Thursday, August 12, 2010

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 55 (Vol #4) Dated 12 Aug 2010.

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 55 (Vol #4) Dated 12 Aug 2010.

(These e-mails are translations of talks given by Periyaval of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, over a period of some 60 years while he was the pontiff in the earlier part of the last century. These have been published by Vanadi Padippagam, Chennai, in seven volumes of a thousand pages each as Deivathin Kural. Today we are proceeding from the second para on page number 307 of Vol 4 of the Tamil original. The readers are reminded that herein 'man/he' includes 'woman/she' too, mostly. These e-mails are all available at updated constantly)
{Note: In these talks, PeriyavaaL is talking about Educational Institutions of yore, which were bigger than a single Guru Kulam, and possibly bigger than a school, with a number of teachers, curriculums and syllabuses. These were called variously as Gatika or Gatikai or Katika or even Kadigai. As per English grammer rules, a pronoun can be spelt differently based on the pronunciation. In these translations, I am sticking to Gatika and Gatikai.}

439. Bhatta Someswara has written a Bhashyam for the Tantra Vaartikam that Kumarila Bhatta has authored, in which I read the logic of why these educational institutions are called Gatika Sthana-s. Try and follow the meaning of what it says in the Bhashyam, which I will give you verbatim in Sanskrit. This is the explanation for the original sloka in the ‘Tantra Vaartikam’, “anuyogeshu gatika marga vruttishu”. Bhatta Someswara explains like this, “veda koushala jignyasaartam tat tat veda bhaga chihna lekayaani gatikaayaam kumbhakhyaayaam nikshipya, tat tat veda bhaaga parikshaa kaale taan-yakrushya, aakrushta lekhyachihnitam vedam pata it-yatyedaara: anuyujyante iti gatika marga vartino anuyoga:”.
440. Let us try and understand this clearly! The Gatika’s method of teaching is ‘Gatika marga vrutti’ and those who follow that method are evidently, ‘gatika marga vartina:’. The method of testing their grasp of the subject is ‘anuyogam’. That is the way the examination or tests were carried out. Here Someswara is explaining as to how these tests were conducted in the ‘Gatikaayaam’ using ‘Kumbaakyaam’. In the Gatika-s the exam was held using the pots. How? What is this method of exam? How does the word pot occur here? Committing it to memory without understanding is not much appreciated anywhere in education. It is referred deprecatingly as to ‘beat the drum (or Gatam) by rote’! But, we cannot be looking at such a name for educational institutions, which has a connotation of flippancy!
441. The student of Vedas is supposed to know it so thoroughly, that at the slightest indication as to where to start from, he should be able to rattle it out, like a spring gushing forth! The test is of his memory and the promptness of his response and speed of retrieval from memory. Instead of talking in abstract terms, let me give you an example. We are testing a student of how well he remembers a Mantra somewhere in the Rik Veda, let us say for example! If you tell the first word, he will anyhow come out with the whole series of mantras! That is how they all have committed it to heart. Instead of even that one first word of the mantra, we should be able to test as to whether he has grasped, by giving a number or some sign. How is this done?
442. In Rik Veda there are more than ten thousand mantras. You cannot give the Rik-s numbers in serial order without confusing and it will have no relation to its meaning! Luckily the Veda is divided into many parts, sub-parts, with each having so many Sukta-s, and each Sukta having so many Rik-s! Each Rik is like a Sloka of two lines of one Mantra. There are two methods of this division. In one method, there are ten Mandala-s, with each Mandala having sub divisions of Anuvaagam-s and sub-sub divisions of Sukta-s. In the other method, there are eight Ashtangam-s, with each Ashtangam having sub divisions of Adhyayam-s and sub-sub divisions of Sukta-s. Some Gatika-s followed the Mandala method and some the Ashtangam method. Now it becomes easy to identify exactly as to which mantra is being referred. Now if you are given a number, 2-3-4-5; it would mean, 2nd Mandala, 3rd Anuvagam, 4th Sukta and 5th Rik in one school and 2nd Ashtangam, 3rd Adhyayam, 4th Sukta and 5th Rik, in the other school! The student will have to give that particular mantra being asked for! Still, what is the connection with Gatam?
