Shiksha

A page from the Yajnavalkya Shiksha manuscript (Sanskrit, Devanagari). This text is also called Vajasaneyi Shiksha and Traisvarya Lakshana.

Shiksha (Sanskrit: शिक्षा IAST: śikṣā) is a Sanskrit word, which means "instruction, lesson, learning, study of skill".[1][2][3] It also refers to one of the six Vedangas, or limbs of Vedic studies, on phonetics and phonology in Sanskrit.[3][4]

Shiksha is the field of Vedic study of sound, focussing on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, accent, quantity, stress, melody and rules of euphonic combination of words during a Vedic recitation.[3][5] Each ancient Vedic school developed this field of Vedanga, and the oldest surviving phonetic textbooks are the Pratishakyas.[2] The Paniniya-Shiksha and Naradiya-Shiksha are examples of extant ancient manuscripts of this field of Vedic studies.[3][5]

Shiksha is the oldest and the first auxiliary discipline to the Vedas, maintained since the Vedic era.[2] It aims at construction of sound and language for synthesis of ideas, in contrast to grammarians who developed rules for language deconstruction and understanding of ideas.[2] This field helped preserve the Vedas and the Upanishads as the canons of Hinduism since the ancient times, and shared by various Hindu traditions.[6][7]

Etymology

Shiksha literally means "instruction, lesson, study, knowledge, learning, study of skill, training in an art".[1] It also refers to one of the six Vedangas, which studies sound, Sanskrit phonetics, laws of euphonic combination (sandhi), and the science of making language pleasant and understood without mistakes.[4] Shiksha as a supplemental branch of the Vedas, included teaching proper articulation and pronunciation of Vedic texts.[4] It was one of six fields of supplemental studies, others being grammar (Vyakarana), prosody (Chandas), ritual (Kalpa), etymology (Nirukta) and astrology (Jyotisha, calculating favorable time for rituals).[4]

The roots of Shiksha can be traced to the Rigveda which dedicates two hymns 10.125 and 10.71 to revere sound as a goddess, and links the development of thought to the development of speech.[8] The mid 1st-millennium BCE text Taittiriya Upanishad contains one of the earliest description of Shiksha as follows,

ॐ शीक्षां व्याख्यास्यामः ।
वर्णः स्वरः । मात्रा बलम् ।
साम सन्तानः । इत्युक्तः शीक्षाध्यायः ॥ १ ॥


Om! We will explain the Shiksha.
Sounds and accentuation, Quantity (of vowels) and the expression (of consonants),
Balancing (Saman) and connection (of sounds), So much about the study of Shiksha. || 1 ||

— Taittiriya Upanishad 1.2, Shikshavalli, Translated by Paul Deussen[9][3]

Annette Wilke and Oliver Moebus date the Shiksha text of the Taittiriya Vedic school to be from 600 BCE at the latest.[10] Texts such as this established, among other things, a rational order of the Sanskrit alphabet, state Wilke and Moebus. Other texts, such as Vyasa-Siksa of the Krishna Yajurveda, were composed later.[10]

The ancient Vedic schools developed major treatises analyzing sound, vowels and consonants, rules of combination and pronunciation to assist clear understanding, to avoid mistakes and for resonance (pleasing to the listener).[11] These texts include Samhita-pathas and Pada-pathas, and partially or fully surviving manuscripts include Paniniya Shiksha, Naradiya Shiksha, Bharadvaja Shiksha, Yajnavalkya Shiksha, Vasishthi Shiksha, Parashari Shiksha, Katyayani Shiksha and Manduki Shiksha.[3][12]