Seminar on Traditional Knowledge Systems
An Infinity Foundation sponsored event
The Seminar on Traditional Knowledge Systems and Uttaranchal sponsored by the Infinity Foundation and organised by Lok Vigyan Kendra under the aegis of Bratpalji Evam Pannalalji Smriti Nyas and Institute of Himalayan Environment Research and Education. The seminar was held on 4-7 October 2002 at Mountain Resort (Altitude 7000′), Binsar, near Almora, in the hilly state of Uttaranchal. Venue: For further details visit: www.resorthimalaya.com
The Organising Committee of the Seminar consist of:
- Prof. DP Agrawal
- Subhash Agarwal
- Prof.Diva Bhatt
- BS Bisht
- Dr.Nirmal Joshi
- Prof. PC Pande
- Shirish Pande
- Prof. Shekhar PathakManikant Shah – Convener; Lalit Tiwari – Local Secretary
Abstracts are being posted below for readers’ perusal and comments. E-mail IDs of the authors are given in the abstracts, where no E-mail ID is available the authors can be contacted care of D.P. Agrawal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lalit Tiwari (email@example.com)
Pawan K. Gupta
Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas
PO Box 19, Hezal road
To reduce the gap between what is being said and what is being understood, I need to define a few basic things.
- Shabda aur artha: we need to make a distinction between words (shabda) and their meanings (artha). Meanings are of essence; they are the ones to be conveyed, the objective of speech. Words are only the means employed to convey meanings. So my request would be please try to get the meaning of what is being said, rather than focus on my words as such.
- Samajh aur sahamati: the distinction between understanding and agreement. Understanding what is being said, in the manner it is meant by the speaker is different from agreeing with the speaker.
- Vipareet aur bhinna: the distinction between opposite and different. My submission is that we try to understand things from the perspective of bhinna (different) rather than from a perspective of vipareet (opposite). It is not an either/ or situation.
Science and Education
Modern science and technology play a very important role in our entrapment by the forces of globalisation.
Drishya, Drashta, aur Drishti: One of the basic assumptions of the framework of modern science and the worldview it perpetuates is that there are only two basic entities – the drishya (the object or the observed) and the drashta(the observer). The reality lies in the observed or the object – the drishya.
We however believe that apart from the observer and the object, there is a third parameter called the drishti (vision). The same object is perceived, interpreted, in different manner by different people – each according to his or her drishti. Ironically, quantum physics also supports this view. Reality no longer remains only in the object – rather reality becomes a construct. The focus shifts to the observer. It is an empowering concept as the observer gets the power to mould his perception and play an active role in creating his/ her own reality unlike the other worldview where one is merely a passive observer.
Limitations of Science
Although we all perceive through drishti, as yet there is no space for it in our present education system, and so we become oblivious to its presence. This tendency to ignore drishti limits our perceptions, making them extremely narrow. What is shown to us or our education system trains us to focus on is only the functional, the instrumental and that which can be seen, touched, heard, tasted, smelt and these too, in a very short, immediate span of time.
The modern science, creates the illusion that we are ‘developing a more open mind’, ‘broadening our horizons’, ‘developing a scientific temperament’ etc. Actually it is putting blinders on our eyes.
Objectives behind Systems (vyavastha)
The systems are meant to help people understand and therefore deal with their sansaar (their world) and to establish a relationship with the different ikais (entities) within that sansaar. This world is unique to all of us, and this is the world that we need to deal with and understand deeply with the help of the systems. Vyavasthas (systems) are based on avadharnas/manyatas (beliefs/assumptions) and tarka (logic or rules): These two are the essential requirements of any system.
In languages there is an assumption regarding the meaning a particular word would convey to the listener, and there is hardly any logic in that. However, each language also has its own unique grammar, which has its peculiar logic. It will be meaningless to compare the grammar of one language with that of another. We can only decide which language is more appropriate for dealing with our sansaar at a given point of time, but we can not compare languages or their grammar in a hierarchical manner.
Every system has its logic, which may be different from what we, the educated, have got used to thinking of as logic. We need to appreciate that Aristotelian logic, even though it has appropriated the entire space called logic, is only one form of logic (or tarka). Other kinds of logic tend to be discarded by us because we have learned to distrust them and cast them aside as ‘superstition’. This is a trap we must learn to recognise, or we will not be able to restore traditional knowledge to its rightful place. Let me give an example, Dr. Ballal of IIT Mumbai has studied the traditional methods of iron smelting employed by the agarias. The iron smelted by the agarias is of the highest purity, which is difficult in the ordinary modern furnace. Ballal and his team wanted to find out the trick! Ballal and his team constructed a similar furnace at IIT under the supervision of an agaria karigar but instead of the bellow they designed a fan to keep the flame going in the furnace. To everyone’s surprise this furnace did not produce the required purity of iron. The only explanation for the difference in the quality from the two processes has been traced to the rythmic pattern of blowing air through the bellows. This does not satisfy the scientific mind, but there seems to be no other explanation. This must be noted that this is perfectly ‘scientific’ as far as the agarias are concerned
Every logic (unique to any system – traditional or modern) proceeds in a systematic manner according to the rules as defined by the framework unique to that system. Essentially this logic is based on certain assumptions or avadharnas which are again unique to that system. No system can be constructed without such avadharnas. These are the foundations on which the system stands. And avadharnas are beyond the dimension of truth.
We can not apply the criteria of truth or falsehood (superstition) here. The only valid criterion is whether the system works, whether it allows us to deal with our sansaar to our satisfaction. If a person actually gets cured through certain mantras or what we call jhad phook, so be it; but I wouldn’t easily reject it as superstition.
Façade of Modern Science
Modern science gives the impression that it is based on axioms, self-evident truths. The trouble is that thereby, all other systems are dismissed as being based on false assumptions. To quote a few examples: what is a straight line; a point has no dimensions, or, the shortest path joining two points is a straight line. A straight line on the surface of the earth is not straight! These are mere assumptions. We can only look at the functionality of these assumptions and see if it works! The only yardstick we have is whether the products of the system help us to deal with our sansaar.
Modern science only gives one of the many possible explanations of the how, what, why questions that human beings ask. But we need to recognise that there are explanations for explaining physical phenomena around us which may be equally valid.
Conflict between manyata and anubhav or vastavikta
In our short experience of 12 years of working in education in the Uttaranchal area, we at the Society for Integrated Development of the Himalayas (SIDH) find a lot of conflicts among our people. Conflict between what they have come to believe under the influence of modernity, modern science, modern education, development, globalisation – call it what you like, I am sure you are getting the meaning of what I am saying – and what their experience or reality is.
The belief is that: But the experience is that: · padh likh kar naukri milegi, rojgar ke sadhan badhen · padh likh kar ghar ka kaam ,kheti bhi nahi hoti, naukri to door ki baat · globalisation would open more opportunities of jobs · the job market is shrinking, unemployment is on the rise. · literacy has a co-relation with education as if they are synonymous · a large number of illiterate in our country are truly wise and thus educated. · The female to male gender ratio has a direct co-relation with literacy. Figures of Kerala and other states are often cited to establish the co-relation between increasing literacy and survival of females. Without saying so directly, it is imputed is that the illiterate are harsher on women. · as India and all its states have become more literate, the female to male gender ratio has gone down · chhota parivaar sukhi parivar’. We have chapters to this effect in our textbooks. That in nuclear families children are better looked after etc · at least in rural areas is that the large or joint families are more prosperous, have less work load on women and children. All dropouts from our schools in last five years were from nuclear families.
In the schools run by SIDH, the teachers and students rely very little on textbooks. They are told what the textbooks say and then encouraged to test it for them. This decreases the fear that textbooks hold for them. Another activity is the questioning of myths and commonly held assumptions. Various commonly held beliefs are challenged and doubts raised.
