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Ageing Gracefully In Indian Culture

Ageing Gracefully
Could there be anyone who does not care about aging gracefully? An ancient module in the Indian culture called the Vanaprasth, took care of old age problems.

Total solution of all the problems of old age was sought in Indian culture in the "Vanprasth Ashram" life style, for ageing gracefully. Due to misinterpretation of Vanprasth concept in English education introduced by Lord Macaulay in India in 1835, the "Vanprasth Ashram" has totally vanished from the lives of Indian populace.

Instead of going to the forest as misinterpreted, Vanprasth Ashram has to be lived after retirement in two stages viz., 10 years as householder Vanprasth and 10 years as Ashram Vanprasth. Following them, the were actually ageing gracefully.

Life style in each stage is different as detailed in the article and if followed is capable of providing plausible answers to the problems in old age by elderly people all over the world.


Life style of elderly people of different culture vary from person to person. It is therefore very difficult to design a model capable of taking care of all the old age problems faced by this fast increasing segment of human race. There are however certain problems commonly faced by almost all the elderly people of the world irrespective of cast, creed, sex or culture.

A perfect model of elderly life style must therefore, address these problems in their entirety and adequately answer the following questions :-

1. How to keep fit and prevent incurable diseases in old age?
2. What to do and keep satisfyingly busy after retirement?
3. How to have good relations with children and their spouses and neighbours?
4. Who will take care if physically or psychologically incapacitated.
5.Where to live? With children; and if children do not want to live with us?
6.How to finance 25/30 years of post retirement life?
7. How to realize the ultimate goal of human birth?

Total Solution:

A total solution of the problems of old age, for ageing gracefully, was conceived in the concept of Vanprasth Ashram in time tested culture of India. It finds place in the Vedas and Smriti texts; A person after fulfilling the responsibilities of a householder, was expected to take recourse to the life of a Vanprasth for about 25 years. Pre-requisites for entry into Vanprasth life style were :-

Discharging the financial debts
Getting the daughters suitably married
Setting the. sons in life.
Ensuring the lineage.

After fulfilling the above responsibilities, a householder usually promoted himself as a vanprasth to loosen his attachments. This class of young elderly people equipped with life long experience and freed from householder's responsibilities were then available for selfless work in spiritual and social service institutions of the society. At the same time, they exercised disciplinary influence over the younger generation and ensured high level of character all around. This preparation would help him to evolve into a Sanyasi Mahatama in the fourth stage before laying his mortal coil.

Fourth age group(Sanyasis) offered 'models of simple living and high thinking individuals striving to reach the ultimate goal of life. In every generation, there were hundreds of realized masters serving as beacon lights roaming around on foot from village to village propagating the highest ideals of human living based on Indian traditions.

What went wrong?

With the introduction of Macaulay system of English education in 1835 an organized effort was systematically made to look down upon every aspect of Indian tradition as outdated. Education system of India which nourished its very high culture for thousands of years was slowly and steadily destroyed root and branch. A nation that had a literacy rate higher than most other nations of Europe in those days even at village level, was reduced to an illiterate nation.

Brahmins who were the educators of Indian children and had constantly produced for millenniums humans of such quality that could make humanity proud, came under direct attack. They were highly abused and shown to ·be exploiters of Indian populace.

To be continued

About the author

Shiv Swarup Agarwal

This article is written by Shiv Swarup Agarwal, Secretary General, Central Chimaya Vanprath Sansthan. It is an excerpt from “The Art of Graceful Ageing in Indian Culture'. This article deals about ageing gracefully and discusses about solutions for old age problems.

Read more about: old age, culture, chinmaya mission
Story first published: Wednesday, December 22, 2010, 16:34 [IST]
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