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Old December 7th, 2012, 04:54 AM   #1
Joined: Nov 2012
Posts: 2,253
Ancient and Medieval achievements of the Indians

This is in response to Okamido's request for references and citations for Indian scientific, technological and philosophical achievements. I have attempted to compile as many direct references and citations I can, so this would prove a useful resource for historians to reference Indian achievements in various areas. I will try to keep my own commentaries to the absolute minimum in order to keep this as neutral as possible.

The aim of this article is to demonstrate that India enjoyed a status in ancient and medieval India of what we would today call a "superpower" In terms of economic power, influence, culture and science and technology. It played a pivotal role in shaping ancient civilization, but unfortunately due to Eurocentric representations of history we do not learn about this, which I am sure all will agree after seeing this thread needs to be immediately addressed.

It must be understood that the accepted dates are controversial, because there are two chronologies of India:

1) Long chronology(LC): Based on India's own indigenous records
2) Short chronology(SC): Based on Western historians reconstruction of
Indian chronology

I will present both the LC and SC so we get both perspectives.

1.0 Civic and social life
1.1. Civil and human rights
1.2. Women's rights
1.3. Animal rights
1.4. Environmental rights

2.0 Education system
2.1. The world first universities and international universities
2.3. Medieval education

3.0 Medical system
3.1 The world's first public hospitals and clinics
3.2 Scientific classification of medicine, departments and sub departments
3.3. Scientific classification of diseases
3.4. Scientific classification of drugs
3.5. Scientific classification of plants and animals
3.6. Medical theories

4.0 The first philosophical literature
4.1 The speculations in the Rig Veda
4.2. The speculations in the Upansiahds
4.3. The development of formal methods of inquiry

5.0 The pure sciences
5.1. The first scientific method discussed
5.2. The atomic sciences
5.3. Quantum sciences
5.4. Psychological science
5.5. Linguistic sciences
5.6. Aeshestic/dramatic sciences
5.7. Science of prosody and meter

6.0. Technology/Applied sciences
6.1. Industrial production and sectors
6.2. Chemistry
6.3. Corrosion resistant wrought iron
6.4. Shipbuilding and navigation
6.5. Mechanical technology

7.0 Mathematics
7.1. Basic level mathematics, the invention of algebra and geometry and the decimal system
7.2. Intermeditate level mathematics, the invention of trigonometry and other intermediate levels maths(quadratic, simple and high order equations etc)
7.3. Advanced level mathematics, the invention of differential and integration calculus

1. Civic and social life

The earliest evidence we have of Indian civic and social life is the Indus Valley archaeological remains dating to the 3rd millenium BCE, with its mature phase in the mid 2nd millenium BCE. Here we find the worlds first deliberately designed, planned and managed cities, with nothing of comparable sophistication seen perhaps until modern times. The cities were divided into two levels: higher and lower. The higher levels were artificially raised where the important buildings were located like assembly halls, religious buildings, admin quarters etc. The lower level was on level ground where the civilian population was situated. The lower level was laid out neatly on a square grid with wide roads 30m long which met at right angles. The squares formed was where the civilian houses were built; each house was built of standardized mud bricks, had a drinking well, a bathroom with a sitting toilet, a kitchen and a spacious courtyard. Some houses were multiple stories suggesting different levels of wealth. They were all connected to a central city drainage and sewage disposal system through an indoor plumbing system(1).

The level of urban sophistication of the Indus valley people raises some very curious questions, they are living in almost modern like housing estates and cities planned to the sophistication of modern day New York. How advanced were they? There is clear proof here of a highly urbanized people with a centralized administration, suggesting advanced civic and social life. The society is a middle class society suggested by the uniformity of housing and basic amenities almost everyone had. That each house had a bathroom and and drainage system suggests high levels of hygiene.

The earliest Indian literature we have dealing with civil administration is Kautaliyas Arthashastra(LC: 1500-1400BCE; SC: 400-300BCE) The Arthashastra was the standard textbook of state craft, economics, politics of the regal class in India, and was taught at ancient Indian universities. Kautaliya, its author, was then said to be the professor of politics and economics at Taxila university and personal advisor to emperor Chandragupta Mauyraya. The Arthashastra contains explicit laws on civil, human, women, animal and envirommental rights.(2)

I will produce a few excerpts from the text on the specific rights and the fines and punishments metered due to violation.

