Pedagogy: The Indian way.

Narayanan V.  T.                                                                                               10-2-2019

(M. Phil. Scholar, K S U)

B-5/B-104, Elita Promenade, J P Nagar 7th Phase

Bangalore 78. Mobile: 9342548700:




Pedagogy: The Indian way.  


Pedagogy means teaching methodology. It is my contention that our forefathers taught the most important concepts required in life, through “Kavya” literature. The Authors, known as Mahakavis, used the Dhwani SiddanthaH, for this purpose. To substantiate, I will discuss a few   “Kavyas” in Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu Literatures and establish my theory.


Pedagogy: The Indian way.


It is a well-known fact that our great sages took upon themselves to codify the ways for the mankind for a happy and honest living and then reach their ultimate goal defined as Moksha. These codes are Vedas and Upanishads, and the beauty of these codes is, they are valid even today-i.e., even after uncountable millenniums. But there was a catch. These codes or Vedic principles were in the form of Orders and incomprehensible by the common man. This is where the Mahakavis stepped in. They wrote innumerable number of Kavyaas in which many important aspects of human behaviour and responses were spelt out, albeit in an pregnant manner (in an unsaid manner). It was left to the reader to understand the hidden meanings and act diligently and get the benefit out of such advices. It was a master stroke of human psychology, if you ask me. For nobody wants to be ordered or even suggested. If the individual himself finds out ways for a happy living and if such Kavyaas lend a helping hand, well that will be ideal. Man, Woman or Child, if he/she discovers his/her own solution to a problem on hand, then it would be bliss. This is precisely “what Dhwani is about”.


Details   of “Dhwani” Principle:

In our daily activities, very often “Dhwani” plays a prominent role in conveying our thoughts indirectly: e.g., Mother telling her son, “Yes, you should go to the new release cinema today first show. That will be of great help to get high ranks in J E E.”. What the mother actually means is directly opposite to the apparent meaning of her statement. This is a frequent affair in every house hold and needs no further explanation.

The simple and straight forward meaning is known as “Vachanam” , while the underlying meaning which has not been specifically brought out is known as “ Dhwani” also known as “VynagaraathaH” .

आनन्दवर्धनाचार्य्ः[1], a great poet from Kashmir, has been credited with discovering this principle and he is famously known as ध्वन्यार्चार्यः . He has written a treatise, known as ध्वन्यालोकः”,   on the subject . Another poet, also from Kashmir, “अभिनवगुप्ता”[2], has written a commentary of ध्वनियालोकः”, and that is known as :”Lochana”.

In ध्वनियालोकः”, the poet describes, as follows:               “काव्यस्याअत्म धनिरिति”.

                        “यत्रार्थः शब्दो वा तमर्थम् उपसर्जनीकृतस्वार्थौ

                        व्यङ्ग्तः काव्यविशेषः ध्वनिरिति सुरभिः कथितः ॥[3]

अभिनवगुप्ता स्वयं वदति,

“ योऽर्थो हृद्यसंवादी तस्य भावोरसोद्भवः ।

शरीर्ं व्यापयते तेन शुष्कं काष्टमिवाग्निना ॥ इति॥[4]

The meaning here is ,  As the reader reads(/listens to)  the slokha , there is an electric feeling felt by  him and it spreads in his mind in a flash , like

“Fire set on a dry twig” !

The reader goes into a state of ecstasy, not only due to the brilliant writing of the poet, but also the important messages/advices that could be construed from the poetry {writing).  This explains in a nut shell, the “ Dhwani Siddandtah”.

From the above explanations, it could be easily understood that such level of writing Kavyaas, could not be easily achieved by ordinary poets, This  is  seen only in the writings of great poets who are known as  MahakaviH, perhaps blessed by Goddess Saraswati herself ! It is only reasonable to assume that  such Mahakavis, used the medium of Literature, to guide the readers (and general public) to follow the essential principles for a  honest, peaceful and happy living.  Such advice (given through “Dhwani”, enhances the overall grandeur of the writing. Acharya says, in DhwanyaalokaH, “ .[5]..

It is normal to raise the following questions with reference to the above introduction.

