July 1, 2010
In 499 CE, Āryabhata proposed a value of Pi equal to 3.1416. This was one of the best approximations of his time.
Several advances attributed to European mathematicians such as Pell’s equation or the Gregory series, were actually worked out first by Indian mathematicians, centuries earlier.
Silk was woven first, not in China or elsewhere, but in India, during Harappan times, some 4,500 years ago.
Several such startling facts unearthed by Mr. Michel Danino, author and guest faculty at Amrita, over the past few decades, from painstaking study and research, motivated several students from the Amritapuri campus to spend their summer vacation helping take his work forward.
From June 5 to 24, they participated in an internship of the International Forum for India’s Heritage (IFIH) at the Coimbatore campus, preparing material to be used for a DVD on the subject of Science and Technology in Ancient India.
“The DVD will be an elaborate mini-encyclopaedia integrating an auditorium, a library, lists of topics and biographies, a full course with questions and answers, detailed instructions for students, teachers and parents, a quiz, a timeline, a dictionary, games and more,” stated Michel.
Students worked on varied topics ranging from planetary orbits and models to eclipses, from number systems to diophantine equations, from gems to textiles and chemical technologies in ancient India.
Organised in teams, they also prepared biographies of some of India’s greatest scientists and thinkers including Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, Nilakantha Somayaji, Madhava, C. V. Raman, S. Ramanujan and J. C. Bose.
“In view of the great dearth of quality educational material on Indian culture and heritage, IFIH has conceived an ambitious project to produce a series of multimedia educational DVDs on specific themes of India’s heritage,” explained Michel, IFIH’s convener.
“For me, it was a real journey of exploration and discovery,” stated a senior B.Tech. student who participated. “An experience radically different from normal academic activities. I learned about research methodologies and gained an understanding of the roots of India’s heritage.”
Students at Amrita University attend mandatory classes in Cultural Education. Many of the students who participated had attended a three-day workshop conducted by Michel in Amritapuri in April.
The students not only worked to produce quality multi-media material, but also had the opportunity to watch several films on Indian culture, participate in yoga classes and debates. The internship concluded with a visit to nearby heritage sites in and around Tiruchi and Thanjavur.
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At the closing ceremony, Pro-Chancellor, Br. Abhayamrita Chaitanya spoke. “Knowledge is power,” he stated. “India can reach its potential only if we Indians are rooted in our culture and are proud of it. We should extend such internships to students of all Amrita campuses.”
The next internship is planned for December 2010. The theme of the internship will be India’s Gifts to the World.