1.1. Civil and human rights

Among abusive expressions relating to the body, habits, learning, occupation, or nationalities, that of calling a deformed man by his right name such as ‘the blind’, ‘the lame’, etc. shall be punished with a fine of 3 panas; and by false name 6 panas. If the blind, the lame, etc., are insulted with such ironical expressions as ‘a man of beautiful eyes’, ‘a man of beautiful teeth’, etc. the fine shall be 12 panas. Likewise when a person is taunted for leprosy, lunacy, impotency and the like. Abusive expressions in general, no matter whether true, false, or reverse with reference to the abused, shall be punished with fines ranging above 12 panas, in the case of persons of equal rank. If persons abused happen to be of superior rank, the amount of the fines shall be doubled; if of lower rank, it shall be halved. For calumniating the wives of others, the amount of the fines shall be doubled.
If a person intimidates another by using such expressions as ‘I shall render thee thus’, the bravado shall be punished with half as much fine as will be levied on him who actually does so.

If a person, being unable to carry his threat into effect, pleads provocation, intoxication, or loss of sense as his excuse, he shall be fined 12 panas.

If a person capable to do harm and under the influence of enmity intimidates another, he shall be compelled to give life-long security for the well-being of the intimidated.

Defamation of one's own nation or village shall be punished with the first amercement; that of one's own caste or assembly with the middlemost; and that of gods or temples (chaitya) with the highest amercement.
Consumer rights:
A merchant refusing to give his merchandise that he has sold shall be punished with a fine of 12 panas, unless the merchandise is naturally bad, or is dangerous, or is intolerable.

Time for rescission of a sale is one night for merchants; 3 nights for cultivators; 5 nights for herdsmen; and with regard to the sale or barter of precious things and articles of mixed qualities (vivrittivikraye), 7 nights.
A person who attempts to return an article purchased by him shall if the article is other than what is naturally bad, or is dangerous, or is intolerable, be punished with a fine of 12 panas. The same rescission rules that apply to a seller shall apply to the purchaser also.

Minor assault
When a person touches with hand, mud, ashes or dust the body of another person below the naval, he shall be punished with a fine of 3 panas; with some but unclean things, with the leg, or spittle, 6 panas; with saliva (Chhardi), urine, faeces, etc. 12 panas. If the same offence is committed above the navel, the fines shall be doubled; and on the head, quadrupled. If the same offence is committed on persons of superior rank, the fines shall be twice as much: and on persons of lower rank, half of the above fines. If the same offence is committed on the women of others, the fines shall be doubled.If the offence is due to carelessness, intoxication, or loss of sense, the fines shall be halved. For catching hold of a man by his legs, clothes, hands or hair, fines ranging above 6 panas shall be imposed. Squeezing, rounding with arms, thrusting, dragging, or sitting over the body of another person shall be punished with the first amercement.
Major assault:
Beating a person almost to death, though without causing blood, breaking the hands, legs, or teeth, tearing off the ear or the nose, or breaking open the flesh of a person except in ulcers or boils shall be punished with the first amercement. Causing hurt in the thigh or the neck, wounding the eye, or hurting so as to impede eating, speaking, or any other bodily movements shall not only be punished with the middlemost amercement, but also be made liable to the payment (to the sufferer) of such compensation as is necessary to cure him.
Credit and debtor rights:

Charging too much interest
AN interest of a pana and a quarter per month per cent is just. Five panas per month per cent is commercial interest (vyávaháriki). Ten panas per month per cent prevails among forests. Twenty panas per month per cent prevails among sea-traders (sámudránám). Persons exceeding, or causing to exceed the above rate of interest shall be punished with the first amercement; and hearers of such transactions shall each pay half of the above fine.

A creditor who sues for four times the amount lent by him shall pay a fine of four times the unjust amount.
Interest free credit, in special circumstances
Interest on debts due from persons who are engaged in sacrifices taking a long time (dírghasatra), or who are suffering from disease, or who are detained in the houses of their teachers (for learning), or who are either minors or too poor, shall not accumulate.
Workers rights:
A servant neglecting or unreasonably putting off work for which he has received wages shall be fined 12 panas and be caught-hold of till the work is done. He who is incapable to turn out work, or is engaged to do a mean job, or is suffering from disease, or is involved in calamities shall be shown some concession or allowed to get the work done by a substitute. The loss incurred by his master or employer owing to such delay shall be made good by extra work.

