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Launched days ago, IIT centre in calendar row offers courses in Vastu Vidya, Arthashastra

🔴 The IIT Kharagpur centre now offers undergraduate and post-graduate courses in Vastu Vidya, Paribesh Vidya, Arthashastra and “eventually Ganita”, according to Chairperson Prof Joy Sen.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury | Kolkata |
Updated: December 30, 2021 8:12:05 am
iit-kharagpurIIT-Karagpur’s Nehru Museum of Science and Technology had published a similar calendar for 2021 that focused on 'Indian Knowledge Systems: Past, Present & Future'. (File photo)

Within days of its inauguration by Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, IIT Kharagpur’s Centre of Excellence for Indian Knowledge System, which aims to conduct interdisciplinary research on domains ranging from Indian history to cosmology and positional astronomy, counts among its achievements a calendar that questions the chronology of Indian history.

Launched on December 18 during the 67th convocation of the institute, the centre offers undergraduate and post-graduate courses in Vastu Vidya (architecture), Paribesh Vidya (environmental studies), Arthashastra (political science) and “eventually Ganita (mathematics)”, according to Chairperson Prof Joy Sen.

Sen said that while the intake of the core faculty is in progress, the centre has at present 11 associated faculty from other departments. The courses offered are elective and one of the courses, ‘Introduction to Sthapatya Vastu and Nirman Vidya and Arthashastra’ — which “integrates Indian architecture, Indian public health engineering and design engineering and welfare economics as one fold of knowledge system as per Indian ethos” — has over 430 first-year students from across departments, sources said.

“We bring Indian-ness to the knowledge system. By virtue of that, Indian students will become more global but will also emerge as true Indians. That has nothing to do with the idea of fascism or nationalism. There have been a lot of wrongdoings in the past. We are choosing what has been neglected and suppressed in the past,” said Sen.

Pointing out that the centre has its origins in Sandhi, a science-culture initiative sponsored by the Centre that was launched in 2013,
Sen said several events have been organised so far. “We organised the Bharata Tirtha international webinar (that aimed to trace the philosophical and scientific heritage of India). Two more webinars are being planned for 2022,” said Sen, who did his Bachelor’s in Architecture from IIT Kharagpur. Sen, who has a double Master’s from Iowa State University, USA, did his PhD from IIT Kharagpur.

Former Head of Department of Architecture and Regional Planning at IIT Kharagpur, he was also former Head of Ranbir and Chitra Gupta School of Infrastructure Design and Management at the institute.

Questioning the “current chronology of Indian civilisation”, the IIT-Kharagpur calendar for 2022 said ancient history suffered from “suppression, compromises, contractions, and distortions”.

“The calendar never focuses that much on whether the Indus Valley Civilisation precedes or succeeds the Vedic age but has proved, based on race and genetics, that there was no Aryan invasion. The fallacy of the Aryan invasion myth is a matter for disapproval and rejection now, which is what the calendar does,” explained Prof Sen.

However, the calendar has come in for criticism from experts who have questioned its contents.

Tony Joseph, Author of ‘Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From’, said, “‘Aryan Invasion’ has lived on only in the imagination of rightwing polemicists for about half a century now. The reason is that they need a strawman to demolish. What exists today is multi-disciplinary evidence for ‘migration’ of Central Asian Steppe pastoralists to South Asia between 2000 and 1500 BCE. For example, the 2019 study titled ‘The Formation of Human Populations in South and Central Asia’ says this: ‘Earlier work recorded massive population movement from the Steppe into Europe early in the 3rd millennium BCE, likely spreading Indo-European languages. We reveal a parallel series of events leading to the spread of Steppe ancestry to South Asia, thereby documenting movements of people that were likely conduits for the spread of Indo-European languages.’ This study was authored by 117 scientists, based on ancient DNA from 837 people,” he said.

He further added, “Another study based on the DNA of a woman who lived in the Harappan city of Rakhigarhi about 4,600 years ago, said this: ‘However, a natural route for Indo-European languages to have spread into south Asia is from Eastern Europe via central Asia in the first half of the second millennium BCE, a chain of transmission that did occur as has been documented in
detail.”

“So there is robust scientific consensus about Steppe migrations into India. Calendar art is no substitute for peer-reviewed studies in journals of high standing,” Joseph concluded.

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