Posts Tagged ‘Indian’

On whose shoulders did Newton stand on?

August 13, 2007

If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants. — Sir Isaac Newton

Scienceblogs on Kerala School of scholars:

A little known school of scholars in southwest India discovered one of the founding principles of modern mathematics hundreds of years before Newton – according to new research.

Dr George Gheverghese Joseph from The University of Manchester says the ‘Kerala School’ identified the ‘infinite series ’- one of the basic components of calculus – in about 1350.

The discovery is currently – and wrongly – attributed in books to Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz at the end of the seventeenth centuries.

The team from the Universities of Manchester and Exeter reveal the Kerala School also discovered what amounted to the Pi series and used it to calculate Pi correct to 9, 10 and later 17 decimal places.

And there is strong circumstantial evidence that the Indians passed on their discoveries to mathematically knowledgeable Jesuit missionaries who visited India during the fifteenth century.

That knowledge, they argue, may have eventually been passed on to Newton himself.

Take a look!

PS: The part about circumstantial evidence bothers me a bit; but, hey, we are completing sixty years of Indian independence; so, let us celebrate!

Sixty years of Indian independence — VII

August 13, 2007

What better way to understand the people of India than to read some of her anthropologists? Here are some links:

Apart from this, of course there are other of writers, Ram Guha and Amitav Ghosh, for example, who were trained as anthropologists, but write on a wide variety of subjects; similarly, there are writers (like G N Devy, for example), who were not  trained as anthropologists, but whose writings are surely anthropological in their flavour.

A bit of Indian history

August 11, 2007

Malavika Karlekar writes about two of the first Indian women doctors (and their dressing habits):

We do not know whether Kadambini and Anandi were acquainted with each other or indeed knew of their respective achievements. Though their lives were very different, they certainly shared a deep commitment to better medical care for women, crossing the seas to do so. There is a photograph of Kadambini taken in Edinburgh where she is wearing a sari in the style introduced by Jnanadanandini Debi, wife of Satyendranath Tagore. With it she has an elaborate long-sleeved blouse with ruffs at the wrist, and a shawl around her shoulders. We do not know whether she had felt the need for sartorial indulgences such as wearing the more practical skirt and blouse; in fact, in those days, Brahmo women like Swarnalata Ghosh and a few from the Tagore household did wear Western dress with ease and panache, and that too in Calcutta.

It is possible that Kadambini perhaps did not change her style of dressing — and must have caused quite a stir as she would walk into class in Edinburgh, six yards of silk swishing, boots clicking. We know, however, that Anandibai did not wear anything but the sari — and nine yards at that! Worn like a dhoti, though it was more practical than the six yards version, it was nevertheless cumbersome. Feted by the Carpenters’ friends at elaborate non-vegetarian meals, she did not change her dietary habit of not eating meat. And hosted a grand party for her friends with vegetarian fare that she had cooked. On ceremonial occasions, Anandi would wear a resplendent red silk sari, many sets of bangles, a bejeweled choker around her neck, and a nose ring.

All clothing, shoes and books were transported with the two women on their long sea voyages. Not only did they become the first Indian women doctors but were also among the earliest women to travel abroad. Anandi knew all forms of existing locomotion — horse-drawn carriages, the train and now the ocean steamer. And Anandibai’s sea voyage was anything but pleasant. She had to share the cabin with a missionary, Mrs Johnson, whose attention was focused on converting the young girl. Anandibai resisted but was badly shaken by the time she reached New York. Her mentor, Mrs Carpenter’s calm disposition was a great relief — and soon Anandibai became an honorary member of her family, and good friends with the three Carpenter girls. There was no question of conversion. The furthest Mrs Carpenter got to try and pressurise Anandi was when, on a cold and miserable New England winter’s day, she arrived at her door with a skirt and blouse in hand. But to no avail — what would Gopalrao say, shuddered Anandi!

A very interesting piece; take a look!

Sixty years of Indian independence — II

August 8, 2007

Here is a small clip of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous “tryst with destiny” speech. The transcript of the speech is available here.

Here is a short clip of Tagore in support of Gandhi’s efforts to eradicate untouchability, and the documentary on Tagore by Satyajit Ray.

Here is a short clip of a documentary on the birth of Pakistan and India, and another of Nehru’s greeting Dalai Lama.

A short clip of Subash Chandra Bose and INA.

Sixty years of Indian independence – I

August 7, 2007

To celebrate sixty years of Indian independence, in this blog, I will try to link to some media and materials of interest. Of course, I will begin with Gandhi.

Here is a video of an interview of Gandhi with an American Journalist — a must-see video. To give a flavour, here is the exchange towards the end of the interview:

Journalist: If England does not grant your demand, are you prepared to return to jail, again?

Gandhi: I am always prepared to return to jail.

Journalist: Would you be prepared to die in the cause of India’s independence?

Gandhi: (A pause) It is a bad question (mild laughter).

There are plenty of Gandhi footage at the Google Videos. Have fun!

Tagore as an architect of modern India

July 6, 2007

Ram Guha, in his fortnightly piece in Telegraph, tells us why Tagore should be counted along with Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar as one of the ‘builders’ of modern India, how Gandhi and Nehru owe Tagore their “idea of India”,  the inclusive  and unique brand of nationalism that Tagore formulated, and finally, how  the non-Bengali writing about Tagore is  heart-felt, but, superfluous. While we are on the topic, let me also recommend Ashis Nandy‘s slim but wonderful The illegitimacy of Nationalism which discusses the Tagorean brand of nationalism.

