Friday 12 April 2013

Nalanda of the South

A few days ago, one of  the contributors to the blog Samyuktha Harshitha, waxed eloquent about Taxila and said he would be writing about the world’s first University.
The contributor went on and on about Taxila and he regretted that the south did not have any institution to match Taxila or even lesser known institutions. He also regretted that all the well-known universities of yore-Nalanda, Taxila were in the north and that the South did not have any such institution of higher learning.
Well, when he began showering superlatives, I felt enough was enough and decided to bring him down to earth with a thud. While acknowledging the role of Nalanda and Taxila, I pointed to him that Karnataka too had an excellent and well-known institution of higher learning and that for several centuries it was considered to be a hallowed place of learning and excellence.
While the contributor looked askance, I gently reminded him that Karnataka has a glorious past and that it was the seat of some of the most outstanding kingdoms and personalities not only in the country but also the world.
Coming back to the topic, I reminded the contributor that he had either forgotten or had not heard of the university of excellence in north Karnataka.
This university was patronized by the Chalukyas of Kalyan and it attained such dizzing heights that people from all over south India made a beeline to the institution.
This was the Nagayi Ghatikasthana of  Chittapur which is situated just three kilometers south-east of Chittapur in Gulbarga district. The Nagayi Ghatikasthana was a residential university and it attained the pinnacle of its fame during the reign of Vikramaditya VI of Kalyan Chalukyas.
The institution not only imparted education, but it had one of the best stocked libraries ever. More importantly, the library was managed by a professional and it had scores of books on almost all topics, including Vedas, Shastras, Upanishats, Puranas, Ganitha, Vyakarna and Tarka.
Nagayi was an agrahara during the period of the Sathavahanas who ruled over a vast empire, including parts of Gulbarga district, during the second and third centuries. The number of Brahmins and scholars settling down in Nagayi increased and slowly schools to teach sprang up. Over time, it became an educational hub and during the times of the Kalyan Chalukyas, it transformed formally into a hub of teaching and centre of education.
Five inscriptions have been discovered here and they all belong to the Kalyan Chalukyas. The oldest inscription is the one on a pillar, in the compound of the Aravattu kambada gudi or temple of temple of 60 pillars.
According to this inscription, Dandanayaka Madhuvapparasa constructed the temple in 1058 AD as tripurusha sale.
Another inscription and this one is dated to 1086 AD also gives information relating to grades of education.
The university at Nagayi Ghatika taught students all the important branches of ancient Indian higher education and they included the vedas, Puranas, Samhitas, vyakarana, vedanga, sastra, poetry, drama, music and fine art.
The university had among its students scholars, members of royal families, diplomats and students from other prestigious sections of society.
The university had limited the intake of students to 250. Of them,  200 were for the Vedic branch and 50 for the Shastric branch. Students and teachers lived in the residential campus which offered  free boarding and lodging facilities. There were different grades of scholars such as Ekadandi, Tridandi, Snataka, Brahmachari, Hamsa, Paramahamsa and Anushthani. The members of all these grades resided in designated quarters.
The university had set up exclusive maths to teach students and scholars Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, Atharvanaveda and Vedanga.
The Ghatika had a systematic staff pattern. There were six teachers for 250 students. While three teachers taught Bhattadarshan, Nyasa and Prabhakar Commentary, the other three taught the vedas. It had one Saraswati Bhandari  or a librarian.
The Ghatika was constructed adjoining the Rama Teertha, a fairly large tank of perennial streams that never went dry.
Apart from Nagayi, the district of Gulbarga was home to more than 30 Agraharas and almost all of them were centres of learning.
The place today is full of temples, inscriptions, ancient statues of various gods, water tanks, and wells. In recent years, treasure hunters have started ravaging the area.
The famed Yellamma temple here is visited by pilgrims from all over the district and the State. The Yellamma of Nagayi was the family deity of the Rashtrakuta dynasty. Marriages are often celebrated in this temple.
Chittapur is well connected by bus and private transport from Gulbarga and other places in north Karnataka. Neither the Tourism Department nor the Archaeological Survey of India have taken care to preserve, protect and popularise the Nalanda of the South.

No comments:

Post a Comment