Gurukul Kangri Vishwa-vidyalaya is situated in the holy town of Haridwar, on the banks of Maa Ganga. That itself is a source of uniqueness and pride. Equally proud is its association with Swami Shraddhananda, a great freedom fighter and social reformer in the pre-1947 era, and one who was inspired by Swami Dayananda Saraswati to promote the ideals of Swabhasha, Swadharma and Swadesh. Before he took sanyas, he was known as Mahatma Munshiram, about whom Gandhiji himself said, “If anybody called me Mahatma, I would think that it is a case of mistaken identity. The true Mahatma is Munshiramji.”
Indeed, there is no other university in India that received such strong blessings and regular personal attention from Gandhiji as the Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya. Recently, Prof. Swatantra Kumar sent me two books about your university. One of them, which is quite bulky, is devoted solely to Mahatma Gandhi’s association with your Gurukul.
Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Gurukul Kangri
The second book, titled Deekshalok, is a collection of the convocation addresses by eminent personalities who visited the Gurukul since its inception more than a hundred years ago. For amongst the eminent personalities who came here was Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who delivered the convocation address in 1943. He was the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951. I started my political life as an activist of this party, which merged into the Janata Party in 1977 in the aftermath of the successful struggle against the Emergency Rule and was reborn, after the fall of the Janata Government, as the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980.
Dr. Mookerjee, who was known as the “Lion of Bengal”, was an outstanding leader. A great freedom fighter, an able minister in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s first government after Independence, a widely respected opposition leader after he resigned from the government, and by far the best parliamentarian of his time, he was all this and more. He was also one of the greatest educationists and vice chancellors of his time. Son of Ashutosh Mookerjee, himself a highly revered educationist in Bengal, he became the Vice Chancellor of the prestigious Calcutta University when he was only 33 years old. Let me quote a few lines from Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s convocation address at your university.
“We are not unhappy with the fact that (during the British rule) the doors of western education were opened for Indians. What distresses us is the fact that this education is being imparted to us by suppressing India’s rich heritage of culture and knowledge…We should cultivate in the hearts of young Indians such strong pride and such deep awareness about our national heritage that makes them rise above the barriers of caste and community.”
Dr. Mookerjee complimented the Gurukul “for demonstrating that in our country it is possible to create a proper balance between the fundamental aspects of the Indian civilization and the needs of the scientific and technological era.” Dr. Mookerjee’s words show that our great leaders were never against modernity and scientific and technological progress. However, what they stressed as an ideal was modernity with an Indian personality, and not imported and supplanted from outside.
Need to protect and promote Sanskrit, Hindi and Indian languages
Gurukul Kangri Vishwa-vidyalaya is one of the few universities in India that was not only founded to promote education through Hindi and Sanskrit, but has kept that tradition alive even today. I am not against English, and I do not think that any Indian should oppose English for the sake of it. After all, it is the repository of immense knowledge from the modern era. Over the years, it has become as much a language of Indians as it is a language of Britishers or Americans. Nevertheless, I believe that Angrezi and Angreziat are two different things. Angreziat connotes a sense of superiority complex, which, unfortunately, has survived in India long after the British rule ended in our country...
When we talk of India’s national heritage, we must remember that our linguistic diversity is a very rich part of this heritage. Each of the Indian languages has a precious treasure of knowledge, cultural and artistic wealth, folk memory and spiritual enlightenment. Unfortunately, one of the ill-effects of globalisation has been the neglect of Sanskrit, Hindi and other Indian languages. This is especially true about university and college education, but is now rapidly spreading in secondary and primary education, too. This neglect must be arrested and reversed.
I strongly believe that education is an important field where our nation’s ability to face present and future challenges is going to be tested.
The question that naturally arises is: What kind of educational development will enable India to successfully face the challenges of today and tomorrow? I believe that it has to be an Indian model, rooted strongly in the Indian soil, based on Indian’s needs, and guided by India’s integral view of life.
I am not an educationist. Indeed, I welcome ideals and suggestions from the teachers and administrators of institutions like yours on what kind of educational reforms we should implement, if the people give us a mandate to govern the country in the next parliamentary elections. Here I only wish to present a few broad thoughts on the subject.
The first and most important feature of this model is to develop a strong sense of patriotism among students of all backgrounds. Our students should have sufficient knowledge of such basic aspects of our national history, society, culture, way of life, our national heroes, our achievements in the past and present, and future goals as will make them proud to be Indians. National pride and awareness of national unity alone can help our people transcend the various diversities, which otherwise can become sources of divisiveness.
The Indian model of education should help students develop an all-round human personality. There is a need to provide high-quality education for all in diverse streams of academic knowledge and skills, combined with values, morals and sanskaras. Academic knowledge can help a person earn a livelihood. But it is the inner development of personality that alone can help him learn how to live life. That is what forms the basis of Indian education, and particularly the traditional Gurukul system.
We cannot perhaps revive and recreate the external aspects of the Gurukul system in today’s times, but its core is equally relevant even today. We should enhance the prestige and social status of a teacher to that of a “Guru”, because a teacher cannot merely be a purveyor of information or book-based knowledge. He or she should be in a position to impart wisdom, teaching students how to live life, inculcating in them a sense of right and wrong, and stimulating in them varied interests in the wonders of the world. It goes without saying that teachers’ own continuous training and retraining has to receive priority attention.
Far too often, we rely on alien methods of education in India. It is necessary to revive Indian systems of learning and teaching. As we know, many great minds have worked on this subject in ancient as well as modern times. For example, Mother of the Aurobindo Ashram has identified five principal components of education and also evolved appropriate ways of developing them among students:
- (1) Development of the power of concentration and the capacity of attention;
- (2) Development of the capacities of expansion, widening, complexity and richness;
- (3) Organisation of one’s ideas around a central idea, or a higher ideal that will serve as a guide in life;
- (4) Thought-control, rejection of undesirable thoughts, and the ability to think only what one wants and when one wants;
- (5) Development of mental silence, perfect calm and a more and more total receptivity to inspirations coming from the higher regions of the being.
It will be seen from this that Indian educationists have delved into the deeper potential of the human mind and how to actualise it through education. The present education system is aimed at developing a very small part of the mental potential of students. This is because of the one-sided emphasis on the fulfillment of the material needs of human beings. If this imbalance is removed, and more and more people are empowered through proper education to develop the hidden powers of their minds and hearts, we can indeed hope to see a qualitatively superior kind of social progress in the future. And this is what our seers like Swami Dayananda, Swami Shraddhananda, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Maharshi Aurobindo and others had attempted.
The Gurukul Kangri University was born out of this Indian vision of education—to support the all-round development of the nation as well as the individual. Students who have graduated this year, and who received their degree certificates today, should be proud that they studied in such a great institution. They must try to attain excellence in their future studies and professional life, for that is what will bring recognition, success and satisfaction to you. However, they should also strive to live by the ideals and sanskaras that they imbibed while learning and living in the Gurukul. (Excerpts from the speech at Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya Convocation in Haridwar on June 7, 2008. The author is Leader of the Opposition, Lok Sabha.)