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  • 09 Dec 2022 GS Paper 1 Indian Heritage & Culture

    Day 27

    Question 1: Ancient India not only contributed to religious literature but also scientific literature. Discuss. (250 Words)

    Question 2: Discuss the basic teaching and philosophy of the Jainism and Buddhism. (250 Words)

    Answer 1


    • Introduce the insight of the Ancient Indian literature.
    • Discuss the religious and scientific literature developed in ancient India.
    • Conclude suitably.


    • Ancient Indian literature was not confined to sacred texts like the Vedas and the Upanishads. The ancient Indian text has a very elaborative and insightful description very elaborative and insightful description on, culture, science, mathematics, etc. The text also used languages like Prakriti, Pali, and other regional languages apart from Sanskrit. On the scripts, the text was written in Devanagari to the Apabhramsa language, etc.


    Religious text in the ancient India:

    • Vedas: The word ‘Veda’ signifies knowledge and the texts to conduct the entire life on earth and beyond. They also have larger implications on our lives as they treat the universe and its inhabitants as one big family and preach Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
      • There are four major Vedas: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. These were mostly written by Vedic seers and poets called the rishis who envisioned the cosmic mysteries and wrote them in the form of Sanskrit poetry.
    • Upanishads: It indicates “to sit down near (the teacher)”. We have more than 200 known Upanishads and the teacher usually passed them down verbally to his students in the forest while they sat in front of him. This tradition was part of the guru-shishya parampara. As they are generally the last part of the Vedas, they are also known as Vedanta or ‘end (anta) of the Veda’.

    Scientific literature of India:

    • India also has a fair share in enriching the world’s material culture. Be it the distillation of perfumes, the making of dyes, the extraction of sugar, the weaving of cotton and even the techniques of algebra and algorithm, the concept of zero, the technique of surgery, the concepts of atom and relativity, the herbal system of medicine, the technique of alchemy, the smelting of metals, the game of chess, the martial art of Karate, etc. are to be found in ancient India. This indicates the fact that India carries a rich legacy of scientific ideas and scientific literature.

    Let us unfold the various literature which contributed to the scientific knowledge from various parts of India.

    • Mathematics: The town planning of Harappa and constructions of the temples indicates that the people in those times had a good knowledge of measurement and geometry.
      • The town planning of Harappa indicates that the people in those times had a good knowledge of measurement and geometry. The use of geometric patterns can also be found in the temples in the form of geometrical motifs.
      • The earliest book on mathematics was Sulvasutra written by Baudhayana in the 6th century BC. There is a mention of ‘Pi’ and even some concepts very similar to Pythagoras theorem in the Sulvasutra.
      • Apastamba, in the second century BC, introduced the concepts of practical geometry involving acute angles, obtuse angles and right angles. This knowledge of angles helped in the constructions of fire altars in those times.
      • Aryabhatta in around 499 AD wrote Aryabhattiya.
      • Brahmagupta in the 7th century AD in his book Brahmasputa Siddhantika mentioned Zero for the first time as a number. In his book, he also introduced negative numbers and described them as debts and positive numbers as fortunes.
    • Medicine:
      • During the Vedic times, Ashwini Kumars were the practisioners of medicine and were given the divine status. Dhanvantari was the God of medicine. Atharva Veda was the first book where we find mention about the diseases, its cure and medicines. Atharva Veda mentioned cure for many of the diseases which include diarrhoea, sores, cough, leprosy, fever and seizure. However, the era of practical and more rational cure to diseases emerged around 600 BC. Takshila and Varanasi emerged as the centres for medicinal learning.
      • The two important treaties during this time were:
        • Charak Samhita by Charak: It mainly deals with use of plants and herbs for medicinal purposes.
        • Sushruta Samhita by Sushruta: It deals with practical problems of Surgery and Obstetrics. Sushruta studied anatomy in great detail with the aid of a human dead body. His forte was mainly: Rhinoplasty (plastic surgery) Ophthalmology (ejection of Cataract).
          • Before them, Atreya and Agnivesa had already dealt with principles of Ayurveda way back in 800 BCE.
    • Physics and Chemistry: From the Vedic times, the materials on the Earth have been classified into panchbhootas. These panchmahabhootas were identified with human senses of perception.
      • Indian philosophers Kanada and Pakudha Katyayana in 6th century BC, first coined the idea of atoms and the material world being constituted of atoms. Kanada explained that material world is made up of ‘kana’ which cannot be seen through human organ.
      • The best evidence of Indian metallurgy are Iron pillar of Mehrauli in Delhi and an idol of Gautama Buddha in Sultanganj, Bihar. They have not caught rust yet even after their manufacture more than thousands of years back.
      • One of the famous alchemist of ancient times was Nagarjuna. He was an expert in transforming the base metals into gold. Born in Gujarat in 931 AD, Nagarjuna was blessed with this power of changing base metals into gold and extraction of “Elixir of life’’ (Amrit) as per the beliefs of the people.
    • Geography: Kalidasa in his book Meghdutam describe the geography of the India ranging from mountains (Himalya), rivers (Ganga) and various cities.


