Five Advanced Ancient Traditions Of India We Have Lost In Time

India is a land of the oldest civilization in the world with its numerous sets of cults, customs, rituals, and traditions. As the history of this land can be dated back to thousands of years, many of its traditions haven’t been completely passed on to our latest generations.

They were lost in time or disconnected from our original social beliefs. Though you may find some still being practiced but certainly they had lost their true significance.

Because the original wisdom of the land had been severely suffered by various outside invaders and looters, as they somewhat forcefully left their own cultural impression on them. 

This is theyyam (they-yam) – a ritualistic dance festival of Kerala

What we have now is a blend of several different traditions that no longer interconnect together. To put it simply, they don’t share the common ancestry root anymore.

In this article, I am going to discuss some of those advanced ancient traditions that are no longer in practice or had lost their value in modern time.

Gurukul System Of Ancient Education

I often curse myself for selecting geography as a major in college. It had ruined my three and a half years of precious life without giving any real-life benefits.

What it has given me is just a useless degree to show off my social standard as a graduate. I said useless since even companies nowadays don’t trust degrees. They’ve started valuing skills over anything.

Now five years later in 2021, when I try to analyze my past decisions I find major flaws not only in my reasoning skills but in the present-day education system of India too.

You would be surprised to hear, there was once an education system in ancient India so advanced and efficient that even could put our most sophisticated & respectful universities to shame.

The education system was known as Gurukuls. It was an advanced tradition in the area of learning and education. Gurukuls were the places (much like boarding schools in modern times) where children used to get their entire education.

There was no concept of exam grades or marks in the Gurukul system. Even the idea of receiving certificate on finishing studies was not existed.

Some historical evidence has proved the Gurukul education system is very old and indigenous to Indian subcontinents. Its origin can be dated back to at least around 500 BC.

It was very common during the Vedic age where students were taught many subjects. They had the freedom to pick their gurus (teachers) and the subjects to learn. Large gurukuls had many acharyas (teachers or gurus) with different fields of mastery.

The Vedas, vedic mathematics, and yoga were compulsory, along with 18 other different subjects like arts, commerce, astronomy, metallurgy, chemistry, astrophysics, agriculture, medical science, administration, politics, and warfare etc

Students were assigned a particular subject by their gurus based on their interest and level of intellect. However, the decisions were never forced upon them as they had the freedom to pick whatever subject they wanted to master.

One of the main priorities of gurukuls was to teach students to live a cultured, disciplined, and righteous life, also I have recently learned that gurukuls were entirely funded by the supreme king. All the expenses of gurukuls were on the king. 

To put it simply, education was absolutely free back then and even children from the royal families were used to studying alongside kids of other castes. At those ages, every student was considered equal, at least within the boundaries of gurukuls huts. 

Despite being so rich and having an advanced education system, the Gurukul tradition has been forcefully demolished by the British empire.

Unfortunately, it’s been replaced with the modern education system that was brought to India in the year 1835 by a so-called Sanskrit scholar – Lord Macauley.

Science Of Ancient Vedic Mathematics

India had always been a repository for great scientists and mathematicians (or, Rishis) since the ancient Vedic ages when people from other parts of the world didn’t even know what numbers and science were. 

Takshashila (tak-sha-shila), which is believed to be the world’s first university, was built before the early Harappan civilization. Unfortunately, the university was destroyed by the Huns (a nomadic tribe from central asia) in the 5th century. Why am I telling you this?

Because some facts are very hard to believe. And when it comes to acknowledging the supremacy of India’s role in the area of scientific findings, it gets even more dubious as we only know India by what it is today – a developing country struggling to keep up with the already developed western nations.

If you’re aware of some basic science then you’d know, mastering any field of science without having a solid understanding of complicated math problems is nearly impossible.

Take most of the ancient Hindu temples for example, the construction of such complicated structures was impossible without implying serious usage of complicated mathematical equations.

Today the ancient techniques of calculating numbers and math problems are called vedic maths. Which has almost lost its glory in the modern age – not because it’s no longer applicable in modern science (actually, it’s quite the opposite) but modern mathematicians marketed it as just a collection of math tricks and not actual mathematics.

