June 18, 2011
Dept of Social Work, Amritapuri
Developed over thousands of years, traditional Indian knowledge prevailed through the ravages of time and survived countless invasions. Its wisdom is reflected in the beliefs, customs and lifestyles of its people.
Explaining the sustainable significance of India’s ancient knowledge in the modern world, A.V. Balasubramanian, Director, Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems, spoke on Revitalizing Traditional Indian Science and Technology for Sustainable Development at the International Conference on Society, Technology & Sustainable Development.
Balasubramanian detailed India’s medical traditions which include Shastriya Parampara (classical knowledge) and Lok Parampara (folk knowledge).
Analyzing India’s traditional medicine and modern science, he emphasized that the traditional system is constant and unchanging, whereas contemporary medicine is continuously revised.
Balasubramanian also expounded on other areas where traditional knowledge is utilized in Indian culture; grammar, logic, mathematics, astronomy, metallurgy, healthcare, navigation, shipbuilding and agriculture.
Assessing India’s agricultural traditions, he discussed the importance of biodiversity and identified sustainable qualities in various indigenous plants such as paddy varieties that resist disease, flood and drought.
Balasubramanian concluded reflecting on the destruction caused by modern genetic agricultural practices and how Indian farming has failed from their use.
Traditional knowledge of tribal people living in different parts of India was a key theme in several paper presentations also at the conference.
Dr. Rajesh Bowmik from Tripura University, in his presentation titled Tribal Artisans and Indigenous Practices with Special Reference to North Eastern Region explored the timeless arts and crafts of tribal people, especially basket weaving.
“A basket is important in all of the North Eastern Region,” he said. “It is used to store paddy, fish, clothes, ornaments as well as other valuable items.”
Emphasizing that the arts and crafts of the tribal folks reflected their culture, the author highlighted their simple and universal appeal. “Now, however, plastic is beginning to replace bamboo,” he ruefully noted.
In another paper titled, Thinking Beyond Participatory Tribal Development in Kerala: An Experience of Kadar Community presented by Maya M., Department of Sociology, Loyolla College of Arts and Sciences, Thiruvanathapuram, the focus was on nuances of participatory schemes for the Kadar tribals.
The paper explored the participatory forest management scheme that protected the forest cover, at the same time providing livelihood security to people living near the forest.
When worldwide, traditional knowledge is declining and modern science and technology is being used in its place, these examples are particularly encouraging.
Traditional Indian knowledge continues to endure; its wisdom based on sustainable practices that are inherent to the Indian culture.