The Centre’s Ministry of Culture is developing a “Vedic Heritage Portal” to collect and communicate scientific knowledge from ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas. Casting about for experts, the ministry has written to several institutions of higher education, including the Indian Institutes of Technology.

In his letter to Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi from November 12, secretary Arun Goel said the portal will contain “pure scientific information”, audio-visual documentation of oral traditions, manuscripts and publications and “tools/implements/objects related to Yajna etc.”.

Envisaged as the “one-stop solution” for the seeker of information on Vedic heritage, the portal will be set up by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, an autonomous institution under the ministry. Project director Sudhir Lall said he hopes to launch the website by March, 2019.

A ‘new paradigm’

Bringing together experts from different disciplines including science, mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, medicine, agriculture, environment studies and legal systems with Vedic scholars, this portal aims to “create a new paradigm in the study of Indian traditional knowledge systems”, said Goel’s letter. It further says that there are already scholars working in this field that the portal will help “reach the larger public”.

The idea for the portal came from the Centre. Lall said that the project had been in the pipeline for a while. “The chanting of Vedas was declared an ‘intangible cultural heritage of humanity’ by the Unesco [or, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] in 2003 and the Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts that made the documentary on that,” said Lall. “In a way, we have been working on this every since. In fact, we have been working on various aspects of this since the Centre was established in 1987. Our prime focus was on textual studies. We have brought out several publications which are fundamental texts that are needed to understand India art.”

The letter sent to Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
The letter sent to Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

Three groups

Lall said that the portal will draw and benefit three groups of users – the experts who are already working in this field, “lay people” curious about it and the practitioners. “There are many places where the Vedas are still taught,” he explained. “For example, Karnataka has a village where a small community of about 20 Brahmins are preserving a unique recitation of the Vedas, the Samaveda in particular. Once there were 1,000 ways of reciting the Samaveda but now there are only three.”

Although the ministry’s letter emphasises the sciences, Lall said that the Centre will not focus exclusively on the sciences. “We believe in the holistic view of the world,” he said. “One thing cannot be understood without the help of the others and everything is integrated in the Indian worldview. Take whatever festivals we have, whatever rituals we have, everything is integrated.” In the Centre’s proposal to the ministry, it had also suggested writing to the Indian Institutes of Management.

Once the ministry receives responses to the appeal, Lall plans to hold a “brainstorming session” for members from all three groups. How interested academics will contribute and other details will be worked out at that stage. Approval of funds is also pending.