Soaring in the vernacular

Bangalore’s premier lab, the NAL propagates and encourages science learning in Kannada in rural areas,

Published: 14th September 2013 10:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th September 2013 10:13 AM   |  A+A-


If well known Indian scientists like Aryabhata, Bhaskara, Susruta and Nobel Laureates like Rabindranath Tagore learnt in the vernacular, so why can’t the masses of today, question a group of scientists from the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) at Bangalore. One of the most prestigious science labs of our country to be set up under CSIR of the Ministry of the Science & Technology, it is in the forefront of encouraging science through the vernacular.

An organisation with a scientific temper needs both art and culture and NAL has shown the way through its Kannada Samskrutika Sangha which was set up four decades back. Over the years, this has become a big platform for its scientists to express in the vernacular. Senior scientists and directors have assiduously promoted the growth of Kannada language in NAL. Presently, the organisation has 35-40 per cent Kannadigas on its rolls.

“In fact, there is a good fusion of science and art in our lab. All Jnanpith awardees from Karnataka have been associated with NAL and they have supported the growth and development of Kannada language in the scientific circles. Rich interaction with stalwarts like Dr D V Gundappa, C V Raman and Sir M Visveswaraya as well as moving in those circles lead to the idea of starting a science journal in the vernacular which was very natural,” opines Dr G N Dayananda, Chief Scientist, Centre for Societal Missions and Special Technologies and President of the Kannada Samskrithika Sangha.

The hoary past

The Kannada Samskrutika Sangha of CSIR-NAL was established in 1971, mainly as a cultural organization. Apart from cultural activities, the Sangha has taken active steps to popularise science among students and the general public. In 1975, it decided to bring out an annual Science journal in Kannada titled Kanaada. It was named after the visionary Indian sage and material scientist, Kanaada who lived between 100BC-100 AD and is credited with enunciating the first principles of atomic theory and even today chemistry books have references to this scientist on this issue.

Thirty ninth in the pipeline and still going strong, the journal is subsidized and priced at Rs 50 and 2000 copies are printed every year.

Out of this, 500 are distributed free in 500 government schools of Karnataka to popularise science amongst the student community, whose medium of education is still largely in the vernacular. This also inspires them to choose a career in science. NAL receives a grant of Rs 50,000 for the publication of this journal.

“Every year, we invite students to write for our journal and there is an overwhelming response. Every journal has articles from NAL scientists about the recent developments and it has become a well established medium for communication for rural students, says

Dr S T Aruna, Principal Scientist, Surface Engineering Division and Editor of the journal.

Enthusiastic participation

“Last year, we received 100 articles from different districts and ultimately only nine were selected after peer review for publication. Apart from this, we have invited articles by well known writers like Dr. Na Someswara, Dr. Haldodderi Sudheendra and Prof Radhakrishna. The literacy level being high in Dakshin Kannada, we get more articles from Mangalore apart from Bellary, Sringeri, Mysore and Bangalore,” adds Dr Dayananda.

Says H V Ramachandra, Principal Technical Officer, Advanced Composites Division and Secretary of the Sangha, “If we have to reach the masses, scientific developments should be propagated through the mother tongue. As it is education in the rural areas till the 10th standard is in Kannada medium.”

Love for Kannada

Outside Bangalore, there is lot of interest for science propagation through Kannada.

“We participate in Kannada Vignana sammelanas so that the journal can be propagated and sold in these sessions, stresses Ramachandra and adds that the first Vignan Sammelana was held at NAL in 2005 while this year, it will be held in Bagalkot.

It is a total misconception that science cannot be learnt in the vernacular as countries like Israel, France, Russia, China and Japan do their learning in their mother tongue rather than English.

“The response is visible in the increasing number of articles we receive in Kannada and it is very tough for us to filter and select it as the quality of writing is very good,” says Dr S T Aruna.

Apart from this, senior directors of the lab and senior scientists have written and contributed to the sangha and the journal. A galaxy of scientists like Prof R Narasimha, Prof C N Rao, Dr U R Rao, V R Katti and a host of literary personalities have lent their wit and wisdom to the journal.

The last decade has seen a revival of the Kannada language and now, Dr Dayananda feels that because of Kannada TV channels, there has been a grand revival of the language and the pride in their own language has been re-discovered by the locals again.

Interesting incident

Relating a humorous incident from the 1980s, Ramachandra said that once they had taken 200 journals to Mysore which was sold out like hot cakes.

Having no mobile phone or any other mode of communication during those days, they decided to use the telegram for a non-emergency purpose but devising the telex to suit the occasion. They sent a telegram to their office saying : Kanaada expired; Start immediately. However, within the shortest possible time, in the next bus, they received a consignment of 100 more journals from their office. The cultural programmes of the Sangha, which is a platform for NAL employees to showcase their talent in their mother tongue, has also witnessed the participation of famous Kannada icons like Dr Raj Kumar, Anant Nag, Master Hirennaya and a host of literary and film personalities.

Presently, NAL is launching its Kannada website where all articles from the journal are in the process of being uploaded on : http/


Scientific invite

Kannada Samskrutika Sangha of CSIR-NAL invites scientific articles for their annual essay competition to be published in their 39th issue of Kanaada magazine. The competition will be held for high school students, college students and general public. The articles can be related to the following areas: aerospace and aeronautics, biotechnology, chemistry,physics, medicine, information technology, environmental science, metallurgy, defence, bio-diversity of the Himalayan range, recent inventions in medicine and aerospace, biography of an eminent scientist including his contribution, natural calamities and technologies to combat them.The authors of the best two or three articles from each category will be awarded  during the Kannada Rajyotsava day celebrations at CSIR-NAL. The last date for receiving the articles is 25th September 2013. The articles may be sent by post or E-mail to the following address: Dr. S.T. Aruna, Editor of Kanaada, Surface Engineering Division, CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories, P.B. No. 1779, Bangalore-560 017. E-mail :

Student’s contribution

An interesting bit of information that the three scientists shared with City Express was that Dr Na Someswara who had been associated with the journal since his childhood is a well known science writer and host of the popular Kannada programme That antha heli on Chandana channel. A regular writer as a student and hailing from an inaccessible area, NAL took the trouble of locating him and rewarding him for his writings. He still continues to write for the journal but as an invited writer. The journal has seen articles on Planet Mars by S Kaustubha Bharadwaj from Bellary who is studying in 6th standard at the Bal Bharati School. Others include : software engineers Shilpa and Shweta Jois now settled in the US who were regular contributors.


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