1.Since AnandawardhanaH is DwanyaacharyaH, (as he discovered, Dhwani SiddantaH), what about the Literature written before his period?  Were there no such principles?

  1. Was this principle exclusively written/seen in only Sanskrit Literature? What about the literature in other languages?
  2. How such “Dhwani Siddantah” was useful in pedagogy ? (in teaching concepts for a honest and happy living).

My answers to these questions would be ,

  1. These principles of Dhwani SiddhantaH were in existence and used in Literature from time immemorial. Perhaps these principles had not been specifically named, (Dhwani Siddantah) till AnandhawardhanaacharyaH came on the scene.
  2. They were seen in literature written in other Languages also. I propose to show that in addition to Sanskrit, Poets in Tamil and Telugu Literature also have written their Kavyaas using these Dhwani Principles. Only they had not been identified as such..
  3. Dhwani SiddantaH is unique in itself in the sense, that principles are not thrust upon the readers. The readers after reading such great works, could easily understand the principles for a happy living, which is normally referred to as “लोककल्याणार्थम्” ।[6]


Explaining the Dhwani SiddhantaH.

There are three ways to teach or convey methods to be followed in a civil Society.

  1. Order from a designated Authority, like a King in olden days, and now like an order from the Supreme Court. (known as प्रभुवत्)
  2. Good advice/ or even good arguments for pursuing certain desired steps like advice/suggestions received from close and honest friends. ( known as मित्रवत्)
  3. A kind and loving guidance (actually could be seen as a Nudge) from one’s better half (known as कन्तावत्). Here the importance is, the user conditions his mind based on the inputs he gets in an indirect manner. (known as कान्तावत्).  Dhwani SiddantaH is based on this principle.

Explaining this briefly:

After reading the श्लोकः/रचना, reader not only gets enthralled by the व्यङ्ग्यार्थः, but gets a spark in his mind which could guide him in a proper manner befitting to a responsible citizen. Let us see a few examples on these lines.

Starting with ध्वन्यालोकः तस्य  मङ्गलाचरणो श्लोकः

स्वेच्छाकेसरिणः स्वच्छायायासितेन्दवः । त्रायन्तां वो मधुरिपोः प्रपन्नार्तिच्छ्छिदो नखाः॥

The Poet describes the beauty of the Avatara of Lord ViShnu, as NarasimhaH (half man-half Lion) and says NarasimhaH’s nails may (kindly) protect the devotees. PrimaFacie,, it would be bewildering because how could any body’s nails protect the devotees? For Protection it is normal for people to buy Arms and Ammunition or employ SPG (for Political bigwigs!).  What mere nails (of a lion) could do? Here comes the व्यङ्ग्यार्थः= . Using his nails only (with nothing else) , Vishnu tore to pieces a gigantic demon Hiranyakasipu, who possessed monumental strength and also had in addition several boons from Brahma that made him almost invincible.  {NarasimhaH in his avatar) Shri Vishnu, tore the demon to pieces using only his nails to conform to all the boons received from Brahma by the demon. The slaying of the demon was done to protect his child devotee PrahladaH.

Dhwani No. 1. If the nails of Vishnu) could destroy a huge demon as powerful  as Hiranyakasipu, then to remove the difficulties of ordinary devotees , would be a child’s play for the nails of Narasimha.  i. e, No other facility or weapon need be used.

Dhwani No.2. Who was saved? Prahlada, Hiranyakasipu’s son. From what predicament? Prahalada was tortured by his own father, for being a devotee of Vishnu, who is considered as his (Hiranyakasipu’s) enemy. For this purpose, Prahlada was subjected to torture of extraordinary levels of punishments including pushing him down from a hill, forcing him to drink deadly poison using weapons of immense strength. Prahalada was steadfast in his devotion. He never winced at any of these torture methods. Needless to say, that he came out unscathed in each and every test. Therefore if one reposes total faith in the Lord, he would always come to his devotees’ help and protect them. To put it in a nutshell, “Have implicit faith in (your) God.”

श्रुङ्गाररसा, is widely seen in Sanskrit Literature. Here is an example where (both) श्रुङ्गारहास्यौ रसौ) could be seen along with the dhwani.

