What happens when you marry traditional Bharateeya shastric education with digital technology? …………… Answer: A cloud-based Gurukulam! Agastya Gurukulam, in pursuit of its vision of decolonized Indic education, presents the world’s first online Samskritam-immersion school. Through this Gurukulam, Agastya will attempt to revive the traditional Bharateeya method of education that flourished across India until it was completely extinguished by Macaulay.

This begs the question: how do you revive a social or cultural practice that is extinct? Secular Bharateeya education no longer survives in practice. Hence there is only an incomplete body of knowledge available on the curriculum and the teaching methods of the traditional system. Agastya Gurukulam plans to revive this based on research into written records, where available, but where gaps exist in the records, these will be filled in with modern syllabus and teaching techniques.

The traditional philosophy of education was quite different from the modern view. The sequence of teaching began with memorization-centric instruction for the first few years, followed by logic-centric education in the second phase and a rhetoric level of education that focused on research and self-expression. This traditional sequence of progression will be followed in the gurukulam, which will include both primary and middle school.

Besides the actual formal teaching itself, traditional dinacharya was a very important feature of life in a gurukulam. As this is a virtual gurukulam, parents play a very important role in ensuring that the traditional gurukulam discipline and dinacharya are maintained at home. This includes waking up early, completing the morning bath and panchamahayagnas prior to the start of class everyday. The school day will start with the study and practice of Yoga, and continue into the other subjects. Movie- or television-watching are limited to those with gurukulam-appropriate content for children to watch. Bharateeya festivals will also be celebrated as a community at the gurukulam.

All classes will be held online, with planned biannual camps (when the pandemic situation permits) to augment the school experience. A three-language formula will be followed, whereby each student will learn Samskritam as the first language, a second Bharateeya language (native tongue where possible) and English. Besides Maths, Social studies and Science, Bharateeya samskriti will be taught both informally and formally.

The gurukulam will attempt to teach Bharateeya history without distortion by the colonial lens, emphasizing the unbroken continuum of Bharateeya civilization and culture that go back at least 11,000 years. In Geography, students will study the Integral unity of Bharata. Religious festivals and seasonal events that take on different names and practices in different parts, like Panchayatan, will be studied. The medium of instruction for social studies will be Samskritam.

Indian mathematics travelled to Arabia and eventually ended up with a lag of a few centuries and some information loss in transit, in Europe – which finally gave rise to the mathematical teaching currently followed by schools. The Gurukulam plans to teach Mathematics using those very original Shastric texts – Lilavati, Aryabhatiyam and works of BrahmaGupta. The specialty of these sources is that they teach applied mathematics rather than dry theory. They also provide multiple ways of solving a problem at every operation. Mathematics will be taught bilingually (Samskritam and English).

Students will be taught speaking, writing and reading Samskritam. Simultaneously, children will have Shastra based teaching of the Amarakosha, Ashtadhyayi, Dhatu Pata, Sabda and Dhatu forms. The children are eventually expected to be fluent enough to read and understand works like the Ramayana, Bhagavadgita and so on. Elective subjects such as chess, programming, music, dance, Jyotisha, Ayurveda may be offered at appropriate levels when logistics permit.

The Gurukulam’s lofty goal is to make children fluent enough in Samskritam and its literature, that the entire treasure trove of Bharateeya knowledge is accessible to them. Through rigorous study of both Shastric works and modern subjects, and firm mooring in dharmic values, it hopes to nurture the thought leaders of the future.

An information session on the Gurukulam is planned for Friday, August 28 evening (US time) and Saturday morning IST. To find out more, go to: https://sites.google.com/view/agastyagurukulam/

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.