Higher Education System Updated UGC NET Paper 1 Study Material

Institutions of Higher learning in Ancient India

A singular feature of Ancient Indian culture and civilization is that no other influence-political or economic—has moulded and shaped the course of its history more than religion. Learning in India, through the ages has been valued and pursued not for its own sake but for the sake of a part of religion. Education was therefore, not just the book learning. It was an illumination into the way a person should conduct himself in the society and led to character building, personality development, discrimination and judgment development, promotion of social efficiency and happiness and the preservation and spread of culture.
Higher education in India has a long history of its own and has a long tradition in learning. In the past, higher education played an important role.

1. Vedic Education

i. The aim of Ancient Indian education was initially laid down by Vedas. According to Vedic world view the world is pervaded by divinity and the aim of every living being is to achieve liberation/salvation (Moksha) Thus according to the Vedas the aim of education is liberation. A man should engage in Karmopasana i.e. ‘work of worship’ and thus purify hi sinner senses and gain the ‘Absolute’. The soul forgets the ‘Absolute’ due to ignorance and illiteracy and so it thinks itself as one who is neither born or dies and suffers in miseries.

ii. The cause of liberation and bondage, according to Vedic thinkers, is the mind or chitta. Therefore liberation is possible only through the control of them is known as chittavratti nirodh.

iii. Vedic Literatures are considered as the main basis for Vedic Education. The literal meaning of ‘Vedas’ is knowledge. The work is derived from ‘Vid’ root meaning ‘to know’ ; thus ‘Veda’ means the knowledge of various types. The four Vedas are Rig Ved, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Vedas are composed in verse but some portion of its is written in prose. The knowledge of Aryan culture is stored in them.

iv. It is said that vedsa were not written in ancient times, and they were traditionally inherited by disciples and also by sons form their teachers (gurus) and fathers. They were preserved orally. Later on in Mahabharat age, they were compiled by ‘Krishnadvaipayan’ who is also called ‘Ved-Vyasa’. He compiled four ‘Samhitas’ namely ‘Rigveda’. ‘Yajurveda’ , ‘ Samaveda’ and ‘Artharvaveda’.

v. The important amongst the ‘Rishis of Rigveda’ are Gritsamad, Vishwamitra, Vamadeva, Attri, Bharadwaja and Vashishtha, Vaivawasta, manu, Shiva, Aushinar, Madhuchandra etc. Amongst the ‘Rishis’ of ‘Vedas’ there were some women amongst Apala, Homasha, Shashpati, Ghoshal Mamata, Lopamudra were notable one.

vi. The two branches of ;Yajurveda’ , namely ‘Shukla Yajurveda’ and ‘krishana yajurveda’ are available at present.

vii. Though ‘Puranas’ speak of one thousand branches of ‘ Samaveda’, but at present only three – ‘ Kauthum’ , ‘ Shanarniya’ and ‘ Jaimini’ are available. Modern scholars recognized the ‘Kauthum’ Branches as more current and reliable. The two parts of ‘Samaveda’ namely – ‘ Architaka’ and ‘ Uttararchitaka’ have 1,810 hymns but many of them are repeated and 1,947 hymns are found in ‘Rigveda’ , also. ‘Samaveda’ has only 75 hymns of its own. Possible, only those hymns separately compiled in ‘Samaveda’ which were sung.

viii. Atharvaveda’ has ‘Shaunak’ and ‘Pippalad’ as two branches, in which ‘Shaunak’ is considered famous and reliable. It has 20 chapters and 731 Suktas and hymns numbering 6,000 but many of them are found even in Rigveda.

ix. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.[2][3] Hindus consider the Vedas to be apauruṣeya, which means “not of a man, superhuman”[4] and “impersonal, authorless”.[5][6][7].Vedas are also called śruti (“what is heard”) literature,[8] distinguishing them from other religious texts, which are called smṛti (“what is remembered”).

x. Ancient universities
The Vedas, Vedic rituals and its ancillary sciences called the Vedangas, were part of the curriculum at ancient universities such as at Taxila, Nalanda and Vikramashila.

xi. In Vedic period, the courses of study were not limited to religion only. Disciples were also taught Shiksha, Kalpa, Vyakaran, Jyotish, Chhanda and Nirukta etc. besides, logic was taught and with its assistance the knowledge of truth was gained.

xii. In those days the wards were sent to ‘Gurukuls’ or the homes of the ‘Acharaya’ for education, just after the ‘Upanayan’ ritual. Then they were called ‘Anteuasin’ or ‘Gurukulwasee’. Only Brahmacharis were allowed in Gurukuls.

xiii. In Vedic age, the relations between the Guru and Shishya was just like that of father and son. Guru, very affectionately looked after his taught.

xiv. The Vedic education system was mostly psychological. Verbal and meditative, two systems were encouraged in that age.

xv. In Vedic period every one was allowed to gain higher education without distinction of caste or creed. There are some evidences in Vedic literature that some Rishis were born of Shudra mother or father.