An employer not taking work from his labourer or an employee not doing his employers work shall be fined 12 panas. An employee who has received wages to do a certain work which is however, not brought to termination shall not, of his own accord, go elsewhere for work.
My preceptor holds that not taking work on the part of an employer from his employee when the latter is ready, shall be regarded as work done by the labourer.But Kautilya objects to it; for wages are to be paid for work done, but not for work that is not done. If an employer, having caused his labourer to do a part of work, will not cause him to do the rest for which the latter may certainly be ready, then also the unfinished portion of the work has to be regarded as finished. But owing to consideration of changes that have occurred in time and place or owing to bad workmanship of the labourer, the employer may not be pleased with what has already been turned out by the labourer. Also the workman may, if unrestrained, do more than agreed upon and thereby cause loss to the employer.
Workers wages decided by work done
Cultivators or merchants shall, either at the end or in the middle of their cultivation or manufacture, pay to their labourers as much of the latter's share as is proportional to the work done. If the labourers, giving up work in the middle, supply substitutes, they shall be paid their wages in full. But when commodities are being manufactured, wages shall be paid out according to the amount of work turned out; for such payment does not affect the favourable or unfavourable results on the way (i.e., in the sale of merchandise by peddlars).
A healthy person who deserts his company after work has been begun shall be fined 12 panas; for none shall, of his own accord, leave his company. Any person who is found to have neglected his share of work by stealth shall be shown mercy (abhayam) for the first time and given a proportional quantity of work anew with promise of proportional share of earnings as well. In case of negligence for a second time or of going elsewhere, he shall be thrown out of the Company (pravásanam). If he is guilty of a glaring offence (maháparádhe), he shall be treated as the condemned.
1.2. Women's rights:

Property rights:
Means of subsistence (vritti) or jewellery (ábadhya) constitutes what is called the property of a woman. Means of subsistence valued at above two thousand shall be endowed (on her name). There is no limit to jewellery. It is no guilt for the wife to make use of this property in maintaining her son, her daughter-in-law or herself whenever her absent husband has made no provision for her maintenance. In calamities, disease and famine, in warding off dangers and in charitable acts, the husband, too, may make use of this property.
Rights to inheritance of husband property and remarriage:
On the death of her husband a woman, desirous to lead a pious life, shall at once receive not only her endowment and jewellery (sthápyábharanam), but also the balance of súlka due to her. If both of these two things are not actually in her possession, though nominally given to her, she shall at once receive both of them together with interest (on their value.) If she is desirous of a second marriage (kutumbakáma), she shall be given on the occasion of her remarriage (nivesakále) whatever either her father-in-law or her husband or both had given to her. The time at which women can remarry shall be explained in connection with the subject of long sojourn of husbands. If a widow marries any man other than of her father-in-law's selection (svasuraprátilo- myenanivishtá), she shall forfeit whatever had been given to her by her father-in-law and her husband.

