Blend east with west in Lucknow’s cool Gurukul

By Sharat Pradhan, IANS

Lucknow : A silent revolution is taking place in the heart of this city. A local school has revived the ancient gurukul system to teach students how to be model Indians in a globalised nation at a time when the country’s education system is modelling itself on the west.

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The Kanchi Kamakoti Shankaracharya Ved Evam Vedic Sanskar Shiksha Kendra, set up barely five years ago on a sprawling area in Indira Nagar here under the aegis of Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, has begun to show the results of the traditional gurukul system.

The first batch of its shishyas (disciples) will pass out and don the mantle of Vedic teachers. Age is no barrier as the youngest graduate Udit Awasthi is just stepping into his teens.

Udit was seven years old when he joined this gurukul. Today, he is teaching Sanskrit grammar as part of his internship in the institution and many of his students are older than him.

Five years of rigorous schedules conforming to the “guru-shishya” tradition have given a different outlook to the little scholar, who not only recites Sanskrit shlokas from the Vedas, but also speaks fluent English.

Acharya S.G. Swaminathan, the head of the institution, told IANS: “The rules are strict. You have no TV, no radio and no other source of entertainment. Life is confined to studying and performing Vedic rituals. Students are not allowed to meet friends or relatives, including parents, brothers or sisters.

“Their day begins rather early with a round of yoga, which is followed by lessons in ancient Hindu scriptures and rituals that go on throughout the day,” he said.

Swaminathan added: “Our aim is to propagate and preserve traditional Indian ethos.” He says it was Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati who thought of establishing the gurukul.

“When the Shankaracharya visited Lucknow in 2000 on his way to the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, the Shankaracharya wanted a few well-qualified pundits to accompany him for the rituals. He was disappointed by the response as most of those who were presented before him failed to pronounce the shlokas correctly,” Swaminathan said.

“It was in the aftermath of that experience that he decided to set up a gurukul in Lucknow and appointed me to look after the place,” he added.

Significantly, the curriculum at the institution includes a fair bit of English too.

“Our goal is to produce culturally educated, intellectually enlightened and physically sound youngsters equipped to carry out Vedic rituals with perfection,” Swaminathan said.

“We believe in keeping them free from stress caused by misguided and meaningless modern sources of entertainment. Our children live in pure and serene environment and are kept sanitized from unholy western influences.,

The students of the gurukul are not required to observe brahmcharya (celibacy) all their lives.

“They are free to lead a happy married life, but they are told to remain celibate till they get married,” Swaminathan said.