Indigenous medicine packs a punch

A DIDAR SINGH

There is no denying that India has an unmatched heritage of ancient systems of medicine which are a treasure-house of knowledge for both preventive and curative healthcare. This could be harnessed in achieving the goal of ‘Healthcare for All’. In the recent past, we have also seen a resurgence of interest in other forms of Indian system of medicine — ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy (AYUSH) — due to their immense utility in tackling lifestyle disorders, not only in India but all across the globe.

Although India has made significant progress in the last six decades in providing healthcare, we are witnessing a significant change in the disease pattern in the country, with an increasing number of people suffering from communicable and non-communicable diseases.

India ranks somewhere at the bottom of 193 countries on various critical health parameters such as number of doctors, nurses, and beds. We need to double the number of our doctors, from 0.7 to 1.5 million, for which we need at least 600 new medical colleges. We also need to triple our nurses count and quadruple the number of paramedics. This will entail considerable investment of our scarce financial resources. Further, this demands increased focus on preventive and promotive care.

AYUSH infrastructure

With a new health policy on the anvil, we have an opportunity to mainstream the Indian system of medicine and integrate the available AYUSH infrastructure into the healthcare system. This infrastructure consists of 1,355 hospitals with 53,296-bed capacity, 22,635 dispensaries, 450 undergraduate colleges, 99 colleges with postgraduate departments, 9,493 licensed manufacturing units, and 7.18 lakh registered practitioners.

The AYUSH sector has an estimated annual turnover of around ₹120 billion and more than 8,000 licensed manufacturing units involved in the country. India, with a wealth of 6,600 medicinal plants, is the second largest exporter of AYUSH and herbal products in the world, estimated at₹22.7 billion in 2013-14. And yet, according to the recent NSSO survey, 90 per cent of the population, both rural and urban, prefers allopathy over AYUSH.

This ironical situation could be attributed to low awareness of the enormous scope of these time-tested ancient systems. There is need for greater advocacy, increased regulation as well as promotion of evidence-based research.

The government has taken a positive step by elevating the department of Indian system of medicine and homoeopathy (ISM&H) to an independent ministry, AYUSH, in November 2014. The allocation of₹50 billion to this ministry and launch of an independent ‘National AYUSH Mission’ aimed at capacity building for the sector and creation of centres of excellence will help in the promotion and mainstreaming of AYUSH. It is encouraging that the government is considering setting up a central regulatory regime for yoga, ayurveda and other traditional systens.

There is need for the creation of a separate drug controller general for the AYUSH sector. These steps will bring more business maturity, standing and much required competitiveness at the national and global levels.

We also need better clarity about the role envisaged for AYUSH doctors in the delivery of assured primary healthcare. Since they have completed a five-year course in AYUSH, they could become the most appropriate human resource to tide over the longstanding shortage of trained doctors in India.

Some State governments such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Delhi, have introduced a bridge course extending from six months to one year, for trained AYUSH practitioners, which then permits them to prescribe 47 listed drugs that are commonly used in primary health centres (PHCs). Hence, there are solutions that can be considered in order to achieve optimum utilisation of AYUSH facilities to address the enormous healthcare needs and generate employment opportunities in India.

Medical tourism

According to the FICCI-KPMG report, the inflow of medical tourists into India is likely to cross 3.2 million soon, generating a market that may cross $4 billion in 2015.

Medical tourism in India started with AYUSH. People from all across the world come to India for health-restorative cum alternative treatments through a combination of ayurveda, yoga, acupuncture, herbal massages, nature therapies, and some ancient Indian healthcare methods. There should be no doubt that medical value travel has the potential to become the next IT/ITES sector, attracting big investments and generating significant employment opportunities.

The time has come when all the stakeholders need to pool in their resources and move towards harnessing the vast potential of AYUSH.

The AYUSH industry looks forward to a regulatory regime with better clarity and a greater push from the government.

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/indigenous-medicine-packs-a-punch/article7492108.ece

The writer is the secretary-general of FICCI

(This article was published on August 2, 2015)

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TIME HAS COME TO REINVENT INDIA

Pramod Pathak

This year, we completed 68 years of India’s Independence. For the life of a nation, 68 years is not a very long time. But it certainly is not a short time either. Many nation republics have done more than what we could do in almost similar time or even less.

But then countries like Singapore or China or even South Korea cannot be models for India given the marked differences that are there demographically, politically and culturally.

Even otherwise, comparisons are not always rational. Further, many countries have fared worse also in somewhat similar timeframe. For instance, there is no Union of Soviet socialist republic today, the so-called Bolshevik revolution, notwithstanding.

However, the more important question is where do we go from here? That is, what is the agenda for India. Agenda that is consciously chalked out. After all, that is what will determine our future course of action, but for that we need to look back and introspect. Introspect to find out how we began, where have we come and where do we want to go? And also, was the journey undertaken in the best possible way?

For this we must have an idea of India. That India was once known for its intellectual, spiritual and economic status is a historically accepted fact. Mind you, these are not imaginary ideas of an Indophile. These are facts of history that were recorded by foreign scholars and Indologists like AL Bhasham or Max Mueller or experiences of Chinese scholars like Fa Hienor Huen Sang.

For that matter even Robert Clive’s writing may be referred to. His awe at the prosperity of a place like Murshidabad speaks volumes. There is certainly a need to think beyond the stock markets and mobile phones. We need to think rationally as to how best we can capitalise our strengths while making our weaknesses irrelevant. But to do this we must be very clear as to what we want and what we can do.

Ancient India was a great civilisation in the past and a world guru. It had its own standards admired by the world. From commerce to education, India was globally admired. We had universities which were truly global in character. Our traders were net exporters. We need to think where things drifted and why. It was the medieval scourge that was responsible for this.

The centuries of subjugation made a severe dent to our attitude which was a result of a gradual conditioning due to subservient mindset. From the Mughals to the Europeans, particularly the British imperialist powers, they all somehow ingrained a kind of inferiority syndrome in vast majority of Indians that we are still struggling to rid ourselves from. From the ancient to the medieval to the modern, history has changed.

But what is important is to understand that histories impact attitudes through interpretation of incidents and events stamping the minds.

As such history plays a major role in attitude formation and subsequent behavioural change. If the ancient gave us complacence, the medieval gave us a bruised sense of self belief. It is time we thought of strategies to change these. One way probably is to think more objectively why we should not allow others to set our agenda. It is time to stop wondering we Indians, why Indians. We need to think be Indian, buy Indian and subsequently we Indian, I Indian.

