Ancient Indians made significant progress in the field of science as well as technology. We see its beginning in prehistoric times. This refers to the Stone Age, which is divided into East, Middle and North or Neolithic. Stone technology developed a lot during this period. Early humans made various types of tools from stone.
The main tools of the Stone Age are the core, the flakes, and the blades. A suitable stone was chosen to make the tool, then it was hammered with a pebble, leaving a small section of it. By this method many small pieces were removed and the remaining internal part was repeatedly injured to make the desired size instrument. This was called the core while the separated pieces were called flake. By grinding their edges finely, they were made sharp, which were called blades. Very advanced technology is seen in the manufacture of some devices. The main tools made of stone are – chopper and chopping tool, hand ax and bleaver, scraper, point, burin, borer etc. The pre-stone age man had acquired proficiency in making the desired tools by cutting stones, grinding etc. Relatively small tools called microliths were produced in the Mesolithic period. Humans of this period tried to develop missile technology. It was a great technological revolution. Now the arrow-bow has been developed. Small stone tools were carefully crafted to make arrowheads. Their edge was made very sharp. Mesolithic tools are lunate, borer, blade, and burene, etc., made of chert, chalcedony and agate stones. By the time of the Neolithic period, the technical knowledge of man was further developed. Now man has prepared the desired tools by packing, grinding and polishing them from stone faces. Along with stone, tools were also made from bones and horns. The most prominent of these are the polished stone axes which have been found in large quantities in different parts of the country. These are of various sizes. Some had a triangular shaft and sometimes shouldered, while some had oval edges and pointed handles.
In this way the development of stone technology had already happened in the Stone Age. The industry of making objects out of stone became very developed in the course of time.
After stone technology we find the development of metal technology. In metals • Man first used copper. Then bronze and finally iron was used. For a long time, man used copper and stone tools together, that is why this stage is called Chalcolithic. This culture extends to the pre-Harappan and post-Harappan periods. The people of the Pre-Harappan culture used axes, knives, bangles, rings, kankanas, etc. in the copper tools, they have been manufactured with great precision and cleanliness. People knew the art of melting copper. In the Harappan culture we find the development of very advanced techniques of metallurgy. Objects made of copper and bronze are obtained from various places here. It seems that some important organization of bronze craftsmen was working in the society. Apart from idols and utensils, they also made many types of tools and weapons. Statues were also made. The bronze dancer’s sculpture found from Mohenjodaro is the best specimen of metal craft. Apart from this, in this civilization, we get evidence of the well-developed production of stone plates on a large scale, bead industry, the industry of making rectangular seals made of bricks, Ishtika industry, etc. After the Indus civilization, we get to see the Chalcolithic cultures developed in different regions of India. Among them, copper metal has been widely used. Evidence of copper being melted in homes to make items is found, the region of Rajasthan was the main center of copper metal industry. The additional name of Ahad, an archaeological site here, is also found Tambavati i.e. a place of copper. A large quantity of copper tools are found near this place called Ganeshwar. Among them are rings, bangles, axes, antimony needles, knife fruits, bracelets etc. Apart from this, from Bengal in the east, Gujarat in the west and Andhra Pradesh in the south, more than forty copper hoards have been received from the vast land up to Uttar Pradesh in the north. These include rings, sabbar or khanti (celts), sharp ax, hilt sword, harpoon, basuli, shringika swords, human figures etc. All this indicates that now metallurgical technology had become quite developed and popular in different parts of the country. Chalcolithic cultures disappeared from central and western India around 1200 BC. After this ferrous metal was prevalent. During the Buddha period in the 6th century BC, there was a rapid rise of cities in the Ganga-valley. This is called second urbanization. The development of iron technology was also responsible behind this. Earlier only the instruments of war were made of iron.
Cast iron was easily available in the Magadha region. The blacksmiths used to make good iron weapons which were easily accessible to the rulers of Magadha. Jain texts reveal that Ajatashatru fought with Vajjisangha for the first time here.
Destructive weapons like Rathmusal and Mahashilakantak were used. They must have been made of iron. Iron technology has also played a role in developing and strengthening Magadha imperialism. Along with war-related weapons, agricultural implements were also being prepared on a large scale in the Ganges valley. With its help, more and more land was made cultivable by deforestation and production of Prabhut started. The surplus produce reinforced urbanization. Iron technology expanded and developed rapidly in Malwa, Eastern India and various parts of South India. Technological knowledge proved to be the main basis for the progress of urban and rural economy. The blacksmiths started making the toughest tools. There were rich iron mines in different parts of the country. Steel manufacturing also started. An iron ax has been found from a megalithic site of Mahurjhari in Berar, which has 6% carbon content. It has to be called steel. The art of making steel first developed in India. Steel made swords were unmatched in the whole world. India started exporting them to other countries of the world by the fourth century BC.