2. Post Vedic Period (Upanishad Age)

i. Post-Vedic Period is generally the period between 1400 B.C. to 600 B.C. i.e. from the end of the Rig Vedic period to the beginning of Buddhism and Jainism. In Vedic period austerity and sacrifices has a prominent place. With the spread of Vedic culture, the sacrificial rituals dominated and the Brahmaan priests gained the highest position in Indian society. The priests were divided into four categories to carry out the ritual duties as follows:
a) Hotri
They were also called ‘Hota’ and they used to recite the prayers of Indra, Agni, Varuna, etc. In their invitational prayers they visualized the Gods.
b) Udgata
These priests recited only the ‘Mantras’ of some Yajna.
c) Adhawaryu
These priests performed different practical duties of the rituals.
d) Brahman
The priests looked after all the activities of the rituals.

ii. The general aim of Vedic education was ‘salvation’ i.e. ‘ moksha’ which remained in fact even in Brahmanic age, but it naturally got more connected with rituals.

iii. Brahman books are second to ‘Vedas’ and consist of the methods of rituals and meanings of the Mantras in prose. They deal with the performance of various methods of different rituals called ‘Vidhi’. Other one is ‘Atharvaveda’. It consists of the explanation of hymns and stories and description of chivalry of kings, etc. they may be called the books of Priests.
Among the available ‘Brahmans’ following are worth mentioning:
a) ‘Aitreya’ and ‘Kaushitaki’. They are related to ‘Rig Veda’.
b) ‘Tandya’ related to ‘Sama Veda’.
c) ‘Taittareya’ and ‘Shatapatha Barahman’ related to ‘Yajur Veda’.
d) ‘Gopath’ which is related to ‘Atharva Veda’.

iv. ‘Aranyak’ books are appendices of ‘Brahmans’. They are in the end of the each ‘Brahman’ and were written for those ‘Sanyasis’ who were devoted to spiritual meditation and lived in lonely forest.

v. Upanishads mention ‘Para-Vidya’ i.e. physic knowledge. It is considered to be above all the knowledge. This knowledge enables the unity of soul and absolute.

vi. Following three methods of teaching existed during this period:
a) Sharvan (learning)
b) Manan (meditation)
c) Nidisdhyasan (realization and experience)

vii. Agencies o Education-Expansion
a) Branch or Shakha – denotes all the three branches of Vedas
b) Charans – According to Panini only a group of disciples who studied in one branch or Shakha was ‘Charan’
c) Parishad – the word parishad means all things expanded on all sides. In other words it has been used for a conference of learned men.
d) Gotra or Kula – It was based in family traditions which might be real or imaginary. Various ‘Gotra’ or ‘Kula’ were related to ancient ‘Rishis’.

viii. The dominance of Brahmans was in the field of education but some Kshatriyas has also became great Rishi and learned philosophers like Janaka etc. In Post- Vedic age no reference is found about the education of ‘Vaishyas’ and ‘Shudras’. The former engaged in cultivation, trade and commerce. The duty of the ‘Shudras’ was to serve the three highest castes.

ix. In Post-Vedic Period the women were not enjoying the social and educational privileges as they did in Vedic age. Neither they could now freely participate in social formation nor could they inherit the family property, but their religious position was quite safe. They used to participate with their husbands in all the rituals and were authorized to gain higher education and spiritual knowledge. The women of Upanishadic period were trained in dancing, music, fine arts etc. whereas men were not interested in these fine arts.

x. Prior to education ‘Upanayan Ritual’ was performed to the boys. The word ‘Up-nayan’ means to bring near the ‘Guru’. In other words the student was gaining the generaous shelter and patronage of his guru. This ritual was performed in three days before the Sacred Fire he used to request the ‘Guru’ to make him ‘Brahmachari’. The ‘Guru’ used to ask certain questions about his caste and creed and when satisfied, accepted him as his ‘Shishya’ and put his patronizing hand on his hand.

xi. The teacher treated his disciples like his own sons and arranged for all facilities needed by the taught – boarding, lodging and clothing etc. The teacher would not conceal any knowledge for his disciple. It is beautifully mentioned in Taittireya Upanishad.

xii. Upanishads describe the routine for the disciples living in ashrams. Three kinds of education, Practical, Mental and Moral, were included in their daily routine.
Practical education had four main parts as:
a) Bhikshatan – going out for alms
b) Yajnagni – enlightened the spiritual light (sacrificial fire) of his mind.
c) Taming the animals of the Ashram
d) Cultivation
Mental education also had three stages:
a) Shravan (Hearing)
b) Mana (Meditation)
c) Nidisdhyasan (Realisation)
Moral education was related to the practice of good behavior. The disciple had to lead the life of a ‘Brahmachari’ and observe certain special practical exercise to keep the purity of character.

xiii. In those days the disciples were taught the four Vedas, the Itihas and the Purannas. Besides they were taught Arithmetic, Godly knowledge, Astronomy, Spiritualism, Dancing and Singing etc. Narada knew all these things.

