Indic Knowledge Landscape


Credits: 2

L-T-P Ratio: 2-0-0

Hours: 30

Overview of topics: Caturdaśa-vidyāsthānas – Topography of disciplines – Classification of Indic knowledge disciplines – Basis of classification – Philosophy behind the basis

Course Designer: Prof. Nagaraj Paturi

Objective: This is meant to be a foundation course, which means this is a common prerequisite for any course in Indic knowledge studies.

Prerequisite: None

Expected Outcomes:

  • Visualize and articulate what is knowledge in terms of Vedic sciences to an audience understanding knowledge from a contemporary perspective
  • Unlearn the acculturation of the contemporary understanding of knowledge so as to grasp knowledge in vedic sciences from the insider’s perspective
  • Have the most comprehensive possible bird’s eye view of the Vedic side of Indic knowledge systems
  • For a student pursuing a specific area or stream of vedic sciences, this helps to be able to enter one’s own chosen specific area within that big picture
  • Understand the original context and utility of each Indic knowledge discipline
  • Gain a critical understanding that the current or potential use of the given Indic knowledge discipline need not necessarily be the original context of it


  1. Knowledge – Vedic and contemporary contexts:
  • Words for and concepts related to Knowledge in Vedic literature /Sanskrit: Veda, Vidyā, jňāna, kalā
  • Contemporary words ‘knowledge’ and ‘skills’, ‘Arts’ as in the university titles; semantic change, ‘academic’ and ‘professional’ ‘education’. Education as HRT Vs Knowledge for Knowledge sake (Liberal Arts view)
  • Vedic context of Knowledge and contemporary context of knowledge
  • Contemporary studies of Vedic Knowledge; mapping, researching, validation, application etc.
  1. Sources of Indic (Vedic) Knowledge:
  • Oral (memory) sources and written (manuscript and published) sources
  • A bird’s eye view of sources: Vedas, Vedāṅgas, Darśanas, Śāstras etc.
  • Gathering /figuring out Vedic knowledge in ‘lost’ sources from the available (oral and written) sources
  1. Vedas:
  • Mantra, Brāhmaṇa, Āraṇyaka, Upaniṣad (Upaniṣads as part of Brāhmaṇas and Āraṇyakas): Brāhmaṇas and Āraṇyakas as meta-Veda (Veda about Veda) and fountainhead of Mīmāṁsaka, Vedānta and other interpretations of Veda (as the earliest texts of interpretative science)
  • Discussion around oral and written
  • Discussion around counting Mantras: finite and infinite Vedas; Finiteness or infiniteness of Knowledge or Vedic Texts

3.1. Classification of Vedas: Implications of classification of Vedas for Indic Knowledge Studies

3.2. Vedas as containers of Knowledge (contrast to the view as spells for rituals):

  • Traditional view as revelation /discovery of fundamental principles underlying later developments; guiding spirit for later developments.
  • Modern view (e.g. Arya Samaj Dayananda Saraswati) as a source of all satya-vidyās (true sciences) viewed in the model of modern sciences. Śrī Aurobindo’s view
  1. Vedas and Yajňas Yajňas as Knowledge:
  • Intense mutuality between Vedas and Yajňas
  • ‘Use’ of Vedas in Yajňas
  • Vedas as motivating factor for Yajňas : Mīmāmsā view;

4.1. ‘Science’ and ‘Technology’ of Yajňa:

  • Nature as yajňa (as the life process or processing by Agni in Virāṭpuruṣa’s body; “yajňena yajňamayajanta devāḥ”), human yajňa as imitation of natural yajňa (“tāni dharmāṇi prathamānyāsan”)

4.2. Classification of Yajňas:

  • Nitya, Naimittika and Kāmya yajňas
  • Śāntika (medicinal/healing) and Pauṣṭika (tonic /nourishing) yajňas
  1. Vedāṅgas: Original context and so far identified contemporary knowledge aspects:

5.1. Śikṣā:

Original Context: Protection of Vedic pronunciation

Contemporary knowledge: Origin of the contemporary phonetics and phonology; study of phonation/articulatory phonetics; origin of Varṇamālā as a scientific table of phonemes in all Indian languages.

