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Education in Ancient India

In Ancient India, literary education was generally the monopoly of the upper castes, although in some regions like South India low castes also had access to it. Vedic learning was everywhere confined to the Savarnas; and even among Brahmins, only a section had the right to study the Vadas and priesthood. Other castes were debarred form all higher studies by religious verdicts enforced by the Hindu State.

The Brahmins studied in special seminar started for the purpose, such as Tols, Vidyalysis and Chatuspathis. The medium of instruction was Sanskrit. The sacred language of the Hindus, by which only all religious and higher secular knowledge was expressed. For the common people, there were, in every village and town, vernacular schools which taught mainly reading, writing and rudiments of arithmetic. These schools also imparted religious instructions to the pupils. These schools were generally taken advantage of by the sons of traders; women, the lower castes and agriculturists hardly received any education. Thus education among Hindus, in Ancient India, was extremely restricted and for all, except the Brahmins, very poor in content. The Brahmins enjoyed monopoly of all higher education. Although education was the monopoly of upper castes, certain literary professions such as medicine (ayurveda) and astrology were also open to castes other than Brahmins.

The trading castes learnt accounting and book-keeping. While in the courts of kings there were persons who had specialized in the art of writing and the keeping records, in villages there were accountants who maintained land registers and revenue records. Further, this education, as part of the entire culture of Hindu society controlled and administrated by Brahmins was means of training the pupils in accepting the existing caste structure of Hindu society, believing in the infallibility of the Vedas, and of Brahmins, in interpreting these Vedas. It also taught the pupils the virtue of unconditional allegiance to elders, to parents, to teachers and to the king. In fact, education was a means of making the individual accept and conform to hierarchic structure of society and completely subordinating his individuality to it.

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