‘Science’ of Surya Tilak, ‘magic’ mirrors leave scientists fuming

Director of Indian Institute of Astrophysics boasting it took IIA, CSIR, CBRI at IIT Roorkee to direct sunlight to Ram Lalla's forehead makes India a laughing stock

BJP's official handle claims the Surya Tilak on Ram Lalla was created by astrophysicists and engineers from India's top institutes (photo courtesy @BJP4India/X)
BJP's official handle claims the Surya Tilak on Ram Lalla was created by astrophysicists and engineers from India's top institutes (photo courtesy @BJP4India/X)

AJ Prabal

Ram Navami fell on Wednesday, 17 April, this week. To mark this august occasion, Indian ‘engineers’ and ‘astrophysicists’ collaborated to place four mirrors and two lenses to direct sunlight to fall on the idol of Sri Ram Lalla at Ayodhya’s Ram Temple at 12 noon.

This was announced in a boast post on the social media platform X by no less than the director of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), who explained that it took scientists from the IIA, CSIR and the CBRI at IIT Roorkee all working together to direct the Surya Tilak on to Ram Lalla's forehead.

The post left laypersons amused and scientists aghast. Do Indian scientists have nothing better to do but engage in such a juvenile and meaningless exercise that is best left to high-school students?

IIA director Abhay Karandikar went on to provide more details: "As the temple is not fully completed now, the IIA experts modified the design to suit the existing structure and performed image optimisation. This design, with four mirrors and two lenses, was executed for the Surya Tilak. The final design of the Surya Tilak, with four mirrors and four lenses, will be implemented once the full temple is constructed by placing the mirrors and lenses in their permanent fixtures…"

'Opto-mechanical design of the lens and mirror holder assembly, and manual mechanism were carried out to shift the position of the first mirror according to the position of the Sun in the sky,' the post explained, impressively.

That a former director of IIT Kanpur could boast of making what essentially is an oversized periscope left scientists fuming.

A retired professor of physics from IIT Delhi, Prof. V.K. Tripathi, shared a video message via his daughter on Thursday, 19 April, to point out that even illiterate people in villages knew how to use sunlight to light up specific corners and when.

Even village homes with thatched roofs had openings to let the sunlight in, he added.

The poor IIA director was clearly working under instruction, which became clearer on Wednesday evening when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, campaigning in Assam and in other states, posted a photograph of himself reverentially watching the ‘Surya Tilak’ at Ayodhya.

Several pro-government TV anchors reposted the photograph and one of them was so moved that he noted that the Prime Minister had removed his shoes while watching the ‘event’ — though it was not clear whether he was watching on the ground or from the air.

The Prime Minister himself posted: "After my Nalbari rally, I watched the Surya Tilak on Ram Lalla. Like crores of Indians, this is a very emotional moment for me. The grand Ram Navami in Ayodhya is historic. May this Surya Tilak bring energy to our lives and may it inspire our nation to scale new heights of glory."

Others were less moved.

"What is the need to manually waste so much scientific resources for an unfinished temple, while you guys would be better off improving something for the poor or meet some national scientific mission on the ground instead. What a colossal waste of talent," exclaimed a scientist anonymously.

Many exclaimed in disbelief.

'Astrophysics body directing sunlight on forehead? Tell me it's a joke,' read one desperate plea.

Another reader, even less amused, responded thus to the former IIT Kanpur director: 'What an idiot, in Egypt they used the same technique 5000 years ago, please do not destroy the name of India by posting foolishness.'

Similar sentiments and comments, approximately a thousand of them, were shared within hours.

'When we were in class 3/4, we used to know when our school would get over by tracking sun rays through the asbestos roof on the broken floor of our class room!' recalled one.

Another lamented, on a more serious note, the plight of Indian science: '1920s: Indian scientists were developing Urea stibamine, Bhatnagar-Mathur Magnetic Interference Balance, Raman Effect, Bose–Einstein statistics, Mahalanobis distance and Saha equation.

'2020s: Indian scientists are developing Surya Tilak mechanism.'

Others pointed out that directing sunlight did not need high-tech equipment or advanced calculations, or even much 'pure science' at all, pointing to the ancient architectural designs of the Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple in Bengaluru, the Mahalaxmi Mandir in Kolhapur, the Malkadeshwar Temple in Gadchiroli, the great Sun Temple of Konark and of course the pyramids of ancient Egypt—all of which use/used mirrors to light up the dark interiors, achieving the selfsame result.

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Published: 19 Apr 2024, 10:51 AM