Acharya Kanad was born in 600 Bc in Dwarika,Gujrat. His real name was Kashyap. His father “Ulka” was a great philosopher. Since childhood he was attracted by minute things, particles etc.

Once he went to Prayag on a pilgrimage, he saw thousands of pilgrims littered the town roads & the banks of river Ganga with flowers and rice grains which they offered at the temple. He started collecting the grains of rice. Everybody thought he was insane as he was from a good family. Crowd gathered around him & one person asked him why was he collecting the grains even beggars wouldn’t like to touch these. He told them howsoever small the object could be, it’s a part of the universe. Individual grain might seem useless but the collection could serve as someone’s meal.” since then people started calling him “Kanad”, as “Kan” in Sanskrit means “Smallest particle” like grains.

Kanad first introduced the world about atoms and molecules. He said,”Every object of creation is made of atoms which in turn connect with each other to form molecules.” He found out universe is made up of “kana” means atoms. He studied atomic theory and found the way atoms move & react with each other. He wrote a book on his research “Vaisheshik Darshan”.

Observations and theories

In the fifth chapter of Vaisheshika Sutra, Kanada mentions various empirical observations and natural phenomena such as the falling of objects to ground, rising of fire and heat upwards, the growth of grass upwards, the nature of rainfall and thunderstorms, the flow of liquids, the movement towards a magnet among many others, asks why these things happen, then attempts to integrate his observations with his theories on atoms, molecules and their interaction. He classifies observed events into two: those caused by volition, and those caused by subject-object conjunctions.

The concept of anu (atom)

Vaisheshika Darshana
Dharma is that through which there is the accomplishment of rising to the unsurpassed good. Because it is an exposition of that, it has the authority of Veda. – Vaisheshika Sutras 1.1-2

That there is only one individual (soul) is known from the absence of particularity when it comes to the emergence of understanding of happiness and suffering, (whereas) a multiplicity of individuals is inferred from their perseverance in dharma, and from the strength of their teaching. – Vaisheshika Sutras 3.16-18

The true being is eternal, having no cause. Its indicator is its effect. The presence of the effect arises from the presence of its cause. – Vaisheshika Sutras 4.1-3

—Kaṇāda, Translated by John Wells

Kanada came up with the idea that anu (atom) was an indestructible particle of matter. An interesting story states that this theory occurred to him while he was walking with food in his hand. As he nibbled at the food in his hand, throwing away the small particles, it occurred to him that he could not divide the food into further parts and thus the idea of a matter which cannot be divided further came into existence. He called that indivisible matter anu, i.e. molecule, which was misinterpreted as atom. He also stated that anu can have two states — absolute rest and a state of motion.

Adherents of the school of philosophy founded by Kanada considered the atom to be indestructible, and hence eternal. They believed atoms to be minute objects invisible to the naked eye which come into being and vanish in an instant. Vaiseshikas further held that atoms of same substance combined with each other to produce dvyanuka (diatomic molecules) and tryanuka (triatomic molecules). Kanada 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 earthern pot and ripening of fruit as examples of this phenomenon.

Kanada’s conception of the atom was likely independent from the similar concept among the ancient Greeks, because of the differences between the theories. For example, Kanada suggested that atoms as building blocks differ both qualitatively and quantitatively, while Greeks suggested that atoms differed only quantitatively but not qualitatively.

People started calling him “Acharya– the teacher”, hence the name Acharya Kanad. Acharya Kanad is known as “The Father of Atomic theory.”