The writer is a professor, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad (Jharkhand). He can be reached at ppathak.ism@gmail.com

Ancient Indian Tradition of Agriculture and Food Sharing

Claude Alvares

The undoubted and perhaps unintended – or unforeseen – ill-effects associated with the conventional green revolution package of practices has compelled both farmers and governments to look more favourably at organic farming, which appears dissociated with any of these deadly impacts.

Similarly, critical evaluation of aspects of “modern” agriculture – particularly its costs and its inbuilt unsustainability associated with non-renewal resources like fertilisers based on imported petrochemicals – are leading to a felt need to take a relook at the varied practices associated with indigenous or traditional agriculture which cost little or nothing at all. It is also a given that prior to 1966, the use of deadly pesticides to deal with problem insects simply did not exist.

In fact, some features of indigenous agriculture have been taken over by modern agriculture. For instance, no-till farming, which is a practice associated with swidden or kumeri agriculture is now provided a new label as “conservation agriculture technology” or CAT. In this so-called new avatar, supported not by adivasis but by multinational corporations, toxic chemical weedicides are used to kill off weed cover, thus providing a substantial mulch (another feature of organic farming) over the soil. The intention is to not disturb soil structure, which if often profusely damaged by conventional ploughing operations or increase soil density, which is inevitable when one uses tractors.

Masanobu Fukuoka was not the first farmer to introduce no-till agriculture which he reported in his remarkable book, One Straw Revolution. That is a claim only indigenous agriculture can truly make.

India’s Amazing Agricultural Tradition

For thousands of years, India has indeed done amazing agriculture. How we so readily and easily forgot a good deal of it is beyond understanding.

The inevitable proof of the success of good agriculture is that it enables a significant population to survive. In this place called India, we know the technology was adequate simply because society survived. But survival (restricted only to the business of eating) is not everything.

Indigenous agriculture also permitted and maintained many other creative things, including a classical culture that remains very much alive even in our times. It also enabled an alternate industrial mode of production exploiting energy at ambient temperature which supplied the entire world with textiles till the colonial rulers, desperate to find a market for their mill-made cloth, chopped off fingers of weavers of cloth.

The other interesting feature of this older agriculture – still with us in many parts of the country – was its phenomenal diversity, which led in turn to an elaborate and diverse cuisine unrivalled by any other part of the globe, with the possible exception of China.

In fact, when one compares the diversity of food and the diversity of recipes for cooking that food, both India and China are without any doubt “developed” nations. Conventionally seen as “developed”, countries like the United Kingdom or the USA with their poor food traditions including more recent, positively unhealthy relatives labelled appropriately as “junk food,” are at the bottom of the ladder of civilisation. The sooner we accept this, the better for all concerned.

Food Sharing Tradition

It is this diversity and abundance of food that has enabled this country and its society to evolve a food sharing tradition that again finds no parallel in other parts of the world. Even today, gurudwaras and mandirs routinely feed thousands of people who visit these shrines. This generosity could only germinate in the presence of ample quantities of food. Several edicts and norms required the mandatory sharing of “annadana.” In contrast, try getting a European to feed even his neighbour, let alone a stranger!

Now an abundance of food can only come with an intimate knowledge of the soil and of plants. Take plants first. I often give the example of our rice varieties to make a point. India produced – hold your breath – 300,000 rice varieties!

This is well documented and not some charming fiction created by the RSS. The Cuttack Rice Research Institute has 60,000 varieties in its germplasm bank. MP Rice Research Institute, founded by Dr R.H. Richharia, grew 19,000 varieties in situ. When I visited IRRI in the Philippines, I found 72,000 varieties in its gene bank, most of which were taken under the garb of “scientific research” from India, but eventually ended up in the US. This is a phenomenal figure of seed diversity and does indicate a very high level of understanding of seed selection and breeding techniques.

Since we are in Goa, let me tell you I traced the historical existence of sixty varieties of rice: highland, wetland and coastal (salt). Each seed, being a cultivar, is a piece of valid indigenous knowledge. Each seed had different qualities in terms of taste, photo-sensitivity, dormancy, even colour (purple varieties). Bred to different environments, soils and tastes, each seed contained unique knowledge.

Please try and see if you can ever compare the vast knowledge encapsulated in 300,000 varieties of rice with the modern knowledge of the few rice varieties that dominates scientific institutions. In fact, the International Rice Research Institute has produced after 50 years of research only two major successes, IR8 and IR36. Modern scientific knowledge thus pales in comparison. By losing the indigenous varieties, we lose pieces of knowledge contributed by this civilisation to the agricultural basket.

The art of breeding rice varieties is a dynamic process. Dr. Richharia – himself a leading rice breeder – found he had to revise his opinion about adivasis’ knowledge of science when he tried out certain seeds which he got from these farmers but which he was able to grow but unable to breed.

He discovered later that these were male sterile lines. He had no idea of how the adivasis of MP had come to know about the existence of these varieties (which modern breeders are still struggling with) but they knew how to identify such varieties, what they were meant for and how they ought to be used in their rice fields to create new varieties. None of the so-called “saline” varieties of rice were created by modern science; they were bred by farmers in coastal belts.

State of Today’s “Scientific” Agricultural Research

Most, if not all, plant varieties used by Indian agricultural universities – particularly the vegetables – are actually farmer-bred selections. They are merely provided a new name and then passed off as a result of scientific research.

This is so clear in the case of brinjal, of which this country boasts 2,500 varieties, none of which originated with any modern scientific establishment. It is a dozen of these varieties (including a brinjal variety bred by the farmers of Agassaim, Goa) that were appropriated by agricultural scientists at Hebbal and Coimbatore before being given so-called scientific names, and later handed over to Mahyco for use in the manufacture of Bt brinjal. Now they face a suit for biopiracy filed against them by the National Biodiversity Board.

It is this complex and extremely rich seed tradition which was assaulted by a development paradigm which one finds difficult to understand. The drastic change was heralded in rice and wheat by announcing a label: High Yielding Varieties (HYV). So, even though the traditional varieties were equally productive, and better suited to their environments, they were simply ignored in favour of the varieties that were given the name “high yielding”. This piece of information I got through discussion with agricultural officers.

This competence in agriculture was not just found exhibited in the form of seed diversity or the design of ploughs. Agricultural knowledge was also available in texts, many of which have since been lovingly translated and published by the Asian Agri-History Foundation under the pioneering leadership of Dr Y.L. Nene.

