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Gita class: Morals for main course, shlokas for desserts

HT takes first sneak peek into Gita textbooks to be taught in schools in Madhya Pradesh from this year, reads fine print. Shahroz Afridi reports. Poll: Is teaching Gita in schools justified?

bhopal Updated: Jan 09, 2012 20:03 IST
Shahroz Afridi
Shahroz Afridi
Hindustan Times

After the uproar came a round of quiet nods from concerned departments. And now, as the Madhya Pradesh government is all set to introduce the teachings of Gita in schools, HT last week accessed the chapters on Gita to be taught in the next academic session.

While the chapters seem like normal moral science lessons, each chapter ends with a shloka from Gita.

And here is the fine print: the class teacher is instructed to supplement the lesson by reciting more shlokas from Gita, which leaves a huge scope for oral improvisation in the classroom beyond the printed word.

"Shikshak Gita mein aaye anya pariyavaran se sambandhit shlokon ko bhi bachcho ko batlaye (Teacher may teach students other shlokas from Gita related to environment)," reads a footnote of a chapter on environment in the book meant for Class 1 students.

The syllabus committee of school education department has prepared short chapters to be included in the school Hindi books from Class 1 to 10. Class 10 onwards, students will learn from essays on Gita by Mahatma Gandhi and Vinobha Bhave.

Here are some excerpts from the Gita lessons:

Classes 1-3: Two children Amit and Anurag were playing football when they saw their grandfather bring some mango saplings. When they were told to plant the saplings they said these would yield fruits much later, why should we do it? Grandfather explained that the mangoes you we eating today were planted by my father. The saplings that you sow would benefit another generation. Gita teaches the same. The chapter ends with the short phrase from Gita: "Karya karma samaachar."

Class 4: There is a chapter, 'Sewa bhav' (helping nature/altruism). Vijay helps everybody around, including birds and animals. When his grandfather asks him why he does do, he replies that Gita teaches that all living beings should be looked upon with same feelings. Later when Vijay sees a withered plant he arranges for a bucket and waters the plant. A passerby observes him doing this and asks him why is he watering the plants? Vijay replies that he has learnt from Gita that all living beings are embodiment of God. It ends with the shloka, "Vidy·-vinaya-sampanne/ Br·hmane gavi hastini/ Suni caiva ·va-p·ke ca/ Pandit· sama-dar·ina (the humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater)."

Class 5: This is a compilation of three inspirational stories as one chapter. First story speaks about caring parents. Second talks about the intention of deeds linking it to Surya Namaskar. Third story talks about philosopher Socrates' death, and gives the message that the soul never dies, only the body does. The parting shloka: "Jatashya hi dhruvo mrityu" (once you are born, death is certain).

Class 6: The Gita will be in autobiographical form, explaining its philosophy and stories within. It talks about the Mahabharata. It informs that Gita has 18 chapters and 700 shlokas. Exercise for students include a quote by Gandhi saying "My mother is no jeopardy I always fall back on the Gita ("Gita mata") to get guidance."

Class 7: There is a two-act play, 'Kartavya palan' or dutifulness. The first act shows a scene from a classroom where the teacher tells the students they would be playing a drama on Arjun and Krishna dialogues in Mahabharata. The second act depicts the scene and dialogue between Krishna and Arjun, where Arjun is in dilemma and Krishna directs him to fight for a good cause. The drama is woven with several shlokas.

Class 8: The chapter 'Gita ka marm' (gist of Gita) narrates a story of King Anandpal who wants to understand the holy book. An announcement is made and many learned people attempt to explain the Gita to the King. After several attempts, the king realises that he was ultimately fooling himself. The chapter gives message that one should not only read Gita oneself but also imbibe its teachings in one's life.

Poll: Is teaching Gita in schools justified?

First Published: Jan 09, 2012 14:58 IST