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Why Indian Classics Should Be Taught In Our Schools

27/12/2015 8:34 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Boy (6-7)reading books under tree in park

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Two months ago I was invited to give a talk in IIT Kanpur, one of the premier technological Institutes of India (and my alma mater), on how young budding engineers can help light up the lives of forgotten, poor Indians. During the question-answer session I asked how many of the 250 + students in the auditorium had read Indian classics like the Mahabharata, Panchatantra, and the Jataka tales etc. Very few of them raised their hands.

This story is repeated in all the educational institutes that I visit and give lectures in. Yet the same youngsters have read Western fairy tales, stories and nursery rhymes.

Very soon we will be producing a generation of Indians who will neither know their culture nor their language!

Similarly, it is very difficult nowadays to meet youngsters who can say one straight line in their mother tongue. What emerges is a hotchpotch of their mother tongue and English. Very soon we will be producing a generation of Indians who will neither know their culture nor their language!

Language, culture and history provide a pillar of psychological support to us and give us pride in our country. Not being exposed to the above could be one of the reasons why so many of the youngsters I meet are not proud of their country nor have an attachment to it.

At the end of my lecture in IIT Kanpur, I asked the students that if I had the power to send them to the US, how many would like to go and settle there -- the majority of them raised their hand. I wonder where we have taken our country that most of the youngsters going to elite institutions and coming from well-to-do families would rather go elsewhere to follow their fortunes. I feel that they somehow do not have a bond with India by the ties of culture, a higher awareness of India and its philosophy.

I, therefore, sometimes think that there is a merit to the present BJP government's policy of introducing Indian classics in schools.

Only when our children will be inspired by Indian thought, ethos, history and lives of our great leaders will they start taking pride in our country and our culture.

Last week I attended a conference on consciousness in Bangalore. A speaker talked about autism in children and interventions for them. She showed a video clip in which a young boy from a rural town in Karnataka was brought to the clinic in Bangalore and his mother sang Western nursery rhymes to keep him occupied and engaged!

There is a craze in rural and urban areas alike to learn English and children are made to memorise Western nursery rhymes, poems and ditties! Slowly and silently we are moving towards a time when we will completely forget our great Indian stories, tales and culture.

The brains of children of school-going age are very pliable and capable of absorbing a huge amount of information. The folk tales of India from all states, from our great books like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Panchatantra etc. should be taught in schools to inspire the children. There is a great wisdom in these books which needs to be distilled and presented in a form which can be easily understood by students.

During my own childhood my father presented me with a volume of tales from the Panchatantra. They were in Hindi and were so fascinating and wonderful that I used be lost in reading them.

Similarly, the long history of India which has produced great leaders like Buddha, Ashok, Akbar, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Vivekananda, Gandhi etc. should be taught in schools and their lives should be presented as role models for children. Thus, short stories on their lives and their deeds should be taught in all classes.

Only when our children will be inspired by Indian thought, ethos, history and lives of our great leaders will they start taking pride in our country and our culture. Otherwise our culture will become Bollywood and Hollywood-based! And we are creating a whole generation of Indians who can best be described in Hindi as, "Dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghat ka!"

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