    Ancient and medieval indian literature indicate the fact that India carries a rich legacy of scientific ideas.

    Answer 2


    • Introduce the origin of Jainism and Buddhism.
    • Discus the basic teaching and philosophy of the Jainism and Buddhism.
    • Conclude suitably.


    When society was separated into varnas based on birth, in the ancient era, Brahmins believed they were the most superior and ruled society. Many spiritual leaders opposed the power of the Brahmin priests during this period, and two such outstanding Magadha figures were Gautam Buddha and Mahavira Jain. They both created their own teachings and philosophies based on the principles of equality, faith and Karma and opposed the notion of innate superiority based on birth.


    Teaching and Philosophies of the Jainism:

    The word ‘Jain’ is derived from jina or jaina which means the ‘Conqueror’. They believe that their religion is comprised of people who have managed to control and conquer their desires. There were 24 Tirthankaras or great-learned men in Jain religion including Mahavira.

    Jainism, like Buddhism, rejects the authority of Vedas. However, unlike Buddhism, it believes in the existence of soul (atman).

    Jaina Teachings and Philosophy: Mahavira has taught the Jains the right path or Dharma and stressed on renunciation of the world, strict asceticism and moral cultivation. The Jains are morally bound by their religion to live in such a way that would not harm any being.

    They believe that through three-jewel (fold) path of:

    • Right belief (samyakdarshana),
    • Right knowledge (samyakjnana) and
    • Right conduct (samyakcharita),

    One can get rid of the bad karma and also pull themselves out of the cycle of rebirth and achieve salvation. Jains need to follow these five constraints in life:

    • Ahimsa (non-violence)
    • Satya (truthfulness)
    • Asteya (not stealing)
    • Aparigraha (non-acquisition) and
    • Brahmacharya (chaste living). The fifth tenet was propounded by Mahavira.

    Anekantavada, the fundamental doctrine of Jainism emphasises that the ultimate truth and reality is complex and has multiple aspects. Hence, there exists non-absolutism, that means no single, specific statement can describe the nature of existence and the absolute truth.

    Teaching and Philosophies of the Buddhism: The origin of Buddhism is attached to the story of Siddhartha who came to be known as Buddha. It is the world’s fourth largest religion.

    At the age of 35 on the same day of his birth, he attained enlightenment (Nirvana) under that pipal tree and became the Buddha, the Enlightened One. After attaining Nirvana in Bodh Gaya, he gave his first sermon to his five companions at the Deer Park in Sarnath near Varanasi. This event was called Dharma-chakra-pravartana (Turning the wheel of Law).

    Three Jewels (triratnas) embraced under Buddhism are:

    • Buddha: The enlightened one
    • Dhamma: Teachings of Buddha (doctrine)
    • Sangha: The monastic order

    Concepts and Philosophy under Buddhism: The basic tenets of Buddhism are explained through the four major Noble truths. They are:

    • The truth of suffering (Dukkha)
    • The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudaya)
    • The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha)
    • The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga) i.e., Life is full of suffering (dukkha).

    All aspects of life contained the seeds of sorrow. Sorrow was caused by desires. This keeps us caught in samsara, the endless cycle of repeated rebirth, dukkha and dying again. If one could get rid of desires and needs, then one could be free and at peace. This can be attained through following the ‘Noble Eightfold Path’. They include:

    • Kind, truthful and Right speech
    • Honest, peaceful and Right action
    • To find the right livelihood which does not harm any being
    • Right effort and cultivating self-control
    • Right mindfulness
    • Right meditation and concentrating on the meaning of life
    • The worth of the sincere and intelligent man is through right thoughts
    • One should avoid superstition and cultivate right understanding.

    According to Buddha, the Middle Path (Madhyam Marg) or Middle Way describes the character of the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to liberation. Buddhism rejects the authenticity of the Vedas, i.e., it does not accept it. It also rejects the concept of the existence of the Soul (atman) unlike Jainism.

    Once Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana at Kushinagar. His teachings were compiled in the four Buddhist Councils to collate teachings material into Pitakas. The result was writing of three major pitakas Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidhamma, that when combined were called Tripitaka. All of these have been written in Pali language.


    With the evolution of time, these basic thoughts are divided into many major schools and thoughts based on their beliefs and changes in the contemporary world. The orthodox, liberalism and people’s belief becomes the major factors among the various schools of these religions.

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