Top scientists in India on Monday condemned “irrational” claims made at the 106th annual meeting of the prestigious Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA).
The Breakthrough Science Society (BSS), an NGO that campaigns for scientific literacy, held protest meetings across the country against presentations suggesting that ancient Hindu epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata contain detailed knowledge of stem cell research, test tube babies, aircraft and guided missiles.
"People must ask the organisers how they allow this," said Rajani KS of BSS.
Professor Nageswara Rao, vice chancellor of Andhra University, told the ISCA's special Children’s Science Congress that according to the Mahabharata, a single mother gave birth to 100 sons via test tube technology.
“The Mahabharata says 100 eggs were fertilised and put into 100 earthen pots” Prof Rao said.
He put it to an audience of teenagers that these were early test tube babies, claiming this proved stem cell research was prevalent in India thousands of years ago.
Prof Rao also claimed that the Hindu god Ram used guided missiles that would chase targets, strike them and then return.
The demon god Ravana, the professor further stated, operated 24 different types of aircraft from several airports in his kingdom.
Another participant, scientist Kannan Krishnan from Tamil Nadu in southern India, challenged Einstein’s theory of relativity and Isaac Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation on the grounds that neither of the two scientists understood physics.
Mr Krishnan declared that the Theory of Gravitational Waves would soon be re-named “Modi Waves’, after the Indian prime Minister Narendra Modi.
ISCA organisers later distanced themselves from these two speakers and resolved to exercise more caution in inviting participants next year.
“We are shocked at the comments made by the two speakers,” ISCA general secretary P P Mathur said.
This is not the first time absurd claims have been made at ISCA meets, with critics alleging the Modi government has debased the organisation.
In 2015 a paper on Indian aviation technology claimed that the ancient native sage Bhardwaja had detailed blueprints for varied types of aircraft.
The year before prime minister Modi buttressed similar logic when he told an audience of doctors and scientists in Mumbai that plastic surgery and genetic science had flourished in ancient India.
He said that was how the revered Hindu god Ganesha’s elephant head was attached to a human body, and how the warrior god Karna was born outside his mother’s womb.
In a similar vein other members of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, in a bid to laud India’s achievements, have claimed that motorcars, space vehicles even the internet existed in ancient times.