2017-02-17 SICON02 S6 Mimamsa critique of Pollock’s History Theory

Swadeshi Indology Conference 2

Speaker: Shrinivas Tilak

Professor Sheldon Pollock asserts that by declaring the Vedas ‘authorless’ and ‘timeless,’ the Purva Mimamsa thinkers deprived Indic intellectual, literary, and ritual texts of the sense of time and temporality. He calls this process ‘Vedicization,’ and holds it responsible for absence of history in ancient India (Pollock 1989). This paper disputes Prof. Pollock’s assertion by arguing that ‘history,’ as it is understood in the West, is subsumed in the broader, inclusive category of itihāsa (deemed to be the ‘fifth Veda’) in India, which acts as a storehouse of the past for what must be remembered, i.e., values (purusharthas) that guide fulfillment of the four ends of life (dharma, artha, kama, and moksha). The status of itihasa as the ‘fifth Veda’ is next discussed with reference to the Mantra Ramayana of Nilakantha Chaturdhara (Ca. 1700), which insists that the Rigveda refers to Vişņu as saguņa brahman; i.e., as Shriram, an avatara of Vishnu.
Select references
Bhattacharya, Sibesh.2010. Understanding Itihasa. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
Hossain, Purba. 2016. Moksha, Mimamsa and Yuga: Does philosophy account for the supposed absence of history in early India? https://www.academia.edu/8688401; accessed on Sept 23, 2016.
Mantrarāmāyaņa [of Nīlakaņţha Caturdhara]. 1998. Edited with Hindi translation by Dr Prabhunath Dwivedi. Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Sanskrit Samsthanam. https://archive.org/details/MantraRam…, accessed on August 21, 2016.
Pollock, Sheldon. 1989. Mīmāṃsā and the Problem of History in Traditional India. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 109(4): 603–610.

Inaugural Session
17-19th Feb, 2017
IGNCA, New Delhi

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2017-02-17 SICON02 S3 gaNita shAstra & Western Mathematics

Swadeshi Indology Conference 2
Gaṇita Śāstra & Western Mathematics – S Mukhopadhayay

Śāstras are an integral part of Indian knowledge systems and provide systematic procedures to accomplish specific objectives in diverse fields like mathematics, philosophy, architecture, politics, economy and others. Noted Sanskrit scholar Sheldon Pollock however views śāstras as a problem, and sees a dichotomy between śāstra (theory) and prayoga (practical activity) in Sanskritic culture. He considers śāstras to be backward looking and merely a regressive reformulation of the contents of the Vedas. This is, in his opinion, the opposite of Western knowledge tradition which is always forward looking and based on logic and experimentation. This paper is meant to be a refutation of some of Pollock’s core assumptions, by taking gaṇita śāstra and western mathematics as a case study.

We demonstrate that from the earliest to premodern times, gaṇita in India has relentlessly focused on real-life problems, developing logical and efficient algorithms for problem solving, even among Jain and Buddhist scholars, who do not regard Vedas as a pramāṇa. Gaṇita, similar to all Indian schools of thought and modern science, accepts pratyakṣa pramāṇa or empirical evidence, as the first means of knowledge. Formal western mathematics however depends entirely on axioms, binary logic and eternally valid proofs (theory), as opposed to calculations (prayoga). Mathematics categorically rejects the empirical world and is imbued with theological dogma. Moreover binary logic is not normative as Buddhist Catuṣkoṭi and Jain Syādavāda follow different approaches. Western mathematics, which is the only type of mathematics taught in schools today, therefore comes across as arcane, abstract and complicated to most non-specialists, and has become a tool of cultural hegemony.

Key Readings
1. Pollock, S. (1985). The Theory of Practice and the Practice of Theory in Indian Intellectual History.
2. Pollock, S. (2005). The ends of man at the end of premodernity.
3. Malhotra, R. (2016). The Battle for Sanskrit.
4. Raju, C. (2012). Euclid and Jesus – How and why the church changed mathematics and Christianity across two religious wars.
5. Srinivas, M. D. (2016). On the Nature of Mathematics and Scientific Knowledge in Indian Tradition.

Speaker:
17-19th Feb, 2017
IGNCA, New Delhi

2017-02-17 SICON02 S3 Are Sanskrit Grammar & Royal Power Related

Swadeshi Indology Conference 2

Are Sanskrit Grammar & Royal Power Related – Sowmya K

Sheldon Pollock portrays grammar as a form of political power, and holds that formal grammar was developed and publicized by kings as a tool to spread their political power. He claims that all the major texts of grammar were produced under political direction, and maintains that royal power was an essential precondition for the flourishing of the grammatical tradition. On the basis of three factors – 1) celebration of grammatical learning especially in kings 2) royal patronage for the study of grammar and composition of new texts 3) competitive zeal among rulers everywhere to encourage grammatical creativity and adorn their courts with scholars who could exemplify it – Pollock claims that the mutually constitutive relationship between Grammar and political power was a fundamental feature of the Sanskrit cosmopolitan order from birth throughout its lifetime. He gives examples trying to prove these factors. This paper examines the examples individually and demonstrates that most of these examples are not valid. They are either non-specific, or interpreted out of context to support a pre-determined unwarranted conclusion.

Speaker:
17-19th Feb, 2017
IGNCA, New Delhi

2017-02-17 SICON02 S2 The Science of Meaning

Swadeshi Indology Conference 2
The Science of Meaning

Speaker: Sudarshan Therani

The nature of the method of interpreting text – Philology – the method used by Pollock is examined.
Can it be used or interpreting Sanskrit text the way Pollock is doing ?
What are the actual methods available for interpreting text ?
Can Western methods be used to interpret Sanskrit text ?
What are the limitations of western understandings of language and meaning?

We try to answer the questions as framed above comparing the indian and western approaches.

Inaugural Session
17-19th Feb, 2017
IGNCA, New Delhi

2017-02-17 SICON02 S2 Examination of Pollock’s “Project SKSEC”

Swadeshi Indology Conference 2
Examination of Pollock’s “Project SKSEC”
Speaker: Manjushree H.

According to Pollock, India witnessed a great intellectual flowering in the two centuries just prior to the colonial encounter— purportedly due to the consolidation of Muslim rule in India. With the spread of British rule (in the mid eighteenth century), this “flowering”/intellectual dynamism, he says, “melted like so much snow in the light of a brilliant, pitiless sun”. Why it withered away in the face of European intellectuality is a primary question that the international collaborative project, Sanskrit Knowledge Systems on the Eve of Colonialism (SKSEC) http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/po…), seeks to address. In the present paper, I examine carefully Pollock’s idea of the “intellectual dynamism” of seventeenth-century Indian knowledge systems, their colonial encounter, and the dubious inferences they allude to.

17-19th Feb, 2017
IGNCA, New Delhi

2017-02-17 SICON02 S3 A Computational Theory for Rasa

Swadeshi Indology Conference 2
Pollock opines that Indian thinkers have not attempted a robust theory for creativity nor did they have a theory across many kalaas. We sketch a computational theory of rasa to argue against this position and illustrate it with examples in a few art forms.

For background info, pl. see Prof. RN Iyengar’s talk on Music at https://livestream.com/shaalelive/iisc
as well as to see the talks that discuss computational thinking in the Indic tradition by
a) Prof. Roddam Narasimha
b) Prof. MD Srinivas
c) K. Gopinath

Speaker: K. Gopinath

17-19th Feb, 2017
IGNCA, New Delhi