Confusion between sukha and suvidha
By not recognising drishti, sukha (the goal) is replaced by only one of the possible means, that which can be seen – suvidha. An illusion is created that we are going after the goal, but actually we go only after one of the possible means. Essentially, western society has evolved over the last five hundred years in a manner which tries to control nature and all its entities, and ultimately tries to control human societies. Perhaps this is because they do not recognise drishti and so, confuse ends (sukha) with means (suvidha). Hence, all their efforts are directed towards acquisition and control of the material world.
The phenomenon of globalisation (a modern day avatar of colonisation) is essentially an effort to shape international society in a uniform manner. The idea is to steer it in that direction through various means, and ultimately to control it to serve the larger interests of the dominant power centres of the West. Homogenised societies are easier to control than diverse cultures. Modern science, technology and education are major instruments of such control.
In the globalised world, as the focus is on the object, sukha is confused with suvidha which becomes the object to be coveted (in the hope of gaining sukha). The market becomes the instrument to lure the majority. It is easier to sell jeans to the entire world but not so easy if a company had to sell a dhoti in one place, a pyjama in another, sural in the third and so on. Psychologically sophisticated techniques such as advertising are used for altering people’s ends to suit the structure of available means.
The illusion of individual freedom
By keeping alive the illusion of individual freedom, control is exerted through thought control. For instance, to quench our thirst, we have the illusion of having a choice of drinks – Pepsi, Coke, 7UP, Mirinda etc. Yet we have hardly any choice in drinking tap water (branded as unsafe), or water from wells, bawdis or naulas (which have disappeared with the onslaught of modern ‘development’) or sherbet (outdated and unavailable) or juice from a street-side vendor (again branded as unsafe because human hands touch it). Who puts these ideas in our heads? And even if they are unsafe, why have they become unsafe in the first place? We thus think we have the freedom of choice whereas we are totally at the mercy of the choices made for us by the market.
If we go back in time, we had more control over technologies such as a plough or even a typewriter, and were thus more empowered. We ourselves, or someone close to us (a person from our sansaar) could make, repair and control the technology and once invested in, the item would be used and maintained for a very long time. This also avoided the built-in obsolescence of the western markets and waste of natural resources.
Now things are out of our hands. We cannot make a new piece or repair it ourselves. Instead of making us free, it enslaves us. I can no longer repair a computer as easily as I could fix the typewriter. I am forced to upgrade the computer every few years (the span becoming shorter by the day) otherwise I might as well stop using it. Who is in control? Me or the market? The power has shifted out of the periphery of my sansaar to a place very far away.
Centre of Power and Disempowerment
The more remote the centre of power, the more disempowered I become. The closer and more visible the power centre, the more empowered I am. We can easily see that in all spheres of our lives we have become less empowered – sukha has become a distant dream even though we perhaps may be enjoying many suvidhas. Essentially this is because I am becoming less and less in control of my life. By steering the focus of my attention only to the functional aspects, the dominant system has succeeded in making me believe in the neutrality of science and technology. As if technology is neutral!
In a very subtle way, technology moulds our drishti. For example, a pedestrian has a certain flexibility of movement – he can pause to look at his surroundings, speak to a passer-by and so on. All entities have a name and a distinct meaning for him. But as soon as he becomes a driver of a fast-moving vehicle, suddenly all entities turn into nameless obstacles that he must avoid, if he is a good driver. Without his knowledge, his drishti undergoes a change.
In a globalised world, large, centralised, hierarchical, socio-technical entities eliminate other varieties of human activity. Traditional occupations become difficult even impossible to pursue as a means of survival. The tragedy is that not merely useful devices and techniques of earlier periods become extinct, but more importantly, the patterns of societies and individual experiences that created these tools are also vanishing along with them.
Speed and Insecurity in life
The rhythmic pace of life associated with traditional societies gives a sense of security. The two in fact go hand in hand. However, secure and self-confident people are difficult to dictate to and control. So it emerges that increasing the pace of life, which in turn brings with it a sense of insecurity, it is in the interest of those who want to control people’s behaviour. So, it is in the interest of the dominant forces to destabilise people from traditional occupations (with their set rhythms of living), and to push them into the cash economy. Here people are forced to lead a fragmented and fast life, ultimately leading to insecurity, which makes them more vulnerable to manipulation and control.
Ideally the scientific temperament is supposed to make us question, broaden our horizons, to make us see multiple perspectives on issues, to broaden our drishti. Instead it gives no credence to drishti while creating an illusion to the contrary. It makes us see things in almost a uni-dimensional way, and this blinkered vision is the sign of its control over us. Our children are taught to have an unquestioning belief in anything branded as scientific. Our people covet any thing that comes under the umbrella of development. How do we get out of this control?
The answer perhaps lies in recognising that the reality is not ‘out there’ but has to be constructed by ourselves for our own purposes. When we take drishti into account then the focus shifts from the object to ourselves, the observer. The focus shifts from the ‘seen’ – the functional, the instrumental – to include feelings and experiences, to the observer. And slowly it dawns on us that we can work to create our own reality by working on our perceptions.
We could then work towards shifting the power centre closer and closer to ourselves, becoming empowered in the process, with the ultimate objective of shifting it within one’s own self, when we could hope to be completely at peacefully empowered. This empowerment will not be at the cost of the disempowerment of the other. Everyone would be able to realise her own potential in such a scenario.
Department of A.I.H.C. & Arch.
Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Iron technology in India has a glorious tradition going back to the second millennium B.C. One can trace almost an uninterrupted history of metallurgical excellence, especially in iron working right up to the British times. India produced the best iron and steel in the ancient world some of the examples that may be mentioned are the Delhi iron pillar, the Konark and the Dhar beams of extraordinary weight and length and the Wootz steel that was marketed in the ancient world as Damascus steel. Ancient Indian iron technology, thus earned a name for itself in the history of metallurgy .However, the intricacies of the craft are yet to be fully understood and recorded. This may be achieved with the help of those societies that practiced the technique for generations. This they have done against great odds. To locate them and to see whether they still have managed to preserve it is a difficult if not an impossible task. It has been attempted by some in recent times. It will be taken up for discussion in course of the paper.
Due to a variety of constraints the iron workers have either discontinued working or moved to interior and inaccessible terrains to live and continue to produce iron. This could partially be attributed to the British who came heavily on such groups .Their finished goods were confiscated ,weapons were destroyed even though with great difficulty, as clearly stated in British period records. In due course of time this once flourishing industry came almost to an end. Due to tenacity of certain artisan groups today the metallurgical traits have survived in some parts, especially in those regions which are close to mining zones and have some forest reserve. Among these regions is the bordering area of present day M.P. – U.P. and Bihar – Orissa and the newly created state of Jharkhand. It is proposed to look into some of these areas for iron working evidence in this discussion.
We propose to situate our inquiry against the issues of (1) identification of the tribal people engaged in iron working till recent times, (2)taking a close look at the metallurgical processes adopted by them (3) conditions of their survival (4) the socio-economic and ecological constraints (4) prospects of revival of the traditional iron making as available today. In the end it may be worthwhile exploring the economic viability of iron production through this means. Revival of this tradition may be revival of a heritage and a legacy of the past.
C. K. Raju
Centre for Studies in Civilizations, New Delhi
Centre for Computer Science, MCRP University, Bhopal
1. The classical grand narrative of the history of science traces science from a beginning in Greece, jumping to renaissance Europe. This suggests that science is intrinsically Western. Accordingly, many people speak of “Western science”, and feel that traditional knowledge amounts to a rejection of both science and the West.
