Social Scientist. v 6, no. 71 (June 1978) p. 77.

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Review Article

The Assault on Science in Ancient India


Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, SCIENCE AND SOCIETY IN ANCIENT INDIA, Research India Publications, Calcutta 1977, pp 441, Rs 65.

AT a time when the anti-science bias in our country seems to be on the rampage even at the highest levels of government it is highly refreshing to turn our attention towards ancient India where the scientists fought a grim and relentless battle in their own way to assert the simple truth that ^knowledge is the child of time and experience and not of authority" (Bertolt Brecht). This particularly so is the case of ancient Indian medicine which scoffed at wild speculation and unsubstantiated conclusions and advocated and practised a rational foolproof method for evaluating any claim concerning medicine. This could well be illustrated.

One of the foremost texts embodying the results of centuries of patient observation and deduction from the point of view of the art of healing in ancient India is the Caraka Samhita. In no uncertain terms does this treatise stipulate that a discussion in the sphere of medical science should strictly be limited by factors relevant to that discipline and not be clouded or marred by extrinsic or irrelevant factors, no matter how powerful or fascinating the source of that factor be. You cannot clinch the issue either way in medicine by taking recourse to overpowering or mystifying quotations from some authority held in reverence for one reason or other. In other words, the norms of ritualistic and religious practice or of metaphysics cannot be blindly applied in matters of medical science. This position helped in raising science at once to the heights of rationalism in ancient India.

Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya in his book Science find Society in Ancient India highlights the most interesting facts concerning the growth of medical science in ancient India and also dispassionately analyses the vicissitudes faced by the exponents of this branch of knowledge, especially from the rigid and unrelenting orthodoxy. The present work

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