Heritage Society

Integrated Patasalas for holistic education

Students of Vaikhanasa Agama at the Avadi Patasala

Students of Vaikhanasa Agama at the Avadi Patasala  

This key initiative of the Kanchi Kamakoti Pitam is bridging streams

The Chennai camp of Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati vibrated with the elaborate pujas that the Acharya conducted, special yagams performed for global welfare, discourses and conferences. A regular visitor noticed batches of young people often congregating at Asthika Samajam to chant Veda mantras and offer their obeisance under the watchful eyes of their gurus. It was a sight to behold as young children sitting in rows chanting mantras during the Chandramouleeswarar puja. Also there were groups of young girls and boys playing the nagaswaram and thavil, under the baton of their teachers. Special days like Pradosham, Arudra and Mahasivaratri found these vidyartis at the camp showing their skills as the Acharya listened. The cool air of Dhanur Masa in the wee hours was filled with music and Tirumurai rendered by these children.

The vidyartis were from the integrated patasalas under the care of Sri Prathyaksha Charitable Trust, affiliated to Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Pitam. “The integrated system, where education is free, was conceived by the Pitam to enable a child pursue regular academics along with Vedic learning,” says Lakshmi Mandhata, coordinator and administrator for 16 such institutions situated in five States — Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Telengana, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Some of the main centres are Chennai, Bangalore, Tirupati, Karvetinagaram, Thandalam, Tiruttani, Hyderabad and Nasik.

Holistic education under the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) system, is imparted at these patasalas, which cover various aspects of Sanatana Dharma — Smartha, Pancharatra and Saiva Agama and so on. The Nagaswara Patasalas for boys and girls belonging to the Viswabrahmin community train students in mangalavadyam and allied instruments along with regular education, which includes English and computer skills. This is to empower them to find various jobs and also continue their hereditary art, which is linked to temples.

The students of the Avadi Vaikhanasa Patasala performing puja

The students of the Avadi Vaikhanasa Patasala performing puja  

 

A rare gem in this precious garland of Patasalas is the Vaikhanasa Agama Patasala, Vaikhanasa being one of the oldest ways — the other being Pancharatra — followed in Vishnu worship. With dwindling practitioners, the system needed a boost. Started in 2012, the Avadi campus of the Vaikhanasa Gurukula Patasala in Chennai is integrated with the Jaigopal Garodia School (CBSE). The boys learn Agama and other scriptures in the morning and join regular classes at school. It is back to the Gurukulam after school hours, where they perform their anushtanam and study under the supervision of two dedicated tutors. For practical experience, the Perumal temple in the neighbourhood has been adopted. The Gurukulam boys perform the pujas at the temple. It was the Patasala students, who conducted consecration of the temple last year. They are taken on visits to temples for field experience.

The syllabus adheres to the practices observed at the Tirumala temple, which follows the Vaikhanasa system. Examinations in Agama are conducted by senior pundits from Tirumala. “The students are well-equipped to perform all temple rituals, including Kalyana Utsavam,” informs Mandhata. Boys are admitted between classes four and six. After completing school and the Gurukulam education, a boy has the option to continue studies at the Kanchi University or serve at a temple. “Several boys have preferred to go to Divya Desam temples to serve as priests. Thus the integrated system addresses the issue of priests shortage in the village temples,” says Lakshmi.

The Gurukulam building on the Avadi campus, which boasts a strength of 72, has a neatly maintained dormitory and work stations for the boys. A niche for prayer and ablutions sports beautifully decorated vigrahas of Srinivasa and Thayar. The students can draw images and even fashion them. “The children leave for school, only after finishing puja here,” says the proud caretaker, a couple dedicated themselves to the task. An area of land has been set aside for floral plants and herbs. “It is important to learn about the wealth of medicinal plants, unique to this land. Education here creates an awareness of this precious heritage,” informs the preceptor.

“The students excel in academics too,” says Lakshmi Mandhata. In fact, Patasala students everywhere have consistently topped school final examinations.

‘Sampradaya’ for girls

Another success story is that of ‘Sampradaya,’ Patasala for girls, established at Tirupati, Hyderabad and Nasik. Started in 2015 with 15 students, the institution at Tirupati has a strength of 400. Along with regular education, girls are trained in life skills. Classes include Sanskrit, art, music, tailoring and cooking. “A girl, who leaves the campus after completing her course will be a well-rounded personality, ready to face the world and lead a life according to dharmic principles,” says Lakshmi Mandhata. “Women are the backbone of society and given an exalted status in the scriptures. ‘Sampradaya’ was started to lead them in the direction of ethics and values,” she adds.

Integrated Patasalas for holistic education

Girls are admitted seventh standard onwards. After completing school, the girl can opt for higher studies, up to P.G. level (Sri Venkateswara University). Besides there are short-term courses for those girls, who wish to learn any of the culture-oriented subjects offered. “Online admissions for the next academic year are currently in progress and already 70 candidates have joined,” says Lakshmi.

‘Sampradaya’ students engaged in learning music

‘Sampradaya’ students engaged in learning music   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

First graduate

This writer recalls Sivapriya, the first graduate of Sampradaya, Tirupati campus, who was brimming with confidence as she related her experience at a meeting convened at the Asthika Samajam camp. A commerce graduate, she said that she enjoyed the disciplined and positive vibrations of the campus. “One doesn’t miss home in this environment,” she said.

The cost-free education system keeps stretching the financial limits of Sri Pratyaksha Charitable Trust, which, however, is determined to take the concept to more places. Expenses in terms of infrastructure, tuition, amenities, health care, insurance, etc., amount to Rs. 84,000 per annum per student (Rs. 7,000 a month). Contributions to the Trust may be transferred to City Union Bank, Mount Road Branch. Chennai 6. A/c no 049001000645148. IFSC CIUB0000049. For foreign donation (Other than India) FCRA approval available: Sri Pratyaksha Charitable Trust. City Union Bank, Mount Road branch, Chennai 6. A/c No 049001000667618. IFSC CIUB0000049. SWIFT CIUBIN5M. Email: sripratyaksha@gmail.com Visit https://sampradaya.org Contact +919500195021

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 3:24:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/integrated-patasalas-for-holistic-education/article31917634.ece

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