2. I explain why the classical grand narrative has been regarded as a racist and fictitious account. Further, on the one hand, many of the “great” names – Euclid, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Hawking – are fraudulent constructs of this racist history. On the other hand, from Copernicus to genetically engineered crops and artificial intelligence, science and technology have grown by appropriating and monopolizing common and traditional knowledge often from non-Western cultures.
3. As a striking example, knowledge of navigation was a key input to British colonisation and domination, and the “algorismus” and calculus imported from India, were key inputs to the development of navigation from 16th to 18th c. CE: specifically to the calendar reform, and methods of calculating latitude, longitude, and loxodromes.
4. Thus, advocacy of traditional knowledge ought not to mean rejection of science per se: traditional knowledge and science are not two parts of a dichotomy.
5. However, in the process of development of science and technology, the imported traditional knowledge was often adapted to aboriginal Western culture, and this may need to be undone. For example, the arithmetic and calculus, imported into Europe, were axiomatised, to make them compatible with the tradition of geometry as understood by Christian rational theology (as distinct from the earlier understanding of geometry in Neoplatonism, and in Islamic rational theology). Such axiomatisation did NOT make either epistemologically more secure, but impeded the use of both as computational tools, and this “cultural drag” has become particularly apparent with the growth of computers. This cultural drag should be rejected irrespective of Western scholarly authority.
6. Additionally, aboriginal Western culture, like culture everywhere, was transformed, and continues to be so transformed, to suit the growth of science and technology, seen as key instruments of domination and consequent prosperity. Thus, the industrial revolution, by forcing men to adapt to machines, made life more mechanical. A similar cultural adaptation is easily visible in other urban-industrial concentrations, like Bombay and Delhi in India. It is an accepted principle of technology management that technology cannot develop without such a cultural transformation. Is traumatic cultural change and the resulting loss of identity an acceptable price to pay for the prosperity that might result from technology?
7. Where the industrial revolution made man more like a machine, the information revolution is making a machine more like a man. Intelligent machines have two consequences. (a) The resulting dependence of man on machine, and separation of man
from man, is easily witnessed in any IT-savvy household glued to its VDUt-s. (b) It is no longer science fiction that intelligent machines may dominate future human society. (Indeed, by forcing a cultural change, and transforming human behaviour, technology is
already dominating man.) Is this an acceptable price and an acceptable risk for the domination that ownership of technology might help to achieve?
8. In my opinion: No. Thus, according to my theory of physics, spontaneity not only is possible, it is the very essence of life. On the other hand, spontaneity, since it involves order-creation, is impossible for a machine because of the entropy law. (The entropy law is also the reason why mechanical techniques of production are more wasteful than traditional techniques of production.) While waste could conceivably be traded-off for domination, the urge to dominate derives from the urge to survive. The urge to survive
is not some ultimate principle, but relates to order preservation, so it is illogical to pursue domination by destroying spontaneity, the basis of order-creation. The conclusion is that if technology helps to dominate at the cost of dehumanizing its owners, then the strategic benefits of ownership of technology are overrated.
9. Thus, while a technological advantage may help to dominate, the alleged benefits of modern technology over traditional knowledge need to be re-evaluated in the light of the destructive long-term effects of unrestrained technology growth not only on the ‘environment’, but also on human culture and the very basis of life.
10. However, as already stated, rejection of the present-day technological model should not mean blind acceptance of traditional knowledge: traditional knowledge and traditional technology should, likewise, be subjected to a similar critical re-evaluation.
Ashirvad, East Pokharkhali, Almora 26360, Uttaranchal
In this paper I discuss the richness and diversity of Traditional Knowledge Systems in Uttaranchal, their relevance to the region today, and situate them in a wider perspective.
Traditional Knowledge Systems or folk science of Uttaranchal is very rich in all its diversity: architecture, hydraulics, ethnomedicine, ethnobotany, metallurgy, agriculture etc. Some of these technologies are relevant even today in generating wealth and employment on a very local scale, which will help stem the large-scale migration of hill people to the plains. For example, revival of copper and iron smelting on small scale can generate local employment; so also cultivation and sale of herbal wealth without endangering their survival. The tradition of copper technology of Uttaranchal goes back to II Millennium BC and of iron to I Millennium BC. We also need to scientifically study the psychosomatic role of Jagars in medicine. There are numerous such problems which are crying for attention.
As its is a gathering of specialists of different aspects of Traditional Knowledge Systems, it may be useful to try to situate Traditional Knowledge Systems in a wider perspective.
It is now recognized that Western criteria are not the sole benchmark by which other cultural knowledge should be evaluated. The British systematically uprooted or undermined the local traditional science, technology and crafts of the lands and people they plundered. In Uttaranchal they first encouraged copper and iron production but later on banned it, as they had to export their own finished metal products to India.
We also find that Western Science has created hegemonic categories of science vs magic, technology vs superstitions etc., which are arbitrary and contrived. Essentially, “Traditional knowledge or ‘local knowledge’ is a record of human achievement in comprehending the complexities of life and survival in often unfriendly environments. Traditional knowledge, which may be technical, social, organizational, or cultural was obtained as part of the great human experiment of survival and development.”
Laura Nader said, “The point is to open up people’s minds to other ways of looking and questioning, to change attitudes about knowledge, to reframe the organization of science – to formulate a way of thinking globally about traditions.”
Modern science can perhaps be dated to Newton’s times, but Traditional Knowledge Systems date back to more than 2 million years, when the early hominid, Homo habilis, started making his tools and interacting with nature.
On the other hand, one finds that generally the history of science is Eurocentric. It typically consists of two phases: It starts with Greece, neglecting the influences of others upon Greece. Then it ‘fast forwards’ many centuries to the Enlightenment period around 1500, to claim modern science as an exclusively European triumph, by neglecting the influence of others, especially India, upon the European Renaissance and Enlightenment. Thanks to Joseph Needham, China’s contributions have recently become known worldwide.
The British colonizers could never accept the fact that Indians were highly civilized even in the third millennium BC, when the British were still in a barbarian stage. Such acknowledgment would destroy the civilizing mission of Europe that was the intellectual premise for colonization.
Even in today’s India, entrenched prejudice against TKS still persists. For example, Indian government today continues to make many TKS’ illegal or impossible to practice. Even after independence, many British laws against TKS’ have continued, even though their original intent was to destroy India’s massive domestic industry and foreign trade and to replace them with Britain’s Industrial Revolution. Today’s poor jatis were at one time the guilds of specialized workers that supplied the world with so many industrial items. Even in Uttaranchal, the leather workers are not being allowed to practice their traditional trade.
For the poverty, especially of the hills, Westernisation and globalisation are not the answers. We have to revive some of the viable traditional technologies. Because:
- Western civilization depends upon inequality – there must be cheap labor ‘somewhere else’, and cheap natural resources purchasable from somewhere, without regard to the big picture of society or ecology. To test this for yourself, ask a Western country to equalize all humanity by opening its borders, so that labor may move freely and compete in a global market for jobs: what you will get in response will be all sorts of excuses.
- The western model demands ‘growth’ to sustain valuations in the stock markets, and growth cannot be indefinite. A steady state economy in zero growth equilibrium would devastate the wealth of the west.
- The western lifestyle drains natural resources, and would be impossible for the six billion humans to achieve or for the planet to sustain.
When Gandhiji was asked whether he would like India to develop a lifestyle similar to England’s, his reply was: The British had to plunder the Earth to achieve their lifestyle. Given India’s much larger population, it would require the plunder of many planets to achieve the same.
We have therefore to study, preserve, and revive the Traditional Knowledge Systems for the economic betterment of the world in a holistic manner, as these technologies are eco-friendly and allow sustainable growth without harming the environment. Equally important is that India’s scientific heritage should be made part of the Global History of Science. These objectives have a special relevance to Uttaranchal.
Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts
Janpath, New Delhi 11 0001,
Phone 011 -3381151
Recent decades have witnessed burgeoning of interest in traditional knowledge. The intellectual climate has remained suffused with concern about eroding wisdom and blurring images of indigenous people particularly in the wake of present day juxtapositioning of culture and politics. The cultural terrains are now arenas of conflict threatening the identity and integrity of the natives who live by them. Ironically, amidst the deconstruction of cultural identity and contesting structures of power is the enterprise of establishing museums, archives and resource centres for preserving cultures for posterity. Against this backdrop, the present paper explores the self-governing, self-articulated and self-sustaining processes through which traditional knowledge systems not only survive but also get spread. Clearly, the real issues are those concerning people1s thought and world-view underlying their knowledge system, their life philosophy and cognition. The chief concern here is with the critical elements in indigenous cultures and their perpetuation. The argument here resolves around themes and interpretations of tribal cultures particularly the Santhal.
J.S.Rawat and Geeta Rawat
Dept. of Geography
Kumaun University, Almora
In the history of modern hydrology, Marcus Vitruvius, who lived about the time of Christ, is considered the forerunner of the modern concept of hydrologic cycle. The modern science of hydrology may be considered to have begun in the 17th Century with observation and measurements. During this period, the study of artesian water was persuaded. During the 18th Century new discoveries and understanding of hydraulic principles were obtained. The 19th Century was the grant era of experimental hydrology where most contribution, however, were in groundwater hydrology. The first half of the 20th Century was the period of empirical hydrology, while the later half was the period of rationalization.
In the history of the Indian hydrology, the concept of hydrologic cycle and geohydrology and the techniques of water exploration and determination of water quality dates back to the Vedic Period. There are abundant examples of verses in Vedas, Puranas, Vrhat Sanhita and in other ancient Sanskrit works, which explain very clearly the concepts and techniques of hydrologic science. The fundamental objective of the present paper is to provide some of the important illustrations from the Vedic Science, which explain various concepts and techniques of modern hydrology.
Center for the Study of Indian Traditions
Ranti Deorhi, Madhubani-847211
Phone: 06276-25537(O); 06276-25536(R)
If by technology is meant something with the help of which one can transform/manipulate a given object for better effect, then, Ayurveda is definitely not an example of technology; it is something more than technology. The differentiating element is the view that treats objects as having no significance of their own; they become significant with reference to the uses they can be put to for realizing certain human purposes. What is also important in this respect is the fact that an object – any object for that matter – can be given any shape and moulded into a particular form in accordance with a particular design. This is not the case with Ayurveda. It is true that Ayurveda suggests ways and means of removing/overcoming/improving the condition of human body. As such, Ayurveda can be treated as technology if it were simply meant as an instrument or means of realizing a particular desired state. But Ayurveda is more than an instrument or means because it is grounded in a world-view that elevates it from the status of an instrument and links it from a world that is beyond this world.
To make this clear, it is necessary to have a close look at the traditional world-view and its primordial source from which Ayurveda derives its significance and legitimacy. Traditional world-view treats the cosmos as an organ in which constitutive elements form a great chain of being. In this chain all the elements are linked, at one and the same time, with each other and with the whole. Each link in the chain is significant in its own right; however, all these links are also indispensably dependent on each other. It is by virtue of this that each of these links acquires and legitimizes its significance. On this view, the cosmos can be considered as a corporation that exemplifies the principles of interdependence and harmonious cooperative existence.
What is also distinctive about this organic perspective on the cosmos is its I holistic nature projecting a well-integrated, singular view on man and his world.According to this world-view, it is the philosophical or, as Indian tradition of thinking puts it, spiritual, outlook that constitutes the source of morality which, in turn, governs the use of technology for realizing human purposes – purposes that derive their sanctity and legitimacy from the philosophical/spiritual perspective on life and world. In this perspective, technology is not something that is autonomous; its development and use are governed and regulated by moral considerations which prescribe human purposes and suggests appropriate ways and means of realizing them.
In contradistinction to this, the modern world-view rests on the cataclysmic I divide between subject and object emphasizing the central importance of instrumental view in realizing self-defined purposes. This places the subject at the centre of everything emphasizing the singular role of agency in realizing different life purposes. In this perspective, technology assumes autonomy and begins to define human purposes, create new needs, and constitutes the principal device of realizing human purposes. And when technology becomes “” autonomous, everything in the world is considered to be a potential means of realizing human purposes and: therefore, they are treated as objects. As objects, they can be transformed/manipulated for better effect. When this happened, praxis or doing is transformed into making eliminating the identity between theory and practice. To put it differently, the traditional shastrasignifying both shansanam and shasanam loses its importance as something that maintains the identity between theory and practice. As a consequence, techne moves to govern praxis.
Insofar as Ayurveda is concerned, it is not techne but praxis or shastra insofar as it is, unlike the modern medicine system that is rooted in an atomistic or mechanical view of human body and health, inspired by and derived from an organic view of the cosmos, best articulated in the Veda. Man constitutes an integral part of the cosmos and stands in fundamental homology with it. That is why Ayurveda talks of swasthya (health) as incorporating not only physical well-being but also intellectual and spiritual well-being. This is indicated by the term swastha (healthy) which connotes groundedness in one’s own self, that is, atman. It is this perspective that constitutes the core of discussion in this paper and identifies the ways in which Ayurveda is linked with this perspective.
Peoples’ Science Institute,
Before British colonial rule in India, water resources were developed and managed either by the State (kings and feudal rulers) or by village communities. In both cases, the goal was to meet local economic, cultural, social and physical needs. The primary focus of water development was on decentralised rainwater harvesting using local knowledge of ecology, hydrology, geology and employing local materials, skills and technologies. This gave rise to a variety of water harvesting methods, many of which are still being used, centuries after their construction. In what is presently Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh, the glorious profusion of these structures stands testament to this local ingenuity and capacity. Hundreds of thousands of naulas, bowdis, nauns, dharas, chharudus, khals, chals and khatris stored rainwater that flowed down hillsides, percolated through rocks and emerged as springs in this hilly terrain, and were used for bathing, washing, drinking, worshipping, watering livestock, irrigating and for village industries. Thousands of kilometers of hand – dug kuhls and guhls tapped mountain khads and carried water for irrigation and powered thousands of gharats or watermills. Communities took pride in their water systems, as evidenced by the exquisite ornamentation and architecture of these structures.
The knowledge and ability to build, maintain and operate this amazing diversity of water systems rested entirely and securely in the hands of the communities whose life sprang from these waters. The management of these water systems was as remarkable as the technological brilliance. They were based on parallel but interacting legal systems based on dharma, custom and royal orders. There was minimal interference from the State in management decisions, and even conflict resolution was conducted by local bodies, with the State playing a role only when specifically requested. The kohlis of Himachal Pradesh are a caste whose traditional occupation was the management of kuhl systems, and the construction, operation and maintenance was managed by the kohli with support from the whole community. The longevity and sustainability of these structures and systems relied on the maintenance of a social, cultural and legal infrastructure that gave the village and community central importance.
The British transferred the control of most of these resources to the State, with the intent of maximising revenues from natural resource use. The emphasis on private rights to common resources stemmed from European concepts, and led to the alienation of land, forest and water from community. Every successive government of independent India adopted, amended or extended these British laws and administrative setup. In the name of ensuring equitable and adequate water supply to every citizen, the state governments in independent India claimed ownership of all natural resources. Despite massive capital investments by the government, including the use of foreign funds, several parts of the Himalayas face severe water shortages. The new infrastructure has a short lifespan, and lacks the creativity and diversity of the traditional systems. Simultaneously, traditional structures have been falling into disrepair and disuse. Increasing emphasis is placed on technologies that work to overcome the laws of nature. The result is unsustainable systems and seasonal misery. Adapting traditional practices and systems with appropriate and creative technologies, with a focus on the ownership and management of natural resources by local communities is an approach that will yield sustainable, water-secure communities in the western-central Himalayas.
