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Did Indian education system exist?

Was there ever a glorious education system which India always boasts about?

Well ever wondered why we always mention about the glorious past, well agreed that the Vedas and Upanishads were master pieces at their time, but those were written in the early age of Aryan culture what was there after that? Takshila and Nalanda lay as ruins soon.

Dark Age of Indian education!

Propagators of Gurukul system seem to be very sure that teachers selected were of high caliber in knowledge and character. Well the reality is that there was no central authority controlling the appointment of teachers. There was no fixed syllabus.

Each and every person by virtue of being born as a Brahmin had an inherent right to be a teacher. He could open an ashram and take pupils as and when he likes, and he could give certificate of completion of studies as and when he chooses. He was not bound by any law of land nor any convention of teachers’ body. There used to be guilds and bodies of merchants and craftsmen, but I am unaware if some institution was established to supervise the teaching and conduct of the teacher in such gurukuls. Most of the gurukuls were single teacher residential ones free from any royal or academic control. What was the guarantee of quality under these circumstances? It is a matter of egotism, vanity and conceit to think of quality in such teaching institutions. These gurukuls had no respect in foreign lands and never attracted any foreign students.

Course Content

There seems to be misconceived idea that a student coming out from such a school had all the requisite qualities of a good citizen. This is far from the truth. He used to have learned by heart the Brahmanic sastras, which hardly make him versatile. He could never think of outside matters. What is not in his books does not exist for him. Al Biruni, for example, mentioned that Indian scholars have no knowledge of civilization abroad, and they disbelieve if somebody tells them about it. Their thought process centered on the rituals, vratas and ceremonies.

The Brahmanic knowledge consisted of recital of Vedas, without understanding the meaning of what is being recited, and was miles away from the actual life of productive castes. As a matter of fact, it was enjoined that the recites must not try to understand the meaning of what he reads.

The education was more centered around training some parrots who could sing than create some educated civilized citizens. Writing new books or literary texts, doing scientific study was never encouraged. The medium of instruction was Sanskrit which is a dead language of any value for the community.

Infact, there was no medium for scientific study till the 18th century. The educated class predominately used Sanskrit and Farsi. ( Haath kangan ko aarsi kya, padhe likhe ko farsi kya… meaning like you are not expected to need a mirror for the ornaments in your forearm, you are expected to know farsi if you call yourself educated)

Sanskrit was constructed in the poetic lines (where the stanzas need to by rhyming) which makes it tough for any recording work. The Hindi which we very proudly say as ours was never a written language. It was first written in a paragraph form ( like it is today) by British scholars in the 18th century.

And we blame British to ruin our education system.

One cannot stick for a couple of centuries with the same book in hand and say it is the ultimate source of all knowledge and is written by god himself. Like civilization even books need to evolve. Saying that this scientific discovery was already mentioned in so and so stanza of this ancient book is ridiculous. If you already knew about it then I would say… shame on you Vedic scholars. You are sitting on a gold mine of knowledge and have gained nothing from it.

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Chanakya’s views (Now writing as DeadManWalking)

I have heard about the glory of the upinishads and vedas since I was born. Everything we have now is already in the vedas. Recently a girl told me that we have had no progress in the field of medicines new in medicine thats not in ayurveda or ancient Chinese medicine! were her exact words. I dont know much but i definitely don’t think this is correct. I don’t believe penicillin is mentioned in the vedas is it ? Coming to the vedas its all about interpretation isn’t it. A shlok praising the sun god calculates the value of pi to huge number of decimal places. I don’t know Sanskrit but i found that to be awesome (i am not being sarcastic here).

Between Chinese and Indian aurveda a huge amount of knowledge is covered. However one still has to remember that we still have no cures for a huge number of diseases and we seem to be very apt at finding new ones. diseases which were not even there in ancient times definitely have no cure today. Oh yhea and cancer and radiology and tumors. Let me see the ancient method for tumor in the brain was to remove a part of the skull so that the pressure on the brain decreases (practiced in very few places most places would just kill off the person calling him crazy) . Nowadays i can choose to have my brain fried in case of tumor.

But medicine has not improved much over the ages. However the others parts of the medical world has improved. Surgery for example. We are so intent on glorifying our past that we tend to forget the present. the past is always perfect isn’t it? We keep on hearing about the great things being found in the vedas. The design of an aircraft for example, however within a few months of the claim there was no longer any more information about it. If the vedas are such a huge storehouse of knowledge then why hasn’t it all been brought out?? just random parts from people who disappear over the horizon.

