(Written in 2011, most probably !)
I missed visiting the Gurukul University during my last visit to Haridwar. This time, I took the effort and visited it. A Brahmchari ( referral to the students of the University- who are supposed to live the life as disciples of Brahma), Shivraj was kind enough to show me around.
The University was established in 1902 by one Swami Shraddhanand ji. This nationalist, like many other great men, it is said had, an early life filled with ‘vices’. This Munshiram ji drank and kept company of women. One day, it is said, when he came back drunk, and saw his wife waiting for him, caring for him empty stomach, he felt remorse and this incidence is said to have a great impact on him. He went on to become ‘the’ Swami Shraddhanand (a follower of Swami Dayanand ji), and devoted his entire life to establishment of this University, Nationalism, Shuddhi movement and much more. (A visit to the History and Archaeology museum would throw much more light on the life and history of this great man. One can spend half a day knowing all this in awe!). The original place he chose for the University was Kangri, a serene, pious place surrounded by the Ganga on two sides. Due to flooding, the place was shifted. It is a deemed University.
A striking thing about the University is the existence of a healthy Guru- Shishya culture. The teachers respect the students and the students also regard the guru. The guru is greeted by touching his feet. One finds this a much pleasant change from the deteriorating relation between the teachers and students observed elsewhere.
The guru-shishya culture is one of the many ‘sanskars’ that this University inculcates in its students. This, in fact, is a major focus of the University, besides academics. Each student, irrespective of his discipline is taught Vedas. The teachers of the respective discipline teach the relevant part of Vedas (say, related to management to management students) to respective students. A consequence is that students of this University have to attend lecture, get notes from their teachers and are less dependent on ‘ready-made’ guides and ‘help books’ available for other kind of courses. The University has a strict discipline which is not changed under any circumstance. For e.g., each day begins with a ‘yagna’ and all other activities (including programmes held for VVIPs) have to follow that.
The graduation is done with five subjects instead of usual three, Vedas being compulsory. There is also a department of Yoga besides other departments.
Shivraaj, a student of this University has a discernible ‘thahraav’ (calmness) refreshingly different from the students/youth of today. He has a desire for more learning and says that ‘seekhne ko to itna hai ki saat janam mein bhi nahin seekh sakte!’ Belonging to a distant place in Uttarakhand, he had a chance visit to this place through an acquaintance and decided he would study only from here. Indeed, there is some ‘peace’ about the place that attracts.
In pre Independence days, there was a suspicion that ‘bombs’ were being made in this University. A British Officer visited this University to find out the truth. Throughout the day, he was lost in admiration of the discipline, the learning culture of this place. When he realized, he had come for a different purpose and put that question upfront to Swami Shraddhanand ji, Swami ji lined up all his students and said ‘ Yes! These are my human bombs and one day they will overthrow the British Raj.’ And indeed, many students from this Gurukul have played important role in the freedom struggle.
The Gurukul is for boys only. In fact, one of the departments, because it allowed girls also, was handed over to another University, although it falls within the Gurukul campus. Before visit to this University, I might have had views about this fact as to why girls were discriminated against, but somehow, I feel I am not wise enough to comment on the merits/demerits of the same.
As we work in the fields today, we feel a ‘behavioural change’, a ‘positive energy’ is must for Nation building and Government programmes would succeed much more in that environment. A ‘capacity building’ effort in Government is far less achieving, it is felt, than an education encompassing these ‘values’. Does this education prepare you better to be away from maaya, or is this too part of the maaya. May be, only He knows! Or maybe even He doesn’t!
Discaimer: The article is based on a brief visit to the University and interaction with one of its students. Incomplete information might have led to hasty conclusions, which may be overlooked. The article only describes a personal experience and feeling.