Peoples’ Science Institute
Rural houses are usually non-engineered structures that are constructed according to traditional practices, without the involvement of a professional architect or engineer. Locally available materials like stone, mud and wood are used in constructing these houses, and they generally exhibit adaptation to social, cultural and economic conditions and the natural environment. Traditional houses also show adaptation to local hazards, like floods, cyclones and earthquakes. The western-central Himalayas are a seismically active region, and earthquakes and landslides are major hazards. Traditional rural housing in this region is adapted to these hazards, and construction styles like the pherols of Uttaranchal and kath-ki-kuni of Himachal Pradesh are exceptional examples of indigenously developed aseismic construction techniques. Reinforcement of door frames, diagonal bracing, tie-bands and the geometry of stable structures provide ample evidence of the prevalent knowledge of aseismic construction principles. Traditional houses and temples that are centuries old have survived several earthquakes, and stand as testaments to the durability of this construction. The synthesization of earthquake-resistant elements with religious, cultural and aesthetic values and practices in the region is a testament to the indigenous technical and creative capacities.
However, economic and demographic changes in the region, accompanied by a slew of government policies and programmes are replacing the traditional architecture and the indigenous base of knowledge is being lost. Declining access to traditional construction materials such as wood, bamboo and slate, accompanied by the infiltration of modern construction materials such as cement, concrete and steel into rural areas, which are backed by aggressive advertising and promotion campaigns that malign traditional housing results in a rapid transition in construction styles and community patterns. At the same time, inappropriate use of new materials results in seismically unsafe houses, which can increase vulnerability in earthquakes and landslides.
Traditional construction techniques have much to offer, even though construction materials are changing. The inherent sustainability and adaptability of traditional construction are the cornerstone for disaster-resistant housing and self-reliant communities in the region. The Peoples’ Science Institute has surveyed and documented traditional construction techniques and has worked to incorporate these techniques into the evolving context of rural housing in the western-central Himalayas.
Member Secretary, ICHR
35, Ferozshah Road,
New Delhi 110001
The buildings are the symbol of the identity of the Society and the connected history of the buildings commences from the Harappan times. Buildings have been constructed in mud, brick, wood and stone and now a modern medium of cement concrete. Bricks both baked and unbaked have been standard building material. Bricks are made of clay, which is available in plenty and was economical. It could be moulded in desired shapes, dried in the sun and used in unbaked form. Sun dried bricks were baked for use in structure to withstand bear and tear and weathering unbaked bricks were used in pre-Harappan and Harappan times and up to historic period. Even today unbaked bricks are used in rural areas specially in Arid and Semi Arid regions.
The well established knowledge of using the traditional material is now getting depleted and causing serious threat to a accumulated knowledge acquired by the experience of generations.
The case study conducted in the Ladakh region provides a glimpse how the building and building materials getting affected in the modern environment in the absence of the preservation of the traditional knowledge.
Shweta Sinha Deshpande
Department of Archaeology
Recent Studies carried out in some parts of Far East have demonstrated that man started manufacturing pottery even before the introduction of agriculture and this was one of the first technologies that he used on mass scale. The most recent evidence
from some parts of China indicate that the pottery manufacturing activity began towards the end of Pleistocene around 20,000 BP. This is the earliest evidence of pottery in the world. The Indian subcontinent witnessed this development toward the end of seventh millennium BC as is evident from the site of Mehergarh in Baluchistan. Pottery is one of the most important indicator of cultural identity and hence significant for archaeologist.
In order to understand the techno-typological and functional aspects of the Chalcolithic pottery from the recently excavated sites of Balathal and Gilund, we have undertaken study of the modern potters in Gujarat and Mewar, who are still technologically
in the Chalcolithic times. The study has enabled reconstruction of various processes of the pottery manufacture, need for having different kinds of forms and their functions. Besides, we are able to understand the processes of acquisition of raw material, firing
of pottery, distribution pattern and the social status of the potter. This paper explains various features associated with pottery manufacture and how this modern data is useful in understanding pottery of the remote past.
Vijay Prasad Bhatt
Herbal Research & Development Institute
Phone & Fax 01372-52572
Email: vijay firstname.lastname@example.org
Uttaranchal Himalaya is abode of valuable floral and faunal diversity and has been regarded as an important center for traditional wisdom since time immemorial. The predominant ethnic and tribal communities inhabiting most parts of the State are Doms, Khasas, Bhotias, Gujjars, Jaunsaris, Rajis, and Pinswaris etc. who follow various religious, cultural and social life patterns. Sometimes members of the same group e.g. Bhotia community, follow diverse religious systems. These communities had developed and inherited their own traditional system of medicines to prevent/cure common ailments and diseases by using plants and animal (parts) available in the vicinity of their surroundings. In each community, some special persons have traditional training in I making folk medicines for the villagers. ‘Vaidyas’ are one of the best examples derived from ethnic Khasas and Doms.
Traditionally, not only valuable medicinal plants like Aconitum heterophyllum, Picrorrhiza kurroa, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, but some common wild plants which are found growing like weeds are also being used to enhance/control body immune system. Use of wild salad, locally known as “Raimodi” made from Burans (flowers of Rhododendron arboreum) and other ingredients, like wild vegetable such as Timula (fruits of Ficus roxburghii), Jagrai(Phytolacca acinosa), Juvenile buds of Queral (Bauhinia variegata), Syamrai (Nasturtium officinale), Badyalo (Stellaria media), Khwalya (Rumex nepalensis), Almada (Rumex hastatus), Kandali/Sishun (Urtica dioica) etc. and wild fruits e.g., Kilmod (Berberis aristata), Hinsol (Rubus sp.), Bhamor (Camus capitata), Kaphal (Myrica esculenta), Myolu (Pyrus pashia), Gopal (Holboellie latifolia var. angustifolia), Byodu (Ficus palmata) etc. The organic crops traditionally cultivated by the Himalayan farmers also have medicinal properties, which are said to maintain a balance among vayu, kapha and pitta and help one keep healthy.
However, owing to difficult and severe climate and topographical conditions of the region and irregular. Hard social life patterns of the communities, disease like headache, migraine, constipation, diarrhoea, nerve pain, influenza, menstrual problems, fever, cuts and burns are very common specially among people living in high altitude villages of the state. In the face of commercialization and easy accessibility to modern facility including allopathic medicines, the traditional wisdom is deteriorating faster than ever. As a result a diseases like blood pressure, diabetes and cancer etc. are spreading even in remote regions. Thus, there is urgent need for restoration of the folk medicine and traditional social wisdom of the Uttaranchal Himalaya through public awareness programmes and by ensuring participation of local communities in management and development activities.
Sharma Centre for Heritage Education,
This paper discusses the tradition of stone tool technology in Indian Prehistoric and Protohistoric archaeology. It focuses on a discussion of the stone axe, particularly in aspects related to technology, function, style and symbolism. The earliest form of the stone axe is the ‘handaxe’ of Lower Palaeolithic Acheulian cultures. This exhibits considerable variability in technology and form. During the Middle Palaeolithic, a process of miniaturization of the axe occured. No true handaxes are noted in the Indian Upper Palaeolithic or Mesolithic phases, with points and arrow or spearheads occurring as variants of this form. Subsequently, the Neolithic witnessed the manufacture of chipped and polished stone axes, whose manufacture and use differ from that of earlier phases. The paper also traces myths associated with the axe, and it’s symbolic meaning in varied tribal and village communities of South Asia.
