In India, there is a large reservoir of knowledge systems – technologies as well as trained craftsmen and scholars who possess knowledge in various branches of traditional Indian sciences and technologies. These span vast and varied areas like agriculture, architecture, metallurgy, metal working, healthcare systems and textiles, and also various theoretical areas ranging from astronomy and mathematics to grammar, logic and linguistics. In many of these sectors, it is also a fact that knowledge prevails at various levels ranging from the classical scholars who may have a knowledge of textual material and manuscripts in Indian languages, to the Folk practitioners who have their training and skills as a living tradition of transmission of skills and knowledge.

Even today it is a fact, that in very many crucial and basic sectors, the vast majority of the Indian population is sustained by the knowledge, skills and material resources of the traditional sector. Even when traditional sciences or technologies are studied, it is often in the nature of the study of history or literature or “Indology” and almost never from the point of view of their contemporary relevance and potential. Moreover, appreciation of tradition is usually limited only to the aesthetic and decorative dimensions of the products of our tradition and not to their functional aspects or as living traditions that have relevance for today.

The CIKS methodology involves looking deep into the heart of these ancient knowledge systems to gain a strong understanding of their workings and rationale. The understanding and knowledge so gained are then leveraged to develop solutions that are practical and feasible in today’s context.

FOUNDERS

The story behind any organisation is usually the story of its people. This section traces the individual histories of Balu and Viji, founders of CIKS.

The story behind any organisation is usually the story of its people. This section traces the individual histories of Balu and Viji, founders of CIKS.

The first seeds of what would eventually become CIKS were sown in Balu’s mind, ironically, in the United States. As a promising academic, he was pursuing a Ph.D in molecular biology, when circumstances led him to start thinking about the way India as a nation approached its own knowledge systems. Disappointed with the Indian scientific community’s infatuation with the west, and reluctant to follow the mainstream, Balu returned to India with a renewed interest in learning more about ancient Indian wisdom and practices. On his return in 1982, he took up journalism, as it offered him a way to travel and learn about various parts of India. Balu also got involved with the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram where he, initially as a student and later as a teacher, gained a deeper understanding of traditional Indian healthcare systems, especially Yoga.

In 1986, Balu was one of the people who founded the PPST (Patriotic and People Oriented Science and Technology) Foundation, with an aim to find ways to revitalize and strengthen traditional Indian Sciences. It was here that he first ran into Viji, and the idea of CIKS was eventually born.

At that time, Viji was doing her Ph.D in the use of spiders as biocontrol agents – a study that would later become a landmark piece of work in this field. She was also involved with the PPST foundation, although initially not in as active a capacity as Balu. While in school at Erode (South India), one of her teachers had constantly encouraged the young Viji to explore and learn more about Indian traditions. This stimulating environment led her to gain a keen interest in the traditional way of life from a very early age.

After finishing her graduation and post graduation in Madras and Delhi, Viji returned to Madras to pursue studies at the Loyola College. It was here that one of her professors showed her a newspaper article about some research on spiders in the United States. The species being studied as a potential pest control agent was native to India! Disappointed that no one had bothered to study them in India, she decided to take up the subject for her thesis. In the face of a lot of discouragement and opposition to her ideas, Viji successfully completed the study – now widely recognized as a valuable and relevant body of work in the field of biological pest control.

It was during this time that Viji met Balu at PPST, and got more closely involved with the organisation. Many of the members of the foundation had a great influence on her, making her more determined to do meaningful work in traditional science. She took up a pest control project under the aegis of PPST, and began looking at traditional agriculture and Vrkshayurveda in a broader sense. It was around this time that she decided to focus on the area of traditional Indian agriculture.
After spending a few years with the PPST foundation and Sree Chakra Foundation in 1993 Balu & Viji decided to set up an independent trust to focus on specific areas of Traditional Science and Technologies. The Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems was born in August 1993. CIKS was formed as an autonomous Centre under the Academy of Development Sciences, Maharashtra. In January 1995, it was registered as an independent trust in Chennai.