Infusion of Cultural Components through School Subjects in India

Hu Shih. (Former Chinese ambassador to the USA) once said, “INDIA conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border.”

“Many of the advances in the sciences that we consider today to have been made in Europe were in fact made in India centuries ago.”- Grant Duff British Historian on India.

Such was the richness of Indian Culture. Yet today, the average Indian is unaware of this cultural heritage.

What is culture?

According to Taylor: “Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, morals, law, customs and any other capabilities acquired by man as a member of the society.” It becomes clear from this definition that man as a member of society acquires culture. In short, it may not be wrong to refer to culture as social heredity.

The ancient Indian contribution can be broadly organized under various subjects.

Need for Infusion

Infusing the cultural component through the school subjects would lead to a critical thinking vis-a-vis the relevance of ancient Indian culture in the present context. This integrated approach would also create a scientific attitude among the students, as well as an interest and a sense of pride in the cultural heritage of the nation. Infusion of culture in this way would link the present with both the past and the future.

General Aims of Infusion of Cultural Component through School Subjects

  1. To educate the students on matters and issues relating to the ancient Indian culture
  2. To create awareness about the relevance of the cultural component in the present context.
  3. To create a sense of pride about the cultural heritage among the Indian students
  4. To appreciate the contribution of the Ancient Indians to the present world

Infusion of cultural components into classroom teaching

The infusion model can be used effectively to integrate cultural component into the syllabus. A schematic representation is given below:


An Indian mathematician/astronomer, Bhaskaracharya, authored a treatise entitled ‘Siddhanta-Shiromani’ – dated around the 12th century A.D. – which has a section entitled Bijaganitam – the concept of Algebra.

Aryabhatta was an Indian mathematician who lived in the 5th century A.D. His Magnum Opus, the ‘Aryabhattiya’ was translated into Latin in the 13th century. Through this translation, European mathematicians got to know methods for calculating the areas of triangles, volumes of spheres as well as square root and cube root.

Aryabhata worked on the approximation of value of pi (\pi) and came to the conclusion that \pi is irrational and is approximately 3.1416 in 499 CE when he was just 23 years old. He can be considered as one of the smartest brains of ancient India because the irrationality of pi was proved in Europe only in 1761 by Lambert.

Some of the latest contributions come from Kerala the centre of spice trade. Madhava from Kerala worked near the end of the 14th century, and verses attributed to him in the writings of his successors testify to his brilliant contributions on such topics as infinite series and the use of infinitesimal quantities. The concept of zero originated in India.


Ancient Indian astronomers had recognized that stars are like the sun – center of the universe (solar system) and that the circumference of the earth is 5000 Yojanas. (Yojana = 7.2 kms.) Aryabhatta propounded the theory that the earth was a sphere in the 5th century. In Indian languages, the science of Astronomy is today called Khagola-shastra –   Khagola is the famous astronomical observatory at the University of Nalanda. It was at Khagola that Aryabhatta studied and extended the subject.

Aryabhatta studied how to forecast eclipses and that moon gets its light from the sun.  About a hundred years before Brahmagupta, Varahamihira (another astronomer) had claimed that there is a force, which might be keeping bodies stuck to the earth and also keeping heavenly bodies in their determined places – the concept of gravity!

Atomic Physics

The concept of the atom (Anu, Parmanu) was explicitly stated by an Indian philosopher, Kanada (6th century B.C). It was Kanada who first propounded that the Parmanu was an indestructible particle of matter. He said that there are different types of Parmanu for the five Pancha Mahabhootas: earth, water, fire, air and ether [sky]. Each Parmanu has a peculiar property, which depends, on the substance to which it belongs.

Kanada said that an object appears to be lighter under water than it does in air.  It is believed that these Indian ideas about atom and atomic physics could have been transmitted to the west after the invasion of Alexander.


The process of smelting of metals made possible the progress of society from the Stone Age to the Bronze and Iron Ages. Indians had acquired proficiency in the extraction of metals from ore, and also in the casting of metals. In very early times, around 2000 B.C., the idea of smelting metals was known in Mesopotamia. It is possible that Indians could have borrowed the idea from an outside source.

The Iron Pillar at Delhi is one such instance. This Pillar, located near the Kutab Minar, is estimated to have been cast in the Gupta period (about 1500 years ago). The pillar is 7.32 metres high, tapering from a diameter of 40 cms at the base to 30 cms, at the top and weighs about 6 tonnes. It has been standing in the open for more than a millenium in the heat, dust and rain, but has not caught rust. This kind of a rust-proof iron had not been smelted anywhere else in the world, till stainless steel was invented a few decades ago.

Zinc has a low boiling point and is difficult to smelt. Pure zinc could be produced only after the mastery of distillation techniques, which have been described in our ancient chemical treatises.

Vijaya Deshpande (1996:276-279) claims that zinc extraction in India had definitely started by the 13th century AD at Zawar. The earliest literary evidence for the production of metallic zinc on a regular basis comes from India (Craddock 1987/88). The process used for the distillation of zinc in Zawar mines is unique because it is designed on the basis of downward distillation! 


The art of navigation was born in the river Sindhu 5,000 years ago. In Ancient India, there existed a strange belief that if any Hindu crossed the seas, he would become an outcaste! Our nation’s maritime history reveals evidence of a very large number of Indians who had crossed the seas to trade and build empires in distant lands. Having flourished in the adapted countries, they became unorthodox, set homesteads and settled there accepting the new cultures and lifestyles as their own.

