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In defence of 'Saffronisation'

In defence of 'Saffronisation'

Author: K. R. Malkani
Publication: Hindu Vision
Date:

Recently the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) produced the National Curriculum Framework for School Education.' Here was, in the words of NCERT Director, Prof J.S. Rajput, 'the first ever honest attempt to modernise education by Upholding not only the deepest but forgotten values of Indian civilization, but also the sagely advice of the founding fathers of our nation." But without waiting for the curriculum to be actually developed some friends promptly dubbed it "saffronisation" and even rubbished it as "Talibanisation".

Allergy to Saffron

Incidentally why should anybody be allergic to saffron? It is a colour sacred not only to Indians but also to Arabs. The Congress Flag Committee had unanimously recommended a saffron flag in place of the tricolour in 1931. And its members included Nehru, Patel, Azad.

The Congress Chief Minister of Kerala, Shri A. K. Anthony, has condemned the misuse of the term "Saffronisation" and said "Saffron is a symbol of Indianness". He added: "By using and misusing the word off and on we are hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus."

Another Congress Chief Minister, Shri Digvijay Singh of Madhya Pradesh, has said astrology is a science and there is nothing wrong with teaching it.

It is good to note that the HRD Ministry is today presided over by a former Head of Physics Department of the Allahabad University. The effort by a savant like him at marrying science and spirituality can only do good to both.

Ancient Mathematical Achievements

Objection has been taken to 'Vedic Mathematics'. Now there are no mathematics as such in any Veda. But all ancient mathematics is being called 'Vedic Maths' for the sake of convenience. Here is a country that developed the concepts of zero, decimal and much else besides. All that the NCERT document says is that "The students may be encouraged to enhance their computational skills by the use of Vedic mathematics."

NCERT decisions are recommendatory and not mandatory. And even NCERT books are optional, not compulsory. That being so, why should anybody object to anybody else exploring ancient sciences?

Question of Accuracy

The same with astrology. Here is a subject difficult to believe and even more difficult to disbelieve. There are people who go to the ridiculous length of being guided in everything by the stars. (In Tamil Nadu everything including courts-comes to a standstill during Rahu Kaalam). But when we consider that the sun and the moon churn up whole oceans and cause tidal waves one begins to wonder whether they would not have some influence on life on earth.

Incidentally, we teach meteorology. How accurate is it? Is it any more accurate than astrology?

The other day a big scientist working with the World Seismic Safety Initiative predicted that 'one lakh people might lose their lives' in an earthquake in Delhi. He did not say when-this year or in the next century or the next millennium. Again the question arises: we teach seismology; but is seismology more accurate than astrology?

Whipping Boy Sanskrit

A third whipping boy of our secular friends is Sanskrit. Sanskrit, they say, is dead. Okay, but then why do they worry about something that is dead? Fact is they fear that Sanskrit is very much alive in itself and through other Indian and European languages.

Apart from Mahatma Gandhi who said, "Without the study of Sanskrit one cannot become a true Indian and a truly learned man", Max Muller has said: "Sanskrit is the greatest language of the world" and Abbe Dubois has said, 'Sanskrit is the origin of modern languages of Europe." Why, even Nehru said: 'if I was asked what is the greatest treasure which India possesses and what is her greatest heritage, I would answer unhesitatingly that it is the Sanskrit language and literature and all that it contains. This is a magnificent inheritance, and so long as this endures and influences the life of our people, so long will the basic genius of India continue." Even Dr Ambedkar was all for Sanskrit. In September 1949 he, along with B.V. Keskar, T.T.K., Durgabai, Naziruddin and several other MPs, gave notice of an amendment to the Draft Constitution which read: "Official language of the Union shall be Sanskrit." How it did not materialise is another story.

More recently the Supreme Court upheld the primacy of Sanskrit. It held that "in view of the importance of Sanskrit for nurturing our cultural heritage, making of Sanskrit alone as an elective subject, while not conceding this status to Arabic or Persian, would not in any way militate against the basic tenet of secularism." (Justices Kuldip Singh and Hansaria, October 4, 1994).

The real fear of these friends is that this HRD programme will revive and strengthen Indian culture. And they have little understanding and, therefore, no appreciation, of this culture. But culture-which includes religion. As the soul of a nation. And every nation must protect and promote its culture. That is what value education is all about.

Dangers of Technology

Some people think that science, technology and computers are everything. They are not. Jerry Mander rightly warns that mall technologies should be presumed to be guilty until proved innocent. For example, he points out that millions of gallons of carcinogenic acids and solvents used in the manufacturing of computers seep into the soil and water and poison them (vide In the Absence of the sacred). Thanks to chemicalised foods and carcinogenic computers, today thirty per cent of American males are infertile; thirty years ago it was only half a per cent (vide Miracles Do Happen by Norman Shealy). Today many of us are sold on cloning etc. But Dr Edwin Chargoff, Professor of Biochemistry, Columbia University Medical School sees coming "a gigantic slaughter-house, a molecular Auschwitz in which valuable enzymes and hormones will be extracted instead of gold teeth."

'Holiness Gap'

In this bewildering situation of a "holiness gap", only belief in God can strengthen man. As Davis Kingsley puts it: "Religion gives the individual a sense of identity with the distant past and the limitless future. It expands his ego by making his spirit significant for the universe, and the universe significant for him."

More. Durkheim sees the "worship of God as the disguised worship of society, the great entity upon which the individual depended' (vide The Sociology of Religion by Thomas F. O'dea).

Science Rooted In Spirituality

Interestingly enough, even science is rooted in spirituality.

Sir Isaac Newton invented calculus and developed his theory of gravity at the age of 23, during the plague-ridden years of 1665 and 1666. Columbia University historian Lynn Thorndyke compared Newton's method of discovery to "that of a medium coming out of a trance".

Edison held over one thousand patents including the electric bulb, phonograph and motion-picture projector. Search magazine wrote that "much of what he put down on paper originated from a higher source, and that he was simply a vehicle or channel through which this information could flow freely."
 


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