Department of Botany
S.S.J Campus, Almora 263601
The main subsistence in the villages of Kumaon is based on agriculture (as the main occupation) and animal husbandry, which constitute the vital base of the society. To preserve the environmental values through harmonious development, the traditional methods adapted by people for the improvement of fodder and animal health and animal products are of great significance. Various techniques (based on empirical science) are used for appropriate health care, for an integrated system for supplying fodders and feeds involving a better management of pastures, for the raising of superior grasses, leafy fodder and legumes to increase ecological potential of this region for high animal productivity. Common traditional methods include collection, conservation, protection and drying of fodder like rice, wheat straws with green palatable leaves of Quercus etc. for 3-4 weeks. This dried nutritious and tasty fodder increases the productivity of cattle. The dried fodder is stored in a way that it will be available during the other seasons of the year. In many places cyclic rotational grazing method is used in grasslands and cattle are allowed to graze only for few months/weeks/days. This avoids unscrupulous destruction of vegetation by uncontrolled grazing or overgrazing. This is in conformity with author’s study that controlled and moderate clipping (grazing) stimulate production of green parts in many grasses, whereas repeated or severe grazing leads to complete cessation of growth. Several other traditional methods used for the conservation of fodder plants are discussed in the present study.
15. Folklore Biomedicine for Some Veterinary Diseases and Disorders in Western Part of Almora District, Uttaranchal, India
Rohita Shah*, P. C. Pande* and Lalit Tiwari**
*Department of Botany
S.S.J. Campus, Kumaon University, Almora
**Lok Vigyan Kendra
BPSN, Almora. 263601
A preliminary survey of an age-old veterinary practice of the western part of Almora district, which is inhabited by hill communities, was made during 2000-2001. They preserve the folklore for their own benefit. In the study, the main emphasis was given to twenty-five most common livestock diseases and disorders. For the treatment of these veterinary diseases and disorders the locals use about sixty-eight plants. The biomedicines are composed of single drug or combination of drugs. These medicines are presented disease wise. This type of traditional knowledge is a wealth for the human being and has great value in the context of today’s “Intellectual Property Rights” (IPRs) Scenario.
Lok Vigyan Kendra (BPSN)
Ashirvad, East Pokharkhali
The Himalayas have a wide range of herbal products as this region supports approximately 18,440 species of plants. Just like the ancient people, the Himalayan people have a close relationship with nature for their basic needs like food, fuel, fodder, medicine, etc. They use their own medicine system, which is based on the ancient cultural traditions.
All mythological texts celebrate the Central Himalayan Region as a land of gods. But it is very interesting to note that this region has the local gods like Gollu Devata, Lakiya Bhut, Nanda Devi, Bhola Nath etc. who were originally noble human beings. The local people have deified them. These local gods are more powerful then Brahmanical gods. The Himalayan people believe that unhappiness of such local gods is the cause of all diseases. In their medical system they use magico-religious practices and natural therapies against diseases.
In magico-religious therapies they practice jagar, thau–dham, bhabhuti, tantra–mantra, etc. to placate the local gods and supernatural powers. And in natural therapies, like Ayurveda, they use herbal products. According to mode of application, the natural therapies have three categories:
- Herbal products used in systematized systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Siddha.
- Herbal products used in ethno-medicine or indigenous medicine like HMS based on oral tradition.
- Herbal products used in modern medicine, based on active chemical principles of the herbal products.
The use of plants for treatment in India dates back to prehistoric times. This indigenous knowledge about medicinal plants and therapies was composed verbally and passed orally from generation to generation. Much later, some of this information was composed in treatise form like Rigveda, Yajurveda, Charak Samhita, Sushrut Samhita, etc. These systematized systems of knowledge about medicinal plants and therapies are included under Ayurveda – the Indian Traditional Medicine System.
Like other ancient people, the Himalayan people also utilized plants and plant products for medicine. These plants were not only traded internally but also exported. For example, Kuth (Saussurea costus) was exported to east as it is mentioned in Atharvaveda. It was also exported to China.
Thus HMS is an interesting medicine system and it needs more study. It is intimately connected with Ayurveda and may also be related to the Chinese medicine system. In this paper I will try to discuss the relationship of HMS and Ayurveda. I will also describe the concept of Himalayan therapies for local and universal incurable diseases and their Himalayan treatments and some important Himalayan medicinal plants, plant products, soils, animal products, etc.
M-4, Nirala Nagar,
Man is never content to accept the world as it is. He is driven by an inner urge to construct a world of his imagination and its the imagined or interpreted world of his that becomes the field of his action and striving. In other words, he not only creates a make-belief or imaginal world vis-a-vis the actual world, but chooses to live in that world of his own making.
Resembling this imaginal world and still different from that is yet another world-which can call a dream world or utopia. Gandhi’s dream of Ramrajya looks an event of yesterday. By contrast, the culturally adolescent, yet arrogantly imperialistic dream of American individualism and consumerism has become a living nightmare for millions of people on earth today. Mankind has dreamt of so many possibilities and their ruins are part of our collective memory. But the dreams we are talking about are dreams of improving or transforming the world as given to Man. They constitute a challenge not to the destiny of this given world, but to its available model. Here we are, however, concerned not with these ‘utopias’ but with those mythical or imaginal worlds we mentioned at the outset.
The Earth created by God, which kept floating on the waters became steady only when eleven Agaria brothers drove nails through it. The Gond woman observes the form of an anthill and upon that model constructs her Lillar Kothi, which can store and preserve foodgrain for the whole world. The potter is the next one to on the stage of this world. He shapes the pots to ensure digestion of the food by man. The indisputable potter has to be invited for making the auspicious pitcher (mangal–kalash), the garland maker has to be sought for the holy garland – the wedding of Siva and Parvati can’t take place without the two things. Ima Lemren Shidwi is the maker of that first pot of creation out of which are born Guru Sannamahi, who is, in fact, the creator of the whole cosmos.
A prolonged intimacy with various tribal and folk societies has made me aware of the fact that even today, the majority of the people of this country are just nominally inhabitants of the nation state called India; even belonging to their village or home is just a contingent or accidental fact. Where they really belong, the world they are authentically and habitually inhabit and roam in is the world of their myths.
I1a Sah* & Manikant Shah**
*Deptt. of Sociology,
SSJ Campus, Kumaon University,
** Lok Vigyan Kendra (BPSN)
East Pokharkhali, Almora 263601
In November 2000, Uttaranchal became the 27th state within the Union of Indian states. The mountainous terrain of Uttaranchal is part of the great Central Himalayas. However, the physical/geographical features or convenience of administration were not the lone considerations that led the people to demand a separate state. In fact, it was the threat to the social-cultural complex and the underlying traditions of perception, action and knowledge in the face of the onslaught of development under the garb of the modern scientific knowledge. This impressed upon the hill people, a need to preserve their distinct identity. All the literature, writings, reports and historical records in relation to the hill state amply bear this out. Even today one does not fail to catch the widespread discontent amongst the people of the new state who really matter. It may be due to the peculiar path of development that the leaders of the new state seem to be pushing the state onto. The people see that path either as unclear or the one that they were forced to embrace under the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The social-cultural complex in Uttaranchal is rich and so are the traditions that constitute this complex. It can be very relevant to the development of the new state with the active participation of the individuals and communities. The traditional knowledge systems at the local level with regard to environment, agriculture, medicine, technology, local law and social cohesion can be advantageously incorporated in the developmental strategy
of the state of Uttaranchal
This paper shall try to discuss some traditional options available for the development of Uttaranchal.
Pani Odyar, Almora 263601
Science does not begin with Newton or Galileo but from the time the first humans appeared on this planet. Early humans also made scientific observations and developed heuristic devices to transmit knowledge and science to posterity. It was done through legends, myths and folklore. Uttaranchal also has a rich heritage of folklore.
