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Mining Ancient Indian Texts for Knowledge

Event: 6th Mail Today Education Conclave

Venue: Hyatt Regency Hotel, Bikaji Cama Place, New Delhi

Date: 10th October 2017

In the age of fast-forwarding technology where you get to learn everything with just the click of the mouse, there is still a lot to learn from ancient texts of our country. Everyone involved in the process of education and learning should get connected to the roots of our nation.

At a panel discussion on ‘Mining Ancient Indian Texts for Knowledge’, author Amish Tripathi and Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Makarand Paranjape were of the view that ancient texts should be one of the bases of the education system in India.

‘We should learn from ancient texts. We should mine them for knowledge,” Tripathi said during the discussion at an education conclave being organized by Mail Today. Another panellist in the discussion Paranjape said, ‘India used to be a knowledge society, but had destroyed the system in the last seventy years’,

Paranjape said, “I am not anti-West. I am of the belief that we shouldn’t be shaken from our roots. We don’t create graduate students who are connected to their Indian roots. For example, architecture students are usually taught Western concepts.

“I’ve seen quite a few buildings with glass walls. It’s a concept which makes sense in the West where there is little sun. However, in India, there is plenty of sunlight. And what these giant glass buildings are doing is creating giant microwave ovens. It’s leading to gross wastage of power (because of the ACs) and is also making people uncomfortable. Forget connecting to ancient texts, we aren’t even connected to our climatic conditions.”

Tripathi while talking about politics in college campuses said that it should be banned as it ‘divided people’. Paranjape agreed in the sense that political parties should not be allowed in colleges, but that ‘student governments were fine.’ One thing they both agreed unequivocally on was how ‘RTE was a disaster’, as Tripathi put it. Paranjape, on the other hand, called it the product of a ‘terrible mechanism’.

‘We muddled up our priorities along the way. IITs and IIMs were projects that the government focused on but not primary education. Now, there is a need to fix it,’ Paranjape, said adding, ‘Tagore spoke about how, when a community needed a dam, they built it. When they needed a pathshala, they built it. The government had no role in it. Now, things are different. We have taken the power away from people. We have weakened our enterprising spirit and creativity.’

At the end of the discussion, Tripathi said that it boiled down to the kind of culture prevalent in India. He gave the example of two sporting events that took place in India and China in the recent past.

‘China is governed by the idea of imposition,’ he said. ‘Beijing recently held the Olympics and Delhi had the Commonwealth Games (CWG). We all know how CWG was managed while the Olympics in Beijing was supremely managed.

‘Apart from ensuring that the stadiums were completed on time, the Chinese government also wanted the citizens to be impressive and issued a dress code. One rule was that white socks couldn’t be worn with black shoes. Naturally, they all followed the rule.’

‘Imagine if the same were to happen in Delhi. If the government were to issue a similar dress code, I’m sure people would deliberately defy it and wear white socks with black shoes. The core issue is that we are not a top-down culture. We are a bottom-up society. And change can only happen in India once we understand that notion,’ he added.

Devesh Matharia

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