The beginning of Indian scientific thought are traced to the same source as those of Indian metaphysics and religion, the Rig Veda. The Vedas, being essentially works of poetic imagination, cannot be expected to contain much spirit of scientific inquiry, yet there are remarkable flashes of intuitive conjecture and reason.
They explain the nature of the universe, of life, while admitting that Creation itself is the one unknowable mystery.
To the Vedic sages, creation indicated that point before which there was no Creator, the line between indefinable nothingness and something delineated by attributes and function, at least. Like the moment before the Big Bang Theory. These concepts preoccupy high wisdom, the Truth far removed from mere religion.
Indeed, in one of the most remarkable of the Vedic hymns – In the Hymn of Creation (Rig Veda 10.129.3) a searching inquiry as to the origin of the world is made; it is certainly the earliest known record of philosophic doubt.
There was not non-existent nor existent;
There was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
What covered it, and where? and what gave shelter?
Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?
Yet the Vedas go further, being philosophy, or really spiritual sciences, rather than myth. The hymn goes to say that in the beginning there was neither death nor immortality, nor day nor night. All that existed was void and formless. Then arose, desire, the primal seed and germ of spirit. But,
Who verily knows and who can declare it,
Whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The gods are later than this world’s production
Who knows, then, whence it first came into being?
Vedas are the most sophisticated, most profoundly beautiful, and most complete presentations of what Aldous Huxley termed the “perennial philosophy” that is at the core of all religions. In modern academia, of course, there is not supposed to be any “ancient wisdom”. In this hymn, which contains the essence of monism, can be seen a representation of the most advanced theory of creation. The germ of free speculation and skepticism were already present in the Rig Veda.
(source: The Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys into India – By Paul William Roberts published by Riverhead Books).
The statue of Nataraja (dance pose of Lord Shiva) is a well known example for the artistic, scientific and philosophical significance of Hinduism.
Freedom was born in India. Doubt, the mother of freedom, was born with the Rig Veda, the most sacred scripture of the Hindus which has the following:
What are words, and what are mortal thoughts!
Who is there who truly knows and who can say,
Whence this unfathomed world, and from what cause!
Freedom of the mind created the wondrous world of the intellect — the world of Hindu rishis, philosophers, poets and dramatists. It was the freedom of the mind and freedom of the senses which led to India’s diversity and contributed to the richness of its civilization. No other civilization, not even that of the Greeks, could have enjoyed the freedom that we had. We have to remember, Socrates was forced to drink hemlock! The Inquisition burnt the Christian apostates at the stake and Islam beheaded dissenters.
Carl Sagan on Hindu Cosmology: