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Arabians obtained from them any addition to their knowledge of Chemistry.

But when we turn to Hindostan, there is great apparent reason to believe, that the people of India contributed much to enlarge the knowledge of the Arabians, and that these latter borrowed freely from them, but, in imitation of their otherwise estimable Sovereign Al-Mamon, they studiously concealed how much they were indebted to them; we can judge by the perfection of many arts practised at this time by the natives of India, arts which have been transmitted to them by their ancestors, we may judge I say, that in remote times coeval at least if not prior to the dawning of science and of the arts in Egypt, much was known by them, and that in certain classes or castes the human mind was highly cultivated.

In works of fiction composed by the Arabians such as the Arabian nights, many of the stories are known by Oriental Scholars to have been borrowed from Hindoo Tales, Comedies, and Fables, especially those of Bidpai erroneously called Pilpay. The stories of Alnaschar and of Bedreddin have been quoted as instances of this; but with all the concealment adopted by the Arabians, they have involuntarily given proof of their deep sense of obligation to the Indians, for whenever they have had occasion to mention them, they always have spoken of them and have described them as superior persons, and with the respect and reverence which would be adopted by pupils towards their masters.

In the story of the Enchanted Horse it is an Indian Enchanter who brings and exhibits him to the King of Persia; and whenever an Indian of high caste, as a Brachman, is introduced, he is described almost as a supernatural being who commands the elements, and before whom, the spirits of the air, of earth, and of hell tremble, and implicitly obey his commands, as may be seen in that very amusing Persian tale of the two brother Genii Adis and Dahy.

In proof of the eminence in knowledge to which the ancient people of India had arrived, may be cited their inventions of the stupendous game of chess and of modern arithmetic, inventions which by all are conceded to the Indians, and which the Arabians never have attempted to claim.


On the contrary, one of their writers (Alsephadi, quoted by Montucla in his Histoire des Mathematiques) expressly mentions these inventions to the honor of the Indians, and relates that according to a very curious Indian tradition Ardschir King of the Persians having invented the game of tric-trac and being exceedingly vain of it, a certain Indian named Sessa the son of Daher invented the game of chess and presented his chess board and chess men to the King of the Indies. The Sovereign was so much pleased that he desired Sessa to name his reward, when this man made the apparently modest request, that he should receive as a gift so much corn as could be estimated by beginning with one grain and doubling as many times as there were squares on the chess board, namely sixty four.

The King felt displeased at having his munificence thus slighted by a request so limited and so unworthy to be a gift from royalty, but as Sessa remained firm, orders were given to the Chief Minister that he should be satisfied; when however the Visir had by calculation ascertained the enormous quantity of corn which would be required, he waited upon the King and with some difficulty convinced him of the fact; upon which the King sent for Sessa and said to him that he admired his powers of calculation even more than the ingenuity of the game which he had presented to him, and in respect to his promise as to the corn he was compelled to acknowledge himself to be insolvent.

After stating this, Alsephadi enters into some very curious calculations, but as the Arabian measures were not accurately known, the celebrated Dr. Wallis, the friend of Sir Isaac Newton and

Savillian Professor of Geometry in the University of Oxford repeated the calculations, and found that the quantity of corn would be such as to be capable of being formed into a pyramid, the measurement of which would be nine English miles in height and nine similar miles for each of the four sides of its base.

After this, Montucla also states some very elaborate calculations made by himself, and proves amongst other remarkable facts, that the quantity of corn in question would cover 162,000 square leagues to the depth of one foot french measure, which at the least would be three times the extent of the surface of France as it was about the year 1796, and which Mr. Montucla estimates at 50,000 square leagues.*

From all that is known of the manufactures of India, there is abundant proof of the perfection to which various arts dependent on chemistry had been carried in early times, and as to their knowledge of Distillation I shall here observe, in addition to that which Mr Swinton learned from the natives of Malvah, that there is in the first volume of the Asiatic Researches a paper written by Archibald Keir Esq. in which he describes the method of Distillation employed by the natives of Chatra in Ramgur and the other neighbouring Provinces.

The distilling apparatus is of the simplest kind, and consists of an unglazed water jar to which as a head is fitted one of the common copper kitchen pots, and for the purpose of a tube a piece of bamboo is employed. A hole is dug in the earth to serve as a stove or furnace in which the earthen jar is placed, an aperture being left as an outlet for the smoke and to replenish the fuel. I need not enter farther into a description of this primitive sort of Alembic, as Mr. Keir's paper may be consulted, but I cannot avoid remarking, that the antiquity and generality of

Histoire des Mathematiques par J. F. Montucla.-De L'Institut National de France, Tome 1. pp. 379-380.

the practice, and the rude simplicity of the contrivance, stamp the originality of the invention, and tend to confirm the claim of the people of India to the discovery of the art of Distillation.

The Philosophy of the Indians was highly esteemed by the ancients, especially by the Greeks, who considered these people as the masters of Philosophers; nevertheless the Greeks have not transmitted such records as can be relied upon, for as usual they seem to have introduced many of their own opinions and have confounded them with those of the Indian Philosophers; perhaps Arrian deserves most confidence, but as to Philostratus who is mentioned by Brucker and is quoted by Bergman in his learned treatise De Primordiis Chemiæ, it is universally agreed that his narrative can only be regarded as a tissue of Fables.

Certain it is however, and it is acknowledged by most of the ancient writers who have noticed Hindostan, that in very remote times India possessed men of deep reflection and of much knowledge.

Arrian relates in his seventh book, that when some of the Indian Sages (called by the Greeks Gymnosophists because they went naked) were brought before Alexander, they only stamped upon the ground with their feet, and being asked by the King, through his interpreter, why they did so, one of them answered " Every man, O Alexander, possesses as much earth as we now tread upon, and thou art a man no way different from others, but in making a greater stir, in being more restless, and in creating more trouble, both to thyself and others, by roving so far from thy native soil, but in a short time thou shalt die, and then shalt thou possess no more space than will serve thy body for burial."

Far from being offended, the King listened with respect, and acknowledged the force of the severe truths uttered by the Indian Philosopher.

Belle Vue House, Chelsea,

March 8, 1836.


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