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An Indian minister has claimed that Indian scholars discovered gravity centuries before Issac Newton’s famous encounter with an apple, and called on the county’s scientists to promote more homegrown theories.

The Minister for Human Resource Development, Ramesh Pokhriyal, on Saturday said that Indian scriptures mentioned the concept of gravity around the 5th century.

Mr Pokhriyal, a member of the rightwing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, gave a speech at an event ostensibly to discuss education policy, but was organised by religious groups.  

The minister appealed to the directors of the Indian Institutes of Technology and National Institutes of Technology to undertake more research on ancient Indian science.

“We need to prove that all that we keep talking about like Charaka, Aryabhata, they all existed and that our scriptures mentioned the concept of gravity much before Newton discovered it,” the news site The Print reported. 

Charaka was a scholar who developed the concept of Ayurvedic medicine and learning around 300 BC, while Aryabhata was a 5th century mathematician and astronomer.

While the contribution of both scholars is acknowledged by scientists the world over, the bold claim over gravity follows a series of ministerial assertions in the last few years of ancient Indians inventing everything from the internet to space travel.

The event was attended by the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the hardline Hindu group often cited as the ideological parent of the BJP and prime minister Natendra Modi.

Several representatives from universities and schools attended also, leading to many questioning the overlap between religion and science, and the subsequent danger of “pseudo science” being taught.

However Mr Pokhriyal claimed children  questioned him when he said that India was ahead in all fields including science and technology. 

“When we spoke about yoga, people used to cringe,” he added. “Whatever we had in the past was never conveyed to the youngsters in a modern way, we erred someway in communicating our ancient wisdom. 

“This is why I want to appeal to all the directors of IITs and NITs that they should take up more research on ancient knowledge.”

The minister also asked the institutions to prove that Sanskrit is the “most scientific language” and the “most appropriate language” for talking computers – if they become a reality in the future, the Indo-Asian News Service reported.