Gurukula was an institution of residential schooling with pupils (sishyas), stayed with a guru in a hermitage for the objective of studying. Guru-sisya parampara has been a sacrosanct tradition in Sanatana Hinduism including Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism too. Gurukula is a syntax of two words i.e. guru i.e. one who precepts and kula i.e. family at home. Till 19th century, gurukulas served as central pillar of entire education system wherein, all learners were regarded as equals irrespective of any factor whatsoever. While learning in a hermitage, they served the guru as well including all household chores as a measure of inculcating self-discipline and responsibility towards others. Sishyas used to be away from their homes after undergoing upanayana samskara by 12th year for years together while learning in a gurukula observing strict rules of brahmacarya. Pupils were divided into three categories viz. Vasus studied till their age of 24, Rudras till 36 and Adityas till 48 years of their age. With guru-sishya parampara being sacrosanct, gurus never charged any fee from their pupils as gurukulas were financially supported through donations. It was Maharsi Yajnyavalkya who transformed Gurukula system from state funded to society funded. After completing education, sishyas used to offer Guru-Daksina as a symbol of gratitude and acknowledgement before departing from the Gurukula. Guru-dakshina may also be in the form of a special task that Guru may assign to the departing student. Students used to move out of gurukula as highly accomplished virtuous persons capable of achieving anything in life.
The gurukula system of education has been an ancient feature in Bharatavarsha. Gurukulas have been centres of many inventions too and every gurukula specialized in a different stream of knowledge and learning. Vedas and Upanisads mention Gurukulas in laudatory terms viz. Gurukula of Guru Dronacarya at Gurugram, Guru Varuni’s gurukula that witnessed evocation of Bhrigu Valli etc. By the time British intruders started spreading their tentacles across the nation in 18th century, there were some 8,00,000 gurukulas functioning all over. As British occupiers realised in no time that gurukulas imparted concrete foundation of cultural nationhood among young minds with which it would have been impossible for them to realise their nefarious goals, task of destroying the institution by implanting British oriented teaching to raise a community of Brown sahabs subjugated and loyal to the British Crown, was assigned to Thomas Babbington McCaulay, a confirmed Hindu-hater and colonialist. It was McCaulay who designed an elaborate action-plan to emaciate and destroy lakhs of gurukulas across the nation, raise a generation of Hindus who used to be embarrassed when introduced as Hindus to anyone anywhere and loyal to the British Crown.
However, the tradition of gurukula could not be extinguished completely thanks to the indomitable spirit of a motley crowd of determined ones resolutely pursuing their ancient values. Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Arya Samaj, Swami Dharmajivan Sastri Maharaja of Swaminarayana Pantha and a few others established a network of gurukulas, universities during 19th and 20th centuries respectively. These gurukulas have been centres of not only impartation of education but also exhaustive research by educationists to ferret out their positives with the intention to replicate elsewhere. General impression prevailing all over that gurukulas have restricted themselves to education of Sanatana scriptures, religious rituals etc. is entirely misplaced and malevolently nurtured by secularists, communists and other ‘enemies’ of Sanatana Hinduism. Mission of gurukulas has always been holistic development of younger generation rooted in fundamental values of life capable of competing very well in the contemporary world. Holistic teaching demanded that all students stayed together in hermitage without any differentiation or discrimination, everyone participated in all activities like attending cows, collecting fruits from orchards, extracting water from well or even chopping vegetables for cooking, surviving on simple food, all sleeping on straw mats spread on floors, wearing simple clothes etc. Students from wealthy families, royal scions to very poor ones, all shared life in a gurukula with equal verve and any observer could not have been able to discern background of any learner by that. It was an effective way to dissolve any sense of entitlement or privilege caused by anyone’s family background in minds of all students. Differentiation among students was strictly based on academic merits and performance. gurukulas were generally located in remote areas, preferably surrounded by jungles to facilitate them focus on their learning. Kith and kin were not permitted to visit their wards in gurukulas to prevent emotional obstructions in young minds during learning. All students were Guru’s own family members that developed resolute bond of brotherhood among students. Discussions and question-answer sessions consumed lion’s share of their time while learning to ensure, they were all well-groomed and resolutely grounded to core values of life. In 1823, Thomas Munro had recorded 100% literacy in Bharata out of which 76% were highly educated. The glory remained intact even during Mughal invasions as gurukulas were society financed and not state supported.
Immediate past 50 years or so have witnessed paradigm shift in contours of education with information explosion, digital revolution, artificial intelligence and sophisticated learning techniques. These developments are impossible to be wished away on the pretext of sacrosanct values imparted in gurukulas. Indeed, now we need both, an amalgamation of all that is sacrosanct in gurukula curriculum and all newer means of learning as well as knowledge developed thereof so as to ensure, gurukula taught students do not discover themselves inferior to anyone later in life. While designing an amalgamated curriculum, objectives of Gurukula education viz. self-restraint, character development, socio-political consciousness, personality grooming, intellect bereft of biases and prejudices, adhyatmika advancement, etc., must remain foundational as before while incorporating into it all contemporary knowledge and advancement.
Antarrastriya Virata Gurukula Sammelan was organised by Maharsi Sandipani Rastriya Vedavidya Pratisthana from April 28 to 30, 2018 in Ujjain to introduce gurukula education to the world as a brand to envy, organise all of them at one platform and raise their level of self-esteem very high. It was attended by 3,600 representatives from over 8oo gurukulas out of some 4,000 functioning in the country. There were 95 delegates from 70 gurukulas from Nepal alone in addition to participants from Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, Dubai, Singapore, Qatar and Canada. Concluding session of the sammelan heralded restoration of pristine glory of the institution by dedicating it to display of extra-ordinary talent of gurukula students.