The vedas have information there is no doubt about it. but what i don’t know and as far as i see no1 else really does except that they know its there.

As far as the ancient education system goes which denied every person the right to study. The immorality of it all is still beheld as being a great system by a majority of the country. Considering that even today the caste system is so prevalent in India i find it absolutely ridiculous. Not that our present system is any better, if you can afford it u can get education. What was initially being denied by virtue of caste is now being denied by virtue of cash. and lets not talk about the government mid day meal programs and its education effort. when the process will be able to lift a person from the downtrodden to reach one of the premier institutes of the country without reservations then ill say it has succeeded.

while i cannot comment about the course content of the gurukul system especially since i wasn’t there nor have i really seen anything other than in the serials and movies. If the vedas were that good i believe then all those stuff must have been imparted into the disciples by the gurus. But somehow it doesn’t look like it happened did it? were the teachers so righteous that they forgot to impart knowledge written in books ? or did the books come to be written at a time when all knowledge had been forgotten. But one thing is guaranteed the aim of an education system such that the knowledge is limited to a particular caste is bound to fail in one way or the another. if education in those times was how and why we are better than the person whom we have conquered in the past then no thanks i say. i cannot believe that we can stil think about that as being a great system of education

street, Bengaluru South, Karnataka, India

30 replies on “Did Indian education system exist?”

Sir,
I Strongly condemn the views expressed above. Today’s british system of education we have physics, chemsistry maths etc but where is the moral values. But the ancient system of education laid more stress on a person’s life. It guided him thro’ difficulties. The lead a life of very high values love, affection, helpfulness, gratitude all these words are merely in dictionaries only. My question is how is this education system going to make a world a better place to live in.

Hi Adithi
Thanks for your comments. I agree the emphasis on righteous path has been less than what it used to be during the vedic times.
1)how many people actually got the vedic education? The gurukuls were always in distant places so only the rich, brahmin and kings could afford the guru dakshina. Britishers at least brought them to their righteous position inside the towns and villages. Practically education for the masses started only after British arrival.
2)We had 50 years to correct whatever was wrong in the system. All states opened up their own state syllabus and had chance to instill things a fresh but they did not.
No system is perfect, the emphasis on marks is an evil in our present education system which needs almost a revolution to correct.

Can you please support what you have written here with some citations? I would like to believe you when you provide some solid evidence of what you are saying.

Thanks

some of what u have written is directly derived from what u think existed at that time – stuff which is colored by assumptions of half a century of communist socialist and british / european historians.

Dark Age of Indian education!
the subtext seems naive to me and shallow and without any backing or credibility whatsoever solely based on ur interpretation

Chanakya’s views
under this u praise ayurveda then u say a girl told me – so is she an authority? and compare stuff to modern science – how can u
penicillin was to cure fever essentially a white mans disease ?
correct me if im wrong the indians in the amazon did never get malaria
before the white men came
how many modern drugs were discovered with indigenous peoples help?????

most of what was known was destroyed and our culture is so ancient that
things are almost impossible to substantiate

on planes read
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vimana

i wrote this article 3 years ago (when i had just started blogging)…. hence i think i might have to revisit and rewrite the entire stuff.

Chanakaya is now writing under DeadmanWalking. and his views r his pvt views

malaria was there almost throughout the world. References of that in Asia, Europe and Africa is widespread. South American I think malaria was already there. (and unfortunately malaria is not a disease that can be that easily spread by ships) However Europeans did bring with them several other diseases which decimated the native Indian population.

//most of what was known was destroyed and our culture is so ancient that
things are almost impossible to substantiate//
exactly. the reason for destruction was that our education system was based on rote and not on scientific curiosity. hence over time knowledge got depleted and not enhanced.

i agree, we all learn and update ourselves this is progress so no regrets
even i have my set of naive posts
but when u posted the link i responded

i confused chanakya with the chanakya of the ancient world sorry

rote and not on scientific curiosity
this is quite confusing
if u look at world cultures even Africanas and aborigines, they also passed stuff word to mouth father to son, teacher to student so the things rnt different..

on scientific curiosity how much do we know about the ancient cultures?
i think infact they had more curiosity then we do
scientific inclination in the western world started in the 1700s1800s if im not mistaken
the kind of knowhow they achieved without the commensurate destruction to the environment is what i think is amazing

//i confused chanakya with the chanakya of the ancient world//
just to bore you
We earlier had 2 blogs: Chankaya’s views (for serious topics) and collection of PJs for jokes. but when govt banned my blogs, i merged the two into ENagar (it was called shocking earlier)

//rote and not on scientific curiosity, this is quite confusing//
the problem is that we are probably the only civilization in the world that had scientific knowhow and temperament, but lost it.

