Staff Reporter

It will collate information on Indian ecology

About 400 text entries have been planned

CHENNAI: Children may soon have an interesting learning tool covering areas such as culture, ecology and history. The idea of Encyclopaedia Indica Kids, an open source encyclopaedia came to the director of the National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai, M.D. Muthukumaraswamy when he wondered what to teach his two young children.

“The children of my relatives cannot tell the difference between Korean grass and paddy, cannot identify even ten trees and don’t know how to interact with animals,” he said. The project, that aims to collect information on Indian ecology as understood in Indian folk art and belief and as classified in science for presentation in a child-friendly format, stems from this concern.

The roots of the idea date back to a visit to a toy shop to pick up toys for relative’s children. “The first thing I saw was guns, tanks and other replicas of items of warfare. Whether to buy a gun or not became an existential question,” he recalls.

First, the centre organised a toy workshop to develop ‘friendly toys’. Next, the need arose to put together a compendium of interesting folk toys. The organising principle for this could only be ecology — most tribal and folk stories are centred on animals, birds and trees, he said.

Folk artists across the country have already begun sending in paintings in the characteristic folk traditions of their State. Animated sequences with this art have also been planned, ‘to introduce children to the non-realistic visual language of folk culture’, Mr. Muthukumaraswamy said.

About 400 text entries have been planned for the encyclopaedia. The first 100 would be ecological concepts in both native beliefs and science. Another 100 each have been allotted to trees, animals and birds. More information is available at www.encyclopaediaindica.