~By D.P. Agrawal & Lalit Tiwari
Zinc is a very interesting metal and was responsible for the innovation of utensils of mock silver and coins of mock gold. Because of the low boiling point (907°C) zinc is difficult to smelt. Brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) however is known from even 3rd Millennium BC in China, but brass can be produced from naturally occurring minerals containing zinc and copper. Pure zinc could be produced only after the mastery of distillation techniques, which have been described in our ancient chemical treatises.
The mines of Rajasthan have given definite evidence of zinc production going back to 6th Century BC. Distillation process however was being used only from the 12th century AD, thus India is the first to produce zinc by distillation processes.
We are sure that the following story of early zinc production and lead about the ancient Indian chemists and metallurgists will be of interest to the students of history of science and technology.
Zinc is silvery white in colour, hard and brittle owing to its closely packed hexagonal crystal structure. In the 17th and 18th century Germans called this metal ‘Caunterfeitum’ or mock-silver because of its silvery white lusture. Its boiling point is 907°C. The main minerals of zinc in nature are calamine and sphalerite and mostly these occur in combination with the minerals of copper, lead, silver and iron. There is confusion about early occurrence of zinc and its extraction by the distillation process.
The regular zinc production by distillation started in India around 12th century AD and in China it is not earlier then 16th century AD. As early as the 12th century AD, India produced the metallic zinc by the sophisticated distillation process at Zawar in Rajasthan.
This technology of zinc manufacture is also described in several Indian alchemical works of the medieval period including the 13th century Rasa Ratna Samuccaya. The word used in this document to describe the distillation process involved is tirakpatnayantra, which translated literally, means “distillation by descending”. Various zinc-smelting processes were also described in the Sanskrit works of medicinal chemistry and alchemy, viz., Rasarnavam Rastantram (500-100 BC), Rasratnakar (2nd century AD) and Rasprakash Sudhakar (12th century AD).
In China zinc was first reported in the 16th century by the excavation in Gui-Zhan region of Yun-han, but the new research by the Chinese scholars gives a clear indication that zinc smelting began in China in the Jiajung period (1552-1566 AD) of the Ming dynasty. In 17th century China exported zinc to Europe under the name of totamu or tutenag. Tutenag possibly has its origin in the word Tutthanagaa meaning zinc in South Indian languages.
History of Vastu Shastra
Vastu Shastra (or short just Vastu) is the Indian science of space and architecture and how we may create spaces and environment that supports physical & spiritual health and prosperity.
Vastu Shastra evolved during Vedic times in India. The concept of Vastu Shastra was transferred to Tibet, South East Asia and finally to China and Japan where it provided the base for the development of what is now known as Feng Shui.
Vastu Shastra is the art and science of designing houses, offices, temples etc that swirl with good energy. Indian Maharajas and Moghul Emperors used Vastu Shastra when they built their symmetrical palaces, artificial lakes, and geometric courtyards that thirstily absorbed positive energy.
Like feng shui, Vastu Shastra is based on an octagon with the four directions being the anchors. Hindus believe that gods live in each of the quarters of the house, and govern the rooms, possessions, and activities in these locations.
Vasthu is an inherent energy concept of science. We cannot see energy with our naked eyes but we can realize and see its application in different forms and fashions. Vastu Shastra uses the forces of natural energies and aims to restore the balance between the home (the microcosm) and the cosmos (the macrocosm).
Vastu Shastra is not only a science, but is a bridge between man and nature, thus teaching us the Art of Living. Just like every subject of human aspect is governed with rules, regulations and acts, similarly the nature has also got certain key factor principles for smooth governing of its residents, in which Vastu Shastra stands for the law of natural energies.
Vastu, which literally means to live, works on the premise that the earth is a living organism, out of which other living organisms emerge. This life energy is known as Vaastu Purusha. The Vastu Shastra works for a bounded premise i.e., a house, building, industrial area or shop. The main aim is to form a balance between the outside atmosphere and the atmosphere within the premise. Vastu Shastra makes use of five elements – prithvi (earth), agni (fire), tej (light), vayu (wind) and akash (ether), the earth’s magnetic fields i.e. the north and the south pole and the sun’s rays.
History of Vastu Shastra
Vastu Shastra dates back to the times when the sages lived – probably 6,000 and 3,000 BC. The mention of Vastu Shastra can be found in ancient scriptures like the Rigveda, Atharvaveda, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Mayamatam, Manasa saar, etc. Ancient Indian architecture depended on this science for the building of almost all the palaces and temples. Although the exact origins of Feng Shui are debatable, it is thought to have originated about five thousand years ago. Scholars have recorded various aspects of Feng Shui as early as the Song Dynasty (960 BC). However, the basic principles of Feng Shui were first written down during the Han dynasty (25 AD).