//Africanas and aborigines//
do you really want to compare our history with theirs?????????

i agree that they had their achievements, but at no point of time it was outstanding (esp if you ignore the Mediterranean and the Nile regions)

This is what I think of when someone talks about ‘glorious past’
http://enagar.com/2007/05/02/glorious-past/
I might sound so much acidic about India, but that is because I want us to be the best.

//they also passed stuff word to mouth father to son//
thats because of 2 reasons. Either they did not have a script, or their script was not phonetic. The tales of Troy also passed for centuries without being written down….
what hurts is that even though India had advanced means to record historical knowledge, we allowed to to be lost.

//i think infact they had more curiosity then we do//
i agree, but in absence of a good educational system all was lost.

//scientific inclination in the western world started in the 1700s1800s if im not mistaken//
you are wrong on 2 counts.
1) the dark ages started when Rome was destroyed/ransacked. and it was the Vizigoth who became the new masters of Europe. These were barbarians who had no culture of their own, so you cannot blame them for loss of scientific temperament.
2) it ended in the 11th century (with crusades)

i meant the scientific bent of thinking started after the fall of church power and the birth of people who helped inthe industrial revolution

on word to mouth that is the easiest method of relaying info

on but lost it.
there was a major killing of the indian system thanks to the islamic n christian invaders who made it a point to systematically destroy it

//there was a major killing of the indian system thanks to the islamic n christian invaders who made it a point to systematically destroy it//
Vedas were written before the Alexander Invasion 350 BC. and were last modified in 2nd century BC.

Muslim invaders were in 723 AD http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Rajasthan
Battle of Plassay happened in 1757. (only after which Christians had widespread influence over the region)

what I am worried about is what Indians did between 2nd century BC to 8th century AD.
why is that the civilization could not produce a better piece of science in 20 centuries.

i think british education system has spoiled our society not in terms of monitory but in terms of ethics and values. we are too much dependend on text book knowledge. present generation are less patriotic and less sensitive towards problem in society. and have become self centric. no value for own country.!! refer to macauly statement.

@akshay….
thanks for dropping by….
british education was far from perfect and all they wanted was an army of Civil servant to manage the country and not educate the masses.
what is strange is that india had 60 years to rectify the situation. 1/3 of the nation’s population cannot still read or write. (thats close to 300M individuals

wow long time back, I don’t even remember who the girl was. 😀

There is a systematic belief that old is gold.
As you said there was never a case of ‘indians in the amazon did never get malaria’
I will take your word for it.
However I will also present a case based against it.

How many people believed that the Earth was round and how many were ridiculed before it was actually proven?
Just because it did not have a word assigned to it does not mean it did not exist before in the first place.
Not to mention immunity. Immunity changes is a person as per his environment.

Secondly something which people don’t seem to realize is that things evolve. The rate of evolution of humans is way way slower than the rate of evolution of bacteria and other simple cellular stuff.

Diseases became known more and more with increase in knowledge. And diseases evolved, we have to keep that in mind.

Did civilization speed up the evolution of diseases? Mostly I would say, and the HIV virus is the most fundamental proof of evolution. It is one of the most adaptable viruses ever.

The most fundamental sci fiction stories of what if are based on Human self destruction.
The thing which almost everyone discuss is how the knowledge gets lost.
I would recommend the one of the most influential science fiction short story by Issac Asimov -‘Nightfall’
This is a brilliant commentary on both ignorance and beliefs.

//I don’t even remember who the girl was.//
i thought u had a scapbook of all your conquests.

//The rate of evolution of humans is way way slower than the rate of evolution of bacteria and other simple cellular stuff.//
http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10530768&fsrc=RSS
you guys might to read this wonderful article about the origin of Syphilis and how it traveled from new world to old.

yes Issac Asimov’s description of eclipse was amazing. loved the story (however if u have the softcopy, then i would like to revisit his short stories)

First of all, pls get the right information on functioning of vedic education system…do you know student from all corner of life get opportunity to study there…there was strenght of 80,000 students in one gurukul how that is possible just think…think about the management…around ten thousand teacher(not necessarily brahmin only)….food for all this…none of the students feel burden and enjoyed his students life……GET DETAILED UNDERSTANDING on this…and then compare the british education system which only thinks about the bread nothing else…even then are now trying to change it.