The kinsmen (gnátis) of a woman shall return to her whatever property of her own she had placed in their custody. Whoever justly takes a woman under his protection shall equally protect her property. No woman shall succeed in her attempt to establish her title to the property of her husband.
Rights to maintanance benefits:
A woman who has a right to claim maintenance for an unlimited period of time shall be given as much food and clothing (grásacchádana) as is necessary for her or more than is necessary in proportion to the income of the maintainer (yatha-purushaparivápam vá). If the period (for which such things are to be given to her) is limited, then a certain amount of money fixed in proportion to the income of the maintainer shall be given to her; so also if she has not been given her sulka, property, and compensation (due to her for allowing her husband to remarry). If after parting with her husband, she places herself under the protection of any one belonging to her father-in-law’s family (svasrakula), or if she begins to live independently, then her husband shall not be sued for (for her maintenance). Thus the determination of maintenance is dealt with.
Rights to divorce and on accusations of adultery:
A woman, who hates her husband, who has passed the period of seven turns of her menses, and who loves another shall immediately return to her husband both the endowment and jewellery she has received from him, and allow him to lie down with another woman. A man, hating his wife, shall allow her to take shelter in the house of a mendicant woman, or of her lawful guardians or of her kinsmen. If a man falsely accuses his wife of adultery with one of her or his kinsmen or with a spy--an accusation which can only be proved by eyewitnesses (drishtilinge)--or falsely accuses her of her intention to deprive him of her company, he shall pay a fine of 12 panas.
Cruelty to women:
Women of refractive nature shall be taught manners by using such general expressions as ‘Thou, half naked; thou, fully naked; thou, cripple; thou, fatherless; thou, motherless, (nagne vinagne nyange pitrke matrke vinagne ityanirdesena vinayagrahanam). Or three beats either with a bamboo-bark or with a rope or with the palm of the hand may be given on her hips. Violation of the above rules shall be liable to half the punishment levied for defamation and criminal hurt. The same kind of punishment shall be meted out to a woman who, moved with jealousy or hatred, shows cruelty to her husband. Punishments for engaging in sports at the door of, or outside her husband's house shall be as dealt with elsewhere. Thus cruelty to women is dealt with.
Neglected or abandoned women:
Wives who belong to Súdra, Vaisya, Kshatriya or Bráhman caste, and who have not given birth to children should wait as long as a year for their husbands who have gone abroad for a short time; but if they are such as have given birth to children, they should wait for their absent husbands for more than a year. If they are provided with maintenance, they should wait for twice the period of time just mentioned. If they are not so provided with, their well-to-do gnátis should maintain them either for four or eight years. Then the gnátis should leave them to marry after taking what had been presented to them on the occasion of their marriages. If the husband is a Bráhman, studying abroad, his wife who has no issue should wait for him for ten years; but if she has given birth to children, she should wait for twelve years. If the husband is of Kshatriya caste, his wife should wait for him till her death; but even if she bears children to a savarna husband, (i.e., a second husband belonging to the same gotra as that of the former husband) with a view to avoid the extinction of her race, she shall not be liable to contempt thereof (savarnatascha prajátá ná pavádam labheta). If the wife of an absent husband lacks maintenance and is deserted by well-to-do gnátis, she may remarry one whom she likes and who is in a position to maintain her and relieve her misery.
1.3. Animal rights

Animal cruelty:
For causing pain with sticks, etc., to minor quadrupeds one or two panas shall be levied; and for causing blood to the same, the fine shall be doubled. In the case of large quadrupeds, not only double the above fines, but also an adequate compensation necessary to cure the beasts shall be levied.
Punishment for killing certain animals:
Whoever kills an elephant shall be put to death.
WHEN a person entraps, kills, or molests deer, bison, birds, and fish which are declared to be under State protection or which live in forests under State-protection (abhayáranya), he shall be punished with the highest amercement.

When a person entraps, kills, or molests either fish or birds that do not prey upon other animals, he shall be fined 26¾ panas; and when he does the same to deer and other beasts, he shall be fined twice as much.
State protection of certain animals:
One-sixth of live animals such as birds and beasts shall be let off in forests under State-protection.
Elephants, horses or animals having the form of a man, bull or an ass living in oceans as well as fish in tanks, lakes, channels and rivers; and such game-birds as krauncha (a kind of heron), utkrosaka (osprey), dátyúha (a sort of cuckoo), hamsa (flamingo), chakraváka (a brahmany duck), jivanjívaka (a kind of pheasant), bhringarája (Lanius Malabaricus), chakora (partridge), mattakokila (cuckoo), peacock, parrot, and maina (madanasárika) as well as other auspicious animals, whether birds or beasts, shall be protected from all kinds of molestations.

Those who violate the above rule shall be punished with the first amercement.

All cattle shall be supplied with abundance of fodder and water.

Whoever hurts or causes another to hurt, or steals or causes another to steal a cow, should be slain.

Cowherds shall apply remedies to calves or aged cows or cows suffering from diseases.

Cowherds shall allow their cattle to enter into such rivers or lakes as are of equal depth all round, broad, and free from mire and crocodiles, and shall protect them from dangers under such circumstances.

Veterinary surgeons shall apply requisite remedies against undue growth or diminution in the body of horses and also change the diet of horses according to changes in seasons.

When, owing to defects in medicine or carelessness in the treatment, the disease (from which a horse is suffering) becomes intense, a fine of twice the cost of the treatment shall be imposed; and when, owing to defects in medicine, or not administering it, the result becomes quite the reverse, a fine equal to the value of the animal (patramúlya) shall be imposed.

The same rule shall apply to the treatment of cows, buffaloes, goats, and sheep.
1.4. Environmental rights
cutting off the tender sprouts of fruit-trees, flower-trees or shady trees in the parks near a city, a fine of 6 panas shall be imposed; for cutting off the minor branches of the same trees, 12 panas; and for cutting off the big branches, 24 panas shall be levied. Cutting off the trunks of the same shall be punished with the first amercement; and felling the same shall be punished with the middle-most amercement.

In the case of plants which bear flowers, fruits, or provide shade, half of the above fines shall be levied.

The same fines shall be levied in the case of trees that have grown in places of pilgrimage, forests of hermits, or cremation or burial grounds.

For similar offences committed in connection with the trees which mark boundaries, or which are worshipped or observed (chaityeshválakshiteshucha,) or trees which are grown in the king's forests, double the above fines shall be levied.
In conclusion:

A very high and advanced civic and social life is evident. The governments and its administration seems be very fair, ecological and equalitarian. It is worth pointing out that this kind of civil administration is more or less close to modern governance, it would be interesting to do a comparative study of the Indian system of administration and other ancient systems to see how they compare.


1.Indus Valley - Town Planning
2.Kautilya Arthashastra - Chanakya Arthashastra

Last edited by Joshua A; December 7th, 2012 at 06:01 AM.
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Old December 7th, 2012, 05:16 AM   #2
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By the way it will take me a while before I compile and complete the whole things, so feel free to post here, discuss, debate
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Old December 7th, 2012, 05:40 AM   #3

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Very interesting, Joshua.
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Old December 7th, 2012, 05:58 AM   #4

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Oh nice
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Old December 7th, 2012, 06:30 AM   #5
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this is what I appreciate as Joshua has not made a single claim which is wrong.

Indian civilization was very great but lacked in some essential mechanics which do not undermine indian achievements in other fields.
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Old December 7th, 2012, 08:33 AM   #6
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I may add that we also had our own Vienna convention as in arthasastra even soldiers who have laid down arms are immune leave alone non combatants.

and this by some 2270 years before the treaty on conduct of war.

which civilization can boast of such a humane rule for warfare ?
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Old December 7th, 2012, 08:57 AM   #7

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Well done Joshua. It is a humongous task to compile all the material. I will look at your posts when I will get some more time.
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Old December 7th, 2012, 09:41 AM   #8

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One needs infinite patience to do this ! And I wish I could give you mine too[ which is paltry , of course ] to help prepare such a lucidly composed post
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Old December 7th, 2012, 10:33 AM   #9
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Thank you everybody I will write the new installment/s by tomorrow(UK time) Please feel free to share your own contributions.

I may add that we also had our own Vienna convention as in arthasastra even soldiers who have laid down arms are immune leave alone non combatants.
Excellent, thank you for that.

I have a question that I am sure the learned members on this forum will know about, were there political rights, like right to vote, right to choose king? I understand India had its own peculiar democratic system, but don't know too much about it - so please fill me in

Last edited by Joshua A; December 7th, 2012 at 10:38 AM.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 03:42 PM   #10
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2.0 Education system

The Education system forms the fundamental pillar of Indian civilization, in fact in my opinion if we had to highlight the most fundamental features of Indian civilization, that would be the value of education, the love of knowledge, learning and wisdom. While, ancient societies like Greece, Mesopotamia, China, Persia and Egypt also had traditions of knowledge and scholarship, what makes India's Vedic - meaning "knowledge-based" society - especially distinct, is knowledge and learning itself has become a religion, knowledge has risen to and even replaced the role of God. in a way you can say knowledge is God and the learner is the Devotee. Knowledge has been elevated to the infinite, made sanctimonious and given divine sanction. As early as the Rigveda we find explicit injunction and encouragement to study: If one human being was superior to another it is not because they have an extra hand or eye, but education has sharpened his mind and intellect and rendered him more efficient(RV.X.717) This is the reason why we do not see any distinction between religion, science, philosophy and arts in Indian civilization, they are all recognized as knowledge and go hand in hand.

The Sanskrit language has various words for knowledge which strongly overlap, but contain a subtle nuance which slightly differentiates its meaning. There is jnana which is cognate with the word gnosis. Jnana is called the highest knowledge or paravidya This type of knowledge is knowledge which has been spiritually realized, deeply experienced. This knowledge cannot be obtained from books, from instructions or through observation and logic but it is realized within, even though the former are required to precipitate it. Other classes of knowledge are broadly classified as mundane knowledge or aparavidya and are called vijnana meaning scientific and analytic knowledge learned from books, instructions, observation and logic.(1)

The knowledge content:

Vidya: Vidya literally means science, but the world contains a subtle nuance denoting a knowledge which has been acquired through study. There are 14 types of vidyas recognized(includes the auxiliary Vedic sciences known as vedangas, comprising the first six) (2)
1. The science of proper articulation and pronunciation (shiksha)
2. Science of rituals, ritual construction, gemoetry (kalpa)
3. Grammar (vyakaran)
4. Etymology(nirukta)
5. Astrology/Astronomy (jyotiish)
6. The science of prosody (Chandas)
7. The Rugveda
8. The Yajurveda
9. The Samaveda
10. The Atharvaveda
11. Hermenutics(of the Vedas)
12. Logic and epistemology(Nyaya)
13. History
14. Jurisprudence and Law
While 14 are recognized as the main vidyas, there are sub-classees of vidyas like Mathematics(Ganit vidya) Material sciences(Vaastu vidya). There is also a class of spiritual instruction called Brahma-vidya and Atma vidya, meaning the science of God and the soul respectively.

Kalas: Kalas are often translated as art, however the translation art is not 100% accurate as one would not consider some of these arts like mechanical engineering, gemology, mineralogy. The correct translation then would be practical or applied sciences. There are various list of kalas enumerating 18 to 64 kalas(note some lists differ). (2) They are:
1. Vocal music/singing
2. Instrumental music
3. Dance
4. Acting
5. Painting
6. Making emblems
7. Making garlands and other creations with flowers
8. Artwork for bed making, laying flowers on the bed
9. Artwork for bedspreads
10. Body Aesthetics
11. House decoration/interior design
12. Making musical instruments operated by water (such as the jalataranga, for instance)
13. Making sound effects in water/art of splashing in water
14. Costume and fashion design
15. Making pearl necklaces
16. Hair styling
17. Art of dressing
18. Making ear ornaments
19. Flower decoration
20. Food styling
21. Conjourng/slight of hand
22. Landscaping
23. Manicure
24. Cooking
25. Making drinks
26. Sewing
27. Making nets
28. Solving and creating riddles
29. Reciting poems/Poetry
30. Discoursing on epics and poetical works
31. Reading
32. Enacting short plays and anecdotes
33. Completing verses left unfinished (samasya) by others as a challenge
34. Making cane furniture
35. Carpentry
36. Debate
37. Architecture
38. Assessing gold and gems/Gemology
39. Metallurgy
40. Cutting and polishing diamonds
41. Searching for ore/Minerology
42. Special knowledge of trees and plants
43. Cock fighting
44. Interpreting the songs of birds
45. Aromatherapy and Massage
46. Hair care
47. Sign language
48. Learning foreign languages
49. Scholarship in local languages
50. Predicting the future
51. Mechanical engineering
52. Strengthening memory power
53. Learning by ear
54. Instantaneous verse-making
55. Decisiveness in action
56. Pretense
57. Prosody
58. Preserving clothes
59. Gambling
60. Playing dice
61. Playing with children/daycare
62. Rules of respectful behavior
63. Art of storytelling and entertaining, (like bards and minstrels)
64. Grasping the essence of subjects.
Shastra: Shastra means a body of knowledge or systematic knowledge based on general principles and laws. Shastra and Vidya are almost synonymous terms and sometimes used interchangeably, except shastra contains the subtle nuance of a knowledge based on a accumulated body of verified knowledge and thus carry authority. There are numerous shastras recognized, here are just a few:(3)
Architectural and construction(Shipa shastra)
Cooking and recipies(Supa Shastra)
Chemistry(Rasayana shastra)
Biology(Jeeva shastra)
Physics(Bhutika shastra)
Politcs and economics(Arthashastra)