I give below a few examples of the folklore/ folk proverbs, which convey scientific knowledge, gathered through generations. These examples show that the hegemonic categories of science/superstition, technology/magic etc. imposed by Western Science are arbitrary. In my paper, I propose to discuss scientific heritage of folklore.
1. WEATHER FORECAST: g;wu fgeky eky cldky
A. Hyuna Himala mala basakala
(Rain comes from the clouds, which accumulate, in the snowy range during the cold season, and from the plains during the rainy weather) A proverb describing the Kumauni weather.
B. Another belief: The severity of the impending winters is indicated by the location in the tree of the nest a crow makes: top/middle/lower. The top location means mild weather and so on.
2. AGRICULTURE: cjjos g;wr dks leky X;WWWWWWw
Barkhe hyunta ko samala gyun
If snow falls, who will be able to gather all the wheat! (It will be so plentiful).
This is applicable to high tablelands for the rain that falls there runs down the slopes, but the snow melts gradually and soakes into the ground, and thus produces a bumper crop.
3. AGRICULTURE AND HUMAN GROWTH: tkeu cfB dkeu
Jamana bati kamana
No sooner up than it quivers. If the just sprouted plant quivers or young boys or girls begin with bad habits from their childhood: both are destined to wither away.
4. RATIONALITY: dqufy dss nsjof.k equfy nsjof.k
Kunal ke dekhani munali dekani
Why should one consult one’s horoscope rather than (be content with) his skull or fate.
5. MEDICINE: mRrj dks rkyks iNe dks ukyks
Uttra ko talo pachhama ko nalo
A thin hot iron bar with which infants are branded on their stomachs is called Tala, and a thin stream of water poured on the head of infants is called Nala.
Dept. of Information Technology
Human history can be taken as a superset of data and information. The events, which have taken place in the past, become a source of data and information in the future. With the passage of time, past events provide information subject to meaningful interpretation. The information coupled with the processing which gives meaningful output in its complete form can be addressed as informatics. It can, therefore be inferred that human civilization revolves more around informatics than anything else.
It would not be improper to state that human history represents the history of informatics. Information is not a buzzword. It is rather an ancient road than a modem highway. Man has survived over this super quantum of time by the conservation and bequeathing of this very information from one generation to another. Human civilization since its evolution has developed the process of living and has been continuously improvising by the experiences of the past. These standard set by our ancestors is experiential information which has been passed from word of mouth down the generations to continue the traditions laid down by our ancestors.
The voyage into the atomic world led the scientists to a painful realization that the basic protocols and even the approach was more than inadequate to properly comprehend the many intricacies of the atomic world.
Today this mismatch no longer remains an intellectual’s problem but has permeated down to the level of the common man. The world is undergoing a crisis of perception. Once again the world is trying to explore its roots, its identity. The indiscriminate and unmanaged use of natural resources till date has made a classical example of a world struggling between nature and livelihood.
Thus, there is a need of a paradigm shift, a farsighted vision that can reduce if not revert the mess we have created of our lives and rekindle the torch of Traditional Knowledge in Modem Perspective. There is also a burning need to blend the Modem Scientific findings with the existing traditional knowledge and rebuild our lives.
The present paper dwells into traditional knowledge system, which has provided solutions to quite a few mismanaged environmental problems that surrounds us today. This act of ours shall pave the way for a better living in the planet that we inhibit today and for our generations to follow.
Jeewan S. Kharakwal
Deptt. of Archaeology
Institute of Rajasthan Studies,
This paper deals with the archaeological record of iron making which goes back to the second half of 2nd millennium BC in India. A brief survey of production centres is followed by the genesis of iron in India.
The Central Himalayan region, an area which was the nearest source of iron for the Painted Grey Ware people of the upper Ganga Doab, has yielded large number of archaemetallurgical sites. This region has yielded very early evidence of megalithic burials and iron smelting. Some such sites like Gagarogol and Uleni have been dated to mid-third and first millennium BC respectively. Local knowledge reveals that the deposits of metal and mining areas are known as agar whereas the people traditionally engaged in iron-smithy, mining and smelting are called Agarias. Though the age old tradition of mining and smithy has more or less disappeared in the recent decades, the local knowledgeable people and iron-smiths still recollect metallurgical techniques. The artisans still practice quenching to harden the objects in their afar (workshop). The paper discusses the traditional iron technology, their belief systems, and also presents some new data.
G-2, B Wing, Ganga Park, Mundhwa Road,
Pune 411 036. Phone 020-6872249
Flat No. 18, Building No. 8, Ranakpur Darshan,
Alandi Road, Yerwada, Pune 411 006
Even though agriculture started in the Indian subcontinent around nine thousand years ago, even to this day hundreds of communities continue to live by hunting and gathering in all parts of India, including the hilly and forested terrains as well as the intensively cultivated and densely populated alluvial plains. The documentation of these communities started in the later part of the nineteenth century by British administrators and later on by amateur Indian anthropologists as well. A number of volumes containing a mine of valuable information on several hundred communities are available. These include the volumes by Denzil Ibbetson on Punjab, William Crooke on the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh (present-day Uttar Pradesh), E.J. Dalton on Bengal, R.V. Russell and R.B. Hira Lal on Central India, R.E. Enthoven on Bombay Presidency, and E.H. Thurston on South India. A lot of information is also contained in district gazetteers and census reports. In addition, there are publications by amateur as well as professional anthropologists like S.C. Roy, D.N. Majumdar and L.P. Vidyarthi on the tribes of Chota Nagpur and Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh, C. von Fuerer-Haimendorf on the Chenchus of the Eastern Ghats, T.B. Naik on the Bhils, K.C. Malhotra and others on the Pardhis of Maharashtra, Zarine Cooper on the Kurukhs of the Bastar district of Madhya Pradesh, M.L.K. Murty on the Yerukulas and Yanadis of Andhra Pradesh, and L.A. Krishna Iyer on the tribes of Kerala. Further, during the last four decades or so it has become common practice for archaeologists working on stone age prehistory to collect data on hunting-gathering communities of the region, and, as a result, a lot of information is available in Ph.D. theses, specially those completed at the Deccan College, Pune.
The present authors have carried out field work, individually or jointly, among the following hunting-gathering communities: Korwas of the Mirzapur district and Kanjars of the Farrukhabad district of Uttar Pradesh; Van Vagris, Kalbeliyas and Bhils of Rajasthan; Pardhis and Kuchbandhiyas of Madhya Pradesh; and Bondos of Orissa. Besides, we have worked among the Kharwars, Chiros and Gonds of the Mirzapur district of Madhya Pradesh, and among the Maria and Muria Gonds and Korkus of Madhya Pradesh, and among the Parjas and Saoras of Orissa. Although all these tribes practise primitive agriculture, they also practise hunting and gathering to some extent to supplement their living sources.
In this paper we will confine ourselves only to a few select communities.
The most distinctive feature of the culture of hunting-gathering communities is their thorough and intimate knowledge of their environment, of wild plants having edible parts like leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, roots and tubers, and of animals – both terrestrial and aquatic – and birds. They know the local names of all the wild plants and the season of their flowering and fruiting, as well of wild animals, fishes, turtles, molluscs and birds which they hunt and trap for food and other purposes. They are fully conversant with the nature of the animals and birds which they hunt and trap, i.e. whether they move individually or in herds, are aggressive or shy, are diurnal or nocturnal, etc. They design and manufacture their own hunting, snaring and trapping gear and strategies
which they use with remarkable success.