Swami Vivekananda’s death anniversary

July 4, 2007

Shencottah, on the occasion of Swami Vivekananda’s 105th death anniversary, collects some links to his writings. I have also enjoyed Sister Nivedita‘s The Master as I saw him, which, unfortunately is not available online. However, excerpts from her slim volume, Notes on some wanderings with Swami Vivekananda is available here.

Swami Vivekananda’s influence on our freedom struggle, and our freedom fighters is well known. Wiki has some relevant quotes:

The first governor general of independent India, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, once observed that “Vivekananda saved Hinduism.” According to Subhas Chandra Bose, Vivekananda “is the maker of modern India” and for Mohandas Gandhi, Vivekananda’s influence increased his “love for his country a thousandfold.” Gandhi, who also strived for a lot of reform in Hinduism himself, said: Swami Vivekananda’s writings need no introduction from anybody. They make their own irresistible appeal. Many years after his death, Rabindranath Tagore (a prominent member of the Brahmo Samaj) had said: If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative. National Youth Day in India is by way of commemorating him held on his birthday, January 12. This was a most fitting gesture as much of Swami Vivekananda’s writings concerned the Indian youth and how they should strive to uphold their ancient values whilst fully participating in the modern world.

Swami Vivekananda is widely considered to have inspired India’s freedom struggle movement. His writings inspired a whole generation of freedom fighters including Aurobindo Ghose and Bagha Jatin. Vivekananda was the brother of the extremist revolutionary, Shri Bhupendranath Dutta. Subhash Chandra Bose one of the most prominent figures in Indian independence movement said,

I cannot write about Vivekananda without going into raptures. Few indeed could comprehend or fathom him even among those who had the privilege of becoming intimate with him. His personality was rich, profound and complex… Reckless in his sacrifice, unceasing in his activity, boundless in his love, profound and versatile in his wisdom, exuberant in his emotions, merciless in his attacks but yet simple as a child, he was a rare personality in this world of ours.

Aurobindo Ghosh considered Vivekananda as his spiritual mentor. While in Alipore Jail, Sri Aurobindo used to be visited by Swami Vivekananda in his meditation and be guided by him in yoga.

Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if ever there was one, a very lion among men, but the definitive work he has left behind is quite incommensurate with our impression of his creative might and energy. We perceive his influence still working gigantically, we know not well how, we know not well where, in something that is not yet formed, something leonine, grand, intuitive, upheaving that has entered the soul of India and we say, “Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in the souls of her children. –Sri Aurobindo–1915 in Vedic Magazine.

Swami Vivekananda also played a key role in the setting up of the Indian Institute of Science:

After a chance meeting between Jamsetji N. Tata and Swami Vivekananda on a ship in 1893, where they discussed Tata’s plan of bringing steel industry to India, Tata wrote to Vivekananda five years later:

I trust, you remember me as a fellow-traveller on your voyage from Japan to Chicago. I very much recall at this moment your views on the growth of the ascetic spirit in India… I recall these ideas in connection with my scheme of Research Institute of Science for India, of which you have doubtless heard or read.

Impressed by Swami Vivekananda’s views on science, and leadership abilities, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata wanted him to guide his campaign. Vivekananda endorsed the project with enthusiam, and Tata, with the aim of advancing the scientific capabilities of the country, constituted a Provisional Committee to prepare a plan for setting up of an Institute of research and higher education.

However, some of the modern scholarship has not been kind to Swami Vivekananda; see this excerpt from Hindutva by Jyotirmay Sharma, for example. In my opinion, though, Sharma misses the context of Vivekananda’s speeches and exhortations, as well as those sections where Swami Vivekananda talks about the need for reforms in Hinduism. In any case, what better way to remember him than to read his works, or works about him, and make up one’s mind by oneself?

Update: By a curious coincidence, I came across this musings by Chet of Thomas a KempisImitation of Christ, which is one of the favourite books of Swami Vivekananda too!

Inscription on the Delhi iron pillar!

June 28, 2007

Prof. R Balasubramanian of IIT-Kanpur (Bala for most of us) writes at least one article every year on some aspect or other of Delhi iron pillar; here is his latest in the most recent issue of Current Science (pdf) regarding the process by which the inscriptions on the Delhi iron pillar have been made (pdf):

A detailed technical analysis of the characters of the oldest Delhi Iron Pillar inscription has been conducted. It reveals that the characters were put on the surface by die-striking operation using dies of different characteristic shapes. The dies were struck more than once to provide each imprint on surface. Both the die and material surfaces were in cold condition during the operation. Evidences have been provided to conclude that the inscription was die-struck on the pillar when it was in the vertical erect condition.

Take a look!

Guha’s India after Gandhi

June 20, 2007

Vikram Raghavan at Law and other things recommends Guha’s latest book on Indian history after Gandhi:

The book is noteworthy for its clear and accurate discussion of several constitutional and legal developments. That, by itself, is a big achievement. Most contemporary Indian writers and historians fail to either acknowledge or reflect upon the role and influence of the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the system of laws on the life of our Republic. Ram Guha is an important exception. For that reason and more, I believe his book is essential reading for the Indian legal community.

Some reading recommendations

June 18, 2007

Happy reading!