5.2. Chandas

Original Context: Protection of Vedic oral text and its prosody

Contemporary knowledge:  Mathematics; binary number calculations; origin of zero;  combinatronics etc.

5.3. Vyākaraa

Original Context: rakṣohāgamalaghvasandehāḥ prayojanam

Contemporary knowledge: Linguistics; origin of many modern general linguistic notions such as sandhi, internal and external sandhi, morpho-phonemics

5.4. Nirukta

Original Context: Protection of semantics of Vedas

Contemporary knowledge: Origin of many contemporary linguistic ideas, etymologies, theories of origin of words from noun and verb roots, multiple interpretations of the same expression, hermeneutics etc.

5.5. Kalpa

Original Context: Protection of Yajňa procedures

Contemporary knowledge: Mathematics, particularly geometry etc.

5.6. Jyotia

Original Context: Protection of space and time knowledge in Vedas

Contemporary knowledge:  Astronomy, meteorology etc.

  1. Vedārtha-darśanas: (Pūrva-) Mīmāṁsā and Vedānta (Uttara-mīmāṁsā) – Original context and so far identified contemporary knowledge aspects:

6.1. Mīmāṁsā

Original Context: Interpretation of Vedic texts towards Dharma and Karma (Yajňa)

Contemporary knowledge:  Methods of exegesis, interpretative techniques, a certain approach of Vedic linguistics, linguistic cognition, knowledge organization, knowledge management etc.

6.2. Vedānta

Original Context: Interpretation of Vedic texts towards Brahman and Mokṣa

Contemporary knowledge:  Vedic Psychology

  1. Other Vaidika-darśanas:

Second Pair:

7.1. Nyāya

Original context, Contemporary applicability

7.2. Vaiśeika

Original context, Contemporary applicability

Third Pair:

7.3. Sāṅkhya

Original context, Contemporary applicability

7.4. Yoga

Original context, Contemporary applicability

7.5. Sphoa as the 7th Vaidika-darśana

Original context, Contemporary applicability

  1. Itihāsas, mahāpurāṇas and upapurāṇas as books of Knowledge – Knowledge aspects of Kāvyas:
  • Direct knowledge in non-narrative sections
  • Direct Knowledge in narrative sections
  • Indirect Knowledge in narrative sections (Epics and personalities, environmental understandings etc.)
  • “Encyclopaedic Literature” –Northrop Frye
  • ‘vyavahāravide’ of Kāvyas (contextual discussions of knowledge aspects)
  1. Śāstra-granthas: A survey
  • Artha-śāstra, Kāma-śāstra, Nāṭya-śāstra, Saṅgīta-śāstra, Alaṅkāra-śāstra, Ayurveda, Vāstu, Citra-sūtra, Dhanurveda etc.
  1. Traditional Classifications of Indic Knowledge systems:

10.1. Catuṣṣaṣṭi-vidyāsthānas model:

10.2. Three cleansing sciences model:

Ayurveda – body cleansing

Yoga – mind cleansing

Vyākaraṇa – speech cleansing

10.3. Upaniadic (ādhyātmika/moka-centric) model: Parāvidyā – aparāvidyā, vidyā-avidyā

  1. Contemporary classification: Objective, Subjective, Knowledge courses model

11.1. Subjective Sciences:

11.2. Objective Sciences:

11.3. Knowledge Sciences:

11.4. Contemporary classification: ‘Vedic Sciences’ model:

Vedic health/Wellness science: Ayurveda

Vedic linguistics: Language study in Vyakarana

Vedic mathematics: Mathematics in Chandas, Sulbasutras

Vedic science of aesthetics: Alankarashaastra

Vedic science of logic: Nyaya

Vedic science of public administration: Arthashaastra

Vedic science of psychology: Ideas drawn from Yoga, Upanishads, etc.

Vedic science of ethics: Ideas related to Dharma, drawn from various Vedic sources

  1. Oral textual and non-textual (found in practice) knowledge:

Scope for research on Vedic Knowledge systems through fieldwork, ethnography and other qualitative research methods