In simple words, vedic math is an ancient technique of simplifying most complicated math problems – from multiplication, divisibility, complex numbers, squaring, cubing, square roots, cube roots, recurring decimals, auxiliary fractions, and many more that I’ve no knowledge of (hey, I’m not a mathematician). You can watch the video above to know more about its usage.

Unluckily the great ancient knowledge of playing with numbers has lost its position as it never got the recognition it deserved. On top of this, a large set of original manuscripts are lost in time, making it even harder to revive the advanced ancient knowledge of complex computing.

A Unique Way Of Preserving History & Knowledge

Indian traditions and cultural intricacy have always fascinated me, at the same time it stirs up the confusion of my existing knowledge even more. I was very shocked knowing about the oral tradition of folk storytelling and its significance in preserving ancient wisdom while watching a youtube documentary.

Indian history as we all know it is very old and ancient. Therefore old sages of that time came up with several brilliant ideas of storing, recording, and preserving our ancient wisdom safe for future generations.

How did they do it? Well, they abstracted the wisdom into traditions to record our history safe from outside invaders and other natural mishaps.

In India, there has always been a tradition of passing on ancient knowledge with hearing and reciting to future generations. It’s called shruti & smriti parampara, which has been there in our education system since ancient times. 

If you’ve noticed the brilliance of our sages, they always knew that any written knowledge can be lost, stolen, forgotten, destroyed, damaged, but oral tradition will be much harder to destroy and damage.

It’s much like today’s decentralized data centers. Whether they are Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata or folk tales and folk stories – the whole Indian education system was based on the oral tradition. 

Despite being so advanced and a unique way of preserving our history and culture, the modern education system refuses to recognize its value and often tags older generations as illiterate since they are often unable to write, and relies on fingerprints for document signing. In my own opinion that’s just pure ignorance of modern ideology.

Ancient Judicial System

Have you ever thought about how India’s judicial system worked in ancient times? It has never come to my mind as though I added this section as an afterthought suggested by a friend. Since there are not many documents on the internet talking about the topic in detail, I might not be able to give you a better explanation as I did on the other lost traditions.

Indian judicial system is indeed the oldest in the world, and according to Brihaspati Smriti (one of the legal literature of ancient India), there were many hierarchies of courts starting with family arbitrators to the supreme king. In the middle, there were many king-sponsored justice courts taking most disputes of the states. 

The jurisdiction of each case was used to determine the significance of the dispute. The most minor disputes were decided by the family arbitrators and the most serious ones were left for the king himself to judge. Interestingly there was no such written law as rigid as modern-day constitutions. 

The entire judicial system was driven by moral laws or the concept of dharma. Judges and kings used to take references from Vedas and various ancient texts like Puranas, smritis to make their verdict. To put it simply, there was no single rulebook of laws that could be governed for every possible despite. 

You would find a fundamental flaw in our modern-day judicial system if given a close inspection, and the flaw is – it can only make decisions based on the written laws of the current constitution and can never pass a judgment outside of it. That’s the fundamental flow I see in the modern judicial system.

Ancient Martial Art Of Kalaripayattu

Kalaripayattu (kalari-paya-ttu) is an ancient martial art indigenous to Kerala – a small state from the southern part of India and famous for its cultural heritage. Experts say kalarippayattu is the mother of all modern martial arts, including the famous Kung-fu.

Bodhidharma first taught this fighting style to the monks at the Shaolin monastery. Since then, kung-fu has slowly evolved as similar but a different martial art.

The exact time of kalarippayattu origin is unknown, however historical evidence suggests that it first came into existence around 5,000 BCE.

It was the crudest form of martial art ever known, although the style today being practiced is much slim down as the British was afraid of it and placed a ban during the 19th century. 

Then in the 20th century British re-allowed the practice of kalarippayattu but only for promoting traditional art forms of Kerala. So, what kalarippayattu we see today is no way near what it was in its original form. Because it was originally developed for actual warfare of that time, and not to participate in games.

This was the list of some lost traditions that I thought need some attention as others are busy writing something else. If you like it, please share it with your friend.

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