Vidya (Samskrit : विद्या), a word, devoid of an English equivalent, and loosely translated as Learning or Education was regarded as the best agency for improving society at all times and hence focus was that it should be available to all those who are qualified to receive it. Upanayana was the samskara, that was usually performed, to mark the initiation of a child (of all varnas and both genders) into education. It was further declared in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad that
... विद्यया देवलोको देवलोको वै लोकाना श्रेष्ठस् तस्माद्विद्यां प्रशसन्ति ॥ यद्वै किञ्चानूक्तम् तस्य सर्वस्य ब्रह्मेत्येकता .... तस्मात् पुत्रमनुशिष्टं लोक्यमाहुस् तस्मादेनमनुशासति । (Brha. Upan. 1.5.16 and 17)
... vidyayā devaloko devaloko vai lokānā śreṣṭhas tasmādvidyāṁ praśasanti ॥ yadvai kiñcānūktam tasya sarvasya brahmetyekatā .... tasmāt putramanuśiṣṭaṁ lokyamāhus tasmādenamanuśāsati ।
One can attain the devaloka through vidya alone; devaloka being the best of the (three) worlds. Hence vidya is to be praised. (Here vidya is taken to mean meditation or that knowledge of Self required for attaining the higher worlds). Whatever is studied is all unified in the word Brahman.... Therefore they speak of an educated son as being conducive to the world. Hence (a father) teaches his son (Page No 230 of Reference ).
- 1 परिचयः ॥ Introduction
- 2 Classification of Vidya
- 3 व्युत्पत्तिः॥ Etymology
- 4 विद्यास्थानानि ॥ Vidyasthanas
- 5 विद्यायाः प्रयोजनम् ॥ Goals of Vidya
- 6 Aspects of Educational System
- 6.1 Preceptors of Vidya
- 6.2 Receptors of Vidya
- 6.3 Samskaras related to Vidya
- 6.4 विद्याभ्यासे विषयाः ॥ Subjects of Study
- 6.5 Terms Related to Study
- 7 References
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
While the goal of education is attainment of knowledge of the Self, students were primarily taught the Vedas and associated Vaidika Vangmaya as the stepping stones to learn and practice the Purusharthas, Trivarga - Dharma, Artha and Kama which was then used to attain the fourth one, namely, Moksha. Hence people of different varnas irrespective of their gender, social and financial status, received at least the rudiment of literary, philosophical, theological, social and professional education, until the first millennium of the Christian era when conducting upanayanas decreased among the varnas and girls were married at the age of 10 owing to several causes.
Classification of Vidya
The Mundakopanishad refers to two levels of learning in Saunaka Angirasa Samvada, as given below
द्वे विद्ये वेदितव्ये इति ह स्म, यद्ब्रह्मविदो वदन्ति परा चैवापरा च ॥ ४ ॥
dve vidye veditavye iti ha sma, yadbrahmavido vadanti parā caivāparā ca ॥ 4 ॥
तत्रापरा ऋग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्ववेदः, शिक्षा कल्पो व्याकरणं निरुक्तं छन्दो ज्योतिषमिति । अथ परा यया तदक्षरमधिगम्यते ॥ ५ ॥ (Mund. Upan. 1.1.4-5)
tatrāparā r̥gvedo yajurvedaḥ sāmavedo'tharvavedaḥ, śikṣā kalpo vyākaraṇaṁ niruktaṁ chando jyotiṣamiti । atha parā yayā tadakṣaramadhigamyate ॥ 5 ॥ (Mund. Upan. 1.1.4-5)
Summary : There are two kinds of knowledge to be acquired as per tradition, which according to the knowers of Vedas, those who realised the supreme Truth, is - the higher, knowledge of the Supreme Self (Para Vidya) and the lower, knowledge of virtue and vice and their means and ends (Apara Vidya). Of these the lower (knowledge) comprises the Rigveda, Yajur veda, Sama veda, Atharva veda, Shiksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Chandas, Jyotisha (texts dealing with pronunciation, code of yajnas, grammar, etymology, meter and astronomy). Then there is the higher (Para knowledge) by which is attained that Aksharam or Immutable Brahman.
