Traditional Knowledge Systems

It is now recognized that western criteria are not the sole benchmark by which other cultural knowledge should be evaluated. While the term ‘traditional’ sometimes carries the connotation of ‘pre-modern’ in the sense of ‘primitive’ or ‘outdated’, many of the traditional sciences and technologies were in fact quite advanced even by western standards as well as better adapted to unique local conditions and needs than their later ‘modern’ substitutes. In countries with ancient cultural traditions, the folk and elite science were taken as part of the same unified legacy, without any hegemonic categorizations.

However, modernization has homogenized various solutions, and this loss of ideas is similar to the destruction of biodiversity. Colonizers systematically derogated, exterminated or undermined the local traditional science, technology and crafts of the lands and people they plundered, because of their intellectual arrogance, and also to control and appropriate the economic means of production and the social means of organization.

Modern societies created hegemonic categories of science verses magic, technology verses superstitions etc., which were arbitrary and contrived. But many anthropologists who have recently worked with so-called ‘primitive’ peoples have been surprised to learn of some of their highly evolved and sophisticated technologies. The term ‘Traditional Knowledge System’ was thus coined by anthropologists as a scientific system which has its own validity, in contradistinction to ‘modern’ science.

The United Nations University proposal defines ‘Traditional Knowledge Systems’ as follows:

    ?Traditional knowledge or ‘local knowledge’ is a record of human achievement in comprehending the complexities of life and survival in often unfriendly environments. Traditional knowledge, which may be technical, social, organizational, or cultural was obtained as part of the great human experiment of survival and development.?

Laura Nader describes the purpose of studying Traditional Knowledge Systems (TKS): ?The point is to open up people’s minds to other ways of looking and questioning, to change attitudes about knowledge, to reframe the organization of science — to formulate a way of thinking globally about traditions.?

Historical Background

Modern science can perhaps be dated to Newton’s times. But Traditional Knowledge Systems date from more than 2 million years, when Homo habilis started making his tools and interacting with nature. Since the dawn of history, different peoples have contributed to different branches of science and technology, often in a manner involving interactive contacts across cultures separated by large distances. This interactive influence is becoming clearer as the vast extent of global trade and cultural migration across large distances is being properly recognized by researchers.

However, one finds that generally the history of science as commonly taught is mostly Eurocentric. It typically consists of two phases: It starts with Greece, neglecting the influences of others upon Greece. Then it ‘fast forwards’ many centuries to the Enlightenment period around 1500, to claim modern science as an exclusively European triumph, by neglecting the influence of others, especially India, upon the European Renaissance and Enlightenment. The European Dark Ages is presumed to be dark worldwide, when in fact, the rest of the world thrived with innovation and prosperity while Europe was at the peripheries until the conquest of America in 1492.


Thanks to especially the work of Joseph Needham, China’s contributions to global knowledge have recently become known to a wide range of scholars. Even more recently, thanks largely to Arab scholars, the important role of Islamic empires in the transmission of ideas into Europe has become better appreciated. However, in the latter case, many discoveries and innovations of India, as acknowledged by the Arab translators themselves, are often depicted as being of Arab origin, when in fact, the Arabs often retransmitted what they had learnt from India over to Europe.

Therefore, the vast and significant contributions made by the Indian sub-continent have been widely ignored. The British colonizers could never accept the fact that Indians were highly civilized even in the third millennium BC, when the British were still in a barbarian stage. Such acknowledgment would destroy the civilizing mission of Europe that was the intellectual premise for colonization.

British Indologists did not study TKS, except to quietly document them as systems competing with their own, and to facilitate the transfer of technology into Britain’s industrial revolution. What was found valuable was quickly appropriated (see examples below), and its Indian manufacturers were forced out of business, and this was in many instances justified as civilizing them. Meanwhile, a new history of India was fabricated to ensure that present and future generations of mentally colonized people would believe in the inherent inferiority of their own traditional knowledge and in the superiority of the colonizers’ ‘modern’ knowledge. This has been called Macaulayism, named after Lord Macaulay who successfully championed this strategy of Britain most emphatically starting in the 1830s.

Because it became difficult for Europeans to ignore the massive archaeological evidence of classical Indian science and technology, they propounded that the Indus civilization had to be a transplant from the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations. These constructions in historiography have tended to be cumulative rather than re-constructive, i.e. more layers were constructed without re-examining or correcting prior ones. Unfortunately, since Independence there has not been much improvement in such distortions of history, and this has continued to negatively impact the understanding and appreciation of TKS. Many in India’s intellectual elite continue to promote the notion that pre-colonial India was feudalistic, pre-rational, and by implication in need of being invaded for its own benefit.

This has created a climate in which entrenched prejudice against TKS still persists in contemporary society. For example, according to TKS activist Madhu Kishwar, India’s government today continues to make many TKS illegal or impossible to practice. Even after independence, many British laws against TKS have continued, even though their original intent was to destroy India’s massive domestic industry and foreign trade and to replace them with Britain’s industrial revolution. It is significant to note that today less than 10% of India’s labor works in the ‘organized sector’, namely as employees of a company. The remaining 90% are individual freelancers, contract laborers, private entrepreneurs, and so on, many of whom still practice their traditional trades.

However, given the perpetuation of colonial laws that render much of their work illegal, they are highly vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation, corruption, and abuse. The descendents of India’s traditional knowledge workers, who built massive cities, technologies, and dominated world trade for centuries, are today de-legitimized in their own country under a democratic government. Many of today’s poor jatis, such as textile, masonry, and metal workers, were at one time the guilds that supplied the world with so many and varied industrial items.

It is important to note that amongst all the conquered and colonized civilizations of the Old World, India is unique in the following respect: Its wealth was industrial and created by its workers’ ingenuity and labor. In all other instances, such as the Native Americans, the plunder by the colonizers was mainly of land, gold and other natural assets. But in India’s case, the colonizers had a windfall of extraordinary profit margins from control of India’s exports, taxation of India’s economic production, and eventually the transfer of technology and production to the colonizer’s home. This comprised the immense transfer of wealth out of India.

From being the world’s major exporting economy (along with China), India was reduced to an importer of goods; from being the source of much of the economic capital that funded Britain’s industrial revolution, it became one of the biggest debtor nations; from its envied status as the wealthiest nation, it became a land synonymous with poverty; and from the nation with a large number of prestigious centers of higher education that attracted the cream of foreign students from Eurasia, it became the land with the highest number of illiterate persons. This remains a major untold story. The education system’s subversion of India’s TKS in its history and social studies curricula is a major factor for the stereotyping about India. Even when told of these things, few westerners and elitist Indians are willing to believe them, as the prejudices about India are too deeply entrenched.

The Global Problem Today

The present day globalizing economy with its mass media glorification of the western lifestyle is resulting in the homogenization of human ‘wants’ and in unachievable expectations. Conventional western technology by itself cannot deliver or sustain this false promise to the world, for several reasons:

Westernized living is unachievable by billions of poor humans, because the capital required simply does not exist in the world, and the trickle down effect is too slow to reach the bottom tier where most of humanity lives.

