The Department of Cultural Education, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, organized a 2-day workshop on Indian Scientific Heritage from October 1-2, 2016, at Coimbatore campus.
The workshop began with the lighting of the ‘kuthuvilakku’ (traditional lamp) amidst chanting of Vaidika mantras and the singing of the national anthem.
The workshop was formally inaugurated by Dr. Sasangan Ramanathan, Dean-Engineering of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, who in his message, highlighted the need for conducting similar activities to make the students aware of the multifarious Indian contributions to various domains of knowledge. This knowledge would make them feel proud of India’s intellectual heritage and inspire them to get involved and eventually carry out further research in their chosen area of study.
Dr. S. Mahadevan, Deputy Dean of Amrita School of Engineering, Coimbatore, encouraged the students to immerse themselves in the lectures, explaining how it will be beneficial in shaping one’s character in a positive way. He added that the workshop, coinciding with the beginning of the Devi Navaratri celebrations in the campus, was indeed a unique and rare privilege.
The first speaker of the two-day workshop was Sri. Michel Danino, who is presently a member of the prestigious Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) – the apex body of historians in India, and a visiting professor to IIT-Gandhinagar. The first session on “Cultural Specificities in the History of Indian Science” was intended to be an introductory talk about the contribution of ancient India to science and how Indian culture influenced and shaped the development of sciences that emerged out of India. Highly informative and cogent in nature, this talk ignited much curiosity amongst the students which was reflected during the vibrant question-answer session. Astronomical numbers used in the Indian Number System, the infinite series for several trigonometric functions from the Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics, Geometry in India, the time-scales pertaining to different civilizations, and aphorisms of cosmology were among many other interesting topics touched upon during Michel Danino’s presentation.
The second academic session of the first day consisted of a detailed presentation by Prof. S. Balachandra Rao, Honorary Director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bengaluru, on the topic “Development of Mathematics in India.” Beginning his talk with Vedanga Jyotisha, the oldest extant text on astronomy in India, he described how the subject of mathematics in India evolved systematically. He introduced many Indian mathematicians and their important contributions in the field of mathematics. The information on the algorithms of Aryabhata (476 CE) and some important mathematical results by Bhaskara-I of 7th century, such as finding the area of a triangle, sine values of angles and important geometrical results of Brahmagupta (6th century CE), made the students appreciate the early advancements in mathematics in India.
To enliven the atmosphere of the workshop, a mellifluous musical recital was arranged during the afternoon on the first day. M. Pushparajan, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Amrita School of Engineering, Coimbatore, gave a delightful performance on the flute.. A banquet dinner was arranged in the evening for all the participants of the workshop and the invited guests. The students used this opportunity to have informal discussions with the resource persons who were happy to mingle and answer the students’ queries.
The second day started with Prof. S. Balachandra Rao’s session on “Ancient and Medieval Indian Contributions to Astronomy”. At the outset, he said that a lot of data on science of astronomy is available in the Vedic texts. His exposition on the unique Indian approach in the pursuit of geometry, in the context of constructing Vedic altars to perform various sacrifices, was impressive. He explained that transparency and straightforwardness were important ingredients of scientific rigor which Indian astronomers maintained.
The second academic session on the concluding day was delivered by Sri. Michel Danino, who spoke on the topic “History of the History of Science in Ancient India”. This talk deliberated on when and how the domain of history of science evolved in India and also about the continuous and cumulative knowledge traditions of India. He supplied much evidence to show that Indian scientific knowledge had been borrowed by other civilizations. The works of Al-Khwarizmi and Al-Biruni stand as testimonies to that fact.
The workshop concluded with a splendid carnatic classical vocal performance by Dr. Murali Rangarajan, Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Amrita School of Engineering, Coimbatore, who was accompanied by students playing the supporting instruments. The concert was a delightful grand finale to the two-day workshop.
The workshop received an enthusiastic response from the student and teaching community on the campus. Students presented their feedback about the workshop during the concluding session. Praharsha, a third year student from the department of Civil Engineering, Amrita School of Engineering, Coimbatore, said that it was an enriching experience as all the academic sessions were quite revealing. Ajay Krishna, a third year student from the department of Electronics and Communication Engineering, said that it was a new experience for him and he is grateful to the speakers for imparting such precious knowledge.
After the formal vote of thanks, the workshop closed with the singing of the National Anthem.