The epistemology in Classical Indian Philosophy is referred to as pramāṇa-śāstra. pramāṇa literally means “knowledge source” or “means of knowledge”. pramāṇa-śāstra  (theory of knowledge) encompasses methodologies to obtain knowledge and understanding through reliable means of reasoning.

Various schools of ancient Indian philosophies (e.g, Advaita, Vishishtadvaita, Dvaita, Samkhya, Nyaya, Yoga, etc) discusses and upholds many pramāṇas, but in general all of them falls into the following eight pramāṇas (first six of them are prominent ones):

1) Pratyakṣa: knowledge perception through five senses (external perception), and through mind or intuition (internal perception).
e.g., how a lion looks like is perceived through vision.

2) Anumāṇa: infer some fact based on the knowledge of already existing or known facts.
e.g., by looking at smoke, we infer that there is fire.

3) Upamāṇa: trying to understand a fact based on analogy.
e.g., some attributes about tiger could be understood by analogy of a cat with exaggerated attributes.

4) Śabda: relying on the verbal testimony of experts for knowledge.
e.g., learning various scriptures through oral tradition from Guru.

5) Arthāpatti: conclusions based on facts derived from circumstances.
e.g., Devadatta fasts during the day but still he is obese. Being obese as well as fasting during the day deducts a reasoning that Devadatta overeats during night.

6) Anupalabdi: understanding a fact based on absence or non-availability of something.
e.g., an elephant is not there in front of me implies there is no elephant.

7) Sambhava: speculating a possibility that something might have been in a certain way.
e.g., by looking at a ruined place, we speculate that this might have happened due to a flood.

8) Aithihyam: hearsay that is derived from many generations, and at least half of the fact is believed to be true.
e.g., A sculptor promised to finish the work of a pillar before rooster’s crowing in the morning. Some people purposefully made the rooster crow much before the normal time. So, the pillar remained unfinished. This is the aithihyam behind this unfinished pillar.

Further reading:


Gaņapati Mantrā
Rig Veda
(Mandala 2, Sūktā 23, Mantrā 1) 

गणानां त्वा गणपतिं हवामहे  (gaņānām tvā gaņapatim havāmahe
कविं कवीनामुपमश्रवस्तमम् । (kavim kavīnām upamashravastamam)
ज्येष्ठराजं ब्रह्मणाम् ब्रह्मणस्पत (jyeşhţharājam brahmaņām brahmaņaspata)
आ नः शृण्वन्नूतिभिःसीदसादनम् ॥ (ā naĥ shŗņvan ūtibhiĥ sīda sādanam)

We invoke the lord of the hosts of mantras,
Seer among all the seers, supreme in all hearings,
The eldest king and the lord of all the mantras.
Hearing our invocations, may he fulfill us and manifest his powers in our bodies.

This deity is addressed as Gaņapati, the leader of the heavenly hosts. Gaņa means a host, or host of mantras. Brahma in the vedas also means mantra, or the potent word. This deity is the Lord of all mantras when the mantra is recited with full understanding of its meaning. It enters our subtle bodies and releases the concealed powers in us. The prayer here is “May he hear us and manifest his powers in us“.

In later purāņas and in present times, the deity Gaņapati is the elephant-headed god, son of Shiva and Parvati, patron of studies and art, scribe of the epic mahābhārata, etc. However, there is no need to bring in such descriptions in the vedas because purāņas came several millennium after the Rigveda, and the purāņas express the truths of Rigveda, diluted as it were so that they are easily accessible to the common person.

The symbolic representation of Gaņapati interpreted to foster self development is depicted in the following picture:



Further reading:


जनिथा चोपनेथा च्  यस्तु विध्याम् प्रयच्चथि
अन्नधाथा भयथ्राथ पन्चय्थे पितरस्म्रितः !
Own father, one who initiated upanayanam, one who imparted knowledge (guru; teacher),
one who provides food, one who dispells fear from our mind – these five people qualifies as one’s father.

गुरुपत्नि राजपत्नि जयेष्टपत्नी तदैव च्
पत्निमात स्वमाता च् पन्चय्थे मातरस्म्रितः !
Wife of guru,  wife of king, wife of elder brother,
mother-in-law, own mother who gave birth – these five people qualifies as one’s mother.

– ManuSmrithi; Neethi Saaram.


Vidhya traditionally means knowledge, comprises of 18 branches (known as 18 vidhyasthanams). In ancient India, there were great scholars who mastered all the 18 vidhyasthanams. The various vidhyasthanams are as follows:

Veda-angi (the main body, all upanishads are included in vedas)
01) Rig Veda – contains mantras to praise and invoke various deities.
02) Sama Veda – contains mantras of Rig veda sung in musical rendition.
03) Yajur Veda – contains procedures which adds to Rig veda to perform worships and sacrifices.
04) Atharva Veda – contains mantras used in sacrifices to ward off evil calamities.

Veda-angas (branches of vedas)
05) Shiksha – the science of pronunciation.
06) Kalpa – procedures to perform vedic rituals.
07) Vyakarana – the science of linguistics.
08) Nirukta – meaning of words together with etymology.
09) Chandas – the science of both vedic and non-vedic meters.
10) Jyothisha – the science of astronomy and astrology.