Western civilization depends upon inequality — there must be cheap labor ‘somewhere else’, and cheap natural resources purchasable from somewhere, without regard to the big picture of world society or global ecology. This practical necessity of the present-day global capitalist system conflicts with the equal rights of states and persons long theorized and promoted. All sorts of reasons are offered against such drastic proposals as opening all borders and allowing free competition among all available laborers, contradicting the ‘freedom’ position so popular in theory.

The western economic development model demands ‘growth’ to sustain valuations in the stock markets, and growth cannot be indefinite. A steady state economy in zero growth equilibrium would devastate the wealth of the west, since the financial models are predicated on growth.

Even if the above obstacles could be overcome and the world’s six billion persons were to achieve western lifestyle, it would be unsustainable for the planet’s natural resources to sustain.

When Gandhi was asked whether he would like India to develop a lifestyle similar to England’s, his reply may be paraphrased as follows: The British had to plunder the Earth to achieve their lifestyle. Given India’s much larger population, it would require the plunder of many planets to achieve the same.

If the idealized lifestyle is unavailable to all humanity, then on what basis (morally, intellectually, and in terms of practical enforcement) do a few countries hope to sustain their superiority over others so as to maintain such a lifestyle? The point is that employing TKS is an imperative for humanity at large, while reducing global dependence on inequitable and resource draining ‘advanced’ knowledge systems.

We have to study, preserve, and revive the Traditional Knowledge Systems for the economic betterment of the world in a holistic manner, as these technologies are eco-friendly and allow sustainable growth without harming the environment. India’s scientific heritage needs to be brought to the attention of the educated world, so that we can replace the Eurocentric history of science and technology with an honest globalization of ideas. This goal requires generations of new research in these fields, compilation of existing data, and dissemination through books, seminars, websites, articles, films, etc.

Indian Contributions to Global Science

Civil Engineering: The Indus-Sarasvati Civilization was the world’s first to build planned towns, with underground drainage, civil sanitation, hydraulic engineering, and air-cooling architecture. Oven baked bricks were invented in India in approximately 4,000 BC. From complex Harappan towns to Delhi’s Qutub Minar and other large projects, India’s indigenous technologies were very sophisticated in design, planning, water supply, traffic flow, natural air conditioning, complex stonework, and construction engineering.

Metal Technologies: They pioneered many tools for construction, including the needle with hole at the pointed end, hollow drill, and true saw. Many of these important tools were subsequently used in the rest of the world, centuries later during Roman times. India was the first to produce rust-free iron. In the mid-first millennium BC, the Indian wootz steel was very popular in the Persian courts for making swords. The British sent teams to India to analyze the metallurgical processes that were later appropriated by Britain. Making India’s metal works illegal was motivated partly by the goal to industrialize Britain, but also because of the risk of gun manufacturing by potential nationalists. India’s exporting steel industry was systematically dismantled and relocated to Britain.

Textiles: India’s textile exports were legendary. Roman archives contain official complaints about massive cash drainage because of imports of fine Indian textiles. One of the earliest industries relocated from India to Britain was in textiles, and it became the first major success of the Industrial Revolution, with Britain replacing India as the world’s leading textile exporter. Many of the machines built by Britain used Indian designs that had been improved over long periods. Meanwhile, India’s textile manufacturer’s were de-licensed, even tortured in some cases, over-taxed, regulated, etc., to ‘civilize’ them into virtual extinction.

Shipping and Ship Building: India participated in the earliest known ocean based trading systems. Regarding more recent centuries, it is known to scholars but not to the general public that Vasco da Gama’s ships were captained by a Gujarati sailor, and much of Europe’s ‘discovery’ of navigation was in fact an appropriation of pre-existing navigation in the Indian Ocean, that had been a thriving trade system for centuries before Europeans ‘discovered’ it. Some of the world’s largest and most sophisticated ships were built in India and China. The compass and other navigation tools were already in use at the time. (‘Nav’ is the Sanskrit word for boat, and is the root word in ‘navigation’, and in ‘navy’, although etymology is not a reliable proof of origin.)

Water Harvesting Systems: Scientists estimate that there were 1.3 million man-made water lakes and ponds across India, some as large as 250 square miles. These are now being rediscovered using satellite imagery. These enabled most of the rain water to be harvested and used for irrigation, drinking, etc. till the following year’s rainfall. Village organizations managed these resources, but this decentralized management was dismantled during the colonial period, when tax collection, cash expropriation, and legal enforcements became the primary function of the new governance appointed by the British. Recently, thousands of these ‘talabs’ have been restored, and this has resulted in a re-emergence of abundant water year round in many places. (This is a very different approach compared to the massive modern dams built in the name of progress, that have devastated the lives of millions.)

Forest Management: Many interesting findings have recently come out about the way forests and trees were managed by each village and a careful method applied to harvest medicines, firewood, and building material in accordance with natural renewal rates. There is now a database being built of these ‘sacred groves’ across India. Again, it’s a story of an economic asset falling into disuse and abuse because of dismantling the local governance and uprooting respect for traditional systems in general. Massive logging by the British to export India’s timber to fund the two world wars and other civilizing programs of the empire are never mentioned when scholars try to explain India’s current ecological disasters. The local populations had been quite sophisticated in managing their ecology until they were dis-empowered.

Farming Techniques: India’s agricultural production was historically large and sustained a huge population compared to other parts of the world. Surpluses were stored for use in a drought year. But the British turned this industry into a cash cow, exporting massive amounts of harvests even during shortages, so as to maximize the cash expropriation. This caused tens of millions to die of starvation while at the same time India’s food production was exported at unprecedented rates to generate cash. Also, traditional non-chemical based pesticides have been recently revived in India with excellent results, replacing Union Carbide’s products in certain markets.

Traditional Medicine: This is now a well-known and respected field. Much re-legitimizing of Indian medicine has already been done, thanks to many western labs and scientists. Many multinationals no longer denigrate traditional medicine and have in fact been trying to secure patents on Indian medicine without acknowledging the source.

Mathematics, Logic and Linguistics: Besides other sciences, Indians developed advanced math, including the concept of zero, the base-ten decimal system now in use worldwide, and many important trigonometry and algebra formulae. They made several astronomical discoveries. Diverse schools of logic and philosophy proliferated. India’s Panini is acknowledged as the founder of linguistics, and his Sanskrit grammar is still the most complete and sophisticated of any language in the world.

There were numerous other indigenous Indian industries. India’s manufactured goods were highly prized around the world. We must evaluate the historical importance of these TKS based on their economic value for their time, when their importance could be compared to today’s high tech industry. India’s own English educated elite should be made aware of this to shed their Macaulayite inferiority complexes. Furthermore, the development, refinement and extension of TKS offer potential benefits capable of resolving or diminishing some of the inequities in modern societies worldwide.

Folk Science

Besides the above examples of Indian contributions to the very foundations of so-called ‘western’ science, another category of Traditional Knowledge Systems is non-literate folk science. Western science as a whole has condemned and ignored anything that it did not either appropriate or develop, as being magic and superstition. However, in countries such as India that have cultural continuity, ancient traditions survive with a rich legacy of folk science.

