Ancient India: Cultural Aspect Temples of ancient India: Primarily carved out of rock, the ancient temples of India demonstrate the religious beliefs as well as the deft craftsmanship of an era long gone-by. While there are a number of Hindu temples scattered throughout the subcontinent, shrines dedicated to Lord Buddha are reminiscent of the diverse religious beliefs that are predominant in India. One of the most remarkable features of the ancient temples of India is their variety.
While the temple building idiom of North, South, East and West India are markedly distinguishable, the Buddhist shrines stand out as well with their kind of architectural works. These unmatched and artistic architectures of the temples in India contribute richly to the Indian cultural heritage as well. Temples are found everywhere in India irrespective of every society, in villages or in towns. The earliest temples in India are the rock cut and cave temples. These cave temples are directly cut out from the mountains.
First scooped and then engraved, they tell the stories of the unparalleled talents of the very first artist of the ancient temple architecture. These magnificent ancient temples, some of which are in ruins speak of the golden time when India was at the precursor of civilization. The Buddhist temples comprise the chaityas, pillars, viharas, etc. Most of these Buddhist temples from ancient India are to be found in North India. The Hindu temples of this region reflect the Nagara style of architecture. The architecture of the ancient Hindu temples was very peculiar as well as typical.
As far as the South Indian temples are concerned, a courtyard leads to the gopuram or gateway. The levels of the main sanctum, mandapa or hall, courtyard and gateway all are in descending order. The devotees gather in hall in large numbers to take part in the rituals and the chants. This is also the place where the dance is performed. Encircling the hall is a courtyard. Some of the courtyards have boundary walls and some are open. The garbhagriha or the sanctum is the highest as it is believed to be the chamber of the deity and the most sacred place.
A very little difference is observed to the temple architecture of ancient times. Since it is the God`s abode, all the ancient temples of India follow a common thread of design in all deviations. On the other hand, the east Indian temples from ancient India primarily followed an amalgamated style of Dravida and Nagara idioms of architecture. In India, ancient era was the time when religious practices flourished the most and the Ancient Temples of India became the storehouse of culture and knowledge.
Some of the prominent ancient temples of India regarded as the symbol of religion and faith for ages are Lepakshi Temple situated in Anantapur, Thousand Pillar Temple in Warangal, Mahabodhi Temple in Gaya, Somanth Temple in Patan, Sthaneshwar Mahadev Temple in Kurukshetra, Chamunda Devi in Kangra, Sabarimala Temple in Pathanamthitta, Dwarkadhish Temple in Dwarka, Jhakhu Temple in Shimla, Jwalamukhi Temple in Dharamshala, Amarnath Temple in Pahalgam, Raghunath Temple in Jammu, Vaishno Devi Temple in Jammu, Bull Temple in Bengaluru, Cave Temple in Badami, Guruvayoor Temple in Trichur, Tiruvalla Temple in Alappuzha, Omkareshwara Temple in Karnataka, Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneshwar, Orcha Temples in Orchcha, Ellora Caves in Aurangabad, Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Kailash Temple in Aurangabad, Mahalakshmi Temple in Kolhapur, Jagannath Temple of Puri, Mukteshwara Temple in Bhubaneshwar, etc. Jagannath Temple: Situated on the eastern coast along the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal.
Several temples have vanished or have declined in importance, the great temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri is still a living and vibrant temple. Over the centuries it has attracted kings, conquerers, religious teachers, devotees and pilgrims. In the minds of the millions of Indians, Orissa is the land of Jagannath. This temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri is one of the most sacred pilgrimage spots in India, one of the four abodes (dhamas) of the divine that lie on the four directions of the compass. The temple of Jagannath Puri is a rekha dwell with curvilinear tower on a pancha ratha plan and was built by Ananta Barma Chodaganga Dev during 12th century A. D. and was completed by Ananga Bhima Dev.
This temple is one of the tallest monuments in the country, height is about 214 feet from the ground level. It stands on an elevated platform of stone measuring about 10 acres, which is located in the heart of the down town and presents an imposing sight. The temple has four gates at the eastern, southern, western northern midpoints of the Meghanad Prachir and are called Lions gate, Horse Gate, Tiger Gate and the Elephant Gate respectively. Khajuraho Temple: The temples at Khajuraho are divided into three broad groups: The Western Group is the largest, compact and centrally located group in Khajuraho, includes some of the most prominent monuments, built by the Chandela rulers.
The Lakshmana Temple, the Matangesvara Temple and the Varaha Temple form one complex and the Visvanatha and Nandi temples are not far from this complex. The Eastern Group comprises of five detached sub-groups in and around the present village of Khajuraho. The eastern group of monuments, situated in close proximity to the Khajuraho village, includes three Brahmanical temples known as Brahma, Vamana and Javari and three Jain temples, the Ghantai, Adinath and Parsvanath. The Southern Group is the most distant one comprising of two main monuments near and across the Khudarnala. The southern group of monuments comprises the Duladeo and the Chaturbhuja temples.
The Duladeo is about a kilometre south of the Khajuraho village and half a mile southwest of the Jain group of temples. The Chaturbhuja Temple is Dance Festivalmile further south and is close to the Khajuraho airport. Omkareshwar Temple: Situated on the banks of the Narmada, Omkareshwar is one of the 12 revered Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is located at a distance of about 12 miles from Mortakka in Madhya Pradesh. The river Narmada spits into two and forms an island Mandhata or Shivapuri in the center. The shape of the island resembles that of the visual representation of the Omkara sound, Om. There are two temples here, one to Omkareshwar and one to Amareshwar. Legend has it that the Vindhya mountain prayed to Shiva – Omkareshwara and was blessed here.
