• InduQin

Ask the Past

India is perhaps the only civilization of the ancient world that turned knowledge into Goddess. It was, in any case, regarded as sacred and so was its transmission: there was an old saying that a teacher, however great a scholar, who failed to find one student worthy of his learning, would have to go to hell. More historically, bas-reliefs in temples and other monuments often depict gurus teaching disciples: and when Dhannaswamin. a Tibetan monk, visited in 1235 the mined site of Nalanda University, sacked four decades earlier by Baklitiyar Khilji. he found a 90-year-old teacher. Rahula Shribhadra. still instructing a class of 70 students — perhaps Nalanda's last class, stubbornly taught by a nonagenarian.

Knowledge was. however, not shapeless or a collection of snippets. It was carefully structured, yet shunned compaitmentalisation: language and grammar often had underlying mathematical models: India's earliest geometry resulted from complex fire altars and a philosophy of sacrifice: mathematics occasionally used poetry to express itself and shared with philosophical systems concepts of zero and infinity and the science of logic (variously called nyaya. yukti. tarka. anvikshiki. depending on the approach or school of thought): Aryabhata's concept of beginningless and endless time. Indian astronomers' use of yugas and the Kali Era are rooted in classical Hindu concepts: Ayurveda relied on fundamental philosophical views of the human and the cosmic, and had close links with alchemy and metallurgy: architecture was a meeting ground of cosmological concepts (most of them part of vastushastra). geometry (including the application of various sets of proportions) and building technology.

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