Acharya Kanad

The Indian Sage who developed Atomic Theory 2,600 years ago


John Dalton (1766 – 1844), an English chemist and physicist, is the man credited today with the development of atomic theory.  However, a theory of atoms was actually formulated2,500 years before Dalton by an Indian sage and philosopher, known as Acharya Kanad.

Acharya Kanad was born in 600 BC in Prabhas Kshetra (near Dwaraka) in Gujarat, India. His real name was Kashyap.

Kashyap was on a pilgrimage to Prayag when he saw thousands of pilgrims litter the streets with flowers and rice grains, which they offered at the temple. Kashyap, fascinated by small particles, began collecting the grains of rice. A crowd gathered around to see the strange man collecting grains from the street. Kashyap was asked why he was collecting the grains that even a beggar wouldn’t touch. He told them that individual grains in themselves may seem worthless, but a collection of some hundred grains make up a person's meal, the collection many meals would feed an entire family and ultimately the entire mankind was made of many families, thus even a single grain of rice was as important as all the valuable riches in this world. Since then, people began calling him ‘Kanad’, as ‘Kan’ in Sanskrit means ‘the smallest particle’. 

Kanad pursued his fascination with the unseen world and with conceptualising the idea of the smallest particle. He began writing down his ideas and teaching them to others.  Thus, people began calling him ‘Acharya’ (‘the teacher’), hence the name Acharya Kanad (‘the teacher of small particles’)

Kanad’s conception of Anu (the atom)

Kanad was walking with food in his hand, breaking it into small pieces when he realised that he was unable to divide the food into any further parts, it was too small. From this moment, Kanad conceptualised the idea of a particle that could not be divided any further. He called that indivisible matter Parmanu, or anu (atom).

Acharya Kanad proposed that this indivisible matter could not be sensed through any human organ or seen by the naked eye, and that an inherent urge made one Parmanu combine with another.  When two Parmanu belonging to one class of substance combined, a dwinuka (binary molecule) was the result. This dwinuka had properties similar to the two parent Parmanu.

Kanad suggested that it was the different combinations of Parmanu which produced different types of substances. He also put forward the idea that atoms could be combined in various ways to produce chemical changes in presence of other factors such as heat. He gave blackening of earthen pot and ripening of fruit as examples of this phenomenon.

Acharya Kanad founded the Vaisheshika school of philosophy where he taught his ideas about the atom and the nature of the universe. He wrote a book on his research “Vaisheshik Darshan” and became known as “The Father of Atomic theory.”

In the West, atomism emerged in the 5th century BC with the ancient Greeks Leucippus and Democritus. Whether Indian culture influenced Greek or vice versa or whether both evolved independently is a matter of dispute.

Kanad is reporting to have said: ”Every object of creation is made of atoms which in turn connect with each other to form molecules.”  His theory of the atom was abstract and enmeshed in philosophy as they were based on logic and not on personal experience or experimentation. But in the words of A.L. Basham, the veteran Australian Indologist, "they were brilliant imaginative explanations of the physical structure of the world, and in a large measure, agreed with the discoveries of modern physics."

By April Holloway


Well.. take a look at where Indian's come from. Dravidians (native Indians) appeared to be flourishing around 4000 BCE, founding the Harappan societies. Harappan people however, went into decline without any real apparent cause, by 1500 BCE. About that time, a wave of Indo Europeans called the Aryans were arriving in India. The Aryans pretty much made Indian society what it is today. The Aryans were blue eyed, fair skinned people and considered god-like to the Native Dravidians.

The Aryans were nomads and warlike, but when they invaded, their invasion was actually very gradual as they not only fought, but intermarried in the Dravidian society, learning sedentary agricultural lifestyles from the Dravidians. By 1000 BCE when Greece was experiencing its Dark Age and the Mycenaeans were disappearing, the Aryans were actually helping build something like what we recognize as a more modern Indian culture.

With them, the Aryans brought entirely new concepts like the Rajah (chief) which eventually evolved into a Maharajah (king), which the native Dravidians didn't have previously. Dravidians were a loose confederation of landlords and merchants with no apparent kingship or other rulers over them, nor did they use religious justification for rules that were implemented in their society. But the Indo Europeans changed that.

The Indo Europeans also gave India a Priest class, a series of many gods to be worshiped and what we know as the four main VARNA (colours), i.e. social stratifications in India. And because the Aryans were fair skinned, thereby being seen as more 'godlike', they were the only ones allowed to be at the top of the social ladder. The Indo Europeans then, were the Priests, Warrior and Aristocrat classes while the native Dravidians remained in the lower two classes of (Cultivators, Artisians, Merchants) and then Commoners. Because of how strict social stratifications became, there was not much mixing between the classes and therefore, even to this day, those in India of higher Varna are genetically more Indo European than Dravidian (who are darker skinned).