In North America and Australia, where original populations have been more than decimated, such continuity of folk tradition was disrupted. In Western nations with large colonies in the Old and New Worlds, such knowledge systems were looked down upon. It is this prejudice that subverts the importance of folk science, and ridicules it as superstition. The process of contrasting western science with folk knowledge systems extends to the demarcation of knowledge systems in different categories of science versus religion, rational versus magical, and so on. But we need to insist that these western imposed hegemonic categories are contrived and artificial.

Western science seldom realized that non-literate folk science preserves the wisdom gained through millennia of experience, direct observation, and has been transmitted by word of mouth. Development projects based solely on new technologies are pushing the Traditional Knowledge Systems towards extinction. This traditional wisdom of humankind needs to be preserved and used for our survival.

Westernized ‘experts’ go to non-literate cultures assuming them to be ‘knowledge blanks’ which need to be programmed with modern science and technology. Ramkrishnan, the renowned ecologist, humbly admitted that the ecological management practiced today by the tribes of the northeastern states of India is far superior to anything he could teach them. A good example in this regard is the alder (Alnus nepalensis), which has been cultivated in the jhum (shifting cultivation) fields by the Khonoma farmers in Nagaland for centuries. It has multiple usages for the farmers, since it is a nitrogen-fixing tree and helps to retain the soil fertility. Its leaves are used as fodder and fertilizer, and it is also utilized as timber. One could cite numerous such examples. Unfortunately, many plants which the tribes traditionally cultivated for specific benefits have now disappeared in the name of progress.

The vast majority of modern medicines patented by western pharmaceutical firms are based on tropical plants. The most common method to select candidates for detailed testing has been for western firms to scout tropical societies, seek out established ‘folk’ remedies, and to subject these to ‘western scientific legitimizing’. In many cases, patents owned by multinationals are largely for isolating the active ingredients in a lab, and going through rigorous protocols of testing and patent filing.

While this is an important and expensive task, and deserves credit, these are seldom independent discoveries from scratch. Never has the society that has truly discovered it through centuries of empirical testing and trial and error received any recognition, much less any share of royalty. India’s recent fights in international courts, over western patents of its traditional intellectual property in agriculture and medicine, have brought much needed publicity for this arena.

Colin Scott writes: ?With the upsurge of multidisciplinary interest in ‘traditional ecological knowledge’, models explicitly held by indigenous people in areas as diverse as forestry, fisheries, and physical geography are being paid increasing attention by western science specialists, who have in some cases established extremely productive long-term dialogues with local experts. The idea that local experts are often better informed than their western peers is at last receiving significant acknowledgment beyond the boundaries of anthropology.?

But in too many cases, western scholars reduce India’s experts to ‘native informants’ destined to live below the glass ceiling: the pandit as native informant to the western Sanskritist; the poor woman in Rajasthan as native informant to the western feminist seeking to cure her of her tradition; the herbal farmer as native informant to the western pharmaceutical firm appropriating medicines for patents; etc. Given their poverty in modern times, these ‘native informants’ dish out what the western scholar expects to hear in order to fit his/her model, because in return they receive gifts, rewards, compensation, recognition, and even trips and visas in many cases.

Rarely have western scholars acknowledged India’s knowledge bearers as fellow scientists and equal partners, as co-authors or as co-panelists. This competitive obsession to make ‘original’ discoveries and to put one’s name on publications has exacerbated the tendency to appropriate with one hand, while denigrating the source with other hand so as to hide the plagiarism. We have referred to this as ‘academic arson’.

Rituals as Knowledge Transmitters

Villagers in remote areas like Uttaranchal have events called ‘Jagars’, in which the Jagaria sends theDangaria into a sort of trance. The Dangaria then helps sort out problems, provides remedies for ailments, resolves social conflicts of the village society etc. One could dismiss this as superstition; but this is also considered a traditional method of reaching the unconscious. Does the Jagaria use his spiritual powers to reach and tap the unconscious region of the mind of the Dangaria? Or, as propounded by Vaclav Havel, did these rituals represent the attempts of ancient humans to come to terms with the unknown, the non-rational, and the unconscious parts of our beings? Were these devices useful to invoke lost memories of the ancient past?

We are, therefore, not willing to dismiss Jagar as some mumbo-jumbo, but a phenomenon worth scientific investigation. This should be an important scientific research connecting Traditional Knowledge Systems to Inner Sciences. Ironically, from Jung onwards, many westerners have studied and appropriated these traditional ‘inner sciences’, renamed and repackaged them. Meanwhile, the original discoverers and practitioners have been dismissed as primitive societies awaiting cure by westernization.

Myths and Legends:

Myths and legends sometimes represent the attempts of our ancestors to explain the scientific observations that they made about the world around them and transmitted to the future. They chose different models to interpret the observations, but the observations were empirical. Let us compare some of the old legends with modern scientific observations about the geological history of the Indian subcontinent. We will discuss three examples, and each could be seen as fiction or hard fact or some combination of both:

1) The geology of Kashmir (India) has been studied for more than 150 years now. As a result of these studies, it is now known that due to the rise of the Pir Panjal range around 4 million years ago, a vast lake formed, blocking the drainage from the Himalayas. Subsequently, the river Jhelum emerged as a result of the opening of a fault near Baramula, draining out the lake about 85,000 years ago. This is accepted as the geological history of the Kashmir valley.

Now let us compare this to the old legend: In Kashmir there is a very old tradition which describes a vast lake, called Satisara, in the valley in very ancient times. Kalhana, a poet chronicler, wrote his bookRajatarangini, or ‘The River of Kings’, in 1150 AD. In this book, he mentions an ancient lake (Satisara) giving a reference from a still earlier text, Nilamata Purana.

Aurel Stein (1961), who translated Rajatarangini, describes the legend of Satisara in these words: ?This legend is mentioned by Kalhana in the Introduction of his Chronicle and is related at great length inNilamata? The demon Jalodbhava who resided in this lake was invisible in his own element and refused to come out of the lake. Vishnu thereupon called upon his brother Balabhadra to drain the lake?? Ignoring the mythical struggles between gods and demons, the legend does depict an account resembling the draining out of the primeval lake.

2) The sea level on the West Coast of India, as elsewhere during the Ice Ages, was about 100 meters lower than today and started rising only after 16,000 years ago. This is the accepted eustatic history.

The related legend says that when Parasurama donated all his land to the Brahmins, the latter asked him how he could live on the land that he had already donated away. Parasurama went to the cliff on the seashore and threw his Parasu (hatchet) into the sea and the sea receded, and then he occupied the land that thus emerged. This is possibly a reference to the regression of the sea and the newly emerged land.

3) The third example is of the river Satluj, a tributary of the Indus today. In finding its new course, the Sarasvati braided into several channels. This is the accepted geology.

The relevant legend says that the holy sage Vashista wanted to commit suicide by jumping into the Sarasvati, but the river wouldn’t allow such a sage to drown himself, and broke up into hundreds of shallow channels, hence its ancient name Satadru. Unless the early author of such a legend observed the braiding process of the Satluj, he could not have imagined such a legend. This is another instance of legends coinciding with a modern geological observation.

