Science & Technology in the Rig Veda

Note: This article is based on the findings and analysis of Mandala VI only, and therefore does partially captures the tools and technologies mentioned on the Rig Veda.

The Pusan Hymns in Mandala VI, 53 to 58, contain interesting clues on tools and transportation.

Tools & Implements

The awl was an important implement as was the goad. So much so that, these were the associated with Pusan, their pastoral deity as his weapons, in the same manner that Indra is associated with the thunder-bolt. The goad is particularly made with a horny point and was used to guide the cows.

Transportation

Chariots (ratham) were in use as well. Again, just on the basis of the Pusan Hymns in Mandala VI, we cannot draw any inferences on the sophistication of these chariots. They were aware of the ocean and had a word for it – samudra. And they did navigate the waterways – using boats or ships (navo).

Horse riders rode their horses complete with reins, bit and bridle.

RV 6.002.04
Fierce is his gait and vast his wondrous body: he champeth like a horse with bit and bridle,
And, darting forth his tongue, as ’twere a hatchet, burning the woods, smelteth them like a smelter.

They must have undertaken journeys and probably constructed paths. Infact, Pusan is the Lord of the Paths (Pathas pate) and Hymn 53, Mandala VI, is a prayer that was recited before embarking on a journey,

Medicine

A fleeting reference to medicine is made in RV 6.074.03

RV 6.074.03
Provide, O Soma-Rudra, for our bodies all needful medicines (bhesajani) to heal and cure us.
Set free and draw away the sin committed which we have still inherent in our persons.

The deities, Soma and Rudra are asked to provide for needful medicines to heal and cure the bodies, probably of those injured in battle.

Artificial limb replacement during vedic times

Concept of Time

A year was measured in terms of time taken for a season to repeat, most often winter or autumn. The modern equivalent of “may we live a hundred years”, would have been “may we live a hundred winters (satahimah)”.

Interestingly, the word for winter is himah (also, snow or ice).  Even more interesting, the slavic term for winter is “zima”.

There is a specific term for month (mAsA) and is found in RV6.024.07. The same verse also has a term for autumn (sarad).

6.024.07
That Indra whom nor months (mAsA) nor autumn (sarad) seasons wither with age, nor fleeting days enfeeble,-
Still may his body Wax, e’en now so mighty, glorified by the lauds and hymns that praise him.

No further inferences can be drawn from Mandala VI to extend basis concepts of time to their calendar system or knowledge of astronomy. That will need to wait for analysis of other books, especially book I.

Numerical System

The numerical system was decimal. There were words to represent 1 to 10. There were unique words for hundred (sata) and thousand (sahasra).

RV 6.008.06
Do thou bestow, O Agni, on our wealthy chiefs, rule, with good heroes, undecaying, bending not.
So may we win for us strength. O Vaisvanara, hundredfold, thousandfold, O Agni, by thy help.

The numbers 3 and 7 were very significant.

There were three “places” or “dwellings” – Heaven, Earth and the intermediate space.

Their Gods were of three ranks, corresponding to the three places.

RV 6.051.02
The Sage who knows these Gods’ three ranks and orders, and all their generations near and distant,
Beholding good and evil acts of mortals, Sura marks well the doing of the pious.

Seven was significant as well. The ancient, most respected rishis/sages/seers are seven in number.

RV 6.022.02
Our sires of old,. Navagvas, sages seven, while urging him to show his might, extolled him,
Dwelling on heights, swift, smiting down opponents, guileless in word, and in his thoughts most mighty.

Indra’s chariot was harnessed by “sevenfold” reins.

The mighty Sarasvati is “seven-sistered”. Was this a figure of speech, or did at some point in time, the river did have seven tributaries that fed into her and make her mighty, is not clear.

RV 6.061.10
Yea, she most dear amid dear stream, Seven-sistered, graciously inclined,
Sarasvati hath earned our praise.

Did they have zero? Hmmm, not sure, needs further investigation.

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One Response to Science & Technology in the Rig Veda

  1. no conclusions drawn are conclusive.

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