TPST Foundation in collaboration with CTARA, HT Bombay, will be organizing a 'Congress on the Traditional Sciences and Technologies of India' at HT, Bombay. This congress scheduled for May 1993, will be the first one of its kind to be held on this topic, and the organization of it would involve the collaboration of a large number of agencies and individuals based all over the country. A meeting organized at IIT, Bombay during 3-4th April, was attended by about 50-60 people representing various organizations and volunteering to take up specific responsibilities towards organizing this congress. Apart from the faculty of IIT Bombay and people associated with FPST Foundation, those present at the meeting included representatives from Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay, Madras and Delhi), Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Lok Swasthya Parampara Samvardhan Samith Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad), Gandhigram Trust and Department of Science and Technology, Govt of India. Several Universities including Benaras Hindu University and Madras University and large number cf voluntary agencies were represented and also many others attended in their individual capacity. The first day of the meeting was spent discussing the various suggestions which came up regarding the purpose, form and content of the proposed Congress. A rich variety of suggestions were put forward by people working on diverse topics. The second day was spent thrashing out the various organizational tasks for the congress and delegating responsibilities to various groups and individuals and these are briefly summarized at the end of this report.

Inaugural Session

The meeting was inaugurated by Prof. Kudchadkar, Deputy Director, IIT Bombay and he was proud that IIT, Bombay would be hosting this unique congress and promised full cooperation and help of the administration and faculty of IIT, Bombay in holding the congress. Prof.C.V.Seshadri, President of PPST Foundation, outlined the importance of the congress, coming particularly at a juncture when complete marginalization of the Indian population is taking place. The liberalization' of economy that is being carried out will completely remove the liberty of the people, and 'globalization' of economy simply means globalization of poverty. He pointed out that the western knowledge base is a culture laden artifact. People living in tropical countries lead completely different life styles. The work undertaken by PPST on Indian Mathematics opened up the vast possibilities that exist in traditional Indian Mathematics. Similarly, the work done by LSPSS has shown the possibilities that exist in the traditional systems of medicine. The forthcoming congress would be the fruition of over a decade of work done by PPST on various issues relating to traditional Indian Science and Technology.

Prof.CN.Krishnan, Director PPST, summarized the document earlier circulated to the participants. This document gave an outline of the purpose of the congress and the various organizational aspects of it. The main points of his talk were

  1. The aim of the congress is projecting to the modern audience, only a cross section of the traditional Science and Technology (S&T) (since the extent is too large), specifically those areas of traditional S and T which are still there in existence and thriving, those that are just about existing but not thriving and those that are not existing but have a potential to come back.

  2. This congress is being held to increase the interaction and bring about a dialogue between the personnel involved in the modern (western) S and T sector and the practitioners of traditional, S and T. The intention is not to raise fundamental questions as to whether to go in for modern S and T or for traditional S and T but to make optimum use of both. The holding of the congress wll enhance the contemporary value of the traditional S and T and also enhance the support and patronage it receives from the state.

  3. The details of the areas have been listed in the document and the main job that needs to be taken up now is that of data generation ultimately leading to the reparation of a series of books and monographs. Also the job of collecting and preparing of as many photographs and video films on as many topics as possible should be taken up immediately.

Mr.Prabhakaran of KVIC (Khadi and Village Industries Commission) was the next speaker and his talk was mainly concerning the work carried out by KVIC in the area of textiles. He cited various traditional methods of producing yam and the involvement of-KVIC in keeping at least some of them alive. It was pointed out that all the technological products of KVIC are eco-friendly. He suggested that other activities of KVIC can also be made use of for the congress and all aspects of the industries under the purview of KVIC will made available for the congress. During the discussion following Mr.Prabhakaran's talk, the following points came up:-

  1. Whether there was a need to confine only to ancient Indian Traditional Technologies or whether one could also include traditional technologies which have been modified by inputs from the modern sector.

  2. Only those technologies that have a contemporary relevance and those that do not displace labor must be represented at the congress.

  3. Textiles industry is unique to India and there are so many offshoots to it like the manufacture of charkas, dyes etc. and all of these technologies must find a place in the congress.

Health Care

The next presentation was the proposal by A.VBalasubramanian for coordinating the work for the congress in the area of Health and Nutrition. This work was being undertaken in consultation with LSPSS (Lok Swasthya Parampara Samvardhan Samithi). The task for the congress would be primarily collecting and putting together the work that has already been done by LSPSS, which was primarily aimed at strengthening and revitali2ing the traditional health practices. Specifically, the work for the congress would be aimed at:

  1. Making a statement on the current state of art in this area by compiling a catalogue of diverse cultural practices as well as the resources of materials and manpower in both the formal and no formal sectors of traditional systems of Indian Medicine.