Urban centers in the Harappan region traded with each other as well as with counterparts in Babylon, the Persian Gulf, Egypt and possibly the Mediterranean. India had colonies, in Cambodia (Kambuja in Sanskrit) in Java, (Chavakam or Yava dwipa) in Sumatra, etc. Even a sextant was used for navigation and was called ruttashanga-Bhaga. But what is more surprising is that Indian navigators used even a contrived mariner’s compass nearly 1500 to 2000 years ago.[1]

Modern sanitation and Indus Valley Civilization –  Indus valley civilization designed the world’s first Underground sanitation system back in 3300–1300 BCE which was adopted by the rest of the world centuries later. They are also the first civilization to create modern sanitation.


The ancient Indian medical science of Ayurveda (Ayu – life; Veda – knowledge) literally means ‘the science of living’ (longevity).

The Sushruta Samhita written by Sushruta is the earliest medical encyclopedia known to world being written during 1200BC has 184 chapters containingdescriptions of 1,120 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources and 57 preparations based on animal sources.

Shushruta, (8th century B.C.) specialized in surgery (like cataracts, caesarians). He also studied anatomy. Perhaps the greatest contribution of Shushruta was the operation of rhinoplasty (restoration of a mutilated nose by plastic surgery). There is a detailed description of all these in his treatise Shushruta Samahita. Usage of anaesthesia was well known in ancient India.

Yoga is also a significant part of the ancient Indian medical science.

Charaka was the first physician to present the concept of digestion, metabolism and immunity. Charaka also knew the fundamentals of genetics. For instance, he knew the factors determining the sex of a child. A genetic defect in a child, like lameness or blindness, he said, was not due to any defect in the mother or the father, but in the ovum or sperm of the parents, which is today an accepted fact.

Fine Arts

“If there is one place on the face of earth where all dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.” – French scholar Romain Rolland.

The paintings at Ajanta and Ellora depict Buddhist tales from the Jatakas. Though the paintings are today 1,500 years old, the paint has not only retained its colour but also much of its luster.

Ancient India and Environmental consciousness

Hindus revere the pipal tree, Ficus religiosa. The Buddhists worship it as the ‘Bodh’ tree. Like the pipal, the banyan, is also considered holy by the Hindus. When both these trees are planted along with the third tree ‘pakar’- Ficus infectoria, the group is known as ‘Harshankari’ – the abode of Lord Shiva and Hari. Also, these trees are associated with ‘Vrikshadevta’ – the goddess of trees. Even the Harappan seals depict the pipal tree. This civilization flourished between 5,000 – 3,500 B.C.

The Scientific Facts are that these trees give out more oxygen. They are huge and shady and shelter hundreds of birds and animals. Many of the species of the Ficus family have medicinal value.

A few more tidbits..

Some more examples of elements of material culture and civilization that originated in ancient India are:

  • Manufacture of crystal sugar (Sharkara); Making of camphor (Karpuram).
  • The making of dyes like aniline and indigo. – The earliest example of indigo from Indigofera probably comes from the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization (3300 -1300 BC), also known as the Harappan Civilization. 

According to the Forbes magazine, Sanskrit is the most suitable language for computer software. According to the Gemological Institute of America, up until 1896, India was the only source of diamonds to the world.

A few suggested topics for infusion:

Some of the topics through which cultural component can be integrated in the subject Geography are: The Earth, The Solar system, Theory of gravitation, Eclipses, Minerals and mining and Political Geography – Neighbors of India. Similarly in the Subject History, Topics for integration could be Ancient Indian Civilization and European invasions. In the subject Environmental Science, the topics could be Plants and Transport.

Science lends itself to cultural integration very well. Some of the topics are: Matter, Nature and Behaviour, Structure of Atoms, Atomic Physics, Force, Genetics and Light.

The ancient Indian Mathematicians were also astronomers.Topics that lend themselves to cultural integration are: Introduction to Algebra, Quadratic equations, Pythagoras theorem, Time and speed. Lastly, the Cultural component could be infused through a debate, a project, storytelling or an essay through languages.  


  1. Indian Mathematics by Kim Plofker
  2. Mr. J.L. Reid, member of the Institute of Naval Architects and Shipbuilders, England said in the Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xiii. Part ii. Appendix A.
  4. Indian Journal of History of Science 31(3) 1996, A note on Ancient Zinc Smelting in India – China, Vijaya Deshpande
  5. Concept of Genetics in Ayurveda Author: Pramod Kumar Singh, NS Tripathi, P.S Byadgi, Asian Journal of Modern and Ayurvedic Medical Science, July 1, 2012
  6. Knowledge Representation in Sanskrit and Artificial Intelligence Rick Briggs, Vol 6, No Forbes Magazine
  7. Mr. J.L. Reid, member of the Institute of Naval Architects and Shipbuilders, England said in the Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xiii. Part ii. Appendix A.

Published by Dr. Pramila Kudva

I am a teacher educator currently worrking as a Principal of a reputed school in North Mumbai, have more than 30 years of experience, with several publications to my credit and have authored a book -"From chalk to Talk The Art of Teaching.

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