Parashara’s Krishi-Parashara is to be found in several languages, including Kannada. Other groups like the Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS) have also created a new library of these earlier texts dealing with agricultural practice, including the Vrikshayurveda. I have no doubt that some of these practices laid out in these and several other texts which include the Krishi Gita, the Mriga Pakshi Shastra, and the Vishwavallabha will return with a vengeance, when farmers side-step conventional modern green revolution package of practices due to the intractable problems associated with it.

My colleague Prof. C.K. Raju has written a few books in which he shows that the extraordinary focus on agriculture in India engineered the capacity building of predictive skills involved in the elaborate study of the monsoon, crucial to Indian agriculture. This led to the invention of the calculus and a strong mathematical and astronomical tradition.

Indian Agriculture and Irrigation Practices

There are several reports of agricultural specialists sent from England to study India’s agriculture and how to improve it in the period from 1750 to the 1950s. After their study tours and reports, these specialists spurned the very idea of any improvements. Their unanimous conclusion was there was not much to teach, much less anything to improve, since the farmers obviously knew their stuff. The Alexander Walker Report on agriculture in eighteenth century India is available in Dharampal’s Collected Writings.

Substantially the same message, in greater detail, can be found in the Report on the Improvement of Indian Agriculture written by Dr John Augustus Voelcker, the consulting chemist to the Royal Agricultural Society of England. He toured the country extensively from 1889 to 1891.

Forty years later, Albert Howard arrived. He frankly confessed that though he had come to teach the Indian peasant, he had ended up learning things many things instead. It is Howard’s work that led to the formation of the Soil Association of Great Britain and is today consider as the progenitor of organic farming as we know it today.

The historian Dharampal’s Chingleput data, carefully assembled from British records and reports, indicates that output of field crops in that region was higher than that associated with the best of the so-called green revolution package of practices used today.

Large-scale, meticulously planned irrigation systems were erected to sustain agricultural production. These not only enabled people to transport and store water in very large quantities (examples: Rajasthan, Pune) but the system of tank irrigation (for example, in Karnataka) was so well designed that when engineers proposed to increase the number of tanks, they discovered there were no more locations available since the existing ones had adequate arrangements to collectall the rainfall that fell on the ground in the areas.

Indian water harvesting systems were designed to deal with the monsoon, that is, to collect rain where it fell, precisely like the Mumbai housewife who finds she must collect as much water from her tap within an hour every morning when the public water supply starts and then shuts.

Modern irrigation systems, in contrast, are built on the technology of radical intervention, like large dams. For this reason, they are never sustainable, since they dam the runoff instead of harvesting it. In fact, the forests that harvest and store the water and then help release it gradually are slaughtered and drowned in the dam reservoirs. Since catchment areas are denuded, the life of the dam is considerably reduced, due to sedimentation. In the tank system, the silt accumulated in tanks was removed and used to fertilise agricultural lands as a normal practice.

There are many other indicators which I will not discuss in too much detail but those working in botany and plants know that Garcia de Orta faithfully recorded local knowledge of a huge variety of plants that were being used in India for medicinal purposes and which was thereafter transmitted by him to Europe.

The knowledge he collected was circulated in the form of the Colóquios dos simples e drogas he cousas medicinais da Índia (“Conversations on the simples, drugs and medicinal substances of India”), published at Goa in 1563. His understanding and systematic collection of this vast indigenous knowledge of plants is sometimes misunderstood to suggest or even claim that it was he who discovered the various medical uses of these plants himself!

Indian Self-Forgetfulness

The amazing thing is we simply dumped all this valid and priceless knowledge on the grounds that it was out of date, to be replaced for the better by Western science which we felt at that time was superior, some sort of new toy which we felt should replace our own toys.

We were told that by subscribing to imported agricultural technology, we would be adopting entirely new knowledge and production levels which would give us better yields and therefore we were invited to discard our indigenous knowledge as no longer required, like some old typewriter.

However, we know now that the introduction of new varieties which did not have the benefit of close adaptation to the environment and were also grown as monocultures, required the use of pesticides, and eventually led to the contamination of food. No one would ever claim that foods grown by the older methods contained poisons! That is a claim, however, it is difficult to refute with the crops raised by modern agriculture, especially the latest gadgets we call GMOs.

Modern Technology-Driven Agriculture Leads to Destruction

Worse, the effects of unloading salts like urea on a massive scale in the soil led to soil sterility, as the conditions for the survival of soil microbes, earthworms and other soil fauna became impossible.

In the older system, the soil had been replenished with infusions of microbial matter from composts. In the systems organic farmers follow today, there is much reliance on precisely the same method, basically through the use of panchgavya and jeevamrut. These liquids contain consortia of beneficial microbes which restore the soil’s inherent fertility. Scientific studies have confirmed the availability of soil microbes through the use of such traditional media.

I am confident that if we consider the green revolution period of Indian agriculture as a period of transition, giving us grace time so to speak, to move into a sustainable agriculture phase, that would be the best possible interpretation we could place on it.

We need to return to an agriculture that is completely devoid of the use of poisons and poisonous and poisoned plants, which is something we did for thousands of years. We must move into an agriculture that does not destroy the soil. We must return to an agriculture in which we do not unnecessarily replace the inherent potentialities of nature herself, provided in the power of the soil fauna and biodiversity.

There are two ways to retrieve knowledge we have all but forgotten. One is by studying the texts of Indian agriculture of the past. An equally helpful way is to closely study the experience of the organic farming community.

Many of these have worked now for more than thirty years. People like Dr Anil Gupta from IIM, Ahmedabad, have been documenting the indigenous innovations of our farmers now for several years. That capacity to innovate has not died. In fact, it is flourishing, as I have tried to show in the pages of theOrganic Farming Sourcebook.

So we have a good base to work out from. I consider the holding of this conference an important step in that direction.

(Lecture for the National Conference on Innovation in Traditional Practices for Cultivation of Fruit, Vegetable, and Plantation Crops held at ICAR, Goa, on December 11-12, 2014. First published on the author’s blog.)

Claude Alvares is an environmentalist based in Goa, India. He is the editor of the Other India Press and the Director of the Goa Foundation.

http://indiafacts.co.in/ancient-indian-tradition-agriculture-food-sharing/

Great Indian kingdoms history has deliberately ignored

India Tomorrow presents great Indian kingdoms whose mention has been deliberately omitted from the country’s history books.

All we have ever studied in our history books has been all about the glorified history of a few kingdoms like the Mughal Dynasty, Mysore Dynasty and the various Delhi Sultanates.

