more ads
Kamat's Potpourri Kamat Research Database .

Kamat's PotpourriNew Contents
About the Kamats
History of India
Women of India
Faces of India
Indian Mythologies
geographica indicaArts of India
Indian Music
Indian Culture
Indian Paintings
Dig Deep Browse by Tags
Site Map
Historical Timeline
Master Index
Research House of Pictures
Stamps of India
Picture Archive
Natives of India
Temples of India
Kamat Network
Blog Portal

Education in Karnataka through the ages
by Jyotsna Kamat

The Ghatikāsthāna or Ghatikā

The meaning of ghatikā  as a time measure of twenty-four minutes is well known throughout India. But the fact that it also denoted an educational institution in ancient and medieval Karnataka is not that known. Ghatikāsthānās  were institutions of higher learning that flourished in South India, and were supported by individuals as well as public bodies, that gave liberal grants for their development.

The word ghatikā  is derived from the Sanskrit  original root, ghat, which means, "to take place" or "form". Another term derived from this root is  ghatā, which is used by Vatsyayana in the sense of a religious assembly. The term ghatikā, according to Kielhorn, stood for an establishment of holy and learned men and Barnett interpreted it as a meeting place or hall of learned and godly men, and thus connected it with ghatige  or ghalige  which meant an ‘assembly'. The word may also be translated as ‘religious center' or as an ‘institution of knowledge' as well. But we have positive evidence, in a few inscriptions, of ghatikās  being institutions of advanced learning in medieval Karnataka.

The earliest mention of a ghatikā  in this context can be found in Kakusthavarman's Talagunda inscription dating back to the early 4th century C.E. This document mentions a ghatikā  at Kanchi, which in those days was a big cultural center. Mayurasharman, the founder of the royal family of the Kadambas,  went to this ghatikā  with his guru, eager to study “the whole sacred lore” 1.  It is likely that no such institution existed in Karnataka in those days, but we find numerous ghatikās  flourishing in later centuries.

K.L. Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri
A Time-keeping Volunteer at the Ghatika
A Time-keeping Volunteer at the Ghatika

The earliest example of a ghatikā in Karnataka can be found in the Dharwad district at Kalas, then known as Kadiyuru. An inscription from 929-930 C.E. describes students who studied grammar, polity, literature, history, logic, and politics and also wrote commentaries on them.

Almost all the ghatikās  found so far belong to the time of the Western Chalukyas of Kalyana. These were at Morigere, Nagai, Sudi, Hotturu, Tumbula, Rayabag, Puligere, Henjeru, Kadlewada, Henjeru and Rayabag2. These were mahāghatikasthānās  or big ghatikās . Pottiyuru (present day Hotturu in Dharwad district) was akhilaghatikasthana , or a universal ghatikā3. Others are simply mentioned as ghatikasthāna, galige , or ghateyashāle . The only inscriptions that give a clear picture about the workings of a ghatikā  are those in the village of Nagai in Chitapur taluk of Gulburga  district, which contained three big institutions of higher education4. One of the three inscriptions was connected with the Traipurushadeva temple and mentions a ghatikā  and a shāle  (school) as well. The second is associated with the Madhusudana temple and refers to a matha . Since it mentions two members of its establishment as ghatiyāras  or officers of a ghatikā, there is likely to have been a link between the two. The third inscription associated with the Rameshvara temple is incomplete, but mentions four hundred students. There were remains of a big building which had an outer courtyard with rooms on either side and a big doorway which led into a spacious hall that contained a number of stone benches serving as seats, as per Hyderabad Archaeological survey reports. (Vol. VII). According to C. R. Krishnamacharlu who edited these inscriptions, these were ruins of an 11th century educational institution. It is not clear whether these were remains of a fourth institution or one of the three mentioned above.  It is possible that all the three schools were part of one big institution, having about a thousand students living in three different campuses, resembling bigger universities like that of Nalanda in north India. Details of the organization of the three campuses or schools from the records give an inkling of the establishment known as the ghatikā.


