Bodhana Śāstra

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Principles of Pedagogy (traditionally called Bodhana Śāstra) play an important role in the sustenance and development of the traditional knowledge system. It refers to the constituents of learning and the way any subject is taught, learnt and developed.

Each subject has a source text that explains its essential principles. It is understood and taught with the help of a number of ancillary texts that interpret and explain the original text. The educating and learning system also involves development of the subject through diversity in the ancillary texts.

Aspects of Learning[edit]

The constituents of learning are called anubandhas. There are four aunabandhas, and hence are called anubandha catuṣṭaya. They are:

  1. Viṣaya: The subject being learnt, taught or hypothesized. It is also called pratipādyam.
  2. Adhikāri: The learner, and (adhikāra) his/her qualification for learning the subject.
  3. Prayojana: The purpose of learning the subject.
  4. Sambandha: (a) The relation between Viṣaya and Prayojana; (b) The relation between Adhikāri and Prayojana -- how a qualified person achieves his objective.

Teaching a Kāvya[edit]

While teaching Sanskrit kāvyas, the Ṣaḍanga or six-limb method is followed. The six limbs of teaching a kāvya are:

  1. Pariccheda: Breaking up the composite words and explaining the sandhis, samāsas, etc., in the śloka
  2. Artha: Explaining the meaning of words in the śloka
  3. Ākānkṣa: Explaining the relation of words with each other starting with kriyā pada, to bring out the meaning of a śloka.
  4. Śabda, Samāsa: Vibhakti pratyayas of words in their eka, dvi, bahu vachana forms is shown.
  5. Vyākhyāna: Śloka is commented upon with the help of five limbs called parichheda, padārthokti, vigrahavākya yojana, ākṣepa, and samādhāna. Because vyākhyāna has these five limbs, it is called panca lakṣaṇa.
  6. Bhāva: Explaining the entire import of śloka thus derived from the above steps.

Elements of Interpretation/Explanation[edit]

Broadly, there are two kinds of texts taught -- Sūtra and Kāvya. The original texts expounding the essential principles of a subject is generally in sūtra form, though śloka or prose forms are also found. Kāvya, as the name suggests, is poetry and is in śloka form. The general principles of teaching apply to both the types of texts.

There are various kinds of interpreting works/texts for a source text, used to understand, learn and teach the same. They are

         * Bhāṣya
         * Vārtika
         * Kārika
         * Prakaraṇa
         * Vṛtti
         * Paddhati
         * Samīkṣa
         * Ṭīka
         * Tupṭīka
         * Viveka
         * Vyākhya 

Of these, bhāṣya, vārtika, kārika and prakaraṇa are important.


Bhāṣya is the primary commentary of a text. The general definition of bhāṣya is:

Sūtrārtho varṇyate yatra padaih sūtrānusāribhiḥ swa padāni ca varṇyante bhāṣyam bhāṣya vido viduḥ

It means Bhāṣya is the work in which the meaning of the sūtra is explained wordwise, and the meaning of each word is given and explained. Each word/sūtra may be explained using a śloka. Thus one may substitute the word śloka for sūtra to get the bhāṣya for a text.

The more specific definition of a bhāṣya is that it explains a sūtra or śloka with the help of pada, vākya, and pramāṇa.

  • Pada: Word meanings are explained with the help of vyākaraṇa or Śabdakośa(rūḍhi)
  • Vākya: The context of sentence in the text and context in the particular subject (Śāstra) is explained. Words have different meaning in different subjects: for instance, guṇa means character in literature; it means bow-string in archery; and so on.
  • Pramāṇa: The basis for an interpretation. It is also the source for validating/verifying/refuting the interpretation. Each school and Śāstra recognizes a set of valid pramāṇās through which one can verify the validity of a proposition/hypothesis. Perception (pratyakṣa) and inference (anumāna) are examples of Pramāṇa.

Examples: Most of the major works have a bhāṣya.

  1. The Bhāṣya for Veda is given by Sāyaṇa.
  2. Bhāṣya to Panini’s Astadhyayi is Patanjali’s Mahābhāṣya.
  3. Mīmāmsa Sūtras are given Bhāṣya by Śabara Muni
  4. Vedānta Sūtras have multiple Bhāṣyas, by Śankara, Rāmānuja, Madhva and others


Vārtika is the secondary commentary of a text. Typically it is done after a Bhāṣya. Vārtika is defined as:

Uktānukta duruktārtha chinākaritu vārtikam

It means Vārtika is the text that explains Ukta, Anukta and Durukta.

  • Ukta: Elucidating whatever is said in the original in a brief manner.
  • Anukta: Explaining whatever is said indirectly in the original. This is also called upabrāhmaṇam.
  • Durukta: Correcting/explaining whatever is left unsaid by oversight or said incompletely.


  1. Vārtika of Mīmāmsa Sūtras is given by Kumārila Bhaṭṭa in two forms – Mīmāmsa śloka Vārtika and Tantra Vārtika
  1. Vārtikas for Yoga and Sānkhya is given by Vijnāna Bhikṣu
  1. Vārtika for Vedānta Sūtras is given by Nārāyaṇa Saraswati


Kārika is another kind of compendium/commentary that explains a text in concise statements called kārikas.


  1. Gaudapāda gave Kārika to Mānḍūkya Upaniṣad
  1. Īśvara Kṛṣṇa gave Kārika to Sānkhya


Literally, prakaraṇa means category. Prakaraṇa aims more at structuring and arranging the subject matter than expounding it. It is defined as:

Upakramopasamhāra vabhyāso apūrvatāphalam Ardhavādopapatteca lingam tātaparya nirṇayet

It means the tātparya or import of a text is explained in a Prakaraṇa in six parts -

  1. Upakrama and upasamhāra: Introducing the subject and concluding it.
  2. Abhyāsa: Emphasising the important aspects repeatedly.
  3. Apūrvata: Indicating the subtle aspects while explaining the subject.
  4. Phala: The objective or propose in learning a subject.
  5. Artha vāda: Eulogizing the subject matter and refuting counter arguments
  6. Upapatti: Yukti (tenability) and sāmanjasya (rationale of the subject)


  1. Viveka Cūḍāmaṇi of Śankara is a prakaraṇa text on Vedānta
  2. The compendium of Gāyatrī Vidya is called Gāyatrī Prakaraṇa