Tracing Our Roots Through An E-Pathshala: An Online Course In Indic Wisdom
Abhinava e-Patashala aims to impart the knowledge of India’s cultural and spiritual heritage through epics and vedas to enthusiasts in the comfort of their living rooms across the world.
While e-learning may have become the norm today with the coronavirus pandemic changing the way the world lives, learns and earns, staying indoors and acquiring new knowledge was anyway what characterised most of the monsoon months for those on the traditional path of learning and seeking.
For movement was anyway difficult and the weather not conducive for adventurous pursuits other than farm work. That being so, online courses seem to be the modern and democratic rendering of specialised gurukula education, where the teachers are almost in a one-on-one interaction, sans a monitor of course, with students who chose to learn from specific teachers and specialists, their chosen path of knowing.
E-gurukulas one can call these niche systems of catering to knowledge pursuit, especially the ones that are offering an opportunity to access that which was earlier available only to a privileged or chosen few.
One such unique pathshala is the one launched by orator, upanyasakara and entreprenuer Dushyant Sridhar, who through his Abhinava e-Patashala aims to offer those who seek to know of our invaluable cultural and spiritual heritage that nests in our epics and the vedas — a chance to do so from the comfort of their living rooms across the world.
In an interaction with Swarajya, Sridhar tells us of this unique initiative to dispense vedic knowledge virtually through courses titled the “Bharata Sara Bodhini” which in two levels seeks to ignite in students the thirst for the real essence of the wisdom that this land holds.
Talking about his initiative, Sridhar tells us about this modern day gurukula which breaks the stereotypical image of selective access to knowledge. Abhinava e-Patashala is an open e-school "to learn and appreciate the quintessence of our priceless vedic civilisation".
There are no qualifying tests or criteria to enroll at this school of vedic knowledge.
"It may not exactly mimic a guru-sishya style of teaching or learning because traditionally, the guru used to test the sishya, for him/her to be recruited into the pathshala. On the other hand, the sishya had the opportunity to serve the guru and get his/her doubts cleared during the class. Here, I am throwing open the pathshala to all sishyas (worldwide) with absolutely no discrimination on any basis," explains Sridhar.
This has seen the first batch find takers from across the world in no time. The first session of the first batch with 1,500 sishyas from 35 countries starts this weekend.
Categorised as Level 1, this will cover various topics from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, Sanskrit and Indian architecture over 20 sessions.
Level 2, which is scheduled for June 2021, will initiate students and offer a basic but in-depth understanding of huge range of topics that include vedas and vedangas, nyaya and mimansa, Indian astrology, Indian metallurgy, Indian astronomy, Indian biological sciences and classical music and dance among others.
Why did you think of offering such a virtual learning opportunity, and more importantly in English?
I have had the opportunity to learn vedanta under revered gurus. I am still learning. But going forward, if physical presence of the sishya is made mandatory by the guru, carrying forward our vedic scriptures will be tough.
Going virtual is the only way forward, in my humble opinion. Language is just one medium to convey the essence of any topic chosen. The content takes much more prominence than the language.
In the current world, the population interested in our vedic knowledge spans across continents. In my humble opinion, English is the best choice. Of course, in (my) our very own 'Indian accent'.
What role will accessing Indic wisdom play in strengthening the younger generations whose connect to their Indic roots is severed?
I wouldn't call it severed or damaged. I prefer calling it dormant. With the right content and a relatable way of delivering the content, I am sure igniting the spark to learn amongst the Indian audience (and the diaspora living abroad) is not a herculean task at all.
In my opinion, our schools of philosophy have always helped a sishya view the world with compassion and a lot of inclusivity. When a civilisation helps the sishya appreciate every other civilisation with awe and respect, what could be more timely?
Who is this course most suited to? Or who would you like to see enrolling for the course?
In my opinion, this course can be relished by sishyas across any age group. Nevertheless, I have urged the 'parents' population (who have school and university going children) and 'grandparents' to avail this course.
Because we need to equip the mid and senior age groups with the vedic knowledge to let that percolate to the younger lot.
Does one need to have any prior knowledge of either the scriptures or a grounding in Sanskrit?
A decent reading of the Ramayana, Mahabharata will help the sishya in appreciating subjects like 'analysis of Ramayana' and 'analysis of Mahabharata'. Other subjects may not require any pre-requisites. Knowledge in Sanskrit is not that necessary, but the zeal to appreciate Indian languages will come a long way in grasping the course content.
As for the overall outcome of these courses, Sridhar's intent is as noble as that of the sages and seers who passed the wisdom over hundreds of generations. "Upon completion of level-1, a sishya will realise that he/she is a 'proud bharatiya'. And if the sishya is already one, he/she will transform into a 'better Bharatiya'. While we keep talking about diversity, plurality, harmony and more, I feel this package is a good start to realising each of these adjectives," says Sridhar as he signs off.
The details about the course are available here - Abhinava ePatashala.
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