Legend also has it that upon the request of the Devas, the Shivalinga split into two, one half being Omkareshwara and the other Amaleshwara or Amareshwar. King Mandhatha of the Ishvaku clan is believed to have worshiped Shiva here. The Omkareshawar temple is built in the North Indian style of architecture, with high spires. Devotees consider worship to Panchamuga Ganesha, to be very auspicious. Shri Omkar Mandhata The main temple with detailed carving in soap stone stands on a mile long and half mile island. Siddhnath Temple A frieze of elephants carved on a stone slab is the main draw of this example of early medieval Branmhatic architecture. 24 Avataras A cluster of Hindu and Jain temples in varied architecture modes. Satmatrika Temple A group of 10th century temples. Guruvayoor Temple
The Guruvayoor Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. Though the devotees worship him as Lord Krishna, the deity is that of a complete man incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu with four arms. This shrine is popularly known as the Dwaraka of south and is in the form of a rectangle. There are a lot of mural paintings around the Shrine. Being one of the most sacred and important pilgrim centres of Kerala, it is probably the only temple in the state that hosts the maximum number of marriages and rice feeding ceremony, the ritual first meal for infants. The Guru along with his disciple Vayudeva (god of air), found a place which was recommended by Lord Paramashiva.
Thus the Guru and Vayu installed this deity and Paramashiva named the place as Guruvayoor. The idol is carved out a stone called ‘Pathala Anjana Sila’ and is utmost sacred. The place selected for the installation was suitably sacred by the presence of Lord Shiva. Kornark Temple: Konark Sun Temple is located, in the state of Orissa near the sacred city of Puri. The sun Temple of Konark is dedicated to the sun God or Surya. It is a masterpiece of Orissa’s medieval architecture. UNESCO has declared Sun temple a world heritage site. The Konark temple is widely known not only for its architectural grandeur but also for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work.
The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. The Nata Mandir in front of the Jagamohana is also intricately carved. Around the base of the temple, and up the walls and roof, are carvings in the erotic style. There are images of animals, foliage, men, warriors on horses and other interesting patterns. There are three images of the Sun God, positioned to catch the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset. Lepakshi Temple: The Vijayanagar Empire caused a number of monuments to be built and patronized in the State of Andhra Pradesh.
Lepakshi is a small village, which lies nine miles east of Hindupur in Anantapur District of Andhra and is famous for its temple of Veerabhadra, and is also a renowned place where the best specimens of the mural paintings of the Vijayanagar kings are available. The flat stuccoed granite ceilings of the Vijayanagar Empire provided a suitable background for frescoes as seen at Lepakshi. This temple is a notable example of the Vijayanagar style of architecture, and is built on a low rocky hill, which is called Kurmasaila so called because the bill is like a tortoise, in shape. An inscription on the exit of the outer wall of the temple records that one Virupanna constructed it in the 16th century. Lingaraja Temple:
Situated in the ancient capital of the Kalinga empire, Bhubaneswar’s, the Lingaraja Temple is probably one of India’s most remarkable ancient, architectural achievements, with a 54-meter tower dominating the landscape. Encapsuled by high walls on all sides, the Lingaraja temple or the Bhubaneshwar is one of the most well known temples in Orissa. It is one of the best and splendoured examples of the architectural excellence, which the artists had achieved during the 11th century. The outer walls of the temple exhibit unparalled carvings. The beautifully carved and sculpted images of various God and Goddess are unrivalled. The temple complex has three compartments and each one has a temple each.
Towards south of the entrance to main temple is image of Lord Ganesha, at the back is the image of Goddess Parvati and to north is Lord Kartikya. The Lingaraja temple has got various pillars and halls which add to its beauty. Naina Devi Temple: The Goddess Naina Devi is worshipped as a single selfborn pindi. There is another pindi of Ganesha and a third established by the Pandavas. This is believed to be the ‘shakti pita’ where Sati’s eye fell. Naina means eye. The temple is also known as Mahishapitha because of it’s association with Mahishasur. This area was the capital of Mahishasur. The Sun Temple: Built in 1026 A. D. during the reign of King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty, the Sun temple is dedicated to the Sun God.
This temple, though ravaged by Mehmud of Gazni, still retains enough of it’s original structure to convey the grandeur of its conception and the superb artistry of execution. Every inch of the edifice, both outside and inside is carved magnificently with motifs of gods and goddesses, birds, beasts and flowers. Modhera is now the site of several dance and cultural festivals. The sun temple and the ambiance here provide a majestic backdrop for the exhibition of performing arts. Guruvayoor Temple The fourth biggest temple in India in terms of the number of devotees per day, Guruvayoor Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. Though the devotees worship him as Lord Krishna, the deity is that of a complete man incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu with four arms.
This shrine is popularly known as the Dwaraka of south and is in the form of a rectangle. There are a lot of mural paintings around the Shrine. The Guru along with his disciple Vayudeva (god of air), found a place which was recommended by Lord Paramashiva. Thus the Guru and Vayu installed this deity and Paramashiva named the place as Guruvayoor. The idol is carved out a stone called ‘Pathala Anjana Sila’ and is utmost sacred. The place selected for the installation was suitably sacred by the presence of Lord Shiva. Temples of Medieval India: The medieval temples of India possess varied architectural styles. The religious places and temples built at that time were symbolic of the rulers ruling during that era.
Wide-ranging in architectural style, the medieval temples offer a glance into the conglomerate society that shaped India. The structural designs of the medieval temples have a blend of many foreign countries from central Asia. Thus, it has enriched its presence and created a landmark. Whether it is north, south, east, west or central India, the temples stand out for their distinctive features. One of the most prominent north Indian temples is the Jagadamba temple in Madhya Pradesh. This is one of the most erotic shrines situated in Khajuraho, a historic town located in Madhya Pradesh. It lies in close proximity to the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple. The temple contains a striking image of Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva.
