Two-day national conference on Indian Knowledge Systems ends at IKS Center of IIT(BHU) Varanasi
Varanasi, Uttar Pradseh, India
The IKS Center of IIT(BHU) Varanasi conducted a 2-days national conference on Indian Knowledge Systems(Feb 28 and Mar 01, 2023) at ABLT1 IIT(BHU) Varanasi, under the Outreach vertical which is one of the verticals besides Education and Outreach.
The gathering was welcomed by Dr. V. Ramanathan, the principal investigator of the IKS Center who summarized the activities of the center and also gave a brief outline of the conference.
This was followed by the plenary address delivered by Prof. Hareram Tripathi, VC of Sampurnananda University Varanasi who was the chief guest of the inauguration ceremony. He stressed on the importance of collaboration of the two IKS centers as he heads the IKS Center at his University which is focused on the 64 kalaas of our tradition. He outlined potential fields of collaboration and drew attention to the dire need of such cross discipline dialogues.
This was followed by the presidential address by Prof. Shyam Bihari Dwivedi, Dean of Academic Affairs, IIT(BHU) who reviewed the activities of the IKS Center at IIT(BHU) and wished best for the future of the center’s activities. All the dignitaries were felicitated by Prof. S. K. Singh, the associate dean of R&D at the institute.
The conference had 4 technical sessions aligning with the 4 focus areas of the IKS Center namely, Nyaaya, Chemistry, Maths and Astronomy and Holistic Wellness. The first technical session began with a keynote address by Prof. K. Ramasubramanian, Professor at IITB who is a pioneer in the field of Indian Mathematics and astronomy.
In his address Prof. Ramasubramanian detailed the pedagogic and ancillary benefits of traditional learning of mathematics that was prevalent in India by profusely drawing from the life of Ramanujan. Among the several quotes in his lecture starting from Nasadiya sukta from the vedic lore, he also quoted Aryabhata who in his penultimate verse of his magnum opus Aryabhatiyam said thus,
सदसद्ग्यानसमुद्रात् समुद्धृतम् देवताप्रसादेन
सद्ग्यानोत्तमरत्नम् मया निमग्नम् स्वमतिनावा
Sadasadgyānasamudrāt samuddhṛtam devatāptasādena
Sadgyānottamaratnam mayā nimagnam svamatināvā
Prof. Ramasubramanian explained this verse as follows: Aryabhata says that he has brought out right knowledge which are as precious as the best of the gems by making his intellect as a boat and plunging into the depths of the ocean containing both valid and invalid knowledge. More importantly, the professor highlighted, that Aryabhata not boastful of his achievement as he ascribed this as an act of devataparasada meaning the mercy of the devas.
Professor also drew examples of verses from Bhāskarācārya’s Līlāvati where the text is filled with metrical verses which will make the math learning amusing as well as easy for the impressionable minds. He concluded by quoting Sri Aurobindo, “Break the moulds of the past, but keep safe its genius and its spirit, or else thou hast no future.”
Next talk was by Sri Ripunjay Tiwari who spoke on udayastakṣiti concept. This was followed by a presentation of Sri Rupesh Mishra who is a project fellow at the IKS Center. He spoke on the ongoing work at the center on an astronomical text called Makarandopapatti whose critical edition is being brought out by the center.
The next session was on Nyāya which was moderated by Dr. Nirmalya Guha, one of the Co-PIs of the center’s project. The keynote address was delivered by a world known scholar on the subject, Prof. Pradyut Kumar Mukhopadhyaya. He congratulated the center for having taken up such topics and work in a concerted manner. Although he also cautioned out of his experience in the field for more than half a century that one must not be over enthusiastic about communicating half-baked knowledge as it will do a great disservice to the rich knowledge treasure and tradition of this country. He started from the basic tenets of Indian epistemology and explained the great contributions of Gangesha Upadhyaya who in fact, according to him, could answer his opponents what even Udayana left incomplete. He highlighted that skepticism is one of the prime enemies in the process of acquiring valid knowledge.
Shruti Bhat, research scholar, presented her work on the concept of Paramāṇu as espoused in the Nyāya-vaiśeṣika systems of Indian darśana and gave a convincing argument for the existence of paramāṇu. Her talk was followed a presentation made by Sri Bhaskaranand Jha who is a project fellow at the center. He presented his work on the Indian formulation of the Theseus’ Ship problem and how it can be understood and resolved using Indian darśanas.
