Defining IKS Education

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Dr. Sai Susarla


Any society accumulates knowledge over time in the form of three categories: practices, techniques derived from practices to easily train the next generation and principles discovered about the operation of nature as observed. A knowledge system on the other hand refers to how this knowledge is curated, validated and refined by removing errors in observation, judgement and inference. Thus, a knowledge system is a method to systematise/codify accumulated knowledge so that it can be applied to a different context as necessary. The development of science from raw knowledge requires a knowledge system. While every human civilization has accumulated knowledge, very few of them have evolved a knowledge system.

Bharat is unique among ancient civilizations to have a knowledge system of its own. The output of this Indian Knowledge System (IKS) is in the form of scientific treatises called the Shaastras. For example, while many ancient civilizations had the concept of rituals, Bharat has a Shaastra for composing and recontextualising rituals for different conditions. This adaptability is what enabled Bharat to survive and thrive over millennia. A knowledge system requires a strong intellectual tradition and constant re-evaluation of its knowledge from time to time. The rapid progress of modern society is primarily due to the development of the western knowledge system derived from the Greek civilization.

For historical and political reasons Bharat’s intellectual activity diminished over the last few centuries while the western scientific tradition flourished. The time has come to re-examine Bharatiya knowledge in modern conditions and integrate it with western knowledge for the benefit of humanity. This is the purpose of IKS education.

Flavours of Indian Knowledge Studies

There are several existing attempts and approaches to examining Bharat’s knowledge. It is important to understand their uniqueness and value to society.


Indology is the study of India as a civilization. It is a study of the historical evolution of the nation, its social, cultural, political and spiritual environment. Its focus is less on India’s knowledge but more on its civilizational aspects and the people involved.

Sanskrit studies

The Sanskrit language is the dominant medium of expression of India’s thought over millennia. Because of this during the British period the study of Sanskrit was taken up alongside English as a discipline of literary studies. The same approach continued after independence. Sanskrit studies approaches Bharat’s intellectual output as literature regardless of its subject matter. Its objective is primarily translation of the original content into modern languages. The focus is on linguistic aspects of the treatises more than their thought.

Hindu Studies

Hindu studies explore Bharat’s religion and culture. It treats Bharat’s literature as an outpouring of a religious and philosophical sentiments and not as a knowledge repository for scientific study.

Indian Knowledge System (IKS)

The approach to Bharatiya knowledge as a knowledge system is a recent phenomenon. It is a result of the recognition of the need to examine India’s intellectual contribution to the world’s knowledge. Here the focus is on the concepts presented in Indian works and the author’s thought process that generated those works. The objective is to find something of value for today’s conditions and apply it or adapt it to solve today’s problems. So mere understanding of the meaning of a Bharatiya text is not enough for an IKS perspective.

Guidelines for IKS course development

Given the above diversity of approaches to studying Bharat’s Knowledge, we would like to outline some guiding principles to devise educational material with the IKS flavour.

Flavours/FeaturesIndologyHindu studiesSanskrit studiesIKS
Chronology viewYesYesYes
Linguistic viewYesYes
Concept viewYesYesYes
Model viewYes
Context viewYesYes
Application ViewYesYes
Comparison with western viewYesYes

When designing a course on a given subject based on a given book for IKS purposes the following novel aspects must be incorporated.

  • The anubandha-chatushtaya (topic, purpose, audience and their relevance) must be explained first. The student must have a clear idea why he should take this course. What value will he get out of it? How will it be useful for his future endeavour?
  • The text must be presented as a series of interrelated concepts (need not adhere to the original order of the text).
  • For every concept introduced, its relation to the prayojana (purpose) must be made clear.
  • Every concept must be illustrated in the student’s relatable context.
  • The author’s intent behind making a statement should be pondered over. For example, if I remove the sentence what is the harm?
  • A majority of the text must be given as homework for self-study. Class should equip the students with the skills necessary for self-study.
  • Assignment questions must be of four categories:
    • Information recall (answer in text)
    • Inference (answer not in text)
    • Extrapolation (understanding a concept in today’s context)
    • Application (solving a real-world problem using the knowledge)
  • Model view: What is the reality being expressed? How is reality represented? How can one explain reality using the representation? How to predict what happens in a hypothetical scenario?
  • A clear understanding of the paribhaasha (technical terminology) unique to the text should be presented.


IKS education should empower the student to devise novel perspectives of the world beyond what the western knowledge offers. It should enable addressing issues not possible before.

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