443. For the examiner, it is easier to give this question in writing than to ask the student verbally. Then to ensure randomness of the question being selected and to avoid all possibility of intended or alleged partiality, they placed a number of these questions in a pot, written on palm leafs. These would be picked out either by the examiner or the by the examinee himself at random and answered in the hearing of all participants and marks given. The same method of examination was used for all such tests for the other Veda-s too with suitable adjustments or modifications.
444. This system can be used for all random selections. In South India, following this method, in various civic organizations many decisions of equal weightage used to be decided by asking a child to pick up a palm leaf from the pot, known as, ‘kuda olai therthal murai’! Anyhow, whether the examiner was the same teacher who taught the boy or a third party, the system was much above board, not giving any chance for corruption as well as allegations of partiality. It is from this Gatam, which was used for the examination that the school itself derived its name of Gatika, as per the explanation given by Bhatta Someswara. I felt as happy as having got a hidden treasure!
445. Since I have been talking about teaching and education, let me teach you some Sanskrit. Let me explain the meaning of what I quoted from the writings of Bhatta Someswara in para 439 above. “veda koushala jignyasaartam” – ‘to assess as to how much the person has learnt of the Veda-s’ ; “tat tat veda bhaga” – in those parts of the Veda-s; “chihna lekayaani” -- ‘pieces (of palm leaf bits) indicating the reference’; “gatikaayaam kumbhakhyaayaam nikshipya,” – ‘having placed in the pots in the school’ ; “tat tat veda bhaaga parikshaa kaale“ – ‘at the time of tests of assessment as to how they have been grasped or learnt; “taani aakrushya,” – ‘taking those pieces of palm-leaf’; “aakrushta lekhyachihnitam” – ‘as per what is indicated there’; “vedam pata iti” – ‘chant the Veda-s’ thus; “atyedaara: anuyujyante” – Adhyaapaka-s
conduct the tests’.
446. It is in the rightness of things for Veda Vidya to be so intimately related to Kumbham. As I said earlier, Veda Dharma is like an ever green tree of thousands of years. Its roots are these Veda Mantras and their learning is known as Veda Adhyayanam. Fruits of such a tree are the practical opportunity to get closer to God through these temples. The fruitfulness of the Veda Dharma is that the power of these Mantra-s are instilled into these statues of God in these temples, its Gopurams and Vimanams. On top of these rectangular spires, from afar you can see the Kumbha-s of five metals, or Pancha Loha. These Kumbha-s or metal pots are made of Brass, Zinc, Copper, Silver and Gold. They are meant to act as the receiver transmitters of the power of the Veda Mantras. These are anointed with sanctified Mantra Jala, by chanting of these Vedas many crores of times, at the time of Kumbha Abhisheka done once in 12 years! These pots or Kumbhas as Gatams are also used for testing the students as to how well he has grasped the teaching in Gatikas, while also giving its name to the schools and colleges! Thus when I realized the way this word Gatika Sthanam has evolved, it gave me such immense pleasure as though I have also passed the examination with flying colours!
447. While doing this research, I also came to know of many such Vaidic Patashaalaa-s in South India, which however did not carry that name of Gatikai! Normally we are of the opinion that Chera, Sozha, Pandya and Thondai Nadu are all rather famous as having been well nurtured by the Kings of those Dynasties and so are well known for Vaidic culture. We also believe that the middle area of the districts of South and North Arcots and Chengalpet Districts are not likely to be so well off in terms of Vaidic education! I am going to correct this wrong understanding of ours!
(To be continued.)



At 2:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



Post a Comment

<< Home