The conference had six components: an inaugural function, a few plenary sessions, paper presentations, Vakyārtha Sadas sessions, release of monographs, and a valediction. Everything went on as planned, except that the sessions extended up to almost 7.30 pm in the evenings, owing to extended discussions.
IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts) played a key role providing the venue (3 halls) as well as local hospitality and other benefactions.
In all, 35 papers were presented on ten themes – in three simultaneous tracks in 3 halls; the topics pertained to the extraordinary claims of Prof. Sheldon Pollock, purporting consciously (or at best ostensibly unconsciously) to misinterpret our heritage.
The focus on Pollock (as with SI-1) was on grounds of his being the most influential scholar – in academic circles (also through his students who are well placed in celebrated academia), firstly, and secondly, in his reach on the general public, especially Indian (by virtue of his editorship in leading publishing houses); but even more importantly on grounds of the complex and complicated intellectual maze he has conjured, aimed at confounding and bamboozling the reading public by an ostentation of scholarship: in width, depth, or impact, or even the novelty of ideas or interpretations – in short, in terms of the Neo-orientalism he has sought to bring about in a copiously camouflaged and convoluted language – he has added new negative dimensions to Indology (and hence totally incomparable to some of the earlier Orientalist Indologists, the damage caused by whom pales into the background in quality and quantity). So much for the raison d’être of the themes of the conference.
Inaugural Session: The conference was inaugurated by Sri Ravishankar Prasad, the Hon’ble Minister for Law and Information. Dr Subramanian Swamy, Rajya Sabha MP, gave the key-note address. Prof R Vaidyanathan (Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore) and General GD Bakshi gave the Special Invitee addresses. Sri Rajiv Malhotra (Founder, Infinity Foundation) gave the Welcome Address, and Dr Sachchidananda Joshi, Member Secretary of IGNCA tendered a vote of thanks. Earlier, Dr Sudhir Lall of IGNCA, welcomed the guests onto the stage.
There were four Plenary Sessions – addressed by Prof R. Nagaswamy (renowned archaeologist), Ms Meenakshi Jain (Former Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library), Dr. Pappu Venugopala Rao, D Litt (reputed musicologist , dance theoretician, and aṣṭāvadhānin ), and Dr Lokesh Chandra (President, Indian Council of Cultural Research, and Director, International Academy of Indian Culture).
There were 10 Academic Sessions, presided over by 10 Chairpersons. Among them figure Padma Vibhushan Dr Sonal Mansingh (Trustee, IGNCA), Prof Korada Subrahmanyam (Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies), and Dr Amarjiv Lochan (Member, International Association for the History of Religions, and International Association of Sanskrit Studies)
Of the 35 papers presented, 4 were presented on skype, and one was a recorded video. Among some important participants were Dr Shrinivas Tilak from Canada, Dr. Koenraad Elst from Belgium, Dr. Naresh Cuntoor from USA, Dr. Charu Uppal from Sweden, Śatāvadhānin Dr. R Ganesh (independent scholar of repute) and Prof K Gopinath (of Indian Institute of Science) from Bangalore. Among the papers presented were 9 on the Rasa Theory, 6 on Mīmāṁsā , and 5 on Buddhism; others were on other topics such as Śāstra, Philology and Desacralisation. 6 lady scholars also contributed papers. About 15 of the scholars were below 40 years of age. Over 15 were from the fields of Science/Technology, but backed by a sound knowledge of Sanskrit. There were participants from half a dozen States of our country. A few papers were in Sanskrit.
A novel feature of the conference was 3 sessions of Vākyārtha Sadas. 3 young students trained by Mahamahopādhyāya Brahmaśrī Mani Dravida Sastrigal debated in Sanskrit in the traditional style of śāstrārtha, key themes gleaned from the theories of Sheldon Pollock. The purport of the discussions was presented in English at the end of each session.
We will be continuing to engage with these scholars and will strive to make their voice heard in the larger mainstream discourse. Vākyārtha Sadas, the traditional form of Purvapaksha and Uttarapaksha debate will slowly be revived and restored to its rightful position as a scientific and rigorous form of debate that has been the cornerstone of our intellectual tradition.
2 monographs written by two young scholars were also released on the last day. While one was on Pollockian Philology, the other was on the politics of Sanskrit Studies. The two monograph writers have been supported by Vellayan Chettiar Foundation based in Chennai and the awards for the monographs were given away by FICS (Foundation for Indian Civilisation Studies) instituted by Sri. Mohandas Pai.
The details of the monograph writers and their work are as follows:
- Manjushree Hegde is the author of the monograph titled “Politics of Sanskrit Studies: A Critical Appraisal of Sheldon Pollock’s Ramayana”.
- T M Narendran is the author of the monograph titled “A Pariksa of Sheldon Pollock’s Three Dimensional Philology” .
The Valedictory function had an address by Dr Sachchidananda Joshi, Sri Rajiv Malhotra, Dr K Aravinda Rao (Trustee, IGNCA, and Member, Indian Council of Philosophical Research), Dr Sudhir Lall, and Prof K S Kannan (Academic Director).
Best Paper Awards of Rs.70,000/= each, instituted by Sri T V Mohandas Pai (academician and philanthropist of repute) of the Foundation for Indian Civilization Studies, were presented to 7 best papers.
The awards were conferred on –
- Prof. K Gopinath for his paper on Rasa titled “A computational Theory for Rasa”.
- Megh Kalyanasundaram and Manogna Sastry for their paper on Chronology titled “Purvapaksha of Sheldon Pollock’s use of Chronology”.
- Nilesh Oak for his paper on Chronology titled “A cririque of Pollock’s “self-evident claims” for the chronology of Mahabharata and Ramayana AND Assertion for the dating of Mahabharata and Ramayana events based on the internal astronomy evidence”.
- Dr. Shrinivas Tilak for his paper on Mimamsa titled “Professor Sheldon Pollock on History in India: A critique from the perspective of Mimamsa”.
- Sowmya Krishnapur for her paper in Sanskrit titled “Sheldon Pollock Pratipaditasya Vyakarana Sastra – Prabhutvayoha Sambandhasya Yuktiyuktatva Pariksha“.
- Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay for his paper on Sastra titled “Practice versus Theory: Ganita Sastra and Western Mathematics”.
- Sudarshan Therani for his paper on Philology titled “The Science of Meaning”.
In addition, Lifetime achievement Award was conferred upon Dr. Nagaswamy by Foundation for Indian Civilisation Studies for his contribution to the field of swadeshi perspectives in Indology.
Publication : A total of 5 volumes (including the 2 monographs released, and selected papers presented at the two conferences) would be published in a few months time. They are being edited by me.
Prospect : A conference on the Aryan-Dravidian Theory with focus on Tamil Nadu is being planned next, in the latter half of 2017. A Call for Papers will also be announced in the coming months.