Formal Education System in Ancient India

by Sushmita Nath | 2016 | 63,563 words

This page relates ‘Agrahara (donation of land to the learned Brahmanas)’ of the study on the (formal) education system in Ancient India with reference to Vedic and Buddhist period, investiging educational institutions and universities which existed during this time. Professional educational methods were found in ancient Sanskrit literature (Brahamanas, Dharma-Shastras, Puranas, Jatakas, etc.), including rules, ceremonies and duties of pupils in ancient India.

Agrahāra (donation of land to the learned Brāhmaṇas)

The donation of land to the learned Brāhmaṇas from the kingdom is called Agrahāra. In those Agrahāras the learned Brāhmaṇas imparted education as teachers. Being pleased the king donated land to the Brāhmaṇas. In the Cāndogya Upniṣat[1] we find references of the donation of village to the Brāhmaṇas like Raikva and Jnanaśruti. In the Dharmasūtras[2] also the donation of land was regarded as pious act. In the Jātaka[3] stories too we find mention of donation of land.

The king used to donate land to the learned Brāhmaṇas for the development of his country. Upon those donated lands, the learned Brāhmaṇas generally used to establish institutions for imparting education, where students could study their subjects. In those institutions or respective Agrahāras the domiciled Brāhmaṇas were learned in Vedas, Purāṇas, Logic, and Administrative Science. Therefore they taught those subjects to the students without taking any fees. This practice was more in vogue in the Post Vedic period. In the Smṛti literature[4] also the free hand donation of land was praised as pious work for the all round development of state.

Such Agrahāras was established generally by the side of a river. In a state more than one Agrahāras were established since, the King donated land to different learned Brāhmaṇas. In the Pre-medieval period the numbers of these Agrahāras were tremendously increased. According to the Harṣacarita, King Harṣa while going out for his world conquest donated lands round about one thousand Halas and hundred villages to the learned Brāhmaṇas[5]. Gradually these Agrahāras turned in to the institutions called Toll for imparting higher education.

Footnotes and references:


Te ha ate Raikvaparṇā nāma mahāvṛṣeṣu yatrāsmā uvāsa| Cāndogya Upaniṣad IV.2.5.


bhṛtyānām anuparodhena kṣetraṃ vittaṃ ca dadad brāhmaṇebhyo yathā arham anantāṃ lokān abhijayati ||Āpastamba Dharmasūtra II.10.26.1.


tesaṃ soḷasannam pi soḷasahi vāhagonihi saddhim pasataṃ pasataṃ…………………tesaṃ vatthāabharaṇāni datvā vissajjāpesi ||Saṃkhapāla Jātaka 524.


Bhūmido bhūmimāpnoti | Manusmṛti 4.230.


Agarwal, V.S. Harsacarita ek Sanskritik Adhyayana,Parshava Publication, Lucknow, 1942, P.203.

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