How Brahmin Students Kept Themselves Awake During Exams In The 1800s

How Brahmin Students Kept Themselves Awake During Exams In The 1800s

In the the midst of exam time - a time we’re all too familiar with - an image made its way into our Instagram of a Brahmin burning the midnight oil, so to speak. The reason this photo is particularly striking is because this specific Brahmin had his hair nailed to the wall. The photo, taken by Vlas Mikhailovich Doroshevich, first appeared in a book published in Moscow. The caption of the photograph was “Preparations for exams (working hard, they tie hair to nail in wall to prevent falling into sleep)”. We thought this was something worth looking into.

The tuft of hair on a brahmin, or shikha as it’s called, has a unique significance to those following the vedic path. When it’s long enough, it is tied to the top of the head and this point is considered to be the connection to the brain - centre of intellectual and emotional sensitivity, and a connection between the individual and cosmic consciousness, according to this source. It is also an indication of considering the body to be a temple. Without the shikha, a brahmin cannot perform any ceremonies or even recite the mantras.

Now that we know what the purpose of the hair itself is, we moved on to why this particular photograph even came to be. The most obvious reading tells us that at the time, Brahmins were the only ones who had exams to study for, or higher education to stay awake for. Education at the time was entirely caste-driven, and only Brahmins were justified to be scholars. Nonetheless, this method of staying awake is truly one for the books, so much so that a certain Chinese student took to similar methods in 2014 to study for her exams, keeping this tradition alive, and somewhat awake - there’s no way you can stay asleep with that kind of pain. For all those with exams and a quantity of hair that is substantial for tying, here’s a hack that’s sure to work.

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