January 20, 2010
School of Engineering, Amritapuri
Most Amrita schools offer classes in Cultural Education to students. Engineering students at the Amritapuri campus have the opportunity to choose from electives such as Glimpses of Eternal India and Glimpses of Indian Economy and Polity.
“Most students are only familiar with the version of Indian history that they learn in high school,” states Probal Ray Choudhury, who teaches these elective courses. “But there is a growing body of research now that suggests that pre-British India was technologically advanced and education was wide-spread and available to all.”
Probal refers to a variety of texts to teach his classes. Among these are books written by the Indian scholar and historian Dharampal. Dharampal spent many years conducting painstaking research on British documents that were produced as a result of extensive surveys the British had commissioned in India, before they had proceeded to divide and rule the country.
Now Dharampal’s daughter, Dr. Gita Dharampal continues her father’s work. This Professor of History was until recently, the Director of the South Asian Institute of the University of Heidelberg at Germany. Currently in India on a six-month sabbatical, she spent several months at Gandhiji’s ashram in Sevagram, poring over historical archives.
“I am fortunate that Dr. Gita Dharampal has agreed to guide me in my doctoral research,” shared Probal. Currently registered for a PhD in Humanities from Amrita, Probal’s main guide is Dr. M. D. Srinivas, Chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies in Chennai. A PhD in Quantum Mechanics, Dr. Srinivas now also specializes in History and Philosophy of Science, Scientific and Technological Traditions of India, Indian Society, Economy and Polity.
Both scholars were in Amritapuri recently for Probal’s doctoral committee meeting. After having accepted adjunct faculty positions at Amrita, they proceeded to give several talks to faculty and students. Dr. Gita spoke on Gandhi’s Satyagraha: Revisioning its Historical, Cultural and Political Implications. Dr. M. D. Srinivas made two presentations – Annam Bahu Kurvita: Recollecting the Classical Indian Discipline of Growing and Sharing Food in Plenty and Indian Approach to Mathematics.
“India was always a land of plenty,” Dr. Srinivas told the gathered audience. “Due to policies of greed that the British pursued, agriculture in India declined. Today, states like Maharashtra and Karnataka, may be ahead in the services sector, but they have to get their food from neighboring states. Kerala has to get all of its food from other states.” Dr. Srinivas was expounding on the ancient dictum from the Taittiriya Upanishad — Multiply anna many-fold, ensure an abundance of food all around.
“All talks were well-attended and much-appreciated,” stated Probal. “There were long Q&A sessions at the end, which also demonstrated the interest that our faculty and students have in these topics.” Both scholars met Chancellor Amma. Dr. Gita was meeting Amma for the second time, for Dr. Srinivas, this was his first visit to Amma. “I am happy that such illustrious scholars are guiding me in my research. And I am thankful that Amrita has made available to me the opportunity to undertake this research work.”