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Education in Karnataka through the ages
by Jyotsna Kamat

Appendix B

Education of Gadiyaram Ramakrishna Sharma

Upon my request in the year 1987, Shri Gadiyaram Ramakrishna Sharma of Alampur in Mehaboobnagar district of Andhra Pradesh described his gurukul  style (traditional Indian residential schooling) education. I am grateful to him for providing insight into the Brahmanical education provided to young boys in Andhra Pradesh at the turn of the century. His words:

“I   studied in the choultry (agrahāra) of Biriwada under the sacred guidance of Shri Veluri Shivarama Shastri. His Holiness, my teacher himself provided me with rice, and clothing in addition to education. We called his home "Guru Kulumu" (master's place) or "Deva Kulumu" (place of God or “temple”). I studied there for three years. Due to his teaching abilities and my desire for learning, I learned poetry, dramatic literary forms (nātyālankāra), and grammar very quickly. After that, for ten years I was engaged in self-study. I never paid any tuition fees (guru-dakshina ) to my guru; he was a wealthy man: rich both in knowledge and in heart.

The teaching method encouraged the development of memory-power. The teacher taught the hymns from the vedas and shāstras (ancient Indian scriptures and treatises) by heart. We were asked to repeat verses after him for long periods of time. After a week or so, we could recite the hymns without taking help from the texts. Since we had to repeat them so often, there was no way to forget them! Brahmacharya (celibacy compounded with discipline in food and thought) considerably improves the retention power of the mind and we were expected to follow strict rules of Bramhacharya precepts. Yoga  (traditional Indian exercise for body and mind) was not mandatory, but each one of us religiously practised several postures (āsanas ). We also practiced the surya namaskāra (a ten step exercise emphasizing flexibility and balance, performed in honor of the Sun God), prānāyāma (breathing techniques), dharana, and  niyama. Some of my friends also practiced the use of weapons, and participated in wrestling contests.

The boys were taught to write after the fifth year.  In the school, we were taught to write in the sand to practice the alphabet. Sometimes they would bring us wood or stone boards with alphabets carved in them and we had to run our fingers through the grooves to practice good handwriting. We called them "guntā-o-nāmulu."

Once the boys learned the alphabet and combinations of letters to form syllables, they could write on palm leaves. There were also fruit leaves, stretches of cloth, and metal boards for writing. We were made to write psalms, mathematical rules, and mythological stories.

Sometimes the older boys taught the younger boys. By sunset we had to complete and submit homework that was assigned in the morning. We had to follow rigid rules of time and activity: awakening at sunrise, practising yoga, attending to personal grooming, performing prayer and worship, engaging in reading and study, eating lunch, spending time with the teacher (guru shushrooshe), performing  sandhyāvandanam(Brahminical ritual requiring initiation) , listening to stories and tales, eating dinner, and finally going to bed. It all had to be done punctually and in that strict order.

The school was off on the following days: the first day, the 8th day, the 14th day, the full moon day, and the  amāvāsyā (new-moon day). On very cloudy days and if the teacher was busy in discussions with visiting scholars, he would occasionally let us play instead of study.

In Andhra Pradesh, during my childhood there used to be "vipra-vinodis”. They were not Brahmins. These boys learned hand skills such as magic, and other tantric sciences. The Koochipudi Bhagawats taught their children music, musical instruments, dance, and acting. The Bhagawats still practice this form of education in Andhra Pradesh.

When I was in the guru's house, I rose at five o'clock and did the sandhyāvandana. I read the lessons of the day ahead of time. My teacher would start his discourse around 9 o'clock in the morning. After that the students got together under the trees and discussed the lessons, and regurgitated them. After sunset, if we had any questions about the lessons, we would consult with the teacher. The students who came from villages went home at this point, and those who resided with the teacher read Telugu poetry. This is how I was educated.”

 

Full Text of Education in Karnataka through the AgesEducation in Karnataka through the ages
Preface | Buddhist Education | Jaina Education | Palm-leaf Texts | Ghatikasthana | Education of Royalty | Community Education | Vocational Training | Education of Women | Physical Education | Among Muslims | Conclusions

 

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