Indian Education System Before British Rule

India has a rich tradition of learning and education right from the antiquity. These were handed over generations
to generations either through oral or written medium. The highly esteemed Vedas have come down to us.
They existed for nearly 2000 years before they were known in India. It was the knowledge of acoustics that
enabled ancient Indians to orally transmit the Vedas from generation to generation. The institutional form of
imparting learning came into existence in the early centuries of the Christian era. The approach of learning was
to study logic and epistemology. The study of logic was followed by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, one of the
most important topics of Indian thoughts was pramana or means of reliable knowledge. The Nyaya schools
upheld four pramanas perceptions of are liable by analogy or comparison, word (sabda), the pronunciation of a
reliable authority such as the Vedas. The Vedanta school added one more to it i.e. intuition. It is the inference that
the schools of true logic arose. In the field of epistemology, Jains contributed the most. There were not only two
possibilities of existence and non-existence but seven more. Although the modern logicians might laugh at this
system of ontological and epistemological reality they concede that the world is more complex and subtle than
we think it to be. Regarding institutional form of education, the first was the Guru Shishya System. According to
the sacred texts, the training of the Brahmin pupil took place at the home of a Brahmin teacher. In some texts, the
guru is depicted as the poor ascetic and it is the duty of the student of beg for his teacher. The first lesson that
was taught to the student was the performance of Sandhya and also the reciting of Gayatri. The family functioned as
a domestic school, an asrama or a hermitage where the mental faculties of the pupils were developed by the
teachers’ constant attention and personal instruction. Education treated as a matter of individual concern did not
admit of the method of mass production applicable in industry. The making of man was regarded as an artistic
and not a mechanical process. Indeed, the aim of education was the development of the pupils’ personality,
innate and latent capacities.
The thinking principle, Manana Shakti was reckoned higher than the subject of thinking. So the primary subject
of education was the mind itself. According to the ancient Indian theory of education, the training of the mind
and the process of thinking are essential for the acquisition of knowledge. So the pupil had mainly to educate
himself and achieves his own mental growth. Education was reduced to three simple processes of Sravana,
Manana and Niddhyaasana. Sravana was listening to the truths as they fell from the lips of the teacher.
Knowledge was technically called Shruti or what was heard by the ear and not what was seen in writing. The
second process of knowledge called Manana implies that the pupil has to think old for himself the meaning of
lessons imparted to him orally by his teacher so that they may be assimilated fully. The third step is known as
Nidhyasana means complete comprehension by the pupil of the truth that is taught so that he may live the truth
and not merely explain it by word. Knowledge must result in realization. The admission was made by the formal
ceremony Upanayana or initiation by which the pupil left the home of his natural parents for that of the
Abstract: This paper is a compilation of the state of education prevailing during the pre-independence era of
India. It elaborates the education system as mentioned in different Vedas as well as the system being followed
at ancient Universities like Taxila and Nalanda. It further examines the education in Mughals period. The
educational developments under British rule have been investigated as well.

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