Was wheel invented in Satya-Yuga?
From: Madhava Pr through Vyasacharya Pr:
Some of my colleagues wanted to know how to reconcile the so called theory of gradual progress in history of different inventions (e.g. invention of wheel, discovery of fire, development of weapons etc. with the actual information as present in Sanatan dharma scriptures. So to quote them, the questions are like “Was wheel invented in Satya-Yug?”
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Question- Was the wheel invented in Satya yuga? How can we reconcile the so-called theory of gradual progress of different inventions and discoveries (like invention of wheel, discovery of fire, development of weapons etc.) in history with the information present in Sanatana Dharma scriptures? Does the actual information about various inventions and discoveries exist in Sanatana Dharma scriptures?
Answer- In the modern worldview that started with St. Augustine in the 4th century the understanding about the progression of time is different from the understanding before him. St. Augustine proposed a linear progression of time and he envisioned the world as progressing towards redemption and deliverance through Jesus. However, before him, the general understanding of the progression of time in the universe was cyclic.
The idea of “progress” has got center stage within the modern man’s understanding of the story of humanity. If we look back at the last five hundred years, we do see a significant evidential basis for this story. We see first the invention of say the steam engine, then electric engine, then computers and airplanes. And it seems only logical that if you go backwards we will see the story progressively going back throughout history to invention of the wheel, the discovery of fire, agriculture and all those things.
Now here the most important thing to avoid is generalizations. What archeological evidence provides us are certain fossils, which is both incomprehensive and inconclusive. Incomprehensive means that whenever we get some fossils we know that we are getting only a very tiny glimpse into the life of antiquity simply because not all life-forms that die get fossilized. Also, not all artifacts get fossilized. In fact if they get buried or stored by natural forces in the top side of the earth they will be washed away by the process of denudation as the rivers flow down and will be found at the bottom of the ocean which is practically not reachable for us. We can’t excavate below the ocean-bed to find out the fossils. In nutshell, not all life-forms get preserved, not everything that is preserved stays on the earth, and whatever is on earth we have not excavated all of it. Hence our picture of the ancient world through archaeology, fossils, and other excavations is highly incomprehensive and that which is incomprehensive cannot be conclusive.
It is possible that at a particular time in history the descendants of the Stone Age man discovered fire, invented the wheel, developed weapons etc. On the basis of existence of certain fossils it is possible to indicate the existence of a Stone Age man, but we cannot generalize and conclude that there was necessarily a Stone Age.
This can be reconciled by observing around us. Even today on the earth we see tremendous variety. We see super advanced areas like Silicon Valley, relatively more advanced areas like a metropolitan cities, reasonably advanced areas like cities, and much less advanced areas like tribal villages where there is absolutely no technology. Similarly it is possible that even the ancient societies could have a huge amount of variety like we find today.
If the archaeological record indicates that at a particular time there were people who were using Stone Age tools, it is possible to infer that there were people who were living with that level of civilization but does that necessarily mean that the entire world was populated with people of such level of civilization? No, simply because there is also contrary evidence available, for example the pyramids of Egypt.
There have been lots of books written about the inconceivable construction of pyramids. It would have been impossible for ancient man with the technology he had at that time because the stones used were massive monoliths. They were very difficult to lift and carry. Often the stones in the upper pyramid are bigger. How did they carry the stone up to that height? There are many books on such topics, for example “Fingerprints of the Gods” by Hancock and others, which do indicate that we don’t have any satisfactory explanation based on our current account of history for the existence of anomalous advanced remains of ancient civilizations.
We have lots of evidence that there were advanced civilizations in the past (similar to Vedic understanding). We have telltale signs of mysterious advanced lost civilizations in remote pre-history. Pyramids of Egypt and the Stonehenge monument of UK are just two examples. There are many examples like this available to researchers which call for a re-telling of history.
Now one may ask, if there were advanced civilizations present in the past, where did these civilizations disappear all of a sudden?
Approximately five thousand years ago when the great fratricidal war, Mahabharata, took place at Kurukshetra, there was a massive destruction of the ruling class of the world. After such a war there was decline and degradation because of financial and sociological consequences. There was decline and degradation also because of the advent of Kaliyuga.