In this article, India Tomorrow briefly brings out the legacy of Indian kings and dynasties under whom India progressed and flourished as a cultural, spiritual and social nation.

THE PALLAVA DYNASTY

The Pallavas ruled the area of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka from 275 BCE to 882 BCE with Kanchipuram as their capital.

http://indiatomorrow.co/nation/3640-great-indian-kingdoms-history-has-deliberately-ignored

They are famous for their architectural work with rocks which produced marvels like the Mahabalipuram temple and creating the modern form of the ancient Brahmi script which influenced the genesis of almost all Southeast Asian scripts, particularly the scripts of Thailand, Indonesia, Burma and other Southeast Asia. The Pallavas contributed greatly to the development of the Brahmi script.

THE MARATHA EMPIRE

The Marathas were a Hindu warrior group who established an empire that existed from 1674 to 1818 in the present day Maharashtra that rose to prominence by establishing ‘Hindavi Swarajya’. To the Marathas goes the credit of ending Mughal rule in India.

They ruled almost the whole of India with the exception of Andhra and Tamil Nadu and a part of Kerala. They were known to be fierce warriors of medium stature who were devout Hindus and never ate meat. Pune and Thanjavur were their capitals.

Maratha Empire

Some of the famous rulers include Chhatrapati Shivaji, Baji Rao 1 and Rajaram Chhatrapati.

THE VIJAYANAGARA EMPIRE

The Vijayanagara Empire lasted for three centuries from 1336 to 1660 before losing it to the Deccan sultanates. This period is said to be the golden period for the Telugu and Kannada cultures as they have established many monuments across South India and enabled fine arts and literature to reach new heights in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Sanskrit, while Carnatic music evolved into its current form. They ruled the whole south India with Vijayanagara as their capital city.

Srikrishna Devaraya was the famous king of Vijayanagara samrajya. He was a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara and the diamonds and gold we see on lord Balaji in Tirumala are mostly his donations. It was known that the Vijayanagara kingdom was equal to the rule of Lord Sri ram where people where happy and prosperous. He was called as “Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana” (Lord of the Kannada empire) and Andhra Bhoja.

THE KINGDOM OF COCHIN

The Cochin kingdom lasted for 7 centuries from the early 1200s to 1947, surviving every foreign invasion. They were excellent negotiators and tacticians. They formed relations with all their surrounding kingdoms and played their cards wisely. Their capital changed over time but they mainly ruled in the areas surrounding Cochin.

THE KAKATIYA DYNASTY

The Kakatiyas ruled from 1083 to 1323 with Orugallu (Warangal) as their capital extending to the whole of Andhra along with a part of Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The Kakatiya kings are said to be given low importance to the caste system as a social identifier, anyone, regardless of birth, could use the nayaka title to denote warrior status and the inscriptions suggest that people were not bound to an occupation by birth. This helped them flourish in war and arts alike. Agriculture was encouraged and many tribal people who previously had been nomadic settled as farmers and remained loyal to the Dynasty.

The Warangal Fort, Thousand Pillar temple and the famous Kakatiya Toranam stand as an epitome of the Kakatiya legacy.Rani Rudramadevi, the famous queen of the Kakatiya dynasty set the path for women to lead kingdoms in India as early as 12th century.

THE GAJAPATI KINGDOM

The Gajapatis were a medieval Hindu dynastythat ruled over Kalinga (the present day Odisha), large parts of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, and the eastern and central parts of Madhya Pradesh and the southern parts of Bihar from 1434-1541. They were claimed to be descended from the Surya Vansha (Sun Dyanasy) of the Mahabharata age.

“Gaja” means elephant and “Pati” means master. As such, Gajapati etymologically means a king with an army of elephants. Literature in Oriya flourished during this period and there was also a merging of Oriya, Telugu and Kannada cultures.

The Gajaptis ruled from Mukhalingam of Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh and later moved their capital to Cuttack. Religious leader Ramanujacharya had a great influence on the Raja Choda Ganga Deva, who renovated the Puri Jagannath Temple. Another king from the dynasty, Narasimha Deva built the Sun Temple at Konark, which are both archaeological wonders.

THE PANDYA DYNASTY

The Pandyan Dynasty was an ancient Tamil dynasty, one of the three Tamil dynasties, the other two being the Chola and the Chera.

No other dynasty in the world has ruled more duration than the Pandyas, if you refer ancient Mahabharata text you can see the name of Pandyan kings. They survived till the early British conquest.

The Pandyans were experts in water management, agriculture (mostly near river banks) and fisheries and they were eminent sailors and sea traders too. They controlled the pearl fisheries along the South Indian coast, between Sri Lanka and India, which produced some of the finest pearls in the known ancient world.

THE CHOLA DYNASTY

The Chola Dynasty was one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the history of southern India spanning between 300s BCE–1279 CE.

Together with the Chera and Pandya dynasties, the Cholas formed the three main Tamil dynasties of Iron Age India, who were collectively known as the Three Crowned Kings.

They mainly ruled the area between the Kaveri and Tungabhadra rivers. Their rule extended out of India when they successfully invaded the cities of Srivijaya in Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Thailand.

THE SATVAHANA EMPIRE

The Satavahana Empire, also known as the Andhra kingdom, was an Indian dynasty based from Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh which is now back as Capital of Andhra Pradesh State. This dynasty extended to Junnar and Prathisthan in Maharashtra during the later years.

The territory of the empire covered much of India from 230 BCE onward. History suggests that it lasted about 450 years from 230 BCE to 22 CE.

The Satavahanas are credited for establishing peace in the country, resisting the onslaught of foreigners after the decline of the Mauryan Empire.

THE HOYSALA EMPIRE

The Hoysala Empire was a prominent Southern Indian Kannadiga empire that ruled most of the modern-day state of Karnataka between the 10th and the 14th centuries. The capital of the Hoysalas was initially located at Belur, but was later moved to Halebidu.

The empire is remembered today primarily for its temple architecture. Over a hundred surviving temples are scattered across Karnataka, including the well known Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura. The Hoysala rulers also patronised the fine arts, enabling literature to flourish in Kannada and Sanskrit.

THE MAGADHA EMPIRE

Magadha as a kingdom existed right from the Vedic period. As legend goes, the kingdom rose to prominence during the Mahabharata age. It was expanded into an empire by King Jarasandha with present-day Rajgir in Bihar as its capital.

