Professor K.K.N. Sharma
Dean School of Applied Sciences (SAS)
About the Centre of Studies in Indigenous Knowledge
Indigenous Knowledge is considered as the social capital of the people. It is main asset to invest in the struggle for survival, to produce food, to provide for shelter and to achieve control of their own lives. Most of the indigenous knowledge disappears due to the intrusion of foreign technologies and development concepts that promise short-term gains or solutions to problems without being capable of sustaining them. The tragedy of the disappearance of this knowledge system is most obvious to those who have developed it and make a living through it. But the implication for others can be detrimental as well, when skills, technologies, artifacts, problems solving strategies and expertise are lost.Although indigenous knowledge may be focused on particular individuals and may achieve a degree of coherence in rituals and other symbolic constructs, its distribution is always fragmentary. Generally, it does not exist in its totality in any one place or individual. It is devolved in the practices and interactions in which people engage them. Despite claims for the existence of culture-wide (indeed universal) abstract classifications of knowledge based on non-functional criteria; where indigenous knowledge is at its densest and directly applicable its organization is essentially functional. Indigenous knowledge is characteristically situated within broader cultural traditions; separating the technical from the nontechnical, the rational from the non-rational is problematic. Indigenous knowledge systems have a broad perspective of the ecosystems and of sustainable ways of using natural resources. However, colonial education perspective of the ecosystems and of sustainable ways of using natural resources. However, colonial education system replaced the practical everyday life aspects of indigenous knowledge and ways of learning with western ideas theoretical knowledge and academic ways of learning. Today, there is a grave risk that much indigenous knowledge is being lost and along with it, valuable knowledge about ways of living sustainably both ecologically and socially. The role of nineteenth century colonialism in ignoring and sometimes maligning indigenous knowledge of Sri Lanka as well as of other colonial countries has been well documented by various workers (Slikkerveer, 1989 and Warren, 1989). As a result of the impact of nineteenth century social science in establishing negative values and attitudes towards indigenous knowledge systems ( Warren, 1989), even during early post colonial period, many scientists and academics considered indigenous knowledge systems as primitive, simple and static. Therefore indigenous knowledge systems have not been systematically recorded in written form and are not readily accessible to agricultural researchers, development practitioners, and policymakers. Recently some workers have shown the interest on indigenous knowledge and they have detailed overview (Warren, 1991) and a general explanation of indigenous knowledge, with a particular emphasis on genetic resources, pastoral management and agro forestry (Rajasekaran, et al 1991), and offered a more succinct discussion (Warren and Rajasekaran 1993). However, still there is a grave risk that much indigenous knowledge is being lost and along with it valuable knowledge about ways of living sustainably both ecologically and socially. Therefore the objectives of the Centre are to conserve indigenous knowledge with sustainability and encourage academics, policy makers, scientists and students to gain enhanced respect for local culture, its wisdom and its environmental ethics.
A closer look at the local traditions in a county reveals the methods by which the cultural and ecological balance is maintained. Culture is defined by the ecological conditions and the traditional institutions that help to sustain the community (Mishra, 1994). This promoted a situation of “constructive dependence” instead of “destructive dependence” of so called modern development. Evidence of this is found in various myths, taboos, rules and regulations that form part of the local culture and ethos. The generation, adaptation and use of indigenous knowledge are greatly influenced by the culture. Economic, social, political and geographical contexts also contribute to generate indigenous knowledge, but to alesser extent. Therefore, indigenous knowledge systems show great diversity not only among ethnic groups but a lesser extent. Therefore, indigenous knowledge systems show great diversity not only among ethnic groups but among locations also. It is very clear that there is much to be learned from the indigenous knowledge systems of local people from different part of world. All the academics, policy makers, planers should pay greater attention to this invaluable treasure of knowledge that is threatened by extinction. If we are to move towards interactive technology development from the conventional transfer of technology approach we all may have to learn many things from our village level experts, gurus of indigenous knowledge. Indigenous knowledge refers to the understanding, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings. Indigenous knowledge is the basis for local level decision-making in food security, human and animal health, education, National Resources Management (NRM)and other vital economic and social activities. Indigenous knowledge is unique to a given culture or society and it generally refers to knowledge systems embedded in the cultural traditions of indigenous, regional or local communities. Indigenous knowledge is generally orally passed for generations from person to person and some forms of this knowledge inform decision-making about fundamental aspects of day-to-day life. Indigenous knowledge is rooted in a social context that sees the world in terms of social and spiritual relations among all life forms.From many of the characteristics of indigenous knowledge, the first is, it is composed of knowledge from previous generations. It is learned and identified by communities and people within a cultural context. The knowledge set provides structure to explain relationships between particular events in the community. It is based on empirical experience and is embedded in both biophysical and social contexts and cannot be easily removed from them. It is based on historical experiences but adapts to social, economic, environmental, spiritual and political changes. It is not rooted in a particular point in history but has developed, adapted and grown over millennia. It does not require the validation of western science. The term indigenous and concept of indigenous knowledge is often associated with the western science. The term indigenous and concept of indigenous knowledge is often associated with the western context. The western way to protect the nature has traditionally paid attention to the indigenous people, indigenous knowledge and its protection, conservation and preservation. The indigenous people are on the line of destructive development throughout the world. Indigenous people have been responsible for substantially developing many technologies throughout history. Anthropologists in the indigenous culture have described various skills for handling some kinds of unknowns and insecurities, in belief systems which are more rooted in living relationships and dwelling practices than typical mainstream western culture.
While looking at the need of the importance and urgency of indigenous knowledge Prof. R.P. Tiwari, Hon’ble Vice Chancellor, Doctor HarisinghGourVishwavidyalaya, Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, India has established Centre of Studies on Indigenous Knowledge on 6 March, 2019 with faculty positions (1-Professor, 1-Associate Professor and 2- Assistant Professor) for which the recruitment process will completed soon. Under the In-charge ship of Prof. K.K.N. Sharma, Head, Department of Anthropology, the Centre has been continuously working with new approaches in the department and flourishing researches on recent topics of applied aspects have been conducted under his supervision. He has organized several successful events and seminars in the department. Recently, this Centre had organized a National Seminar on “tribal Traditional Knowledge: Science” in two successful phases (phase l and phase ll) which created a momentum not only in the state but in the entire country. Several traditional healers including NadiVaids gave their presence in the seminar and multiple stalls of traditional medicines were arranged in the Gour Samadhi (University Ground) and Chakra Ghat, the lake side of the city. People were benefitted from the appearance of healers and medicines. The Centre is happy to announce that it is again organizing an International Conference on “Indigenous Knowledge and Prevalent Practices” to create a momentum in the International front. The aim of the Centre is and will be to carry out research on the relevance of indigenous knowledge, to produce new research methods for studying indigenous knowledge and maintain a directory of indigenous knowledge keepers and traditional healers so that exposure will be given to them from time to time. During this short span, the centre has organized three invited lectures. Firstly, Dr. K.C Malhotra, Former Professor, Department of Anthropology and Human Ecology, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, India and fellow of International Association of Human Biologists, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bengaluru, visiting Professor at the Centre of Population Genetics, University of Texas, Houston, USA delivered presentation on “Culture and Biodiversity” dated 15 July 2019. Secondly, Dr. Om Prakash Pandey, Former Professor, Department of Physics, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India delivered presentation on “Science in Indian Knowledge and Tradition” dated 17 October 2019. Lastly, the topic entitled “Vedic Wisdom in Contemporary Societies” by Prof. Surendra Pathak, Adjumt Professor, Gujrat Vidyapeeth, and Ahmadabad, India dated 12 February 2020.