Fundamentals of Ancient Indian Education

 Fundamentals of Ancient Indian Education  - Ancient Indian Education had been evolved strictly on the foundations of Indian epistemological and philosophical traditions. The idea of the ephemerality of life and the world, the concept of ultimate death and the futility of mundane pleasures had provided them with a special angle of vision. The entire educational tradition originated in these 4 principles. Thus, the Indian sages devoted themselves to the study of a Supra-sensible world and spiritual powers and moulded their life accordingly. The ultimate aim of education emerged as the Chitti-Vrittinirodha (the control of mental activities connected with the so called concrete world). However, education did not neglect the development of the pupil’s powers for his all-sided advancement. 

1. Knowledge related to life During the ancient times in India, the pupil away from the haunts of din and distractions of the material world, amidst beautiful natural surroundings, sitting at the feet of his teacher, would comprehend all the intricate problems of life through listening and meditation. He would not remain contended with mere bookish learning but acquire fairly practical knowledge of the world and society through close contact with the people. An attempt was made to make the student capable of experiencing the Supreme truth himself and mould the society accordingly. 

2. Close association between teacher and student resulted in all-round development - The residence of the pupil at the house of the teacher accompanied by a sense of devoted service had been a unique tradition in ancient India. The pupil, through such a close contact with his teacher, would naturally imbibe his qualities through emulation. This was regarded as indispensable for the fullest development of his personality because the teacher was supposed to symbolize all the good ideals, traditions and code of behavior of the society from where the pupil hailed. 

3. Development in social work - Another important characteristic of ancient Indian educational system was that the same was wedded to the practical ends of life. The pupil’s residence at his teacher’s house would make it possible for him to develop social contacts as it was his sacred duty to collect fuel- wood, 5 supply water and do other household odd jobs for the teacher. In this way, not only would he receive instructions related to domestic life, but also learn the concrete lesson of the dignity of labour and social service. 

4. Vocational training - Students were given training in occupations of animal husbandry, agriculture and dairy farming etc. by tending his teacher’s cows and serving him in diverse ways. Evidently, the ancient Indian education was not merely theoretical but was related to the realities of life. The modern concept of Learning by Doing as understood in the West today, was the very core and essence of education in ancient India. Life served as the laboratory for the educational experimentation from where many noble traditions were developed. Similarly, begging alms by the pupils for their own subsistence and service of the Guru fostered in them humanitarian virtues. Thus, ancient Indian educational system was developed in terms of the needs of the individual and that of the society and therefore, its efflorescence was natural. It had a definite ideal and a definite mission. The ancient educational centers, situated amidst fauna and flora and beauties of nature were the perennial and inexhaustible fountainheads of Indian civilization and culture. The ancient Indian teachers evolved a special form of education whereby harmony was established between materialism and spiritualism; and human life thus headed towards greater perfection. 

The Four Vedas - The Vedas regarded as the oldest among the literatures of the world, are the original sources of the philosophy of life in ancient India. A study of these Vedas will enable one to get a thorough knowledge not only of the philosophy of life but also of the whole fabric of ancient Indian culture. Consequently, the entire literature and philosophy of India, The Upanishads, the Smritis and the Puranas, all acknowledge the superiority of Vedas. The Vedas occupy a very important place in the Indian life. The 6 basis of Indian culture lies in the Vedas, which are four in numberRigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. Vedas have their own characteristic features. Through them we are able to know about the culture, civilization, life and philosophy of people in ancient India. Vedas symbolize the chief objective of human life, which has been deliberance from this world of births and deaths. The Indian philosophy of life has never accepted life as purposeless. Before giving a detailed account of the Vedic Education, it is necessary to make a short appraisal of the four Vedas as the education of that period was based on them. 

The Rig Veda - The Rig Veda is established as the earliest work not merely of the Hindus, but of all Indo-European languages and humanity. It lays the foundation upon which Hindu Civilization has been building up through the ages. Broadly speaking, it is on a foundation of plain living and high thinking. Some of the prayers of the Rig Veda, like the widely known Gayatri mantram also found in Samaveda and Yajur Veda touch the highest point of knowledge and sustain human souls to this day. The Rig Veda itself exhibits an evolution and the history of the Rigveda is a history of the culture of the age. 

Other Vedas - Following Rigveda, came into existence the three Samhitas of Sama, Yajuh and Atharva in close succession. These Vedas ushered in a new kind of literature. The order of hymns included in the Rigveda is not in accord with that of the sacrifices; so much so there are some such hymns as have no relation to the Yajna or sacrifice at all. On the contrary, in the Sama, Yajuh and Atharva the hymns follow closely in order of the sacrifices. The priesthood was gaining ground. Higher education later on related itself to the priesthood and the ritualistic aspect of religion. The curriculum of education was the same for all the students called 7 Brahmacharinis; each of them was required to attain proficiency in the melodies of verses and ritualistic aspects of yajna. In course of time however, essentiality of division of labour was strongly felt owing to the growing complex nature of formal aspect of sacrifice, because no single individual priest could be expected to specialize in the triple aspect of the yajna. 

The Sama Veda - The compilation of all the hymns recited on the occasion of the Soma Yajna came to be known as the Sama Veda.

The Yajur Veda - It is a collection of prose Mantras. Though the duty of chanting the hymns on the occasion of sacrifice was mainly undertaken by the Hotri, the first order of priesthood, yet certain hymns related to prayer or invocation were sung by the Adhvaryus who were closely associated with sacrificial operations. Consequently, a separate training school was established for the education of these priests. The elementary prose literature of India, which culminated in the Upanishads, lies in the rudimentary form in the Yajurveda. We get in the Yajurveda glimpses of the religious and secular aspects of life in India.

The Atharvaveda - In the beginning only three Vedas were popular. In the course of time the fourth Veda called the Atarvaveda was also recognized. It is more original in contents. Unlike the preceding Vedas, the majority of Mantras in this Veda have not been adapted from the Rigveda. The Atharvaveda is thoroughly secular in character containing a vivid description of various arts and sciences.

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