Adhyayana and adhyāpana

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Adhyayana and Adhyāpana literally means ‘studying and teaching’.

Study of the Vedas, technically termed ‘adhyayana,’ was considered not only as a part of education but also as a part of religious life as well. Since a change of svara (intonation) would often entail a change of meaning as well, great care was exercised in preserving the oral tradition of the Vedas.

The student desirous of learning the Vedas had to live in the house of the guru, after first completing the sacrament of upanayana. On all the other permissible days he could approach the guru for Vedic studies[1] after finishing the daily religious chores like the sandhyā. He had to sit facing north. The guru would recite the Vedic mantras pāda by pāda (i.e., a quarter of a stanza) and the student had to repeat them at least twice. Once he learned the correct pronunciation and intonation and also committed it to memory, the guru would proceed with the next part. The student had to revise the lessons by himself or with the help of senior students the same day. The study would cover the Saṅihitā, the Brāhmaṇa and the Upaniṣad parts of the particular śākhā (branch) of the Veda to which the student belonged. It would normally take twelve years to master one’s śākhā.

Along with the Vedic studies, a study of the Vedāñgas, dharmaśāstras, itihāsas, purāṇas and other texts would also be pursued. As for teaching (adhyāpana), it was expected that the teacher (adhyāpaka or ācārya) should be well-versed and competent and of a sinless life. He could teach anyone eligible for Vedic studies, on any of the following three conditions:

  • As dharma, as part of his duties
  • For artha or wealth, if the student promised it beforehand
  • As a reward for śuśruṣā or personal service.

He was not expected to teach if none of these conditions was fulfilled.


  1. Avoiding the days known as ‘anadhyayana’ (or anadhyāya)
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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