This shot wasn’t posed, but it makes, I believe, a meaningful poster photo for Shree Parashara Gurukulam. A ‘gurukulam brings to mind a stern-looking, sage-like figure lording it over , with several young disciples at his beck and call, 24×7. The place we visited the other day told us another story – that gurukulam needn’t be an un-fun place ; nor is it only about puja, meditation, rituals and shlokha chants.
The boys at the Parashara know their shlokas, but they are also exposed to a wide variety of books, says Mr Badrinarayanan of the gurukulam faculty. He teaches Vedas and also takes math and physics classes. Considered a hard taskmaster in the class, he becomes, after school-hours, a companionable uncle - Badrimama, to pupils.
We visited the gurukulam on a Saturday, an off-day when the atmosphere was relaxed . Some boys were seen moving about, carrying an armful of library books from the computer lab and setting them up on shelves in a corner of a newly built and spacious dining hall. This is a stop-gap arrangement till the library hall comes up. According to Mr Badri, the library is managed by students during weekends. Books are issued on Friday afternoons, to be returned by Sunday evening. Besides books the boys have access to movies on DVD. And Saturday is their movie-watching day, on a big-screen TV in the common-room.
Located amid paddy fields, way out of Mysore city limits on KRS Rd, the gurukulam is a residential institution where they teach vedas and the associated norms and rituals , as well as English grammer, maths, computer science and whatever else you need to learn under CBSC syllabus. It is a hybrid model of ‘Veda Patashala ; what they have here is a Google era gurukulam.
Badri is a software engineer turned vedic vidwan ; and, at his gurukulam, a havan kund co-exists with computer lab. A canal that runs through the property makes it convenient for the orthodox elders to bathe in running water at the crack of dawn. But solar heated water and modern bath-rooms are available for the convenience of those who could do with hot water.
They have over 30 boys on the rolls, in the 6-15 age-group. Gurukulam takes care of their upkeep and education till the Plus 2 stage in schooling . Their day starts at 5.30 a m. The seniors, who wake up earlier, coax the six-year olds out of bed and get them to bathe and be ready in time for morning prayer, meditation and veda classes.
After breakfast, and a change of clothes – into shirt and knickers – the boys move to class-rooms for CBSC lessons. The school faculty stays on the premises. The medium of instruction is English. After school-hours the boys in shorts and shirts change into dhoti and towel for the gurukulam routine – evening prayers, vedic lessons. Parents can phone them, but only on weekends. They can visit the gurukulam, on prior intimation. Mr Badri agrees that home-sickness can be an issue with new entrants, for the first few days. But then the elder students and faculty members staying with family help the home-sick to feel at home.
As we took leave of Mr Badri I raised the issue of tree-planting . He spoke of many individuals and companies willing to sponsor tree-plantation, but the gurukulam management reckoned this could wait till they finalised the entire building plan for the gurukulam complex. What I had in mind, however, was involvement of gurukul children in tree-planting. Each one should be encouraged plant a sapling of choice to mark special occasions , such as the day he joined the gurukulam. A sapling so planted would grow with the student who plants it . If it is a fruit or flowering tree he would have the satisfaction of leaving behind something that bore fruit for the benefit of others long after he leave the gurukulam to move in life.
This, then, is my take. To know more of what this gurukulam is really about, access Vishvakshema Trust.