Contending that there is a gap between achievements in ancient science and technology and those of modern science, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) chairperson Anil Sahasrabudhe said the course ‘Ancient Indian Knowledge Traditions’ aims to bridge this gap. He said if there were unsubstantiated claims in the book Bharatiya Vidya Saar, to be taught under this course, it would be reviewed by a committee.
The AICTE has been drawing flak for endorsing the book for its new elective course, Ancient Indian Knowledge Traditions, to be introduced in at least 3,000 engineering colleges across the country.
Responding to an email sent by The Indian Express, Sahasrabudhe said, “This is a book — Bharatiya Vidya Saar — edited by researcher Dr Shashibala of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and vetted by a committee.”
“If there is some part which is not having enough substantiated claim, we will put it across to another committee for review but that does not mean the entire contents are to be revoked,” said Sahasrabudhe.
He further said students could undertake projects on ancient science and technology and pursue further research in these subjects. “The whole problem is that there was a big gap between the achievements in ancient science and technology and today. Lot of things are lost. How do we even recreate, if we don’t even do experiments and reject, which is not confirmable and accept only confirmable. Accepting or rejecting everything lock stock barrel is what is unscientific in opinion,” Sahasrabudhe said in the email.
Earlier, Shashibala had told The Indian Express that while not all concepts in the book are scientifically proven, students should be able to experiment to prove or disprove the same.
The book has kicked up a controversy with scientists and educators in Mumbai starting a campaign against the AICTE’s plan to endorse Bharatiya Vidya Saar. The online petition of the campaign has garnered around 1,100 signatures from across the country. Scientists, including Mayank Vahia from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and S G Dani from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, too, have voiced their dissent to the book being endorsed by the AICTE.
According to the online petition, one claim made in the book is that Rishi Kanad in ‘Vaisheshik Sutra’ discusses types of motion as well as Newton’s laws of motion. According to the petition, the book says that the ‘Vaimanika Shastra’ was written by Rishi Bharadwaj about 5,000 years ago, that the speed of light has been accurately mentioned in the Rig Veda and the theory of gravitation was first mentioned in the Rig Veda.
“We will extend our full cooperation if the AICTE is willing to make a sincere attempt to correct the book, but it should not become a farce,” said Aniket Sule, a scientist from the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, who had started the petition.
“No one has stopped anyone from doing further research. We are only saying you cannot put speculative things in a textbook. They are research projects and not courses. If students want to do research projects in these areas, what we should teach is a full course on Sanskrit Grammar and also reading courses on how reputed historians of science have translated Sidddhantic texts and coding schemes employed in these texts,” Sule added.