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Part II: The 14 Vidyas & 64 Kalas of Ancient India

In my previous post, I wrote about the 14 Vidyas (fields of education). This post is about the 64 Kalas (communication, performing arts, domestic sciences) . The Vidyas and the Kalas comprised of the education system in ancient India (1500- 600 B.C).

The 64 Kalas have always fascinated me because of the following reasons:

  • While the Vidyas form a true academic base, the Kalas comprise of an eclectic mix of useful trades and skills.
  • The Kalas are gender neutral. Every Kala is considered equally useful for both men and women to learn about and to master. Indeed, the male God Ganesha is considered to be a practitioner of all 64 Kalas, including knowing how to apply makeup, how to decorate the house with flowers, the art of literary criticism, and… flirting 🙂
  • The Kalas show us the skills and perspectives needed to make a well-rounded individual. These skills go well beyond the range of just an academic education.
  • Most of the Kalas are relevant even today, with some of them being extremely topical: the art of mixing drinks, slam poetry, etc.

So here are the 64 Kalas, as listed below. To shorten the list, I have combined some similar Kalas together. Speaking for myself- there are several Kalas I still need to learn about. There is one Kala I have perfected, though: it is the art of making the perfect bed!

1. General Education

  • Manners and etiquette
  • Languages, dialects, & vocabularies
  • Figures of Speech, including metaphors and puns
  • Reading
  • Recitation
  • Literary criticism
  • Writing, including ghost-writing
  • Slam poetry & Jamming!
  • Art of war
  • Powers of observation (to sum up a person)
  • The power of attracting others (er… flirting?)

2. Fine Arts

  • Sketching & Painting
  • Decorating the home with flowers
  • Pottery
  • Crafts from paper and other material

3. Trades

  • Gardening & agriculture
  • Preparation of perfumes
  • Carpentry & Furniture making
  • Knowledge of machinery
  • Architecture
  • Knowledge of metals
  • Knowledge of gems and jewels
  • Writing & deciphering codes (Cryptography?)

4. Music & Dancing

  • Singing
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Acting
  • Dancing

5. Domestic Science

  • Art of cooking
  • Mixing drinks!
  • Sewing and needle work
  • Making the perfect bed!

6. Physical & Mental Exercise

  • Physical exercise
    Games & Sports, including water sports
    Indoor games like chess
  • Games of chance, like dice
  • Mathematical & other types of puzzles

7. Fashion & Makeup

  • Fashion: clothing, shoes, jewelry
  • Hairdressing
  • Applying makeup, using beauty products, body painting, coloring of nails and hair, drawing decorative symbols on the forehead
  • Using flowers to decorate the body

8. Art of Entertaining

  • Magic tricks
  • Mimicry and imitation
  • Art of disguise

9. Training Animals

  • Training birds to talk
  • Training animals to fight

 

Categories: Read It Elsewhere Theories

Swati Sengupta

4 replies

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