64 Kalas/Arts of Ancient India

A classical curriculum of sacred sciences, studies, arts, and skills of cultured living listed in various Hindu shastras. Its most well-known appearance is in the Kama Sutra, an extensive manual devoted to sensual pleasures. The Kama Sutra details its primary subject matter the 64 secret arts, Abhyantara Kala, of love. In addition to these, it lists 64 Bahya Kalas, or practical arts, as a required study for cultured persons. They are:

  1. Singing,
  2. instrumental music,
  3. dancing,
  4. painting,
  5. forehead adornments,
  6. making decorative floral and grain designs on the floor,
  7. home and temple flower arranging,
  8. personal grooming,
  9. mosaic tiling,
  10. bedroom arrangements,
  11. creating music with water,
  12. splashing and squirting with water,
  13. secret mantras,
  14. making flower garlands,
  15. head adornments,
  16. dressing,
  17. costume decorations,
  18. perfumery,
  19. jewelry making,
  20. magic and illusions,
  21. ointments for charm and virility,
  22. manual dexterity,
  23. skills of cooking, eating and drinking,
  24. beverage and dessert preparation,
  25. sewing (making and mending garments),
  26. embroidery,
  27. playing vina and drum,
  28. riddles and rhymes,
  29. poetry games,
  30. tongue twisters and difficult recitation,
  31. literary recitation,
  32. drama and storytelling,
  33. verse composition game,
  34. furniture caning,
  35. Devices and knowledge of sexual arts,
  36. crafting wooden furniture,
  37. architecture and house construction,
  38. distinguishing between ordinary and precious stones and metals,
  39. metal-working,
  40. gems and mining,
  41. gardening and horticulture,
  42. games of wager involving animals,
  43. training parrots and mynas to speak,
  44. hairdressing,
  45. coding messages,
  46. speaking in code,
  47. knowledge of foreign languages and dialects,
  48. making flower carriages,
  49. spells, charms, and omens,
  50. making simple mechanical devices,
  51. memory training,
  52. game of reciting verses from hearing,
  53. decoding messages,
  54. the meanings of words,
  55. dictionary studies,
  56. prosody and rhetoric,
  57. impersonation,
  58. artful dressing,
  59. games of dice,
  60. the game of akarsha (a dice game played on a board),
  61. making dolls and toys for children,
  62. personal etiquette and animal training,
  63. knowledge of dharmic warfare and victory, and
  64. physical culture.

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 Shilpa Shastras, 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.

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