Talk:Registration, Examination and Convocation in Ancient Educational System

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

Entrance examination

In order to maintain a lofty standard of intellectual studies pursued in the ancient universities, the Dwāra Pandits or entrance Pandits were appointed who were very vigilant in the entrance examination so that the educational standards of the institution was maintained. Each Dwāra-pandit was an expert in the various subjects taught at the university. They conducted an entrance examination of the aspirants for the higher studies. They were very strict in their tests. Hardly 20 to 30 % of the students succeeded in getting admission. They were the benchmark guardians of the prestige and scholarship of the university. Thus the entrance examination of the university was zealously guarded by experts who were always ready with the most difficult questions at the entrance test in order to find out the competence of the candidates seeking admissions.

Examination in General

The knowledge imparted was both theoretical and practical. The students were required to pass difficult tests in both. There is the story of Jivaka which gives us an inkling into the method of practical examination adopted in ancient days.

Practical Examination

According to the Tibeten tales, Atreya said to his pupils, "Go to the pine hill and fetch from it that which is not a remedy". The pupils went there and each of them brought back those plants which he thought was no remedy. But Jivaka reflected that there was scarcely anything which is not a remedy for some or other ailment.

When they all returned to Atreya, each of them showed what he had brought with him Atreya said, Oh sons of Brahmans, this one is of use in such and such an illness and the others in other illnesses. When Jivaka was asked what he had brought, he said, "Oh, teacher, all things are remedies. There exists nothing which is not a remedy. However, I have brought a knot of a reed and a piece of stone and a leavening pot. Of what use are these things." To which Atreya said that, "If a man is stung by a scorpion, he can be fumigated with the reed knot and healed with leavening pot and with the piece of stone."[1]

Theoretical Examination

Salaka Pariksa

For the theoretical test they employed Salaka Pariksa. This method was adopted at the final examination in Mithila which re-flourished during the thirteenth century.[2] The test was conducted as under. The page of the manuscript was picked up by a probe at random and the student was asked to explain the matter contained. This test was equally difficult as the admission test of Nalanda and Vikramasila controlled and conducted by the Dwara Pandits. This Salaka test was a test of the students knowledge in theory.

Final Test

The final examination was equally difficult. This method of test was also employed for a foreigner coming here for practice. It was the practitioner's test. Any practitioner desirous of getting registration and the right to practice in this country, had to pass this examination before he was permitted by the State to practice.

Now a physician should be examined by another physician on eight topics mentioned below:

  1. The system and its interpretation
  2. The main sections of the system and their interpretation
  3. The chapters in each section and their interpretation
  4. The questions and their interpretation

He should be able to give satisfactory answers by verbatim quotations, by explanations of the quotations and by further elucidations of difficult parts of the explanations to all the above denoted subject.

Expounded Verbatim

When a system promulgated by a seer is recited in its entirety and in the order of its original enunciation, then it is said to be delivered verbatim. After understanding the truth of the subject to the last details in words that are elaborate or succint, as the occasion may demand, by the method of proposition, reason, analogy, application and conclusion and in a manner that is intelligible and appealing to the three types of student mind, then it constitutes an exposition of the system with comment. When the difficult passages occurring in the treatise are elucidated by further glosses, then the exposition is called a detailed elucidation

This could discriminate real scholars from quacks. On the completion of his studies, the physician is said to be 'reborn' and acquires the title of a 'physician'. No one can be a physician by birth. On the completion of his studies, the spirit of revelation or of inspiration of the truth descends into the student. It is due to this reason of initiation then, that a physician is called a Dwija or a twice-born one.


A graduate in medicine had to obtain king's permission to embark on his professional career. It was the duty of the state to protect its people not only from external invaders and depredators but also from diseases. It was to prevent the ravages of the internal enemies that registration of responsible professions such as the lawyers and the doctors has come into being.


Registration was the practice observed even in the ancient times, where the State took proper care to eliminate half learned people to take to being physician by strict methods so that they cannot endanger the welfare of the people. The men that had studied the science well, had acquired proper skill in the practice and had passed all theoretical and practical examinations could set up practice only after obtaining the permission of the king or the state. Such a registered practitioner, who received the approval of the state, entered Visikha stage where he had to keep the tuft. This was the actual entrance into the professional life.

Having studied the science, having fully grasped the meaning, having acquired the practical skill and having performed operations on dummies, with the ability to teach the science and with king's permission, a physician should start his profession. The need for such testing and previous approval of a physician before setting up his practice is explained by pointing out the duty of the king to protect his people from the harm that might otherwise befall them through dummy the apparels of the real physician. The existence of such bogus men was considered a blot on the king and the state.

Significance of Registration

Thus it would appear that in ancient times an utmost care was taken to safeguard the welfare of the people from the unauthorized and ignorant exploiters in the name of medical men. They took care to maintain a high standard in the profession by the tests to which the applicants to the profession had to submit. In the case of foreigners, they had to pass the same rigorous examination as the final examination before having the permission to practice either by the royal physician or by a council of physicians.

Sukracarya lays down positively that without the permission of the king no physician should be allowed to treat. Even the veterinary surgeon had to appear before the king for registration and then be allowed to practice.


  1. There is a reference about this story in Caraka Samhita. It is said in the 12th passage of the 26th chapter of Sutrasthāna.
  2. Mithila was the capital of Videha, the ancient seat of learning.
  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India