Firstly the temple was in the honour of Lord Vishnu. Decorated images of Lord Vishnu are seen in the sections of the temple. Worth mentioning is the striking mandapam which is covered by a pyramidal roof on the top. The most-discussed images of mithuna and sensuously made figures of stone are there in the Jagadamba temple. The bus station is located in the center of the town, at a distance of 2 km from the Khajuraho Airport and the nearest Railway Station, is the Khajuraho Railway Station. In the Banaskantha district of Gujarat, one will come across Ambaji temple, one of the most popular temples in West India. The deity of this temple is the Goddess Ambe Mata.
This temple is also one of the famous Shakti Peethas in India. The Goddess is a demonstration of Shiva`s wife, Parvati. Navaratri is celebrated on a large scale in this temple. A mammoth fair is organised here during this festival every year. The important characteristic of this shrine is that there is no idol of the goddess, a yantra of marble engraved at a place is worshipped. Ossian is situated at the boundary of the Thar Desert, about 65 kms north-west of Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Ossian, the once affluent city, possesses more than 100 Jain and Hindu temples of the medieval age. It is said that a Rajput prince, Utpaladeva of the Pratihara Dynasty, established the town.
It was then recognized as Ukesha or Upkeshapur. The Ossian temples are amongst the most primitive of all temples of Rajasthan of the medieval era. The former temples are very small in height, some only measuring eight feet high. From among the beautifully designed red sandstone edifices, three are devoted to Harihara- or the union of Shiva and Vishnu. Abundantly carved from their lifting plinths, pillars and right till the very summit of the spires, these temples are regarded as architectural masterpieces. On the other hand, one of the most renowned temples of eastern India is the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Kolkata. It is located at the side of the Vivekananda Bridge, north of Kolkata.
The Dakshineswar Kali Temple is renowned for its connection with Ramakrishna Paramahamsa , who attained spiritual vision at this place. Founded in 1847 by Rani Rashmoni, the 12- spired temple having its huge courtyard is encircled by 12 other temples devoted to Lord Shiva. Amongst the south Indian temples of the medieval era, Vittala Temple is the most famous. This temple is the most beautiful architectural attraction of Hampi. The temple was constructed in 15th century AD. But the preset form is due to the various enhancements done by successive kings to add to the beauty of the temple. Made in a sprawling campus form, the Vittala Temple is having gateway towers and compound wall.
There are several pavilions, halls and temples situated inside this campus. The name Vittala came from the name of the form of Lord Vishnu. The cattle herds of this part worship this form of Vishnu as their deity. The striking feature of Vittala temple is the stone chariot and notable pillared halls. The stone chariot situated within the campus is the exclusive symbol of Hampi and the halls engraved with an awesome range of sculptures on the massive granite pillars are worth a sight to see. Apart from the Hindu temples, there are various other Buddhist and Jain temples in medieval India. One of the notable Muslim places of worship in India is the Jama Masjit. This is the largest among the mosques in India.
Jama Masjid was constructed between 1644 and 1658 at the time of Shah Jahan. Made of white marble and sand stone, the mosque possesses three gateways, two minarets of 40m height and four towers. The other temples of the medieval era are Virupaksha Temple or Pampapathi temple in Hampi, Hatimura Temple in Nagaon, Sukresvara Temple in Guwahati, Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir in New Delhi, Ettumanoor Temple, Kottayam, Kerala, Rudranath Temple, Chandi Devi Temple in Haridwar, Chandi Devi Temple in Haridwar, Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai and Ossian Temples situated in Jodhpur. Achievements of Ancient India • Earliest known precise celestial calculations: Aryabhata, an Indian Mathematician (c. 00AD) accurately calculated celestial constants like earth’s rotation per solar orbit, days per solar orbit, days per lunar orbit. • Astronomical time spans: Apart from the peoples of the Mayan civilization, the ancient Hindus appear to be the only people who even thought beyond a few thousand years. Hindu scriptures refer to time scales that vary from ordinary earth day and night to the day and night of the Brahma that are a few billion earth years long. • Theory of creation of the universe: A 9th century Hindu scripture, The Mahapurana by Jinasena claims that the world is uncreated, as time itself is, without beginning and end. And it is based on principles. Earth goes round the sun: Aryabhata, it so happens, was apparently quite sceptical of the widely held doctrines about eclipses and also about the belief that the Sun goes round the Earth. As early as the sixth century, he talked of the diurnal motion of the earth and the appearance of the Sun going round it. • Binary System of number representation: A Mathematician named Pingala (c. 100BC) developed a system of binary enumeration convertible to decimal numerals. He described the system in his book called Chandahshaastra. The system he described is quite similar to that of Leibnitz, who was born in the 17th century. • Earliest and only known Modern Language: Panini (c 400BC), in his
Astadhyayi, gave formal production rules and definitions to describe Sanskrit grammar. Starting with about 1700 fundamental elements, like nouns, verbs, vowels and consonents, he put them into classes. The construction of sentences, compound nouns etc. was explained as ordered rules operating on underlying fundamental structures. • Invention of Zero: Although ancient Babylonians were known to have used what is often called “place holders” to distinguish between numbers like 809 and 89, they were nothing more than blank spaces or at times two wedge shapes like”. The first notions of zero as a number and its uses have been found in ancient Mathematical treatise from India. The word “Algorithm”: Al-Khwarizmi’s work, De numero indorum (Concerning the Hindu Art of Reckoning), was based presumably on an Arabic translation of Brahmagupta where he gave a full account of the Hindu numerals which was the first to expound the system with its digits 0,1,2,3,… ,9 and decimal place value which was a fairly recent arrival from India. The new notation came to be known as that of al-Khwarizmi, or more carelessly, algorismi; ultimately the scheme of numeration making use of the Hindu numerals came to be called simply algorism or algorithm, a word that, originally derived from the name al-Khwarizmi. • Representing large numbers: Mathematicians in India invented the base ten system in ancient times. But research did not stop there. The practice of representing large numbers also evolved in ancient India.
