Swami Vivekananda, after his historical Chicago speech in 1893, candidly created great positive impression in minds of West regarding potential of traditional knowledge, spiritual and other holistic practices of India. He envisioned of India as Spiritual Guru and Vishwa Guru due to rich Indian knowledge system, be it in culture, tradition, medicine or, consciousness practices. Therefore, he used to call upon all Indians to bring the technological knowledge from the West and integrate with Indian knowledge and values to make India as Vishwa Guru. Now, the time has changed a lot and India is leader in several technological innovations and developments especially Information Technology (IT). If the technology interventions are combined with Indian Knowledge system, then it can create great impact for leading quality and holistic life. Today, the most important factor, regardless of tremendous technological advancements, is quality life that is possible only through sustainable environment, good mental as well as physical health, respect for all, humanity and so on. National Education Policy 2020 (NEP2020) of India also envisages the same through quality education and research that should be affordable and accessible to all.
Let us understand what is Indian Knowledge System (IKS). The Indian subcontinent has been a powerhouse of knowledge and manufacturing of the world. A commonly found Dharmic (religious) culture in Indians emphasizes the development of all dimensions of humanity with an emphasis on living in harmony with self, environment, and the universe at large. The recent advances and developments across the world are unsustainable and are in serious conflict with nature. Now, we have an Indian way that is both sustainable and strives for the welfare of all. IKS envisions becoming Knowledge Leader in this century and for this it is imperative that we regain a comprehensive knowledge of our heritage and demonstrate the ‘Indian way’ of doing things to the entire world.
Under Ministry of Education, Government of India has established IKS division with a vision to promote interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research on all aspects of IKS, and disseminate IKS knowledge for further innovations and societal applications. The IKS division promotes research and critical studies in various IKS domains aiming at original, serious, and deep scholarly research in IKS and rejuvenate IKS research in India. IKS division includes traditional knowledge in mathematics and astronomy; chemical and material science; health, wellness, and consciousness studies; political and economic thoughts; arts, traditions, and rich culture etc.
Most of the mathematics in the world is of Indian origin and the mathematics of India is practical in its approach and pragmatic in spirit. This is imminent to investigate the historical development of mathematics and astronomy through study of the original texts or of ancient structures and instruments. Several literatures suggests that ancient Indians were pioneers in metallurgy and material sciences and many of these technologies are on the verge of being lost, hence this is important to study the technologies to preserve. Chemistry (rasayanashastra) was a special “shastra” in India as a codified knowledge system. Numerous techniques were developed to produce alloys, acids, salts, and other chemicals including medicines, textiles, arts, and paintings in India.
Ayurveda and Yoga find special place in discipline of health and wellness which has accorded the status of “upaveda” in India. This can be combined with AI intervention and allopathy, and can bring new insights to the human health and wellbeing in holistic manner. Critical studies and research in the fields of ayurveda, vipassana or mindfulness methods, health, wellness, and consciousness based on the Indian traditions can transform the healthcare and help the masses to lead quality and holistic life.
Rajaneetishastra and Arthashastra are described in our epics Ramayana and Mahabharata and in the works of great thinkers Shukracharya and Vishnugupta. This type of heritage is relatively less studied and need to be studied in detail to understand India’s political, and economic thought and foreign policy. The great land of India is full of 64 kalas (art forms) that enrich human life. The exploration of various art forms signifies as an integral part of the rich legacy of the Indian civilization which inspired artists and litterateurs across the world. The techniques and philosophies which were used in creating magnificent work of arts need extensive studies, research and AI based intervention for understanding, classifying and then disseminating the knowledge thereof. The technology-based computing, analysis and ways are required in order to locate, document, preserve and disseminate art-based knowledge traditions, traditional medicines, Yoga, Vedas and other IKS domains.
Now, topmost technological institutions such as IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur and others have established Center of Excellence in IKS with the aim of critical investigation of all potentials of IKS areas and applying AI and computational approaches for their preservation, classification, knowledge dissemination.
The principal objective of IKS research, investigation and studies is to highlight the strength of IKS; exploit its fullest potential; showcasing its significance for sustainable environment, love for nature, holistic ways of living, health conscious that ultimately leads to quality life for everyone in the planet.
(The author is Professor. G R Sinha, Adjunct Faculty, IIIT Bangalore and the views expressed in this article are his own)