshop at Hoogly for use in telescopes and explained the process in the IACS meetings. This tradition of making optics in Kolkata is still continuing; all the microscopes and telescopes that are being manufactured in Ambala Cantt. (Haryana), use Kolkata optics. Sircar also supported women’s education in 19th in India at a time when pursuing higher education among women was rare. Till 1920, the activities of the Association were published regularly in the form of its in-house Journal (Indian Journal of Physics).

6.11 Eugène Lafont, S.J. (1837- 1908):

Lafont was more of an educator than a research scholar or inventor. His competence and varied activities gave him a place in the University of Calcutta, of which he was a Senate member for many years. It was because of him that importance of the study of science in the University was acknowledged. He prepared the science syllabus of the University and in 1903 managed to obtain substantial funding from the Indian Universities Commission for setting up of laboratories and improvement of the science curriculum. In 1908, a few months before his death, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Sciences, Honoris Causa, by the University of Calcutta.

6.12 Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858–1937):

Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, was a Bengali polymath, physicist, biologist, botanist, archaeologist, and a writer of science fiction. He pioneered the investigation of radio- and microwave- optics, made significant contributions to plant science, and laid the foundations of experimental science in the Indian subcontinent. IEEE named him one of the fathers of radio science. He is considered the father of Bengali science fiction. He invented the ‘crescograph’. A crater on the moon has been named in his honour.

Jagadish Chandra Bose [15] was a student of Lafont and later became his friend. When Bose discovered the ‘wireless telegraphy’ (as the source of radio-phonic inventions) it was Lafont who made a public demonstration of this discovery in Calcutta in 1897. For Lafont, there was no doubt that Bose had preceded the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi in this discovery. He never failed to give due credit to his former student.

Father Eugene Lafont and J C Bose with his radio-phonic invention


6.13 Radha Gobinda Chandra (1878 – 1975):

Radha Gobinda Chandra

Radha Gobinda Chandra [16] was an amateur astronomer from an early age. He had immense interest in Astronomy and in the later part of his life started pursuing amateur astronomy on his own. When he was in grade 6 in school, there was a textbook entitled Charupath in which there was an inspiring prose on Astronomy and Cosmology written by Bengal writer Akshay Kumar Datta. He became motivated to become an astronomer after reading this book. Later he wrote about this in his autobiography. He was first motivated to watch celestial objects in the sky when he got a scientific apprenticeship with a lawyer named Kalinath Mukherjee who was the editor of the ‘Star Atlas’.

During the period April–July 1910, Chandra observed the Halley’s Comet from Jessore with his small binocular as he did not have a powerful binocular or any other instrument. He wrote a detailed account of his observations of Halley’s Comet in the ‘Hindu Magazine’. In 1912, Chandra purchased a 3” telescope from England after which he continued regular observation of variable stars with the help of the ‘Star Atlas’ compiled by Kalinath Mukherjee. He communicated a total of over 37000 trained-eye observations made by him till 1954.

The importance of his prodigious work lies in the fact that he worked at an eastern longitude far from that of most observers in the west, greatly improving the temporal completeness of the observational records for the stars he observed.

6.13.1 Discovery of Nova:

Chandra used to observe stars most of the nights at that time. He suddenly noticed a bright star on 7th June 1918. He tried to match it with the Star Map but did not find any. He observed it for the next few days and came to the conclusion that it is a new star. In the terminology of astronomy, it was a ‘Nova’. He published a detailed account of this Nova in the ‘Probashi’ magazine. Later this nova was named as ‘Nova Aquila-3’.

6.13.2 Membership of AAVSO:

Chandra sent his observatory report to Edward Charles Picketing who was then a researcher at the Harvard Space Observatory. Picketing encouraged him and sent him some books on astronomy. Chandra became a member of American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) in 1926. Picketing also sent him a 6” aperture telescope. Chandra made over 37000 trained-eye observations till 1954, when he finally retired.

6.14 Megananda Saha (1893 – 1956):

Megananda Saha

Meganada Saha’s best-known work concerned thermal ionisation of elements which led him to formulate what is now known as the Saha’s ionization equation. This equation is one of the basic tools in astrophysics for interpretation of the spectra of stars. By studying the spectra of a star, one can find its temperature from which, using Saha’s equation, ionisation state of the various elements making up the star can be determined.

This work was soon pursued by Ralph H. Fowler and Edward Arthur Milne.

Saha had his initial schooling at Dhaka Collegiate School and later graduated from Dhaka College. He studied at the Presidency College, Calcutta. He was a professor at Allahabad University from 1923 to 1938, and thereafter Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Calcutta and continued in this position until his death in 1956. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1927. He was president of the 21st session of the Indian Science Congress in 1934.

