The Mahabharata is deeply ingrained into the consciousness of every Indian. We grow up on a diet of stories from the massive epic. We have similes, metaphors and analogies derived from it. The Bhagvata Gita, possibly our most powerful and popular spiritual treatise is contained within it. The Mahabharata (along with the Ramayana) forms the very basis of our social structure and interactions as well as personal and interpersonal behaviours. But the Mahabharata is way beyond the obvious.
One of the most interesting, and under-credited, aspects of the Mahabharata is the scientific imagination that it contains. Every science fiction imagines a world beyond the current. Science fiction is often predictive because what it contains as fantasy became reality sometime in the future. On these paradigms, the Mahabharata is one of the most imaginative science fictions of all times. It visualised impossible (at that time) technologies and human studies. Most science fiction imaginations have a few decades before their visions become a loose and then a defined reality. The technologies dreamed of in the Mahabharata probably took thousands of years to become reality – but reality they have become.
Here are some of the technologies predicted in the Mahabharata that have come to pass. (This is far from an exhaustive list.)
Predictions in Medical Sciences
In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
All of Kunti’s and Madri’s children – i.e. Karna and the five Pandavas were “gifts of Gods”. Morality aside (that is a separate discussion) it is clear that Pandu was impotent. As clear is the fact that the six fathers were not involved in any way with the mothers. The birth of the six boys is plainly a precursor of IVF wherein a sperm (not belonging to the father acknowledged by law) is used to fertilise the mother’s egg leading to the birth of a child.
Test Tube Babies
Well known is the fact that the Kauravs had their gestation outside their mother’s womb – in jars of ghee. Test tube babies, where the embryo is nurtured outside the mother’s womb is today a reality.
Predictions in Warfare
The weapons imagined in the Mahabharata include biological warfare, chemical warfare, atom bombs and nuclear bombs. The thing to marvel here is the fact that this was at a time when the bow and arrow was the ‘it’ thing. The reality then had not moved beyond face-to-face combat using swords, gadas and spears. In this the ability of the arrow to travel great distances was considered an unsurpassable technology – yet the authors imagined something way, way beyond.
Prediction in Transportation
The Mahabharata is set in a time when the most cutting edge technology in transport was the horse carriage. It was the last word in speed and comfort (not to mention riches). It is remarkable that in that world the author/s imagined aeroplanes (no less) – called Pushpak Viman. The Mahabharata unambiguously predicted air travel – aeroplanes and helicopters – because the imagined Pushpak Vimans included single and two-seaters as well as large multi-seaters.
Predictions in Home Use Technology
The entire description of the war is a narration by Sanjay to Drithrashtra. The blind king is sitting in his palace and Sanjay is granted the ability to “see” the war on the battleground and describe it to the king. This has become the reality by the coming of radio and television (smartphones and immediate uploads on the internet using the platforms of blogs, Facebook or YouTube are an extension adding immediacy and democracy to the transmission abilities of televisions).
Feel free to share more such predictions that you know about.
By Sujata Garimella