Students at the Indian Institutes of Technology may soon be studying ancient engineering techniques — such as the one used by the monkey army to build the Ram Setu bridge to Lanka in the Ramayana — written about in Sanskrit texts.
Several IITs have informed the HRD ministry of plans to introduce the ancient language in curriculum — a ‘request’ earlier made by former education minister Smriti Irani to the schools.
IIT-Kharagpur is in the process of setting up a centre for science and heritage initiative to study science and technology in Sanskrit literature. It has told the ministry it has made “significant strides in selecting a faculty in Sanskrit literature with expertise and international exposure in inter-disciplinary study of Sanskrit”.
IIT-Bhubaneswar plans to introduce a Sanskrit language course as a “breadth subject” — a subject outside the degree course.
Supporting the study of Sanskrit, an IIT director who did not wish to be named said there were engineering marvels from centuries ago whose technological knowhow was available only in Sanskrit texts — the Ram Setu and Ashoka pillars, to name a few. The director also advocated the study of Ayurveda “in its purest form”.
Irani had told Parliament in April that her ministry had requested the 18 IITs to offer Sanskrit as an elective subject. Later, she had quoted Nasa researcher Rick Briggs to emphasise the symbiotic relationship between Sanskrit and artificial intelligence, and cited a Cornell University researcher to state that the oldest geometry book, Shulb Sutra, came from India and was in Sanskrit.
Her Sanskrit pitch to the IITs came after her controversial move to replace German with Sanskrit as the third language in kendriya vidyalayas.
But Irani — who stepped down as HRD ministry in a cabinet reshuffle in July — wasn’t the first to push the case of Sanskrit in education. The AB Vajpayee government had also asked the IITs to introduce Sanskrit, following which IIT-Delhi had undertaken a project for undergraduates. IIT-Bombay had also started a Cell for Indian Science and Technology in Sanskrit.
It isn’t just Kharagpur and Bhubaneswar that are getting on the Sanskrit bandwagon. IIT-Roorkee plans to teach science and technology in Sanskrit texts along with an inter-disciplinary study of Sanskrit and modern subjects. It has told the ministry it is keen to permit undergraduate and postgraduate students to take up Sanskrit-related courses as credit courses.
Its director Pradipta Banerji said most traditional texts are in Sanskrit and translated versions aren’t much help. “Sanskrit may become a credit course if there is enough excitement among students for UG/PG. The Sanskrit club we introduced a year ago is very popular.”
The institute also has plans for a Sanskrit library and a Masters programme with Sanskrit and computer science.
Similarly, IIT-Ropar has conveyed to the ministry its proposal to introduce Sanskrit literature and inter-disciplinary study as electives.