Saha was fortunate to have brilliant teachers and classmates. Amongst his classmates were Satyendra Nath Bose, Jnan Ghosh and J. N. Mukherjee. In later part of his life, he became close to Amiya Charan Banerjee, a renowned mathematician at Allahabad University.

Saha also invented an instrument to measure the weight and pressure of solar rays and helped to build several scientific institutions, such as the Physics Department in Allahabad University, and the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Calcutta. He founded the journal Science and Culture and was its editor until his death. He played a lead role in establishing several scientific societies and institutions, such as the National Academy of Sciences (1930), the Indian Physical Society (1934), and Indian Institute of Science (1935). A lasting memorial to him is the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, founded by him in Kolkata in 1943.

The Palit Research Laboratory used to be a laboratory under the Department of Physics in the University of Calcutta. Megananda Saha became the Palit Professor of Physics at the University of Calcutta in 1938. Realizing the growing importance of nuclear physics, he reorganized the university curriculum to include nuclear physics and commissioned the necessary instruments. Soon the necessity of having a small-scale cyclotron was felt. Thanks to the help of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and patronage of the eminent industrialist J.R.D.Tata, the foundation stone of the Institute of Nuclear Physics was laid at Calcutta in 1949. The institute was shifted to its new building in Bidhannagar in the late 1980s [17].

6.15 Satyendra Nath Bose (1894 – 1974):

Satyendra Nath Bose was an Indian physicist specialising in mathematical physics. He is best known for his work on quantum mechanics in the early 1920s, providing the foundation for Bose–Einstein statistics and the Bose–Einstein condensate. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, he was awarded India’s second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan in 1954 by the Government of India [18].

After completing his MSc, Bose joined the University of Calcutta as a research scholar in 1916 and started his studies on the theory of relativity. It was an exciting era in the history of scientific progress. Quantum theory had just appeared on the horizon and important results had started pouring in.

He joined as Reader in the Department of Physics of the newly founded University of Dacca (renamed as University of Dhaka, now in Bangladesh). Bose set up new departments, including laboratories, for teaching advanced courses for B.Sc. (honours) and M.Sc, and taught thermodynamics as well as Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism.

Satyendra Nath Bose

Bose wrote a paper on deriving Planck’s quantum radiation law without making any reference to classical physics by using a novel way of counting states with identical particles. This paper, submitted to the British Journal Philosophical Magazine for publication, was seminal in creating the very important field of quantum statistics. Though not accepted for publication in this journal, he sent the article directly to Albert Einstein in Germany. Einstein, recognising the importance of the paper, translated it into German himself and submitted it on Bose’s behalf to the prestigious German journal Zeitschrift für Physik. As a result of this work, Bose was able to work for two years in European X-ray and crystallography laboratories, during which he worked with eminent scientists, Louis de Broglie, Marie Curie, and Einstein.

Bose laid the foundation of quantum statistics, now called Bose-Einstein statistics, when Einstein met Bose face-to-face and asked Bose whether he was at all aware of the fact that he had invented a new type of statistics. Bose very candidly said ‘no’, as he was not familiar with Boltzmann’s statistics and didn’t realize that he was doing the calculations differently.

He was equally candid with anyone who asked this question. Einstein also did not at first realize how radical Bose’s invention was, and in his first paper after Bose’s work, Einstein was guided, like Bose, by the fact that the new method gave the right answer. But after Einstein’s second paper using Bose’s method in which he predicted the Bose-Einstein condensate, he started to realize just how radical it was, and he compared it to the concept of wave-particle duality, saying that some particles did not behave exactly like particles!

Einstein adopted the idea of Bose and extended it to atoms. This led to the prediction of the existence of phenomena which became known as Bose-Einstein condensate, a dense collection of bosons (which are particles with integer spin, named after Bose). The existence of Boson was demonstrated experimentally in 1995. Although several Nobel Prizes were awarded for research related to the concepts of the boson, Bose-Einstein statistics and Bose-Einstein condensate, it is ironical that Bose himself was not awarded a Nobel Prize!

6.16 Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (1888-1970):

Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu on 7th November 1888. After completing his M.Sc. in Physics in 1907, Raman studied the diffraction of light and his thesis on the subject was published in 1906 [18].

During those times there were not many opportunities for scientists in India. Therefore, Raman joined the Indian Finance Department in 1907and was posted at Calcutta as Deputy Accountant General. After his office hours, he carried out his experimental research in acoustics and optics in the laboratory of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science.

