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There is an assertion here that the Ancient Indians had a theory of a model of the atom. (In the Ancient Greek sense of Atomos rather than the Bohr model).

This document also makes this claim.

My question is - how developed were the Ancient Indian theories of the atom? What are the similarities and differences between Kalapas and 'Greek atoms' or the contemporary (Bohr) model?

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While Kalapas are quite interesting indeed, just reading the wiki page pointed by @LennartRegebro should be enough to answer this question... – o0'. Dec 12 '13 at 12:19
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The first link seems like a biased opinion. Claiming 100000 year old heritage to Ramayana is political jingoism- not history. There is enough history and evidence to place the epics in context and timeline. Request you edit out dubious links. – Rajib Dec 12 '13 at 18:53
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Note that the greek theory was not an scientific theory, but a philosophical one. The greeks just observed that if they could divide a substance as many times as possible, the last chunk that kept the original properties was an atom (so you would get "atoms" or flesh, of water, or wood or even of fire). The semblance with any of the scientific theories is rather small, and if it were not for the fact that modern scientifics used the same old word for new concepts most people would be oblivious to them. – SJuan76 Mar 2 at 0:36
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I've noticed a disturbing trend in recent years whereby Indians are supposed to have developed key theories or inventions long before the West. I'm not talking about perfectly legitimate historical cases with solid evidence. The examples are always highly nebulous and quasi-mystical and not within the normal scientific and historical framework. – TheMathemagician Mar 2 at 10:05
up vote 11 down vote accepted

No

Kalapas are defined as the smallest units of physical matter If we stop at wikipedia, then Hinduism, modern physics and the ancient greeks have a theory of the atom. But a definition does not really equate to a theory.

Kalapas are material units very much smaller than atoms, which die out immediately after they come into being. Each kalapa is a mass formed of the eight basic constituents of matter, the solid, liquid, calorific and oscillatory, together with color, smell, taste, and nutriment. Essentials of Buddhism

Note the two fundamental characteristics of Kalapas - (1) they are transitory/ephemeral and (2) they have 8 types which are useful for meditation, but not for physics.

Meditation on kalapas seems sound and instructive; reasoning based on kalapas seems to be a misuse. The Buddha was trying to free people from reality; not to advance technology.

As a thought experiment, imagine that I define the smallest unit of matter as the foo. Have I created an atomic theory similar to that of the ancient Greeks? No - I've just relabled something. It isn't a theory until I offer testable predictions about the interaction of foo particles.

@Rajib says it clearly and succinctly:

The Indian theories are philosophical and metaphysical, not scientific. While they do describe the infinite and the infinitesimal, the descriptions are not meant to be quantifiable. Being descriptive, they cannot be the bases of scientific inquiry.

That is a better answer than mine.


See also this topic on Buddhism.SE: Meaning of 'kalapas'

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The Indian theories are philosophical and metaphysical, not scientific. While they do describe the infinite and the infinitesimal, the descriptions are not meant to be quantifiable. Being descriptive, they cannot be the bases of scientific inquiry. – Rajib Dec 12 '13 at 13:34
    
I think this answer both provides edifying historical material, and espouses ad hoc opinions that are inappropriate color to cultural knowledge for which the author may well lack meaningful involvement. – New Alexandria Dec 12 '13 at 14:27
    
@NewAlexandria - please feed free to edit it out; I'm sympathetic to teh comment, but I don't have enough information to edit out the "inappropriate" section. It has been a couple of years since I studied Buddhism. – Mark C. Wallace Dec 12 '13 at 14:29

One major difference is that in the Greek conception by Democritus, and taken up later by the Epicureans is that atoms were taken to be permanent ie eternal.

Whereas, I have read in places that the Buddhist conception is that atoms come to be and pass away - this I take to be because of their commitment to impermenance (anicca)

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