Introduction to Indian Knowledge System: Concepts and Applications – Book Review by Pallavi Ghosh

Recently, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), introduced a mandatory course on Indian Knowledge System (IKS) while revising the Engineering and Management Curricula in 2018. This course is meant to help students gain awareness of the wealth of knowledge produced by the Ancient Indians. Our latest publication, Introduction to Indian Knowledge System responds to this decision by the AICTE. Currently, there are no textbooks available to help students understand the various components of IKS. Hence, this textbook is a timely and valuable contribution to the education system in the country.

Our new title responds to the growing need felt by Indian society at large for Indian heritage and the Ancient Indians’ knowledge system to be included in the educational curriculum. The text is primarily intended to facilitate offering a one-semester or two-semester course on IKS to undergraduate and graduate-level students.

India’s sciences are based on fundamental principles, axioms, logical inferences, and empirical observations. Our sciences are steeped in India’s rich history and the vast knowledge of Ancient Indians. The historical accounts of science in India are inadequate and need to grow beyond the colonial lens. This book will help place the heritage of our country into perspective for the benefit of Indian students.

Professor Anil Sahasrabudhe, chairman of AICTE, in his foreword, has beautifully explained the need for a textbook on this subject.

Also, Professor S. Sadagopan applauds the book, opening his message with the line “I have gone through this book in detail and it has been an enriching, fulfilling, and satisfying experience.” He feels the authors have done an outstanding job at covering the vast number of topics related to the Indian Knowledge system. He states that the authors describe the various concepts in IKS in sufficient depth and avoid superficial surveys.

One approach taken in this book is to lay clear emphasis merely on the content of IKS. Therefore, efforts are made to present the ‘what’ of IKS rather than the ‘why’ or ‘how’ of IKS. The application, implications, and practical relevance of IKS are often left for self-introspection. The book has taken a middle path and has made special efforts to present IKS in a contextually relevant fashion. This has been done by delicately balancing the ‘why’ or ‘how’ of IKS with the ‘what’.

Some unique features of the book include:

IKS In Action Fact Boxes: This feature enables the students to develop an early appreciation of the subject matter. It provides a context where the ideas discussed in the chapter can be appreciated.

Rich Illustrations: The chapters are dotted with several illustrations by way of figures and tables. These help concisely summarise complex concepts and facilitate easy understanding.

Discover IKS: Every chapter has an end-of-chapter feature that points to useful videos on some of the concepts discussed in the chapter.

Opening Vignette: The beginning of every chapter has an opening vignette called “learning outcomes”. This helps develop a clear set of expectations with respect to the topics discussed in the chapter.

Endnotes: Material for the textbook has been drawn from extensive original sources and research papers. To establish authenticity and enable readers to access the original sources, these have been listed at the end of each chapter.

Suggested Readings: A list of additional readings has been provided at the end of every chapter. These will help students pursue further studies in the topics covered in the chapter.

This text introduces readers to new terminologies from the Indian Knowledge System. Readers may never have come across some of these terms prior to reading the book. Some of the explanations of terms from IKS will be eye-opening for many Indians. Examples of such terms which readers can expect to learn about in detail include: “Nyāya Darśana”, an integral part of the Nyāya school of philosophy and the “Vaiśeṣika” school of philosophy.

The chapter on Philosophical Systems lists a  number of Ancient Indian philosophical texts. These have never been included in the modern-day, westernised image of philosophy we have. For example, the explanation of “Yoga-darsana” is truly an informative read. The authors have explained that ‘yoga’ is a school of philosophy. It serves as a methodology for the realisation of the difference between ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Purusa’. Commonly heard terms such as ‘yoga’, ‘vedas’, ‘puranas’, etc are elaborated upon in detail. This clarifies their true meaning and makes sure their significance becomes clear. For example, in “Wisdom through the Ages”, the author provides several fun facts on the Puranas such as:

  • The five key characteristics of Puranas
  • Issues of interest in the Puranas
  • Topics discussed in them

Such facts not only help educate students regarding the topics on IKS in the updated syllabus but also serve as an enjoyable read. Readers will learn about their heritage through a well-written and well-organised text. The book is peppered with fun facts. For example, the chapter on Number System and Units of Measurement features riveting facts such as:

  • The decimal number system originated in India much before the 12th – 11th century BCE.
  • The ancient Indians were interested in studying the origins of the universe. This was a study in which the concept of time is very relevant. Table 6.6 in the text elucidates Ancient Indian Measures of Time in which the smallest measure of time is 1.3133 × 10⁻⁵ seconds and the largest is 4,32,00,00,00,000 human years.