How Vastu Shastra works
Vastu Shastra works on three principles of design that cover the entire premise. The first one is Bhogadyam, which says that the designed premise must be useful and lend itself to easy application. The second is Sukha Darsham, in which the designed premise must be aesthetically pleasing. The proportions of the spaces and the material used, in the interiors and exteriors of the building – ornamentation, colour, sizes of the windows, doors and the rooms and the rhythms of projection and depressions – should be beautiful. The third principle is Ramya, where the designed premise should evoke a feeling of well being in the user.
Also, Vastu Shastra is a complicated form of science put together by seventeen sages. There are certain rules that should be followed while building a house or a building. For instance, the building’s underground water tank or well should be situated in the northeast direction. But, if the building has an overhead tank then it should be placed in the southwest direction. Also, more space should be left to the north and the east of the building compound and less on the south and the west. Open space should be kept around the building and if the plot has a road on the east-north directions, it is better for the inhabitants.
Some short principles of Vastu Shastra
Indra, the god of gods, is positioned to the East. The East is where it all begins in Vastu Shastra. When people build their homes, the main door or the entrance is always facing the East. The eastern direction is the harbinger of good luck, which comes into the house through the door.
Kubera, the god of wealth, resides in the north. In this location some symbolic valuables should be placed to attract wealth.
The Northeast is the position for Dharma, the god of righteousness. In Vastu Shastra, this is the place for worship, meditation and introspection.
Agni, the god of fire, lives in the southeast corner. This should be the place of the kitchen.
Yama, the god of death, resides in the South. He prevents the evil eye from taking control of our lives. In India, people put a ghoulish pumpkin mask, similar to Halloween masks, in Yama’s position to ward off the evil eye.
Niruthi, who prevents homes from being robbed, dwells in the southwest corner.
Description of Solar Eclipse in the Rig Veda
India is rich not only in its culture and traditional values but also in the vast knowledge ancient Vedic scriptures have to offer.
Among the four Vedas, the Rig Veda is the oldest. The others are Yajur, Sama and Atharva. They are a compilation of suktas or hymns from many different Sages over a vast span of historical time which is evident by different astronomical reference presented. Rishi Ved Vyas bundled these various hymns into different groups much after their creation.
It is in Rig Veda that Rishi Atri, the human son of Brahma, speaks of eclipses in metaphors of demons and devas.
In Chapter 5, Hymn 40 the Sage explains:
यत तवा सूर्य सवर्भानुस तमसाविध्यद आसुरः |
yat tvā sūrya svarbhānus tamasāvidhyad āsuraḥ |
O Sūrya, when the Asura’s descendant Svarbhanu, pierced thee through and through with darkness
अक्षेत्रविद यथा मुग्धो भुवनान्य अदीधयुः ||
akṣetravid yathā mughdho bhuvanāny adīdhayuḥ ||
All creatures looked like one who is bewildered, who knoweth not the place where he is standing.
सवर्भानोर अध यद इन्द्र माया अवो दिवो वर्तमाना अवाहन |
svarbhānor adha yad indra māyā avo divo vartamānā avāhan |
What time thou smotest down Svarbhanu’s magic that spread itself beneath the sky, O Indra,
गूळ्हं सूर्यं तमसापव्रतेन तुरीयेण बरह्मणाविन्दद अत्रिः ||
ghūḷhaṃ sūryaṃ tamasāpavratena turīyeṇa brahmaṇāvindad atriḥ ||
By his fourth sacred prayer Atri disoovered Sūrya concealed in gloom that stayed his function.
मा माम इमं तव सन्तम अत्र इरस्या दरुग्धो भियसा नि गारीत |
mā mām imaṃ tava santam atra irasyā drughdho bhiyasā ni ghārīt |
Let not the oppressor with this dread, through anger swallow me up, for I am thine, O Atri.
तवम मित्रो असि सत्यराधास तौ मेहावतं वरुणश च राजा ||
tvam mitro asi satyarādhās tau mehāvataṃ varuṇaś ca rājā ||
Mitra art thou, the sender of true blessings: thou and King Varuṇa be both my helpers.
गराव्णो बरह्मा युयुजानः सपर्यन कीरिणा देवान नमसोपशिक्षन |
ghrāvṇo brahmā yuyujānaḥ saparyan kīriṇā devān namasopaśikṣan |
The Brahman Atri, as he set the press-stones, serving the Gods with praise and adoration,
अत्रिः सूर्यस्य दिवि चक्षुर आधात सवर्भानोर अप माया अघुक्षत ||
atriḥ sūryasya divi cakṣur ādhāt svarbhānor apa māyā aghukṣat ||
Established in the heaven the eye of Sūrya, and caused Svarbhanu’s magic arts to vanish.
यं वै सूर्यं सवर्भानुस तमसाविध्यद आसुरः |
yaṃ vai sūryaṃ svarbhānus tamasāvidhyad āsuraḥ |
The Atris found the Sun again, him whom Svarbhanu of the brood
अत्रयस तम अन्व अविन्दन नह्य अन्ये अशक्नुवन ||
atrayas tam anv avindan nahy anye aśaknuvan ||
Of Asuras had pierced with gloom. This none besides had power to do.
The Sage describes how Svarbhanu created eclipses of the Sun and Moon and how Sun appears after an eclipse in the sky.
