Nov 22 2012
Pune Ved Pathshala, popularly known as Ved Bhavan, is a 65-year-old institution of Brahmin orthodoxy and learning that does not seek any fee from students and divulges its ancient way of imparting Vedas
Dhupkar, who joined at the tender age of 10, is one of the present 15 sishyas in the age group of 10-25, who follow this daily routine at Pune Ved Pathshala, a school of traditional learning, popularly known as Ved Bhavan in Pune, the seat of Brahmin orthodoxy and their learning centre. “Milking the cow is as important as learning the ancient Vedas in Sanskrit,” Vedacharya Moreshwar Vinayak Bhatt Ghaisas, head of the prestigious Ved Bhavan told FC Roar. “I am proud to say that we are the only institution in this country following the age-old ancient gurukula system, religiously following the ‘guru-sishya parampara’ (a teacher-disciple lineage) of imparting education in Vedas in every sense of the term and Vedic values,” he says. “If I want to admit an extra student, I have to seek permission from my wife, who personally cooks and serves the meal herself to all 15 boys as her own sons and six members of my family,” the 57-year-old bearded Ghaisas, says. He was inducted into the gurukula system at 10 by his own late father, well-known Vedacharya Vinayak Hari Ghaisas, who started the gurukula system in 1945 and left the legacy in the hands of his devoted son.
Following the ancient gurukula system of guru-sishya parampara of imparting knowledge and teaching of the Vedas, the 65-year-old institution trains students in Rig Veda in Sanskrit for 12 years before ordaining them as Ved-Vaidyiks (full-fledged priests), also known as Sanathan Vedic dharmagurus. The students are required to appear for an exam conducted by Pune-based Vedashastra Uttejak Sabha. “As Ved-Vaidyik, they are revered as full-pledged priests and are in great demand to perform various religious rites and rituals and yagnas,” Ghaisas, member of the Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan, says proudly. There are about 2,000-odd Ved Pathshalas across the country and about 300 of them receive a grant of Rs 1-2 lakh from Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan under HRD ministry to supports various vedic schools and scholars.
“But ours is a gurukula system in its pure form. We do not seek nor charge any fees to our students. So, there is no difference between poor and rich students. But only those students capable of rigorous training and learning are admitted,” Ghaisas says. With such pure intention to churn out Hindu priests well-versed in Vedas through the ancient path, providence has been taking care of the expenses incurred at Ved Bhavan, as it were. Ghaisas, whom everybody reveres as Guruji, says it is his duty, dharma to teach Vedas as handed down in ancient India like when Lord Rama was sent to learn Vedas to Brahmrishi Vashistha Ashram and Lord Krishna and Sudama to Sandipani Muni Ashram. “This is not an educational business like some universities and colleges. This is a selfless service,” Ghaisas says. According to him, it is an attempt to preserve the gurukula system in its pure form and promote its values. “This is God’s work. We neither seek nor ask for donations. But our experience is that God has been sending benefactors to us,” Ghaisas smiles.
Last month, for instance, he said a family who visited Ved Bhavan were so impressed with its way of imparting Vedas and ordaining priests that the man simply wrote out a cheque for Rs 51,000. Another family came in quietly and also handed over a cheque of Rs 60,000. “An old lady, who had saved money, had left a written note that part of her money should be donated to Ved Bhavan after her death,” Ghaisas says. Some eight years ago, a man from Mumbai sent in a cheque for Rs 1 lakh after he read an article in a Marathi paper and recently, a woman from Shrirampur taluka in Maharashra also sent Rs 10,000 by post, he said.
Situated at the sylvan surroundings at the end of Kothrud suburb of Pune, the two-acre donated campus built free of cost, comes alive with young Brahmin boys in spotless white dhoties with tonsured heads chanting the mantras. The students spend a total of 12 years mastering and learning by heart 10,552 mantras of Rig Veda and Dashgranthas, including Rig Veda Samhita, Aitareya Bhrahmana, Vedanga, Shikshachatushataya, Ashtadhyayee, Nairukta Shrauta, Griha Sutras and the complete Upanishadas, Padhpath, Kramapath, Jethapath, and Ghanapath by heart. “It takes about four-and-half-year to learn to memorise these mantras to be recited at over 1,000 yagnas for various occasions. For ceremonies such as birth, death and marriage, the duration of the mantras is hardly 10 minutes whereas various types of yagnas are performed for eight days to 16 months,” Ghaisas says. He says about five years ago, a full 16 month Yagna was performed at Gangakhel village in Marathawada region in Maharashtra.
Admission to Ved Bhavan begins early in life. Brahmin boys, who complete their class IV at around 10, are presented for admission but only those passing an aptitude test make it. “We accept students in April and for three months, we teach them Sanskrit and test them on their aptitude, their competence and general orientation. Those who are not fit are sent back,” Ghaisas says. Not all admitted make it till the end. “On an average, we have about 90 per cent success rate,” Ghaisas says, pointing out that the course is only for the intelligent and not for drop outs. Ved Bhavan till date has successfully trained over 1,000 as Ved–Vaidyiks.
“I have completed 11 years mastering the Rig Veda and one more year is left for me to master the remaining Kramapath, Jethapath, and Ghanapath,” vivacious Dhupkar, hailing from Kuda village in Sidhudurg in Konkan region of Maharashtra, says. “This is not a career for us but service of God and society, who need knowledgeable priests,” he says. Interestingly, Ghaisas is also training his own son, Vishveshar, to follow in his footsteps. “I have never forced my son to become a Ved–Vaidyik nor is my intention to promote Ved Bhavan as family fiefdom,” he stresses. God will decide who will take my place, he says.
“I had read about the gurukula system of education only in books but after I married my husband, I am living every bit of it,” Aishwarya, 48, says. She has her mother-in-law and a helper to assist her cook delicious vegetarian satvik meals for the boys. “When it is a seva (service), you don’t feel it a burden,” she says.
“Ours is not a mass training institute but imparting one-on-one personal education and training which takes time,” Ghaisas says.