Indian Knowledge System to retain India’s glorious ancient past

India, a land of sages and seers, is well known for its rich cultural heritage and exuberant diversity. Also, it is known as one of the oldest civilizations in the world. In addition, great scholars and scientists of ancient India gave birth to various scientific theories that laid the foundation for modern science and technology. One will be surprised to know that many theories of modern day mathematics were already known to Indians in ancient times. But due to lack of proper documentation or knowledge dissemination to the counterpart or next generation, as compared to the Western world, contributions made by Indians did not find the place they deserved. Still some of the groundbreaking contributions by them have been acknowledged, some are still unknown to most.

Snorkelling deep into the sea of scientific discoveries, one can find that the Indian calendar is considered the oldest in the system. It divides an approximate solar year of 360 days into 12 lunar months of 27 or 28 days. The resulting discrepancy was resolved by the intercalation of a leap month every 60 months. Time was reckoned by the position marked off in constellations (nakatra) on the ecliptic in which the Moon rises daily in the course of one lunation and the Sun rises monthly in the course of one year.

India has always been the land of great mathematicians. The value of pi, used in calculating the area and circumference of a circle, was first calculated by Baudhayan. What is known as Pythagoras theorem today already appeared in Baudhayan’s Sulva Sutra, which was written many years before the age of Pythagoras.

We all know that Aryabhatta, a pioneer in the field of Mathematics, was the first to devise a decimal system of numbers and place value system writing numbers the way we do in these modern days. He wrote Aryabhattiya in the fifth century. Discovery of zero enabled Aryabhatta to find out the exact distance between the earth and the moon. Also, he contributed immensely in other areas of Mathematics including trigonometry and Beejganita (algebra) — the topics of modern day Mathematics.

Brahmagupta was the first mathematician to give the formula for the area of a cyclic quadrilateral in the seventh century. His contributions to geometry are significant. In his multiplication method, he used place value in almost the same way as it is used today. He introduced negative numbers and operations on zero into mathematics. He wrote Brāhmasphuasiddhānta through which the Arabs came to know our mathematical system.

Jain gurus knew how to solve quadratic equations. Guru Mahavira or Mahaviracharya, in the ninth century, wrote his book, ‘Ganitsarasangraha’ which is the first ever text on arithmetic in present day form. The text explains rules for adding fractions of unequal denominators by finding niruddha or L.C.M (least common multiple). Thus, long before John Napier introduced it to the world, it was already known to Indians.

Indians made remarkable contributions to the field of Astronomy, called Khagolshastra in ancient India. Aryabhatta contributed greatly to the field. Astronomy was studied to have accurate calendars, a better understanding of climate and rainfall patterns for timely sowing of crops, finding the dates of festivals, navigation, calculation of time, and sketching of horoscopes. The traders used this knowledge to study tides and the stars before crossing the oceans and deserts, especially during night.

Furthermore, age old traditions in India like greeting people in Namaste form, wearing toe rings by women, throwing copper coins into rivers, applying tilak on the forehead, bells in temples, applying henna in hand and feet, eating while sitting on floor etc. are all based on scientific reasons.

Jantar Mantar Jaipur, a stone sundial built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734 is famous for its meticulous architecture and mathematical accuracy. This astronomical observatory has amazed scientists and astrologists worldwide. The structure was used to tell time in the ancient days based on the position of the Sun and the direction of the shadows. It has been designed skillfully to also predict the movement and position of other celestial bodies in space.

If the history of medical science is traced back to its origin, it probably starts from an unmarked era of ancient time. Many techniques practiced today have still been derived from the practices of the ancient Indian scholars. Sushruta is considered the “Father of Plastic Surgery.” He lived in India sometime between 1000 and 800 BC, and is responsible for the advancement of medicine in ancient India. Charaka, the ‘Father of Ayurveda’, in his book ‘Charaka Samhita’ had mentioned about 340 plant types and about 200 animal types. The book contains ancient theories on human body, etiology, symptomology and therapeutics for a wide range of diseases. Charak Samhita is the most referenced treatise in Ayurveda by students, scholars, teachers, physicians and researchers.

In view of creating awareness among students about these valuable discoveries and contributions made by ancient Indians that created and strengthened the fundamentals of modern science and technology, Ministry of Education, Government of India has established IKS division with a vision to promote interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research on all aspects of IKS, and disseminate IKS knowledge for further innovations and societal applications. Moreover, the New Education Policy (NEP) has also provided a clear trajectory for imparting IKS in the higher education curriculum, necessitating a book of this kind in several higher education institutions in the country in the days to come.

Further, a course on IKS has been mandated by AICTE, and PHI Learning, in support of the policy, took initiative to publish the first-ever text on this interdisciplinary subject for holistic development of students. This unique text is a culmination of multiple efforts of the authors to fill in the gap for offering a required course on Indian Knowledge System (IKS).

The book seeks to introduce the epistemology and ontology of IKS to the Engineering and Science students in a way they can relate, appreciate and explore further should there be a keen interest in the matter. Beginning with the key concepts and a concise introduction to IKS, the book provides certain foundational concepts applicable across all domains of Science and Engineering. Hence, the readers are invited to navigate through all four sections of the book step by step….


Book on Indian Knowledge System

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