  2. Providing an introduction to the basic principles of ISM's and their methodology.

  3. In order to show the potential of ISM's, the geographical experiences of a few voluntary health organizations will be presented. Experiments carried out in other third world countries like China and countries in Latin America may also be presented.

  4. Giving live demonstrations of some of the techniques associated with this system of medicine at the Congress. Public lectures on specific areas could be organized.

An interesting discussion followed this talk and the main suggestions and points which came up were:

  1. A short note on the contributions made by ISM's into Allopathy must be presented at the congress.

  2. The practices for keeping oneself healthy (like Yogasana) must also be included at the congress.

  3. People who come to the congress must be shown video films on a wide range of traditional specialties - like orthopedic skills.

  4. The misconceptions about traditional systems (like reservations regarding the use of metals etc) must be addressed at the congress.

  5. Raw materials (herbs) have become a big problem and the agronomy of herbs is to be highlighted at the congress.

  6. Justification for the various widely prevalent practices like massaging, oil bath etc. must be provided at the congress.

  7. Highlighting of the various aspects of Dai Parampara must be done at the congress. Every village has this tradition of midwifery and 99% of the normal deliveries are handled by them.

  8. The tradition of bone setting is very rich and widely prevalent. Modern allopath has no way of training 100,000 bone setters and also distributing them to remote parts of the country. So, it will be a great loss to the country if this tradition is not revitalized and nurtured.


The next presentation was in the area of agriculture and the presentation on behalf of Prof.Anil Gupta of IIM, Ahmedabad was done by Mr.Kirit Patel. The speaker presented the details of the material available with the Centre for Management of IIM Ahmedabad. The following points summarize his presentation.

  1. A survey of about 500 practices from.Gujarat state alone is available with the Centre. The findings of this survey would be presented at the congress. Also available with the Centre is a catalogue of innovations in traditional agriculture.

  2. Video films and publications on various aspects of Indian agriculture and a collection of various agricultural implements is also available with the Centre. A documentation of the various varieties of plants can be undertaken for the congress.

  3. Responsibility can be taken for organizing debates at the congress on topics like Traditional Knowledge Systems' and Traditional Gene Banks'. The implication of Intellectual Property Rights' (IPR) on traditional knowledge systems must be debated at the congress.

  4. The question of inviting innovators from Pakistan and Bangladesh must be considered.

A large number of points were raised in the discussion following this presentation. Some of these points are:

  1. We must show at the congress that modem agriculture cannot bring self sufficiency to Indian needs. Also, the needs of the country are too diverse and the various practices that evolved were in response to these needs.

  2. We must relate the environment friendly nature of the traditional technologies. The enormous drain in the country's resources due to the use of fertilizers must be pointed out. In this context, the importance of organic fanning must be high-lighted at the congress.

  3. The commercialization of agriculture has led to shifting to cash crops in a big way) It was pointed out that today, agriculture is secondary and only cash crop is primary. In the case of Maharashtra, the cultivation of sugarcane crops needs enormous quantities of water with the result that the water table of Maharashtra is coming down. Since sugar is primarily cultivated for export, it amounts to export of the water table of Maharashtra.

  4. Another important point raised was the tendency today of destroying local names and teaching only botanical nomenclature. The importance of local names of each area must brought out at the congress. An interesting example cited was that of a boy in Coimbatore who could identify 300 different plants with then uses.

  5. On the topic of water harvesting and management, it was suggested that the congress must highlight the limitations of the present water management system. Maharashtra is the biggest dam owner in the country and 70% of water in Maharashtra goes to sugarcane cultivation. Maharashtra also happens to be under severe draught and the Government has allotted Rs.700 Corer to combat draught. It is essential in this context to highlight the traditional aspects of water management.

  6. It was pointed out that it was not just a question of choosing between two technologies. In traditional agriculture, the peasant, as an individual chooses and decides, while in modern agriculture the peasant is reduced to a mere laborer and the decisions are taken elsewhere.

  7. In Punjab, with the introduction of rice crop, the water table has gone down. The cultivation is mainly for export, and the cropping patterns have changed. Study of changes in water levels, quality etc. must be presented.

