Education, Learning and Literature
The aim of education in ancient India was to develop the student's personality, his innate and latent capacities. This view of education as a process of inner growth and self-fulfillment evolved its own technique, its rules, methods and practices.
Education in Ancient India
- The making of man was regarded as an artistic and not a mechanical process.
- The primary subject of education was the mind itself.
- Patanjali analyse the conditions of the mind and points out five stages in its growth:
(a) Kshipta: The lowest state of mind. Here the mind is unable to fix its attention on the subject at a time.
(b) Vikshipta: Here the state of mental madness had its lucid intervals marked by attention to some selected objects.
(c) Mudha Chitta: This is the third stage where the mind is capable of concentration but only on objects like wealth or woman in a state infatuation with no sense of values.
(d) Ekagra Chitta : Where the mind is capable of focussing itself exclusively on one subject.
(e) Niruddha Chitta: The mind is free of all outgoing tendencies and is completely subjective and concentrated on the Truth it seeks.
- Education was imparted by the teacher to the students who gathered around him and came to live in his house as members of his family. The family functioned as a domestic school, an Ashram or a hermitage, where the mental faculties of the students were developed by the teacher's constant attention and personal instruction.
- Education was reduced to three simple processes of Shrawana, Manana and Nididhyasana.
- Shravana was listening to the truths as they come out of the mouth of the teacher. Sruti was the highest form of knowledge. Truth was that which was heard by the ear and not what was seen in writing.
- Manana implies that the student has to think out for himself the meaning of the lessons imparted to him orally by his teacher.
- Nididhyasana means complete comprehension by the student of the truth that is taught so that he may live with the truth and not merely explain it by word. Knowledge must culminate in realization.
- Gurukula or the home of the teacher was the usual type of educational institution. The admission to the institution was made by the formal ceremony by Upanayana.
- Here the pupils accepted Brahmacharya with its strict discipline of life, regulations about dress, diet, study, social service and religious practices.
- Besides these regular schools of instruction, there were special institutions for the promotion of advanced study and research These are called as Brahmana Sanghas. Learning was also promoted by discussions at public meetings which were addressed by wandering scholars known as Chakras.
- The main subject was the Vedas. The teacher would instruct the students seated on the ground. For many hours daily they would repeat verse after verse of the Vedas till they attain mastery of at least one of them.
- After that the six Vedangas were taught — the correct pronunciation, knowledge of prosody, etymology, grammar, the performance of sacrifice, and the science of calendar (Jyotisha).
- The study of logic was followed by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. One of the most important topics of Indian thought was pramana or means of reliable knowledge.
- The best example of India's achievement in education was the Mahavihara.
- Nalanda was a post-graduate university for advanced study and research and counted on its permanent rolls 8500 students who were taught by 1510 teachers.
Nalanda University in Ancient India
- A large number of foreign students who hailed from Japan, China, Tibet, Korea and Mongolia studied there.
- The Brahma Purana, a work of the Gupta period, declares that members of the first three varnas should perform the ceremonies of bathing and muttering of prayers according to the Vedic methods, but women and Shudras cannot perform these ceremonies accordingly.
- According to the Sankhayana Grihyasutra it was not permissible to recite the Veda in the neighbourhood of a Shudra or a woman that had her courses.
- The Brihatsamhita, a work of about the sixth century A.D. declares that the eclipse which takes place as a result of the sun and the moon having risen one-sixth brings calamity to the woman and Shudra.
- Manu and Yajnavalkya hold that a woman is never independent. While unmarried the father protects her, when married the husband protects her, and in the old age the son protects her.
- According to the Dharmashastras one of the requisites for a valid marriage was that both the bride and the bridegroom should belong to the same caste.
- Commenting on a passage of the Asvalayana
The archaeological remains at Harappa and Mohenjodaro reveal certain skills, practices and techniques which show knowledge of applied science. These techniques were used in irrigation, metallurgy, making of fired bricks and pottery and its glazing as well as simple arithmetic and measurement of areas and volumes.
- From the sacred books of the Aryans we know about their achievements in Astronomy, Mathematics and Medicine. There is evidence of exchange of knowledge with China as well as with the Arab countries and Greece.
- Mathematics includes Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Astronomy and Astrology. Arithmetic is called by several names such as:
(a) Calculations on board (Patton Ganita)
(b) Calculations with numerals (Anka Ganita)
(c) Work on dust (Dhulikrama).
- Geometry is called Rekha Ganita and Algebra as Bija Ganita; Astronomy and Astrology are included in the term Jyotisha.
- Sulva Sutras which form part of the Vedic Kalpa Sutras give geometrical methods for constructing altars and sacrificial places of given shape and area. Much earlier the Satapatha Brahamana and Taittariya Samhita gave similar constructions.
- Indian Geometry was independent of Greek influence.
- The Hindu mathematicians used cosine (Kotajaya) as well as versed sine (Utkramajaya).
- Ancient Indian mathematical texts discuss problems on common fractions, rule of three (five, seven and nine), simple and compound interests, mixtures, cistem etc., while Greek mathematical science was largely based on mensuration and geometry.
- In his Aryabhattiya written in 400 A.D., Aryabhata I, the Indian algebraist, deals with rules for the solution of large number of algebraic problems.
- These include summation of series such as Arithmetic progression, Geometrical progression, squares and cubes of natural numbers and permutations and combinations.
- For long it was thought that the decimal system of numerals was invented by the Arabs, but this is certainly not the case.
- The Arabs themselves called mathematics “the India art” (hindisat), and there is now no doubt that the decimal notation, with other mathematical lore, was learnt by the Muslim world either through merchants trading with the west coast of India or through the Arabs who conquered Sind in 712 A.D.
- Brahmagupta in the 7th century A.D. developed rules for operating with zero. He began to apply Algebra to astronomical problems.
- Aryabhatta gave the usual modern approximate value of pi as 3. 1416, expressed in the form of a fraction 62382/20000.
- Early interest in Astronomy and calendar is indicated by a Shloka in Taittiriya Brahmana which mentions the Sun, Moon, nakshatras, seasons, and regular and intercalary months.
- In about 40 verses of the Rig-veda (known as Vedanga Jyotisa) rules are given for making an almanac for a cycle or period of 5 years of 1830 days, divided in 60 regular and 2 intercalary months.
- Jupiter and Venus were the only planets recognized in Vedic times. Mars, Saturn and Mercury are mentioned in the Mahabharata.
- Surya Siddhanta is the best known book on Hindu Astronomy.
- Varahamihira wrote Pancha Siddhantika which gives the summary of five astronomical books currently in his time. Brahmagupta wrote Brahmasphuta Siddhanta and Khandakhadyaka. Bhaskara II is regarded as a great teacher. He wrote Siddhanta Sirormani.
- Ayurveda, literally means science of longevity, originated in the pre-Aryan times. We have no medical texts of this period, but there is little doubt that two factors encouraged medical knowledge — the growth of interest in physiology through the phenomenon of Yoga and mystical experience, and Buddhism.
- The Vedic hymns mentioned the following diseases: cough, consumption, fever, dropsy, leprosy, diarrhoea, abscesses, sores ec.
- About 800 B.C. onwards the medicine became a regular subject of study at centres of learning like Taxila and Varanasi. The school of Varanasi specialized in surgery.
- The teachings of Atreya at Taxila collected by Charak in the Ist century A.D. have come down as Charaka Samhita.
- The development of medicine probably stimulated by contact with Hellenic physicians, and the resemblances between Indian and classical medicine suggest borrowing on both sides.
- Sushruta mentioned 400 diseases. Small-pox was common and supposed to be caused by goddess sitala and the remedy was worship and propitiation of the deity
- For good health, certain rules were prescribed. Two meals were prescribed with directions and to the nature of the diet, time of diet and amount of water to be taken. Bathings, anointing the body with oil, cleaning the teeth and eyewashes were to be a daily routine. Fasting, austerity and control of desires were recommended as elixir.
- The materia medica was very extensive. Root, bark, juice, resin, flower etc, were used. Cinnamon, sesame, peppers, cardamom, ginger and garlic are household remedies even today.
- Among ionic substances arsenic, sulphur, common salt, potash, sal ammoniac were also employed. Oxides, chlorides and sulphates of tin, iron, copper, silver, gold and mercury came into use from the 8th century A.D. Some were used as stimulants and rejuvenators.
- There were supposed to be three elementary substances in the body — wind, bile and phlegm, and on their proper balance the health of the body depended.
- In the Vedic times surgery was a separate discipline. Surgeons accompanied armies to the battlefield to extract arrows, amputate limbs and substitute artificial ones. Taking the foetus out of the womb, treatment of fistula, repair of prolapse of the rectum, removal of stone from the bladder were the serious operations performed. Plastic surgery for the nose was also practised.
- According to almost all religions, the universe was classified by elements — earth, air, fire and water. Jainism added a fifth — akasha (ether).
- The five elements were thought of as the mediums of sense impressions-earth of smell, air of feeling, fire of passion, water of taste and ether of sound.
- Most Indian schools believed that the elements other than ether were atomic. Indian atomism was certainly dependent of Greek influence.
- The atom was generally thought to be eternal. A single atom has no qualities, but only potentialities which came into play when the atom com- bined with others.
- The excavations at different Indus Valley sites point to a well developed metallurgy of copper and bronze.
- The Aryans tanned leather, fermented grains and fruits.
- During the Kushana period there was large-scale production of copper, iron and steel, brass, gold and silver.
- Indian steel was highly valued all over the ancient world. Tin and Mercury were imported and worked. Glass beads were made.
- The medical chemistry of ancient India did succeed in producing metallic salts.
- The product of ancient Indian metallurgy and engineering deserve mention. A statute of the Buddha, found at Sultanganj in 1864, is almost pure copper.
- The famous iron pillar at Mehrauli withstood rain and weather for centuries without rusting.
Few masterpieces of Gupta age
(a) Vasavadatta by Subandhu.
(b) Mudrarakshasa by Visakhadatta.
(c) Mrichchhakatikam by Sudraka.
(d) Dasakumaracharita by Dandin.
(e) Amarakosha by Amara singh.
(f) Kamasutra by Vatsayayana.
(g) Aryabhatiyam by Aryabhatta.
(h) Brihat-Samhita by Varahamihira.