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International Day embraces Indian culture

Indian students at UMKC hosted “International Students Day – Celebrating India”           on Friday, April 17 in iX theatre in Miller Nichols Library. This event included native food, a documentary and three lectures about these students’ native country.

The first lecture, “Unity and Diversity in India,” was by Frahnaaz Soukatali, a law alumni of UMKC. Soukatali emphasized many types of diversity, including the 780 languages spoken in India, down from a previous number of 1,652. India is predominately Hindu, but is a secular state like the U.S. and other Western democracies. The population consists of 2.3 percent Christians and 0.77 percent Buddhists.

Susan Sanders, a Hospital Hill librarian, introduced the next speaker, Lakshmi Venkitachalam, a professor in epidemiology. This professor talked about India and its overall health system and life expectancy. She mentioned that it is important to honor the scientific method and formulate a hypothesis. She showed part of a BBC documentary mentioning life expectancy and how it has changed in the world since the end of Napoleonic times. India

had a low life expectancy until a few decades ago. Venkitachalam made a stirring point that India was officially polio-free in 2014. That is a startling fact, considering that India is the second most populous country in the world, just behind the People’s Republic of China.

The third lecture was from Dr. Deb Chatterjee, a professor in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. His focus was the ancient art of Indian mathematics, a topic about which there is limited information. There was a mathematical emphasis in India since the Vedas, a primarily religious document, in 5,000 B.C. Another early religious document, the Bhagavad Gita, had a mathematical aspect, Chatterjee explained. Ritual altars and buildings had to be planned out in a mathematical fashion, so an emphasis on math could be seen in early India in that way. Chatterjee said there was an influence from Chinese mathematics in India, also.

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  1. “… The population consists of 2.3 percent Christians and 0.77 percent Buddhists …” Well, there are a few Muslims too, although the Pakistan/India split in 1948 led to a great ethnical and religious purge with Kathmandu still caught in the middle. One should not forget to mention that to the utter astonishment (and thus probably so muted reaction) of science these Vedas and Upanishads, thousands of pages long now that they have been rendered in writing, were not written “texts” in the beginning, as there was no alphabet or other means of transcribing at the time (which ever way they originated which is another mystery). Rather they were “handed” down via a strict oral tradition via mnemonic techniques (hypermnesis) that today still confounds pedagogues and neurologists.


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