Ancient and Mughal Education System: An Effective Comparison


by Rajkumar Singh    5 September 2023

The Mughal Empire, which ruled over India from the early 16th century to the mid-19th century, had an educational system that played a significant role in shaping the intellectual and cultural landscape of the Indian subcontinent whose aspects include: a. Persian as the Language of Learning: Persian was the official language of the Mughal court and administration, and it was also the medium of instruction in the education system. b. Madrasas: The Mughals established and patronized madrasas, which were Islamic schools that provided education in Islamic studies, theology, jurisprudence, and the Arabic and Persian languages. These institutions were important centers of learning and scholarship. c. Gurukuls and Sanskrit Learning: While Persian was the dominant language of education, the Mughal rulers also recognized the importance of traditional Indian knowledge systems. Sanskrit learning continued to flourish in some regions, and gurukuls (traditional Indian schools) played a role in preserving and transmitting indigenous knowledge. d. Libraries and Manuscript Production: The Mughal emperors were avid patrons of art and literature. They established libraries and commissioned the production of manuscripts on a wide range of subjects, including poetry, history, science, and philosophy. e. Educational Institutions: In addition to madrasas, the Mughals also established educational institutions like Maktabs (elementary schools) and Kuttab (Quranic schools) to provide basic education and religious instruction. g. Court Scholars and Intellectuals: The Mughal court attracted scholars and intellectuals from various backgrounds, including Persia, Central Asia, and India. These scholars played a crucial role in shaping Mughal education and contributed to the empire’s intellectual vibrancy. h. Decline: The Mughal Empire started to decline in the late 17th century, and with it, the patronage of education also waned. The invasion of India by the British East India Company in the 18th century further disrupted the Mughal education system. Despite its limitations, the Mughal Empire made significant contributions to the intellectual and cultural heritage of India, leaving a lasting legacy in the fields of art, literature, and scholarship.

Features of teaching

The education system in India during the Mughal Empire (early 16th to mid-19th century) had several distinctive features: a. Multilingual Approach: The Mughal education system was multilingual, with Persian as the primary language of instruction. Arabic was also taught for religious studies, and in some regions, Indian languages like Sanskrit were used for specialized subjects. This multilingual approach promoted cultural exchange. b. Madrasas and Islamic Studies: The Mughals established and patronized madrasas, Islamic educational institutions that offered instruction in Quranic studies, theology, jurisprudence, and languages like Arabic and Persian. These institutions played a pivotal role in religious and intellectual development. c. Ruling Class Education: The Mughal education system was primarily tailored for the elite, including princes, nobles, and court officials. It aimed to produce a class of educated administrators and leaders who could serve the empire effectively. d. Liberal Arts and Sciences: Mughal education emphasized a broad range of subjects, including poetry, literature, music, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and philosophy. The empire’s rulers and elites were patrons of art and culture, fostering intellectual development in these areas. e. Practical Learning: In addition to theoretical knowledge, Mughal education often emphasized practical learning. For example, in fields like medicine and astronomy, students were encouraged to gain hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced practitioners. f. Individualized Instruction: In gurukuls and apprenticeship-style learning, individualized instruction was common. Students received personalized attention from their mentors or teachers, helping them develop specific skills and expertise. g. Mughal Patronage: The Mughal rulers and nobility played a crucial role in promoting and funding educational institutions and scholars. They recognized the importance of education in maintaining and expanding their empire. h. Integration of Indian and Persian Elements: The Mughal education system blended elements of Persian and Indian traditions, resulting in a fusion of cultures and knowledge systems. This integration contributed to the richness of Mughal art, literature, and scholarship. Thus, the Mughal education system was characterized by its diversity, multilingualism, and the patronage of arts and sciences. It contributed significantly to the cultural and intellectual heritage of India during the Mughal era.

Comparison between the two 

The education systems of ancient India and the Mughal Empire had several key differences due to variations in time, culture, and societal needs which include: a.The ancient Indian education systems spanned over thousands of years, from the Vedic period (around 1500 BCE) to the Gupta period (around 320 CE) and beyond. It encompassed various eras, each with its own educational practices. Mughal Empire, while the Mughal Empire ruled India from the early 16th century to the mid-19th century, representing a much more recent period in Indian history The ancient Indian education was deeply rooted in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions. The curriculum often included subjects related to philosophy, religion, and scriptures but the Mughal education system was influenced by Islamic culture. Persian was the language of instruction in many Mughal institutions, and Islamic studies played a significant role in the curriculum. In ancient India Sanskrit was the primary language of education especially for the study of sacred texts and classical literature, while in place, Persian was the dominant language of instruction in the Mughal education system, although Arabic and some Indian languages were also taught. Ancient Indian education emphasized subjects such as philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, grammar, literature, medicine, and ethics. It was holistic and focused on the development of the individual’s intellect and character, but Mughal education system included a broad range of subjects, including Islamic studies, Persian and Arabic languages, poetry, literature, music, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and philosophy. It was tailored to produce administrators and leaders for the empire. The Mughals established formal educational institutions like madrasas for Islamic education and maktabs (elementary schools). They also had a structured courtly system of education for the elite. In teaching sphere the Mughal education system involved more formalized teaching methods, including lectures, recitations, discussions, and the use of textbooks and manuscripts, while ancient Indian education system  was often supported by kings, rulers, and wealthy patrons who donated land, resources, and funds to educational institutions. In Mughal era rulers and the nobility were major patrons of education, establishing libraries, madrasas, and other educational institutions. Education in ancient India played a vital role in shaping religious and philosophical thought, as well as contributing to scientific and mathematical knowledge. Mughal education had a significant influence on the arts, culture, and administration of the empire, but it was primarily geared toward producing skilled bureaucrats and administrators. In conclusion, the education systems of ancient India and the Mughal Empire differed significantly in terms of cultural influence, language of instruction, curriculum, institutions, and teaching methods.