• 14/01/1994

As scholars expounded on the significance of traditional sciences, a computer in the pandal outside prescribed lifestyles to the more practical-minded. The diagnostic system was a software called Prakruthi, devised by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).

Based on the principles of Ayurveda, the system fires 38 questions related to diet, sleep habits, dreams, body functions and even sex. After 10 minutes, the machine divines the nature of the individual and prescribes a way of life guaranteed to give happiness.

Another diagnostic software called Madhava, based on the Ayurvedic text Madhavanidana, is intended for practising vaidyas. It recognises 5,000 symptoms and based on the symptoms and their severity, it states the most probable disease a patient is suffering from.

Scholars of India's traditional sciences and technologies can soon get information on their computers by linking up to a database available on the National Informatic Centre's computer network called Nicnet. The database is classified into 10 major divisions, such as Indian medical systems, metallurgy and agriculture.

The database is being compiled by NIC from "varied and rare sources, such as field surveys, traditional literature, scholars, and artisans. However, some entries are not properly sourced, which may hinder research.

If you THINK aircraft technology dawned in this century, you're behind times. According to Brihad Viman Shastra, a Sanskrit text of dubious origin supposedly written by Maharishi Bhardwaj eons ago, flying machines streaked prehistoric Indian skies. M Sharon, a chemistry professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, claims to have replicated some of the properties of a photovoltaic material, whose recipe is given in the shastra. He believes "further studies are needed to make more a fruitful conclusion."

C S R Prabhu of the National Informatics Centre in Hyderabad also made out a case for the validity of ancient Sanskrit texts supposedly authored by saints like Bhardwaj and Yagnyavalkya. He claims to have fabricated unique alloys -- a fine porcelain and a special glass for concentrating sunlight -- based on formulae "which are couched in obscure terminology in the texts". He also intends to produce shortly a soundproof alloy, a high-heat absorbing alloy and a glass capable of neutralising lightning.

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