[PHOTOESSAY] An Eyewitness Describes the Profound Learning Atmosphere of the Kangri Gurukula Academy in 1913

Founded in 1901-2, the Kangri Gurukula Academy near Hardwar, was inspired by the Gurukula ideal. It was originally the brainchild of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, which was concretised by Lala Munshi Ram.
[PHOTOESSAY] An Eyewitness Describes the Profound Learning Atmosphere of the Kangri Gurukula Academy in 1913


THE WEBSITE OF GURUKULA KANGRI located six kilometres from Hardwar, currently describes itself as a “deemed to be University.” After much digging around, it was rather discouraging to learn that the Gurukula has scanty information about its own hoary past. We suppose it is reflective of the larger phenomenon of the lackadaisical approach that the disfigured Hindu psyche has towards preserving its own past.  Contrast the scrupulous and careful manner in which Harvard has preserved its history. 

But when we excavated our archives at The Dharma Dispatch, we discovered a real nugget. It is an essay titled The Kangri Gurukula Academy published in the 1913 issue of the Modern Review. Written with genuine feeling, it is an eyewitness sketch of this Gurukula in its formative years. It is also a primary source of a vital slice of the cultural history of that era. 

In less than a thousand words, the essay opens our eyes to the ideals and values that our people lived by. It shows us an Indian society which upheld education as a value in itself and not as a goalpost to be reached. It reveals the selfless commitment and dedication of vast numbers of people who were anxious to preserve and perpetuate the best elements of the Sanatana spiritual culture for posterity. It was also a courageous fight against the combined forces of Macaulay and the British imperial might. It was an ambience of sacrifice and it was sacrifice without tears or plaint. Its distinguished teachers had the choice to land lucrative careers and amass fortunes but chose to remain there to serve Bharata Mata by serving her children.   

As we keep wondering, where exactly did we as a country and people go so horribly wrong after ”independence?”  

Do read the whole ennobling essay straight from the horse’s mouth. With pictures.  

The Kangri Gurukula Academy

EVERY WELL-WISHER OF INDIA would do well to pause and consider the ideals of educa­tion presented to us by Manu and other seers.  Our admiration for everything Western need not deter us from revering our past. A sympathetic study of the past and a cautious inquiry into the conditions of the present are essential to build up our future. An entire neglect of the past, when that past happens to be glorious, is suicidal to the future well-being of a community. The past is the
parent of the future. 

Such were the thoughts that came surging into the fertile brain of Swami Dayanand Saraswati when he was surveying mankind from Kashmir to Comorin. The Vedic scholar, after a mature consideration, came to the irresistible conclusion that a defective system of education was chiefly res­ponsible for our social degradation. The saint argued that for our future well-being and for the creation of a class of physically, morally and spiritually strong citizens, the revival of the Gurukula system of educa­tion was urgently needed. It was the earnest wish of the patriot to establish some Gurukulas but his premature death led to the abandonment of the scheme for some time. 

But some of his admirers with Lala Munshi Ram at the head, established in 1901, a Gurukula near Kangri. Some features of the institution are noteworthy. 

The Medium of Instruction 

In schools and colleges affiliated to the existing five Indian Universities, the medium of instruction is English. Here it is Hindi pure and simple. The institution believes that this is an easier process of imparting education to Hindu youths. Even such subjects as Botany and Chemistry are taught in Hindi. For the benefit of the students, some useful books in Hindi have been published. 

It is noteworthy that in Japanese schools too, similar experiments have been tried with great success. The Banaras Hindu University may take a leaf out of the history of the Gurukula.

Religious and Moral Instruction 

Undoubtedly, this problem has taxed the brains of many educationists. No effective solution worth the name is yet available.  

In the Gurukula, this difficult problem is pretty much solved. The students in the most impressionable period of their life­, live in the company of their Gurus for a period of over 16 years, when it is easier for the teachers to teach morality both by precept and example to the Brahmacharis. A band of self-sacrificing, zealous teachers is capable of achieving more than a cart­load of text-books on the subject. 

Revival of the Study of Classical Sanskrit

In order to realise the significance of the Vedic Dharma, a thorough study of the Vedas, Upanishads and Darshanas is essential. For the right understanding of the Vedic Mantras, the study of Shadangas — viz., Shiksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Chhandas, etc., —is needed. Without this, there is every chance of mis­interpreting them. A correct understanding of the four Varnas and the four divisions of a man’s life, Brahmacharya, Grhastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa, of the philosophy of the Upanishads, of the ethical significance of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and of the truths embodied in the six Darshanas are all of the utmost importance as far as the evolution of the future Hindu society is concerned. 

The revival of the study of Classical Sanskrit Literature is intended to bring out all the gems that lie buried there for the benefit of humankind. With this end in view, this Gurukula endeavours to produce profound Sanskrit scholars. The Snatakas— the graduates—undertake research work in the field of Sanskrit literature and immense good is bound to result in the long run.

The study of western sciences is not neglected here. Side by side with the study of Vedic philosophy and eastern philo­sophical schools, western sciences too are taught. Endeavours are being made to impart technical education also.

If the Brahmacharis can advance the cause of in­dustries and agriculture in India, the Gurukula will render yeoman’s service to the cause of India. Glorious indeed would be the day when from Kangri the Brahmacharis will proceed to Europe carrying there the torch of the Hindu civilisation. 

A Happy Home

The pleasant daily routine of the Brahmacharis, the performance of the Sandhya and Bhojana in the serenity of the Gurukula gardens and the calming scenery all around, the cheerful faces of the Brahmacharis, the indefatigable energy and dedication of the selfless teachers, a lively conversation with Professor Rama and Munshi Ram and the entire earnest band of workers are assets of the human society of all nations. 


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