Vedaaranya Heritage Arts and Healing Festival 2016

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Dr. Asha Lata Pandey

Sanskrit Department
Delhi Public School
Sector XII RK Puram
New Delhi 110022

Education and Character Development; A perspective of ancient Sanskrit literature

"Vidyaa dadaati vinayam, vinaayadyaati paatrataam,
Paatratvad dhanam aapnoti, dhanaat dharmam tatah sukham"

In ancient Sanskrit literature, education and character building are not two different things. In fact education means character development. They are inter-related. Without education and character, human beings are like animals with the same basic needs of hunger, sleep, shelter and sex -

Yesham na vidya na tapo na danam,
Gyanam na shilam na guno na dharamah;
Te martya loke bhuvi bhaara bhutaah,
Manushya rupena mrigaashcharanti.

Furthermore, the system of education was unique. This too has been highlighted in various Sanskrit texts. The offspring of the kings were not educated in the palaces. Rather, they were sent to gurukuls only so that the education that was imparted to them helped them in character development. At gurukuls along with acquiring the bookish knowledge the students imbibed moral values and led a disciplined life which then helped build their character and helped them develop into good human beings. They weathered the elements and roughed it out with their gurus in the aashrams. There were no worldly distractions, no family interference, a peaceful and healthy atmosphere with simple living and high thinking. They learnt to care and share with fellow colleagues and above all, it was practical knowledge. All these attributes contributed to character building.

In the Mahabharata, when his teacher asks Yudhishthira as to why he has not been able to learn just one line that, “do not tell lies”, Yudhishthira says that, “O’ teacher, I have not been able to practise it so I can not say that I have learnt it.”

In another popular Sanskrit epic, Ramayana, the four brothers Rama, Laxamana, Bharata and Shatrughana studied in the aashram where they had a strong base of knowledge in all fields. Their education and character development was such that that even today their examples are often cited to children and students.

Similarly, the Panchtantra by Vishnu Sharma is all about character development through interesting stories of animals and birds and was used to educate the highly spoilt children of a rich king.

The educational thesis in Sanskrit maintains that education and character development, in fact, are two sides of the same coin. One cannot really separate them. That is why, it is said about the ancient Sanskrit literature and the old education system in India, that-

Etad desh prasutasya sakashaadagrajanmanah,
Swam swam charitram shiksheran prathivyaam sarva maanavaah.

-- which means, those learned people who have been born in this country earlier, they have taught the people of the entire world, through their character and education.


Dr. Asha Lata Pandey is the chairperson of the Sanskrit Department at Delhi Public School (R.K.Puram) in New Delhi, India. She has written numerous articles on Veda-related subjects and also on the role and view of Hindu women. She has authored and presented several papers in India and abroad. Dr. Pandey is a recipient of the Maharishi Patanjali Rashtriya Shikshak Samman - (a National Award); the Vidyaliya Sanskrit Sewa Samman; and the Sanskrit – Samaaraadhak-Sammaan by the Delhi Sanskrit Academy. Dr. Pandey is a Phd in Sanskrit from Lucknow University.