Stone and iron technology developed a lot during the Maurya period. The Ashoka monolithic pillars are a testimony to the excellence of stone carving. The installation of pillars weighing about fifty tons and height of more than twenty feet by carrying them for five-six hundred miles indicates the then engineering skill. Even in today’s scientific age, it is a matter of wonder. Another such example is the construction of Sudarshan Lake. Iron tools and weapons are found in large numbers from the sites of this period. The users of painted gray ware were well acquainted with iron tools. This culture signifies the development of iron technology.
, Post-Mauryan black technology can be considered very important from the point of view of progress. The Mahavastu mentions 36 types of craftsmen or workers residing in the city of Rajagriha and Milindapanha mentions 75 occupations, of which about 60 were associated with different types of crafts. The eight crafts were related to products such as gold, silver, lead, tin, copper, brass, iron and diamonds and jewels. This indicates that considerable proficiency had been acquired in the field of metallurgy – particularly the technical knowledge of iron foundry. Iron and steel have been mentioned prominently in the list of goods imported from India in the ports of Abyssinia by the anonymous author of Paraplus. As a result of technological progress, urbanization reached its zenith in the first three centuries of Christ. After this ferrous metal became the most important commodity of common use.
The Gupta period was also not negligible in terms of technological progress. Seven names are given for iron in Amarakosha. The five names are related to the plow fruit. The Mehrauli Iron Pillar indicates that the technical knowledge of iron works reached its climax. It has been made rust-free by simply coating a thin layer of manganese oxide (MgO), unfortunately after this we have no sources to understand this technological development. The polish in it has become a surprise for metallurgists even today. A century ago this type of pillar was not possible to be made in any foundry house in the world. Many bronze works were also produced during this time. A one-tonne bronze statue of Mahatma Buddha, about seven and a half feet high, found from Sultanganj (Bihar) is noteworthy. Evidence of the well-developed metallurgy can be seen in the abundance of coins and seals. Metallurgy was included in the sixty-four arts, in many places skilled metallurgists resided. The industry of making jewelery out of precious metals and stones was also in progress. The shipping industry also flourished. According to the famous artist Anand Kumar Swami, this was the greatest era of ship building.
The development of technology took place even in the post-Gupta period, although there was no revolutionary change in craft science and craftsmanship. Irrigation technology got advanced as a result of the advancement of agriculture and getting a wider base. Rajatarangini mentions an engineer named Khuya who built a dam on the Jhelum bank and got the canals out. Large lakes and ponds were constructed during the reign of Chandela and Nagar rulers. Most of the irrigation was done from Rahat (Arghatta). Various types of industries were in the developed system, there were many categories of craftsmen and traders. Metals were extracted from the mines and tools and utensils, jewellery, weapons, etc. were prepared from them. Both literary and archaeological evidence give evidence of the well-developed iron technology. In the collection of the thirteenth century Rasratna set, many types of iron have been mentioned – Mund, Teeksha, Kant etc. Several strains of each are also found. They indicate that a high degree of proficiency had been achieved in the field of iron technology. Large beams were being built, as can be seen from the temples of that period. War weapons were also manufactured in abundance. In some areas gleaming white swords were made. Artisans of Banaras, Magadha, Nepal, Saurashtra and Kalinga had acquired proficiency in making swords. Among other metals, the industry of making jewellery, tools and utensils from gold, bronze, copper etc. was also very developed. Beautiful idols were made by casting bronze. The one who made the idol was called ‘Rupkar’ and the workman who worked on brass was called ‘Pitalhar’. The leather industry was also progressing. A traveler named Marcopolo mentions the wonderful and well developed leather industry of Gujarat. The craftsmen there used to make beautiful mats from red and blue leather, on which pictures of animals and birds were made. Advances were also made in the field of stone and wood technology.
Excellent P.G. Guide & Guess Vastu Shastra’s book Aparajit Prichha shows that in every city there lived skilled craftsmen working on stone. Carpenters used to make beautiful things by carving on wood.
Like North India, South India was also very prosperous in terms of development of technology. High degree of engineering efficiency is visible in the majority of the ponds and dams which were constructed for irrigation. A classic example of this is the dam built on the banks of the Kaveri river by the Chola kings under the island of Srirangam, which was 1240 meters long and 12 to 18 meters wide. Various types of crafts and industries were prevalent throughout the South. Textile industry, salt industry, pearls, oysters etc. Business is all progressing in the south, in which many stone temples and statues are found from different parts, in which various types of carvings have been done. This gives evidence of the advancement of stone technology. Artifacts of Pallava and Chola period are indicative of the highest technological progress.
In this way remarkable progress was made in the field of science and technology in different periods of ancient India. In some areas, Indian knowledge-science was also accepted and praised by foreigners.