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Madhukari In Hinduism – Giving Alms To Students To Support Them

Madhukari is an ancient social system in Hinduism that supported students in their education. From ancient times in Hindu religion, students have been expected to support themselves. In the Gurukula system, they used to help the guru in agricultural activities, but in the later period, when the guru (teachers) started living in cities and towns, the students had to find a way to support themselves. The system of Madhukari was one such way out.

Etymologically, madhukar means black bee, an insect collecting nectar by visiting flowers one after the other. Similarly, a student was expected to go from house to house and gather food.

Katyayana in Apararka (867 – 873 AD) defines Vidyadhana as that income from knowledge which has been earned while living on somebody else’s support.

There were two types of madhukari – the one called ‘dry’ (uncooked food items like flour or rice grains) and the other called ‘wet’ (cooked food).

Further, it was convention that a student should go to only five houses a day.

Giving madhukari was considered an honor for a householder and was not equated with giving alms, because the act was considered a part of the householder’s duties.

A different system was to allow a student to come to one’s house and eat on a particular day of the week, if not every day.

SourceEncyclopedia of Hinduism Volume VI page 320 - IHRF