Notion of representing large numbers as powers of 10, one that was invented in India, turned out to be extremely handy. Economy during Ancient India The Indus civilization’s economy appears to have depended significantly on trade, which was facilitated by major advances in transport technology. These advances included bullock-driven carts that are identical to those seen throughout South Asia today, as well as boats. Most of these boats were probably small, flat-bottomed craft, perhaps driven by sail, similar to those one can see on the Indus River today; however, there is secondary evidence of sea-going craft. Archaeologists have discovered a massive, dredged canal and docking facility at the coastal city of Lothal.
Judging from the dispersal of Indus civilization artifacts, the trade networks, economically, integrated a huge area, including portions of Afghanistan, the coastal regions of Persia, northern and central India, and Mesopotamia. Rig Vedic society was characterized by a nomadic lifestyle, with cattle rearing being the chief occupation. Cattle and cows were held in high esteem and frequently appear in Rigvedic hymns; goddesses were often compared to cows, and gods to bulls. Agriculture grew more prominent with time as the community settled down. Money was unknown, and bartering with cattle and other valuables replaced financial commerce. Families were patrilineal, and people prayed for abundance of sons. Society was strictly organized in a system of caste.
The four major varnas were Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. Those who are outside these caste structures are known as adivasis. The food of the Rigvedic Aryans consisted of parched grain and cakes, milk and milk products, and various fruits and vegetables. Consumption of meat was also common among, at least among the upper classes. The Rigveda contains many references to animal sacrifice and meat offered to the gods. Technology during Ancient India Ancient India saw the relationship between knowledge of science and technology, with religion and social relations. The archaeological remains of the Indus Valley reveal knowledge of applied sciences.
Scientific techniques were used in irrigation, Metallurgy, making of fired bricks and pottery, and simple reckoning and measurement of areas and volumes. Aryan achievements in the field of astronomy, mathematics and medicine are well known. Chinese records indicate knowledge of a dozen books of Indian origin. Brahmagupta’s Sidhanta as well as Charaka’s and Susrata’s Samhitas were translated into Arabic in the 9th or 10th centuries A. D. In ancient Indian mathematics was known by the general name of Ganita, which included arithmetic, geometry, algebra, astronomy and astrology. It was Aryabhatta, who gave a new direction to trigonometry. The decimal system too was an innovation of India. By the third century B. C. mathematics, astronomy and medicine began to develop separately.
In the field of mathematics ancient Indians made three distinct contributions, the notation system, the decimal system and the use of zero. The earliest epigraphic evidence of the use of decimal system belongs to the fifth century A. D. Before these numerals appeared in the West they had been used in India for centuries. They are found in the inscriptions of Ashoka in the third century B. C. Indians were the first to use the decimal system. The famous mathematician Aryabhata (A. D. 476-500) was acquainted with it. The Chinese learnt this system from the Buddhist missionaries, and the western world borrowed it from the Arab as when they came in contact with India.
Zero was discovered by Indians in about the second century B. C. From the very beginning Indian mathematicians considered zero as a separate numeral, and it was used in this sense in arithmetic. In Arabia the earliest use of zero appears in A. D. 873. The Arabs learnt and adopted it from India and spread it in Europe. So far as Algebra is concerned both Indians and Greeks contributed to it, but in Western Europe its knowledge was borrowed not from Greece but from the Arabs who had acquired it from India. In the second century B. C. Apastemba contributed to practical geometry for the construction of altars on which the kings could offer sacrifices.
It describes acute angle, obtuse angle, right angle etc. Aryabhata formulated the rule for finding the area of a triangle, which led to the origin of trigonometry. The most famous work of his time is the Suryasiddanta the like of which was not found in Contemporary ancient east. During the Gupta period mathematics was developed to such an extent and more advanced than any other nation of antiquity. Quite early India devised a rudimentary algebra which led to more calculations than were possible for the Greeks and led to the study of number for its own sake. The earliest inscription regarding the data by a system of nine digits and a zero is dated as 595 A. D. vidently the system was known to mathematicians some centuries before it was employed in inscriptions. Indian mathematicians such as Brahmagupta (7th century), Mahavira (9th century) and Bhaskara (12th century) made several discoveries, which were known, to Europe only after Renaissance. The understood the importance of positive and negative quantities, evolved sound system of extracting squares and cube roots and could solve quadratic and certain types of indeterminate equations. Aryabhata gave approximate value of pie. It was more accurate than that of the Greeks. Also some strides were made in trigonometry, empirical geometry and calculus. Chiefly in astronomy the athematical implications of zero and infinity were fully realized unlike anywhere in the world. Among the various branches of mathematics, Hindus gave astronomy the highest place of honour. Suryasidhanta is the best know book on Hindu astronomy. The text was later modified two or three times between 500 A. D. and 1500 A. D. The system laid down in the book can even now be used to predict eclipse within an error of two or three hours. The most renowned scholars of astronomy were Aryabhata and Varhamihira. Aryabhata belonged to the fifth century and Varahamihira to the sixth. Aryabhata calculated the position of the planets according to the Babylonian method. He discovered the cause of lunar and solar eclipses.
The circumference of the earth, which he measured on the basis of the speculation, is considered to be correct even now. He pointed out that the sun is stationary and the earth rotates around it. The book of Aryabhata is the Aryabhatiya. Varhimihira’s well-known work is called Brihat Samhita which belongs to the sixth century A. D. Varhaihira stated that the moon rotates around the earth and the earth rotates around the earth rotates around the sun. He utilized several Greek works to explain the movement of the planets and some other astronomical problems. Although Greek knowledge influenced Indian astronomy, there is no doubt that Indian pursued the subject further and made use of it in their observations of the planets.