Later, Jarasandha was slain by Bheema, the second Pandava, in a wrestling duel. In later periods, Pataliputra (Patna) was chosen as the new capital of this empire during the age of Gautam Buddha. In later years, the Magadhan kingdom transitioned into the celebrated Mauryan Empire that spanned almost the whole of India.

THE CHALUKYA EMPIRE

The Chalukya dynasty was an Indian royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries.

They had their capital in three cities, namely Badami and Kalyani in Karnataka and Vengi on the banks of the river Godavari. This marks the first time a southern India-based kingdom took control and consolidated the entire region between the Kaveri and the Narmada rivers.

The Chalukyan Empire

The rise of this empire saw the birth of efficient administration, overseas trade and commerce and the development of new style of architecture called “Chalukyan architecture”. Kannada and Telugu literature flourished during their reign.

THE MAURYA EMPIRE

The Maurya dynasty was the superpower of the Iron Age India, which existed between 320 BC and 185 BC. It was founded by Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra and later extended its sway to Afghanistan.

During the rule of Ashoka the Great, the Maurya Empire managed to conquer the entire Indian subcontinent and rule it as one political entity. The Mauryans were the only power that defeated Greek-Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great. Jain and Buddhist cultures flourished during this empire.

THE RAJPUTS

The Rajputs are an ancient Hindu warrior clan that ruled a vast area of the subcontinent which includes western, central, northern India and current eastern Pakistan.

The Rajputs rose to prominence from the late 6th century CE and governed with Rajasthan as their base.

They are credited as one of the very few dynasties who could not be dislodged from their capital by successive Muslim sultanates.

THE NANDA DYNASTY

The Nanda dynasty originated from the region of Magadha in ancient India during the 4th century BC and lasted between 345–321 BCE. At its greatest extent, the empire ruled by the Nanda Dynasty extended from Bengal in the east, to Punjab in the west and as far south as the Vindhya mountains.

The rulers of this dynasty were famed for the great wealth which they accumulated. The Nanda Empire was later conquered by Chandragupta Maurya, who founded the Maurya Empire.

The Nandas are described as the first empire builders in the recorded history of India. They inherited the large kingdom of Magadha and expanded it to yet more distant frontiers. To achieve this objective they built a vast and oowerful army, consisting of 200,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, 2,000 war chariots and 3,000 war elephants.

THE GUPTAS

The Gupta Empire, which existed at its zenith from approximately 320 to 550 CE, covered much of the Indian subcontinent. This period is called the Golden Age of India and was marked by extensive inventions and discoveries in science, technology, engineering, art, dialectics, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion, and philosophy that crystallized the elements of Hindu culture.

Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, and Chandragupta II were the most notable rulers of the Gupta dynasty. The Gupta period produced scholars such as Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Vishnu Sharma and Vatsyayana who made great advancements in many academic and scientific fields.

The great sage Vatsayana, who lived in this kingdom, wrote the world-famous Kama Sutra. One of the greatest inventions ever “0” (zero) was invented by Aryabhata in the Gupta period as Shoonya. Imagine the world without it now!

Why modern scientists shouldn’t completely dismiss Vedic knowledge

SUBHASH KAK

The claim that ancient Indians had airplanes and that their science is described in Maharshi Bharadvaja’s Vimana Shastra has been refuted many times. Scholars believe that this book is a late 19th century forgery.

The reason why this claim gets published in the Indian press from time to time is due to the workings of Gresham’s law according to which “bad currency drives out good”. Indian universities have generally neglected the study of the history of Indian science, and have ceded this space to amateurs. The lesson to be drawn in such outrageous claims is that major Indian universities should run academic programmes in the history of Indian science.

Some argue that study of Indian science is time wasted. This view is wrong for many reasons. Indians did make amazing contributions to mathematics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, and other disciplines, and it is good to know for these contributions are now a part of the world scientific heritage. Indian sciences of the mind may still have lessons for the modern scientist. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Indian tradition is its deep consideration of the problem of consciousness, which for us moderns is the frontier of science.

Indian texts are also impressive for what may be termed the equivalent of science fiction, and in this they are unique in ancient literature. The Mahabharata speaks of an embryo being divided into one hundred parts each becoming, after maturation in a separate pot, a healthy baby; this is how the Kaurava brothers are born. In the story of Balarama, the embryo is transplanted from one womb to another which makes him a brother to Krishna, although he was born to Rohini and not to Devaki.

The Ramayana has its Pushpaka Vimana. The Mahabharata has mention of space travelers wearing airtight suits. According to the well-known Sanskritist JAB van Buitenen, in the accounts in Book 3 called “The Razing of Saubha” and “The War of the Yakshas” (translation published by the University of Chicago Press in 1975):

The aerial city is nothing but an armed camp with flame-throwers and thundering cannon, no doubt a spaceship. The name of the demons is also revealing: they were Nivatakavacas, “clad in airtight armour,” which can hardly be anything but space suits.

In modern science, the idea of exoplanets that can support life is less than 20 years old. But many such worlds are described in the famous episode of Indra and the ants in the Brahmavaivarta Purana. Here Vishnu, in the guise of a boy, explains to Indra that the ants he sees walking on the ground have all been Indras in their own solar systems in different times. These flights of imagination were part of an amazingly sophisticated tradition of cognitive and analytical thought.

The context of modern science fiction books is clear: It is the liberation of the earlier modes of thought by the revolutionary developments of the 20th century science and technology. But how was science fiction – if that is what we choose to call it — integrated into the mainstream Indian literary tradition two thousand years ago? What was the intellectual ferment in which such sophisticated ideas arose?

Students of scientific creativity increasingly accept that conceptual advances do not appear in any rational manner. Might then one accept the claim of Srinivasa Ramanujan that his theorems were revealed to him in his dreams by the goddess Namagiri? This claim, so persistently made by Ramanujan, has generally been dismissed by his biographers. Were Ramanujan’s astonishing discoveries instrumented by the autonomously creative potential of consciousness, represented by him by the image of Namagiri?

It is in the study of creativity that Indian science continues to be relevant. If students had access to authoritative narratives of Indian science in the university, they would not pay attention to outlandish claims of ancient flying machines.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/narendra-modi-science-mythology-ramayana-mahabharata-pushpak-viman-spaceships-education/story/1/4604.html

In letter to Krishna, Kalam slams Amartya Sen

Former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s letter, which he sent to Foreign Minister S M Krishna in July last year, has now come into public domain, slamming Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen for forcing him out of his brainchild project of the Nalanda University in Bihar as its first visitor.