Many researchers of remote history have agreed that there were some catastrophic upheavals around five thousand years ago in nature – floods, earthquakes, droughts etc. We also know that Saraswati river which at one time was so big that it was miles across the two banks, got completely dried up. We now know through satellite probes that the remains of the Saraswati are still there. Those have been discovered under the Rajasthan desert. Even now in some areas on the north-western border of India there is a river called Ghaggar whose path more or less matches the path of the Saraswati river as described in the Rigveda. Just imagine the amount of catastrophe and environmental upheaval that must have happened for an area with a river that was miles in breadth but now became converted into a desert. And this is not just the Vedic narrative this is narrative that modern science has given us. The point I am trying to make over here is that at the start of the Kaliyuga there was a major upheaval and only the traces of the advanced civilization remained after the upheaval. Full-scale glory of that civilization was destroyed due to the war, consequences of the war, and subsequent natural calamities that occurred at the advent of Kaliyuga.
Also, according to Vedic scriptures at the advent of Kaliyuga the sun, the moon, and the six planets all aligned in one line. Such an alignment is extraordinarily rare and happened approximately five thousand years ago. The effects of such an alignment on the life on earth can be catastrophic because all the celestial bodies’ gravitational pull gets aligned in one line and many unpredictable and unfortunate things can happen at such a time. Again the point I am making is, there is reasonable evidence that there was a significant devastation of civilization five thousand years ago.
Further, if we also look back at the Egyptian civilization five thousand years ago, they also had the capacity to make magnificent pyramids according to researchers. Only after that they became ordinary and then they don’t seem to have shown so much abilities and seem to be retrogressive.
Of course there are different versions of Egyptian history also but what we know from our historical background tracing backwards to the past five thousand years is that there does seem to be a linear progression and in that sense the account that we get in our historic textbooks is not wrong but it is incomplete. And it is seriously incomplete because if we compare five thousand years with the lifespan of the earth, five thousand years is a miniscule period.
We don’t have to reject those scientific evidences that do indicate the existence of Stone Age man, he could have existed and the scientific evidence of Stone Age man existing does not in itself disprove the Vedic account of an advanced civilization existing. Because Stone Age is a name we have given. What we have found is stone tools. Stone tools themselves don’t prove that the whole planet was in the Stone Age.
Coming to your question- in the earlier ages were there wheels? Obviously the chariots were there and hence there were wheels also present. And not only were there chariots with wheels there were also wheel-less chariots. As per Ramayana and Mahabharata, people had such technological abilities that they could even fly without chariots. There is mention of different siddhis in Vedic literature. However, modern science can say very little about such progress. Ultimately, even researchers admit that the more we go into history the more our accounts get speculative. Even historical accounts dating back to 2.5 or 3 thousand years ago are debated. For example date of Buddha’s appearance is a matter of huge debate although that was very significant in history and lot of writing was done by the followers of Buddha subsequent to his life but still it is debated.
How to explain the progress that is happening in Kaliyuga or in our recorded history? That is because whatever man focuses on he will develop in that area. In the modern times mankind has focused on manipulating the gross matter. Human beings are using their God given powerful intelligence to come up with deeper insights and technologies. On the contrary, in the earlier ages humanity focused on spiritual, subtler aspects of life and creation. Hence by connecting with the spiritual reality humanity not only made spiritual advancement but they also got the abilities to control and manipulate nature using subtler technologies. For example there is a mention of a weapon like Brahmastra, which was so precise that it could kill the embryo in womb without killing the mother. Such weapons were not activated by missile launchers but operated through the power of mantras.
In modern times to a large extent we have neglected the spiritual and subtler aspects of reality. We have only focused on the gross material progress. Srila Prabhupada was not dismissive of material progress but he felt that one should not lose perspective of the spiritual progress which is more important. Moving to an electric bulb from a castor oil bulb may be a progress in terms of ease of operation but it also represents a huge misdirection of effort because the same effort could have been used to light our hearts with wisdom and devotion to gain eternal life full of bliss and happiness.
To summarize, yes a progression is seen but that progression is only in a very limited and fragmented part of history. “Limited” means only for a few thousand years and “fragmented” means before that there was an advanced civilization which was almost wiped out and significantly lost because of political, sociological and environmental upheavals.