Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday claimed that cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who passed away this week, had said the Vedas have a theory that is superior to Albert Einstein's equation e=mc^2 that sums up the theory of special relativity.
Vardhan, who was addressing the inaugural session of the 105th Indian Science Congress here, however, parried questions on the source of the information.
"We recently lost a renowned scientist, cosmologist Stephen Hawking. He also emphatically said on record that our Vedas might have a theory which is superior to the Einstein's theory of e=mc^2," Vardhan told a gathering of scientists and academicians.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla, Chief Minister N Biren Singh were present on dais when Vardhan spoke.
Asked to disclose the source to buttress his claim, Vardhan told reporters, "You find the source. He had on record said that there is a possibility that Vedas have a better formula than the one given by Einstein. You also work a bit on this (to find this source)."
Vardhan, who is an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist by qualification, told reporters that could get back to him in Delhi if they failed in their research.
"I have said this in an open forum. I thought he needs to be remembered (on the occasion)," the minister said.
Vardhan also defended his statement on Twitter.
'#ISC2018- Each and every custom and ritual of Hinduism is steeped in science; every modern Indian achievement is continuation of our ancient scientific achievement. Even Stephen Hawking said, our Vedas might have a theory superior of Einstein's law E=MC^2,' Vardhan tweeted.
A Google search on Stephen Hawking and the Vedas throws open several links, one of which, www.serveveda.org, makes the claim. The website is hosted by the Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas.
The portal also claims that the organisation I-SERVE is recognised by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of the government of India as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
Einstein's theory of special relativity is a critical contribution to modern physics.
As part of his Theory of Special Relativity, he made the intriguing point that a large amount of energy could be released from a small amount of matter. This was expressed by the equation E=mc2 (energy = mass times the speed of light squared).
Even Vijay Bhatkar, the man behind the supercomputers in India and also known for his links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed scientific organisation Vigyan Bharati, said he was not aware of Hawking's this quote on the Vedas.
"I personally have not come across this quote," Bhatkar said, but added that it does not mean the quote doesn't exist.
He said that he is "not contradicting" the minister.
Bhatkar is currently the chancellor of the Nalanda University and on a government panel that has been set up for carrying out scientifically validated research on cow derivatives, including its urine, and its benefit.
Several claims made in past editions of the Indian Science Congress have come under criticism by the scientific community for not being backed by empirical evidence.
For instance, a lecture in the 102nd Indian Science Congress held in Mumbai examined ancient aviation technology in the Vedas and claimed that aeroplanes existed in India 7,000 years ago and they travelled from one country to another and from one planet to another.
The Indian Science Congress is an annual science carnival, which is attended by students, academicians and top scientists from India and the world over.
Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters