Pick of the Day : Sanskrit & the Vidyapiths

In today’s Pick of the Day, for D’s Art Takes, I Divvya Nirula present my take on – “Sanskrit & the Vidyapiths”

In Search of The Lost Schools

India has always boasted of a rich tradition in the area of learning and education since ancient times. It is well known that people from other nations such as Europe, the Middle East, and Portugal came to India to get a quality education. When did this change and people preferred Ivy leagues and applying overseas? It’s not really about opportunities, is it? The first thing to do would be to reacquaint our culture back to our education and linguistic roots.

Ancient Systems of Education

Reading and researching about the various languages there is one fact that definitely stands out. There is a great deal of importance on the oral tradition for ancient languages.  In fact, in some ancient systems like Persian and Arabic, the oral tradition was developed because it was important to remember over rote learning. Traditionally it was imperative to memorise the tenets of the Holy Koran and then recite from memory. The value was laid on knowing it. Even though a highly adept and artistic system of writing had developed, it was paramount to remember. Words that flow from the mouth to the ears to the mind to the heart and there it rests.

Learning and writing have an important place in the history of education, but the power of repetition, enhancing memory is invaluable. This brings me to talk about one of the most important education systems in the world – the Gurukul System.

The Gurukul & Education

The typical Gurukul was a type of school in the ancient education system. It is an ancient method of learning.  ‘Gurukulam’ has existed since the Vedic ages. And the main objective was to develop the knowledge; also there was a great deal of focus on education. The standards set in this system were high. One might even say austere as the focus was constant and sharp.

The Gurus proceeded to train their students with meditations, yogas, and other standards. The students gathered to learn about the sacred texts from their teacher. The term ‘teacher’ is not a fair translation of the term ‘Guru’. The Guru is the one who removes the darkness of ignorance and leads the disciple to enlightenment. Through the practice of the knowledge. Moreover, the teacher teaches subjects, but a Guru teaches how to live with the knowledge gained.

All students were equal, irrespective of social positions. A fair and just system, that was prevalent. The students are called Shisyas. One of the key aspects was learning about the development of character along with spiritual and intellectual development. Social awareness and the preservation of knowledge & culture were also important.

Reading Recommendation

#1 Abhijnanashakuntalam, by Kalidasa. The sheer beauty of metaphors and geographical descriptions leaves one spellbound. ( 5th Century CE)

#2 Arthashastra by Chanakya. A phenomenal book on statecraft and governance. Covering international relations, strategy, taxation and jurisprudence. ( 3rd Century BC)

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