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Lessons from the Gurukul System


This blog has been contributed by Guest Blogger, Sumedha Singh.

I have no memory of my grandfather. He wasn’t around when I was growing up but over the years, I have got glimpses of his life from stories shared by my dad. One facet of his life that always had me in rapt attention was his education. He was educated in a traditional gurukul system as was the practice in those times.

In the gurukul system, for about 12 years a student stayed with the guru (or teacher) away from home (and distractions), living frugally and focusing on the development of mind, body and soul. This Sanskrit verse aptly sums up what a student endeavored to achieve in a gurukul:

“Kak chesta, bako dhyanam, shwan nidra tathaiva cha.

Alphari, grih tyagi, vidyarthi panch lakshanam.”

  1. Perseverance of a crow
  2. Concentration of a swan
  3. Light sleeper like a dog
  4. Light eater
  5. Staying away from home

Times have changed and so has our education system. And in today’s context, the traditional gurukul system may not seem practical or even feasible. But this ancient and successful model of education can teach us some valuable lessons. Here are six:

Learning mainly through hearing: Although writing and reading was available, learning from hearing was considered more effective as it aided development of cognition (the capacity to grasp, be alert, attentive and understand), intelligence and strong memory.  Hearing, chanting and memorizing played a major part in learning. Teachings were internalized through dialogue and self-study, all under the guidance of the guru.

Teaching by example: The guru or teacher was the role model in a student’s life. A person of high moral, spirituality, the guru taught through example and maintained discipline in the gurukul through his persona. He led an honest disciplined life, setting the right example for students and teaching not just science, arts, reading and writing but a way of life.

Tailor-made courses: Courses were tailor-made and students could complete the program according to their grasping abilities. No averaging out as in the case of modern day education system.

Practical education: Students were expected to help with daily chores meant to make the students self-dependent. Physical fitness was ensured through the practice of yoga. Independence and discipline was instilled early on.

Frugal living: Unlike modern day materialism, the gurukul system propagated simple living. These habits acquired in childhood remained throughout life.

In harmony with nature: Co-existence with nature was a prevalent theme in the gurukul system. Students lived and learnt in natural surroundings and were in close contact with nature, appreciating and understanding nature’s delicate balance.

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ParentEdge is a bi-monthly magazine for discerning Indian parents who would like to actively contribute to their children’s education, intellectual enrichment and stimulation. The magazine’s premise is that learning is a continuous process, and needs to happen both in and outside of school; thus parents have an important role to play in shaping their children’s interests and intellect.


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