(Last Updated on : 27/11/2014)
The term meteorology signifies the study of the science of atmosphere, which in a broader sense includes the natural phenomena such as wind and rain. The origin of meteorology as a science in India is relatively young; however as a branch of knowledge, meteorology has a rich past with its root deeply seated in the antiquities of the ancient era, dating back almost to the ancient age of human civilisation.
The history of meteorology points towards three major periods in Indian meteorology. The first one points out to 600 B.C. to 1600 A.D which was indeed the period of speculation. The second period is 1600 A.D. to 1800 A.D marked as the dawn of scientific meteorology, and the most important is the third major period which began 1800 A.D and was marked by the expansion and enhancement of modern theory. In India, Meteorology has its trace in Vedic age. In Rig Veda meteorological descriptions were subtly demonstrated; however, the mythology was then the predominant attribute and was certainly the main essence of knowledge. The five principal elements of meteorology like the Earth, Water, Radiation, Wind and Sky were described in the Vedas as the Panchatattwas and were named as Prithvi ,Aap, Tej, Vaju, Aakash. Indian philosophy also mentions these elements as the five deities. These five principal elements of meteorology since ages in India were thus treated as deities under the names of Varuna, Marut, Parjanya and Indra. Signs of moderate, excess and scanty rainfall based on observations of clouds in different periods of time are explained in the Rig Veda. Indian culture shows that the meteorology was developed in ancient India by sages like Garga, Parasara, Kasyapa, Risiputra and Siddhasana. These sages had explained formation, properties and prediction of rainfall, in detail.
The two great epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata mentions about the meterology weapons for example Varunastra' the weapon of rain to quench ' Agnyasträ , the weapon of fire. This indeed points out that although not in a structured form or not as a scientific study material, meteorology as field of study was gaining importance. The ancient Indian literature also unveils the fact that meteorology as a branch of study was there in those long gone days. The Manu -smriti, an ancient Sanskrit work written in the 2nd century A.D., contains a number of meteorology references. Kautilya's Arthashastra, compiled in the 3rd century BC also has reference of the socioeconomics and duties of superintendent of Agriculture. In detail these chapters describe the work on agriculture and the measurements of rainfall. These descriptions and references indicates that to a great extent the ancient Indians were using detailed observations of clouds for rainfall prediction which later gave birth to the science , meteorology. The great Indian litterateur Kalidasa in the 7th century, in his epic, Meghdoot, mentioned the date of onset of the monsoon over central India and in his remarkable literal style traced the path of the monsoon clouds.
Indian culture shows the fact that a number of methods for measuring rainfall were also common in ancient India. Bhaskara and Aryabhatta, the notable mathematician-astronomers developed simple instruments like astrolabe for measuring altitude. A number of developments in the field of meteorology took place in the 14th century. However, as a science meteorology in India made its presence felt with the establishment of astronomical and meteorological observatories at Madras in 1792-93. The journey of meteorology is long, yet rich. It unveils the rich past of the ancient India.