(Last Updated on : 05/12/2012)
Education in ancient India had a deep impact in the upliftment and advancement of the early society and over all development. India is pregnant with a rich tradition of knowledge and learning from the earliest days of Indian civilization. There are several literary sources, such as the Vedas
and other Hindu texts and scriptures, which offer references about education system of the ancient societies. The Mahabharata
, some Dharma
sutras, particularly those of Gautama Buddha
and the Manu Smriti
, are the principal works dealing with the system of education in ancient India.
History of Education in Ancient India
From the Vedic to the Brahman period, literature and additional literature sustained to be created. Even in the Brahman period, education continued to be looked upon as the means to knowledge. It has the same objectives that Vedic education had. However, with the passage of time and a change in the needs of society, the importance attached to them underwent a change. In this period, the following objectives were ascribed to education.
2. Development of character
3. Generation of sociability or social awareness
4. Integral development of personality
5. Propagation of purity
6. Preservation of knowledge and culture.
Education in this age was unrelenting to carry on the foundations offered to it during the Vedic period, but a certain firmness and narrowness now marked its implementation. Education now aimed at equipping the student for the struggle for existence. After the "Upanayana" or introduction ceremony, teachers imparted education to their students according to the latter`s interests, tendencies and nature. Celibacy was rigidly observed by the students. Teachers paid full attention to the psychological make-up of their students while teaching. Corporal or physical punishment was regarded as the last resort of administration and discipline. It has been stated in the Manu Smrit
i and Yajyavalka.
Education in Ancient India originated with the Gurukul
system. This type of ancient Hindu school in India was residential in nature with the Shishyas or students and the Guru or teacher living in proximity within the same house. The students resided together irrespective of their social standing. However, several temples and community centers regularly took the role of schools. In addition to that ancient Indian education achieved a noticeable position in the early Vedic period
, beginning in the 1200 B.C. In the Vedic days, the teaching of the four Vedas, the hymns and ritual practices were seen. The Vedas included the Sanskrit language
which in turn became the language of classical learning. Besides the pronunciation of the Vedas and their implication, phonology, metrics, elementary grammar, and etymology were also taught. Though, the Vedic education was not transmitted to people of low strata, yet the Vedic system inspired the modern day education system. The school in the ancient education system lasted for 7 to 8 hours a day. In fair weather; classes were held under the shelter of the tree. In the rainy season schools ran under thatched roof. Temple colleges of the past had been of great renown for having spacious buildings for classrooms and the residential complexes of the students and the "Gurus". Gurukuls and Ashrams were generally situated on the river banks or on the lake to attain the knowledge.
Role of Teachers in Ancient Indian Education
The preceptors were of two classes, namely Acharya and Upadhyaya. According to ancient literary texts the Acharya performs the Upanayana
ceremony of the students, teaches him the Veda along with ritualistic literature and the Upanishads
. But he does not work for the pupil for livelihood whereas the Upadhyaya teaches his pupil the Veda and the Vedic literatures for livelihood. The Apastamba Dharma Sutra
proclaims that though the teacher is the sole guardian of the learner during his study, yet he cannot exercise arbitrary power. It declares that the educator cannot utilise the pupil`s services for his own advantage. For the student`s offences, he can punish him in the prescribed manner but not in any way he likes.
According to the Apastamba-dharma sutra, a pupil should confidentially draw the attention of the teacher to any wrongdoing of the rules, meant for him, either purposely or unconsciously. The students are allowed to control the teacher by force from wrong-doing or to get him restrained by his father etc. Mahabharata mentions that students are allowed to desert his teacher who is arrogant, ignorant of his duty and resorts to a wrong course of action.
summarises the sum total of the responsibilities of a student. It entails rigorous self-discipline and self-control. All sorts of pleasures and luxuries must be avoided by the pupils. Some of the occasions on which termination of study was prescribed include dusty storm by day, playing of certain musical instruments within the hearing of the pupil, cries of animals, screech of an owl, heavy downpour, rattling of thunderbolt, earthquake, eclipse, fall of a meteor, festival, certain Tithi
, e.g. full moon day, etc. Samavartana
marks the end of a pupil`s period of study and return home. According to some literary sources, education in ancient India was not confined only to the privacy of the preceptor`s house. In matters of education in ancient societies, the constricted barriers of the caste-system seemed to have crumbled down as per the various literary texts. The spread of Buddhism
in India enriched and evolved the state of education in ancient India. In this period education became accessible to everyone and various celebrated educational institutions were established at that instant. Few of the most important universities of India in the ancient times were Vikramshila
(Takshashila) and Nalanda
Education at that time was free. It was free because no student was required to pay any fees. It was free also because no outside agency could interfere in the matters of education. There was perfect autonomy. No external authority no external beneficiary, no politics was permitted to enter the school or college system. A student had to pay nothing in return for education he received in a Gurukul or Ashram. Access to good education depended not on wealth but on talent. The student was expected, if desired but never compelled to offer a field, cow, horse or the elements of the daily needs to his teacher according to his financial position in the society. Education could not be bought one could go up the ladder as his abilities permitted. Some of the best known universities in India are Ancient Nalanda
University, Takshashila University, Odantapuri in Bihar
, (500 to 1040), Somapura in Bangladesh, Jagaddal in Bengal (now in West Bengal
in Andra Pradesh
, Vikramshila in Bihar
, Saradhha peeth in Kashmir
, Valabhi in Gujarat
(from Maitrak period), Varanasi
in Uttar Pradesh
in Tamil Nadu
, Manyakheta in Karnataka
, Puspagiri and Ratnagiri in Orissa