Study Notes on Education in Ancient India for UGC NET

By Mohit Choudhary|Updated : June 24th, 2022

UGC NET Exam is conducted twice a year by NTA. There are ten units in Paper-1 and each unit has equal weightage in the examination. Most Important Topics in UGC NET Environment, Logical Reasoning, Teaching Aptitude, Research Aptitude, Communication, ICT, Higher Education.   

History of Education in India

1. Education in Ancient India

"We owe a lot to Indians who taught us how to count without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made" – Albert Einstein

Education in India could be divided into the following periods:-

Vedic Period (1000 BC- 600 BC)

Buddhist period (600 BC- 1200 AD)

Medieval Period (1100 AD – 1800 AD)

Pre-Independence India/British India (1857 – 1947)

Post -Independence India (Post 1947)

2. Characteristics of Ancient Education System

Education in Ancient India was the journey from mortality to immortality and also from chaos to the spirituality! The education system was very elaborated and unique and stood out quite prominently, India being rich in cultural diversity and varied rich institutions comes from Vedas and few texts from the Buddhist sect.

The origin of Vedas could be traced back to the advent of the Aryans who supposedly crossed the Hindukush mountains and settled in the northern part around 1500 -1000 BC. Vedas essentially means "knowledge". It consists of four Vedas  ( Rig, yajur, Atharva, Sama Veda ), four Vedangas ( phonetics, grammar, metrics, ritualistic knowledge and astronomy),   one hundred eighty Upanishads and Darshan shastras (Nyaya, Yoga, Mimamsa, Vedantsa, Vaisheshika, Sankhya) , Puranas, Bhagwat Gita etc.

The medium of teaching was Sanskrit and the knowledge was passed on orally in a system called "Gurukuls" which was purely residential from of teaching and students have to live at the Guru' place.

The knowledge was divided into two broad streams:-

  1. The Paravidya: higher knowledge and spiritual wisdom
  2. The Aparavidya: The lower knowledge and the secular sciences.
  • The Vedic teaching paid a lot of attention to the sound of words "padas" and pure oral education given through "Chintan," i.e. thinking. The students were admitted based on their moral character and high conduct. The society didn't have a much say in the regulations and fees to be charged called "Guru-Dakshina".
  • A ceremony called Upanayana ( initiation) was conducted, and when they reach the age of five,  formal education will start with the ceremony of
  • Upanayana was a ceremony by which the child is called to be born again at his gurus' home, called the "dvijya born". The ceremony was conducted between eight to twelve years post which the student is called "Brahmacharin".
  • It was followed by Utsarjan ceremony, Medha Jnana culminating with Samavartana (Convocation address).
  • The practical aspect of life was also taken care also the doctrine of "Karma" held a high pedestal. The students of art, literature, and philosophy got the working knowledge in agriculture and other vocations of life.
  • The main aim of teaching was self -fulfilment, intellectual and spiritual, rather than just the materialistic aim. Their objective was to attain salvation or "moksha" through education and religion.
  • Women Education was also not neglected, and they were taught the Vedas and Vedangas (limited). They were called
  • There were two classes of educated women: -
  1. Sadyodwahas: Women who studied till their marriage
  2. Brahmavadinis:- Who renunciate marriage altogether to pursue higher studies.
  • The Teacher occupied the pivotal position, and he was the replacement of parents at the gurukul. He was a reformer, guide, moral educator, character builder, a spiritual father and an inspirer.

The Aim of the Ancient Education System

  1. The ultimate objective of Moksha: - Ancient Indians believed in the attainment of liberation as the ultimate aim and the union with almighty. The pupil could be free from the cycle of birth and death.
  2. Character Shaping: - The values of highest forms like respect to elders, honesty, truthfulness, respecting elders etc. were the main aim of education.
  3. Imparting religious knowledge: - The Education had an ethical side to it so the spirituality could be infested in the pupil.
  4. Stress on Social duties: - The student was taught to be playing the roles of a father, son, brother and husband. He must be responsible for his civic duties too.
  5. Development of all-round personality: - Teaching was not limited to the practical and moral aspects, the students were trained to develop their overall personality in terms of self-confidence, self-control and self-reliance.
  6. Preservation and promotion of rich culture: - The ancient education system focussed on preserving the culture and protecting it for future generations.

Methods of instructions

Education was imparted through three simple ways of:-

  • Sravana: - It is the process of listening to the words coming from the mouth of The Teacher.
  • Manana:- It makes the pupil think for himself and evaluate the teaching by himself. It is called self-introspection and assimilation of the teaching.
  • Nididhyasana: - It is comprehension of the truth and applying it to the real world.
  • Srutis:- Knowledge was practically called as Srutis.

Monastic orders of education

The caste system emerged in the later Vedic period and didn't exist in Pre- Vedic times. Under this, the following were the system of imparting knowledge: -

Brahmins were imparted knowledge about religion, philosophy and other subject matters related to priestly activities. The age limit varied from five to sixteen years.

The Kshatriyas were trained in aspects of warfare. The age for them ranged between six and twenty- two.

The business class of Vaishya were taught about their trade, and age to gain the knowledge was eight and twenty-four.

The lower caste in the hierarchy, Shudra was not given any knowledge.

Evaluation System

There have been no significant ideas about how the acharya used to evaluate the learning levels of their pupils, but as per Yaskas and sayanas who were famous commentators on Rig Veda concluded from the hymns these:-

Maha Prazanan Grade: Students of the highest ability

Madhyam prazanan Grade: Students of mediocre ability

Alpa Prazanan Grade: Students of low ability.

Curriculum In ancient times

  • Anthropology
  • Astronomy
  • Economics
  • Epistemology
  • Geology
  • Ethnology
  • Human eugenics
  • Mathematics
  • Military science

The education was simple yet fruitful and multi-faceted in many ways, the students learned the art of living and holistically developed their personalities.

 Hope you guys now have a better understanding of the topic of Education in Ancient India. If you have any other queries, please comment.

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