The ancient Indian 64 arts


  • About
  • The Ancient 64 Arts
  • Modern Version of the Ancient 64 Arts
  • Sayings
  • References


Advancing oneself by marrying well, is a time honored way to make one’s fortune, no matter how politically incorrect it might be today. In a bygone era of India, girls’ schools offered home science or home economics courses. There were Women’s’ Academies and Finishing Schools which most girls were advised to join after completing their High School. Mostly the idea was to equip young girls with the skills to attract well-to-do partners and to skillfully manage their husbands’ households.

Today women have the opportunity to attend university on par with men.And many of today’s billionaire wives are no slouches in the mental department.They are shoulder to shoulder with their husbands, playing the role of major decision makers at every front intheir lives.

Also, most of the Hindu scriptures talk of Gods such as Hanuman of having learnt the 64 arts. Have you ever wondered what these arts are? Here is the actual list of the 64 divine arts that the great kings of India were well versed in.

Ancient 64 Arts

Vatsayana lists out 64 arts to be cultivated to make a person more attractive.Incidentally his recommendations are gender neutral.Listofthe 64 arts as below.These arts are explained with their Sanskrit terms too.

gita – art of singing

vadya – art of playing on musical instruments

nrtya – art of dancing

natya – art of theatricals

alekhya – art of painting

visesakacchedya – art of painting the face and body with colored unguents and cosmetics

tandula-kusuma-bali-vikara – art of preparing offerings from rice and flowers

puspastarana – art of making a covering of flowers for a bed

dasana-vasananga-raga – art of applying preparations for cleansing the teeth, cloths and painting the body

mani-bhumika-karma – art of making the groundwork of jewels

sayya-racana – art of covering the bed

udaka-vadya – art of playing on music in water

udaka-ghata – art of splashing with water

citra-yoga – art of practically applying an admixture of colors

malya-grathana-vikalpa – art of designing a preparation of wreaths

sekharapida-yojana – art of practically setting the coronet on the head

nepathya-yoga – art of practically dressing in the tiring room

karnapatra-bhanga – art of decorating the tragus of the ear

sugandha-yukti – art of practical application of aromatics

bhusana-yojana – art of applying or setting ornaments

aindra-jala – art of jugglery

kaucumara – art of kaucumara – a kind of art

hasta-lagava – art of sleight of hand

citra-sakapupa-bhaksya-vikara-kriya – art of preparing varieties of salad, bread, cake and delicious food

panaka-rasa-ragasava-yojana – art of practically preparing palatable drinks and tingingdraughts with red color

suci-vaya-karma – art of needleworks and weaving

sutra-krida – art of playing with thread

vina-damuraka-vadya – art of playing on lute and small x-shaped drum

prahelika – art of making and solving riddles. 29a. pratimala – art of reciting verse for verse as a trial for memory or skill.

  • durvacaka-yoga – art of practicing language difficult to be answered by others
  • pustaka-vacana – art of reciting books
  • natikakhyayika-darsana – art of enacting short plays and anecdotes
  • kavya-samasya-purana – art of solving enigmatic verses
  • pattika-vetra-bana-vikalpa – art of designing preparation of shield, cane and arrows
  • tarku-karma – art of spinning by spindle
  • taksana – art of carpentry
  • vastu-vidya – art of engineering
  • raupya-ratna-pariksa – art of testing silver and jewels
  • dhatu-vada – art of metallurgy
  • mani-raga-jnana – art of tinging jewels
  • akara-jnana – art of mineralogy
  • vrksayur-veda-yoga – art of practicing medicine or medical treatment, by herbs
  • mes-kukkuta-lavaka-yuddha-vidhi – art of knowing the mode of fighting of lambs, cocks and birds
  • suka-sarika-prapalana (pralapana?) – art of maintaining or knowing conversation between male andfemale cockatoos
  • utsadana – art of healing or cleaning a person with perfumes
  • kesa-marjana-kausala – art of combing hair
  • aksara-mustika-kathana – art of talking with letters and fingers
  • mlecchita-kutarka-vikalpa – art of fabricating barbarous or foreign sophistry
  • desa-bhasa-jnana – art of knowing provincial dialects
  • puspa-sakatika-nirmiti-jnana – art of knowing prediction by heavenly voice or knowing preparation of toy carts by flowers
  • yantra-matrka – art of art of mechanics
  • dharana-matrka – art of the use of amulets
  • samvacya – art of conversation
  • manasikavya-kriya – art of composing verse mentally
  • kriya-vikalpa – art of designing a literary work or a medical remedy
  • chalitaka-yoga – art of practicing as a builder of shrines called after him
  • abhidhana-kosa-cchando-jnana – art of the use of lexicography and meters
  • vastra-gopana – art of concealment of cloths
  • dyuta-visesa – art of knowing specific gambling
  • akarsa-krida – art of playing with dice or magnet
  • balaka-kridanaka – art of using children’s toys
  • vainayikividya – art of enforcing discipline
  • vaijayikividya – art of gaining victory
  • vaitalikividya – art of awakening with music at dawn