Thus we have a broad classification of Vidya as
- पराविद्या ॥ Para Vidya - higher knowledge for Self Realization
- अपराविद्या ॥ Apara Vidya - lower knowledge required for life
The word Vidya (विद्या), devoid of an English equivalent and loosely translated as Education, deals with that procedural knowledge essential for understanding the worldly social, philosophical and theological aspects of Sanatana Dharma. Ancient seers had holistic perspective as to why a student should be given the higher knowledge of Self in different forms such as Brahmavidya, Bhumavidya, Panchagnividya, each of which was one way to achieve the common goal of Moksha. It may appear that preceptors of the ancient ages have focused only on the ultimate spiritual goal of Atmavidya (attainment of the knowledge of the the Self) which is more a personal goal for the student. The knowledge of the Brahman is distinctively mentioned and it is called the higher knowledge since, even after the mastery of the assemblage of words, the realisation of the Self is not possible without other efforts consisting of approaching the teacher and so on, as well as detachment. Unlike the Agnihotra and other yajnas which require the performance of an action subsequent to the understanding of the text, through a combination of numerous accessories, the domain of higher knowledge does not require actions, nothing remains to be performed.
According to Shabdakalpadhruma, Vidya (विद्या) originates from the dhatu विदँ used in the meaning of Jnana (ज्ञाने).
तत्तु मोक्षे धीः । इति जटाधरः ॥ That which is the knowledge of Moksha - as defined by Jatadhara.
परमोत्तमपुरुषार्थसाधनीभूता विद्या ब्रह्मज्ञानरूपा । इति नागोजीभट्टः ॥
paramottamapuruṣārthasādhanībhūtā vidyā brahmajñānarūpā । iti nāgojībhaṭṭaḥ ॥
Vidya is that form of Brahmajnana which is the instrument to achieve Paramottama Purushartha namely Moksha as per Nagoji Bhatta.
By the word Vidya is implied the realization of the thing to be known.
In this article we reflect upon the syllabus of ancient shikshana vidhana (education system) which consisted of imparting Apara Vidya of worldly knowledge. Vidya was said to be complete with the adhyayana of Chaturdasha Vidyas (and Astadasha Vidyas) dealt in our Vaidika Vangmaya imparted by Gurus to students before putting them on the path of seeking Para Vidya.
विद्यास्थानानि ॥ Vidyasthanas
Chaturdasha vidyas (चतुर्दशविद्याः) are called the Vidyasthanas (विद्यास्थानानि) as they give comprehensive knowledge of all the four Purusharthas namely, Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, the first three pertaining to worldly knowledge. These include the
- Chaturvedas - The Four Vedas (Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvanaveda)
- Vedangas - The Six Vedangas (Shiksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Chandas and Jyotisha)
- Upangas - (Puranas, Nyaya shastra (and Vaiseshika), Mimamsa and Dharmashastra).
चतुर्दशविद्याः ॥ Chaturdasha Vidyas
Agni Purana, one of the oldest Puranas, gives the following information about the constituents Para and Apara Vidyas.