Aryabhata wrote a book when he was barely 23 years. Varhmihira of the sixth century wrote a summary of five astronomical books current wrote a summary of five astronomical books current in his time. Brahamagupta of the seventh century A. D. appreciated the value of observation and astronomy and his book was translated into Arabic. One last great scientist was Bhaskara II. One of the chapters in the book Sidhanta Shiromani, dealing with mathematics, is the well-known work of Lilavait. Nevertheless, Indian views on the origin and evolution of the universe was matter of religion rather than of science. The cosmic schemes of Hindus and Jains in fundamentals were the same.
All postulated a flat earth although Indian astronomers came to know that this was incorrect early in the Christian era. The idea of flat such remained for religious purposes. Regarding astronomy proper it was studied as a Vedanta. Its name was Jyotisa. A primitive kind of astronomy was developed mainly for the purpose of settling the dates and times at which periodical sacrifices were to be performed. Several Greek words gained momentum in Sanskrit through knowledge of Greek astronomy. The sixth century astronomer Varahamihira called one of his five astronomical systems as Romaka Sidhanta. It is only western astronomy that introduced in Indian the sign of the Zodaic.
Later, Indian astronomers made some advances on the knowledge of the Greeks and passed on their knowledge with that of mathematics via the Arabs to Europe. As early as seventh century, a Syrian astronomer knew of the greatness of Indian astronomy and mathematics. In the field of medicine, Aurveda was the contribution of India. Seven hundred hymns in the Vedas, particularly Atharva Veda, refer to topics of Ayurveda. Indeed, the whole approach was not scientific. The earliest mention of medicines is in the Atharva Veda. As in order ancient societies, the remedies recommended in it are replete with magical charms and spells. Medicine could not develop along scientific lines.
In post-Maurya time India witnessed two famous scholars of the Aurveda, Susrtua and Charaka. In the Susrutasmhita Susruta describes methods of operating contract, stone disease and several other ailments. He mentions as many as 121 implements to be used for operations. For the treatment of disease he lays special emphasis on diet. And cleanliness for Charaka wrote the Charakasamhita in the second century A. D. It is like encyclopedia of Indian medicines. It describes various types of fever, leprosy, hysteria and tuberculosis. Possibly Charaka did not know that some of these are infections. His book contains the names of a large number of plants and herbs, which were to be used as medicine.
The book is thus useful not only for study of ancient Indian medicine but also for ancient Indian flora and chemistry. In subsequent centuries Indian medicines developed on the lines laid down by Charaka. The Vedic hymns attribute various diseases to demons and spirits and the remedies for hymns prescribing correctly the symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis, and connecting dropsy with heart diseases. However, national medicine began to 800 B. C. Medicine became a regular subject of study at centers like Taxila and Varanasi. The latter specialized in surgery. Susrutasmhita was compiled in the fourth century A. D. Charaka compiled the teachings of two of his predecessors who served at Taxila.
Charaka and Susruta’s Samhits reached as far as Manchuria through translations in Tibetan and other Asian languages. In the eighth century A. D. these books influenced European medicine as carried over by two Arabs. Charaka Samhita was published as late as 1550 in Arabic. Despite these achievements, medicine did not make any remarkable strides, for absence of dissection led to ignorance of anatomy and physiology. Indians were equally aware of the functions of internal organs such as lungs and brain. Surgery of some kind was even during the Vedic period. It was only from the time of Susruta that surgery came to occupy an important place in medicine.
Surgical operations were performed like taking the fetus out of the womb, including caesarian, section, treatment of fistula, removal of stone from bladder and plastic surgery for the nose. Despite the developments as the above in medicine, ancient Indian doctors, in general had no knowledge of the functions of brain, although they knew the importance of the spinal cord and the existence of nervous system. Once again social taboos stood in the way of the growth of medical knowledge. It was a taboo to touch dead bodies. Despite the fact that the physiological knowledge of ancient Indians was very poor, Indians evolved empirical surgery. They knew bone-setting, plastic surgery and surgeons in ancient India were experts is repairing noses, ears and lips lost, or injured by mutilation.
The physician was a respectable member of society as the Vaidyas were ranked higher in the hierarchy. Even to this day the rules of professional behaviour laid down in medical tests are almost the same as those of Hippocrates. Of course, some statements at one place state that the Physicians should not betray the patients and should be always of pleasant speech. In this context, he pleads that every day they must pray on rising and going to bed, since the work of the welfare of the all beings specially cows. Regarding physics, it was closely linked with religion and theology and it even differed from sect to sect. Almost all religions believed that the universe consisted of elements like earth, air, water, and akasa (ether).
Most schools maintained that there were as many types of atoms as there were elements. Some Buddhists conceived atom as the minutes object capable of occupying space but also as occupying the minutest possible duration of time coming into being and vanishing almost in an instant only to be succeeded by another atom caused by the first. This somewhat resembles the quantum theory of Planck. The Vaisesika School believed a single atom to be a point in space completely without magnitude. Further, most of the schools believed that atoms constitute molecules. However, the Indian atomic theories were not based on experiment but intuitive logic. The great theologian Sankara strongly argued against their existence.
Beyond this knowledge of atoms, physics in India did not develop much. However, in the science of acoustics, India made real discovers. Based on experience for this correct recitation on Vedas, the human era was highly trained for the phonetic study – distinguished musical tones far closer than those of other ancient musical systems much earlier than other civilization. Regarding chemistry and metallurgy too, some progress was made in ancient times. The Harappans developed metallurgy of copper and bronze about 2500 B. C. The Vedic Aryans tanned leather, fermented grains and fruits, and dyed scale production of copper, iron and steel, brass, silver and gold and their alloys.