The Ghatikā of Traipurushadeva Temple

Madhusudana, an officer of Trailokya malla, Chalukya, constructed this ghatikā . The expression ghatikasthānamenippā shāle (“a school named ghatikasthāna”), shows that the shāle in ancient and medieval times represented an institution of higher learning, in the same way the word “School” is used in “London School of Economics” or “Harvard Business School” today. Traipurusha represented the triune of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara, which symbolized the Hindu Trinity. In such schools, holy books pertaining to all sects were studied, including the Buddhist, Jaina, tantra, Shākta and Chārwaka scriptures, exemplifying the egalitarian outlook of true spiritual education. We find Traipurusha deva temples with schools (shāle) attached to them in other parts of Karnataka also. But only in Nagai, a ghatikasthāna  was attached to a Traipurusha temple.

In this ghatikā  two hundred scholars studied the Vedas and fifty-two studied the shāstras. Three teachers of each group comprised the main teaching staff along with a librarian (saraswatibhandāriga) and an officer (ghatikāprahāri ). These shāstra teachers taught Bhatta-darshana, Nyasa and Prabhakara-darshana, which are all well known works on philosophy containing the commentaries of Bhatta (Kumarila Bhatta) and Prabhakara. Boarding and lodging was provided for all staff and students and land was allocated for their maintenance5.  


The Ghatikā of Madhusudana Temple

This temple school had an imposing collection of buildings with lofty patios, gate halls and compound walls. It had a nātyashālā  or theater in its premises. There was a three-storied entrance tower (mûruneleyā bāgiluvādā ). A spacious building was also built for the convenience of the inmates pursuing their religious observances. Inmates included ascetics of the order of Ekadandi, Tridaneli, Hamsa and Paramahansa, along with the snātakas. A school existed here for the study of the Rig, Yajur, Sāma and Atharvana Vedas with their several thousand shākhās  (branches) and Vedāngas. The local inscriptions mention that the staff at the ghatikā  included Bhattopādhyās, Brahmapuribhattas, Puranabhattas, stonecutters, artisans, songstresses, drummers, and kapina ghatiyārs or security officers. Of these, the ghatikā  prahari of Traipurushaghatika and kapina ghaliyara  (or ghatiyāra ) are worth studying further, because they shed light on the functioning of the ghatikā  at Nagai6.

Since both of these received emoluments equal to that of a teacher, they could not be considered equivalent to just watchmen or timekeepers, as translated by Sri C. R. Krishnamacharlu, who edited and translated the Nagai inscriptions. At the Vikramashila University, which also flourished in the 11th century, there were officers given the unpretentious title of dvarapanditas or gatekeepers, but they were the guardians of scholarship of the university. They were most erudite scholars and admitted only the ablest into the university, after a thorough test. The ghatikā was a seat of high learning and its guardians may have performed functions similar to those of dvārapanditas of Vikramashila University.

This ghatikā prahāri or watchman (or striker of the hour-bell) received emoluments equal to those of the teachers. It is possible that he was given greater responsibilities than the mere striking of a bell every hour. In Nalanda, we learn that every activity was carried on according to the striking of a gong. In Nagai there were more than a thousand students, and a similar system might have prevailed. With time keeping personnel and a librarian on its staff, Nagai was indeed an important place of higher learning.


The Ghatikā of the Rameshwara Temple

The last inscription of the place mentions a certain Mahadevarasa and his charities in Nagai. He established a school for four hundred students. Of these one hundred studied Kavisunu (Sukraniti), one hundred studied the writings of Vyasa  (particularly, the Mahabharata) and one hundred studied the works of Manu (the Dharmashāstra) 7. The damaged condition of this record does not enable us to determine what the remaining fourth division of hundred students studied.

After understanding the details of the working of a ghatikā  (as explained above) we may draw certain inferences.

The ghatikā  was invariably attached to a temple. Other ghatikās  mentioned in different places were also attached to temples. A matha, also an educational institution with dormitory facilities invariably existed in the same premises. For instance, the Madhusudana temple in Nagai had a matha . In Sudi a matha and ghatikā flourished together.

Agrahara and brahmapuri, which were other residential, educational institutions, also co-existed with ghatikasthānās. Since the inscriptions at Nagai speak of provisions made for teachers, namely  -- Brahmapuribhatta and Puranabhatta and other employees of the temple, we may surmise that students and staff lived in the temple premises and studied in the ghatikā of the Traipurushadeva temple.