He chose not to create a public controversy even while writing to Krishna, that he was upset the way the project was being handled and hence he couldn’t remain associated with it any longer.

He wrote how sad he was at everything going wrong in his dream of reviving a great seat of learning in the Buddhist philosophy and statecraft, as perhaps the first residential international educational institution from 5th to 12th century off Patna, is besmirched with controversies even before it starts any academic courses.

The paragraph reads, “Having been involved in various academic and administrative proceedings of the Nalanda University since August 2007, I believe that the candidates to be selected/appointed to the post of chancellor and vice chancellor should be of extraordinary intellect with academic and management expertise.”

“Both the chancellor and vice chancellor have to personally involve themselves full-time in Bihar, so that a robust and strong international institution is built,” it read.

The ministry of external affairs had taken over the project as an international university, involving 16 ASEAN countries such as China, Japan, Australia, Korea and Thailand, even while Kalam kept insisting that it should better be handled by the human resources development ministry, which has experience in the education field.

The government tried to suppress Kalam’s damning letter as it was taken on record in the meeting of the governing board of the university, but was not made public until a Patna journalist wrote to him to get the truth out.

Kalam felt frustrated with the people at helm of affairs and his resignation was a rebuff to Sen and his protégé Dr Gopa Sabharwal, ‘smuggled’ in as the vice chancellor-designate without his knowledge.

Being chairman of the governing board, Sen’s position is equivalent to chancellor (the university officially has no one as yet).

Having been at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, Sen viewed Nalanda University through that prism, while Dr Kalam felt sad at finding no efforts to re-enact the glory of ancient Nalanda University in which students from all over East Asia came for studies and had Pandits such as Arya Dev, Silabhadra, Dharmapala, Santarakshita and Chandragomin who spent their lives for the sake of the institution. 

The academics say the fault lies in the government for entrusting the task of reviving to Nalanda University to Sen as a testimony of India’s obsequiousness, despite Kalam repeatedly warning them against it.

Kalam’s letter is also an indictment of Sabharwal, who was just a sociology reader from Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi, who was made the rector/vice chancellor-designate despite academics’ protest that she had nothing to do with the Buddhist studies for which the university is to be set up, and was running it from Delhi.

What Ails Amartya Sen?

Dr. Bharat Gupt

The former head of the Nalanda University, Amartya Sen writing in the New York Review

makes wild and sweeping allegations against the Narendra Modi Government even as he conceals his own record of not showing accounts for the massive ₹2727 crores financial package allocated to it over a period of 12 years. Equally, Amartya Sen also has no response to widespread allegations against him of appointing favourites to various positions, even people who are unqualified to occupy the position of a Vice Chancellor.

At the outset, Amartya Sen’s New York Review article only betrays the deep prejudice that he holds in his very vision of Nalanda University. In the piece, he emphasizes more about the international nature of the new Nalanda Unviersity but not the real content of the knowledge systems—vidyaas—that were imparted at the ancient Nalanda.

It was that content of the traditional Indian knowledge systems, which was sought after by students from all countries in the world and thus Nalanda became an international site for excellence in higher education.

I may be called a revivalist, but I am not interested in another ‘international university’ nor should the Indian taxpayer be, Modi Government or no.

I am interested in reviving the classical learning of India, of its Sanskrit and Prakrit texts which provide the disciplines on which Indian civilization was built and which Nalanda served to propound.

Amartya Sen has his vision of international exchange much before he sought to make Nalanda a repository of Indian learning. There is no place for ancient learning in his conception of the present day Nalanda. As he claims in his article,

“The aim of the founders of the new Nalanda was not only to have a first-rate university but to encourage cooperation and interchange of ideas across national borders (again, reflecting the traditions of the ancient Nalanda). They endorsed a “vision” of a new university that would be “open to currents of thought and practice from around the globe…”

In which case, why is Sen using the name of Nalanda for this aim? There are dozens of universities in India which can do that including JNU which was founded for this purpose and which failed in this very aim because it disparaged classical learning.

If the taxpayer from India and other Asian lands has to recreate Nalanda, then that place needs to include classical learning. Were the fine European Universities not based on a revival of Greek and Roman classical thought? However, this very notion of Indian classical is either anathema to nearly all Indian policy makers or they are completely ignorant of the necessity of such a notion.

Indeed, the thought of including Indian learning at Nalanda University never was and will never be on the agenda of Amartya Sen. His long record shows that he belongs to the coterie that wilfully and strategically eliminated and denigrated every aspect of traditional knowledge in schools and universities.

We have witnessed this phenomenon in India since 1973 as a policy that began with the appointment ofNurul Hasan as the education minister by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

This unleashed a deliberate and systematic process as a result of which we do not find many scholars now who can read ancient Prakrits (not even classical Tamil) or even Sanskrit texts in relation to the areas of knowledge with any deep understanding (what was known as lakshya-lakshana sambandha).

Amartya Sen has made the same mistake which has been the bane of Indian education policymakers: of creating a modernity which is cut off from its past. When Amartya Sen was made the chief mentor by the Sonia Gandhi-controlled Government and when former Indian President Abdul Kalam, walked away from the project, the fate of Nalanda was sealed.

Given this background, Modi Government or no, the outcome of all that will emerge from Nalanda University will remain the same.

And now Amartya Sen is playing the victim now—the less said the better about his present theatrics. Also, this is not the place to give qualification details of sycophants appointed as heads of academic bodies and Vice Chancellors by Congress/Marxist governments in the last sixty years, forty years of which I have seen with my own eyes.

But now that Amartya Sen has set the ball rolling in the New York Review, similar material echoing the “injustice” done to him and supporting his fake victimhood is sure to appear in the media soon.

Of course, Amartya Sen is free to ridicule Lokesh Chandra by quoting Lokesh Chandra’s statement given in a political context and applying that statement to tar his credentials for being appointed as Chairman of ICCR. However, everybody in the academic and intellectual circles is aware of the phenomenal academiccontribution of Lokesh Chandra (and his father Dr. Raghuvir) to classical learning and Buddhist studies, beginning from the days of penury when India emerged from colonial rule.

On the contrary, Amartya Sen converted Nalanda into a club that promotes a certain variant of a modern political agenda in the service of a political party. And so, now if a new, democratically-elected Government has shown him the door, why is he raising the bogey of academic victimization?

My concern in writing this, especially to scholars who are devoted to the real practice and discipline of studying of texts and vidyaas of India is to think about a simple, basic fact: can the modern Nalanda University have any connection with the ancient one unless it first dedicated itself to what they studied in ancient times?