Indian steel was highly esteemed in the ancient world and it was exported in large quantities. Tin and mercury were imported and worked. And from the seventh century, alchemy was referred to in literature. The medical chemistry of ancient India did succeed in producing many important alkalis, acids and metallic salts. It is claimed by Bashama that ancient Indians ever discovered a form of gun powder. The coming of middle ages, Indian chemists, like their counterparts in the rest of the world, became increasingly interested in a specific remedy for all diseases, the source of perpetual youth, and even the surest means to salvation. Although they could not make precious metals, they could understand the chemistry of metallic salts.
The heights attained by Indians in metallurgy and engineering are borne out by the almost pure copper stature of Buddha found at Sultanganj and the famous iron Pillar at Mehrauli (Delhi which has been able to withstand rain and weather for centuries without rusting). Famous personalities: Panini Panini was born in Shalatula, a town near to Attock on the Indus river in present day Pakistan. The dates given for Panini are pure guesses. Experts give dates in the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th century BC and there is also no agreement among historians about the extent of the work which he undertook. Panini was a Sanskrit grammarian who gave a comprehensive and scientific theory of phonetics, phonology, and morphology.
Sanskrit was the classical literary language of the Indian Hindus and Panini is considered the founder of the language and literature. It is interesting to note that the word “Sanskrit” means “complete” or “perfect” and it was thought of as the divine language, or language of the gods. A treatise called Astadhyayi (or Astaka ) is Panini’s major work. It consists of eight chapters, each subdivided into quarter chapters. In this work Panini distinguishes between the language of sacred texts and the usual language of communication. Panini gives formal production rules and definitions to describe Sanskrit grammar. Starting with about 1700 basic elements like nouns, verbs, vowels, consonants he put them into classes.
The construction of sentences, compound nouns etc. is explained as ordered rules operating on underlying structures in a manner similar to modern theory. In many ways Panini’s constructions are similar to the way that a mathematical function is defined today. Aryabhata Aryabhata was born in 476 AD, was the first astronomer of India. His book, the Aryabhatiya, presented astronomical and mathematical theories in which the Earth was taken to be spinning on its axis and the periods of the planets were given with respect to the sun. He gifted 0 “zero” to the world. Ashoka Asoka was a famous king of Ancient India. He won several battles to widen his kingdom.
After the historic Kalinga war he turned to budhism. Ahimsa and non- voilance became the most important pillar of state policy. Humanitarian ethics of Buddhism influence all his actions. Ashoka got his edicts inscribed on monolithic stone pillars adorned with strikingly beautiful animal capitals. One of these – the lion capital found at Sarnath near Benaras – has been chosen as the state emblem of the Republic of India. Ashoka endeavoured to set up an enlightened government for a genuine welfare state. Samudra Gupta Samudra Gupta extended the boundaries of the Gupta empire considerably. The pillar inscription at Allahabad provides a detailed account of his conquests.
His military campaigns ranged from Nepal in the North to modern Tamilnadu in the South, from Assam in the East to the borders of present day Afghanistan in the West. The unification of the greater part of the land was his major achievement. His coins portray him as a patron of arts and one of his images is that of a Lute player. Chandragupta Maurya India attained political unity for the first time under Chandragupta. He laid the foundations of a powerful empire. Chandragupta was, according to folklore, assisted by a Brahmin called Vishnugupta, also known as Kautilya or Chanakya, who is credited with the authorship of Arthashastra the famous work on ancient Indian statecraft.
Meghasthenes, a Greek traveller visited India at this time and although only fragments of his travelogue – Indica are available to us, his account supplements the information provided by the Arthashastra and the other literary sources about governance and social life during the Maurya period. Education during Ancient India India has a rich tradition of learning and education right from the antiquity. These were handed over generations to generations either through oral or written medium. The highly esteemed Vedas have come to down to us. They existed for nearly 2000 years before they were known in India. It was the knowledge of acoustics that enabled ancient Indians to orally transmit the Vedas from generation to generation. Institutional form of imparting learning came into existence in the early centuries of the Christian era. The approach to learning was to study logic and epistemology.
Hindus, Buddhists and Jains followed the study of logic, one of the most important topics of Indian thoughts was pramana or means of reliable knowledge. The Nyaya schools upheld four pramanas – perceptions of are liable by analogy or comparison, word (Sabda), and pronunciation of a reliable authority such as the Vedas. The Vedanta school added one more to it i. e. intuition. It is probably while studying the process of inference that the schools of true logic arose. Ancient Indian postulated syllogism though not as accurate as that of Aristotle. Yet, they recognize some of the major fallacies of logic like reduction and absurdum, circular argument,infinite regression, dilemma, and ignorance. In the field epistemology, Jains contributed the most.
There were not only two possibilities of existence and non-existence but seven more. Although the modern logicians might laugh at this pedantic system of ontological and epistemological reality they concede that the world is more complex and subtle than we think it to be. Regarding institutional form of education the first was the guru-sishya system. According to sacred texts, the training of the Brahmin pupil took place at the home of a Brahmin teacher. In some texts the guru is depicted as the poor ascetic and it is the duty of the student to beg for his teacher. The first lesson that was taught to the student was the performance of sandhya and also reciting of gayatri.
The family functioned as a domestic school, an asrama or a hermitage where the mental faculties of the pupils were developed by the teacher’s constant attention and personal instruction. Education treated as a matter of individual concern, did not admit of the method of mass production applicable in industry. The making of man was regarded as an artistic and not a mechanical process. Indeed, the aim of education was the developing of the pupil’s personality, his innate and latent capacities. This view of education as a process of one’s inner growth and self-fulfillment evolved its own technique, its rules, methods and practices. The thinking principle, Manana Shakti was reckoned higher than the subject of thinking. So the primary subject of education was the mind itself.