Rajasthan: Van Vagris, Kal Beliyas and Bhils
The Van Vagris
The Van Vagris (forest dwellers) of Rajasthan inhabit a sparsely wooded sandy terrain in the semi-arid region of Ajmer, Nagaur, Sikar, Churu and Jhunjhunu districts of Rajasthan and the adjoining districts of Haryana They are totally nomadic and camp for a few days only on sand dunes away from the villages and towns in small bands of a few families. The strongest bond is between brothers-in-law. The Van Vagris depend for their subsistence almost entirely on meat. Though large game is now scarce and its hunting is prohibited by law, there is enough small game like jackal, fox, hare, monitor lizard, partridge and quail that they are never short of meat. The vegetarian component of their diet comes from food which their women beg from village homes.
The Van Vagris use a variety of equipment for hunting, snaring and trapping. The items include gun, spear, long stick, bow and arrow, net (jaal), noose (pansa) and iron trap (kudko). The pansa is made of multiple string loops which are tied to small sticks that are buried in the sand on the ground. The gun, spear and long stick are used for hunting fox, jackal, monitor lizard, hare and birds, The pansa and jaal are used for snaring partridges, and kudko for catching hare. Monitor lizard is also dug out from tree hollows. Besides, they use trained hunting dogs for catching hare and other animals. The Van Vagris’ skill in shooting birds was demonstrated to us by a young man, Mohanyo near Varangana village, some 12 km south of Didwana town in Nagaur district. A partridge came and sat down on a babul tree amidst thick foliage. Mohanyo made several rounds around the tree as if to transfix the bird by magic. He then shot an arrow with such deadly accuracy that the arrow pierced right through the body of the bird. We asked Mohanyo to climb the tree and remove the bird with the arrow inside it, and this he did with remarkable facility. Animal flesh is the staple diet of the Van Vagris, and in two hours time they are able to catch and trap enough hares and birds for one day’s requirement of the entire family.
The Kal Beliyas
While the Van Vagris are confined to the semi-arid zone of western Rajasthan, the Kal Beliyas and Bhils are found on both sides of the Aravallis. The main occupation of the Kal Beliyas is catching snakes and entertaining village people with snake charming. Besides, their women entertain village people with song and dance. But the Kal Beliyas also practise hunting. They hunt small game mainly with the help of sticks and trained dogs.
The word Bhil is believed to be derived from a Dravidian word which means to pierce. This is indicative of their prowess in wielding the bow and arrow Even today in the hilly and forested tracts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh a Bhil never moves without the bow and arrow. In respect of population size, they are one of the largest tribes of South Asia, and are to be found over a vast territory extending from Pakistan in the west through Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to western Maharashtra in the south. The Bhils, like the Van Vagris, catch, trap and shoot a variety of small game and birds and their technology, including the use of hunting dogs, is similar to that of the Van Vagris. While the Van Vagris are totally nomadic, some of the Kal Beliya families have now been settled by the government in special settlements away from peasant villages. The Bhils, on the other hand, are a fully settled community. In the Aravalli hills they live in their exclusive villages which consist of hamlets or padas, each pada consisting of a number of huts which are perched individually on top of low hillocks. In the plains they live in mixed villages comprising many castes and are known as gameti or village dwellers. In these villages they have become a Hindu caste and are a good example of the transformation of tribes into castes. The Bhils practise primitive agriculture, keep livestock, work as labourers in the fields of village farmers and on public projects, besides indulging in the hunting of small game.
The word Kanjar is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit word kanan char, meaning ‘one who wanders in the forest’ or the dweller of the forest. The Kanjars are a major hunting-gathering community of South Asia and they are found all over north India from Punjab and Rajasthan in the west to West Bengal and Assam in the east. Up to the end of the nineteenth century they were almost entirely nomadic and were living in the forest which, at that time, covered more than fifty per cent portion of the land. However, now most of them have been settled in colonies away from regular village settlements; others have settled down in towns and cities but generally some distance away from the rest of the population. The government is providing them land for habitation and cultivation, and financial assistance for purchase of livestock, agricultural inputs and construction of houses.
Though few Kanjars have taken to agriculture, they have begun to practise animal husbandry. Some have also taken to petty trade. However, their main occupation is hunting and gathering. They subsist largely on wild animal foods and are essentially omnivorous in their diet. They kill and eat almost all kinds of terrestrial, aquatic and avian creatures. They hunt jackal, fox, wolf, porcupine, jungle cat, hedgehog, hare and monitor lizard. They also trap and shoot squirrels and birds like pigeon, dove, partridge, and quail. They also snare or kill turtles, and dig out snakes, mongooses, bandicoots, field rats, lizards and turtle eggs “and any other vermin that chance may throw their way”. They also scavenge carcasses of dead animals. “Whatever a Kanjar kills, from a wolf to a reptile, he eats; and most of what he finds dead, he eats also”. The Kanjars also catch frogs both for their own consumption and for sale to school and college biology laboratories for dissection. Besides, they also gather consume wild plant foods, and extract juice from the palm tree which, when fermented, forms an intoxicating drink. Besides animal flesh, the Kanjars consume milk, eggs, cereals, pulses, vegetables, etc.
The principal tool and weapon of the Kanjars is khanta or khanti. Thee name is supposed to be derived from the Sanskrit root khan, meaning to dig or make a hole. The tool consists of a long (about 1.2 m) wooden staff and an iron blade (about 30 cm long), either rectangular in shape or sharpened into a curved point, something like the blade of a knife, and hafted at one end of the staff. The iron blade is procured from the local blacksmiths and the staff is made by the Kanjars themselves. According to J.C. Nesfield, the implement serves as a dagger or short spear for killing wolves and jackals; as a tool for carving a secret entrance through the mud wall of a villager’s house, where a burglary is contemplated; as a spade or hoe for digging out snakes, field rats, lizards etc.; for digging edible roots and the roots of khaskhas grass, and as a hatchet for chopping wood. It is used for dragging out monitor lizards and other creatures from the hollows in trees. The khanti or short spear is not merely used in close combat, but is also thrown with an almost unerring effect when hunting wolves and jackals on the run.
The khabar is a large net used to snare wolves, jackals, foxes, porcupines, hares, etc. Woven from nylon string the khabar is about 12 m long and 1.25 m broad. It is stretched along the edge of a field of sugarcane or other tall crop or bushes of munj (Saccrum munja) where the presence of animals has been identified beforehand. The khabar is supported at the base on a thick rope, and stretched vertically with sticks places at intervals along its length. A group of Kanjars drive the animals from all sides of the field towards the net, thereby closing all escape routes so that the animals get trapped in the net.
The suja, a long spear, is used to kill turtles as well as other animals. The khonch is used to catch frogs from wells and ponds and consists of a cylindrical, open mouthed cloth bag attached to a long bamboo pole.
According to Nesfield, the Kanjars display extraordinary skill in the use of their simple weapons. The weapon with which they kill little birds is nothing but a pole with a thin sharp spike of iron embedded at the pointed end. The man lies motionless on a patch of ground, which he has first sprinkled with grain, and as the birds come hopping around him to pick up the grain, he hypnotizes one of them by moving the pole in a serpent-like motion, and then spikes the bird through its body. The Kanjars seldom or never use the bow and arrow, but they use a gulel or a pellet bow, which requires much greater skill. The pellet is nothing but a little clay marble dried in the sun. With this they frequently shoot a sitting or flying bird. To trap a wolf in its lair, they place a net and a light at one end of the hole and commence digging at the other end. The wolf attracted by the light runs into the net, and the Kanjar then batters its head with a club and kills it.
Their dogs are of great assistance to the Kanjars in their hunting activities and every family has two or more of them. The dogs are slim, agile and ferocious, and are carefully trained to hunt. They are extremely efficient in catching fleeing animals like the jackal,
fox, jungle cat and hare.
The account of the technology of the Pardhis and the Kuchbandhias will be given in the final paper.