The first two congresses were held respectively in I.I.T. Powai, Mumbai in 1993 and Anna University, Chennai in 1995. This 3rd congress was held in the Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi in 1998. It was the first ever national event which saw the formulation of the idea of lokavidya. PPST Foundation was the chief organizer of all the three congresses.
The congresses were mainly constituted of plenary on important themes, parallel sessions on a large number of subjects and an exhibition of crafts and practices deriving from Indian tradition. Each one of the congresses was a five day long event with about thousand to fifteen hundred participants. These were truly national events, participants coming from all over the country.
The essential idea of the congresses was to challenge the ostensive monopoly of modern western science in the field of knowledge, with the claims that it was the only universal, value free and legitimate science. The congresses put together a rich body of data on Indian theories and living practices in the fields of agriculture, health, forestry, industry, metal work, textile, architecture, theoretical sciences, and many other allied fields in support of its claims and the challenge it purported to erect. The claim of the Congresses was that there are other civilizational experiences (for instance Indian) in the field of knowledge which are as valid as any other.
The 3rd congress held at the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Varuna in Varanasi had the special feature that it brought into the Congress large numbers of peasants, artisans and women, through their conferences and through the organization of the local market. Lokavidya was the chief theme of the Congress weaving the variety of events with a (in)visible thread. That is why it was called Lokavidya Mahadhiveshan focusing on knowledge that is not derived from the universities or from scriptures or texts. This gave it a forward looking creative touch, for lokavidya was understood as being renewed everyday by people’s genius depending on their needs and based on their experiences.
Lokavidya Mahadhiveshan marks the beginning of a process of assertion by the subaltern classes in the world of knowledge. It marks the beginning of a claim for equality between various traditions of knowledge, modern science included. It marks the beginning of a new political imagination in which the power of the people flows from their own knowledge, lokavidya. It marks the beginning of a knowledge politics that articulates the lokavidya standpoint as the standpoint of the people in the Age of Information.