How Did India's Ancient Masters Classify Domains of Higher Learning or VIDYA

  • This article classifies Vidyas (knowledge domains) into four and classifies modern disciplines of learning under these categories plus gives benefits of this classification.

India, that is Bharat has been famous all the world over for the contributions she has made to the world’s wealth of learning and knowledge; but it remains to be shown that even in the field of higher learning, our ancients were not without their own ideas of domains of learning and its functional categorisation. Many a times, the world of learners curiously look and try to imbibe from ‘Vishwaguru’ the facets and nuances with which ancient masters had ‘sliced, diced and integrated’ the domains of higher learning/ knowledge.


For many centuries, the great saying/maxim of ‘Gurushukrabrhaspathibhyo namah’ was wholeheartedly reverberated in Bharatiya traditions of learning. Literally the word meaning depicts that ‘Salutations to Guru, Shukra and Brhaspati’. Though, in essence it indicates beyond this simple notion and connects to the theoretical profoundness with which ancient schools of thought in higher learning were operated. 


Starting with Manu-the founder of rules to the ‘welfare administrators who were guided by the disciples/propagators of both Brhaspati and Shukra’ as well as the great nation-builder, author and authority- revered Acharya Kautilya; the ancient schools represented their brand/streamline of higher learning which is referred as ‘Vidya’. 


I have attempted to classify below vidyas along with the implications/resultants. It shows the visionary approach that was employed by these great masters. The current line of academicians can apply this for their own understanding, possibly for further extensions and usage.


The knowledge domains were primarily classified into four by revered Acharya Kautilya which includes a) the inquisitive domains like sankhya, yoga and lokayatam, b) Three vedas with vedanga, c) Industry and business as Vaartha representing all socio-economic transactions and d) Welfare administration and Justice represented as Dandaneeti. Three major schools were identified and influencing the higher learning, namely-Manu, Baarhaspatya and Shukra besides the fourth-all integrative school of thought popularised and standardised by revered Acharya Kautilya.


Classification of Vidyas (Knowledge domains)


Ancient School of Thought






a) Anweshaki

(Inquisitive domains)

(Sankhyam, Yoga and Lokayatam- Primal focus being Inquisitive refinement)

Part of Trayee

Not Recognised

Not Recognised



b) Trayee (Trifolded Vedas)

(Veda with six vedanga- primal focus on blossoming Cosmic human and transcendental Roles)


Not Recognised

Not Recognised



c) Vaartha (Transactional)

(Agriculture, Industry, Business and Animal husbandry)



Not Recognised



d) Dandaneeti

(Structural Justice)

(Welfare administration- Acquisition, protection, ascending growth and optimal distribution of Wealth)






Functional Resultants

Codes, Rules, Procedures and their applications.

Informative, recognisable and listed ones.

Constructivist, conceptual and perceptive.

Scientific, Judicious and Application oriented.


Theoretical Implications

Invariably Prescriptive theories

Mostly Content Dominant theories

Mostly Context Dominant theories

Systems theories


More visible in modern disciplines like that of

Law, Linguistics, Public Administration

Education, Agriculture, Industrial Science, Business and Macro economics

Art and Culture, Management,


Civics and Politics, Governance,

Sociology, Media studies, inter and trans disciplinary studies.


The followers of Shukra and Brhaspati were more popular as it depicts the content and context dominant theories of higher learning/vidya. In fact a healthy competition visibly existed among the scholars and many took either side.  

The emergence of ‘Arthasastra’ the magnum opus of revered Acharya Kautilya indicates and is still a shining example of the newer domains of systems learning and its multilateral applications. In point of exhaustiveness, it is doubtful if modern thinkers have created any work which can equal the Arthasastra. 

Brhaspati or Baarhaspatya School emphasise the transactional and welfare administration, thereby promoting the fields like Agriculture, Industrial Science, Business, Education and Macro Economics. The primal focus being the content of the knowledge, this school of thought enrich the domains with more farsighted theories in respective domains. In other words, modern faculties who want to excel in the above listed domains should become more attentive in the transactional and welfare aspects of those domains. This seems to be the mandate for these identified domains.

Similarly Shukra School primarily focus on the context, thereby promoting more applied aspects for disciplines like medicine, management, arts and theater. Welfare administration and structural/punitive Justice should be the mandate for these domains of learning.  

Disciplines like Law, Linguistics and Public Administration should focus on prescriptive theories thereby judiciously combining the ethics/rules, interactions and welfare administration.  

Revered Acharya Kautilya with his farsighted approach had proclaimed and displayed through ‘Arthasastra’, how to balance the aspirations, utilities and mandate of various domains of higher learning and to apply the same to the context envisaging ‘inter’ and ‘trans disciplinary’ studies. This makes his work ever dynamic, adaptable and transcending various time periods of civilisation.  

Other supplementary benefits of this classification can be – 

a) It is helpful in identifying and delineating the theoretical veracity of discipline concerned. Theories pertaining to Content, Context, Prescriptive or Systems can be identified with respect to the four context.

b) Discipline specific advantages/ needs can be easily identified. Which kind of theories to develop and which theories to be applied in a particular context, etc.

c) Enable/Enrich interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary synchronization.

d) Academic administrators and policy makers can benefit from this categorisation as it gives broader framework with the required theoretical backing while defining the discipline/field of learning.

e) Researchers will be immensely benefitted by using this matrix as a prism to assess/identify numerous research needs. 

Bharatiya traditions enable us to embrace the multicameral propensity of higher learning naturally, thereby envisaging the scope of advanced learning judiciously linked with the learning domains.  

The need of the hour is first to determine the degree of intertwining needed for a particular modern discipline and then trying to expand the relevant/applicable theoretical domains as identified above. This process will certainly boost the knowledge domain with the relevant theoretical backing and the learners will be immensely benefitted.  

Furthermore when we employ all the four major categories of ‘vidya’, the resultant channelises itself to systems thinking which is more appropriate at this juncture for any institution of higher learning in India.  

As an addendum, this matrix can pave way for further insights to a variety of group of stakeholders in higher education.  

The researchers and academicians can design the applications of a particular domain of knowledge and strengthen the relevant theories, thereby contributing to the core knowledge in that domain. The policy decision making of introducing or reenergising various undergraduate and post graduate programs can also be mapped with the backing of such group of theories and the need to incorporate it into the society at large.  


1. Brockbank, Anne, 1943-. (2007). Facilitating reflective learning in higher education. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

2. Kauṭalya. (1951). Arthaśastra. Mysore: Printed at Sri Raghuveer Print. Press.

3. Kauṭalya. (1992). The Arthashastra. New Delhi; New York, N.Y., USA: Penguin Books India.

Author Dr.K.Subramanian is an Academician, Author and founder of Centre for Studies in Temple administration. He had obtained his PhD from Gandhigram University in the domain of Conflict Management.