Next, Sri Vivek Tripathi and Sri Manoj Bhandari presented their joint work which is based on creating searchable classifiers in machine for Sanskrit slokas.
Day 2 began with a session Indian astronomy moderated by Dr. PavanKumar Aluri, where Dr. Madhusudan Mishra of Sampurnananda Sanskrit University presented his paper on vakragati. After laying grounds about what vakragati means he went to explain by taking Jupiter’s retrograde motion as an example. In his talk he also highlighted how Surya Siddhanata had concepts very similar to the Keplerian laws although not in the exact mathematical sense that Kepler had given. He also called for a revision in the calendar system taking cognizance of the vakragati of planets, mainly Jupiter.
This was followed by a session on Indian Chemistry, moderated by Dr. V. Ramanathan, where the keynote address was given by Prof. Chandrabhushan Jha, retired Emeritus professor of Rasashastra, IMS BHU. He began by giving various definitions of Rasāyana.
He said how everything is classified into tattva and yugma meaning elements and compound. He quoted the yajurvedic verse which extolls the 6 metals (hiranyam ca me ayas ca me…) and said how even during the vedic times, people knew these metals and the process of obtaining them as not all of them are found in nature in their native form. He also talked about the process of converting base metals to higher metals and alluded to the story of one rasaśāstri converting mercury to gold and gifting the same to Malviya ji.
He talked about themolabile metals like mercury and zinc and highlighted how various chemistry was developed by ancestors to make these two metals thermostable. He also talked about an interesting fact that our ancestors had detailed certain extraction procedures which are indeed mind boggling like extracting copper from earthworm and the peacock feather. He talked about how metals were used both for weapons as well as medicines and how elaborate chemistry was developed to process them for various applications.
In this session next was the presentation by Dr.Vineet Sharma, one of the project fellows of the center who talked about Raman spectroscopic characterization of varāṭikā before and after the traditional śodhana prakriyā.
The last technical session was devoted to holistic wellness moderated by Dr. Shreyans Jain, where the keynote address was delivered by Padmasri Prof. Manoranjan Sahu. He talked in length about the surgery legacy of our country and particularly Varanasi. He highlighted that Suśruta had talked about 1120 illness, 120 surgical instruments and 300 surgical procedures. He drew attention of the audience to the fact that the first ever cesarian operation, removal of cataract from the eye and removal of renal calculi were carried out in India. Not only that, he highlighted how very niche surgical techniques like rhinoplasty and maggot therapy for wound healing were mastered in India some 2500 years ago and the western medicine is realizing these only in the last couple of decades.
He did underline the fact that although several of these surgical procedures were described and known to us even today, the fact that how those surgeons anaesthetized their patients is something still a mystery. Whether they used alchohol or some kind of a marma technique is something that we need to still do more research to understand. He also described in great detail about how the works of Suśruta had in it a progenitor of modern day keyhole surgery and the very early design of automatic needle.
He further highlighted that today we need to collaborate and advance the past knowledge so that the public at large should benefit out of it. He showed exampled from his own practice how he used the pancavalka extracts to manage wounds and how achieved success in it.
His talk was followed by Prof. P. Byadgi’s exposition of Ayurveda in general and how there are multiple scopes of research using modern technology to understand the past knowledge. He highlighted that several wrong translations from Sanskrit to English have in fact done great harm to Ayurveda and our understanding of it. This was followed by a presentation by the center’s project fellow, Ms. Sanheeta Chakraborty who talked about chemo profiling of the ayurvedic herb mulethi.
The IKS center’s faculty members namely Drs. Nirmalya Guha, Shreyans Jain and K. Lakshmanan had a panel discussion talking about the work they are doing at the center and shared their future ideas as well. Finally, Dr. V. Ramanathan gave a summary presentation of the 2-days conference and also reiterated the objectives of the center and future trajectories. He also delivered the vote of thanks, where he thanked the IKS Cell of the Ministry of Education, GoI which has graciously supported IITBHU for opening the center and thereby thanking the administrative leadership, particularly the director Prof. Pramod Kumar Jain and the Dean of R&D Prof. Vikash Dubey for supporting the initiative in a big way. He thanked all the Co-PIs for their active involvement in the center.
The conference ended by rendering the national anthem.
IIT-BHU Press release