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Back to gurukul
Walkeshwar, the bling capital of Mumbai where kitty parties are held over vegetarian sushi and Louis Vuittons, is also home to a school that is hoping to revive the ancient gurukul system of education. Little boys balancing red pagdis on their head and girls draped in chaniya cholis seem dressed for a folk dance show at Gurukulum, where the medium of instruction is Gujarati and the curriculum is driven by Jain scriptures.
Most students, says the school manager, are from wealthy families (mostly diamond traders) which are disillusioned with the mainstream education system that pays little heed to sanskar (traditions). The school only takes on children between 5 and 12;thereafter they have to cope with the demands of mainstream institutions.
Here, students eat satvik (pure) food, refrain from using electricity, are forbidden from watching television and are advised to keep away from newspapers. "May trucks and buses be gone, may electricity never be born, " is one of the nursery rhymes chanted by the youngest batch.
Contrary to tradition, Gurukulum is not a residential school. But there is no fixed fee structure here either - parents donate, often upto Rs 10, 000 - and the syllabus is focused on equipping students with life skills.
Vedic Math, Jain theology, English, Sanskrit, Yoga and Bharatnatyam are taught to the 40 students enrolled in the school across four 'grades' or classes. These grades are: Jayna (non-violence ), Vivek (intelligence), Vinay (respect) and Siddhanth (principle).
Apart from the full-time teachers at Gurukulam, Jain monks too are invited as guest lecturers. "Apart from preserving our culture, the school also plays a role in preserving the Sanskrit language. Our students have bagged awards for Sanskrit at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, " says teacher Vinodbhai.
When the school bell rings to mark the end of another day at Gurukulum, the children are transported back to the 21st century.
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