On an eminently laudable effort to dispel the notion that scientific agriculture emanated only from the West, the Asian Agri History Foundation, Secunderabad, which has been publishing valuable material on the glory of agriculture in all its myriad aspects, has now come out with a book titled, A Textbook on Ancient History of Indian Agriculture.
Authored by RS Saxena, SL Chowdhary and YL Nene, this 139-page book aims at motivating students and others to realise the contribution of our ancestors in the field of agriculture. There are 19 chapters in the book with a few questions at the end, and has been priced at a modest Rs 250.
When the British introduced formal education in India more than a century ago, the preface to the book recalls, they emphasised that “the scientific” agriculture originated only in the West, and the Indian farming systems had always been “unscientific”. It is unfortunate that the course curriculum in agriculture till today reflect the western bias. It is only during the last three decades, the preface says that the West itself has recognised that many of the present “scientific” led to unsustainable agriculture and only then did Indian scientists study the traditional/indigenous farming systems.
Recalling the present background in this connection, the preface notes: “The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, at its conference of Vice Chancellors of Agricultural Universities held on April 1, 2003, had resolved that a course on ‘Agricultural Heritage of India’ will be introduced in the undergraduate curricula of agricultural universities and colleges from 2004.” All the Vice Chancellors who attended the conference, appreciated the contribution made by the Asian Agri History Foundation (AAHF) Secunderabad and its Rajasthan Chapter for publication of ancient, documents after translation into English as well as for the publication of the journal, Asian Agri History since 1997.
The Rajasthan Chapter has also organised several conferences and seminars in different parts of the country to collect more information on our heritage in the field of agriculture and document them. Further, two workshops for prospective teachers of agricultural heritage were held at the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM), Hyderabad. It is disappointing, however, says the preface, that only a few universities have so far introduced this course. The major constraint was the unavailability of a resource book. Hence, Dr YL Nene, Chairman of the AAHF, Secunderabad, edited and published a 900-page book entitled Glimpses of the Agricultural Heritage of India in 2007.
Based on the prescribed course curricula, we have made efforts to prepare a textbook on the subject entitled A Textbook on Ancient History of Indian Agriculture.
For the undergraduates, we hope after going through this book, students would be motivated and realise the contributions made by our ancestors in the field of agriculture. This book contains 19 chapters, each chapter carrying a few questions at the end. We hope the book would be helpful to students, teachers and others as well.
Of the three authors, the senior author Dr RC Saxena died on May 4, 2008. Other authors are Dr SL Chowdhary and Dr YL Nene.
One recalls in this connection the signal service this foundation has rendered.
In order to tell the people of this region the ancient wisdom exhibited by the people in the field of agriculture, much of the efforts was initiated by Dr YL Nene, originally of Gwalior, who was stung by a sarcastic remark by his teacher in an agricultural university in the United States way back that India did not have a past so far as agriculture was concerned. After becoming the Deputy Director General of the ICRISAT (International Crop Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics), Patancheru near Hyderabad, Dr Nene had retired prematurely in order to devote his attention to unraveling the “secret” of India’s forgotten past in agriculture. The result has been the quarterly magazine on this subject being published for more than ten years now and ten seminal volumes on various topics of agriculture in ancient India.
Apart from regular agricultural topics, this book contains two chapters at the beginning-the Historical Development of Human Culture and the Sindhu-Saraswati Civilisation, otherwise known as the Harappan Culture.
(The author is a former Special Correspondent of the Hindustan Times, New Delhi and can be contacted on [email protected].)