The Gupta family of the Gupta dynasty, in which Emperor Samudragupta was born, was a follower of the Vedic religion and a devotee of Vishnu. Samudragupta himself was an ardent devotee of Mahāvishnu. He regularly recited Gāyatri Mantra, Vishnu Sahasranāma and Purushasukta as per the vow he had taken for his entire lifetime. Samudragupta and Dattadevi built magnificent temples of Mahāvishnu at various places in their empire and vigorously propagated Vaishnavism. Conduct as per Vaishnavism, which was based on devotion, became an inseparable part of society. In all the temples built by Samudragupta, he started education centres of all the disciplines prevalent at that time. In these temples, students used to study in the sections called ‘Vimān’ and ‘Kundal’. In the ‘Vimān’ section, students learnt applied sciences (as per contemporary sciences), while in the ‘Kundal’ section, religious and moral values were taught. Accommodation for students was arranged in the courtyard of these temples. The title of ‘Kundalācharya’ was given to the ‘Pramukh Ācharya’ (head teacher) of each school. The triennial meeting of all the ‘Kundalācharyas’ of the empire was held regularly in the capital in the presence of Samudragupta. Here, problems in the field of education were discussed and decisions were taken accordingly.
Alongwith the education centres in these temples, Samudragupta had also built special educational complexes outside the temple and village. These education complexes were called ‘Vyas-Mandiram’. Ayurveda, Chanakya’s Arthashastra, chemistry, astronomy, astrology were studied in these ‘Vyas-Mandirams’. Special concessions and assistance were also given to the studious teachers doing research here. Therefore, all these sciences flourished in Bhārat during this period itself. It was during this period that Bhārat saw the emergence of numerous mathematicians, skilled Ayurvedāchāryas and astronomers and also Bhāratiya acharyas achieved great strides in the sciences, which were not even superficially known in the slightest to the rest of the world then. In-depth research was started in the fields of arithmetic, algebra and geometry as well as Ayurveda and astronomy, and most importantly, religion did not stop them from doing it.
Samudragupta established centres under the name ‘Garudshala’ for weapon training. Here, students of all varnas and religions had open access to all fields of education. However, despite everyone having access to the ‘Kundal’ section, it was mandatory for every student to wear Tulsimala on entering the ‘Kundala’. Samudragupta did not allow any barrier of varna or creed to arise, at least in the field of education. According to the writings of the Greek travellers who came to Bhārat during this period, all creeds and varna were living happily and cooperatively in Samudragupta’s empire during this period. Though the varna system was present, it was very flexible and relaxed, and it had not taken the filthy form of the caste system. Samudragupta, himself from the Vaishya varna, was married to Dattadevi, a princess from Kshatriya varna; his second wife Divadevi, with the surname ‘Das’, was from the Shudra varna of that time. At the same time, Dharmapala, the chief pillar of Samudragupta’s regime, himself of Brahmin varna, had one wife from Brahmin varna and the other from a family of Vaishya varna. The Upācharyas and Āchāryas, who used to teach in all the four types of education centres, Kundal, Vimān, Vyas-Mandiram and Garudshala, were considered to be of Brahmin varna by virtue of the Karma, regardless of their varna by birth.
Since all the education centres were firmly attached to the temple of the Parmātmā, the two principles of morality and devotion flowed abundantly in every aspect of education. Moreover, the Āchāryas were not under any pressure from the State, as all the decisions regarding the field of education were taken at the triennial meeting of the Āchāryas based on debates and discussions. Therefore, the progress in the field of education remained unhindered and the righteous and wise men and women had a place of respect everywhere. The women like Dharmashikha, Vārāhi, Surasadevi and Pragyavedavati had attained the title of ‘Maha-Kundalācharya’.
From all this information, it is clear that one of the great secrets of Samudragupta’s success was that since there was no discrimination of varna and gender immorally, society as a whole was strong and healthy, both in mind as well as the body.
Samudragupta also made donations to many Shiva temples within his empire, as well as helped Buddhists, build stupas and monasteries at a total of sixteen places. It was during this period that the practice of bringing Shaiva and Vaishnava authorities together was started for the purpose of reconciliation. Also, what I find important is one of the rules made by Samudragupta, that every teacher of the education centres had to tour the country for three years before he could start teaching. The ‘Kundalācharya’ of this period used to travel in Bhārat and outside Bhārat during his Vānaprasthāshrama, by handing over the work to his chief disciple. The experiences and information gathered during this travel were used for the overall progress of society.
Samudragupta has laid before us the important principle that empires cannot be strong and powerful without a harmonious and united society.
(to be continued....)
Courtesy : Dainik Pratyaksha
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