According to the ancient Indian theory of education, the training of the mind and the process of thinking, are essential for the acquisition of knowledge. The chase counts more than the game. So the pupil had mainly to educate himself and achieves his own mental growth. Education was reduced to the three simple processes of Sravana, Manana and Niddhyaasana. Sravana was listening to the truths as they fell from the lips of the teacher. Knowledge was technically called Sruti or what the ear heard and not what was seen in writing. The second process of knowledge called Manana implies that the pupil has to think out for himself the meaning of the lessons imparted to him orally by his teacher so that they may be assimilate fully.
The third step known as Nidhyasana means complete comprehension by the pupil of the truth that is taught so that he may live the truth and not merely explain it by word. Knowledge must result in realization. The admission was made by the formal ceremony Upanayana or initiation by which the pupil left the home of his natural parents for that of the preceptor. In this new home he had a second birth and was called Dvijya or twice-born. Besides these regular schools of instructions, there were special institutions for the promotion of advance study and research. These are called in the Rig Veda as Brahmana-Sangha, Academies of learned most its discussions hammered into shape the very language of the country, the refined language of Sanksrit (Samkrata) as the Vehicle of highest thought.
These Academics were called parisads, there is a reference to the Pancala parisad in the Upanishads, in whose proceedings even kings participated, learning was also prompted by discussions at public meetings which were a regular of rural life, and were addressed by wandering scholars known as Carakas, These scholars toured the country to deliver public discourses and invite discussion. What might count as earliest literary congress of the world was the congress of philosophers which was codification of Brahmanical philosophy by discussing the subject under the direction of the master philosopher, Yajnavalkya. In these deliberations at the highest level, a lady- philosopher named Gargi was a prominent participant beside men like Uddalaka Arni. Obviously, in those days women were admitted to the highest knowledge and did not suffer from any education disabilities.
There was equality between the sexes in the filed of knowledge. The Rig Veda mentions women Rais called Brahmanavadinis. To begin with, in ancient India; the main subject was the Veda. The teacher would instruct handful of students seated on ground. For many hours daily they would repeat verses after verses of the Vedas till they attain mastery of at least one of them. To ensure correctness of memory, the hymns were taught in more than one way. Soon the curriculum was expanded. The limbs of the Veda or the six Vedangas were taught – the performance of sacrifice, correct pronunciation, knowledge of prosody, etymology, grammer, and jyotisha or the science of calendar.
Also in the post-Vedic era, teachers often instructed their students in the six schools of Philosophy. The writers of Smritis maintain that young women of upper class under went this kind of training. This is a doubtful contention. Princes and other leading Kshatriyas were trained in all the manifold sciences to make them fit for government. Most boys of the lower orders learnt their trades from their fathers. Some cities became renowned because of their teachers. Chief among them were – Varanasi, Taxila from the day of Buddha and Kanchi in the beginning of the Christian era. Varanasi was famous for its religious teachers. Taxila was known for its secular studies.
Among the famous men connected with Taxila was Panini, the grammarian of the fifth or fourth century B. C. : Kautilya, the Brahmin minister of Chandragupta Maurya and Charaka one of the two leading authorities of Indian medical sciences. The institutions imparting Vedic knowledge that exists even today. There were also universities like Taxila and Ujjain for medicine and learning including mathematics and astronomy respectively. In the south Kanchi became an important center of learning. Hiuen Tsang remarks that Vallabhi was as great as Nalanda and Vikramashila. Although the Smritis maintained that a small number of students study under a single teacher, university turned towns came into existence like Varanasi, Taxila etc.
At Varanasi there were 500 students and a number of teachers. Charitable people maintained the whole establishment. Ideally, the teacher asked no fee, but the students repaid his debt by their service to the teacher. A Jataka story tells of how a teacher of Taxila treated well the students who paid him money while keeping other waiting. It is also interesting to note that in Taxila even married people were admitted as students. Out of all the Universities, Nalanda and imposed structures. Eight Colleges were built by different patterns including one by the king of Sri Vijaya (Sumatra). One of the colleges was four storeyed high as stated by Hiuen-Tsang.
Every facility existed for studying various kinds of subjects in the University. There were three great libraries as per Tibetan records. Nalanda attracted students not only from different parts of India but also from Tibet and China. The standards of examination were stiff, and only those who could pass the test prescribed by the dvarapandita or the scholar at the gate were admitted to this university. Also, for being admitted to the university, candidates were required to be familiar with old and new books. Nalanda was one of the earliest examples of residential cum-teaching institutions which housed thousands of monks devoted to learning, philosophy and meditation.
Over 10,000 students including teachers lived and studied at the university. They came from various parts of the world apart from India,Central Asia, China and Korea. Though Nalanda was primarily a Buddhist university its curricula included Hindu scriptures, philosophy and medicine as recorded by Hiuen-Tsang. Logic and exegetics were pre eminent because these students were expected to enter into dialogue with visiting doctors of all schools. This compulsion of public debate made both teachers and students become familiar with all systems of thought in accurate summary. The university had also succession of brilliant teachers. Dharmapala was a Tamil noble from Kanchi in the south. Janamitra come from another country.
Silabhadra, the saintly guru of Hiuen-Tsang, came from Assam and he was a converted Brahmin. A great achievement of the University was that it was able to continuously rejuvenate Buddhism in far off countries. Tibetan records mention a succession of learned monks who visited their country. It is also said that Sudhakara Simha went to China and worked there on the translation of Buddhist texts. Ancient Gods The religion of the Hindus is one of the oldest religions in the world. It started before the emergence of the first known civilizations in the Orient and probably before the first scripts, which appeared around 3000B. C in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. The Aryans entered India and destroyed the cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro.