‘                       “यास्यामित्युदिते तन्व्याः वलयोऽभवदूर्मिका”[7]

Meaning: When the husband/lover, wanting to take leave of his wife, to go to a different place, and says “I have to leave now”, at that instant itself “the finger ring worn by the lass became a bracelet”. (Bracelets are ornaments worn by women around their waists.). The poet says the ring could now be used as a Bracelet! How? Because, as soon as the lass hears that her husband is going to leave her, and go on his long journey, she became totally anguished at the forthcoming separation from her lover. It came to such an extent that instantly she became exceedingly thin in her stature & the ring originally worn in her finger, could now fit around her waist. The pangs of separation were to such an exorbitant level. !  What does this convey? It conveys the level of friendship and love between the man and his wife which could be the envy of many people. The poet is suggesting that such  a harmonious relationship, should exist between the husband and his wife.  Of course it is more easily said than practised.

We will now take a look at the numero uno of Sanskrit Lierature, Mahakavi Kalidasa[8]. There are 5 Mahakaavyani , out of which two have been written by Kalidasa, and balance 3 by Bharavi,,MaghaH & SriharSha. So far the sixth one has not been written! . From this we could understand the unequalled  mastery of Kalidasa.. The folklore is that he was directly blessed by Mata Kalidevi and Mata Saraswati.

In the first sloka of Raghuvamsa [9], Kalidasaa says as follows.

क्व सूर्यप्रभवो वंशः क्व चाल्पविषया मतिः ।

                    तितीर्षुर्दुस्तरं मोहादुडुपेनास्मि सागरम् ॥

The meaning is very simple. The world renowned Raghu Dynasty is a magnificent one and cannot be described by ordinary people like me, having a very shallow knowledge in writing. It is like being greedy in trying to navigate the harshest of Oceans sitting in a (possibly) broken and leaky raft?

At first reading one would only laugh at the humility of the poet whose credentials have been described earlier. Supposing we have to select only one Sanskrit Poet living or dead, undoubtedly Kalidasa would be the first choice. But he describes himself as man with a Shallow Knowledge!! . The poet wants to say three things.

  1. What one has learnt is only a pittance when compared to that has not been learnt. Nobody could claim to be a सर्वज्ञानि .
  2. One should never be arrogant in exhibiting his knowledge. Humility is a great virtue. Never underestimate others. विनयं विध्याभूषणम्
  3. The Sanskrit Language is bigger than the biggest and bottomless Ocean; nobody could claim to have mastered it.

These are all sanest of advices to any aspiring students of not only in Literature, but in all other fields.  The poet is Mahakavi Kalidasa. No other test is needed for their veracity. This everlasting Advice is couched in a mild and humble manner for all the mankind, by the greatest of poets, who lived at least 700 years before AnandhawardhanaacharyaH- the Dhwani Protagonist. Therefore it is a clear proof that Dhwani principles have existed in Sanskrit Literature right from the beginning and it was only identified as a separate skill by AnandawardhanaacharyaH.

Let us take a look at Gadyakavyani. Gadyakavyam means Kavyam in prose order. This is a rarity when compared to the regular Padya Kavyam, which is in poetry form. Mahakavi BhaNabattaH[10] wrote कादम्बरी”.  BhanaBattah was said to have been in the patronage of King SriharSha.  In this Kavyam, there is a chapter called शुखनासोपदेशः”,  dealing with the administration of the state. The King’s Minister SukaH, advises the young prince (to be crowned), about the various pitfalls one may encounter. The deadliest of them is the greed for Lucre. To ward of this evil, Mahan SukhaH advises about the fluidity of money/wealth as fickle mindedness of Goddess Lakshmi. The greatness of his sermon is very relevant even today. The overall advice given by SukhaH is, ‘never run after money: it gives only temporary pleasure’. (But anytime one could get into serious trouble[11], if greed takes over them.)



In Tamil literature there is a proverb, कट्रतु कैम्मण्णळवु कल्लाततु उल्कळवु [12]

What one has studied/learnt if could be equated to his fist size, then what has not been learnt will be equal to the size of the whole World!!. (Please see the similarity of this saying and the dhwani seen in the first sloka of RaghuvaMsam by Kalidasa.).

