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Essay on Education During Later Vedic Age

The Vedic period education ends near about 1400 B.C. After that Post-Vedic period education starts. This period regarded as of 800 years’ duration. Hence, it ends at 600 B.C.

Foundations of Vedic Science & Mysticism

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The Post-Vedic period is also called as the Brahman or Upanishadic period. The period comes between the end of the Vedic period and beginning of the Jain and Bauddha religions. The basic aim of education during the Post-Vedic period has been the same as during the Vedic age.

In both the periods the aim has been the salvation of the soul, but the method for attaining this goal has been different between the two periods.

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During the Vedic period the student used to attain the objective of education though penance while living with the Acharya (teacher) as a member of his family. During the Post-Vedic period Yajna replaced the penance and a number of procedures were prescribed for the same.

During the Vedic period the penance was trivet, but during the post-Vedic age it became extrovert. Consequently, along with education importance of Yajnas increased.

This led to the necessity of able priests for assisting in the performance of Yajnas. For this purpose four types of priests came in the forefront. They were known as Brahma, Udgata, Hota and Adhvarya.

Objectives of the post-Vedic education

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To attain salvation by realizing the truth has been the aim of education, during this period. Only that education was regarded true which helped one to realize this supreme truth.

According to the Upanishads ‘truth’ alone is the knowledge and the other worldly knowledge is untruth. The worldly knowledge was regarded as ‘ignorance. Upanishads maintain that one cannot attain salvation through worldly knowledge because through this one becomes involved in illusion (Maya).

Upanayan Sanskar

Upanayan Sanskar was considered important both in the Vedic and Post-Vedic periods. This is evident at several pieces in the Rigveda. But different values were adhered to in the two periods.

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It was not necessary during the Vedic period to have the Upanayan ceremony before starting education. But during the Post-Vedic period Upanayan ceremony was considered necessary for starting education.

The word ‘Upanayan’ means to come near. In the context of education this word signifies that the student should come near the teacher for receiving education. The Upanayan ceremony became so important during the Post-Vedic period that it was usually regarded as second birth of the individual.

For the Brahmans this became very important. Brahmans began to be called as Dvij (the twice born or born again). It was after the Upanayan that a Brahman boy could be called a Dvij.

Two births signify the worldly and the spiritual births. On the Upanayan occasion the Guru (preceptor) used to give him his Mantra (Advice). His spiritual life used to begin from this point.

That is, from this day his education was started which ultimately led to his spiritual development in due course of time. The Upanayan ceremony is still in vogue in certain religious groups in the world, though in different forms.

Curriculum during the post-vedic period

During this period the curriculum included more subjects than during the Vedic age. Veda mantras (Vedic hymns and verses) were principally taught in the Vedic period. During the Post-Vedic period various types of literatures were produced pertaining to the different Vedas.

In addition to religious subjects many worldly subjects were also included in the curriculum. This may be verified in the conversation between Narrad and Sanat Kuman which is incorporated in the Chhandogya Upanishad.

During the Post-Vedic period the curriculum consisted of Vedas, History, Puranas, Grammar, Mathematics, Brahma-Vidya, Nirukti (etymological interpretation of words), astronomy, dance, music, etc., etc.

The important place of the teacher

During this period the teacher (Guru) enjoyed a predominant place not only in his Gurukul (seat of learning) but in the entire society. He was regarded as a great guide for air.

To his pupils he showered all love and affection and used to teach them whatever he knew, but before doing this he always tested the deservingness of a particular pupil.

The pupils were free to discuss points freely with the Guru. We find many examples of free discussion between the teacher and his taught. We may cite here an example from Brahma and his son Bhrigu.

Brahma gave the Brahma-gyan, i.e., the knowledge of the ultimate or God in an outline form and advised him to perceive the same through thinking (Manan) and meditation. Bhrigu accepted this advice and realised God (Brahma) on the basis of the same.

In addition to the above three methods we find a mention of another method-Question-Answer System in the Upanishad literature. In fact, the entire Upanishad literature is on the question- answer system.

We do not find its practice in the Rig-Veda period. Through this system difficult and abstract ideas were made simple. The terse-spiritual elements were explained through this system.

Examples, stories and help of certain biographies were also taken in the system for elucidating certain points. This question-answer method was also successfully used by Socrates in Greece to explain abstract ideas.

Daily routine of students

During the Post-Vedic period the Ashramas (Schools) were generally organised and run by Guru (preceptors). It was compulsory to adhere to laid down rules of discipline and conduct.

No distinction was made between students in this respect. Everyone was required to observe celibacy. Rules of conduct were enforced keeping in view the physical, mental and moral development of students. Strict adherence to rules of conduct and discipline was an inseparable aspect of education in those days.

(a) Practical Education

Practical education consisted of three Parts: 1. to beg alms, 2. to prepare fire for the Yajna-kund, and 3. to look after the animals and other fellow-beings of the Ashrama (School). Besides, the students were also expected to do some agricultural work.

There were varying aims of all these three aspects of practical education. Begging of alms was meant to teach politeness. Preparing of fire for the Yajna-kund signified mental development of students. Rearing up Ashrama animals and doing agricultural work were meant to make the students self-dependent.

(b) Mental Development

Hearing, thinking and meditation were the three parts of mental education. For full mental development all these three aspects were considered necessary. Thinking over the heard things and perception through meditation were the accepted methods of mental development. This is true even today.

(c) Moral Education

Leading a disciplined and controlled life is the real basis of moral education. Moral education affects the conduct of the individual. Only oral instruction cannot improve one’s conduct. Therefore, observance of celibacy was considered necessary for good conduct.

Duration of education

Duration of education during the Post-Vedic period was almost the same as in the Vedic age this duration was of about twelve years, although the number of subjects of study was increased. However, there was no uniform rule for the duration of education.

We find examples in which students continued to stay longer than twelve years for keeping the fire of the Yajna or looking after the animals and inmates of the Ashrama. Satyakam Jawal may be cited as an example in this respect. In the literatures of this period we find cases of many students who stayed in the Ashrama for more than thirty years.

The teacher-taught relationship

During the Post-Vedic period teacher-taught relationship was of the ideal nature the teacher was the protector of the student in all circumstances. He was fully respected by the student.

He occupied a more dignified place than the father. The student was just like a son for the teacher who constantly thought and endeavored for his development. To render service to the teacher was the sacred duty of the student.

The student was always ready to execute any command of the teacher with all humility. During this period especial attention was paid to the analysis of the essential truth. However, Yajnas still occupieda prominent place in the Ashrama. Rituals were attracted less importance, but the great significance of Yajna was still maintained.

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