Upa-Vedas: Upa-Vedas means the major branches of the Vedas, there are four upa-vedas:(2)
2. Military science(Dhanurveda)
3. Aesthetics, music, arts, drama(Ghandarveda)
4. Architecture and engineering (Sthapatyaveda)
Darsanas: Darsanas will be covered in much greater detail in section 5 later. The word darsana is often translated as philosophy, but this is inaccurate, because the actual word means perspective, vision or worldview and is closer to the modern concept of "theory" Darsanas are not just speculation or conjectures, but are rational systems based on a worldview derived using observation and reasoning. There are 6 Vedic worldviews(astika) and 3 non-vedic worldviews(nastika)

Nyaya: The worldview of the logician
Vaiseshika: The worldview of the naturalist/physicist
Samkhya: The worldview of the metaphysicist(quantum, this will be explained in section 5)
Yoga: The worldview of the psychologist
Mimassa and Vedanta: The worldview of the linguist and theologian
Non Vedic:
Buddhism: The worldview of the phenomenologist
Jain: The worldview of the relativist
Chavaka: The worldview of the materialist
The study of all the darsanas was encouraged in the education system in order to teach the students to appreciate and understand all possible perspectives on reality and their rationale. They were also important because they formed the theoretical core of the other sciences e.g. Nyaya-Vaiseshika and Samkhya were considered essential in medicine(this is because Indian medicine is based on the scientific method of Nyaya, the classification schemes of Vaiseshika, and the metaphysics of Samkhya)

Summary of the knowledge taught in the Indian education system:

1. 14 Vidyas
2. 64 kalas
3. Numerous shastras
4. 4 Upa-Vedas
5. 9 Darsanas

Note: The number of vidyas etc is not fixed, the number is only a practical tool of enumeration, in reality there are numerous classes and subclasses. The general gist that we get is virtually all the sciences, arts and crafts were taught in the system.

The ideal of education was the student to master every science, art and craft - to literally become a knower of everything. This profound love for learning was deeply inculcated into the Indian mind by the Vedic religion. Now, surely it seems implausible that one could master even three sciences in a single lifetime, let alone all of them. How could the Indian student cope with so much learning? In order to understand this we need to take a look at the methods of education.

2.1 Ancient History of the Education system: The worlds first universities and educational institutes

The Gurukul system:

The gurukul system is the most ancient education system in the world(SC: 1000BCE; LC: 5000BCE) The early gurukuls were forest hermitages schools where students would live with the guru/s and study the vidyas, principally the vedas and the vedangas(the first 6 of the vidyas). This evolved out of the needs of the priestly class of the brahmanas in order to preserve the vedic hymns perfectly in terms of their meter and their meaning, grammar, perform the sacrifice ceremonies correctly in terms of correct pronunciation and enunciation, correct construction of altar and auspicious timing. From this the vedangas were formed: The need for preserving the correct meter and ensuring correct transmission lead to the science of Prosody(Chanda); the need for keeping record of correct meaning of root verbs of the hymns and sentence construction lead to the science of Etymology(Nirukta) and Grammar(Vyakarna); the need for correct pronunciation and diction lead to the science of speech(Shiksha); the need for construction of the altars lead to the science of Mathematics(Kalpa) and the need for knowing auspicious timing lead to the science of Astronomy(Jyotisha).(5)

The need to ensure correct discipline, law and code of conduct lead to the science of Jurisprudence(Dharmashastra); the need for discussion, formulating a thesis, debating propositions and studying the means of knowledge lead to the science of Logic(Nyaya) and finally the need to keep records of the past lead to the science of History(Itihas-Purana)

The Upa-Vedas, which formed later is the systematic elaboration of the material contained within the Vedas itself. The science of Medicine(Ayurveda) formed out of the Atharvaveda which treats of hymns, incantations and herbal treatments for various diseases; the science of Music and arts formed out of Samaveda which deals with music and melody.

The Darsanas formed from the interpretative and philosophical interpretations of the Vedas first found appearing in the Aranyakas and then in more concrete form in the Upanishads.