Modern Version of the Ancient 64 Arts

  • Singing
  • Playing on musical instruments
  • Dancing
  • Union of dancing, singing, and playing instrumental music
  • Writing and drawing
  • Tattooing
  • Arraying and adorning an idol with rice and flowers
  • Spreading and arranging beds or couches of flowers, or flowers upon the ground
  • Coloring the teeth, garments, hair, nails and bodies, i.e. staining, dyeing, coloring and painting the same
  • Fixing stained glass into a floor
  • The art of making beds, and spreading out carpets and cushions for reclining
  • Playing on musical glasses filled with water
  • Storing and accumulating water in aqueducts, cisterns and reservoirs
  • Picture making, trimming and decorating
  • Stringing of rosaries, necklaces, garlands and wreaths
  • Binding of turbans and chaplets, and making crests and top-knots of flowers
  • Scenic representations, stage playing Art of making ear ornaments Art
  • Preparing perfumes and odors
  • Proper disposition of jewels and decorations, and adornment in dress
  • Magic or sorcery
  • Quickness of hand or manual skill
  • Culinary art, i.e. cooking and cookery
  • Making lemonades, sherbets, acidulated drinks, and spirituous extracts with proper flavor and colour
  • Tailor’s work and sewing
  • Making parrots, flowers, tufts, tassels, bunches, bosses, knobs, etc., out of yarn or thread
  • Solution of riddles, enigmas, covert speeches, verbal puzzles and enigmatical questions
  • A game, which consisted in repeating verses, and as one person finished, another person had to commence at once, repeating another verse, beginning with the same letter with which the last speaker’s verse ended, whoever failed to repeat was considered to have lost, and to be subject to pay a forfeit or stake of some kind
  • The art of mimicry or imitation
  • Reading, including chanting and intoning
  • Study of sentences difficult to pronounce. It is played as a game chiefly by women, and children and consists of a difficult sentence being given, and when repeated quickly, the words are often transposed or badly pronounced
  • Practice with sword, single stick, quarter staff and bow and arrow
  • Drawing inferences, reasoning or inferring
  • Carpentry, or the work of a carpenter
  • Architecture, or the art of building
  • Knowledge about gold and silver coins, and jewels and gems
  • Chemistry and mineralogy
  • Coloring jewels, gems and beads
  • Knowledge of mines and quarries
  • Gardening; knowledge of treating the diseases of trees and plants, of nourishing them, and determining their ages
  • Art of cock fighting, quail fighting and ram fighting
  • Art of teaching parrots and starlings to speak
  • Art of applying perfumed ointments to the body, and of dressing the hair with unguents and perfumes and braiding it
  • The art of understanding writing in cipher, and the writing of words in a peculiar way
  • The art of speaking by changing the forms of words. It is of various kinds. Some speak by changing the beginning and end of words, others by adding unnecessary letters between every syllable of a word, and so on
  • Knowledge of language and of the vernacular dialects
  • Art of making flower carriages
  • Art of framing mystical diagrams, of addressing spells and charms, and binding armlets
  • Mental exercises, such as completing stanzas or verses on receiving a part of them; or supplying one, two or three lines when the remaining lines are given indiscriminately from different verses, so as to make the whole an entire verse with regard to its meaning; or arranging the words of a verse written irregularly by separating the vowels from the consonants, or leaving them out altogether; or putting into verse or prose sentences represented by signs or symbols. There are many other such exercises.
  • Composing poems
  • Knowledge of dictionaries and vocabularies
  • Knowledge of ways of changing and disguising the appearance of persons
  • Knowledge of the art of changing the appearance of things, such as making cotton to appear as silk, coarse and common things to appear as fine and good.
  • Various ways of gambling
  • Art of obtaining possession of the property of others by means of mantras or incantations
  • Skill in youthful sports
  • Knowledge of the rules of society, and of how to pay respect and compliments to others
  • Knowledge of the art of war, of arms, of armies, etc.
  • Knowledge of gymnastics
  • Art of knowing the character of a man from his features
  • Knowledge of scanning or constructing verses
  • Arithmetical recreations
  • Making artificial flowers
  • Making figures and images in clay

If a wife becomes separated from her husband, and falls into distress, she can support herself easily, even in a foreign country, by means of her knowledge of these arts. Even the bare knowledge of them gives attractiveness to a woman, though the practice of them may be only possible or otherwise according to the circumstances in each case.

A man who is versed in these arts, who is loquacious and acquainted with the art of gallantry, gains very soon the hearts of women, even though he is only acquainted with them for a short time.


“A public woman, endowed with a good disposition, beauty and other winning qualities, and also versed in the above arts, obtains the name of a Ganika, or public woman of high quality, and receives a seat of honour in an assemblage of men.She is, moreover, always respected by the king, and praised by learned men, and her favour being sought for by all, she becomes an object of universal regard. The daughter of a king too as well as the daughter of a minister, being learned in the above arts, can make their husbands favorable to them, even though these may have thousands of other wives besides themselves.If a wife becomes separated from her husband, and falls into distress, she can support herself easily, even in a foreign country, by means of her knowledge of these arts. Even the bare knowledge of them gives attractiveness to a woman, though the practice of them may be only possible or otherwise according to the circumstances of each case.A man who is versed in these arts, who is loquacious and acquainted with the arts of gallantry, gains very soon the hearts of women, even though he is only acquainted with them for a short time.”

These are among the skills traditionally taught to both genders, while emphasizing masculinity in men and femininity in women. Their subject matter draws on such texts as the Vedangas and Upavedas, and the ShilpaShastras, or craft manuals. Through the centuries, writers have prescribed many more skills and accomplishments. These include sculpture, pottery, weaving, astronomy and astrology, mathematics, weights and measures, philosophy, scriptural study, agriculture, navigation, trade and shipping, knowledge of time, logic, psychology and Ayurveda. In modern times, two unique sets of 64 kalas have been developed, one for girls and one for boys.

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