Opinion

Opening the door to Bharatiya Knowledge Systems for children

Parents today know the challenges of getting children to admire and practise traditions of any kind. These days we hear a lot about Indic Knowledge Systems (IKS). Still, the question remains – What is IKS, and how do we get children interested in these ancient knowledge systems?

Of course, the first problem is accessibility. There isn’t enough information about ancient Indian sciences and arts. Much of IKS is in Sanskrit, which has become incomprehensible to most of our population. Added to this is the common misconception that all our ancient Sanskrit literature is religious in nature. Close to 95% of ancient Indian thought deals with non-religious shastras and sciences. We must tap the specialized knowledge in IKS since our children are the natural inheritors of this treasure of knowledge.

The sciences of IKS were called shastras, and a wealth of knowledge is available in subjects like mathematics, astronomy, linguistics, agriculture, construction, etc. Of course, deep study depends upon knowing Sanskrit. Still, parents can do the initial job of opening the door to IKS – i.e., to light the fire of interest in all things related to Indic culture and heritage.

THE NEXT QUESTION IS – HOW DOES ONE DO IT?

Many times, parents enroll children in Bal Vihar and Bhagavad Gita classes but get disappointed when children show no interest in continuing these without being forced. As parents, we commonly believe that we must teach the same things to every child. Nothing could be further from the truth. We must first understand that a little scientist may not respond to Natya shastra, and a little artist may not like Ganita. Children’s temperament varies widely.

We can use these differences themselves to spark an interest in Indic heritage. Let’s take a few examples.

If a child is interested in mathematics, parents can get him to take a class on Vedic mathematics and buy a book about ancient Indian mathematics, ganita.

If a child wants to be an architect, what better way than to take him to tour Indian temples and places, travel to see Indian architecture and sculpture, and buy books on the amazing Indian arts of Shilpa shastra.

If you have an active sportsperson, along with swimming and tennis, you can get him enrolled in Kalaripayattu lessons.

Similarly, while taking kids to ballet and piano (as many young families in urban India are inclined to do these days), enroll them in Bharatanatyam and Carnatic or Hindustani music also.

A child who loves nature, birds, and animals can start reading books like Nanditha Krishna’s “Hinduism & Nature.”

An avid traveler may never read the Valmiki Ramayan forced on him, but may finish the book “In the footsteps of Rama: Travels with the Ramayana” in one sitting!

A child asking for a pet dog would love to read books like “The Book of Indian Dogs.”

For the little food connoisseur, rather than stopping at baking classes, parents can also get the child to be the proud custodian of one family recipe handed down since generations say an achar or a sweet dish.

If you are commuting from school to classes with your child, try podcasts about stories! Play classical or traditional folk music for the child who likes to listen and learn.

As we can see from these examples, discerning parents have various ways to introduce children to IKS research and thinking in the child’s area of interest and natural inclination. The key is – all children are not alike! A child who cannot sit through yoga and meditation may like Kalaripayattu or Bharatnatyam. A child who refuses to read children’s Bhagavad-Gita may be very attracted to music.

Parents get many chances to open the door to Indic Knowledge Systems for their kids. Especially in the modern world, there are so many books and classes available online, so many guided tours, and the sheer size and scale of opportunities available today make it easy for parents.

An early exposure to Sanskrit in childhood will then set the stage for them to delve deep into the original texts if they choose to do so.

These are the many ways we can open the door for them, inch by inch, and finally let them loose in the wonderland of Indic heritage, where they can explore to their heart’s content!

(The article was published on Hinduparenting.substack.com on November 05, 2023 and has been reproduced here)

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