Your higher thinkers like the philosophers and priests and those considered to be more educated were from these higher Indo-European-descended social classes.

And Where do Indo Europeans (like the Aryans) originate from? Well, at the time of the Aryans, they were from Japhetic tribes, but there were also Indo-Europeans from Hebrew tribes later on. After around 721 BCE, the ten tribes of Israel were taken captive by the Assyrians (All the tribes except for Judah and Levi) and then freed again when Babylon destroyed Assyria in a final show down. The Hebrews then high tailed it to the Caucus Mountains seeking refuge where they were able to hide out, intermarrying and living with other extant tribes of Japhetic people (like the Chamerians and Sideons) until Pompey (of the First Triumvirate of Rome) marched over the Caucuses in about 63 BCE to continue the typical Roman conquering and pillaging and assimilating. At that point, there was another wave of Indo-European migrations out from that part of the world, because the Hebrews were not a militaristic or political force, so usually they fled instead of fighting. Though this particular second wave of migrations from the Caucuses ended up resulting in the origins of the Scandinavian peoples and the Anglo-Saxons, not the Indians. Scandinavians Came not from the Aryans like the Indians did, but another group called the Ynglings, which means 'youth' of the Jewish tribe of Ephraim. [i.e. Ingles or Engles, aka, Angles led by their Chief, Woden/Oden -who is not a mythical god, he was a real person who is now buried at Upsala in Sweden, where he set up their capital city.]

Either way, India wasn't the only culture to have influenced other cultures of the ancient world. Of all of the ancient world cultures, it is widely accepted that Rome was probably the biggest culprit when it came to stealing ideas and implementing practices of outside cultures to make it their own. From greece though, we still get a lot of Firsts, like the first actual political lobbyists (Sophists), the first real democracy (from Pericles), the first practice of clinical observation (from Hippocrates) and what we know as the Scientific Method, as well as the first actual recorded histories as we perceive history today (from Herodotus and Thucydides). Though, honestly, I'm surprised that the Greeks were able to function as a society at all considering all the fighting they did. If they weren't involved in war with another society like the Persians, then they were at war amoungst themselves, forming different alliances amoungst themselves to fight one another and then breaking their alliances and forming different ones and fighting eachother again. ALL THE TIME. lol. Eventually that's what caused their decline. They broke their beautiful Golden Age by in-fighting. And plague. But essentially constant warfare weakened them to a point of ruin.

Of course, not all people in this part of the world were strictly Greek citizens, because there were also Macedonians, Irish, Egyptians, and maybe even Indians who happened to be in Greece too, further influencing how things went during Greece's Athenian Golden Age when all this was happening. After all, they were all involved in long distance trade with various civilizations and so there was definitely contact so we can't rule out that there was some crossing of ideas, too. I'm sure there would have been a LOT of that.

all the things that you said with your limited mind & full of pride regarding ancient greece culture & western educated mind - that we're the first & all are just "self praising / boastfull" is a total white lie which started approx 2000 years ago. Though this msg will seem to stand out as racial but the truth is western man makes up history according to their liking.

as per their requirement - all are pagan & non-belivers cannot know more than those who are from "judeo christian background" or descendants of adam/abraham etc etc.

In fact the greece were "BOY LOVERS" if it was not for the indians, western thought which has its root from greece would be absent today.

if you truly read then you will see indians shared everything with all cultures & got hatred in exchange. the chinese / the japanese / the middle east / & your fav - the greece -- all owe their knowledge from us, though now asserting it as their own.

But anyways its good to see that you can finally stand on your own feet. let us see how far will your stand remain in the future. what more can you conjure up to deliberetly hush up the truth.


Indians where not the only Civilization. And you say it's unheard of in other Civilizations, but Atomism was roughly known in the same time period in both India as Greece.
And there are many things that can be said completely the other way around for civilizations such as Greece, where many firsts in the world come from and the broader region, Greece,Bulgaria, Turkey.

1). For instance, the oldest gold smithing in the world (varna 4300BC), to symbol usages such as the swastika, the oldest of which found in (ukraine, 10.000BC) and Vinca civilization (Bulgaria, Greece) 7000-6000BC, which predates any other place in the world by many thousands of years.

2).Or the oldest writing and language in the world, Greece, Dispilio tablet (5300BC) and Yura potteries, 6000BC, where Greek alphabetical letters where in use 6000BC, predating earliest writings from Egypt(3200BC), Mesopotamia(3400BC) and India (2600BC) by 2500-3500 years.