Because of his passion for physics, he resigned from his job in the Finance Department and was offered Palit Professorship of Physics at Calcutta University in 1917 where he continued for the next fifteen years. During his tenure there, he received worldwide recognition for his work in optics and scattering of light. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1924 and was knighted by the British government in 1929. In 1947, he was appointed as the first National Professor by the Government of India.

Raman with the spectrometer

In 1930, Raman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the “Raman Effect”. He employed monochromatic light from a mercury arc which passed through transparent materials and was incident on a spectrograph to record its spectrum. Raman detected some new lines in the spectrum which were later called ‘Raman Lines’. The ‘Raman Effect’ was found to be very useful in analyzing the molecular structure of chemical compounds. Within a decade of its discovery, the structure of about 2000 compounds was studied. With the invention of the laser, the ‘Raman Effect’ has proved to be a very useful tool for scientists.

Raman’s other research interests include the physiology of human vision, the optics of colloids and the electrical and magnetic anisotropy in materials. In 1925 he set up Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, where he continued the scientific research until his death on November 21, 1970. His truly exemplified his own conviction that scientific research needed original thinking and dedication rather than mere availability of sophisticated equipment.” (He used an inexpensive equipment, costing just Rs.200, to discover the Raman Effect.)

6.17 Prafulla Chandra Ray (1861–1944):

Prafulla Chandra Ray (1861–1944) was a distinguished chemist, educator and entrepreneur. After obtaining his B.Sc. degree from Edinburgh University, Ray embarked on his doctoral thesis in the same university and completed his doctorate (D.Sc.) in 1887. He was awarded the Hope Prize which allowed him to continue his research for a further period of one year after completion of his doctorate. While he was still a student, he was elected Vice-President of Edinburgh University Chemical Society in 1888 [19].

Ray returned to India in August 1888 and joined Presidency College, Calcutta. In 1896, he published a paper on the preparation of a new stable chemical compound: mercurous nitrite. This work paved way for a large number of investigative papers on nitrites and hyponitrites of different metals, as well as nitrites of ammonia and organic amines. He started Indian School of Chemistry in 1924.

Ray retired from the Presidency College in 1916 and joined the College of Science in Calcutta University as its first Palit Professor of Chemistry. Here, along with his dedicated team, he worked on compounds of gold, platinum, iridium etc. with mercaptyl radicals and organic sulphides. He had published 107 papers in various branches of Chemistry by 1920.

In 1902, he published the first volume of A History of Hindu Chemistry from the Earliest Times to the Middle of Sixteenth Century. The second volume of this book was published in 1908. The work was the result of his meticulous search through ancient Sanskrit manuscripts.

In 1908 the University of Calcutta awarded him an honorary Doctor of Philosophy. He also received an honorary D.Sc. degree from Durham University in 1912, and another from Dacca University (now Dhaka University) in 1936. He was made a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire in 1911. He was an honorary fellow of the Chemical Society and Deutsche Akademie, Munich. He was knighted in 1917 by the British government. The Royal Society of Chemistry honoured his life and work with the first ever Chemical Landmark Plaque outside of Europe.

6.18 Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (1893 – 1972):

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis was an eminent Indian statistician. He is best known for the Mahalanobis Distance, a statistical measure. He made pioneering studies in anthropometry in India. He founded the Indian Statistical Institute and contributed to the design of large-scale sample [20].

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (Photo: Famous People)

Mahalanobis studied at Presidency College, Calcutta and obtained B.Sc. degree in 1912. He left for England in 1913 to join the University of London. He interacted with the mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan during the latter’s time at Cambridge. After his Tripos in physics, Mahalanobis worked with eminent physicist and Nobel Laureate C. T. R. Wilson at the Cavendish Laboratory. He took a short break and went to India and taught physics for a while at the Presidency College, Calcutta. He, however, went back to England and worked on the application of statistics to problems in diverse fields, such as
meteorology, anthropology etc.

On his return to the Presidency College, Calcutta, many of his colleagues took an active interest in statistics and the group grew in the Statistical Laboratory located in his room in the college. This eventually culminated in the establishment of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) on 28th April,1932. In 1933, the journal Sankhya was founded along the lines of the British journal Biometrika. The ISI grew its activities in biometrics and in 1959 it was declared as an institute of national importance and a deemed university.