ऋग्यजुःसामाश्चर्वाख्या विद्या विष्णुर्जगज्जनिः । छन्दः शिक्षा व्याकरणं निधण्टुज्योतिराख्यकाः ।। ३८३.२ ।।
r̥gyajuḥsāmāścarvākhyā vidyā viṣṇurjagajjaniḥ । chandaḥ śikṣā vyākaraṇaṁ nidhaṇṭujyotirākhyakāḥ ।। 383.2 ।।
निरुक्तधर्मशास्त्रादि मीमांसान्यायविस्तराः । आयुर्वेदपुराणाख्या धनुर्गन्धर्वविस्तराः ।। ३८३.३ ।।
niruktadharmaśāstrādi mīmāṁsānyāyavistarāḥ । āyurvedapurāṇākhyā dhanurgandharvavistarāḥ ।। 383.3 ।।
विद्या सैवार्थसास्त्राख्या वेदान्ताऽन्या हरिर्महान् । इत्येषा चापरा विद्या परविद्याऽक्षरं ।। ३८३.४ ।। (Agni. Pura. 383.2-4)
vidyā saivārthasāstrākhyā vedāntā'nyā harirmahān । ityeṣā cāparā vidyā paravidyā'kṣaraṁ ।। 383.4 ।। (Agni. Pura. 383.2-4)
According to Vachaspatya, Nandi Purana gives the 14 vidyasthanas as follows
वेदादिषु चतुर्दशसु विद्यासु। ताश्च विद्याश्चतुर्दश प्रोक्ताः क्रमेण तु यथास्थिति। षडङ्गमिश्रितावेदा धर्म्मशास्त्रं पुराणकम्। मीमांमातर्कमपि च एता विद्याश्चतुर्दश | नन्दि पु०।
vedādiṣu caturdaśasu vidyāsu। tāśca vidyāścaturdaśa proktāḥ krameṇa tu yathāsthiti। ṣaḍaṅgamiśritāvedā dharmmaśāstraṃ purāṇakam। mīmāṃmātarkamapi ca etā vidyāścaturdaśa| nandi pu।
Meaning : Fourteen vidyas are given as - vedas with their 6 angas (अङ्ग-s), dharmashastra, purana, mimamsa (मीमांसा) with tarka (तर्कः). According to Vachaspatya,
पुराणन्यायमीमांसाधर्म्मशास्त्राङ्गमिश्रिताः। वेदाः स्थानानि विद्यानां धर्म्मस्य च चतुर्दश” या० स्मृतौ विद्यास्थानत्वोक्तेस्तासां तथात्वम्। (Yagn. Smrt. 1.3)
purāṇanyāyamīmāṃsādharmmaśāstrāṅgamiśritāḥ। vedāḥ sthānāni vidyānāṃ dharmmasya ca caturdaśa" yā. smṛtau vidyāsthānatvoktestāsāṃ tathātvam। (Yagn. Smri. 1.3)
Summary: Purana, Nyaya, Mimamsa, Dharmashastras combined with vedangas, and vedas form the 14 vidyastanas as given in Yagnavalkya Smriti. Puranas such as Vayu Purana (1.69.78) Vishnudharmottara Purana (1.74.32) refer to these abodes of knowledge as 14 vidyas as does the Mahabharata (Shanti Parva 12.122.31 and Asvamedhika Parva 14.116.15) given in the famous sloka below
अङ्गानि वेदाश्चत्वारो मीमांसा न्यायविस्तरः । पुराणं धमर्शास्त्रं च विद्या ह्येताश्चतुदर्श ॥
aṅgāni vedāścatvāro mīmāṃsā nyāyavistaraḥ । purāṇaṃ dhamarśāstraṃ ca vidyā hyetāścatudarśa ॥
अष्टादशविद्याः ॥ Ashtadasha Vidyas
However, Vishnupurana enumerates the existence of 18 vidyasthanas by adding Ayurveda (आयुर्वेदः), Dhanurveda (धनुर्वेदः), Gandharvaveda (गान्धर्ववेदः) and Arthashastra (अर्थशास्त्रम्) (four Upavedas) to the previously explained 14 vidyasthanas as given in the following shlokas.