Its really sad t see comment on vedic knowledge from someone who know nothing on vedic knowledge,from your comment any one can know how much u know about vedic.for your information i would like to tell you that in india dortors were performing operation before te modern medical system and even operation for beautification wich is developed recently,The proble with vedic knowledge is we are not been successful to translate the full vedic knowledge to the modern knowledge,you cna say its like nastradamus prediction….the way people try to understand his lines..we are trying to understadn and translate the vedas and when we r successful in translating one line or page or formula or paragraph we come to know that this fact were known much earlier….and for the information i would like to inform you guys that HOMEOPATHY has cured AIDS in india already .it was out in paper and TV…but due to negligence of the modern medical community as HOMEOPATHY is cheaper adn they will not get benifts from this medicine made them beign closed eye of this….

first of all let me thank you to have courage to demystify our glorious past. i agree that that if there was a gurukul system of education , it was not for all the sections of society. deprived sections and girls were not the part of the system. if we see the history of education of the world it seems that earlier education was for class and not for mass. compulsory schooling as we understand today is late 18th and early 19th century phenomenon.
regarding the content of education in gurukul it was very narrow. only religious content and some archery were taught and learned by uper class es; brahmin and kshtriyas, and for the vaishyas seperate mahajani schools were existed even today in varanasi. rest of productive casts learned their vocation through apprenticeship. basically gurukul education was the prepartion for priesthood.

Madhu kushwaha

i think ankur is just a frustrated indian fancied by white skin as was raja mohan roy. raja said english should be the taught to indians..lets take today’s example, France, china japan, Russia, Italy Spain and all the major developed countries have their education in their own mother tongue. is it possible that all these powers of the world are foolish to have not adopted english… ???? absolutely not…if they were they would be no way superpowers so the belief that English system has done good for us is just a myth. Scientifically it is proven that if a child is given education in his mother tongue he is more adept to have a better intellect than being taught in other language. My friend the history u read at the school is also made up by the brits… Do u think that they would travel half the globe just to make us happy and prosperous or to educate us.. read dharampals book on indian education system..

@ajit.
Welcome to E-Nagar. Can you provide me with the exact title of the book so that I could check up in the lib.

Brits had no philonthropic intentions with India and why should they.

About education in the mother tongue. Well I would prefer the primary education to happen that way. It really accelerates the learning and cognition. However English is the international language and you can not do away with it. Also do remember that speaking english is considered by the vast majority as equivalent to being cultured and educated. Hence I think english as a medium of education is going to stay

The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous India Education in the Eighteenth Century, Biblia Impex, New Delhi, 1983. Reprinted by Keerthi Publishing House Pvt Ltd., Coimbatore, 1995.

“About education in the mother tongue. Well I would prefer the primary education to happen that way. It really accelerates the learning and cognition.”
so u mean to say that higher studies should be in english.. it is like stepping on 2 boats which will eventually drown us my friend!!! Do other developed countries do so?? NO.

“Also do remember that speaking english is considered by the vast majority as equivalent to being cultured and educated.”

After uk and USA india is the 3rd in terms of english speaking population. its only the indians who think that knowing english makes 1 educated.. the reat of the world thinks other way.. dude get some substance in what u say!!! u suck!!!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language

“Hence I think english as a medium of education is going to stay”

It is because of people like you!!! have a look at sanskrit!!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanskrit

PS: do look at the METALANGUAGE note about sanskrit…

dude own up to our own greatness.. accept the fact!!! ppl like u cud lead us to slavery!!!

The Article was very informative.

It was very critical, but I feel it lacked substance, together with the lack of research in certain areas was needed to pen down such a critical critical, which was either overlooked or intentionally overlooked to sound deviant from the larger population.

I respect, the light that the article throws from the other angle of the much worship old Indian education system.

But,
Much to our dismay, India is not at parallel position to Europe, America and Australia in Educational Standards even today.

Regards.

Well, I am not agree with you for certain points. For example as you said ancient Indian universities has never attracted any from foreign land!!? Haven’t you gone through how does the word Algebra(Maths) derived? FYI, it is adopted by foreigner as they were taught maths by Arabs, who eventually had studied the same in Indian University. Al stands for an Arab and Gibr/Jibr stands for speaking. In all Al-Gibr/Jibr later pronounced as Algebra in English. Still there are few more to say. Like Febonacci and Binary numbers system, invented in Ancient India and gifted to western people for free.
Check this link http://home.ica.net/~roymanju/Binary.htm
for more…

you are really a gandu
a person who can not respect his traditions & religion is no one is only chakka …u r trans gender.

well you are allowed to have your views, and I mine…
a critical examination of the reality is not disrespect… infact blind love and admiration of everything ancient/tradition is

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