(Last Updated on : 10-05-2012)
Changes came in the over all social life in the Gupta period with the tremendous development of science during this period. With the growth and intensification in the arena of mathematics, astrology, astronomy, medicine, Chemistry, Metallurgy, Botany, Zoology and Engineering Gupta period gained a striking facet.
Mathematics under Gupta Empire
In the realm of arithmetic the most important achievement was the discovery of the decimal system of notation. It was based upon the principle of the place value of the first nine numbers and the use of the zero. Geometry attained great heights and many theorems relating to circles and triangles are mentioned. The most famous work in mathematics was that of Aryabhatta, the Aryabhattiyam which was written in 499 A.D. the work deals with arithmetic, geometry and algebra. Trigonometry was also being cultivated during this time. Indians took the lead over the Greeks as far as mathematics is considered.
Astronomy under Gupta Empire
Astronomy made great progress during the age. Varahamihira and Aryabhatta were the major astronomers. Aryabhatta pointed out that eclipses were caused by the moon coming within the earth's shadow or between the earth. He utilized trigonometry in astronomy. He worked out accurate formulas to measure two consecutive days. He had also obtained correct equation for the planet's orbit. Aryabhatta was much more advanced than the European astronomers. Most probably he began composing his work Panchasiddhahtika in 505 A.D. He discusses in this work the principles of the five astronomical schools, which were considered as the most authoritative one in his time. Of these five schools the Romaka Siddhanta clearly betrays Western influence. This is expected to happen as a result of active trade contacts between the Roman Empire and the Gupta Empire. The Surya Siddhanta is the most important and complete astronomical work of the period. It seems that Greek astronomy served as the basis of the Surya-Siddhanta. The other three schools of astronomy discussed by Varahamihira are the Paitamaha Siddhanta, the Vasistha Siddhanta, and the Paulish Siddhanta. In his work Varahamihira has preserved the essential teachings of these five schools of astronomy.
Medicine under Gupta Empire
The Charaka samhita
and the Sushruta samhita
by Charaka and Susruta were the most important works of medicine. Their conclusions are presented in the Ashtanga Sangraha by Vagbhatta I. Charaka and Susruta placed very high ideals for a physician. A physician is supposed to be a yogi, noble in character and supporter of mankind. He was not to charge high for the medicines he prescribes. He should not distinguish between the rich and the poor. The government and the public provided for the establishment and maintenance of hospitals where men and animals both were looked after. Nagarjuna had discovered the process of distillation and use of disinfectants. Vaccination for small pox was also known to the Indians. Indian medicine dealt with the whole area of the science. The structure of the body, its organs, ligaments, muscles, vessels and tissues were described in detail. Vast collections of drugs belonging to the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms are mentioned in the Hindu books of medicine. Hygiene, regimen of the body and diet was paid more attention. Doctors had conducted amputations and operations as well as improved deformed ears and noses. Surgical instruments were also carefully made. Susruta describes around 120 surgical instruments. The Bower manuscript was discovered by Lt. H. Bower in a Buddhist stupa in Kashgar in 1890. Out of the seven works discovered by Bower three deal with medicine. The manuscript on the basis of palaeographical grounds has been dated to the second half of the fourth century A.D. The manuscript deals with such subjects as the use of garlic in curing diseases, digestion, and eye diseases. A book named Navanitaka deals with different kinds of powders, decoctions, oils, elixirs and children's diseases. The only familiar name of a medical authority referred to in the Bower manuscript is that of Susruta.
Astrology under Gupta Empire
The Vriddha Garga Samhita is the only work on astrology prior to Varahamihira's Brihat samhita, which is a collection of ancient Indian learning and sciences. Besides the sections on astrology in the Brihat samhita, Varahamihira also composed four other works on astrology, which deal with auspicious muhurtas for marriage, auspicious portents for the expeditions of kings and the time of man's birth, and its influence on his future.
Chemistry and Metallurgy under Gupta Empire
In the Gupta age no books dealing with Chemistry and metallurgy are found. Nagarjuna is mentioned as a great chemist. The famous Iron Pillar
near the Qutub-Minar stands as a silent witness to assert the striking metallurgical skill of the Hindus. This pillar has not yet been rusted or corroded despite it being exposed to rain and sun for the last 1500 years. The use of mercury and iron in medicine shows that chemistry must have been practiced. Varahamihira was a scientist who was comfortable in dealing with astronomy, mathematics, astrology, metallurgy, chemistry, jewellery, botany, zoology, civil engineering, water-divining and meteorology.
Science was cultivated with enthusiasm in ancient India and many important discoveries were made which were passed on to Europe by the Greeks and the Arabs.