अङ्गानि वेदाश्चत्वारो मीमांसा न्यायविस्तरः। पुराणं धर्मशास्त्रं च विद्या ह्येताश्चतुर्दश ॥ २८ ॥ (Vish. Pura. 3.6.28)
aṅgāni vedāścatvāro mīmāṃsā nyāyavistaraḥ। purāṇaṃ dharmaśāstraṃ ca vidyā hyetāścaturdaśa ॥ 28 ॥ (Vish. Pura. 3.6.28)
आयुर्वेदो धनुर्वेदो गान्धर्वश्चेत्यनुक्रमात् । अर्थशास्त्रं परं तस्मात् विद्या ह्यष्टादश स्मृताः ।। २९ ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.6.29)
āyurvedo dhanurvedo gāndharvaścetyanukramāt । arthaśāstraṃ paraṃ tasmāt vidyā hyaṣṭādaśa smṛtāḥ ।। 29 ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.6.29)
Bhavishya Purana (Brahma Parva 1.2.6) also describes the 14 Vidyas and 18 vidyas as given above.
विद्यायाः प्रयोजनम् ॥ Goals of Vidya
Manusmrti (6.92) defines ten lakshanas of Dharma, the eighth of which is Vidya. Thus to achieve the dharmika jivana vidhana one has to undergo the process of acquiring vidya or education.
The goal of Vidya is to impress and develop a dharmika mindset right from the young age, at the laukika (worldy) level, which can be achieved by the study of Apara Vidya. Vidya is that which
- interests and orients one towards Dharma and Sadachara (appropriate code of behaviour)
- dispels the enmity and animosity by connecting with the underlying all pervading universal life force
- helps one to discover the unity among the diversity of beings (including mankind)
- leads one on the path of infinite bliss
Thus, purified and prepared a student according to his choice seeks attainment of knowledge of Self by the practice of Para Vidya. In the 10th Adhyaya of Bhagavadgita (10.32) Shri Krishna identifies Himself with Adhyatmavidya (the ultimate form of knowledge) as follows
अध्यात्मविद्या विद्यानां । Vidyanam, among knowledges; I am the adhyatma-vidya
Knowledge of the Self, is the highest and ultimate knowledge because of its leading to Moksha.
With this significant background about the ancient education system of India, we now look into that unique Guru-shisya parampara maintained by the Gurukula system of education, which has shaped Bharat's young minds from ages and the need to continue the system even in the present day. In the following section we reflect on the how the Prachina Shikshana Vidhana or Ancient Education System evolved with defined goals and principles in line with Sanatana Dharma.
Aspects of Educational System
In this section we deal with the various aspects of the ancient educational system, who constituted the chief roles, what were the samskaras involved and what was the method of education in this system.
Preceptors of Vidya
The central figure around which the ancient society rested on was the Acharya (आचार्यः), called variously as preceptor, a teacher, lecturer, professor or instructor in the present days.
Sanatana Dharma has held a high regard for the mother (janani), who is the first preceptor of a child followed by the father and the seers who imparted knowledge and were founders of a lineage of students. Whether living in recluse in forests or in cities or Gurukulas, shaping the future generations had always rested on the shoulders of Gurus and Acharyas.
उपाध्यायान्दशाचार्य आचार्याणां शतं पिता । सहस्रं तु पितॄन्माता गौरवेणातिरिच्यते । । २.१४५ । । (Manu. Smrt. 2.145)
upādhyāyāndaśācārya ācāryāṇāṁ śataṁ pitā । sahasraṁ tu pitr̥̄nmātā gauraveṇātiricyate । । 2.145 । । (Manu. Smrt. 2.145)
An Acharya is ten times greater than Upadhyaya, the father is ten times greater than Acharya; but the mother is a thousand times more venerable than the father.
Receptors of Vidya
Next important aspect about education pertains to the receptors of vidya, the students, who are the bearers of future. The recipient of education from a Guru or Acharya is called a shishya, an antevasi a chatra etc. Studentship is the main activity of a young child initiated into the Brahmacharyashrama marked by the Upanayana samskara. It is the first ashrama of the four ashramas which a person goes through in his life and he is called a Brahmachari.
A child was required to have certain qualities to become a good student. Ancient seers emphasized on the importance of habits, routine, imitation and association to secure ready cooperation of the shishya towards education. At a young impressionable age a child can be moulded to develop the required vidyarthi's qualities (विद्यातुराणां लक्षणानि) and such habits constitute a second nature in adulthood.