Theorizing the possible role of myths, Scott says: ?The complimentarity of the literal and the figurative help us to realize that the distinction between myth and science is not structural, but procedural? Myths in a broader, paradigmatic sense are condensed expressions of root metaphors that reflect the genius of particular knowledge traditions? Numerous studies have found that the ?anthropomorphic? paradigms of egalitarian hunters and horticulturalists not only generate practical knowledge consistent with the insights of scientific ecology, but simultaneously cultivate an ethic of environmental responsibility that for western societies has proven elusive.?

The Israelis have been very successful in rediscovering many lost technologies relevant to their environment and culture by investigating their ancient myths and traditions. Through this, they have become pioneers in many processes of economic value that conventional European technology lacks.

The Goal

India’s intellectual resources are not limited to (though they are limited by) its ‘Indi-genius’ doubting intellectual elite. Today, there are Indian economists, social developers, and scholars who are working hard to revitalize many TKS. Resources for research and teaching of India’s Traditional Knowledge Systems should be made available for the following reasons:

India has amongst the best cases for successful revival of TKS: It has a rich heritage still intact in this area. It has the largest documented ancient literature relevant to TKS. It has the intellectual resources to appreciate this and to implement this revival, provided the Macaulayite mental blocks could be shaken up through re-education of its governing elite. It has dire needs to diversify beyond dependence solely upon the new panacea of globalization and westernization.

India’s scientific heritage, besides its philosophical and cultural legacy, needs to be properly understood. The aim is not inspired by chauvinism, but to understand the genius of Indian civilization better. This would overhaul the current assessment of India’s potential.

To correct the portrayal of the history of science, the history of ideas, mainstream accounts of world history, anthropology and culture. This entails emphasizing to scholars and educators that TKS should be included, especially India’s achievements and contributions to world science that have been very significant but unappreciated.

To include Traditional Knowledge Systems in economic planning, because they are eco-friendly, sustainable, labor rather than capital intensive, and more available to the masses. This should be done in parallel with the top down ‘modern’ scientific development using westernized ‘globalization’, as the two should co-exist and each should be used based on its merits.

TKS and Inner Sciences, History, and Society Today

Inner Sciences: The Inner Sciences of India have been on the one hand appropriated by the west, and on the hand have been depicted as being in conflict with the progressive, rational, and materialistic west. In fact, inner and outer realms are often viewed as opposites, that can at best be balanced because one contradicts the other. This assumes that Inner Sciences make a person and society less productive, creative, and competitive in the outer realm. However, India’s TKS are empirical evidence to demonstrate that Inner Sciences and outer development did co-exist in a mutually symbiotic relationship. This is a major reason to properly study India’s TKS.

Without removing this tension between inner and outer, it would be difficult to seriously motivate the modern world to advance in the Inner Sciences in a major way. Inner progress without the outer would be a world negating worldview, which India’s TKS record shows not to be the case in classical India. Outer progress without inner cultivation results in societies that are too materialistic, too selfish to the point of genocides and holocausts, eco-unfriendly, and dependent upon force and control for social harmony.

History: Until the 1800s, TKS generated large scale economic productivity for Indians. It was the TKS based thriving Indian economy that attracted so many waves of invaders, culminating with the British. Traditionally, India was one of the richest regions in the world, and most Indians were neither ‘backward’ nor uneducated nor poor. Some historians have recently begun to come out with this side of the story, demonstrating that it was massive economic drainage, oppression, social re-engineering, and so forth at the hands of colonizers that made millions of ‘new poor’ over the past few centuries. This explanation yields a radically different reading of the poverty in India today. Upon acknowledging India’s traditional knowledge systems, one is forced to discard accounts of its history that essentialize its poverty and the accompanying social evils. The reality of TKS contradicts notions such as:

India was less rational and scientific than the west.

India was world negating in its outlook (which is a misreading of the Inner Sciences), and hence did not advance itself from within.

India’s civilization was mainly imported via invaders, except for its problems such as caste that were its own ‘essences’.

Indian society was socially backward (to the point of being seen as lacking in morality); hence it depends upon westernization to reform its current problems.

Society Today: Is India a ‘developing’ society, or is it a ‘re-developing’ society? Without appreciating the TKS of a people, how could anthropologists and sociologists interpret the current condition of a society? Were they always poor, always living in polluted and socially problematic conditions as today, in which case these problems are essences? Or is there a history behind the present condition? This history should not, however, excuse the failures of fifty years of independence to deal properly with the economic and social problems that persist.

Going forward, Traditional Knowledge Systems are eco-friendly, symbiotic with the environment, and therefore can help provide a sustainable lifestyle. Since the benefits of heavy industries do not trickle down to the people below the poverty line or to so-called developing countries, a revival of traditional technologies and crafts must complement the modern ‘development’ schemes for eradication of poverty. In this regard, the distinction between elite and folk science was non-existent in ancient times: India’s advanced metallurgy and civil engineering was researched and practiced by artisan guilds.

Author: Rajiv Malhotra

Red Earth and Pouring Rain

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What is my mother to yours?
What kin is my father to yours anyway ?
And how did you and I ever meet ?
But in love our hearts have mingled
Like red earth and pouring rain.

Tamil Sangam Literature (200 B.C.E – 200 C.E)

Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics

Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics

Madhava is not only a pioneer in discovering an exact infinite series for ?, he is also a trail blazer in discovering rapidly convergent approximations and transformations of the series. In the same way, Madhava is not satisfied with merely enunciating the infinite series for the sine and cosine functions (the so called Newtons series), he also comes up with an algorithm (in terms of the famous mnemonics ?vidvan?, ?tunnabala?, etc.) for evaluating these functions accurately (correct to five decimal places) for an arbitrary argument..

Jagannath Rath Yatra

Etymologically, “”Jagann?th”” means “Master, Lord” (”n?tha”) of the “World, Universe” (”Jagata”).The word has Sanskrit origin, “Jagann?tha” is a genitive tat-puru?a-sam?sa, derived from “‘Jagat” (a reduplicated nominal form of the verbal root ?gam [to go]), meaning “[whatsoever] is moving” and n?tha (). Jagann?tha can thus also mean “He the shelter of the Revolving World”.

