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Time travel: In the Guru-cool life, past meets the future

At the Mata Mansa Devi Sanskrit Gurukul in Manimajra, life moves in two spheres of time; and manners are a constant.

punjab Updated: Dec 23, 2017 19:23 IST
Aastha Sharma
Aastha Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
It begins at 4 am — without fail — and the 70-odd students are ready by 5 am.
It begins at 4 am — without fail — and the 70-odd students are ready by 5 am. (Anil Dayal/HT)

Namo narayan! Aap jal lenge ya chai (Will you have water or tea)?” This is how one is warmly greeted on entering Mata Mansa Devi Sanskrit Gurukul in Manimajra, Chandigarh. Along the corridors, there are students as young as 10 chanting mantras, practising yoga, cooking, and chatting away in Sanskrit.

They love playing cricket but get only an hour or so for it. (Anil Dayal/HT)

How the day pans out

A day in the life of a student here isn’t easy. It begins at 4 am — without fail — and the 70-odd students are ready by 5 am, when the morning prayers to the Sun God begin. This is followed by more prayers in the form of havan and aarti and then a saatvik breakfast.

The 9-9.30 period is for self study after which school begins. Classes go on till 12.30 pm. Students are taught Hindi, English and Sanskrit along with the four vedas (Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, Sama Veda and Yajur Veda), religious texts revered in Hinduism; and astrology.

A simple lunch, to which students carry their utensils, after 12.30 pm is followed by classes on general knowledge and current affairs from 2.15. School is over by 4 pm.

This is the time the students rush to what is unequivocally their favourite pastime — playing cricket. But, they only get one hour! The 5-6pm period is again for prayers, followed by meditation. Dinner at 8.30pm. Lights out at 10.

Know relevance

“In today’s day and age, discipline like what is followed here is of extreme importance. We teach the importance of respecting the guru, parents and women.

Crimes such as rape cannot be contained by policing alone. You can deal with them with ‘sanskaar’ — we try to make sure our students imbibe the right values,” said acharya Pradeep Kumar Pathak. The non-profit institute, which works on donations, gets students on word-of-mouth basis.

Brahmin boys only

All the students at this boys’ school have to be from the Brahmin caste and have to give an entrance exam which tests their basic math skills, GK and writing skills. No one is rejected, and if a student is found unfit for admission his name goes on the wait list. He is told to work on his basic skills and come back next year. They receive 30-35 admission requests every year. Parents come over “when necessary” and the students get holidays on all “Indian festivals” — Holi, Diwali, Chhat Puja, Republic Day, Independence Day, among others.

Yes, they have Facebook accounts. (Anil Dayal/HT)

What’s ahead

In today’s day and age, where fluency in English seems to have become a basic prerequisite for success, how do students whose primary language here is Sanskrit manage in the outside world? Acharya Swami Prasad Mishra, founder of the institute, insists the students have a bright future, with many going on to become teachers, professors and priests. They have the option of joining the army.

The institute, which was started in 2002 in Industrial Area with nine students, moved to its present location in 2016. It is affiliated to Sampurnanand Sankrit Vishwavidyalaya, Varanasi.

So what is the basic difference between a school and a gurukul? “Manners,” says 14-year-old Sanchit who joined the gurukul three months ago. He was earlier studying in a ‘conventional’ CBSE school. “We were taught there, and are taught here too. The difference is manners — everyone here is nice. It wasn’t the case with my earlier school.”

Facebook rules

A slightly unexpected revelation is the kids’ fondness for social media. Do they have Facebook accounts? “Arey, they know so much more about all this than us!” exclaims Pradeep Pathak. “But we try to make sure that they don’t use social media too much.”