अन्तेवासी ॥ Antevasi
Vachaspatyam defines Antevasi as अन्ते निकटे विद्याग्रहणाय वसति। ante nikaṭe vidyāgrahaṇāya vasati।  one who resides at near the Guru for learning Vidya.
According to Amarakosha a Shishya (शिष्यः) and Chatra (छात्रः) are synonyms for Antevasi (छात्रान्तेवासिशिष्यान्तेषद एकार्थता इमे ॥ as per Jatadhara).
While the above terms refer to a current student, a graduated student is called a snataka.
स्नातकः ॥ Snataka
Vachaspatyam refers to snataka as follows
- वेदाध्ययनानन्तरं गार्हस्थ्याय कृतसमावर्त्तनांङ्गस्नाने गृहस्थभेदे तच्च व्रतं मिता। vedādhyayanānantaraṁ gārhasthyāya kr̥tasamāvarttanāṁṅgasnāne gr̥hasthabhede tacca vrataṁ mitā। 
Snataka refers to one who, after having completed the study of Vedas, for entering the Grhasthashrama, has performed the rite of Samavartana which is an abulation that indicates the graduation from brahmacharya.
By the end of his studies a snataka develops important qualities and is bound by the snataka dharma which includes a certain set of rules and responsibilities for a student who has undergone samavartana.
Samskaras related to education are those activities prescribed by the vaidika and dharmika texts to prepare a young mind to receive the vast knowledge and perform the required vaidika rites.
अक्षराभ्यासः ॥ Aksharabhyasa or Vidyarambha
Also called as Aksharavishkarana (अक्षराविष्करणम्), was performed at the commencement of the primary education. Fifth year was prescribed but if postponed it had to be performed before upanayana samskara. Though not mentioned in the Grhya sutras under the Shodasa samskaras, this ritual is mentioned in the recent dharmashastras according to some scholars but not attached with importance as the Upanayana. Grhyasutras and Dharmasutras have laid down rituals for occasions like Annaprasana (first instance of food given to child) and grihya-nishkramana (first outing of the child) but failed to mention the commencement of education prior to Upanayana samskara. It may be attributed to the reason that writing of alphabet was not prevalent as commencement of vedic education involved memorization of mantras as against writing.
The activity of Aksharabhyasa is fairly simple, requiring the young boy or girl to worship Sarasvati Devi, the devata for learning, Vinayaka, devata for removing obstacles and the deities of the family. The father or purohit makes the child write the name of deity (usually Shiva for auspiciousness) on rice with his finger (golden or silver pen in some instances). Suitable danas are made to the purohit and the Brahmanas invited for the ceremony which marks the end of the ceremony.
उपनयनम् ॥ Upanayana
One of the important Samskaras, Upanayana signifies the transition of a child to a student. It literally means taking the student to a teacher in order to hand him over to the latter for his education. This samskara was performed at the time a student commenced his vaidika vidya under the guidance of an Acharya with whom he is to live until his education is complete. The first guru of a child is the mother followed by the father who teaches him worldly knowledge until a long time. Usually for higher knowledge children were sent to learn from a scholarly person. Smritis give a detailed set of rules about the different aspects of Upanayana for different varnas. Gradually as vedic studies fell into the background, Upanayana samskara has gone out of vogue among the Kshatriya and Vaishya communities and remained only for the Brahmanas.
This samskara has quite a few aspects associated with it such as the age at which it is performed, the auspicious day, the kaupina, girdle or mekhala, the deer skin, the staff, the yajnopaveeta, the Savitri mantras to be recited, samidhadhana (the process of offering samidh into the fire) sandhayavandana each having special significance. The ceremonial bhiksha (begging alms) was a practice that commenced on the day of the Upanayana. The rites are performed for three days during which time the student is said to remain in an embryonic condition, on the fourth day he is said to have taken his spiritual birth, and so is called a Dvija henceforth. Medhajanana ritual performed by the preceptor marks the termination of the 3 day long ceremony.
