Ghaṭikā of Kāñcīpuram
We know that Ghaṭikās were the educational institutions that were functional since the 3rd CE at Kāñcīpuram. The earliest epigraphic reference on these Ghaṭikās can be seen in Tāḷḷaguṇḍā pillar inscription from Shimoga district, Karnataka. The inscription belongs to Kakusthavarmā of Kadamba dynasty and it mentions about one of his ancestor, two generation ahead named, Mayūravarmā who came down to study all the śāstras at Ghaṭikāsthāna in Kāñcīpuram along with his Guru Vīra śarmā. The following verse from the inscription denotes the above incident.
यः प्रयाय पल्लवेन्द्रपुरीं गुरुणा समं वीरवर्म्मणा।
अधिजिगमिषुः प्रवचनं निखिलं घटिकां विवेश सुतार्कुकः।।
yaḥ prayāya pallavendrapurīṁ guruṇā samaṁ vīravarmmaṇā|
adhijigamiṣuḥ pravacanaṁ nikhilaṁ ghaṭikāṁ viveśa sutārkukaḥ||
The Velūr pālayam copper plates of Nandi varmā III also adds evidence that Skanda śiṣhya of pallava dynasty captured Kāñcī and Ghaṭikā therein from a king named Satyasena. The following verse from the plates gives the account.
द्विजानां घटिकां राज्ञः सत्यसेनात् जहार यः।।
dvijānāṁ ghaṭikāṁ rājñaḥ satyasenāt jahāra yaḥ||
The same plate also states that Narasiṃhavarmā II who for my Lord built the stone temple, equal to Kailāsa, renovated Ghaṭikā of Brahmins.
तत्प्रसूनुः नरसिंहवर्म्मा पुनर्व्यधात् यो घटिकां द्विजानाम्।
शिलामयं वेश्म शशाङ्कमौलेः कैलासकल्पं च महेन्द्रकल्पः।।
tatprasūnuḥ narasiṁhavarmmā punarvyadhāt yo ghaṭikāṁ dvijānām|
śilāmayaṁ veśma śaśāṅkamauleḥ kailāsakalpaṁ ca mahendrakalpaḥ||
An inscription on the Vaikuṇṭha perumāl temple also mentions that after the sudden demise of Parameśvara Varmā II, the members of Ghaṭikās also participated in the process of selecting their next king. The well known inscription of Vikramāditya II from Kailāsanātha temple too mentions the Ghaṭikā people. The copper plates of Nandi Varmā II at Kaśākkuḍi also states that the members of Ghaṭikā were exponents of the four Vedas.
Location of Ghaṭikā
The following Tamil verse quoted from the Daṇḍiyalaṅkāra of 12th CE is accepted by the learned scholars, as the reference for the location of Ghaṭikā sthāna of Kāñcīpuram.
“ஏரி இரண்டும் சிறகா எயில்வயிறாக்
காருடைய பீலி கடிகாவா — நீர்வண்ணன்
அத்தியூர் வாயா, அணிமயிலே போன்றதே,
பொற்றேரான் கச்சிப் புரம்”
“eri iraṇṭum ciṟakā ĕyilvayiṟāk
kāruṭaiya pīli kaṭikāvā — nīrvaṇṇaṉ
attiyūr vāyā, aṇimayile poṉṟate,
pŏṟṟerāṉ kaccip puram”
The verse describes the aerial view of Kāñcīpuram. The city looks like a peacock; the two lakes in the city appear like its wings and the fort at the middle appeared like the abdomen. The spread out feathers of the peacock was the ghaṭikās.
The scholars say that here the word Kaṭikā is presumed to be taken as Ghaṭikā which was at the tail end of the city i.e., the Ghaṭikā should have been near the present Kailāsanātha temple. But there are others who refute this theory and say that the word represents Kaṭi-kā as kaṭi – fragrant kā – garden.
Other Ghaṭikā-like institutions
Places mentioned in other inscriptions and copper plates like the Kāndhalūr and Pārthivaśekharapuram were śālās like Ghaṭikās. The Bāhūr plates refer to the grants made by Nṛpatuṅga Varmā to the Sanskrit Schools or Ghaṭikās of the same kind. The Bāhūr inscriptions document such Sanskrit śālās like Tirumukkūḍal, Eṇṇāyiram and Tribhuvani, etc.
