Traditional knowledge (TK) has been an integral part of various tropical societies across the globe. With a rich biodiversity comes a lot of parasites, diseases and pests, environment and life style related difficulties. So, ancient people looked to nature to find the cures and that gave rise to their own traditional practices. Therefore, biodiversity coupled with ancient knowledge and practices based on scientific understanding of various constituents found in nature, especially from plants has been an important part of India’s cultural heritage as well as evidenced by the science of Ayurveda (Sanskrit; ayur: life, veda: knowledge).
From a more global perspective, settlements in regions of abundant biodiversity have their own traditional practices and this cultural transmission leads to the evolution of traditional knowledge.
Modern influences and externalities have some what obliterated the concept of traditional knowledge and swept various IK/TK practices under the carpet in many parts of the world. In regions where transmission of this knowledge reached the newer societies, bringing in with it, new practices and ideas that were somewhat perfunctory to the traditional ones and pontificate them as irrelevant. To illustrate this, a study was carried out on a group of young children in the Amazonian society of Bolivia, and it was found that children’s health and development was directly linked to their parents being savvy in TK. Parents who dabbled in traditional cultural practices actually raised healthier kids. ( This article from a science blog documents it.)
Even though modern influences can sometimes vilificate cultural practices, some realize that the transmission of knowledge between various communities is important since there is an amplification in the number of beneficiaries when organizations with resources and technology tap and harness this knowledge participate in the process. Furthermore, science can help replicate compounds found in nature, especially in plants endemic to only certain part of the world) and can synthetically reproduce and distribute them widely and cheaply without causing exploitation to plants, habitats and way of life of indigenous people.
I can recall a certain period from my childhood that conditioned my preferences of keeping away from non natural stuff as far as practicable. Now, it’s common knowledge that various stages of a child’s development is directly linked to its preceding ones. So, if a child remains indisposed for various lengths of time, her development will be affected since these processes are not only linked to the genetic make up but also based on environmental and societal influences. Therefore optimal development results when the environmental factors are adequate as well. Injury, disease, illness, lack of sleep can reduce the growth rate of an infant significantly and is detrimental to development. A particular childhood instance would be during my sister’s babyhood. She was mightily allergic to any fabric apart from fine cotton. When she first erupted in rashes, she used to be irritable, go hungry and cry all night. Allopathy failed. Then a doctor suggested my mother use Dabur’s Lal Tail. And frankly, out of everything been tried and exhausted, this ayurvedic oil gave a lot of relief to the baby. She became happier due to the relief it forestalled and healthier because it helped in muscular development as well. Going over the list of ingredients, I found both stuff used in everyday life in an Indian household and some not so frequently used ingredients as well. For eg, Ratanjyot prevents skin infections, Sesame oil helps in general strength, Shankhapushpi and Urad help in general development, and camphor improves blood circulation.
Like I mentioned earlier, transmission of knowledge benefits a great number of individuals and not just the parent community associated with coming up with the practice. For eg, the substances I mentioned might be suggested for use individually by grandmothers. And according to general knowledge, and World Bank, grandmothers are the real torch bearers of the traditional knowledge and practices with their undisputed role in areas of child development and maternal health.
You may also like:
- Native tribes’ traditional knowledge can help US adapt to climate change (eurekalert.org)
- Traditional innovation in farming is under threat (scidev.net)
- Native tribes’ traditional knowledge can help US adapt to climate change (esciencenews.com)
- National Recordal Systems: A solid way of documenting Africa’s indigenous knowledge systems (lazarussauti.wordpress.com)
©The Idea Bucket, 2013. Submitted by Ananya. (Written for the ‘Traditional Knowledge, Natural Growth’ contest hosted by Indiblogger)