समावर्तनम् ॥ Samavartana
Samavartana, which means "returning" was performed at the end of the Brahmacharya period to mark the termination of the educational course when the student returns to his house from the teacher's home.
उपाकर्म ॥ Upakarma
The annual session of education in ancient times began soon after the commencement of the rainy season when the sowing operations were over and crops had began to sprout. By the full moon of month of Sravana (August) the sowing activity would be over and the ritual of Chhandasam Upakarma (छान्दसाम् उपाकर्म), i.e., gathering the vedic knowledge, was performed on that day. This commencement ritual was mostly for the students and teachers in earlier times. However in the present day, it is being followed by all dvija brahmacharis and grhasthas (who have undergone Upanayana samskara, married or unmarried).
विद्याभ्यासे विषयाः ॥ Subjects of Study
The history of ancient Indian education spans several millennia and thus we find considerable changes in the curricula in the course of centuries. When the outlook on life changes or when new branches of knowledge are developed, schools and colleges scramble to incorporate those changes.
वैदिकविद्या विषयः ॥ Subject Matter of Vaidika Vidya
During the vedic era naturally study of vedas formed the main topic of study. Stress was given on pronunciation and intonation of mantras, which required the student to hear and repeat what was said. Learning principles of chandas were encouraged so as to develop the powers of uttering the mantras. Those who took up priestly activities (paurohitya) had to study and commit to memory details of the various rituals and associated mantras. To prepare yajnavedis they had to learn rudimentary geometry at least. To find the appropriate muhuratas, planetary placement, seasons etc they had to learn Astronomy. Grammar was not given high importance, thus we find Vaidika Bhasha vyakarana was lot more flexible than the present day Laukika bhasha vyakarana.
In the later vedic period, with the Brahmana literature becoming extensive and explanatory in nature, new subjects started developing. Vedic language and mantras were being differentiated and to preserve the pristine form of the mantras, scholars insisted that vedic mantras should be committed to memory in their precise traditional intonation and accents. Students were not at liberty to change a difficult archaic word for a simpler newer word. Education which mainly included the study of vedas gradually expanded to include the explanatory sciences also.
अपराविद्या विषयः ॥ Subject Matter of Apara Vidya
Chaturdasha Vidyastanas which included the Vedas and their Vedangas were the chief subjects after the Vedic period for a long time. Vidya (knowledge), pertaining to a single knowledge system (Brahmavidya etc) of the olden days gradually got absorbed into Vedanta system, a broader heading covering all such specialized topics. Gradually as studying vedas required more understanding, the study of Shad Vedangas became important. It is to be noted that the subjects explaining the Vedas themselves gained more significance and subsequently were studied independent of the Vedas themselves. Some of the Vedangas such as Shiksha, Vyakarana, Jyotisha, became highly specialized by themselves and needed years of study excluding the Vedic studies.
Vidya (education) then came to represent concept based knowledge systems of Shastras of all kinds in the more recent millenia. The Shad Vedangas, Shad Darshanas and Upavedas gave rise to many subjects such as Ganita (Mathematics), Nyaya (Judicial system) and Nyaya (Logic). Ayurveda ramified into specializations such as Shastrachikitsa (Surgery) and Kayachikitsa (General Medicine), Rasayana shastra dealt with chemistry, Bhoutika shastra included physics. The knowledge of alloys, metallurgy, geology, botany sciences, warfare, architecture, large scale constructions, all such topics developed over a period of time into professional subjects.
