Is inclusion of book on ancient Indian science, Bharatiya Vidya Saar, in engineering course acceptable?
Pune students, professors and scientists have varied opinionsUpdated: Oct 05, 2018 14:45 IST
While many city educationists welcomed the move as a way to merge ancient Indian tradition with western technology, students are irked by its relevance in the curriculum.
“It is quite a progressive move, especially as it allows our students to look back at our roots to gain inspiration and learning from ancient scientific endeavours. However, it shouldn’t be an either-or situation. Students should not be made to study any one. It should be a healthy blend of Indian or western science,” said Akshay Malhotra, deputy director at Symbiosis Institute of Technology (SIT).
Another professor, Prasad Karandekar who is also the associate dean of engineering at MIT said, “Such a move aligns with our futuristic goal to look back at our ancient rich knowledge and create a global basket of knowledge. This generation needs to be connected to the ancient texts to get holistic education.”
Contradicting, an 2nd year engineering student from College of Engineering Pune (COEP), Jash Dalal said, “Without proofs, these are indeed speculations which cannot be taught as facts to students in engineering colleges. Men and women of science and technology base their study only on evidence, so while these topics could be very interesting for further research, using it as a text in higher education curriculum might not be very helpful.”
Another PhD student from Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, Rohit kumar said, “How can the government approve such a book without releasing it out in the open for public review? While it could possibly have positive consequences, AICTE cannot surreptitiously decide such a thing without opening the forum to educationists and scientists to discuss, because most of the claims till now seem speculations. In such a case this could be a propaganda instead.”
An IISER faculty, Thomas Pucadyil added, “It is difficult to say much about where the book stands unless it is made available to scientists and teachers. But, at the end of the day, its positive impact can only be felt if the claims are scientifically proven.”
Initially, the book will be introduced in 3, 000 technical colleges across the country. However, opposing it, Mumbai-based scientist Aniket Sule of Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, filed an online petition addressing Anil Sahasrabuddhe, chairman of AICTE, claiming the book to be ‘pseudo-scientific’.
As per the petition, the book claims that Rigveda accurately mentions the speed of light and the theory of gravitation, and how Rishi Agastya invented electro-voltaic cell and also introduced the method of electrolysis to produce oxygen and hydrogen from water.
“These claims are outlandish without proofs which makes it rather unacceptable scientifically. If the goal is to really connect students to ancient Indian sciences and philosophy, it cannot blatantly state such things without proofs. Instead of being educational it would instead spread conspiracy theories and false information,” said Sule.
What’s in the box?
According to the petition, the book makes a number of claims which includes -
1. Rishi Agastya invented elctro-voltaic cell.
2. Rishi Agastya gives method of electrolysis to produce Oxygen and Hydrogen from water.
3. Rishi Kanad in 'Vaisheshik Sutra' discusses types of motion as well as Newton’s laws of motion.
4. The book ‘Vaimanika Shastra’ was written by Rishi Bharadwaj about 5000 years ago.
5. The book ‘Vaimanika Shastra’ is authoritative text on not just construction on airplanes but also on navigation, aviation fuels and pilot preparation.
6. The speed of light has been accurately mentioned in Rigveda.
7. The theory of gravitation has been first mentioned in Rigveda.
In 1974, members of the Aeronautical Engineering faculty of IISc had released a paper, ‘Critical Study of the Work Vyamanika Shastra’ debunking all the claims in the 20th century Sanskrit text on aerospace technology, Vaimanika Shastra.