Or oldest sea navigation in the world, 130,000 years ago, Crete, Greece

Or yet another 8000 year old civilization, in Greece, published 2 weeks ago, that was very advanced for
it's time, which had multistory buildings and balconies. Which can be seen as a forefather of the incredibly advanced Minoan Civilization (3750-1400BC), which consisted of cities, palaces with sewerage systems, plumbing systems, urban planning, with toilets for every common house, even on the 3rd floor. With palaces of 5 to 7 floors high.with complex architecture to withstand earthquakes. They had complex society, beautiful art and writings.

4). These are just but a few examples of firsts, but also when we look at popular Ancient Greece, there have been many sciences and inventions, that where unheard of anywhere else in the world.

Few examples such as the Antikythera,
The first computer in the world and most complex piece of technical engineering, unheard of anywhere in the ancient world, to invention of musical notation, that we use today. Or to to first robotics, Pneumatism, to the invention of the steam engine, automatic doors, elevators, steam cannon, to hydraulics, Automata, Mechanica, Catoptrica, Stereometrica, (heron of Alexandria), the first cookbook, astrolabe. Or even vending machines and washstands, where people could throw a coin in so that people could wash their hands or get food from the machine. Things that are unheard of to anywhere in the world and only to be re-invented in 18-19th century. Or to clock towers, alarm clocks, showers, central heating, railways,levers, inextinguishable Greek fire, the coinage system, cartography, lighthouses, anthropology,humanism, oldest composed musical piece in the world (Seikilos Epitaph), and really I could go on and on and on.

5). Not to forget that Ancient Greece, profoundly influenced central Asia and India, through Greco- Bactrian Kingdom that existed 400 years long. As Ancient Greece has Sculptures, architecture, Jewelry, Art, Theatre that was unrivaled to anywhere in the world, this resulted in the great transmission of Greek knowledge to Central Asia and India. Examples are:

The first buddha's made by Greeks:

Indian theatre started after when Greek brought theatre to India:
Quote: "The earliest form of the theatre of India was the Sanskrit theatre.[1] It began after the development of Greek and Roman theatre and before the development of theatre in other parts of Asia."

And when you go to the exhibition of Alexander the Great, you notice that Greek architecture, jewelry, and sculpture was unrivaled to anywhere in the world. Also where ancient Greek jewelry was super refined, the Indian jewelry was thick, simplistic and unrefined.
Only after the influence of Ancient Greece, and it's Greco-Bactrian Kingdom for 400 years, the jewelry, sculpting and many other crafts, of which Greeks where masters at, where transmitted to the peoples of Central Asia and India. This is also easy to attest. Go look for Ancient sculptures, jewelry, Architecture, in the region before Ancient Greece Influenced the region, and then after the 400 year of Hellenization of the region.

The same applies to Indian Astronomy, that was influenced with the rise of the Greek culture in the east.
"For example, Hellenistic astronomy is known to have been practiced near India in the Greco-Bactrian city of Ai-Khanoum from the 3rd century BCE. Various sun-dials, including an equatorial sundial adjusted to the latitude of Ujjain have been found in archaeological excavations there.Numerous interactions with the Mauryan Empire, and the later expansion of the Indo-Greeks into India suggest that transmission of Greek astronomical ideas to India occurred during this period"

6). What I am saying is, from Indian viewpoint it's fun to think as India being the oldest, first and greatest in everything, but that is not really the case. I know how some Indian people believe (it's part of the present-day Culture), to self-praise, boast (which is also part to survive in India), and take the All-Too-Common Indian storytelling for granted. In order to know your own civilization, you have to know others. The same applies to archaeology and history.

And I am very aware of Indian history timeline just as I am with Chinese, Egyptian, Fertile Crescent, Levant regions, I am merely pointing out that one should not fall into the trap of too much self-praising based on emotions, which is in my opinion and easy observation, all-too-common among some Indian people. With that said I'm not stating you are one of these people, nor Indian.

Good article, informative.... I have read about this man before and it is no secret the Indians were very advanced in terms of the microcosmic, and the macrocosmic. The indians, long beofre Einstein, said that the universe is on 11 flat oblong planes and were connected via wormholes or vortexs. This is unheard of at the time in other cultures but it was almost common knowledge to the Indian people.

Its mind boggling learning that what we call 'ancient' civilizations realized alot of what we credit as being discovered and understood by 'modern' civilzation..


Even things like the Flower of life and the Platonic Solids seem like they are trying to symbolize an atomic structure, also those symbols are just as old as this idea if not more I believe.


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