वेदान्तविद्या विषयः ॥ Subject Matter of Vedanta Vidya
A considerable portion of the major Upanishads is devoted to the Upasanas or meditative exercises which are called Vidyas. A good number of these Vidyas in the sense of in-depth higher level of learning are discussed in all the 12 Mukhya Upanishads (three of them more important Upanishads namely, Chandogya, Brhdaranyaka and Taittriya Upanishads) and in the Vedanta Sutras or Brahmasutras. The Upanishads mention them in different places while in the Vedanta Sutras, Adhyaya 3, Pada 3 takes them up together and discusses them. Practice of these Vidyas have been seen in relation to yajnas and some of them yield Kamyaphala (fruits of yajna) as have been given in Sutra 3.3.60. Hence some of these Vidyas are also called Kamya Vidyas. Shri Adi Shankaracharya in his bhasyas interprets these Vidyas as practical exercises of meditation. Also called as Brahmavidya, 32 such Vidyas have been given.
- Ishvaravidya (ईश्वरविद्या)
- Paramapurushavidya (परमपुरुशविद्या)
- Sad Vidya (सद्विद्या)
- Anandamaya Vidya (आनन्दमयविद्या)
- Paramajyoti Vidya ()
- Sandilya Vidya
- Paryanka Vidya
- Uddalaka Vidya
- Aksaraksara Vidya
- Bhumavidya (भूमविद्या)
- Gargi Akshara Vidya
- Satyakama Vidya
- Daharavidya (दहरविद्या)
- Angushtamatra Vidya
- Jyotishamjyoti Vidya
- Maitreyi Vidya
- Gayatri Vidya
- Ushasti Kahola Vidya
- Antaradityavidya or Adityavidya (आदित्यविद्या)
- Upakosala Vidya
- Madhuvidya (मधुविद्या)
- BalakiVidya ()
- Akash Vidya (अक्षिविद्या)
- Pranavidya (प्राणविद्या)
- Pratardanavidya (प्रतर्दनविद्या)
- Nachiketavidya (नचिकेतविद्या)
- Vaisvanara Vidya
- Samvarga Vidya
- Panchagnividya (पञ्चाग्निविद्या)
- Akshi Vidya
- Bhrugu Varuni Vidya
- Srimannyasa Vidya
Udgita and Purushavidya (पुरुषविद्या) are two others that have been described.
Terms Related to Study
Vidya involves the study of the subject matter by the student. If the subject matter is Vedic study it is specifically called Svadhyaya (स्वाध्यायम्), while study of any subject in general is termed as Adhyayana. Reading is Pathana (पठनम्) and repeating a mantra is termed as Japa (जपम्). Japa particularly relates to mantras and does not apply to subject matter.
स्वाध्यायम् ॥ Svadhyaya
The students of ancient days had to recite the lessons already learned either to themselves or to senior pupils and this was called their Svadhyaya. This promoted their ability to retain and recollect the studied veda mantras. One cannot but remember the Samavartana address to the outgoing students mentioned in Taittriyopanishad, Shikshavalli which emphasizes the importance of svadhyaya.
सत्यं वद , धर्मं चर, स्वाध्यायान्मा प्रमदः ।... ... (Tait. Upan. Shiks. 11.1) Make no mistake about the study of the Veda..
In ancient times (and to a limited extent even today), different families studied a specific set of texts from the entire set of vedic literature. For example, a family belonging to the Deshastha Brahmana community in Maharashtra (India) could chant a specific group of 10 texts related to the Rigveda (the Rigveda Samhita, Aitareya Brahmaṇa, Aitareya Araṇyaka, Aitareya Upanishad, Ashvalayana Shrauta Sūtra, Ashvalayana Grhya Sutra, Panini’s Așhtadhyayi, Pingala’s Chandas sutras, Yaska’s Nirukta and Katyayana’s Sarvanukramani) during their lifelong study. This same set of texts were studied by the members of the family as their primary focus generation after generation and constituted their traditional vedic study or Svadhyaya. In this form of study the focus is on the recitation of the veda mantras and is not necessarily on their meaning. Taittriya Aranyakam lays down the adyayanavidhi of Svadhyaya which has been explained in Mahabhashyam (of Patanjali) as a vidhi that should be followed at all costs.