In order to preserve this traditions of knowledge the gurukul system maintained an elite tradition that one could only enter if they were formally initiated into it by the guru. The vast majority were born into the class of Brahmins, but in exceptional circumstances other classes were accepted if due merit was shown. The initiation began at the age of 6-7 years with the sacred thread ceremony where the student took the vow of brahmacharya consisting of 1) Celibacy to the age of 25 or the duration of study) Obedience and service to the guru 3) Poverty, frugal and simple living 4) Sense control.(5) The guru/s played a pivotal role in the life of the student, acting both as a teacher, guide, parent and spiritual figure. Thus the guru's role was crucial in shaping the student's life, character and values. The student-teacher relationship itself became an institution and a major value in defining the ideal teacher, student and their relationship in Indian ethos.(5)

The aim of Indian system of education was not just to teach knowledge, but to culture and develop the students character, memory, concentration and other faculties and physical and emotional fitness. So education also included the practice of Yoga and meditation and rendering service(karma yoga) to the guru and doing errands to help run the school. It is understood that the student had to live a highly disciplined life and even beg for their alms.(4) After graduation the student would leave gurukul to return to society to start their next stage of life: housesholder - living a married life and working. However, those who were keen to study further could pursue higher education and eventually become teachers themselves.

While all gurukuls had the same common features, there were various kinds of gurukuls for the different classes and would specialize in different areas of knowledge. The Kshatriya or regal class had royal gurukuls which specialized in military sciences, politics and economics. The Vaishyas had their own had technical arts and crafts based gurukuls.

Mass-education phase:

The influence of the Srmana traditions of Jainism Buddhism and the second period of urbanization(after the IVC) staring during the Maurayan period(SC: 300BCE; LC 1300BCE) lead to the development of mass educational centers public schools and the development of the worlds first national and international universities:

Taxilashalla(SC: 600-500BCE; LC: 1800-1900BCE) is the earliest recorded institution of higher learning, which some recognize as the worlds first university(but not university in the modern sense). Taxishalla enjoyed national fame, attracting students from all over the Indian subcontinent. It was particularly noted for its school of military science and politics and economics, Kautaliya the author of the Arthashastra was said to be the professor of politics and economics. Another area it was reputed for was medicine; the famous Buddhist biology Jeeva studied here.

Nalanda(SC: 400-500AD; LC: 400-300BCE) is the world first residential and international university, comparable to the Oxford of India.Nalanda had been a more ancient higher center of learning with the Brahmins, but during the Gupta era it was expanded into a fully fledged university and mainstream center for Buddhist studies too. The complex was 1 mile long by 1 mile width, comparable to a city precinct. The central college consists of of 7 halls consisting of lecture theaters and 300 class rooms, meditation cells and a massive 9 story library housing tens of thousands of volumes of manuscripts. There were also dormitories for the students. An ancient account by a Chinese foreign student Hiuen Tsang estimates the population of students and teachers to be 10,000. A later student I-Sing predicts over 3000 students, with 1500 teachers teaching about four to six times their number. All the vidyas, kalas and upa-vedas were taught, in addition to Hinyana and Mahayana Buddhism.

Nalanda attracted students from all over India and the world, including China, Japan, Thailand, Korea, Turkey. The admission exam was very tough, Hiuen Tsang reports only about 20% of foreign students and 30% Indian students passed.

Around the same time another university Vallabhi had arisen in Western India of around same size, comparable to the Cambridge of India. Both Nalanda and Vallabhi were highly sought after by national and international students. More universities and colleges started appearing all over India right up to the 1100AD, when they were razed by the invading Mughal forces. Most notable is Nalanda fate, its library the biggest in India at the time and a repository of Indian literature was said to burn continuously for 6 months. (5,6,7)

Another type of educational institute existed in Southern India known as the agrahara, this was a Hindu institution made out of colony of Brahmin scholars living in a complex of villages, who taught any students desirous of education for free. They were supported by land grants and revenue by the kings and were empowered to administer the villages. The biggest agrahas were at Belgame, founded during theSatavahana dynasty(SC: 100-200AD; LC: 700-600BCE) and at its height the colony rose to 144 villages, teaching all the sciences and philosophies, including Buddhist and atheist studies.(6)


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