Some scholars have suggested that the word is a Sanskritization of a tribal word. They have presented arguments concerning the Jagann?th’s tribal origins. Savaras the early tribal inhabitants of Odisha were tree worshippers who called their god ”Jaganata” from whom the word Jagann?th may have been derived. Verrier Elwin, anthropologist, ethnologist and tribal activist, in his book ”Religion of an Indian Tribe” has narrated that: “The god Jagann?tha had appeared in Seori-Narayana and an old Savar used to worship him. The king of Odisha had built the great temple at Puri and wished to install Jagann?tha in it, and he found a Brahmin to fetch it from Seori-Narayan, but nobody knew where it was except the old hermit, Savar. The Brahmin besought him in vain to be allowed to see the god and even went so far as to marry his daughter, and finally the old man consented to take him blindfolded to the place. The Brahmin, however, tied some mustard seeds on a corner of his cloth and made a hole in it so that they dropped out one by one on the way. After sometime they grew up and served to guide him to the spot. The Brahmin then went to the Seori-Narayana alone and begged the god to go to Puri. Jagannatha consented and assuming the form of a log of wood, floated down the Mahanadi to Puri, where he was taken out and placed in the temple.” As per Elwin there is an alternative Savara legend, according to which there are three most important and prominent Kittungs (Gods) – two brothers and a sister, Ramma, Bimma and Sitaboi. Ramma is always coupled with the brother Bimma. The legend maintains that it was from them that the Savara tribe was born. Such a set up has significant resemblance to the Jagannath triad. As per current predominant thought, Jagannath, embodies the metamorphosis of tribal god into a pre-eminent deity of the classical Hindu pantheon. The icon is carved out of wood (not stone or metal), and the tribes whose rituals and traditions were woven into his worship are still living as tribal and semi-tribal communities in the region. This tribal god may have taken a fairly circuitous route to his present pinnacle, via absorption of local Shakti traditions and merger with the growing popularity of the Narasimha and Purushottam forms of Vishnu in the region in the medieval era. As regards to archeological findings, Queen Vasata in the 8th century built the famous Narsinghnath temple in brick at Sripur or Shreepur on the banks of river Mahanadi in present Mahasamund district. Sirpur or Shreepur was then the capital of Dakshin Kosala kingdom. The temple is believed to have been built in the 8th century by Vasata, the daughter of King Suryavarma of Magadh. The temple plaque opens with a salutation to Purushottam, also titled Narasimha, suggesting a trend in Vaishnav tradition to stress the ugra (violent) aspect of Vishnu. This possibly culminates with Jagannath, widely revered as Purushottam until the end of the 13th century, which had close connections with Narasimha who became popular in Odisha in the post-Gupta period. As the original wooden god was a unitary figure, temples for the single deity continued to be built even after a Trinitarian image emerged at Puri. Even today there are many Dadhivaman temples in Odisha, which perpetuate the original state of the god. The Kond continue to practice a ritual renewal of wooden posts. There is also something striking about the figures constituting the Jagannath triad. Subhadra’s image consists of only a trunk and a head, but Jagannath and Balabhadra are larger, with a trunk, over-dimensional head, and arm stumps. But while the heads of Subhadra and Balabhadra are oval with almond-shaped eyes, Jagannath’s head is curiously flat on top and is dominated by enormous round eyes. Scholars explain this in terms of Narasimha’s association with wooden posts representing tribal deities. In the Andhra village Jambulapadu in (Anantapur), Narasimha Svami is worshipped as a pillar to which a sheet shaped in the form of a lion’s head is attached. This lion-head explains Jagannath’s large round eyes, typical of Narasimha on account of his fury (krodh). The head of the Jagannath image makes sense when perceived as a lion’s head, where the emphasis is on the jaws, rather than as a human head. Nilakantha Das in ?The Orissa Historical Review Journal, April 1958?, opines that Savari Narayana of Madhya Pradesh (Dakshina Kosala), was brought to Puri from Phuljheur of Madhya Pradesh where a wooden deity was worshipped.This Narayana of the Savaras and became Jagannath. Historian K. C. Panigrahi suggested that Puri’s legendary account of the claimed invasion of Orissa under the Yavana general Raktabahu in the 4th/5th century A.D. during the reign of the legendary king Sovanadeva (Legendary) may contain a historical reminiscence of the conquest of Orissa by the Rastrakuta King Govinda III during the reign of the Bhaumakara king Subhakara deva who ruled in coastal Orissa around 800 A.D. And moreover, he pointed out that Jagannath’s legendary absence of 146 years in western Orissa (between Raktabahu’s invasion and Yayati’s ‘rediscovery’ of Jagannath and reinstallment at Puri) corresponds more or less exactly with the space of time between the historical reigns of Subhakaradeva and Yayati-I, the Somavamsi ruler Yayati Kesari established the first regional kingdom of Orissa. The installation of Jagann?th at Puri temple took place several years after Yayati Kesari had come to throne, viz., in Yayati’s 9th regnal years. Moreover in both cases the images were renewed outside Puri. Yayati Kesari performed the great ‘Vanayaga’ ritual in the vicinity of his former capital nearSonepur of Orissa and Jagannath was finally reinstalled on at Puri only two years after the renewal of the idol. However, In Puri, too, no pre-sixteenth century sources of the Yayati Kesari account are known. Contemporary facts are fully silent about any activities of the Somavamsis at Puri, particularly of Yayati Kesari as builder of the first Jagann?th temple at Puri. The silence of early medieval sources would be surprising in view of the many available Somavamsi inscriptions and other literary sources which could have mentioned or even praised Yayati Kesari and his great deeds at Puri. In Purusottama Mahatmya which has contained the Indradyumna legend and the origin of Jagann?th’s Daru Devat? at Puri there is no mention of Yayati Kesari. In the same line, noted writers like W. W. Hunter, A. Stirling, John Beames and N. K. Sahu in book ?A History of Orissa?, Dr. H. K. Mahtab in his ?History of Orissa?, and Dr. Mayadhar Mansinha in his ?The Saga of the Land of Jagannatha? opine that it is a Buddhist triad. In fact, there is no historical evidence of worship of Jagannath at Puri prior to the 10th century A.D. when Yayati Kesari was the ruler. The Buddhist King Indirabhuti’s Jnanasiddhi mentions about the place of Jagannath. Pandit Neelakantha Das has mentioned that the Savaras were worshipping the image of Jagannath made of neem wood in a place called Sambal in Uddiyan, the kingdom of Indrabhuti, which was even prior to the rule of Yayati Kesari -I. Indrabhuti has described Jagannath as Buddhist deity in Jnanasiddhi. In the narrative of Indrabhuti, Jagannath was worshipped by the Savaras in one of the Budha Viharas. During the rule of King Sasanka and feudatory chief Madhav Raj-II, many anti-Buddhist campaigns were undertaken. Therefore, the Buddhist Jagann?th was shifted before the arrival of Hieun-Tsang and destruction of the Puspagiri Vih?r. In this period, Indrabhuti emerged as a worshipper of Jagannath in 717 A.D. There are various opinions about the place where the image of Jagann?th was lying buried. The Madala panji (The temple Chronicles) identifies this place with the village Gopali of Sonepur district of Orissa. The Madala panji records legend of king Yayati recovering the wooden images of Jagann?th from the Sonepur region located in the foot of Trikut Hill at Kotsamalai of the Birmaharajpur subdivision of Subarnapur district, Odisha, It widely believed that the idol of Lord Jagann?th, Balabhadra and Devi Subhadr? were kept hiding in the caves of the Trikut for a period of 144 years. 810 A.D.

Vastu Temple Architecture

The architecture of Dharmic temples evolved over a period of several thousands years guided by Vastu principles. Dharmic temples are of different shapes and sizes ? rectangular, octagonal, semi circular ? with different types of domes and gates. Temples in southern India have a different style than those in northern India. Although the architecture of Hindu temples is varied, they mainly have many things in common.

