'Ancient India was rich with diverse philosophical and intellectual traditions'

Author Sripati Tantri says different schools of thought added to diversity

Anthropologist and author Prof Sripati Tantri said it would be wrong to reject ancient India as it was rich with diverse philosophical and intellectual traditions.

Delivering a special talk on ‘Philosophical Traditions of Ancient India’ at the Centre for Gandhian and Peace Studies, Manipal University, here recently, he said ancient India was both Brahmanic, non-Brahmanic,  theist, atheist and agnostic. Vedic thought, Buddhism, Jainism, Ajivikas, Charvakas as well as other systems of philosophies such as Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Yoga, Sankhya, Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta represent the diversity of philosophical traditions, he said.

Prof Tantri said Takshashila (Taxila in the present-day Pakistan) was a great centre for learning and trade route in ancient India. It was a confluence of many cultures and scholars from across the world visited the place. “There are clear indications of exchange of knowledge and influences among India, Greece, Persia and other countries. Hence, it would be wrong to say that all knowledge originated in India only,” Prof Tantri said.

“Vedic religion was primarily practised in the Gangetic heartland and Buddhism developed independently as it grew up in Vajji republic. The concept of soul was absent in Buddhism even though they believed in rebirth. Jainism emphasised on non-violence much more than Buddhism. The Ajivikas were completely atheists initially, but later theism crept into their philosophy. We can find some similarities between atomistic theory of philosopher Kanada and Greek philosophers such as Democritus and Pythagoras,” Prof Tantri said. 

Director of Gandhian Studies Prof Varadesh Hiregange cited Mahatma Gandhi’s remark that he was an Anekantavadi (a Jaina doctrine), who believed that a proposition might be true and false at the same time from two relative points of view.  The talk was organised to mark the Martyr’s Day.
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