It was a cold and dark winter evening when I arrived at Gurukula Kalwa in the company of His Holiness Swami Jagdishwarananda. The day was Makar Sankranti, January 14, 1977 – 46 years ago. I was admitted by Acharya Baldev to commence a 3-year course in advanced Sanskrit Grammar called Ashtadhyayi. I was 24 years old then and very excited when I arrived, because during all my youthful years, while being brought up in the Arya Samaj, I used to hear of the many accomplished scholars who had studied in Gurukula in India, and I so wanted to emulate them in understanding and interpreting Vedas and allied Sanskrit texts. As I entered the main entrance gate that evening, I saw banana trees in and around and I thought it was going to be an exciting experience. Acharya Baldev ji and the 15 Grammar students welcomed me and Swamiji and showed us great hospitality.
When I woke up the next morning, I was kinda shocked. The Gurukula was made up of one single main building with three other small buildings. The teacher and students lived in the main building, the kitchen was housed in one small thatched-roof shed-like room and the other small concrete building housed grass and other feed for the cows. The Gurukula compound (of a little more than an acre of land) stood amid several acres of wheat fields. I looked around and surveyed the Gurukula land and buildings and I couldn’t come to grips with what I saw. I immediately felt that I should not have left Guyana. I wanted to cry because I had left family, friends, and a graduate teaching job to proceed to India.
My sadness, however, did not last for long when I grasped the depth of Grammar learning that Acharya was offering. The curriculum was made up of three levels of study. I very quickly completed the first level because, based on high school Latin study in Guyana, I had, on my own, already studied Antoine’s two thorough texts on Sanskrit Grammar. I felt that I was now comfortable in analyzing the language of Mahabharata and Valmiki Ramayana based on that first level of Gurukula study.
The lifestyle in Gurukula was severe and austere and the immediate surrounding environment was somewhat primitive, even though naturally beautiful. The food was “roti and daal” twice a day, every day, balanced with a little less than a half pint of cow’s milk. I was somewhat fat in January 1977. I lost a lot of weight in between and became slim when I was ready to graduate at the end of three years. Today, 46 years after January 14, 1977, I express gratitude – to my parents, siblings, Guyana Aryas, Acharya Baldevji, and fellow students, to the Gurukula Kalwa compound, and to the accomplished scholars who came to visit intermittently. Had I not gone to Gurukula then to study that ancient curriculum, I would not have been able to do the little that I am currently doing. Yes, I am indeed thankful…….
DR SATISH PRAKASH