Definition of Ghaṭikā
Bhaṭṭa Someśvara in his commentary to the Tantravārtika explains Ghaṭikā as following:
वेदकौशलजिज्ञासार्थं तत्तत् वेदभागचिह्नलेख्यानि घटिकायां कुंभाख्यायां निक्षप्य तत्तत् वेदभागपरीक्षाकाले तान्याकृष्य अकृष्टलेख्यिचिह्नितं वेदं पठ इत्यध्येतारः अनुयुज्यन्ते इति घटिकामार्गवर्तिनोऽनुयोगः
vedakauśalajijñāsārthaṁ tattat vedabhāgacihnalekhyāni ghaṭikāyāṁ kuṁbhākhyāyāṁ nikṣapya tattat vedabhāgaparīkṣākāle tānyākṛṣya akṛṣṭalekhyicihnitaṁ vedaṁ paṭha ityadhyetāraḥ anuyujyante iti ghaṭikāmārgavartino’nuyogaḥ
To test the expertise of their students in Veda, the essence of Vedamantras will be written and stored in a small pot (Ghaṭikā). During the examination, the students will pick up one leaf out of the pot and would recite that part of Veda mentioned in the leaf. Hence such educational institutions were called as Ghaṭikā.
Longevity of Ghaṭikās
An inscription in the Ceṉṉarāya Paṭnam dated 1442 also mentions Ghaṭikā. Thus, it can be understood that these Ghaṭikās were functional until 15th CE.
Ghaṭikālayas from temples
Some of the inscriptions of “Kaṭikā” were misunderstood by early scholars who related it with Ghaṭikāsthāna. However, the śilpa texts explain Kaṭikālayam or Kaṭikāsthanam as spaces used to place the water clocks in the sabha.
Tamil in Ghaṭikā
From the above evidences, we can deduce that Ghaṭikās were places were Brahmins were taught the Sastras, Vedas and other scriptures. One inscription found in the South wall of the outer prākāra of Kacchapeśvara temple, Tirukaccūr near Chengleput, states that Tamil was taught as a part of the curriculum of Ghaṭīkā. The inscription has been published in South Indian Inscriptions Vol 26 Number 319. The verse is as follows:
வரி 1 : ஸ்வஸ்திஸ்ரீ செங்காட்டுக் கோட்டத்துக் கோனாசுரநாட்டுக் கா
வரி 2 : வனூரான பொய்யாமொழிமங்கலம் கடிகையாரில்
வரி 3 : முத்தமிழ் ஆசாரியரான தமிழ் கரைகண்ட சாத்தனா
வரி 4 : ருடைய சந்தானத்தில் பெருநம்பிகள் காணி பொய்யா
வரி 5 : மொழிமங்கலம்…
vari 1 : svastiśrī cĕṅkāṭṭuk koṭṭattuk koṉācuranāṭṭuk kā
vari 2 : vaṉūrāṉa pŏyyāmŏḻimaṅkalam kaṭikaiyāril
vari 3 : muttamiḻ ācāriyarāṉa tamiḻ karaikaṇṭa cāttaṉā
vari 4 : ruṭaiya cantāṉattil pĕrunampikaḽ kāṇi pŏyyā
vari 5 : mŏḻimaṅkalam…
The inscription appears to be incomplete and states that certain Perunambikal, heir of Śāttaṉār who had titles praising his flair in Tamil language, “Muttamiḹ āchāriyar” and Tamil karai kaṇḍavar and who was the member of Ghaṭikā of Kāvaṉūr alias poyyāmoḹimaṅgalam in Koṉāsura Nāḍu in Seṅgāṭṭu koṭṭam.
Though there is no mention of king or date, it can be dated as of 12th – 13th CE on paleographical ground. So there could be two conclusions.
- Ghaṭikās existed even after 12th
- Tamil Language held a high status in Ghaṭikā or at least it was added later.