From Tirukkural;

Thirukkural is a great literature in Tamil Language, written by Thiruvalluvar . [13]. His magnum opus, Thirukkural is a treasure house of sane advices to all mankind in, Dharma/Wealth/Family life. There are 1330 couplets in all, each having 7 words only. Here are a few examples:     (लिपि =देवनागरी; भाषा= तमिल्)

1.कुज़लिनिदु याज़िनिदु एन्बर् तम्मक्कळ्

   मज़लै शोल्कॆळातार्॥   (Kural No, 66).

Simple meaning : The parents who have not heard the baby talk of their children/child, are prone to declare that , The Flute and the Veena are very melodious to hear.

DhwaniH: In any household, when a new child is borne to young parents, it is not unusual for them to talk about their baby on a 24 x 7 basis. Any visitor coming to their house, has to compulsorily hear the escapades of the child. The various sounds it makes and the different meanings identified by the parents for these baby talks, would be amusing. Nothing else will have priority over such sessions. The baby’s talks, (actually  sounds only), would be sweetest to hear for the parents. The visitors also have to politely concur with the parents’ findings!. So if any young parents say, that the Musical instruments like Flute, Veena etc., are melodious then it means that they are not blessed with any child yet. It is a poignant situation indeed. The Dhwani here is,  it is unfortunate for the childless couple to spend their time on other matters than playing with their child.

  1. इनिय उलवाग् इन्नादु कूरल्  | कनियिरुप्प काय्कवर्न्दत्रु  ॥   ( kural No 100)
  2. तीयिनार्चुट्टपुण्ण् उल्लारुम् आरादे | नाविनाल् चुट्टवडु ॥“ ( kural No. 129).

Both the above couplets emphasize on speaking pleasantly to others, irrespective of their status. In the couplet number 100 above, the poet says, if you use harsh words when the required meaning/s could be conveyed by speaking pleasantly, it is like one trying to steal very bitter or unripe fruits, with great efforts while the same fruits in a well ripened condition is available at his own house and he could enjoy the same at his wish. The Dhwani here is, ‘to whosoever one wants to talk or convey a message, irrespective of their status, the speaker should always use polite and parliamentary language and never use curse words. This is very pertinent even when one has to admonish the other person. The principle here is, criticise the act and not the person. If you hurt somebody using bad language, the victim is going to be your permanent enemy waiting to pull you down.

  1. सेल्वत्तुल् सेल्वं चेविच्छेल्वम् अचेल्वम् | चेल्वत्तेल्लम् तलै ॥“   ( kural No. 411)


We all have predominantly 5 types of faculties, viz. sight, hearing, breathing, taste and touch.. Among these 5 faculties, the poet opines, that hearing faculty is the most important one. (The importance of the other four is not diminished by this statement!). Why hearing is important?  A human cannot live peacefully and happily all alone,without any other human being. There has to be a continuous interaction for meaningful existence. This is why solitary confinement is considered as a severest punishment, even worse than death sentence. Remember Robinson Crusoe[14]!  He had his friend “Man Friday” in the forest to live. What happens when one loses his faculty of hearing? Since he could not hear properly, he would feel very dejected and slowly withdraw himself from the company of others, feeling shy of deafness. He will always be worried that others are making fun of him. Slowly he would lose his self-confidence and even esteem and enthusiasm. He may become a Zombe also.

At a spiritual level, he could not listen to sath-sangam and therefore he could not benefit by their worldly wisdom. Nor could he listen to vedas and scriptures and learn from them for leading a pious and happy life. So the poet considers that the faculty of one’s hearing is his greatest wealth without which his existence may not be meaningful.

Thiruppavai[15]:  ( तिरुप्पावै ).  (भाषा=तमिल् । लिपि= देवनागरी)

कूडारै वेल्लुम्शीर्गोविन्दा………………,,,,,,,,, कूडियिरुन्दु कुलिर्न्देलोर् एम्पावाय् । (श्लोकः २७)

कूडारै वेल्लुम्शीर्गोविन्दा=

Shri Andal, (the poet) at the age of 6 only,  has written this short but simplest treatise on “how to lead one’s life for a meaningful existence.  In this Stanza, she says that Lord Krishna has the attitude that would make his enemies also to appreciate him. As an example, on the  eve of Bharatayuddham, Dhuryodhana also, goes to Sri Krishna to seek his help. Dhuryodhana knows very well that Krishna is closest to Pandavas. Will anybody go to one’s enemy’s best friend for help! Duryodana did go because he believed in Krishna’s fairness in dealing. This is precisely what Shri Andal advises us when she praises Govinda. She wants us to be fair and truthful in dealing with others. Automatically we could win over our enemies also.