नित्यो हि `स्वाध्यायोऽध्येतव्यः' इत्यध्ययनविधिः। यस्माद् ब्राह्मणेन निष्कारणो धर्मः षडङ्गो वेदोऽध्येयः, तदर्थश्च ज्ञातव्य: (तैत्तिरीय-आरण्यकम्, २.१५)(Mahabhashyam 3.1.3)
nityo hi `svādhyāyo'dhyetavyaḥ' ityadhyayanavidhiḥ। yasmād brāhmaṇena niṣkāraṇo dharmaḥ ṣaḍaṅgo vedo'dhyeyaḥ, tadarthaśca jñātavya:’ (taittirīya-āraṇyakam, 2.15)(Mahabhashyam 3.1.3)
A brahmana should without questioning the reason should learn the Dharmas, the Shadangas (vedangas) and the vedas and know their meaning. Svadhyaya is a nityakarma. The phala or result of studying svadhyaya is also given in the same anuvaka as follows
स्वाध्यायमधीते सर्वाँल्लोकाञ्जयति सर्वाल्लोकाननृणोऽनुसंचरति तदेषाऽभ्युक्ता, इति । (Tait. Aran. 2.15)
svādhyāyamadhīte sarvām̐llokāñjayati sarvāllokānanr̥ṇo'nusaṁcarati tadeṣā'bhyuktā, iti । (Tait. Aran. 2.15)
One who studies svadhyaya will acquire (surpass) all the worlds, will be free of all rnas (debts such as pitru rna, matr rna etc) and can freely move across all lokas, this is clearly stated (as the phala).
अध्ययनम् ॥ Adhyayana
It includes the study of texts in general to imbibe their teachings, and reflect upon their meaning. There may or may not be any chanting involved. The student may study them privately, or under the guidance of a Guru.
पठनम् ॥ Pathana
Pathana generally means to read and here the context is to recite aloud, to learn by repeating the mantras etc.
Students were doing Pathana before manuscripts were accessible to one and all. After they came into usage, they were also scarce and available to, say, senior students having access to the library. Vedapatha paddhati is the way the recitation of vedas is to be done by the student. There are as many as 8 different ways in which mantras are recited and memorized in olden days. This culture is gradually losing ground in the present days.
One can see that there were different methods of education employed which led to the preservation of a vast body of knowledge, the Vedas and shastras.
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- Brhdaranayaka Upanishad (Adhyaya 1 Brahmana 5)
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- Mundaka Upanishad (Mundaka 1 Khanda 1)
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- Shabdakalpadhruma (Word विगानं)
- Venkateswara Rao. Potturi (2010) Paaramaathika Padakosam Hyderabad: Msko Books
- Agni Purana (Adhyaya 383 AgniPurana Mahatmyam)
- Vachaspatyam (Chaturdashavidyas)
- Vayu Purana (Purvardha Adhyaya 61)
- Vishnudharmottara Purana (Khanda 1, Adhyaya 74)
- Vishnupurana (Amsha 3 Adhyaya 6)
- Bhavishya Purana (Brahma Parva 1 Adhyaya 2)
- Bhagavadgita (Adhyaya 10)
- Manusmrti (Adhyaya 2)
- Vachaspatyam (See अन्तेवासिन्)
- Shabdakalpadruma (See Shishya (शिष्यः))
- Vachaspatyam ( See Snataka (स्नातक))
- Aiyar, Narayanaswami K., (1919 First Edition) The Thirty-two Vidyas. Madras: The Adyar Library and Research Center
- Ray, Brojasundar (1938) Aims and Ideals of Ancient Indian Culture. Calcutta: A. Roy and Co.
- Taittriya Upanishad (Shiksha Valli Anuvaka 11)
- Sacred HIndu Scriptures and Languages - an Introduction by Vishal Agarwal (Page 4)
- Mahabhashyam (Paspashnikam)
- Taittriya Aranyaka (Prapathaka 2 Anuvaka 15)