Fundamental Human Needs To Live a Fulfilled Life – Lessons from Indian History

Indian Tradition

Can we apply historical solutions to today’s problems? Society today has evolved immensely, yet no matter how much we change and grow, our fundamental need to live as happy and fulfilled human beings remains the same. Have you ever unexpectedly connected with another human halfway across the world? No matter where we are from or which tribe we identify with, there’s no mistaking that there are common elements that connect and bind us together.

Similarly, we can string together many themes that connect the relevance of history to modern times. “I love looking at history this way because it makes it relevant for us to study it”, says Pradeep Chakravarthy, a behaviourist who specializes in Indian history. Are the things that were important to our ancestors still relevant to us today? A brief look through our history can show how Indian civilisation has traditionally addressed fundamental human needs, to be happy and fulfilled. Can we apply these methods to modern times?

Connecting Our Needs Today to Those Throughout our History


The Need to Know Oneself 

Knowing one’s roots and identity was very important to our ancestors, as it still is today. When the Bahmani Sultans conquered and looted Hampi of the Vijaynagar Empire, what caused the most damage to its inhabitants was not only the looting of personal wealth but more so the loss of their identity which was found in the stories told in the temple sculptures.

Temples would be the gathering place of intellects, and for communities to listen and tell stories about their legendary history. The meditative effect of this self-reflection was the backbone of their self-esteem and pride.

How Can We Apply This Today? 

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day goals and aspirations of our life and forget to take the time to celebrate. Understanding oneself is the best way to put everything into perspective. Everything that has happened to us – the good and the bad – has shaped us and given us the courage and strength we have today. We have to learn to love ourselves for who we are, who we were, and for the person we hope to become.

Gujarati Style

The Need to Belong to a Tribe of Like-Minded Individuals  

Humans are inherently social animals. Yesterday’s Virupaksha temple and sacred places of worship were not so different from today’s Instagram, Facebook, and social clubs. 

Partaking in unique rituals has been the backbone of keeping individuals together and is part of our intangible heritage. Think of your grandparents when you’re imagining this. The way a Bengali traditionally drapes their saree versus how a traditional Gujurati-style saree is draped, is vastly different. The way one family or tribe would do things would define the way they were and who they were. Their tribe and sense of belonging kept them together and thriving. Every tribe’s cultural practices were a testament to the beliefs and uniqueness they held dear.

 How Can We Apply This Today? 

It’s important to surround yourself with people who can support you and encourage you to be the best version of yourself. Your tribe could be a group of like-minded individuals, with whom you can share your thoughts, experiences, and journey through life. They are the people in your life who never expect you to change who you are in order to fit in.

Sometimes we are lucky to have found people like this along the way; sometimes we find people and groups that we resonate with right away. Treasure those friendships, share your knowledge, create your own rituals and practices. It could be a painting class every week, or workouts every day – anything you identify to be an important practice and that bonds you together. Learn to appreciate the value a tribe can bring to your life both personally and professionally.

Celebrate Life

The Need to Feel Connected 

The need for connection and contribution is one of the most fundamental needs a human can have. If we look back into our Indian history or the history of Eastern regions, we see that the community’s needs have always prevailed over the needs of the self. In agrarian communities, the larger community was absolutely necessary in order to survive. This system is all about how you need other people more than they need you, and this still holds true today.

How Can We Apply This Today? 

Studies show that people who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, more empathy, and as a consequence others are more open and trusting with them. To truly benefit from the connections we hope to create, we have to understand what we need and what we want to create in the world.

You could be looking to take your hobby or career to the next level with someone who is good at it, or perhaps you need a mentor who’s a good listener. The things that are important to you will be important to those you attract into your life.

Self Reflection

The Need to Feel Fulfilled 

Historically our civilization, based on the river valley civilizations, has been agrarian. Before mechanisation, agriculture was a very labor-intensive economy. One can never cultivate land on their own, no matter how physically powerful one is. We have traditionally had a codependent system in which our communities were important.

Everybody needed each other and supported each other to succeed. We believed that performance happens when you focus on relationships. The needs of other people and supporting the entire community is more important than the individual sense of what you need.

How Can We Apply This Today? 

Having meaning and a purpose to your life is what can keep you truly passionate. Passion is what drives us to inspire and lead others. Derive the meaning of your life by helping others and contributing to the lives of others. If you start with meaning, the purpose will take care of itself.

Take the time to understand your talents and what it takes to turn them into skills. What talents do you have that would make the world a better place to live in? Give your life direction by channeling your strengths and skills to make a mark in this world. If your life is driven by purpose, you will find long-term happiness and fulfillment.

Do you have much in common with your ancestors? It is said that the more you know about your past, the better prepared you are for your future. Not everything about history is perfect, but it provides us a deeper understanding of human nature and what we want to utilize in order to live a better life. What do you want to acquire from history? Start writing your own history today.



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