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Ghatikasthana In South India – Ghatikas Vedic Learning Institutions

Ghatikasthana were educational centers for Vedic learning during the Pallava period (3rd – 9th century CE) in South India especially in Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Ghatikas had highly qualified Brahmin preceptors, who imparted Vedic learning. They functioned in many places the most important center being in Kanchipuram, the capital city of the Pallavas.

The name Ghatika - To test the expertise of their students in Veda, the essence of Veda Mantras will be written and stored in a small pot (Ghatika). During the examination, the students will pick up one leaf out of the pot and would recite that part of Veda mentioned in the leaf. Hence such educational institutions were called as Ghatika.

Numerous Sanskrit and Tamil epigraphs of this period provide information about the functioning of the ghatikas. The ghatika of Kanchi, which was perhaps located within the premises of the Kailasanatha temple, was so famous that it attracted students from distant lands. The Talagunda pillar inscription records that the founder of the Kadamba dynasty, Mayasuran, came to Kanchi in the 4th Century CE with his preceptor, Virasarman.

The members of the ghatikas seemed to have a role in the political sphere too. A Tamil epigraph, found in the Vaikuntha Perumal temple in Kanchipuram, records that the ghatikaiyars (members of the ghatika) were partly responsible for putting Nandivarman Pallava Malla on the throne of Kanchi (8th century CE) at a time when the Pallava kingdom was in a state of anarchy.

There were other ghatikas in the Tamil country also. A mention of another ghatika is found in an epigraph of Nandivarman Pallava Malla. The famous Sholinghur hill, on top of which exists a Narasimha Temple, was known as ghatikachala. It is possible that there existed a ghatika at that place in ancient times.

A large number of ghatikasthanas which were attached to temples, existed in ancient Karnataka also, the earliest reference to them being recorded in Kalas, date 927 CE. In this region, the Brahmins of the ghatika were known as mahajanas.

These ghatikas in South India were patronized by members of the royal family, who considered in their duty to honor Brahmins and propagate Vedic learning.

One inscription found in the South wall of the outer prakara Kacchapeshvara temple, Thirukachur near Chengalpet, states that Tamil was taught as a part of the curriculum of Ghatika. 

The earliest epigraphic reference on these Ghatikas can be seen in Talagunda pillar inscription from Shimoga district, Karnataka. The inscription belongs to Kakustha Varma of Kadamba dynasty and it mentions about one of his ancestor, two generation ahead named, Mayuravarma who came down to study all the Shastras at Ghatikasthana in Kanchipuram along with his Guru Vira Sharma.

An inscription on the Vaikuntha Perumal temple also mentions that after the sudden demise of Parameshvara Varma II, the members of Ghatikas also participated in the process of selecting their next king.

Ghatikas were functional until 15th Century CE.




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