  8. There must be a stall explaining obsolescence. Something could be quite obsoles-cent, but may have a high ecological value.

The above discussions were followed by a series of small presentations by the faculty associated with CTARA. These talks briefly described the work that is being carried out at CTARA under the various projects. Prof.Shah briefly touched upon the traditional practices for ground water resources, maintenance of tributaries, maintenance of ponds etc. Mr.Subbaraju, talking on behalf of U.S.Bhawalkar, spoke about the shift to organic farming and the emerging scenario of agriculture and water management. Prof.Shankar spoke about organic waste recycling. He stated that it would be possible to set up a demonstration garden where recycling is done. Cleansing of water by biological means can also be demonstrated. The next speaker, Mr.Winin Periera had worked for a number of years with the tribal in Maharastra region. He was of the opinion that all traditional technologies are sustainable and also incorporate social justice. The Research and Development (R and D) in traditional technologies was done on the fields by the practitioners themselves. He stated that for the congress, the data available from advises and also from other relevant literature will be made available. A catalogue of 30,000 Indian names correlated to their botanical names is also available. Data is also available on traditional water purification methods. The next speaker, Dr.Uma Shankari, spoke on the issues involved in water management. She stated that the congress should show the limitations of modern technologies, for instance bore well technology. With the increase in population, the demand for water resources has increased. At the same time privatization of water resources has taken place on a big scale. She also stated that for the supporting social structures of the traditional technologies, have almost collapsed. There is also a complete collapse of social leadership. In order to revitalize the traditional technologies, is essential to wrench out the control from a small section of people. Social benefits must be introduced as against the personal benefits. For the congress, low priced descriptive pamphlets on traditional technologies will be made available. The congress must highlight technological, social and economic impact of traditional methods. Success stories need to be propagated. The importance, of Varahamihira's text on water divination and management needs to be highlighted. The next speaker, Prof.Dubey from Benaras University stated that serious research on traditional agriculture is being carried out in UP, Bihar and Orissa and that he would be able to bring out monographs on these topics for the congress. He stated that it would be possible to present good quality video films and slides. Panchang predictions will be correlated and presented. A compilation of agricultural proverbs is being carried out and will be presented at the congress.

Architecture and Housing

There were two short presentations on traditional architecture. One was by Prof.Sahu of IIT Bombay, highlighting the importance of rock as constructional material. The other one was by Prof.CN.Krishnan, talking on behalf of Shashikala Ananth who has the responsibility of coordinating the area of traditional architecture for the congress. The scientific basis of traditional architecture will be presented at the congress. It was felt that the presentation on the materials part of technology would be a difficult task.


Professor Ballal of IIT Bombay was the next speaker covering the area of metallurgy. He stated that a monograph on Indigenous Iron and Steel Technology will be brought out for the congress. Video films/slide shows including social aspects will be presented. The monograph would contain: - A brief history of the technology, Techniques of manufacture of Indian Iron and the reconstruction of the science behind it Properties of this unique product 'Wootz' (Indian Steel). The video films worm contains material on monuments, implements, artifacts and social organization of the industry. A furnace will be set up for exhibition. A.V.Balasubramanian made a presentation on what can be presented under Non-ferrous metallurgy-including

  1. The steel wires used in Veena were made exclusively in a town called Chennapatna near Mysore. This practice should find a place in the congress.

  2. A place called Aranmula in Kerala is exclusively known for mirrors made out of an alloy of copper and tin. This should also be brought and displayed at the congress.

  3. Artisans, even if they do not practice now, must be brought to the Congress. May be, artisans from fifteen different areas must be brought together in order to generate confidence in them.

During the discussion, it was pointed out those two communities (somewhere in UP) make alloys from only two particular clays. One community makes saltpeter and the other community makes tools like nut crackers etc. Deviating a bit from metallurgy, it was strongly felt by the participants that there must be a common theme in all pavilions at the congress. Finding this common thread is essential. We must be able to articulate it at a preliminary level at least. For instance, linkages between traditional agriculture and traditional logic, linkages between agriculture and architecture and so on must be brought out. It was also felt those scholars who represent excellence in different areas must be honored.

Village Industries

This presentation was followed by a few short presentations. One was, by Dr.Swamalatha, who has the responsibility to coordinating the area of textiles for the congress. The next presentation was by Dr.Narendra Shah of CTARA on the various aspects of charcoal industry. There was also a brief presentation by Mr.Karmakar of KVIC on brick industry of Raigarh. KVIC volunteered to take the responsibility for presenting the area of traditional brick making industry at the congress.

