Cultures / History / Traditions

Top 5 Lost Ancient Traditions Of India

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India is a land of the oldest civilization in the world with its numerous sets of cults, rituals, customs, and traditions. As the history of this land can be dated back to thousands of years, it’s normal to have lost many of its original traditions. Therefore, they are either lost in time or have disconnected from our primeval beliefs.

Decline Of Old Traditions

A ritualistic dance festival of Kerala.

Many of the practicing traditions have seen a sharp decline in its popularity right after India’s independence. The original history and wisdom of the land had been severely suffered by various outside invaders as they somewhat forcefully left their own cultural impression on them.

Thus even if you find a few of these old traditions being practiced in some remote corners of the country, they would have certainly lost their true significance. What we have now is a blend of several different traditions that no longer interconnect together.

People Are Also Reading Top 9 Ancient Scientists Of India And Their Inventions.

Simply put, they don’t share the common ancestry root anymore. In the article, I am going to discuss some of these advanced ancient traditions that are either no longer in practice or already have lost their value in the modern time.

Education System Of Gurukul

Guru teaching students in a gurukula.

I often curse myself for selecting geography as a major in college. It had ruined three and a half years of my life without giving any real-life benefits. What it has given me though is a useless degree to show off my social standard as a graduate. 

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 that there was once an education system in ancient India so advanced that it could even put our most sophisticated and respectful universities to shame.

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

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It’s said that students during the vedic age used to get the freedom of selecting their subject which they preferred studying. The gurukulas used to have a plethora of subjects to choose from.

Such as arts, commerce, science, astronomy, chemistry, metallurgy, astrophysics, agriculture, medical science, administration, and warfare etc.

However, among them the four Vedas, vedic mathematics, and yoga sutras were compulsory. One of the main priorities of gurukulas was to teach students to live a cultured, disciplined, and righteous life. The entire expenses of these gurukulas were funded by the kings.

Simply put, education was absolutely free in that era. Even children from the royal families used to study alongside kids of other castes. Every student was considered equal, at least within the boundaries of gurukula’s huts.

But despite being such an advanced education system, it had been forcefully demolished by the British empire to make it obsolete and outdated.

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

Science Of Vedic Mathematics

India has always been a repository for great scientists and mathematicians since the ancient vedic era. Even when people from other parts of the world didn’t have any idea about 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 civilisation. 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.

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

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If you are aware of some basic science then you would know that mastering any field of science without having a solid understanding of mathematics is nearly unachievable.

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

Today the ancient techniques of solving maths problems are called vedic maths. Which has almost lost its glory in the modern age, not because it is no longer applicable in modern science actually but it’s quite the opposite.

Many influential modern mathematicians of our time have actively marketed it as a collection of mere math tricks, nothing else. In simple words, vedic maths is an ancient technique of solving the most complicated maths 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.

You can watch the video above to know more about its usage. Unluckily this great ancient knowledge of playing with numbers has lost its position and never got the recognition it deserved. Also a large set of original manuscripts has been lost in time, making it even harder to revive this ancient knowledge of solving math problems.

Oral Tradition Of Preserving History

Indian traditions and cultural intricacy have always fascinated me, At the same time it also stirs up the confusion of my existing knowledge even more. Indian history as we know is very old and ancient.

Therefore, it had developed a unique way of preserving our ancient wisdom through folk storytelling. The sages of that time must have realized the need for storing, recording, and preserving the ancient wisdom safe for the future generations.

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

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 is much harder to destroy and damage.

This tradition of passing on ancient wisdom to the future generations through hearing and reciting age-old oral stories is called shruti & smriti parampara. It has been an impeccable part of our education system since ancient times. It’s much like today’s decentralized data centers.

Whether they are Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata or folk stories – the whole Indian education system of that time was based on the same oral tradition.

The modern education system simply doesn’t want to acknowledge its value, and often tags the older generations as illiterate since they often rely on fingerprints for document signing. In my own opinion that is just pure ignorance of modern ideology.

Vedic Judicial System

Have you ever thought about how India’s judicial system worked in ancient times? At least it has never come to my mind before. Interestingly when I searched on the internet, I did not find any good quality articles that discuss the topic in detail.

Indian judicial system is indeed the oldest in the world. According to Brihaspati smriti, which is believed to be one of the oldest legal literature of India, there used to be many hierarchies of courts that started with family arbitrators to the supreme king.

However, many king-sponsored justice courts used to take most disputes of the states. The jurisdiction of each case used to be determined by the significance of the dispute. While the most minor disputes were decided by the family arbitrators, the serious ones used to be left aside for the king himself to judge.

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Surprisingly, no such written law existed in that era as rigid as a modern-day constitution. How the heck did they make a judgment if there were not any written laws available?

Well, the entire judicial system was driven only by moral laws or the concept of dharma. Judges and kings often used to take references from the Vedas and various ancient texts like Puranas, Smritis to make their final verdict.

In simple words, there was no single rule book of laws written which were used for making any verdict. If given a close inspection, you could find a fundamental flaw in our modern-day judicial system.

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.

Martial Art Of Deadly Kalaripayattu

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

Bodhidharma was the one who first taught this deadly fighting style to the monks at the Shaolin monastery. Since then, kung-fu has slowly evolved to a similar but different martial art sharing its root with Kalaripayattu.

Being the oldest in all martial arts today, the exact time of its origin is still unknown. However historical evidence suggests it came into existence around 5,000 BCE. It was said to be the crudest form of all existing martial arts ever known to humans.

But unfortunately, the practicing style of today is much diminished as the British were afraid of it and placed a ban during the 19th century.

Then in the 20th century, the British re-allowed the practice of kalaripayattu with some restrictions attached to it. Since then, it’s been practiced only to promote and preserve the culture of Kerala.

Therefore, the kalaripayattu we know today is no way near what it was in its original form as it was originally developed for actual warfare of that time.

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