Seminar on Intellectual Traditions of Ancient India: Day 3

Day 3 of the Seminar on Intellectual Traditions of Ancient India started with a talk…

Day 3 of the Seminar on Intellectual Traditions of Ancient India started with a talk on “Cryptographic Poetry in Sanskrit” by Professor K.S.Kannan. One elementary technique that has been put into a high technical usage leading to a very high economy of words is the method of dittoing, technically known as anuvritti and adikara in Panini’s scheme. It is never easy to do a spell check in Sanskrit due to its sheer versatility, words never attested by usage can be coined afresh, drawing from the rules set down by Panini. The talk also covered citrakavya or pattern poetry.

The next talk was on the “Science behind Raga Music” by R.N.Iyengar. The idea of raga in Indian classical music can be identified for its aesthetic sensibility and amazing variety. Whenever a raga is presented as alapana, the evolution of the sound is fresh and different without disturbing the predefined structure. The invariance of a raga is attributed to its aroha-avaroha. Bharata in 3rd Century AD wrote about dvigunibhava – the doubling of the character of the 1st and the last note in an octave – by experiments with Dhruva-vina and Cala-vina. This is known in science as the doubling of frequency. A raga can be described as sample time series of musical notes (svaras) evolving as per a defined probability distribution over its sample space.

The next talk was on “Simulating Aspects of Harappan Civilization” by Mayank Vahia. The lecture focused on various ideas of computer science that can be used on the available data to understand various aspects of the ancient civilization. Modeling the evolution of various stages of the civilization, studying the grammar of the script, studying the network of the growth of township, simulation of people-movement in the subcontinent etc are some of the areas which can be explored using computer science. Twenty six different parameters define and impact a civilization and the can be studied to create a network map of the growth of human culture.

The next session was a talk on “How Relevant is Panini Today?” by Professor Amba Kulkarni. The Astadhyayi of Panini is the oldest existing grammar for any human language with tremendous details yet small enough to memorize. Presented in 4000 sutra-s with around 7000 words, it has been described by Broomfield as “one of the greatest monuments of human language.” Many scholars believe that while it was written to describe the Sanskrit language, it provides a general grammatical framework for analysis of other languages as well and so it has influenced the Western linguistic theory in many ways. What makes the study of Astadhyayi important is various concepts it uses for language analysis. The organization of the text in 4000 sutra-s is similar to any computer program but allows certain non-formal elements that require a human being to interpret. Therefore Panini can be described as the foremost informaticien, at least 25 centuries before computers came into existence. All these and more are relevant reasons for studying Astadhyayi today with greater rigor.

The final talk was by S. Vishwanath on “Perspectives of an IT professional.”  He spoke of the necessity of appreciating and leveraging solutions to various problems of today’s age from the ancient intellectual traditions of India.

The seminar ended with a session on feedback and panel discussion.

IndiaFacts Staff articles, reports and guest pieces