Mahalanobis was influenced by the anthropometric studies published in Biometrika. He found a way of comparing and grouping populations using a multivariate distance measure. This measure, now called “Mahalanobis distance”, is independent of measurement scale. His statistical work included analysis of university exam results, anthropometric measurements on Anglo-Indians of Calcutta and some meteorological problems. He also worked as a meteorologist for some time, particularly on prevention of floods.

His most important contributions are, however, related to large-scale sample surveys. He introduced the concept of pilot surveys and advocated the utility of sampling methods in diverse fields such as consumer expenditure, tea-drinking habits, public opinion, crop acreage and plant diseases.

Mahalanobis also worked on quantitative linguistics, language planning, and speech pathology and contributed to the field of language correction.

As a member of the Planning Commission of India in the later part of his life, Mahalanobis contributed significantly to independent India’s Five-Year Plans in which he emphasised the importance of industrialisation and played a key role in the development of a statistical infrastructure. He was conferred “Padma Vibhushan” by the Government of India in 1968 for his contribution to science and services to the country.

Mahalanobis received several awards and honours, including Fellow of the Royal Society, London (1945), President of Indian Science Congress (1950), Fellow of the Econometric Society, USA (1951), Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, UK (1954), and Foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1958). His birthday, 29th June, is celebrated as National Statistical Day.

6.19 Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar (1894–1955):

Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar was a well-known Indian chemist. He was the first Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and is widely acknowledged as the “father of research laboratories” in India. He was also the first Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) [20].

Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar (Picture: Prasar Bharati, Government of India)

Bhatnagar obtained M.Sc in chemistry in 1919 from Punjab University. He carried out his doctoral research work at University College, London and was awarded D.Sc. in 1921, after which he returned to India and joined the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) as a professor of chemistry, where he continued for three years. He then moved to Lahore as a Professor of Physical Chemistry where he carried out his original scientific work on magneto-chemistry, particularly use of magnetism for studying chemical reactions. Jointly with K N Mathur, Bhatnagar wrote Physical Principles and Applications of Magneto Chemistry which is considered as sthe tandard text on this subject.

His research interests were varied and included emulsions, colloids, and industrial chemistry. In 1928, jointly with K.N. Mathur, he invented the Bhatnagar-Mathur Magnetic Interference Balance, which was one of the most sensitive instruments for measuring magnetic properties. It was exhibited at the Royal Society Soiree in 1931 and was marketed by M/S Adam Hilger and Co., London.

Bhatnagar also worked on several industrial problems. His major innovation was on improving the procedure of drilling crude oil.

Bhatnagar’s persistent efforts led to the establishment of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) as an autonomous body, which came into existence on 28th September, 1942. In 1943 Bhatnagar’s proposal to establish five national laboratories was approved by
the Government. These included the National Chemical Laboratory, the National Physical Laboratory, the Fuel Research Station, and Glass and Ceramics Research Institute. This was the beginning of the establishment of scientific laboratories in India.

Bhatnagar played a key role in building India’s science and technology infrastructure and policies after its independence. In 1947, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was set up under the chairmanship of Dr. Bhatnagar. He was appointed its first Director-General. He was responsible for establishing a number of chemical laboratories in India.

For his outstanding contributions to pure and applied chemistry, Bhatnagar was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1936. He was knighted by the British government in 1941. In 1943 the Society of Chemical Industry, London elected him as Honorary Member and later as its Vice President. In 1943 he was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society, London.

In independent India, he was elected as the President of the Indian Chemical Society, National Institute of Sciences of India and the Indian National Science Congress. He was awarded Padma Bhushan by the government of India in 1954.

To honour him CSIR instituted the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology since 1958 to outstanding scientists who made significant contributions in various branches of science.

6.20 Daulat Singh Kothari (1905–1993):

Dr Daulat Singh Kothari, the architect of defence science in India

D. S. Kothari was born in Udaipur in Rajasthan in 1905. He had his early education at Udaipur and Indore and received a master’s degree in physics from Allahabad University in 1928 under the guidance of Meghnad Saha. For his PhD thesis, Kothari worked at the Cavendish Laboratory, the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Ernest Rutherford, to whom he was recommended by Meghnad Saha [21].

After his return to India, he worked at the Delhi University from 1934 to 1961 in various capacities as the reader, professor and Head of the Department of Physics. He was the scientific advisor to Ministry of Defence from 1948 to 1961 and was appointed as Chairman of the University Grants Commission in 1961 in which capacity he worked till 1973.

D. S. Kothari was president of the Indian Science Congress at its golden jubilee session in 1963. He was elected President of Indian National Science Academy in 1973. His research on statistical thermodynamics and his Theory of White Dwarf Stars gave him international recognition.