कूडियिरुन्दु कुलिर्न्देलोर् एम्पावाय् = Here Shri Andal stresses on the importance of community living. She says this will give you the maximum benefit. Take a look at Israel. They have a beautifully designed Kibbutz system of living in communities. Because of this system, no enemy of theirs dares to attack them, even though Israel is a land locked country surrounded on the four sides by hostile countries. In India, in big cities, we have now predominantly, flats system of housing.  Alas, every flat is an island because nobody knows his neighbours nor does he lend a helping hand when required. .Fortunately in villages, we still have the community living conditions.  Everybody is known to everybody else. The life, both in happiness and sorrow, is shared in the community.

करवैगल्पिन्चेन्रु कानं चेर्न्दुण्पोम्….  (श्लोकः २८):  In this Shri Andal points out the importance of Forests and the need for afforestation.  Forests are rain- givers. Without forests the area would become a desert without water. She also advocates, eating in the open air in the forests. For those who are keen on following the American Style and therefore very fashionable, this is called “Al Fresco”. But they should understand that this is nothing new for us Indians, and Shri Andal has recommended this 14 centuries ago!!


Dhwani in Telugu Literature

In Telugu literature, we would look at the kavyas of one of the celebrated Music Composers and a devout bhakta of Sri Rama., Saint Sri Thyagaraja Swamigal, celebrated as one of the triumavarites in the Carnatic Music Trinity. He belonged to the 18th Century and lived in Thiruvaiyaru, Tanjore Dt, Tamil Nadu. He is famous for his more than 2000 Kritis set in Carnatic Music style. We would analyse two of them w.r.t. to Dhwani SiddhantaH.

{ भाषा= तेलुगु    लिपि=देवनागरी}

  1. साधिन्चने ओ मनसा, बोदिन्चिन सन्मार्गवचनमुल………………

समयानिकि तगु माटलादने…………..

Sri Swaamigal says “one should talk appropriately to the occasion”, so that the objective is fulfilled. I hasten to add here that it does not mean doing improper things. Even to get regular activities fructified, one should speak smartly, of course truthfully also. To explain this further, I go to the “Transactional Analysis (T A) propounded by Eric Berne,[16] in his book “I am Ok, You are Ok”[17]. Briefly the author says that in every person, there are 3 permanent states viz., Parent, Adult and Child. And when we deal with others, a transaction takes place. In that if both the parties are in the same state, then the transaction would be successful. Therefore the person seeking success in the transaction should understand the state of the other party and accordingly speak. This does NOT mean telling lies. In factual information also, views could be put across in a nice and appealing manner. Shri Swamigal has indicated this only,  albeit 300 years before Eric Berne. For paucity of space no detailed explanations are furnished.

  1. { भाषा= तेलुगु लिपि=देवनागरी}.    In this kriti,    Shri Swamigal says,

चक्कनि राजमार्गमुण्डग सन्दुलदूरनीली मनसा ।       

चिक्कनि पालु मेगडायुण्दग चीयनुगङ्गासागरमेले ॥……..

When there is a Right Royal Path (Rajamaargam), why do you (people) try to go through very narrow (and stinking) lanes? When fresh milk with cream is available, why do you want to drink most unpalatable drinks?” . This is well explained in the following examples.