Professor Anil Sahasrabudhe says the chapter in Metal Working will be a true eye-opener for young engineering students. The chapter provides a history of Iron and Steel in India. The author states that: “With the advent of the carburization of iron, a special type of high carbon steel was produced in India from as early as the fourth century BCE”. This chapter also provides information on various artefacts created in India. These artefacts evidence the mediaeval Indian blacksmith’s skill in the design, engineering, and construction of large forge-welded iron objects.

Towards the end of the book, the author also informs readers of distinctive aspects of Indian Psychology in “Health, Wellness, and Psychology” which includes an explanation of “Constructs of a Human Being”, “Constraints in Life”, and the “Tri-Guna System”. For example, the last of the terms is a system which provides an overarching framework to understand the physical infrastructure of a human being. The book closes with a chapter on Governance and Public Administration which informs students about the Ancient Indians’ culture and society.

Overall, this text is a must-read for all those who are interested in learning about India’s Heritage, Culture, and the ancient Knowledge System. The book not only responds to the new syllabus as per the changes made by the AICTE but also educates Indian students about their heritage.

Book on Indian Knowledge System

About the Authors

B. MAHADEVAN, PhD (IIT Madras), is Professor at IIM Bangalore. As founding Vice-Chancellor of Chinmaya Vishwa Vidyapeeth (University for Sanskrit and Indic Traditions), he created a new generation of academic programs in the higher education space that seamlessly blends Ancient Indian Knowledge traditions with Contemporary Knowledge Systems.

Besides being on the advisory boards of several business schools and management journals in India, Professor Mahadevan has been playing a very significant role in the field of Sanskrit and Samskriti for the past 20 years. These include:

• Visioning and execution of Sanskrit promotion activities in India and abroad through a variety of roles in Samskrita Bharti, including being the President of Samskrita Bharati trust

• Shaping the trajectory of Sanskrit educational space in the country by providing thought leadership initiatives involving Sanskrit University Vice Chancellors

• Helping the Government in policy decision making through membership in Central Sanskrit Board and invited membership in Rashtriya Sanskrit Parishad

• Introducing Sanskrit and Samskriti to mainstream audiences such as the Top Management of Corporate and Management graduates at IIMB through seminars, elective courses and lectures

• Professor Mahadevan was conferred the ‘ICFAI Best Teacher Award’ by the Association of Indian Management Schools in 2005. He was one among the 40 nominated globally for the ‘Economic Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Business Professor of the Year Award’, 2012.

VINAYAK RAJAT BHAT, PhD, is Associate Professor in Chanakya University, Bengaluru. Earlier he has worked as an Assistant Professor and held the position of Head of the School of Vedic Knowledge Systems at Chinmaya Vishwa Vidyapeeth from the year 2017 to 2022. He has been teaching courses in Indic Knowledge Systems, Vyākarana, Āyurveda, Arthaśāstra for more than 11 years now. Dr. Bhat has been honoured with Abhijña, Kovida and Chūdamani in Vyākarana. He was trained under the guidance of the great scholars like Late Prof. R. Devanathan, Prof. B. Mahadevan, IIM Bangalore and Dr. Chandrashekhar Bhat, CSU.

He was appointed as Specialist Sanskrit Advisor for a project on ‘Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian Medicine’ by Welcome Collections, London. He has written many articles in different areas of Indian Knowledge Systems.

NAGENDRA PAVANA R.N., PhD, is with the School of Vedic Knowledge Systems at Chinmaya Vishwa Vidyapeeth. Dr. Pavana has been teaching major works of Vyākaraṇa śāstra and allied subjects for more than fifteen years. He has also worked with Vyoma Linguistic Labs and contributed to developing e-learning tools for various topics of Sanskrit.

Besides Sanskrit grammar, his other areas of interest are Sanskrit literature, aesthetics in Sanskrit Poetry, Indian philosophical systems, the Vedas and the Vedāṅgas.

 

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