Svarbhanu is Sva+Bha+Anu.
Sva means sky. Bha means light. Anu means follower. Compiled together it means follower of light that is present in the sky. This phenomenon of eclipse is seen due to this shadow where the word Asura stands for the shadow of the moon and not a demon.
Rig Veda says that Svarbhanu was not from the heaven but from the earth, which explains that the moon is a natural satellite of the earth and that it does not have its own brightness but rather reflects the light of the sun.
As shadow of the moon starts covering a large part of the sun, the red tinge of the solar chromosphere becomes visible which is described as the red sheep by Rishi Atri.
When the full solar eclipse takes effect, only the corona can be seen. This is described as the colour of silver sheep. When the eclipse is completely over, the sun is restored to its original bright lustre which is described as the colour of white sheep.
In the fifth stanza tells of all the creatures being frightened and in a terrible condition during the full solar eclipse. The Sage explains that the darkness at the time of this eclipse is different from the normal darkness of the night. The most affected by this darkness are the birds and animals.
It is a well known fact that India’s rich Vedic tradition has had a powerful influence in the field of astronomy and many eclipse events are well documented in the ancient scriptures.
(English translation of the Vedas by Ralph Griffith)
Vastu for Pooja Room in Home for Positive Energy
In the present times, Vastu Shastra is the most commonly used term, especially when it comes to purchasing or constructing a new home. To have a happy and prosperous household you must lay stress on enhancing the positive energy inside your home. Vastu Shastra increases wealth, well being and prosperity if you live in structures that allow positive cosmic forces.
One of the most important and sacred corner in any home is a zone of tranquility, the prayer or meditation area; usually known as ‘Pooja Ghar’. Although placement of a Puja Ghar itself brings positive energies in a home, but designing this sacred place as per Vastu guidance enhances positivity in the environment all around. According to Vastu Shastra, the North East zone or the Eeshan (Ishan) corner of a house is the best suited area for placing the Puja room.
It is believed that when Vastu Purush was brought down to the earth, his head laid in the north-east direction. So, while worshipping in this direction along with coming closer to the deity, we also pay obeisance to him. The direction also receives the purifying rays of the rising sun, which purifies the environment and brings positivity and prosperity into our homes.
Follow the below mentioned attributes in order to get an ideal Puja room:
- Never locate the Puja room in the south and the south-east, as these directions are ruled by Yama and Agni, respectively.
- Never locate the Puja space in the bedroom, as this place is for rest and pleasure. However if there is no choice, locate it in the north-east corner of the room. Take care that your feet do not point towards this corner while lying on the bed.
- Avoid locating the toilet above, below or opposite to this room to prevent the negative energies of the toilet from spoiling the auspicious atmosphere of the Puja room.
- This room should also not be constructed next to the kitchen or located under a staircase. In case you do make the Puja space in the kitchen, keep the deity in such a way that you face east while praying.
- In very big plots, factories or apartments, the prayer room can be located in the centre or the Brahmasthana, the sector governed by Lord Brahma, the Creator.
- Make the roof of the Puja room dome or pyramid-shaped. This facilitates smooth flow of positive energies from the tip to the dome or pyramid into the puja room. This shape also assists in meditation.
- Use tranquil colours on the walls of the Puja room like white, soft shades of yellow, blue or violet. These colours do not distract while praying.
- Ideally, the doors and windows of this room should open towards the east or north. These should be made of good quality wood and have double shutters.
- Although north-east is generally the direction recommended for locating the idols or pictures of various Gods; yet different deities have different auspicious locations as described:
- Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, Kartikeya, Indra and Surya are placed in the east and facing towards west.
- Ganesh, Durga, Kuber, Shodas Matrika and Bhairav in the north direction and facing south.
- Hanuman in the north-east facing south-west, but never in the south-east as it creates fire hazard.
- Never keep idols brought from ancient temples in the puja room. Also avoid Shrichakra and Shaligram idols, unless you have tremendous spiritual control and are capable of performing puja in a traditional manner.
- Never display photographs of the dead family members along with the deities.
- The height of idols should not be more than 18 inches and should always be placed on a high platform or singhasan.
- Keep the holy books or dharmic granths and other items of samagri and dresses of the deities along the west and south wall.
- The lamp or deepak should be placed in the south-east direction, governed by Agni.
- The Puja room should not be used for other purposes, like storing items that do not belong here. It should also not be used for sleeping purposes or to conceal money and other valuables.
- Never keep a dustbin in the Puja room, as the positive energy gets diminished due to the negative energies emitted by it.
- If you ensure the above mentioned points, you would not only add to the serenity of the room, but would also find yourself spiritually uplifted with increased powers of meditation.
- Dr. Prem Kumar Sharma, resident astrologer of Hindustan Times and Vastu consultant, has authored many books including ‘A Comprehensive Book on Vastu’ and ‘Cultivate Your Relationship the Vastu Way’.
~ By Astrologer Dr. Prem Kumar Sharma
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