Indic Education in Pre-Colonial India

Published date01 June 2024
AuthorHimanshu Roy
Date01 June 2024
Subject MatterArticles
Indic Education in
Pre-Colonial India
Himanshu Roy1
School education in pre-colonial India was universal and inclusive. Children of
every caste and class, at an average age of 5 years, attended schools. The elemen-
tary school teaching consisted of three universal subjects: akshara (script) gyan,
bhasha (language) gyan and arithmetic. The fourth subject varied from regions
to regions: it was moral–civic education to skill education. The education was
in the mother tongue. The higher education was in medium of Sanskrit. After
the arrival of Muslim rulers, Persian became the alternative language of instruc-
tion, and there was a change in the course curriculum. The Muslim students
were compulsorily taught the Quran, and the medium of instruction was Persian.
Students interested in higher academics and research had wide number of sub-
jects to study—grammar, philosophy, medicine and others. These students were
called Brahmins, and based on their professional skills, they were designated
as acharyas, upadhyaya, mukhopadhyay and so forth. The technical skills and
the knowledge required constant upgradation as India was the hub of the pre-
colonial economy, the ‘land of desire’. This knowledge and skill had also made
her the ‘land of wisdom’. That’s how Hegel used to address about India in his
class rooms in 1820s in Germany.
Education, Indic, caste, script, language
Colonial Backdrop
The British East India Company, which initiated the colonial rule in India from
1757, not only destroyed the Indic education but also colonised the Indic minds.
Its penetration was so deep and wide that we still use its academic explanatory
Indian Journal of Public
70(2) 345–355, 2024
© 2024 IIPA
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00195561231221812
1 Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Delhi, India
Corresponding author:
Himanshu Roy, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Delhi 110067,

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