North-Eastern Region

The next speaker Mr.BerBarua, was the lone representative from Assam and the North-Eastern region. His talk was basically outlining the various traditional S and T areas in which either he could take responsibility for the North East region or he could find appropriate persons for the purpose. The various areas mentioned were:
  1. Bell metal making industry in Assam and North East

  2. Vegetable dye making in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh

  3. Silkworm cultivation

  4. Herbal Medicine

  5. Animal Husbandry

  6. Recovery of gold in the rivers of Sobarnasiri

  7. Building materials and housing

  8. Bridges (very good ones are surviving)

  9. Agricultural practices

  10. Traditional Psychology and Psychotherapy

  11. Traditional alcoholic liquors.

Mr. BerBarua also raised a point as to whether it would be possible to formulate acts and policies which would safeguard these practices. He also pointed out whether it would possible to include at the congress the traditional technologies from Thailand and Burma as well, as these would be related to the practices of Assam and North East. The next speaker, Mr.Venkateswaran from KVIC, stated that KVIC can arrange demonstrations at the congress on pottery, match industry and paper making industry an interesting point mentioned by him was the existence a traditional family of paper makers (called Kagazis). But however, they were no longer practicing this profession.

Social Organisation

The next speaker Mr.Banwari has the responsibility of coordinating for the congress in the area of social organization. He stated that we have now created a political and economic system which is quite autonomous and self serving. The western experience of social organization is a very recent one, being a post World War II experience. For the congress, it would be possible to bring out books outlining, Various social institutions and power structures in the society. A survey of some villages in UP can be done and compared with an industrial set up in urban areas and a video film can be made along these lines. A video film on the panchayat system can be made. (A Khap in Muzaffarriagar had records from 9th century onwards). Presentation at the Congress of the Analysis of Chengulpet District data collected by PPST Foundation which throws light on the Political Economy and Social Structure of the region as it prevailed before the British conquest of this area. Presentations were also made of the work to be undertaken in two other major areas namely in Education and in Village Industries. Coordinators were identified for each of these areas and suggestions were made regarding individuals who could be indented as members of each group. A Congress Management Committee, A National Organizing Committee, A National Advisory Committee and a Program Committee were also constituted. A Coordination Committee was formed to do the necessary follow up work. It was also decided to set up secretariats at various places. The list and addresses of various secretariats are given in Appendix I. Various persons have been identified as coordinators for different areas and their names and addresses are given in Appendix n.


List of Secretariats

  1. Dr.H.S.Shankar
    Bombay - 400 076.

  2. Dr.CN.Krishnan
    School of Instrumentation and Electronics
    M.I.T. Campus of Anna University
    Madras -600 044.

  3. Dr.G5.R.Krishnan
    Dept.of Sociology
    Bangalore University Jnana Bharathi,
    Bangalore - 560 056.

  4. Dr.Rajendra Prasad
    Centre for RD & AT IIT,
    Powai, Bombay 400 076.

  5. Sri .Sunil Sahasrabuddhey
    Gandhian Institute of Studies


List of Coordinators

1 Architecture & House Building Mrs.Shashikala Ananth


4th Cross Street

Natesan Colony


Madras -600 041.
2 Agriculture & Forestry Sri.Kisan Mehta

123, Mahatma Gandhi Road

Bombay - 400 023.
3 Health & Life Sciences A.V.Balasubramanian

Sree Chakra Foundation

14, Second Street

Gopalapuram South

Madras - 600 086.
4 Metallurgy & Materials Prof.N.B.Ballal

Dept.of Metallurgical Engg.,


Bombay - 400 076.
5 Water Management Dr.Uma Shankari

Venkataramapuram Village


Chittoor District

Andhra Pradesh - 571152.
6 Theoretical Sciences SriNavjothiSinth


Dr.K.S.Krishnan Marg

New Delhi-110 012.
7 Social Organization Mr.Banwari


Express Building

9-10, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg

New Delhi-110 002.
8 Education Dr.Bhartendu Prakash

Vignyan Shiksha Kendra

52, Civil Lines

Lajvantika, Banda

Uttar Pradesh-210 001.
    Dr.Rajendra Prasad

Centre for RD & AT


New Delhi-110 016.
    Dr. P.Swa ma la tha

Reader, Dept.of History

University of Hyderabad

Hyderabad-500 134.

Author: P.V.Ramakrishna

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