For Admission to Medical colleges there is a process known NEET examination through which only,  a candidate could be accepted. This is a competitive examination. If not successful in NEET, one should study hard and attempt in the succeeding years. This is the right method and if one attempts to circumvent this righteous process, the person will only face heavy loss of money. (See the following 5 examples). The unsuccessful candidates are approached by touts and conmen who promise guaranteed medical seats against payment of money. Of course these are all fake promises and the conmen would simply disappear from the scene after taking their loot. In the current year alone, five such cases have been reported in The Hindu on the following dates: August 27th (Rs. 9.4 Lakhs), August 31st (Rs.59 Lakhs), Sept 9th (Rs. 22 Lakhs), Sept. 12 (Rs. 11.5 Lakhs). {This list is not fully exhaustive but illustrative  only}. The common thing in this affair is everybody wanted to gain a seat using Short Cut methods. What Shri Swamigal said 300 years ago, has been proved! See another peculiar case reported in “Deccan herald dated 9th Feb”..  Sadly the victim in this is a Medical Practitioner (Doctor) aged about 60 years. Somebody promised him that he would go back 20 years in life (become much younger) if the potion given by the cheats were to be used. The Doctor fell for this and lost Rs. 4.05 Lakhs!! It is sad that a Doctor has exhibited this level of foolishness.  So every word of what Shri Swamigal has written has come true.


  1. AnandawardhanaacharyaH identified the Dhwani principles in Kavya literature in both poetic and prose forms of works done by Mahakavis.
  2. Dhwani Principles appeal to the intelligence of the readers in such a manner that they are overwhelmed by the simple and sane advices in the form of gentle suggestions. (This is normally referred to as “कान्तवत्”).
  3. Dhwani Siddantah was in existence long before AnandawardanaacharyaH. Apart from Sanskrit Literature, in other Languages also Dhwani Siddhantah was widely seen in works of great poets. (Here examples have been given from Tamil and Telugu literature only. Surely we could see such great writings in other languages also. Loka Kalyanam alone was their object.
  4. It is left to the readers to understand the advices of these Great Poets and follow the suggestions for a peaceful and happy living.
  5. Wherever required, comparable examples from Western Authors have been given only to show that What Western Philosophers have said in the recent past, our great Mahakavis have espoused several Centuries ago. At least from now, we should repose our faith in our own literature and the great Kavis who wrote them. ————————————————————————————————–


ध्वन्यालोकः                                                            आननदवर्धनाचार्यः

कुवलयानन्दा                                                      अप्पैयदीक्षितः

रघुवंशम्                                                                महाकवि कालिदासः

तिरुक्कुरळ् (तमिल् भाषा)                                                तिरुवळ्ळुवर्

तिरुप्पावै                                                                श्री आण्डाळ्

कादम्बरी                                                               भाणभट्टः

Robinson Crusoe                                              Daniel Defoe

I am OK, you are OK.                                        Eric Berne













[1]आनन्दवर्धनाचार्य्ः= A Kashmiri Poet , period 820-890 C E . Author of “DhwanyaalokaH”


[2] अभिनवगुप्ता = Also a Kashmiri Poet, period 950-1016 C E, his commentary “Lochana “ on DhwanyalokaH is well known. He is  also famous for his commentary on Natyashastra..

[3] “ध्वन्यालोकः” –page 102

[4]  लोचने

[5] Dhwanyaaloka: page 47

[6] The same as Principles of pedagogy or teaching or understanding the humane concepts .

[7] कुवलयानन्दः page 60. Author Appaiah DikhitaH.

[8] Mahakavi Kalidasa, the greatest among Sanskrit Poets  and was a court poet in King ChandraGupta II Kingdom in Ujjain . Time around 375 C E

[9] One of his Mahakavya and the other one is Kumarasambhava

[10] BhaNabattah period 606-648 C E, (much earlier than AnandhawardhanaH)

[11] There are several parallels in the  current Indian scene. =. Big Industrialists, CEOs of Banks, etc have all landed into deep trouble  over questionable financial transactions, failures in repaying the loans due.

[12] (भाषा=तमिल्}


[13] Thiruvalluvar : probably in  the period  between 300 CE to 700 CE. Most likely 450 -500 CE.

[14] The adventures of Robinson crusoe= author “Daniel Defoe.”

[15] तिरुप्पावै=    A great compendium of  30 verses by Alwar, Shri Andal. This is a celebrated Tamil literature recognized as even the fifth veda, for the simple reason that it specifies how one could live peacefully and happily.

[16] Eric Berne=Canadian Born US Psychiatrist , time period 1950.

[17] I am Ok,  you are OK.= book on T A by Eric Berne