It is time for us to speak up for classical learning at the new Nalanda University, and any Government that overlooks this or replaces it with another aim shall be abdicating its duty. Invoking the hoary Nalanda of the past to promote political ideologies is tantamount to invoking it in vain and doing it great disservice.

is a retired Associate Professor who taught at Delhi University. He can be contacted atbharatgupt@vsnl.com.

 Ancient India’s liberated women: In classical times India was more egalitarian than the West – at least in women’s education

Bristhi Guha
Two young women, Atreyi and Vasanti, meet by chance during a trip and
start chatting. Atreyi tells Vasanti that she is travelling to the
south in search of better education; though she is a student at an
extremely famous university in the north, her professor’s
preoccupation with his ongoing novel means he has little time to teach
her anything of use. Vasanti agrees that this move makes perfect
sense.
These young women are not contemporary urban Indians. They were
characters in an 8th century Sanskrit play, Uttararamacharita, penned
by the dramatist Bhavabhuti. Atreyi’s original professor was Valmiki,
who had recently become immersed in writing the Ramayana, being firmly
convinced that he was the adi kavi (first poet). A ‘trip’ to the south
meant an arduous walk through hundreds of miles of forested land,
braving constant threats from robbers, mysterious illnesses, and wild
animals. However, this was a trip that Atreyi was very willing to
make, hoping to learn more from southern Vedanta scholars like
Agastya.
Though Bhavabhuti’s story is fictional, plays were intended for the
masses. The fact that an 8th century dramatist casually introduces
female characters who travel far from home, alone, in search of
education, suggests that audiences during his time would not be overly
surprised or disturbed by such incidents. In another play of his, the
Malatimadhava, a Buddhist nun, Kamandaki, is close friends with the
fathers of the male and the female protagonists, because all three had
been classmates in their youth. If girls wanted to be admitted to
gurukulas, there was nothing stopping them from doing so.
Earlier, the Upanishads (written about the 7th century BC) contain
accounts of very learned women. No one in scholarly circles seems to
have had any trouble accepting Gargi, an eminent woman philosopher, as
one of them. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad contains a lengthy account
of Gargi’s debate with the leading scholar of the age, Yajnyavalkya.
The debate was arranged by King Janaka of Mithila, at whose court
Gargi was said to be one of the navaratnas (nine gems).
She asked Yajnyavalkya such penetrating questions that eventually he
was unable to answer, and had to resort to telling her that her head
might fall off if she kept questioning the unknowable. This, however,
seemed to be quite a common threat among Upanishadic debaters; men who
disagreed with other men would employ it frequently. So, contrary to
first impressions, there was nothing sexist about Yajnyavalkya’s
reaction. The fact that Gargi, an unmarried woman, was invited to
conferences all over the country without exciting comment, seems to
point to a liberal intellectual atmosphere.
Going back even earlier, the composers of the Rig Vedic hymns included
a number of women. Each hymn in the Rig Veda is attributed to a
particular author, and the lineage of the author is mentioned. More
than 20 women number among the authors credited with the composition
of these hymns.
The Therigatha, written in 600 BC, is the earliest known collection
composed solely of women’s writing. These verses, written by early
practitioners of Buddhism, were penned by women from a wide array of
backgrounds. The contributors included a mother whose child had died,
a former prostitute, a wealthy heiress who had renounced her life of
pleasure, and the Buddha’s own stepmother. Though women from royal
families had access to informal education in most countries, the
Therigatha shows that many ordinary women were also well educated in
ancient Indian society.
In contrast to ancient India, the ancient Greeks and Romans had a
different attitude towards female education. Though they had excellent
public schools and gymnasiums for formal education, these were open
only to boys, unlike the ashramas of ancient India where girls and
young women could learn along with their male counterparts. Eminent
Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates thought poorly of the
intellectual capabilities of women. Plato maintained that women had no
souls, while the Socratic dialogue ‘The Symposium’ concludes that
women were incapable of providing men with intellectual companionship.
In later times, Khana, who is sometimes rumoured to have become a
victim of domestic violence, was a noted poetess and astrologer of
near legendary abilities. Though details of her life are hazy, she
appears to have lived in southern Bengal, where many of her writings
are still household sayings.
Much later, in 1150, Bhaskara II, the most renowned Indian
mathematician of his age, composed the Lilavati – perhaps the only
math book in the world whose problems were mostly addressed to young
girls. An example of such a problem: “Beautiful and dear Lilavati,
whose eyes are like a fawn’s! Tell me what are the numbers resulting
from one hundred and thirty five, taken into twelve? If thou be
skilled in multiplication by whole or by parts, whether by subdivision
of form or separation of digits, tell me, auspicious woman, what is
the quotient of the product divided by the same multiplier?” This was
to be the prime math textbook in Indian schools for the next 700
years.
It is interesting that as far as gender discrimination goes, ancient
Indian society seemed to be much more egalitarian and balanced than
other ancient societies, at least in the field of education.
Hopefully, this balance is something that could be sustained and
enhanced in modern times.
The writer is Associate Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru
University. Today is International Women’s Education Day.
http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toi-edit-page/ancient-indias-liberated-women-in-classical-times-india-was-more-egalitarian-than-the-west-at-least-in-womens-education/

OF THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Anirban Ganguly

India’s civilisational message and approach to civilisations of Central Asia has been one of true partnership, respect for and enrichment of diversities and the perpetuation of essential civilisational identities. Modi’s Central Asia focus is an occasion to cement such a relationship 

Central Asia, which was always central to civilisational India — central to the spread of her cultural and spiritual ideals and expressions, is again at the centre with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertaking a tour of the countries in the region. Such a focussed and multi-dimensional visit is a reiteration of his vision of evolving and re-shaping India’s external outreach based on the pillars of samvaad, sanskriti and sabhyata (dialogue, culture, and civilisation).

Addressing indologists and a section of the intelligentsia in Tashkent — perhaps the first of its kind by an Indian Prime Minister — Mr Modi emphasised the importance of the cultural and civilisational outreach — especially in a region like Central Asia that has been for millennia in close contact with India’s cultural ideals and values. The joint statement in Uzbekistan recognised that “shared historical and cultural links between the two countries over the centuries provide a firm basis for the development of the contemporary Uzbekistan-India relations.”

