People of India, Cultural Diversity: Intangible and Tangible Cultural Heritage
In India, as in all other regions of the world, local communities who have long history of interaction with their natural environment are a treasure trove of a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations. This local and indigenous-traditional knowledge is a key resource for empowering communities against marginalization, poverty and impoverishment. Intellectual property and the country's laws that govern intellectual property right (IPR) grant protection to the individuals/communities from whom the creative endeavour or knowledge is derived. Indigenous knowledge comes from a diverse range of populations and occupational groups, such as traditional farmers, pastoralists, fishermen and such others whose knowledge is linked to a specific place and is likely to be based on a long period of occupancy spanning several generations.
Anthropological Survey of India launched a national project on traditional knowledge in the current five year plan. The broad objectives of the project are to 1) document and archive the traditional knowledge systems in India, 2) explore deep structure of traditional knowledge subsystems, 3) facilitate formalization of traditional knowledge and to 4) prepare an electronic database of traditional knowledge. The proposal is to choose a representative village from each of the 91 or so eco-cultural zones for an in-depth ethnographic study with the time tested prolonged stay in the village for field work. In addition a specific “traditional knowledge” in an area, would be chosen for a wider coverage as a cultural expression of that area. In order to be distinct from other agencies, the traditional knowledge would be contextualised with the cultural-biological and ecological dimensions within the purview of this work. A workshop was organized in the month of August, 2007 which was attended by eminent scholars and scientists to elicit their opinions and suggestions on our proposals and on the outcome of a pilot study conducted for the purpose from 17 of the 91 eco-cultural zones by the An.S.I scholars. Professors Yogesh Atal, Anil K.Gupta, P.S.Ramakrishnan, A.C.Bhagabati, Vinay K.Srivastava, K.K.Mishra, T.B.Subba and R.C.Shiva Prasad attended the workshop. Presently preparation of an extensive bibliography and culling out of the information on traditional/indigenous knowledge from the published ethnographic work is underway.