Veda Pathshala: Preserving the Vedic Gurukul System

The Veda Center of Trivandrum

Flower instalation from small colored rocks on vedic festival 'Vedalife'


Fiorelynn / Getty Images

The Guru-Shishya Parampara or the Guru-Disciple tradition is India’s most ancient system of education that has prevailed since Vedic times, when students from faraway places would come to live in a Guru’s hermitage or ashram to acquire the knowledge of the Vedas and get trained traditionally in various disciplines including art, music, and dance. This came to be known as the Gurukul system of learning which literally means “learning while living with the Guru in his ashram.”

Preserving the Ancient Gurukul System

In modern times, this dwindling tradition is being preserved by a handful of institutions in India today. Among them is the Sree Seetharam Anjeneya Kendra (SSAK) Vedic Center in the southern Indian city of Trivandrum or Thiruvananthapuram. It is a recherché Pathshala (Sanskrit for ‘school’) where the primary scriptures of Hinduism – the Vedas are taught systematically under the pedagogic principles of the age-old Gurukul system of education.

A Vedic Center of Education

The Veda Kendra (Sanskrit for ‘center’) was established in 1982 by the Sree Ramasarma Charitable Trust, and is lodged in an archetype building which resonates with Vedic chants and ‘sutras.’ The main purpose of the Center is to preserve and propagate the value of Vedas to the present and coming generation. The language of instruction is Sanskrit and the students' converse in both Hindi and Sanskrit. English and Math are taught optionally and the students are given lessons in Yoga to enhance concentration and attain equanimity of mind.

Imparting the Knowledge of the Rig & Atharva Vedas

Admission to the Pathshala is based on a basic aptitude test conducted by the scholars of the Kendra as elementary knowledge of Vedas is imperative. The students here come from different parts of India to study the Rig Veda and Atharva Veda under the tutelage of Vedic scholars. The minimum period of study for the comprehensive completion of Rig and Atharva Veda is eight years, and there are periodic exams to gauge the progress of the pupils.

The Vedic Code of Conduct

Every day, the classes start at 5 o'clock in the morning and students go through a rigorous and punctilious training in the Vedas imbibing the moral philosophy and etiquette embedded in the holy scriptures. The Pathshala has a strict code of conduct for food and dress. Only sattvic food as prescribed in scriptures is served and modern entertainment is forbidden. The students are given a religious tonsure and they sport a kudumbhi (holy pony-tail) and wear a yellow dhoti. Apart from studies, students are given time for sports and recreation, and the bedtime is 9.30 PM. Tuition, food, clothing and medical care are given free of charge by the Pathshala.

Spreading the Word of the Vedas

Apart from teaching the Vedas, the Pathshala engages in numerous activities to spread the message of the Vedas in the modern world. The center grants bursaries to upcoming Vedic scholars and has a constant coordination with like-minded Vedic Institutes and organizations in India.

The kendra conducts seminars and symposiums regularly to impart Vedic knowledge to common man. The center is also involved in humanitarian work to uphold the interests of the impoverished and the diseased. In the future, the authorities of the kendra would like to see the Pathshala upgraded to a unique Vedic University.