Interactions with Modern Science

Conference at the NCBS February 22-23, 2009 “INDIAN TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE; history, influences and new directions for natural science.”

In collaboration with scholars from India and abroad, we hosted an international conference at the NCBS on “Indian Traditional Knowledge; history, influences and new directions for natural science” in 2009. The conference explored the many sources of Indian traditional botanical-medical knowledge and the promise and potential of this rich heritage for new developments in natural sciences, social history and healthcare.

The two-day conference brought together scholars from diverse fields, and provided a venue for exchange of ideas and for possible collaborations. NCBS/TIFR and Piramal Pharma, Mumbai supported the conference. The conference opened with a lecture by Prof. M.S. Valiathan (see the lecture linked by UTube video) and ended with a concluding lecture by Darshan Shankar, FRLHT/I-IAM. During the conference, historians of Indian science, social historians,

ecologists/environmentalists and scientists interested in traditional medicine-based drug discovery explored the potential and problems related to applications of traditional medical knowledge to modern challenges. Interestingly, many of the speakers had never interacted with one another before, and there were lively discussions, debates and proposals for collaborations.

A public lecture entitled, “TO OBSERVE, TO IMAGINE: The Indian artist’s way of looking at the natural world” by the renowned art historian B.N. Goswamy at the end of the first day of the conference highlighted botanical images in traditional Indian art. (link to poster). In his lecture Prof. Goswamy spoke about the visually exciting Indian botanical drawings of the past, and raised questions about the relationship Indian artists established with nature. In their botanical images Indian artists created worlds beyond the ordinary, that Prof. Goswamy called ‘lokottara.,” worlds of imagination that were many layered and rich with meaning,