The sad part about the Indian education system is that it does not teach anything about the diverse and glorious Indian heritage and culture. All that ancient knowledge is left disregarded. There is a particular aversion to accepting and recognising the knowledge they carry.
In recent times, many users on the micro-blogging platform of twitter have been seen to appropriate this knowledge and attribute it to Islamic scholars and Jesuit preachers trying to paint India as a civilization which has only borrowed knowledge from various parts of the world. The Aryan Invasion Theory is one such theory peddled to prove that the Indian culture is not indigenous.
But recent discoveries and a few articles in noted journals have debunked the theory. Amish Tripathi in his only non-fiction book ‘Immortal India’ quotes the scientific journal Nature which provides anthropological evidence that no new race such as Aryans invaded the Indian subcontinent. Excavations in Keezhadi have found links to the Harappan civilization and the DNA extraction from the skeletons found at Rakhigarhi show the civilization was indigenous.
Now, that there is a bit of a historical background, it is time to dive in to the central theme. Since Independence welfare sectors like education, healthcare have gotten a short shrift from the government.
Actions speak louder than words. The actions of the Indian government reflect how serious the government is. For four decades India did not have a defined national policy on education. The National Education Policy for the first time was framed in 1986. It could not be implemented in totality before it was revised in 1992. It was status quo until the BJP sweeped to power in 2014.
The current ruling dispensation has been in power for 6 years. Over its six year tenure, three people have occupied the post of Minister of Human Resource Development. The post initially went to Smriti Irani. Due to differences between the draft committee and the ministry, the new education policy did not see the light of the day during her tenure. And the controversies surrounding her tenure at the HRD ministry saw her being relieved of that portfolio.
Smriti Irani was replaced by Prakash Javadekar at the helm of the HRD Ministry. After he assumed office the process of drafting the education policy began afresh. The work of the T.S.R Subramanian committee was set aside. The new committee borrowed aspects from the Subramanian committee. It submitted its report on 31 May, 2019 after the BJP led NDA was re-elected.
Now with Ramesh Pokhriyal at the helm of affairs, it is his job to drive through the changes suggested by the committee. Available for public consumption since October 2019, it is nine months since the draft has become an official document. The pandemic provides the ministry a chance to restructure and overhaul parts of the system. The changes made can be applied from the new academic year.
The evidence suggests governments since Independence have not taken issues that affect the daily life of the ordinary citizen seriously. While the bureaucratic red tape and barely tangible federal cooperation along with the subject of education being shuffled between the State List and Concurrent List of the Constitution made decision making difficult, however there is another aspect that everyone should aware of.
This aspect is a major influence on why literary texts, scientific and philosophical texts, the Vedas and the Upanishads are not taught in schools. Yuri Bezmenov who today goes by the name Tomas Schuman, a former propaganda member of the Soviet intelligence agency KGB sheds light upon it. The KGB had on its payrolls intellectual idealists who dreamed of a socialist welfare state. Apart from them, they had cultivated academicians, journalists, politicians, filmmakers to spread the Soviet communist ideology.
These ideologues later went on to hold positions of eminence in various bodies that made policy decisions. They influenced our foreign policy, defence structure, economy and education. It is this subversion of our educational institutes that has led to poor policy decisions and a particular derision for our culture, heritage and knowledge.
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are revered are classical works of art. Historical and archeological teams have studied and conducted research trying to prove the mythical city of Troy is a piece of geographical history. But the Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata which are classified as itihasa (translated to mean history) are looked down upon with derision.
The Indian intellectual community needed a program by a US scientific channel to announce the indication of a man made structure dating back at least 7000 years to even accept that the Ram Setu might be a possibility. Everything indigenous requires a stamp of validation from the West before becoming acceptable.
Shakespeare also known as the ‘Bard of Avon’ is quite popular across the world. His works are revered in India as well. To the extent that an extract from his work Julius Caesar and an abridged version of Merchant of Venice are part of school curriculum. But a very few people know of Kalidasa. An Indian literary legend. He lived around the 4th-5th century AD. None of epic works Abhijnana Shakuntalam, Raghuvamsa, Kumarasambhavam are ever mentioned or studied as part of curriculum.
Kalidasa being regarded as India’s Shakespeare is bit of a misnomer. If a scientist in the field of physics comes up with a new discovery, he is heralded as the next Einstein, not the other way around. Kalidasa was a masterful playwright and poet who lived around the c.400-500 AD. Shakespeare was born in the 16th century. So if there is any comparison Shakespeare should be known as Britain’s Kalidasa.
There are many names apart from Kalidasa that define our cultural knowledge and philosophy. Charaka, Sushruta, Baudhayana, Apastamba, Aryabhatta, Panini, Patanjali. And a host of many other names and many schools of thought exist in the vast stores of knowledge.
All the names mentioned above have some contribution either to the field of science, mathematics, language and more. But their names and contributions have been relegated to bullet points in general knowledge books. It is a pity that we are wilfully ignoring this abundance of knowledge.
Instead the texts on medicine the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita should be taught in biology classes in school. A deeper understanding of medicinal procedures and medicinal properties can be achieved at the university level. In the same vein the Sulbha sutras of Baudhayana and Apastamba along with the contributions of Aryabhatta should be taught in mathematics, philosophy and history.
Panini and Patanjali should be taught while teaching the history of civilisation in school. Later their works on grammar in Sanskrit should be studied in the field of linguistics by professors and students alike. But with paucity of funds as the major share of the budget goes towards salaries, these reforms might take decades to see the light of the day.
The texts and people mentioned while highlighting the need to preserve and teach the historically accumulated knowledge are just tip of the iceberg. A wealth of knowledge still lies unmention and not researched. Arguing for teaching the more traditional and ancient texts does not mean doing away with the more contemporary forms of art, literature and information that are the hallmark of present day education.
It is aimed at preserving this knowledge by teaching it to the current generation and passing it on to the future generation while enabling ourselves to work in the modern capitalist market. With each passing day protecting this ancient knowledge has only become more imperative. Many intellectual idealists have been active on social media platforms attributing this heritage of India to Islamic scholars and Jesuit preachers trying to portray India as a sink of knowledge rather than a source.
This appropriation of knowledge is not a new phenomenon. It is an ongoing process that distorted histories into hagiographies and whitewashed and omitted information that do not fit into the narrative paradigm. Eminent historians and academicians have been leading this charge.
With the loosening of control on media sources it has easier and difficult to hide this distortion of facts. To combat this distortion and to stay and know our roots so that we know our history, our culture, our literature, our philosophy and scientific temper we must preserve and learn about ourselves.
This is not a hoary call to return to the past. It is more about knowing our unique identity and preserving it amidst growing pressure to conform to a singular monoculture.