India’s next gift to the world, if its Hindu nationalist government has its way, could be the secret to lightning quick mental arithmetic.
Vedic mathematics, a set of supposedly ancient techniques that help even the most numerically challenged to conquer difficult sums, is surging in popularity as government ministers claim that they could hold the key to better education.
From next month, three Indian universities will begin to offer courses in Vedic calculations while home-learners can watch an entire television channel devoted to the subject on one of India’s digital networks. Several thousand teachers have been recruited for private college courses. Its supporters believe Vedic maths could become a major export like yoga and curry. The rising popularity of Vedic maths is partly because of a renewed campaign by the nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, to lay India’s claim to the cornerstones of human knowledge. He marked India’s successful mission to Mars last year by claiming its ancient Vedic scientists had conceived of air travel thousands of years before the Wright Brothers made their first flight. It was a reference to a disputed ’veda’ which described ancient air travel between Indian cities and to other planets.