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The Traditional Method of Education among Namboothiris

Until recently, Namboothiris spent most of their time in learning the Vedams, Saasthrams, etc. and/or ritualistic matters. What follows is a brief description of the traditional system.

1. Children at age of 2 or 3: Count (oral); count numbers using fingers; [Click here] learn and recite "Slokams" (prayer songs) in praise of Ganapathy, Saraswathy, Guru (teacher), Vyaasan, Dakshinaamoorthy, family deities, etc. and prostrate to them; Chant ("Japam"), learn and recite stars ("Naal" - 27) [Click here for the 27 stars in the article on "Vaaram, Thrisandha, Othoottu and Panchasandha"], "Pakkam" (or "Thitthi" - 15) [Click here for Thitthi in the article "Anadhyaaya Dinangal" (Educational Holidays)], days of the week (7) and months (12) (both in Malayalam), etc. Normally this is conducted by the older women of the joint family - grandmothers, etc.

2. After "Ezhuthiniruthal" (Initiation into Formal Learning): The 51 letters of the Malayalam alphabet, "Swaram" ("kaa", "kee", etc.), "Chillu" (ending in "n", "r", etc.), double letters, etc.; write on sand (spread thinly on the floor) and on palm leaves; and read.

3. In Continuation: Memorise (by rote) "Siddharoopam", "Baalaprabodhanam", "Amarakosham", etc.; basic grammatical exercises (using "Sreeraamodantham", "Sreekrishnavilaasam", etc.) such as verbs and tense, subject, predicate, adverbs and adjectives; construction of words and phrases; parse; memortise these, etc.

The above three are common for both boys and girls.

4. After "Upanayanam" and Initiation of Learning of the Vedam (Only for Boys): Learn to correctly chant the Vedam with proper head movements and intonations, and as "Paadam", "Antham", and "Rik", repeating several times; Recite previous day's lesson, thus continue to learn the Samhitha (text of Vedam). In the afternoon, study Sanskrit.

5. Ashtavaidyans and Saasthraadhikaaris: Members of the Ashtavaidyan families learn "Ashtaangahridayam" and related Grantthams, while the non-Vedaadhikaaris ("Saasthraadhikaaris") learn one of the Saasthrams - "Tharkam" (logic), "Vyaakaranam" (grammer, linguistics), "Jyothisham" (astrology), or "Thachusaasthram" (architecture).

6. Vaidikan, Vaadhyaan, Odikkan, etc.: These people study ritualistic procedures like "Aasoucham", "Praayaschitham", "Srouthakriya", etc.

7. Thanthris and Maanthrikar: They learn and practice "Thanthrasamuchayam" and other related works.

Such was the structured and strict learing system for the different layers within the Namboothiri community. It was also a common practice to get a general knowledge in the arts - Naatya mudraas, Thaalam (rhythm) and Raagams. Apphans in the family (male members other than the first-born), Variers, Pisharodies, Nambeesans, etc. used to be the teachers. The seats of higher learing were Kootallur, Chovvallur, Kodungallur, Karinganampilly, the several Swaamiyaar Madhams, etc. The Brahmaswam Madhams used to be the centres for learning the Vedams. In recent times (ME 1118, AD 1942), the Namboothiri community established schools for modern education at Kulakkada in Thiruvithaamkoor and the Namboothiri Vidyaalayam at Thrissur in the Kochi principality.

| Article No:9.10 | Last update of this article:19th August 2001 |
Article prepared by : Adv. B Agnisarman Namboothiri, Athrasseri Mana, P.O.: Trikkalathur - 683 557, Ernakulam Dist. Phone : 0484-653569

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