According to the descriptions found in Atharvaveda, electrical energy can be utilized in many useful applications such as creation of powerful engines, illumination, agricultural machinery, hydroelectric power plants, manufacturing plants, biomedical engineering, extraction of medicines, etc. and thus serve to greatly enhance the daily life of people.
Chapter 1: Hymn VII
Electricity , which breaks, by the energy of its arms the 99 cities, destroys the cloud, which covers the rays of the sun, the source of all energy and power.
This initial description describes the inherent properties of of electrical energy. Here the “arms of electricity” refers to positive and negative currents. The 99 cities refers to the 99 elements, as known to modern day scientists. In Vedic terminology, these essential elements were known as “Bhogas”.
Verse 3:
That very electric power may be our peaceful friend, providing us with the horse-power to drive our machines, light to light up our houses, and power to produce grains in the fields. Let it bring on prosperity and well-being for us by flowing into numerous currents.
These verses clearly refer to the various useful applications of electricity. The mention of horse powered driving machines is a direct reference to electronically powered vehicles like automobiles, aircraft, etc.
Verse 4:
Let electricity, so highly spoken of by many learned people, help extract the essence of medicines, thus produced by those, who are well-versed in manufacturing things. Let it keep safe and shower, on us the rain, satisfying all.
In modern times, we have discovered that certain electronic devices such as centrifuges, deep refrigeration, etc. are extremely helpful in deriving medicinal extracts. Apparently our ancient scientists were well aware of these methods and perhaps even more advanced than us in their knowledge. The last sentence refers reverentially to the role of electricity, which in the form of lightning is instrumental in creating life giving rain for the entire planet. The picture that emerges from these verses is that of an extremely advanced culture, that utilized superlative technology and yet maintained an enormous respect and reverence for the ecosystem and the natural environment.
Chapter 2: Hymn XV; Verse 2:
Just as all productive works of the manufacturer depend upon waters flowing down with speed, so do all the desired objects of him depend upon you (Electricity), as its powerful striking force cannot be obstructed by any cloud, or mountain in the way. It smashes all impediments, with its radiant energy.
Verse 3:
O well-versed engineer make use of this terrible electric power fit to be utilized for useful purposes by controlling it, for non-violent, brilliant light like the dawn. It has the potentiality to help hearing, control energy and spread light in all quarters.
This confirms the fact that electricity was a topic that was researched and explored in great detail. Skilled electrical engineers used to devise specific utilities and controls for electric power. Illumination was certainly one of its widely used applications. From the last line, we can also glean the information that electronic devices were used as hearing aids and sound magnifiers. Sophisticated systems for controlling electricity and measuring electricity were in place, and electronic panels that aided in controlling other forms of energy were also used.
Now let’s turn to the truly amazing descriptions of electricity being utilized as a weapon in military combat.
The Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) effect was first observed during the early testing of high altitude air-burst nuclear weapons. The effect is characterized by the production of a very short (hundreds of nanoseconds) but intense electromagnetic pulse, which propagates away from its source with ever diminishing intensity, governed by the theory of electromagnetism. The Electro-Magnetic Pulse is in effect an electromagnetic shock wave.
This pulse of energy produces a powerful electromagnetic field, particularly within the vicinity of the weapon burst. The field can be sufficiently strong to produce short lived transient voltages of thousands of Volts (ie kiloVolts) on exposed electrical conductors, such as wires, or conductive tracks on printed circuit boards, where exposed.
What amazes one is the fact that Vedic Rishis clearly knew about the Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) effect and have composed vivid descriptions of the usage of electric weapons as the verses below will demonstrate:
Chapter 2: Hymn XV; Verse 6:
Just as the thundering electricity reduces the vast cloud to nothing by its thunderbolt, so do you, O King, equipped with piercing weapons like the thunderbolt, smash into pieces the vast armies of the enemy, consisting of various units, by your striking power like the thunderbolt. Just as the waters of the cloud released by the electricity, fall down and flow over the earth, similarly the well-equipped armies of the enemy; being subdued by the might of the king are duly regulated by him. Truly do you alone, O King, hold all the power to subdue the foes.
The inference is quite obviously to weapons utilizing electricity. “Piercing weapons like the thunderbolt” is a clear pointer to surges of exceedingly high voltage. The lethal electric weapons are used to counter various units of the army. This is another clue, for as discussed above, the EMP effect can be used to advantage for a number of targets ranging from computers, to communication systems. Apparently electricity was employed as one of the primary weapons in military combat during the Vedic era.
Chapter 3: Hymn XXX; Verse 1:
O electricity, I fully praise thy two forces of protection and destruction in this great universe, which is a great sacrificial place or battlefield of life. I highly cherish your beautiful exhilaration, destroying the evil forces of the enemy. You shower various forms of fortunes through your blessing powers of speedy action, like waters from the clouds. Let all praises find their abode in you of charming splendor.
Here again, we find the mention of the dual nature of electrical energy. It can be destructive as in the EMP effect, and it can be protective as in the cerebrospinal system.
Verse 3:
Here is the blue-green colored thunderbolt of iron of the king. There is also the beautiful horse of iron of high speed. Here is also the horsepower of the rays of electricity. There is also the shining arrow, capable of destroying the pride of the enemy and having a very high speed. In short many kinds of weapons have been made through electric power for the king.
These verses appear to be describing different sorts of electrical weapons. The “beautiful horse of iron of high speed” apparently refers to some type of metallic car/aircraft which can reach extremely high speeds. The horsepower for the engine for a craft or automobile of this sort was provided by electricity. The “shining arrow” can mean an exceptionally powerful ballistic missile loaded with an electric warhead.
Verse 4:
Like a radiant spot, it is well placed in the heavens, then with a high speed, the terribly destructive missile, made of iron, possessing speed of electric power, crushing the serpent natured enemy, becomes lit up with thousands of lights and loaded with destructive ray of various kinds.
This makes the previous verse even more apparent. The missile being described seems to generate immense power and would be exceptionally destructive. It is possible that the electric weapons used by Vedic society may have been equivalent in destructive power to nuclear weapons, or perhaps even more lethal.
There are many more such references to electrical energy in the Atharvaveda, however in the interests of keeping this article to a reasonable length, some of the verses are omitted.

The Atharva Veda (Sanskrit Text with English Translation) translated by Devi Chand and published by Mushiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd has been used to compose this article

By Proud to be born in India

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