Dharmic temple architecture

The 6 parts of a Hindu Temple:
1. The Dome and Steeple: The steeple of the dome is called ?shikhara? (summit) that represents the mythological ?Meru?or the highest mountain peak. The shape of the dome varies from region to region and the steeple is often in the form of the trident of Shiva.
2. The Inner Chamber: The inner chamber of the temple called ?garbhagriha? or ?womb-chamber? is where the image or idol of the deity (?murti?) is placed. In most temples, the visitors cannot enter the garbhagriha, and only the temple priests are allowed inside.

3. The Temple Hall: Most large temples have a hall meant for the audience to sit. This is also called the ?nata-mandira? (hall for temple-dancing) where, in days ofyore, women dancers or ?devadasis? used to perform dancerituals. Devotees use the hall to sit,meditate, pray, chant or watch thepriests perform the rituals. The hall is usually decorated with paintings of gods and goddesses.
4. The Front Porch: This area of the temples usually has a big metallic bell that hangs from the ceiling. Devotees entering and leaving the porch ring this bell to declare their arrival and departure.
5. The Reservoir: If the temple is not in the vicinity of a natural water body, a reservoir of fresh water is built on the temple premises. The water is used for rituals as well as to keep the temple floor clean or even for a ritual bath before entering the holy abode.
6. The Walkway: Most temples have a walkway around the walls of the inner chamber for circum-ambulation by devotees around the deity as a mark of respect to the temples god or goddess.

Pramana Systems


Pratyaksha Pramana

Pratyaksha or Perception implies direct, immediate cognition. There are two kinds of direct perception, external and internal. The ?external? perception implies cognition of sense objects, namely – sound, touch, form, taste and smell by our five sense organs or gyanendriyas – ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose. When the sense organs contact their respective objects then the Pratyaksha knowledge takes place. The ?internal? perception means the direct & immediate cognition of pain, pleasure, love, hate, anger, knowledge or ignorance of various objects etc. in & by our minds. Pratyaksha Pramana is possible only when the sense organ, the mind and the context of the interaction are all in perfect condition. A knowledge established by pratyaksha pramana under these conditions is called Samyajnyana (samyak+jnyana); Otherwise, even pratyaksha may lead to mithya jnyana (mis-understanding) or samshaya jnyana (uncertain knowledge).

Anumana Pramana

It is in our experience to know an object or issue other than interaction with the sense objects. For example, if we see smoke, we may infer that there must be fire. This is because, it has been our experience that, smoke is associated with fire. Thus, the ability to know an object by its relationship with another object is anumana pramana. However, anumana has to be confirmed by pratyaksha pramana, because if we were to follow the smoke and find no fire, the anumana pramana, that it is fire, is negated. Pratyaksha anumana is therefore called the Nirankusha (independent) pramana, for it cannot be negated by any other pramana whereas anumana pramana can be negated by pratyaksha pramana.

Sabda Pramana

Sabda is verbal testimony. It is also called ?apta-vakyas? (statement of a trust-worthy person?, and agama (authentic word) or Shruti. A verbal statement, uttered or written, is man?s most potent instrument for transmitting knowledge. We learn mostly by means of words. An oral or written message is a universal mode of communication. We constantly get various information, direction & knowledge through words. Right from school days to this moment we use words as a valid & effective means of bringing about awareness of things, ideas or emotions. Books, magazines, newspaper, letters, conversations, chats, radio, TV, movies, songs etc. etc. All use or depend on words. We cannot do without verbal testimony. When it comes to issues beyond the reach of human mind or intellect, sabda pramana is the only means to acquire the knowledge of that issue or object.

Shruti has been accepted as the final source, since it is apourusheya ? not created by any human/humans. They are the statements of Brahman, presented along with creation. The following five rationales have been offered to establish the apourusheya nature of Agama. Firstly, there is no authorship for vedas ? If there was an author, the human ego would have revealed it. Secondly, they are so comprehensive that no single human could have composed them. Thirdly, there are no contradictions in the shrutis which rules out possibility of multiple human authors; if there were multiple authors, contradictions would be the norm. Fourthly, its spelling, punctuations and intonations have been retained over time. Finally, a human composition could not have survived in original form over time. Therefore issues related to dharma, nature of Brahman and jiva have to be understood through Agama pramana.

Upamana Pramana

Knowledge obtained by comparing an unknown object with a known object is called upamana pramana. upa is near or close (known in this context) and mana is to understand; thus upamana is knowledge by comparing to a known object. upamana has limitations and cannot be all encompassing. For instance, A man, who does not know what a wild cow is, may be told by someone that it is an animal like the cow. If subsequently he happens to meet with such an animal in the forest and knows or recognizes it as a wild cow, then his knowledge will be due to upamana or comparison. Another example, Suppose you do not know what ?saxophone? means. You may be told by a musician: ?A saxophone is a musical instrument something like an Ushaped trumpet.? If, on subsequently seeing a saxophone, you are able to give its name, it will be clear that you understand what ?saxophone? means. Now, upamana is just this way of knowing the denotation of words, or the relation between names and the objects denoted by them. The Nyaya school for instance reduces Upamana to Anumana, thus indicating that they are not mutually exclusive.

Arthapatti Pramana

This means postulation, supposition or presumption of a fact. It is a distinct valid method of mediate knowledge. It is in fact a method of assumption of an unknown fact in order to account for a known fact that is otherwise inexplicable. The classic example of this method of knowledge is a fat person A says that he never eats in the day, then we can easily postulate that he eats in the night, for the simple reason that without this assumption his fatness & also his getting fatter cannot be explained. Arthapatti can either be from what is seen or from what is heard. The use of this method in Vedanta is in assuming rightly the implications of Upanishadic statements. Like in the statement ?The knower of Self transcends grief?. Here we see that merely knowledge destroys grief, then it can be assumed without any doubt, that all grief has to be false then alone it can be destroyed merely by knowledge. The legal system uses this extensively, when the statements of a witness are inconsistent with the findings, say by investigators. Some schools argue that Arthapatti is no different from Anumana.

Anupaladhi Pramana

Anupalabdhi means non-apprehension or absence. The Advaitins and the Mimasaka school of Kumarila Bhatt believe Anupalabdhi to be a separate independent pramana. Non-existence of a thing is apprehended by its non-perception. By not seeing a jar in a place one knows that it is not there. We use this method of knowledge also very often, and this is evident from statements like : ?There is no teacher in the class-room?, There is no sound here?, ?This flower has no fragrance? etc. It may seem paradoxical that non-apprehension of a thing is a means to the apprehension of its non-existence (abhava). But in fact both non-perception as well as perception serve as a means to get various knowledge, for the simple reason that the knower is conscious of both. They lead to positive & negative experiences.

Sambhava Pramana

Sambhavam means equivalence. When we take a vessel to an experienced cook, he can say with certainty that a particular amount of rice can be cooked in that vessel. Similarly, one hundred exists in one thousand. When such an understanding appears in the intellect, it is known as Sambhava.

Aitihyam Pramana

Aitihyam means a traditional account. This pramana applies when something is known by common belief or tradition but the original source of that knowledge is unknown. For instance, the old fort in New Delhi is believed to have been built by the Pandavas, although there is no scriptural evidence to support this belief.

