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A gurukula or gurukulam (Sanskrit: गुरुकुल, romanized: gurukula) is a type of education system in ancient India with shishya ('students' or 'disciples') living near or with the guru, in the same house. The guru-shishya tradition is a sacred one in Hinduism and appears in other religious groups in India, such as Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. The word gurukula is a combination of the Sanskrit words guru ('teacher' or 'master') and kula ('family' or 'home'). Before the arrival of British rule, they served as South Asia's primary educational system. The term is also used today to refer to residential monasteries or schools operated by modern gurus. The proper plural of the term is gurukulam, though gurukulas and gurukuls are also used in English and some other Western languages.
The students learn from the guru and help the guru in his everyday life, including carrying out of mundane daily household chores. However, some scholars suggest that the activities are not mundane and very essential part of the education to inculcate self-discipline among students. Typically, a guru does not receive or accept any fees from the shishya studying with him as the relationship between a guru and the shishya is considered very sacred.
At the end of one's education, a shishya offers the guru dakshina before leaving the gurukula. The gurudakshina is a traditional gesture of acknowledgment, respect and thanks to the guru, which may be monetary, but may also be a special task the teacher wants the student to accomplish. While living in a gurukula, the students would be away from their home from a period of months to years at a stretch.
The gurukula system of education has been in existence since ancient times. The Upanishads mention multiple gurukulam, including that of guru Drona at Gurgaon. The Bhrigu Valli (a discourse on the Brahman) is said to have taken place in Guru Varuni's gurukula. The vedic school of thought prescribes the gurukula (sacred rite of passage) to all individuals before the age of 8 at least by 12. From initiation until the age of 25 all individuals are prescribed to be students and to remain unmarried, a celibate.
Gurukulam were supported by public donations. This was followed by the many following Vedic thoughts making gurukula one of the earliest forms of public school centres.
Revival of the gurukula system
By the colonial era, the gurukula system was on a steep decline in India. Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj and Swami Shraddhanand, were the pioneers of the modern gurukula system, who in 1886 founded now-widespread Dayanand Anglo-Vedic Public Schools and Universities.
In 1948, Shastriji Maharaj Shree Dharamjivan das Swami followed suit and initiated first Swaminarayan gurukula in Rajkot in Gujarat state of India. Recently, several gurukulam have opened up in India as well as overseas with a desire to uphold tradition.
Various gurukulas still exist in India, and researchers have been studying the effectiveness of the system through those institutions. With the advent of new means of mass communication, many gurus and Vedantic scholars are opening E-Gurukula. These gurukulas are operating online and are now imparting knowledge about different Hindu scriptures using the internet. Most of these gurukulas are breaking traditional bounds by allowing women to get access to knowledge about the scriptures and Vedas.
Out of India
The Gurukulam system of education is available outside of India as well. They are known as Gurukula.
Children participate in this Gurukula during holiday times at the traditional schools, for a week in October / November, 2 weeks during Easter break, and 1 month during summer break.
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