Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chanakya: part-I: Impact of advent of religious sects on society and Lifestyle of Teachers

“Chanakya” tells the story of the period when old Vedic culture was dying. The ancient Varna system was getting exploited. The Brahmanas were involved in more activities than asking for alms and teaching, Kshatriyas who were supposed to safeguard the lands and people were getting involved in their own selfish malpractices guided by guile, greed, vengeance, etc,., Vaishyas were downgrading themselves to any level for making profits, Shudras no longer were ready to tolerate the dominance of other races and were ready to claim their rights. The serial and the historical story itself tells the events that led to a cowherd boy Chandragupta to ascend the throne of the kingdom.

The interesting and creative perspective that the serial showed was that the advent of religion was one of the prime reasons for this upheaval. It showed the time period after the preachings of Buddha (“Tathagat” in serial) and Mahavira. It showed the ever present mentality of people that they DO always need a God and a religion to believe in. With growing disbelief in Vedic culture, people were really looking for alternative ways to lead life. The teachings of Buddha and Mahavira provided the grounds and religions were formed. Some started following Buddhism and some Jainism. Interesting thing is that the creation of these sects resulted in segmentation of the society and things started turning sour when the administration and the king started using the divide-and-rule policy. The favoring of one sect and disregarding other started.

Interestingly, this led to a major change in the lifestyle of the teachers. Teachers who were initially living on alms provided by the students had to strive because of the differences in treatments the students used to face while asking for alms. The changes in Vedic culture which included transgressing others code of life led the teachers to ask money for education ! This came as a shock for the main protagonist acharya Vishnugupta who till now belived in old traditional ways for teachers…

We find a stark contrast here when we compare this fact with the teachings of Mahabharata where the acharyas like Drona and Kripa did get benefits and money for teachings. But there is a huge difference. Mahabharata mentions several teachers like Parashurama, Bheeshma, Drona, Kripa. Among them it was only Drona who can be blamed for giving education in return for favors (if not blamed for other things like Eklavya, Karna, etc). Kripa was a royal priest so was bound to teach princes and receive royal reimbursements. But being a huge fan of Mahabharata and particularly Acharya Drona, I can say that it was the other way round for Drona. The elders like Bheeshma asked Drona to teach and money and favors were not given in return of that education but as a token of help to a poor but an able warrior Brahmana. Moreover the acharyas mentioned in Mahabharata were to teach the princes and teachers and Acharyas shown in Chanakya were to teach all rich poor, mainly Brahmin boys.

Coming back to the story of “Chanakya”, the teachers who started asking for material benefits in return of education were termed as “Upadhyas”; often referred to as professional teachers.

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