Upa-angas (sub-subsidiary aspects)
11) Mimamsa – the science of deep understanding and inquiry.
12) Nyaya-vistara – detailed study about the means of knowledge.
13) Purana – contains moral education from vedas through stories.
14) Dharmashastra – comprises code of conduct, religious and legal duties.

Upa-vedas (applied knowledge)
15) Ayurveda – the science of life.
16) Dhanurveda – the science of weapons and wars.
17) Gandharva-veda – the study of fine arts encompassing drama, music, dance.
18) Arthashastra  – treatise on wealth, public governance, military strategies.


धन्यं  यशस्यमायुष्यं स्वर्ग्यं स्वस्त्ययनं महत्।
मांसस्याभक्षणं प्राहुर्नियताः परमर्षयः ॥
The great abstemious sages say that the voiding of the eating of flesh is blessed, praiseworthy, conducive to long life, helpful to attain heaven and is the great way to well-being.

“Those high-souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, understanding, mental and physical strength, and memory, should abstain from acts of injury.”

“That learned person who giveth to all living creatures the Dakshina of complete assurance comes to be regarded, without doubt, as the giver of life-breaths in this world.”

“Abstention from cruelty is the highest Religion. Abstention from cruelty is the greatest self-restraint.
Abstention from cruelty is the highest gift. Abstention from cruelty is the highest penance.
Abstention from cruelty is the highest sacrifice. Abstention from cruelty is the highest power.
Abstention from cruelty is the greatest friend. Abstention from cruelty is the greatest happiness”

Further reading:
1) Anusasana Parva, Section – CXV, Mahabharatham.
2) Vegetarianism: Recommended in Vedic Scripture.


Adi Shankaracharya (circa 8th century CE) was a great saint who re-established the advaitam (non-dualism) doctrine of Sanatana Dharmam (Hinduism). The following single verse composed by Shankara encompasses the core of advaita vedanta philosophy, presented as a conversation.

किम् ज्योथिस्तव भ्हानुमानहनिमे रात्रौ प्रदीपादिकं
श्यादेवं रविदीपदर्षनविधौ किम् ज्योथिराख्याहिमे ।
चक्षू स्थस्य निमीलनादिसमये किम् धीर्धीयो दर्शने
किम् तत्राहमथो भवानपरमकं ज्योथिःतदस्मि प्रभो ॥

നിനക്ക് എന്താണു വെളിച്ചം? എനിക്കു പകല്‍ സൂര്യനാണു വെളിച്ചം; രാത്രിയില്‍ ദീപം തുടങ്ങിയവ. അതിരിക്കട്ടെ, സൂര്യനെയും ദീപത്തെയും കാണുന്ന കാര്യത്തില്‍ വെളിച്ചമെന്താണ്? എന്നോടു പറയൂ. അതിനു കണ്ണാണു വെളിച്ചം. അതടച്ചു കഴിഞ്ഞാല്‍ പിന്നെയെന്താണു വെളിച്ചം? ബുദ്ധിയാണു വെളിച്ചം. ബുദ്ധിയെ കാണുന്ന കാര്യത്തില്‍ എന്താണു വെളിച്ചം? അക്കാര്യത്തില്‍ ഞാന്‍ തന്നെയാണു വെളിച്ചം. അതുകൊണ്ടു നീയാണ് വെളിച്ചങ്ങളുടെയൊക്കെ അങ്ങേയറ്റത്തെ വെളിച്ചം. പ്രഭോ, അതങ്ങനെതന്നെ.

What is light for you? For me, during daytime, sun is light; and during nighttime, lamp is light. Let that be so, what is the light with which you see sun and lamp? Tell me. For that, eyes are light. When you close your eyes, what is light? Intellect is light. To perceive intellect, what is light for you? For that, I myself am light. Thus, you are ultimate light, the self-luminous self. Yes my Lord, it is exactly so.



A person should go through all four stages of life, namely : brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa to systematically complete the purpose of the birth.

Death approaches without fail. It can happen that even before we could enjoy the fruits of our good actions done in many of  previous births and current birth, the death takes us away. Escape from disease and death is not easy. It is always nearing us, night after night.

People are more interested in immersing oneself in materialistic pleasures. The attachment for pleasure ties a person to lead more materialistic life. Good people tries to come out of this bondage, but those who are wicked never succeed in breaking this materialistic bondage.

He who never injures living creatures by thought, word, or deed, is never injured by such agencies as are destructive of life and property.

Lead the life by strictly adhering to the vow of truth, righteousness and abstaining from injury to others.

“That person whose words, thoughts, penances, renunciation, and yoga meditation, all rest on Brahma, succeeds in earning the highest good. There is no eye which is equal to (the eye of) Knowledge. There is no penance like (that involved in) Truth. There is no sorrow equal to (that involved in) attachment. There is no happiness (that which is obtainable from) renunciation. I have sprung from Brahma through Brahma.”

“A Brahmana can have no wealth like to the state of being alone, the state in consequence of which he is capable of regarding everything with an equal eye, the practice of truthfulness, good behavior, patience, abstention from injury, simplicity, and avoidance of all rites and visible sacrifices.”

Shanthi Parva, Section CLXXV, Mahabharatham.