After setting on the plains they gradually spread out and pushed the original inhabitants to further south. However they allowed them to venerate their own Gods and rituals. The ancient Indian society honoured first the sun and the moon the latter often being considered as a feminine deity who was both the companion of the sun and the Great Mother of life and the universe. This very ancient cult of a feminine deity had its origin in Indus valley civilization, which was stamped out by the Aryans who turned to patriarchal worship more suited to their aggressive and wild nature. However slow evolution towards Hinduism and intermarriage the Aryans return to ancient rituals and cult of the mother goddess.
This was accompanied by worship of Shiva-the phallic God who was represented by 8 million yonis. There were no less than 3000 Gods venerated in Vedic times. The principal divinity was Indra – the God of War and Thunder whose power was capable of destroying the wall of cities of burning them down in order to conquer and pillage them. He was the King of Gods. Brahma was the creator or protector who was also given the name of Narayana Prajapati or Pursha. He was the father of all creatures. Agni was the God of fire. He was the guardian of the world and giver of eternal life. Surya the Sun God was also deeply venerated. The other secondary Gods were Arjuna or the God of the dawn and the charioteer of the sun.
He was the son of Vinata and the wise Kasyapa. The Kubera was the God of wealth. Vayu or the God of wind. Wind is the friend of fire–perfumed and caressing, it wonders around the abode of the gods, stimulating the senses. It is the messenger of the gods, the breath of the world, the bringer of life to all beings. The many ancient Vedic gods remained unchanged from Pre-Vedic times. Their names were passed down by oral tradition from time immemorial. We also see some gods (who had been thought of as beneficent spirits) being demoted by successive generations to secondary divinities and then to wicked, cruel spirits. New gods then replaced them.
The Vedic period passes smoothly into the Hindu period, which was flourishing by 700 to 600BC. With the modifications of the ancient gods a whole new spirituality developed that carried a real harmony of life, light, mental purification and spiritual searching for the Higher Self. Medicine during Ancient India Ancient India saw great advancements in medical science. Some of these fields were dental surgery, cataract extraction and plastic surgery. It is amazing that even in the absence of anesthesia some of the complex operations are performed. Around 800 B. C the first instances of surgery were recorded. It was considered, as one of the eight branches of Ayurveda.
Shushruta- Samhita is the oldest treatise dealing with surgery. The main medical practitioners were Atraya, Charaka and Shusruta. Shushruta studied human anatomy with an aid of a dead body. He had described in great detail surgery in eight parts which included chedya,lekhya,vedhya,esya,ahrya,vsraya and sivya. He excelled in plastic surgery and ophthalmology (removing cataracts). The restoration of mutilated nose or rhinoplasty was one of the greatest contributions of Shushruta. The success rate was very high attracting people from all the country and outside. He meticulously carried out the operation almost similar to the steps followed by modern day plastic surgeons.
Medical tradition goes back to Vedic period when Dhanvantari was worshipped as God of medicine and Ashwin Kumars were given divine status. Ayurveda was an indigenous system of medicine meaning the science of longevity. It constitutes information about diseases, their diagnosis and expected cures. Charaka was a noted Ayurveda practitioner who wrote that physician who fails to enter the body of a patient with the lamp of knowledge and understanding can never treat diseases. He put more emphasis on prevention rather than cure. He made these remarks in his famous treatise Charaka Samahita which are held in great reverence even today. The other notable fields were physiology, etiology and embryology. He also wrote extensively on digestion, metabolism and immune system.
He wrote that body functions as it contains three dosha- bile, phlegm and wind. These are produced when dhatus – blood, flesh and marrow act on food consumed. The body becomes sick when there is imbalance between three doshas. He prescribed drugs to restore this balance. Charaka also wrote about genetics like the factors responsible for sex of a child. Agnivesa another famous physician wrote an encyclopedic treatise in the eighth- century B. C. Ayurveda as an art of healing was treated with respect in ancient period. The knowledge was systemized being considered at par with Vedas. This body of knowledge was spread among sages, hermits and other religious men who moved from one place to another. Those ho solely practiced this were known as Vaidyas belonging to Brahmin caste. The treatises of ayurveda were passed from generations to generations. Some Facts about Ancient India • Our country’s name ‘India’ was taken up from River Indus where the first settlers established their home. The river was worshipped by Aryans as Sindhu. • The number system was first invented in ancient India. Zero was first used by Aryabhatta. • The Decimal system and Place value system were developed in India in 100 B. C. • Takshila holds distinction of being world’s first university. It was established in 700 BC. More than 10,000 students some of them from far-off countries like China and Japan enrolled in about 60 subjects.
It was one of the greatest achievements of Ancient India. • The earliest school of medicine mankind knew Ayurveda. Charaka consolidated it some 2500 years ago. Over 2600 years ago Sushruta the father of surgery conducted surgeries like cataract, fratures, and rhinoplasty and brain surgeries without the use of anesthesia. • Navigation started in the river Sindu 6000 years ago. Derived from the Sanskrit word Navgatih ancient Indians excelled in this art. ‘Navy’ word is also derived from Sanskrit word ‘nou’. • Bhaskaracharya calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun hundreds of years ago. Guess his calculation done in 5th century- 365. 58756484 days. • Budhayana was the first Indian mathematician (6th century) to calculate the value of ‘pi’ and explained the concept of Pythagorean theorem. Ancient India is the home of algebra, trigonometry and calculus. Greeks and Romans used the numbers as big as 106 whereas ancient Indians used numbers as big as 10*53 (10 to the power of 53). • Saurashtra is the home of earliest reservoir and dam built for irrigation. The records of King Rudradaman I of 150 BC show that a beautiful lake called Sudarshana was constructed on the hills of Raivataka during Chandragupta Maurya’s time. • Shataranja or Ashtapada or common chess was invented in India.