Notes on Varna System

Two great Rishis of ancient India once met to plan the structure a stable society. Rishi Brigu recognized that there were four sources of power in a society and suggested that no single person or group of people should control more than one of each. The four sources are 1. Knowledge, 2. Weapons, 3. Wealth, 4. Land.  Therefore those who possess knowledge cannot have wealth, weapons or land. Those who will have weapons will rule the country but they will not make policy. They need to seek the permission and advice of those with knowledge. Those who have wealth, their social status should be decided their philanthropy and not by the magnitude of their wealth. Those who own land should have to produce for the society. In fact none of these four categories or “varna” was based on birth of the individual.

Maharishi Ved Vyasa wrote the Mahabharat. His mother was a fisher women. Maharishi Valmiki wrote the Ramayana and was known to be the child of a Dalit woman. Kalidasa considered the greatest Samskrut poet our country has produced, was a hunter. Rishi Vishwamitra who was considered as Rishi among Rishi’s was born into a  Kshatriya family. This proves that Sanatana Dharma does have have varna or “caste” on the basis of one’s birth. Ravana, the king of Lanka was a Brahmin and is still not worshiped. So it needs to understood that the caste system is not by birth.

– Subramanian Swamy

Aryan refers to Arya, or a clear consciousness toward God. In the Vedic sutras, the word Aryan is used to refer to those who are spiritually oriented and of noble character. The Sanskrit word Aryan is linguistically related to the word harijana (pronounced hariyana), meaning one related to God, Hari. Therefore, the real meaning of the name Aryan refers to those people related to the spiritual Vedic culture. It has little to do with those immigrants that some researchers have speculated to be the so-called invading Aryans. Aryan refers to those who practice the Vedic teachings and does not mean a particular race of people. Therefore, anyone can be an Aryan by following the clear, light, Vedic philosophy, while those who do not follow it are non-Aryan. Thus, the name Aryan, as is generally accepted today, has been misapplied to a group of people who are said to have migrated from the north into India.

The present caste system some have localized to a particular part of the world is undoubtedly wrong and a perversion of the natural, universal caste system. Those who persist in the theory that the four social orders called the caste system exist only in India are totally mistaken. In all other countries, also, there are the same orders of life, under some name or other and thus everywhere in the world.The qualifications of the various orders of the caste system are enumerated in the Vedic scriptures, briefly the Brahma?as are the highest social order, and they imbibe the modes of goodness and are engaged in the activities of equality, restraint, and forgiveness. The K?atriyas are the second-highest social order, and they imbibe the qualities of creative passion and are engaged in the activities of public leadership as executive heads of different political and social bodies. The Vaisyas are the third social order. They imbibe mixed qualities, namely creative passion as well as the darkness of ignorance, and generally they are engaged as farmers and merchants. The sudras are the lowest social order, inasmuch as they imbibe the modes of darkness, or ignorance, and generally take up the service of the other three social orders. As a class, the sudras are servitors of the whole mundane social body. So in essence the system works just like the legs, arms, stomach, and brain they are all coordinated in helping each other.

– Anonymous

Sixteen Sa?skaras

Hinduism…..gave itself no name, because it set itself no sectarian limits; it claimed no universal adhesion, asserted no sole infallible dogma, set up no single narrow path or gate of salvation; it was less a creed or cult than a continuously enlarging tradition of the God ward endeavor of the human spirit. An immense many-sided and many staged provision for a spiritual self-building and self-finding, it had some right to speak of itself by the only name it knew, the eternal religion, Sanatana Dharma….

– Sri Aurobindo

Man-making is a science. Like a gardener, parents and teachers work on a person so that the best can flower out from him or her. The whole thrust is to help bring about greater awareness and love in the mind, and channelize the interest and energies into positive fields. The whole ?work? is on the mind alone, and is comparable to the work of a genetic engineer. The only difference is that while a genetic engineer plays and transforms with the basic structure, a teacher works to manifest the basic inherent beauty, freedom and potential which facilitates to carve out a dynamic, creative, intelligent and magnanimous personality.Interest is a very subjective thing, and has to come out from within. It can never be imposed. Interests are created by impressions and knowledge. That is what ad agencies too do. They create impressions, and this ?works? on the mind of the person to bring about the interest in him in the

desired field. Once the interest has been manifested we can just sit back and see the person work for his or her field of interest in a dynamic way. While the experts of the advertisement world are generally seen to use this ?knowledge of impressing minds? for their selfish and commercial ends, the Vedic Masters used this knowledge to help bring out a positive and dynamic personality. While the former conditions the mind to the extent that the very thinking process of their target crowd is conditioned in their favor, but the Rishis saw to it that the very power to think and question daringly, independently and creatively grew. Thus we have all our scriptures in the form of question and answers.

These deliberate and positive impressions which help create a deep and lasting impressions on the mind of a person – so as to generate interest in him about the Truth Dharma, help bring out a positive personality and free the mind of its negatives are called ?Sa?skaras?. No one while living in the world remains free of the conditioning of his or her environs and teachings, so the question is not whether we can stop all conditioning but to see to it that a person is looked after like a plant and help his or her potentials bloom.

To a question whether Sa?skaras are deliberate positive conditioning, well the answer is that the objective of the entire exercise is to help a person awake to a state which is free from all conditioning, so while impressions are certainly put effectively and deliberately yet they are the very anti-thesis of what is implied by the word conditioning. This is one of the finest and blessed science, and has been perfected here as an art form too.

Sa?skaras are the turning points of life and need to be celebrated. Celebrations are very important ingredients of Sa?skaras. They directly or indirectly involve our respected elders, scholars, near and dear ones. Everyone gets together to convey their best wishes and blessings to the person concerned and thus there is social and religious sanction for the act and ceremony. Sa?skaras are great, time-tested tools in our traditional systems which help carve out a great personality. Apart from scriptural validation, history also proves to us the great effectiveness of these methods. When Vedic Masters had their way, India was on top of the world. The people of the far off land prayed that they will one day see this great land of plenty, prosperity and righteousness. In this section we shall present an introduction to these famous sixteen Sa?skaras of Hindus which cover the entire life span of a person and take him to the door steps to Truth.

The Sixteen Sa?skaras






The first coming together of the husband & wife for bringing about conception.



Ceremony performed when the first signs of conception are seen, and is to be performed when someone desires a male child.



A ceremony of parting of the hairs of the expectant mother to keep her spirits high & positive. Special music is arranged for her.



After the birth of the child, the child is given a secret name, he is given taste of honey & ghee, mother starts the first breast-feeding after chanting of a mantra.



In this ceremony the child is given a formal name. Performed on the 11th day.



In this the formal darshan of sun & moon is done for the child.



This ceremony is performed, when the child is given solid food (anna) for the first time.



Chuda means the ‘lock or tuft of hair’ kept after the remaining part is shaved off.



Done in 7th or 8th month. Piercing of the ears.


Upanayan & Vedarambha

The thread ceremony. The child is thereafter authorized to perform all rituals. Studies of Vedas begins with the Guru.



Hairs are cut, guru dakshina is given



Returning to the house



Marriage ceremony



As old age approaches, the person retires for a life of tapas & studies.



Before leaving the body a Hindu sheds all sense of responsibility & relationships to awake & revel in the timeless truth.