An agrahāra and shāle were also interconnected at times, irrespective of whether or not the shāle was called a ghatikasthānā. The institution of Salotgi of the time of Rashtrakuta Krishna (950 CE) was an agrahāra and shāle. It was very big, with twenty-seven well-furnished dormitories, where students from different lands lived and studied. Thus it is clear that the shāle was an institution of higher learning and at times was identical with the ghatikā , although what made a shāle  into a ghatikā  is not exactly known.

Students in the ghatikā  were referred to as mānis in a number of inscriptions at Morigere, Sudi, Nagai, Tumbula, etc. All these inscriptions contain references to grants of land made by benevolent patrons to cover the needs of students. Since the ghatikā was a place where only merited students were admitted, a student fortunate enough to enter and excell himself at a ghatikā   appears to have been known as a ghatikasāhasa. It is interesting to note that "ghatikāsāhasā"  is also identified with the word “ghaisāsa” . Today “Ghaisas” is a familiar surname among Maharashtrian Brahmins as also “Ghalisasa” and "Ghalisa".

His Holiness, the late Jagadguru Shri Sankaracharya of Kamakoti Pitham in a learned article had brought out the importance of ghatikāsthānas , which to him were the Taxilas of south India. He quoted the commentary of Bhatta Someshwara on Kumarilabhatta's Tantravartika to the Purvamimamsa to explain the very high standard of learning maintained in ghatikāsthānas .

Slips of paper containing extracts from each of the four vedas were placed inside a pot (ghaţa ). To test the proficiency of a student in the veda studied by him, a piece of paper from the pot was taken out at random, and the student was directed to recite fully the extract mentioned on it. In this way, students were tested in the ghatikā8.

From this explanation, it is clear that a very high standard in vedic knowledge was maintained in a ghatikā where, with the help of the system of pieces of paper in a pot, a student was tested on several occasions, often without prior warning. Naturally this mode of testing helped the student establish a complete mastery of a vedā or vedānga . The Jagadguru has also listed the subjects taught in ghatikāsthāns , which besides veda  and vedānga , included purāna , mimāmsā , nyāya , dharmashātras , the grammars, epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana  etc.

Thus it can be summarized that a ghatikā in medieval times was an institution of higher learning which had the following characteristics, some of which may be easily identified in any modern university, namely a large number of students, liberal endowments, a high standard of scholarship, a fully stocked library and a detailed timetable that governed all activity.

The institution of the ghatikā existed in medieval Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat as well. Although now extinct, some terms obviously connected with the ghatikā  are still in vogue in Kannada, spoken today in Karnataka. For instance, the terms “ghatānughati' and “ghattiga  are used to denote an intellectual giant, and the commencement ceremony (or convocation) of a university is known as ghatikōtsava . The survival of these words attests to the influence the institution exerted, long after the actual institution went out of existence. This influence was not merely academic; it was also spiritual and social. An inscription specifies that the ghatikā was both a supporter of dharma  and an abode of worldly enjoyment.



  1. Epigraphia Indica, Vol. VII, p. 26.
  2. South Indian Inscriptions IX (1), no. 101, Epigraphia Indica XV and VII, p. 89, Ibid, Vol. XVI, p. 84, South Indian Inscriptions XX (1), p. 116, Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. XI, Sira, no. 23.
  3. Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XVI, p. 84.
  4. Hyderabad Archaeological Series, Vol. VIII, p. 15-23.
  5. Ibid “B”, p. 25.
  6. Itsing, the Chinese monk had noticed water clock maintained at Nalanda and young boys who were engaged to strike gongs. Itsing, p. 84, and Sukumar Dutt. Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India, London 1962, p. 335.
  7. Hyderabad Archaeological Series, Vol. VIII, p. 39.
  8. The Illustrated Weekly of India, May 9th issue, 1965, p. 8-9.




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


Kamat Reference Database

Kamat's Potpourri Research DatabaseHistory of Education in Karnataka

© 1996-2018 Kamat's Potpourri. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without prior permission. Standard disclaimers apply

Merchandise and Link Suggestions

Top of Page