Saturday, July 03, 2010

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 35 (Vol #4) Dated 03 July 2010.

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 35 (Vol #4) Dated 03 July 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 third para on page 209 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.)

245. The three castes entitled to learn the Veda-s, had different time frame for doing the Upanayana Samskaara and joining the Guru Kula. (Please refer to Deivathin Kural #102 of (Vol 2) Dated 28 April 2008, {in which the 40 Samskara-s have been discussed} and subsequent issues for greater understanding of this e-mail about how the people of the fourth Caste were not taught the Veda-s but were well informed about Dharma Saastraa-s and connected subjects!) Before Upanayanam, there is ‘Akshara Abhyaasam’, in which the child is exposed to reading and writing for the first time. Actually this was a later day addition to the Samskaaraas, as in olden times, languages were only spoken and heard and not written or read.
246. So, during the time when there was no Akshara Abhyaasam, Upanayanam was the first step in Vidyabhyasam, that is formal education. The Gayatri Mantra is the first of the Veda Mantras to be taught and learnt, in this process of hearing the Veda-s and getting them committed to memory and so, was called the ‘AnkurarpaNam’ or ‘the divine offering of the sprouts’! Once Upanayanam is done the boy is to be left in the Guru Kula.
247. In doing so, the Brahmin boy was given the PooNool at the age eight, Kshatriya boy at eleven and Vysya boy at twelve years of age. The Brahmin boy was not to be kept without being initiated to the Gayatri Mantra beyond 16! The upper limit for a Kshatriya was22 and for a Vysya 24. If the children are very brilliant, the starting age of initiation could be 5, 6 and 8 respectively!
248. Now, I know that there could be a question as to why this should be so varied. For any child, its natural environment of its household would form the basis of its interest and aptitude. To copy the elders is a child’s natural tendency. People of castes other than Brahmins do a lot of physical labour. One excels in use of weapons such as a sword, spear or a mace while the other may be sweating it out in the fields, tilling, de-weeding, irrigating, sowing and harvesting. They may be weaving or sculpting. For children who have to learn his father’s trade, will not see any of it being practised in the Guru Kula!
249. Guru Kula is not the place for physical action! It is a place for knowing and learning. Now-a-days, in Montessori system of learning, they are spreading the idea that, what is to be learnt by action should not be taught as a spoken lecture. To do so will not be the right method of coaching, they say! This is not a new method. This was our way of life. Other than the caste meant purely for brain work, children from other castes meant for action using the five senses and the five limbs of the body, followed this method of learning. So, they were not to be shut up in the place meant of cerebral activities, namely Guru Kula. The idea was that, let those children be with their Fathers and Grandfathers happily, learning their life time trades in the sand pits for unarmed combat or wrestling; practicing arena for fencing; ranges for shooting arrows; arable lands for farming; work shop for the carpenter or black smith and so on. In these areas, the children formed the nucleus of required unpaid labour force, watching, helping and learning, their life time trades, which is so deprecatingly commented upon these days as ‘child labour’! The instinct to imitate worked wonders in these areas of ‘on the job training’!
250. This system ensured that cheap helpful and interested labour was available at the point where required, thereby most importantly, obviating the need for, costly training as an apprentice at a later date! You will agree with me that the system was not only most cost effective financially, but also, in terms of interest created and aptitude instilled in the learner! So, the children of the other castes were being brought to the Guru Kulam slightly later! There is another aspect to be taken note of! To be able to create the power of the Mantra-s, the Brahmin child was under certain compulsions of discipline on matters of food inputs, (such as onions, garlic, fish and animal flesh not being included)! This was not so for the other children. Children of the other castes could not have much relished the Saatvic culinary fare of a Guru Kulam, so early in their lives! (Even today you may note that non-vegetarians derisively refer to vegetarians as, ‘those veggies!’)
251. So, for these and such reasons, the children of these other castes were brought to Guru Kulam a little later in their life, when their tongue could be controlled! So their age for Upanayanam could be slightly postponed. If they were to learn only their own trade, they could have done so from their own households. The very purpose of bringing them to Guru Kula was for Veda-Saastra Abhyaasa, in which they were not required to obtain so much expertise either! To do so would have adversely affected their own ‘Swadharma’, that is the profession to which born! The limited Veda Saastra gnaana that they were to study could well be done in a shorter period of time!
252. Thus study at Guru Kulam, Vidya Abhyaasam and such things became the main task of the Brahmin boys. Even amongst Kshatriya-s and Vysya-s, only the princes and children of important personages did long term Vidya Abhyaasam. For the Brahmin boys, the 14 important subjects known as ‘Chatur Dasa Vidyaa-s’ were given prominence. Dhanur Vedam, Artha Saastram and such subjects were taught only cursorily. But later after completing his 12 years of Adhyayanam, if they opt to do more studies, they elected to learn and gain additional expertise in subjects such as Shilpam (Sculpting), Dhanur Vedam (Archery), Artha Saastram (Economics), Sangeetham (Music) and so on. It is important to note that, these were not common subjects for all Brahmin boys!
253. But all Kshatriya students had to learn about all Astra (weapons) and Sastra (spears, arrows and missiles), as per Dhanur Veda in depth! Hence the curriculum and syllabus must have varied for the students of different castes. May be the Guru Kulam had two wings or they could have been co-located under different establishments. But the fact remains that when DroNa as a Brahmin was a student in the Guru Kula run by his father Bharadwaja Rishi, Drupada as a Kshatriya was also a student in the same place! Sri Krishna, a Kshatriya studied with Brahmin boy Kuchela under Guru Saandipani, in the same Guru Kula!
254. Two Stories of Contrast! There is interesting contrast between the above two stories of a Brahmin boy and a Kshatriya boy as co-students in the same Guru Kula! Bharadwaja Rishi was a highly esteemed master in Dhanur Veda (Archery). DroNa his son learnt this art from him and then from Parasurama. Later he was the Instructor in Archery for Kaurava and Pandya Princes at Kurukshetra. Kuchela would not have studied Archery at all. But this is not the difference that I am talking about! I know that I am slightly deviating from the main subject of the Guru – Sishya relationship, (as covered in the preceding 254 paras)! But the contrast between these two stories throws some light on our culture. So I will cover it shortly.
255. Though DroNa was an Archery instructor for the princely families of Kaurava-s and Pandava-s, there was a time when he was in need of money. He felt embarrassed to ask anyone. But then he remembered that Drupada as the King in a neighbouring State was his classmate during Guru Kula times! So he went to meet Drupada to ask for help. But, Drupada was averse to this claim of friendship from this poor man and so, ended up insulting DroNa! DroNa felt much embarrassed and so was looking forward for an opportunity to retaliate! At a later date when he could, he got Drupada imprisoned by Arjuna. He was magnanimous enough to release Drupada and return half of his Kingdom to Drupada! But now, it was Drupada who was out to take revenge!
(To be continued.)



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