The Gurukul system has been the focus of our research lately. Wherever we discuss the Gurukul system. We always end up answering this question What subjects used to be taught in ancient gurukuls? The main reason for asking is their curiosity but subconsciously they want to know the advantages of the Gurukul education system vis-a-vis the modern education system. If you want to know about the ancient Indian gurukul system in detail read our post that describes the gurukul system in detail. It is the most comprehensive resource about the Gurukul system on the internet.
Gurukuls, in addition to Vedas, used to teach astronomy, mathematics, darshan (philosophy), arthashastra(economics & political science combined), and Logic(Nyaya) of Kapila, Dhanurveda(study of warfare), etc. The Gurukul system was a comprehensive system that prepared the student for every situation in life.
The gurukul system has been disrupted for quite some time now and the gurukuls that function nowadays haven’t evolved much according to the needs of the time. So in this blog post, we will be outlining our vision in addition to what used to be taught in a gurukul. However, it is not practical to teach all the subjects outlined below. Each gurukul should pick and choose what they want to teach.
Learning a language is of utmost importance because this is the medium in which further learning will be imparted. The Sanskrit language is the most linguistically sound language. So the medium of instruction should be Sanskrit as was the case in ancient Gurukuls also.
Books by Rishi Panini are the gold standard if anyone wishes to learn Vedic Sanskrit.
In addition, learning English and other foreign languages is encouraged. Gurukul System has always been a dynamic system i.e. it adjusts itself according to the environment it is in. So learning foreign languages is a must. In fact, it should be mandatory for every student to know at least 3 languages namely Sanskrit, English, and his/her mother tongue. Emphasize should be on equal reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills in each language.
Veda & Vedangas
The four Vedas and Vedangas are also taught in gurukuls. Vedangas includes:
- Shiksha: phonetics, phonology, pronunciation
- Chhandas: Study of poetic meters
- Vyakarana: grammar and linguistic analysis.
- Nirukta: etymology, explanation of words, how meaning is derived
- Kalpa: ritual instructions
- Jyotisha: Astronomy and astrology focused on timekeeping
Ayurveda is nothing but life sciences that teaches about human anatomy, medicine, and the perfect way to live. Sushruta Samhita, Charaka Samhita, Sarngadhara Samhita, and Bheda Samhita are some of the important texts used in Ayurvedic education.
Other texts include Astanga nighantu (8th Century) by Vagbhata, Paryaya ratnamala (9th century) by Madhava, Siddhasara nighantu (9th century) by Ravi Gupta, Dravyavali (10th Century), and Dravyaguna sangraha (11th century) by Chakrapani Datta, among others. (Source: wikipedia.org)
Darshan which is usually but wrongly translated to philosophy is an advanced subject that teaches one a completely different way to look at the creation around them.
- The Samkhya of Kapila
- The Yoga of Patanjali
- The Nyaya of Gautama
- The Vaisheshika of Kanada
- Purva-mimansa of Jaimini
- Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta of Badarayana
Arthashastra (Economics and state-craft)
Arthashastra was written by Acharya Chanakya, who was an acharya(professor) at Takshashila university. Arthashastra discusses how the economy of a state should be modeled and how should the king run his state. One shouldn’t think that the education of arthashastra didn’t exist before Acharya Chanakya. Instead, his treaties are the ones that compiled already available knowledge with some inputs from him.
- Political Science
Dhanurveda deals with the study of warfare. There is a lot of discussion of warfare and statecraft in Mahabharata. There were specific gurukuls for the study of Dhanurveda which included archery and all of the available weapons of the time.
Indian metallurgy has been known worldwide due to many advanced techniques that used to be employed to produce metals of different kinds.
While navigating through life we come across many many skills that are not taught anywhere or in any course. That’s why life skills help one to be prepared for anything that life has to offer.
- Life Skills
- Critical Thinking
Vocational or skills training as we call it now was an important part of education that Acharya will undertake at a gurukul.
In addition, several other subjects were also used to teach in Gurukuls. Some of them are:
- Agriculture & Animal Husbandry
- Astronomy & Astrology
- Arts & Craft
- Martial Arts
The only motive to list most of the subjects above is to show that Gurukuls teach everything from Astronomy to Agriculture and beyond. This is the center of learning. So anyone can learn anything in a Gurukul. You just have to find the right gurukul and the right acharya.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 18 subjects of Gurukul?
Language studies particularly Sanskrit, grammar, astronomy, mathematics, Ayurveda (medicine), Darshan (philosophy), political science, Arthashashtra (economics, political science, administration), Yoga (religion), Dhanurveda (war-craft), physical education, etc.
Gurukuls don’t just teach 18 subjects. Gurukul’s curriculum is broader than just 18 subjects. Students are taught everything that the human mind can understand under the sun.
What do students learn in a Gurukul?
Gurukuls don’t limit their curricula to 5 or 7 subjects as is the case with most schools nowadays. In the case of a gurukul, a student’s (Brahmachari) learning of academic subjects, character traits, spiritual understanding as well as physical learning is taken care of.