Some of the instances are worth mentioning –
TV Talavat (16) was declared World Champion in Vedic Mathematics-2016 in Indonesia ahead of 1300 students from 18 countries after solving 70 mathematical puzzles in 2.57 minutes flat from three levels of fingering, abacus and visualisation. In addition to Veda Mathematics, the lad is also proficient in 20 Kala-s out of 72 mandated in Gurukula-s of ancient Bharata. These 20 Kala-s include music, astrology, Ayurveda, Samskrita, painting, logics, wrestling, gymnastics, Judo, Yoga, martial arts,rope, Mallkhambha etc.
Vatsal Shah (17), proficient in Samskrita, Prakrita, Gujarati, English, Astrology, Ayurveda, Mallkhamba, Yoga, Karate, wrestling, Judo and violin, topped in Slaka Pariksa of Nyayasastra held in Ahmedabad.
Aditya Dixit (15) is well versed in Mallkhamba, Astrology, painting, Vedic Mathematics, Samskrita and horse-riding.
Manish Chauhan (13) has mastered the art of painting.
Brahmayogananda (8) is an expert in blind-fold reading i.e. he can read anything written blind-folded.
Sri Brahma (7) is an expert in body scanning i.e. diagnosing one’s body to detect disease and healing….
All those studied in gurukulas across Bharata viz. Sabarmati Gurukula of Ahmedabad, Nityananda Gurukula of Bangaluru etc. and those skills were acquired is a relatively short span of learning, always in great demand where admission seekers throng their portals for enrolment. Maharsi Vedavyasa Pratisthana of Pune have been managing 34 Gurukula-s from Jammu to Manipur since 1990 specialising in ancient recitation techniques of Veda Mantras viz. Swaraghata and Anupurvi through Sabdaraksa, Artharaksa and Siddhanta Sthapana. Punarutthana Samarasta Gurukulam of Pune specialise in education of skills like pottery, casting, designing, architecture, idol making etc. Majority of their students belong to nomadic communities like Wadars. Apart from these skills, some 350 students are also taught Veda-s, Upanisads, Jnyaneswari, Dasabodha, Dhammapada as well as computers too, equipped with video-conferencing facility. Maitreyee Gurukulam was established in 1994 at Daksina Kannada district of Karnataka engaged in raising Sastra-Parangata Vidusi-s to the nation through revival of Pancamukhi Siksa. Entire learning is imparted through the medium of Samskrita alone. They have 97 girls and they all recite Veda Mantra-s everyday. Prabodhini gurukulam at Chikamagalore in Karnataka enrols some 20 students in the age group of 10-11 years annually to impart comprehensive education in Yoga, Veda, agriculture, science, art and music. Four languages Kannada, English, Hindi and Samskrita constitute medium of learning at the Gurukulam. These students are also mandated to render service of treatment through Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Reiki and cow-urine therapy to inhabitants of 20 surrounding villages. Those students also conduct Samskara Kendra-s and Balagokulam-s in those villages. Raised in 1997 in Karnataka, Veda Vijnana Gurukulam preserve all ancient practices of Veda-s, Sastra-s and Yoga in their respective pristine ways hitherto on the verge of extinction. Students serve at Samskara Kendra-s, hold Yoga camps, assist specially-abled ones, visit homes to recite Veda Mantra-s, examined through Slaka and Pravacana methods. Nivrtti Gurukulam at Udupi admits students after Class 12 to ensure high standards of their higher education. Their everyday morning prayer itself explains mission and vision of the nation. Nityananda Gurukulam at Bangaluru offers temple based education focused on Agama Sastra with the temple managed by children. Their syllabus is affiliated with IGCSC of Cambridge University, all students have cracked Mensa IQ having been initiated into 80 Siddhi-s including blindfold reading, body scanning, materialisation etc. out of 463 mentioned in Agama. In 2012, some ISKCON devotees established Avanti Gurukulam in Baroda wherein students are taught different occupations and live life as defined in Srimadbhagvadgita. One Gurukula based in Chennai trains in Lakhpati Kheti wherein a family of five lives joyously with just one acre of land. Akhil Bharatiya Siksana Mandala supports some 22 Gurukula-s. Griha Gurukula-s too, are being developed wherein a single Acarya teaches students at his home. Demand for Gurukula-s is growing steadily in Bharata as well as abroad. KP Sharma, heading Hindu Dharma Samudaya of Bhutan expressed desire to establish network of Gurukula-s in Bhutan as they have none. Nepal has 225 Gurukula-s supported by their Government, as disclosed by 95 delegates who attended the Sammelan. Two of them are 130 years old and they all encountered existential crisis when Maoism was at it’s peak in Nepal. Ramesvara Gurukula of Myanmar is the largest one in that country and their Principal Swami Visnu Vallabhananda Saraswati came to attend the sammelan.
The conclave proposed to study all existing Gurukula-s, identify areas of intervention, then suggest remedial measures to benchmark them through Yugunukulikaran i.e. modernization bereft of westernisation and Gurukulikaran i.e. modifying other educational institution on the lines of Gurukula against best international practices, revival of all 72 Kala-s prescribed for men and 64 for women, priority for CSR funds and recognition from Government bodies. Sarsanghchalak of RSS called for concretization of blue-print of action-plan to be initiated immediately after conclusion of the Sammelan. Study of original scriptures too, was stressed upon in the Sammelan. Samkalpa-Patra of 10-point pledge was administered to attending delegates before the ceremony was concluded. It is expected to be a milestone in reviving gurukula system of education in the country.