Govt of India conferred on him Padma Bhushan in 1962 and Padma Vibhushan in 1973. He was also listed as a “Proud Past Alumni” by the Allahabad University Alumni Association. In 2011, the Department of Posts issued a commemorative stamp in his honour.

Daulat Singh Kothari
Picture courtesy:

6.21 Conclusions:

The naked-eye and trained-eye astronomical observations by Radha Gobind Chandra provided important data on various celestial objects from the eastern longitudes. Meghanada Saha, S. N. Bose and C V Raman made outstanding scientific contributions to Physics both in theory and experiment. The high point of the science in India during the colonial regime was the discovery of the “Raman Effect” by C V Raman who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930. S N Bose laid the foundation of quantum statistics, now called Bose-Einstein statistics. Meghanada Saha demonstrated that the spectra produced by a distant star can be analysed on the basis of high-temperature ionisation theory developed by him. Saha’s equation forms one of the basic tools in astrophysics for interpretation of the spectra of stars.

However, the experimental development was by and large neglected during the colonial era. Manufacturing of optical components, as well as iron and aluminium casting, were introduced in India only after its independence in 1947 and the importance of making scientific instruments locally in India was also realized.

Einstein’s theory of relativity was translated by Satyendranath Bose in Bengali. Meghnad Saha wrote an article on comet Halley in Bengali, inspired by Agnes Clerke’s popular book on astronomy.

The popularization of science started taking shape in India towards the end of the colonial rule. The outstanding book A History of Hindu Chemistry from the Earliest Times to the Middle of Sixteenth-Century written by P C Ray gives an authentic account of the contributions of Indian scholars to Chemistry in a lucid manner.

6.22 References:

[1] Jayant V Narlikar, The Scientific Edge, Penguin Books, 2003, Page-82
[2] Kochhar, Rajesh & Narlikar, Jayant (1995), Astronomy in India: A Perspective
[3] Eugene Lafont -Wikipedia the free encyclopediaène_Lafon
[4] P Sharma and Jeethendra Kumar P K, Roots of Indian Science Part-IV: Indian
Science during Colonial Era, LE-49, Vol-14, N0-1, Page-72
[5] Survey of India;
[7] Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research
[8] Medical college and hospital, Kolkata,_Kolkata
[9] Calcutta medical college,
[10] P Sharma and Jeethendra Kumar P K, Roots of Indian Science Part-IV, LE-49, Vol14,
No-1, Page-78
[11] University of Madras,
[12] University of Madras
[13] Mahendralal Sircar,
[14] Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics,
[15] Jeethendra Kumar P K, Mobile telephone history, Vol-3, No-3, Page-263
[17] Satyendra Nath Bose Biography
[18] C V Raman a pictorial biography, Indian Academy of Science, Complied by S
Ramaseshan and C Ramachandra Rao
[19] Prafulla_Chandra_Ray;
[20] Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar; Swaroop Bhatnagar
[21] Daulat Singh Kothari

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the authors. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

This article was first published in the journal ‘Laboratory Experiments‘, published by Kamaljeeth Instrumentation and Service Unit, Bengaluru, India.

Prabhakar Sharma
+ posts

Dr Prabhakar Sharma, Scientist (Retd.), is Ex-Head of the Academic Servies, Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, India.

Jeethendra Kumar P K
+ posts

A PhD in physics, Dr Jeethendra Kumar P K worked as a physics lecturer at Mangalore University for eight years. He is the founder of a physics instrument manufacturing company (1990) and Lab Experiments journal (2001), Bengaluru, India.

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Eminent Artist and Sculptor Uttam Pacharne is the New Chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi

He is a widely respected person in the field of art and has held various important positions.



NEW DELHI: The President of India has appointed Uttam Pacharne, as regular Chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi. Shri Pacharne is an eminent artist and sculptor.

He is a widely respected person in the field of art and has held various important positions.

Currently, he is Member of Advisory Committee, Kala Academy, Goa and Member of Advisory Committee, P.L. Deshpande State Lalit Kala Academy and Director, Janseva Sahakari Bank Borivali.

He is the recipient of National Lalit Kala Award 1985, Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar 1985 from Government of Maharashtra, Junior National Award 1986 and Jeevan Gaurav Puraskar 2017 from Prafulla Dahanukar Foundation.

Pacharne will hold office for a term of three years from the date on which he assumes the charge of his office.

Previously in March 2018, M.L. Srivastava, Joint Secretary (Akademies), Ministry of Culture was appointed Protem Chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi, pending appointment of a regular Chairman.

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