3. Brahmanic Education
Vedas are divided into two parts, namely Samhita the collection of Mantras and Brahmanas in which these mantras have been explained. In Vedic education emphasis had been laid on the religious aspect of education, but the Brahmanic education included worldly aspects as well. The aim of education was to achieve self-reliance, self-control, formation of character, individual development, knowledge of social and civil life and preservation of national culture with the physical development.

4. The Buddhist System of Education

i. The most important systems of education in medieval India were the Buddhist system of education and the Muslim system under Muslim rulers. Gautama, the Buddha, revolted against the prevalent brahmanical religion. The nature of Buddhist education was religious as well as secular. He was against the rigid classification according to Varnas. He established equality among people. Buddha also considered Dharma as the highest aim of life. What was preached was known as Dharma.

ii. Buddhist scriptures are replete with wise sayings of the Buddha, also known as Dhammapada. At this point of time, education was provided to students by monks and monasteries were the centers of learning.

iii. Buddhist education like Vedic education was also mainly religious. The aim was to gain ‘Nirvana’ (Salvation). The curriculum of Buddhist education included what are termed Vinaya, Sutta or Suttanta, and Abhidhamma, together with Suttas and Sutta Vibhanya which were taught orally (Ghosh, 2001 p. 58). A Buddhist text includes numerous disciplines or subjects such as the Lokayata system, Astrology, Witchcraft, the four Vedas and Vedangas, Astronomy, interpretation of omens, the philosophical system of Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya and Vaisheshika, Music, Medicine, Magic, the art of War, poetry, and a number of arts and crafts as well as Arithmetic. In this system of education, the Viharas functioned as residential schools where various groups of students and teacher stayed together.

iv. Educational Centres and Universities
a) Takshshila
It was the most important educational centre of Ancient India, with widespread reputation in India and in foreign countires. Takshshila was the capital of Gandhara Kingdom. According to Valmiki Ramayana , Prince Bharat had founded this city and appointed his son Taksha as the ruler of the territory. The city was named after him. Due to geographical situation and prosperity, Takshshila had to suffer the disasters of foreign invasions. Takshshila was also not an organsied university. It may be called and educational centre of different special subjects where special and higher studies were carried on. Only higher studies were conducted in Takshshila and so the students of more than sixteen years of age were admitted in the University.
b) Kashi
The modern name of the city is Varanasi. Formerly it was called Banaras. Kasha ,Banaras and Varanasi are the names of same city situated on the bank of Ganga. In the Vedic period, Aryan culture was limited up to the western parts of India. In the old Vedica literature, there is no mention of Kashi. Its shows that up to that period it had not gained its prominence as city as ‘Tirth’ and a centre of learning. In the later Vedic period, i.e., (Upanishad period) it began to gain prominence as a centre of Aryan culture and learning. The king of Kashi named Ajatasatru was renowned for his learning of Upanishads. This was the reason why many kings had sent their princes to Kashi for higher learning. In the 12th century when Kashi was annexed by Muslim rulers then the educational system of the centre was badly damaged.
c) Nalanda
In the State of Bihar at a distance of 7 miles in the north of Rajgrih and in south-east Patna at a distance of 43 miles, is situated Nalanda, where ruins are still displaying its ancient glory. In the beginning it was a small village, which later on flourished as the centre of Buddhist religion and learning. Nalanda had been the central place of Buddhism and Jainism alike. On one side Lord Buddha had delivered his many lectures there and his prominent disciple Sariputra was born there. Similarly Vardhaman Mahavira, the founder of Jainism had also spent 14 rainy seasons in Nalanda.
d) Valabhi
This centre also flourished about the same period when Nalanda was in its glory. Valabhi was a parallel centre of the Hinayana School of Buddhism as Nalanda was the centre of Mahayana School. The University of Vallabhi was famous not only for secular subjects like, law, accountancy, ecocnomics and literature, the graduates of whom got appoinments on the executives posts, but also for its catholicity and intellectual freedom.
e) Vikramshila
The ‘VIhar’ of Vikramshila was established by the famous Emperor Dharampal of Pal Dynasty in the 8th century in Northern Magadh at a beautiful hill on bank of the Ganges River. It attracted a large number of scholars from Tibet, who came here for higher studies.

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