In ancient India, Vedas held crucial relevance in the lives of people. They were considered sacred texts that showed people the right path to lead their lives. The first education system of India was the Vedic education system, where the children of the upper caste Brahmins and Kshatriya were taught the Vedas during their life at Gurukul. Four Vedas, namely Rig Veda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda, were studied during Vedic education.
Before the Britishers came to India, Vedic education was the way of education in the country. However, due to the prevalence of industrial-era education, the Vedic education system started losing its importance. Nevertheless, in the present day, people have started regaining interest in Vedic education.
Features of Vedic Education
Vedic education, as most people conceive it, is not a religious form of education. During the time at Gurukul, the students were taught free of cost, and guru (teacher) and shishyas (students) used to accommodate at the same place (gurukul). The Vedic education system focused on the comprehension of Vedic texts, and it points more toward religious neutrality. It, furthermore, practiced independence among students. Below are some features of Vedic education that make it relevant even in the 21st century:
1. Personality Development
Character building and personality development were the prime focus of Vedic education. The amount of stress given to personality development during the Vedic education period is incomparable to any other era. Morality was indispensable in ancient India. Students were taught to practice moral values throughout their lives. Teachers also focused on the learning of attaining sensorial control to facilitate character development. Self-dependence and simple life were promoted widely for the character formation of the students. They were called Brahmacharis during their learning period and avoided any luxuries or pleasures of life.
2. Practical Education
Vedic education did not only involve theoretical learning from religious scriptures like Mahabharata and Ramayana; it also paid attention to developing practical expertise. Children were taught to do manual work and other vocational training was also involved during the learning. A few vocations included weaving, pottery, etc.
3. Spiritual and Religious Values
During ancient times, instilling students with religious values was considered pivotal in education. Religious values and knowledge were entwined during the time. The Vedic education system, apart from instilling moral values in students, is also centered on establishing piousness and religious values among students. Education without spiritual and religious values was not considered education at all during that time.
4. Civic Responsibilities and Social Values
The students of Vedic education also had civic responsibilities. After gaining education in the Gurukul, they had to go back to the society and help it in different ways to make it better and more evolved. They had to be hospitable and charitable toward the needy people.
Another objective of the Vedic education system was to teach students the importance of both body and soul to achieve ultimate enlightenment. The spiritual elements infused in the system, like chanting prayers and following religious rituals on important occasions, focused on the enlightenment of a human being.
Methods of Vedic Education
1. Recitation and Memorization
The teachers of the Vedic education system used to recite Vedic texts to students, while students memorized the texts. The education took place orally in the Sanskrit language as the texts were written in the same language.
The texts were primarily recited, this step was known as Sravana. After the recitation, the next step involved students’ reflection on the texts, i.e. what they learned from the texts. The second step was called Manana. The final step Nididhyasana focused on meditation where truth was attained through introspection.
The vedic education system was liberal and gave the right to students to debate and discuss the topics included in the syllabus. They could have their own opinions. They could differ from their teachers and share their thoughts with freedom with their teachers and other classmates.
In ancient India, all knowledge was imparted orally, and later students were to practice Chintan (thinking) over the things they learned. Travelling was used as a method of learning to give a final touch to education.
5. Practical Exposure
Practical learning was also appreciated during the time as many students opted to go for trades. They practiced their learning in medicine and other areas.
Vedic Education Curriculum
As the name suggests, Vedic education aimed at studying the Vedic texts of ancient India. Spiritual and religious values were given to the students. Furthermore, the students learned other philosophies, grammar, astrology, logic, language, and literature of the Vedic era. Apart from that, practical learning was also important during the time. Students were provided with the learning of riding, dancing, archery, hunting, etc. Additionally, subjects like philosophy, astronomy, yoga, and Ayurveda, were also taught by the teachers of the time.
Vedic Education in the Present Day
After the Mughals and Britishers came to India, the value of Vedic education kept reducing. However, in the modern-day, people are again becoming conscious of the importance of Vedic education to lead a simpler and a more euphoric life. Many people have made efforts for the revival of the education system.
Dayanand Saraswati and Swami Shraddhanand were the ones to first set up the modern Gurukul system in 1886 presently known as Dayanand Anglo-Vedic Public Schools and Universities.
Not only private bodies, but the government is also making continuous efforts to find the traces of Indian culture. Consequently, they are striving to build more schools and universities that follow the Vedic education system. Shastriji Maharaj Dharamjivan Das Swami, in 1948, initiated the first Swaminarayan Gurukul situated in Gujarat.
The Vedic education system, from earlier times, was considered a very rich form of an education system that focused on human enlightenment and simplicity of life. It also helps students learn the indispensability of finding happiness even in small things, which reduces stress and anxiety among people. Taking into consideration the richness of the education system, even parents and teachers support the Vedic education system.
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