While the focus is also on trade,  energy and security cooperation in the region — all increasingly important aspects of external dealings in a rapidly globalising age — the importance being given to the civilisational linkages and proactive efforts being made to re-invent them under present conditions and exigencies is a new intervention in the last one year. A cultural strategy is being consciously evolved and weaved instead of relegating culture — as it had hitherto been — simply to the realm of entertainment.

While trade dominated civilisational India’s linkages with the West, her relations and contacts with the countries to her north, east and Southeast were mainly cultural. Historian of civilisations, DP Singhal, for example, argues that “commerce may have initiated contact but it was soon outpaced by culture”. India’s finest “contribution to the human civilisation”, observed Singhal, “lie in Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia and whatever the sum total of the Indian influences on the Western civilisation, there is no doubt that ancient India was the radiating centre of a civilisation which left a deep mark on the greater part of Asia.” The Buddhist influence spread in the Central Asia and beyond deeply shaped and moulded the region. The spread of Buddhism in the region, in fact, acted as a ‘catalyst’ helping different societies to bring out their ‘dormant strengths and to release their creative energies.’

It was around the late 1880s that  Central Asia began to be visited once more by the explorers, historians and archeologists many of whom were astounded to notice the deep cultural and spiritual penetration that Buddhism had initiated in the region. The celebrated Bower Manuscript found in sometime in 1890 in the region of Qum Tura, was a Sanskrit treatise on medicine dating to the fourth century. The Bower Manuscript contained seven medical texts written by four different people, it has been argued that in the evolution of medicine in the region, Sanskrit played the same role as Latin in the European context.

Buddhist missionaries from India were welcomed in the region and displayed a remarkable level of activism in peacefully spreading the message of Sakyamuni. Not only was religious knowledge disseminated, the discovery of medicinal texts also bears testimony to the fact that scientific knowledge too had spread in the region from India and one can easily argue that Indian ideas in the other branches of science, such as mathematics and astronomy, may have also reached  Central Asia and travelled beyond.

The religious structures excavated in the Central Asia are almost all stupas, viharas and caves and possess a deeply pronounced Indian and Persian influence. In his study on ‘The Role of Central Asia in the Spread of Indian Cultural Influence’, noted Finnish linguist Pentti Aalto, for example, observed how French explorers and excavators found in the Central Asian region “magnificent Buddhistic monuments which clearly show the influence of Gandhara and Mathura schools of art”. Similarly, Russian indologists during the Soviet era discovered numerous objects and artifacts that clearly establish India’s cultural footprints in the area. In Uzbekistan, for example, Russian scholars had discovered the Sanskrit birch barks in the once fortified castle of Zang-tepe. During the high-water marks of the Gupta era, its art was also transferred to Central Asia, carried by monks and traders.

In fact, Aurel Stein’s discovery of 764 Kharosthi documents, displayed the presence of Indians in the region, especially in the area then known as Chinese Turkestan. So intrinsic was the Bharatiya presence in the region that coins and scripts from the region indicated a similarity not only in languages but also in the societal structure.

When Mr Modi, in his address to indologists in Tashkent, referred in some detail to the similarities of languages from the region to the languages of India, he was drawing attention to this deep penetration and intermingling of civilisational India with this rich and crucial region of the globe. The queen was referred to as ‘devi’ while the prince was addressed as ‘maharaya-putra’, while the ambassador was designated as ‘duta’ or ‘dutiya.’ Stein’s Kharosthi documents also indicate the influence that Hindu social terms had on the people and systems of the region, purusa (male), pitu or pita for father, matu or madu for mother, putra or suta for son, pitumaha for grandfather, bhrata or bhratu for brother were some of the common Hindu terms used in quotidian dealing in the region. The region had remarkable variety and formed a mingling point of civilisations, ideas, languages and expressions. Among these, Buddhism was the ‘most popular’ and ‘Central Asian’ cultural life was dominated for about thousand years by the Indian religion, literature, arts and sciences.’

In the current evolving geopolitical arrangement where India aspires, and is working hard to emerge as a defining pole in an increasingly multi-polar world, Mr Modi’s Central Asia foray assumes civilisational significance. It is in this region that India created an era of sublimating exchanges where the predominant message was the enrichment of humanity and of a civilisational diversity and co-existence. The ongoing visit not only rekindles that past partnership but also seeks to evolve a present cooperative framework that will be not only mutually beneficent in terms of more mundane and earthy issues of trade, commerce, energy security but also to evolve a determined web that would arrest the growth of extremism and intolerance in the region.

India’s civilisational message and approach to civilisations of Central Asia, as it has been for other civilisations of the world,  has been one of true partnership, non-exploitation, respect for and enrichment of diversities and the perpetuation of essential civilisational identities and worldviews. Mr Modi’s Central Asia focus is an opportunity to cement relations inspired by that message and approach.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/of-the-past-present-and-future.html

Sanskrit phobia? Not in this class

KOLKATA: If you thought you have to travel all the way to the tols of Nadia to learn Sanskrit from scratch, a trip to Shakespeare Sarani is all what you need to do. Here, Samskrita Bharati, a voluntary organization, holds two-hour classes through the week to help people converse in Sanskrit. You will have in company people from all walks of life, from IIT engineers and scientists to Sanskrit scholars and school passouts.

“I passed MA in Sanskrit, but failed to speak the language. So I took admission in the course and mastered the art of speaking Sanskrit. People are afraid of Sanskrit because of its grammar, but here stress is on communicating in Sanskrit,” teacher Nibedita Dutta said, busy teaching her students. She has 10 days in hand to teach them the tricks to speak in Sanskrit.

Retired scientist Ajit Bardhan, 78, joined Samskrita Bharati so that he can communicate in Sanskrit. “I try to speak in Sanskrit while communicating over phone with students of Samskrita Bharati as I can not commute regularly,” he said.

Prof V R Desai of the civil engineering department of IIT Kharagpur is one who had gained much by learning Sanskrit. He now holds weekly classes on the IIT campus on behalf of Samskrita Bharati so that he can spread the language.

“Our aim is to spread Sanskrit language so that those who are not acquainted with it can also speak it,” said Pranab Nanda, secretary of Samskrita Bharati, which is teaching Sanskrit in Bengal since 2008. “If we get 25 students, we can conduct a free course on spoken Sanskrit. We also have residential programmes,” he said.

There are young learners too. Partha Mondal, who passed HS this year and will study Bengali honours, said, “I hope learning Sanskrit will help me a lot. Here learning process is easy. I am not facing any difficulty.”
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/…/articlesh…/47932893.cms