Dr.N.Gopalakrishnan &IISH:”In quest of our Heritage”

published on November 19, 2006

LimeLight : Science and not fiction

by Manjula Ramakrishnan

He is a senior scientist working in CSIR, Trivandrum and Honorary Director for Indian Institute of Scientific Heritage. He has amassed a host of academic qualifications that ranges from Masters in pharmaceutical chemistry, industrial sociology and journalism, all the way up to a D Lit in Sanskrit. He has earned these accolades for
studying Indian Scientific Heritage, for this is his area of passion.

Meet Dr N Gopalakrishnan, who travels the hither to yon of the world spreading the message that there is a distinct link between Indian heritage and science and there are indisputable scientific explanations to what we practise as our heritage.

“Working as a senior scientist and also having studied the Indian scientific heritage in-depth, I wanted to contribute something original to the society. After nearly two decades of research I found that there is very deep scientific knowledge that existed in Indian heritage. My mission is to bring this back with the help of ultra modern science and instruments and ensure this is accepted by the more modern Indians world over, some of whom are losing touch with their own roots and heritage.

“The overwhelming response that I have received in this love’s labour from the audience globally, constantly motivates me to probe and find out further about this mesmerising subject and also to spread the message far and wide,” says Dr Gopalakrishnan.

Explaining with a small example he says, the most sensitive part of the body is the forehead.

“A section of Indians apply sandalwood paste on the forehead as it cools and activates the brain. The red vermilion applied on the forehead by married women again absorbs and radiates mild UV rays. The most sensitive skin area in an entire body is that of the ear, particularly the area behind the ear and when people tuck ‘Thulasi’ leaves behind the ears it enhances blood circulation.

“Sitting on a plank or mat while praying is being practised by several religions and this is because squatting on the ground should not diffuse the bioelectrical radiation and this happens when the body is in contact with the floor. It has been scientifically
established that the cadaver when cremated is reduced to a mere 58 grammes of ash — however obese the person might have been during his lifetime — all that is left of him is this and such findings often have a bearing on the psychology of an individual prompting him to lead a sin free life. Thus every act of Indian heritage has
strong scientific connotation,” declares the scientist.

The Surya Namaskaram or the salutation to the sun that is considered spiritual also involves the use of 186 movable joints of the body that work in perfect harmony with one another. It is also a remarkable combination of seven yogas and hence this salutation is considered scientifically as the king of exercises..

“Indian heritage has very deep biological, psychological, scientific and spiritual meaning. When practised it leads to social, family and national integration. And travelling within the borders of India and outside it, I was alarmed at the level of ignorance of people about their own heritage. At the same time what was uplifting was their extreme level of interest to know more. I often have as part of my audience, people from various walks of life, from many ethnic groups and what is the core concept of my speech is that I address them not to exhibit my knowledge, but to ensure I talk in a manner that they are able to comprehend, such that their interest does not waver or wane and thus my purpose is achieved.

“A few months back when I visited 17 universities in the USA and another seven universities in Canada, I found youngsters willing to sit for close to five hours to listen and grasp the nuances of our Indian scientific heritage. As long as I could link our various practices to science, it appealed to their contemporary thinking and
what they had been rebelling against is authority flaunted by seniors saying, ‘this is what has been practiced by generations. Don’t question it, just learn to abide by it,’ and blind acceptance is something they are not ready for.”

The fact that he has been successful with spreading scientific Indian heritage is evident from the fact that various demographics respond to him in different ways. The youngsters ask a variety of probing questions, refuse to accept unless fully convinced, make notes diligently, “and if I am able to create an impression in their
youthful, vibrant minds, I can draw strength from such modest success,” says Dr Gopalakrishnan.

“When I am lecturing, I ensure that at no point am I caught droning on endlessly unmindful of audience participation or response. I always keep three people sitting in various corners of the auditorium as my reference point. I note with care, changes in their facial expressions, just one yawn will quickly make me introduce a joke, somebody glancing at their watch will prompt me to narrate an event from real life and thus as much as my audience has learnt from me, each lecture demonstration is a learning experience for me too,” he smiles.

He derives strength from the fact that every single practice of our Indian heritage can be scientifically explained leading to information dissemination in the wavelength of the present day generation. And this is also precisely why students — both Indian
and non-Indian — from Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge have invited him year after year to address them.

In 18 years of lecturing, Dr Gopalakrishnan has given over 5,500 lectures. He is still a student for he would like to acquire an academic degree once every five years, studying something new and </SPAN
facing the viva voce, for this is an experience that keeps the brain constantly in alert mode.

Besides it is important for a teacher to be continuously learning in order to impart the best to the taught he observes.

“My message to Indians around the world is that unmindful of your political, religious or other leaning, learn about India, for it is your country. Even if you wish to criticise India, first learn comprehensively about it in order to help you highlight its flaws. Do not criticise with superficial knowledge. My studies have reaffirmed my faith in people and none can be categorised as bad”

“Every individual is a manifestation of the divine. With the right approach, hard to dispute logic and sound reasoning, up to 60 per cent of negatives in any individual can be corrected. And when I say this I do not want to sound like a sanyasin for I am at all times a scientist. I want to fulfill my promise to Indian President Dr Abdul
Kalam that by Aug.15, 2007, when India will celebrate the 60th anniversary — Shashtiapthipoorthy — as it is called, at least 100 million people would have got my message of Indian scientific heritage. This target is my constant motivation, as I move from one lecture demonstration to another, looking at the eager faces in
front of me, thirsty for knowledge and hungry to know more about their own heritage”

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