Yes, Indians knew about the laws of motion much before Newton; here is the proof
Hindustan Times on February 28 carried a report titled: Mantras coded laws of motion: After Darwin theory, Satyapal Singh targets Newton’s laws”. The report’s tone and tenor oozed contempt. The report ridicules the minister for saying that “mantras codified the ‘laws of motion’ much before they were framed by Isaac Newton”. According to the report, the minister was speaking at a meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education, the highest policy making body on education in the ministry.
The report reflects not only the reporter’s ignorance but the height of Hindu phobia that characterises the Indian media. Moreover, the report has many slip-ups, including the spelling of Isaac Newton. (But we can excuse HT.)
https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/mantras-coded-laws-of-motion-after-darwin-theory-satyapal-singh-targets-newton-s-laws/story-YjN3OL32uC4Ah7PtqFfMZN.html (accessed at 9.30 pm on Wednesday, 28th February)
In this context, one can only nod in agreement with Justice Markandeya Katju’s statement on Indian mediapersons made some years ago: “The general rut is very low and I have a poor opinion of most media people. The majority (of mediapersons), I am sorry to say, are of a very poor intellectual level. I doubt whether they have any idea of economic theory or political science, philosophy, literature, I have grave doubts whether they are well read in all this, which they should be.”
The problem with the media is that most of the journalists are carried away by the canards the Marxist historians have been propagating about Indian knowledge systems and wisdom, as they don’t care to read books or verify facts before they report. Since they have a pathological hatred for everything Indian and Hindu and are mostly West-oriented in their outlook, they can consult books by Western scholars of repute available in plenty in the market. My prayer, therefore, is – “At least read some books, guys.”
The suggestion in the report is that the minister has made some ridiculous remarks. Let us examine them:
Since most of them are not aware of Vaisheshika, I would take pains to explain that. Vaisheshika is one of the six Hindu schools of philosophy in the Vedic periods. Kaṇada Maharshi who lived in the 2nd Century BC was the founder of the Vaisheshika system. The great scientist Kanada chiefly occupied himself with the study of the properties of matter. Vaisheshika sutras postulate that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a finite unit called anu (atom). India’s eminent scientist Prof PC Ray states: “The atomic theory, as expounded by him, has many points in common with that of the Greek philosopher Democritus. His theory of the propagation of sound cannot fail to excite our wonder and admiration even at this date. No less remarkable is his statement that light and heat are only different forms of the same essential substance.”
Vaisheshika sutras and Newton’s laws of motion
Kanada: वेगः निमित्तविशेषात कर्मणो जायते | (Change of motion is due to external force.)
Newton: All objects have a tendency to remain in a state of rest or of uniform motion until disturbed by an external unbalanced force.
Kanada: वेगः निमित्तापेक्षात कर्मणो जायते नियतदिक क्रियाप्रबन्धहेतु | (Change of motion is proportional to the impressed force and is in the direction of the force.)
Newton: The rate of change of momentum with respect to time is directly proportional to the external unbalanced force acting on it.
Kanada: वेगः संयोगविशेषविरोधी | (Action and reaction are equal and opposite.)
Newton: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.
On gravity, Kanada writes: “Gravity is the peculiar cause of primary descent or falling. It affects earth and water. Gold is affected by this quality, by reason of earth contained in it.” (Translated by Colebrooke, Royal Asiatic Society Vol 1 pp19-43 and pp 92-118, quoted by Prof PC Ray.)
The problem with a section of mediapersons is that they celebrate their ignorance and mediocrity. And others will join the chorus.
Recently, speaking at a function in Kerala, a leader of a CPI(M)-inspired science organisation talked disparagingly about many claims of Indian achievements in science. Madhavan Nair, former ISRO chairman, who spoke after him, dismissed his arguments and asked him to take pride in our scientific accomplishments. Nair is reported to have said: “When we were preparing for Chandrayaan Mission, we checked some data mentioned in our scriptures and found that the modern science could not achieve even one-thousandth of the accuracy achieved by our ancients. (not exact translation)”
On another occasion, Nair said, “Some shlokas in one of the Vedas say that there is water on the moon but no one believed it. Through our Chandrayaan mission, we could establish that and we were the first ones to find that out.”
“Even for Chandrayaan, the equation of Aryabhatta was used. Even the (knowledge of) gravitational field… Newton found it some 1500 years later… the knowledge existing (in our scriptures),” Nair said.
Those who want to pursue the subject further may read:
A History of Hindu Chemistry by Prof PC Ray
Six systems of Indian Philosophy by Max Mueller