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India: Dont promote pseudo-science - Text of petition by concerned scientists to state run technical education body

AICTE should withdraw endorsement to Bharatiya Vidya Saar

28 September 2018

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Text of Petition

AICTE Should withdraw its endorsement of pseudo-scientific book


Prof. Anil Sahsrabuddhe,


All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)

Subject: AICTE’s endorsement of the book भारतीय विद्या सार


We, the undersigned researchers, educators and concerned citizens wish to take note of AICTE’s recent initiative about introduction of an elective course on ‘Ancient Knowledge Systems’ as part of its model curriculum. As per our information, this model curriculum would be adopted in more than 3000 technical colleges in the country. Making technical students aware about history of Indian science and philosophy is a laudable goal. Such courses provide chance for a holistic learning experience to students and help them develop a comprehensive worldview. Although the work on this area in India is far from being complete, we have seen excellent works produced by Indian scientists in the past. Just as examples, we can cite efforts by Indian National Science Academy (INSA) to produce critical editions of several siddhanta texts or the series of books produced by Centre for Studies in Civilisations. These are examples of scholarly works, which are recognised not just among Indian academics, but also internationally.

However, we are taken aback by the news story published yesterday that AICTE has chosen to endorse the book titled भारतीय विद्या सार [Bharatiya Vidya Saar] by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan as a reference book for this course. This book also includes an endorsement message from your desk as part of its foreward.

This book makes a number of unsubstantiated claims. We note some of the most outlandish claims here:

  • Rishi Agastya invented elctro-voltaic cell.
  • Rishi Agastya gives method of electrolysis to produce Oxygen and Hydrogen from water.
  • Rishi Kanad in ’Vaisheshik Sutra’ discusses types of motion as well as Newton’s laws of motion.
  • The book ‘Vaimanika Shastra’ was written by Rishi Bharadwaj about 5000 years ago.
  • The book ‘Vaimanika Shastra’ is authoritative text on not just construction on airplanes but also on navigation, aviation fuels and pilot preparation.
  • The speed of light has been accurately mentioned in Rigveda.
  • The theory of gravitation has been first mentioned in Rigveda.

We do not have to point to an accomplished academic such as yourself that none of these claims are rooted in any real scholarship on history of Indian science. None of these claims have ever been published in any reputed research journals. All these claims stem from misunderstanding or deliberate mistranslation of philosophical verses or ascribing an ancient origin to verses composed in the last century. Several of these claims have explicitly been debunked over the years by respected academics. For example you can read the paper written by members of Aeronautical Engineering faculty of IISc in 1974, debunking all the claims in the book Vaimanika Shastra.

The books such as these do a disservice to the goal of taking knowledge of ancient Indian sciences to students by spreading conspiracy theories and blatantly false information. Obviously, not every technical college in the country would have resident expertise to realise the below par academic quality of such a book and several gullible institutions may end up teaching such misinformation to thousands of students. AICTE is also effectively damaging future academic careers of students, as any reputed university, from India or aboard, would be skeptical about selecting students coming out of the universities teaching from such a book. Thus, it is imperative that AICTE withdraws endorsement of this shameful book at once.

We sincerely request you to take urgent action on this.

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The above petition is reproduced here in public interest