The last rites done after the death.

Source: Vedanta Mission

Ramanujan’s Divine Mathematics

Researchers recently solved the cryptic deathbed puzzle renowned Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan claimed came to him in dreams. While on his death-bed in 1920, Ramanujan wrote a letter to his mentor, English mathematician G. H. Hardy, outlining several new mathematical functions never before heard of, along with a hunch about how they worked, decades later, researchers say they’ve proved he was right – and that the formula could explain the behaviour of black holes.

For people who work in this area of math, the problem has been open for almost 90 years. Ramanujan’s letter described several new functions that behaved differently from known theta functions, or modular forms, and yet closely mimicked them.

Functions are equations that can be drawn as graphs on an axis, like a sine wave, and produce an output when computed for any chosen input or value. Ramanujan conjectured that his mock modular forms corresponded to the ordinary modular forms earlier identified by Carl Jacobi, and that both would wind up with similar outputs for roots of 1. Ramanujan prime and theta functions, have inspired vast amounts of further research and have have found applications in fields as diverse as crystallography and string theory.

Ramanujan, a devout Hindu, thought these patterns were revealed to him by the goddess Namagiri. December 22, 2012 marks the 125th birth anniversary of Srinivasa Ramanujan, the self taught mathematician born into a modest and conservative family in Kumbakonam, a relatively small town in Tamilnadu.

Described as a raw genius, he independently rediscovered many existing results, as well as making his own unique contributions, believing his inspiration came from the Hindu goddess Namagiri. He spent so much time thinking about math that he flunked out of college in India twice. He overcame several hurdles to find a place among the celebrated intellectuals of Cambridge. Ramanujan passed away at the young age of 32 of tuberculosis, but he left behind formulations in mathematics that have paved the path for many scholars who came after him.

It is estimated that Ramanujan conjectured or proved over 3,000 theorems, identities and equations, including properties of highly composite numbers, the partition function and its asymptotics and mock theta functions. He also carried out major investigations in the areas of gamma functions, modular forms, divergent series, hypergeometric series and prime number theory.

Among his other achievements, Ramanujan identified several efficient and rapidly converging infinite series for the calculation of the value of p, some of which could compute 8 additional decimal places of p with each term in the series. These series (and variations on them) have become the basis for the fastest algorithms used by modern computers to compute p to ever increasing levels of accuracy (currently to about 5 trillion decimal places).

A common anecdote about Ramanujan during this time relates how Hardy arrived at Ramanujan’s house in a cab numbered 1729, a number he claimed to be totally uninteresting. Ramanujan is said to have stated on the spot that, on the contrary, it was actually a very interesting number mathematically, being the smallest number representable in two different ways as a sum of two cubes. Such numbers are now sometimes referred to as “taxicab numbers”.

* Ramanujan’s note books can be found here

Banarasi Saree

In the world of fashion, ?Banarasi Saree? remains the Indian ?Sun? and has been a subject of great inspiration and appreciation for world-wide costume connoisseurs. These proposed episodes would try to fathom its historical continuance, record its traditions which goes from generation to generation and unveil the intricacies which goes towards making this Banarasi Saree an art and aesthetics. In short it would enter the subject from the raw materials and show the process to the final product and packaging.

It was in the Mughal era that Baranasi saree came into popularity and got fashion currency. Today these sarees are being exported world-wide. Around 125 km of Varanasi this art of making Banarai saree survives since olden days. It was during the mughal times when all arts be it persian, rajasthani or other indian schools got amalgamated to create a fusion of aesthetics. Same goes for costume as well. The persian motifs and Indian designs on silk texture studded with gold and silver remained the cue of Mughal patronage. Elaborate pure gold and silver designs are today rare still the zari has rightfully taken its position as an apt replacement.

Today there are mainly four varieties of Banarasi saree available. Those are Pure Silk (Katan); Shattir, Organza which is fine kora with zari and silk works and finally the Georgette . If you go to varanasi you would find some 10,000 shops selling Banarai Saree which is more a cottage industry for several million people around Varanasi which includes Gorakpur and Azamgarh as well. Around 60 percent of artisans are Muslim for whom weaving this art is their tradition. Ramzan Ali,an old traditional weaver said ?After the partition of India people tried to take up this art ?Banarasi Saree? in distant land but could not produce an equivocal quality?.there is something in this earth which makes the creation of Varanasi Saree possible?.

During mughal era the raw material i.e. silk used to come from China and today those are replaced with Bangalore silks where sericulture is an unique industry. The fineness of silk is gauged Daeonir and quality varies from 16-18 Daning to 20-22 Daning. Still today silk from Chinese powerloom is in great demand which comes via Nepal. Resham cotton and zari also come from Surat which remains the cotton belt for over several centuries.

The process of making Banarasi saree with the colourful dying of the Silk. Those silks are then sold by weight. And powerloom people take them to weave the basic texture of the saree. In the weaving warp they create the base which runs into 24 to 26 mts. And there are around 56 00 thread wires with 45 inch width. Two person tie a rope in their waist to hold the form and other is grounded. In an elaborate process every inch, which contains 120 silk wires, is created. Its art to be seen only.

At the weaving loom three people work one weaves,one dye and other work at the Revolving to create lacchis. At this juncture another important process is initiated. This is designing the motifs. There are several traditional artistis available in Varanasi who might not be educated but can create wonder designs for Saree.

To create ?Naksha Patta? the artist first draw on the graph paper with colour concepts. Now those designs are of varying kind .But most universal kinds are Caixg(Kalka), Buti and flower and foliage. There scene of village, fairs ,cloud ,dancing-monkey design. And even one can see temple and mosque design. However, it was matter of experience that in one Bride saree there were designs of ?Grave-yard? as well. This became the functional aspect of art which is not far off from the people life cycle. In modern days one can see geometrical designs have come in, but it lacks appreciation. As traditional folk design remains the base appeal for Banarasi Saree.

Once design is selected then small punch cards are created those are guides for particular which colour thread has to pass through which card at what stage. One Haquim Ali says for one small design one requires to create hundreds of perforated cards to implement the concept. Once those perforated cards are prepared those are knitted with different threads and colours on the loom and according to design those are paddled in a systematic manner that the main weaving picks up right colour and pattern to create the design and weave as well.

In yesteryears Banarasi Sarees used used to have designs with original gold and silver thread and one manufacturer used to take even an year to create one saree. Yet, those saress could fetch several lakhs for the weaver. However it all depended on the intricacy of designs and pattern A normal saree takes around 15 days to 1 month and the time limit stretches even unto 6 months.

Once the saree is created those come to Gol Garj and Kunj Gali where Banarasi sarees are sold in wholesale rates. There several hundred shops where every morning people from different villages come to deliver ?created? sarees to the market. There are some 10 shops whose turn over they say even cross 80 crores in toto.

Thus we see for creation of Banarasi Saree one requires different experts right from the gauging the quality of Resham until marketing. All these goes towards creation of the unique saree which is envied by saree weavers from all over. Its no simple weaving rather those are functional art of India which is going on for centuries within a great fabric of Indian traditional weavers.

– Dr Gautam Chatterjee