Our Shantiniketan: Where the World Meets in a Single Nest – II

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Education was treated as a matter of individual concern and not a method of mass production, as of today. The ancient Indian education was not merely theoretical but was related to the realities of life. The modern concept of ‘learning by doing’ as understood in the West today was the very core and essence of education in ancient India. In the second and concluding part of the article, Tapati tells us how Gurudev revived the rich traditions of Guru-sishya traditions from the ancient seats of learning, in her weekly column. A Different Truths exclusive.

India has a rich tradition of learning and education since ancient days. The education system was developed according to the needs and capabilities of the individual and that of the society resulting in the ll-round development of the students with humanitarian virtues, self-fulfillment, and not in the acquisition of mere objective knowledge. Amidst beautiful natural surroundings, sitting at the feet of his teacher, students would comprehend all the intricate problems of life through listening and meditation. He would not remain contented with mere bookish learning but acquire fairly practical knowledge of the world and vocational training in different occupations. The training of the mind and the process of thinking were essential for the acquisition of knowledge. The pupil had mainly to educate himself and hone mental skills for growth.

In ancient India, there were a number of world-renowned universities, which were frequented by eminent scholars from the east as well as from the west. Taxila, Nalanda, Vikramshila were the few to reckon with. The vastness of these great centres’ of education lies in their ruins and writings of foreign travellers and literature.  Education was treated as a matter of individual concern and not a method of mass production, as of today. The ancient Indian education was not merely theoretical but was related to the realities of life. The modern concept of ‘learning by doing’ as understood in the West today was the very core and essence of education in ancient India.

The education system has undergone a metamorphosis in the present times. Education system unf, unfortunately, ed into commercial ventures, a lucrative business to churn out individuals with the main goal of earning huge money.

It is a common sight to see children boarding school buses with shoulders bent with heavy bags, more burdened with fulfilling parental expectations to achieve first two ranks in the exams every month. Missing playtime after school, they run for tuition classes to understand the same subjects not explained in the classroom, and even children from lower primary classes get tuned to this system of education. After years of such ordeals, it is heart breaking to find them confused about their future profession. Many young people unable to fulfil high aspirations imposed upon them even end their lives in despair. As an end result, we find the talented ones settling abroad and those not so bright in academics ruined by frustrations and crimes.

Now, of course, the concept of Liberal Arts and Sciences education in India is taking roots in a few new institutions. Education in liberal arts extends the opportunity to graduate in any discipline of the fine arts or humanities branch, along with one or more divergent subjects like science or mathematics, so that one can explore a variety of disciplines and then choose a specialisation that is tailored to their unique interests. 

These are welcome initiatives to explore how Indian liberal arts can develop in its own way, building its own academic traditions that create lasting and meaningful impact for society. They are trying to implement higher education in India in a way that will help solve some of the challenges that India faces in this century. 

Liberal Arts and Sciences education can help create a new generation of graduates trained to think creatively about complex issues such as the urban-rural divide, the rapidly developing nature of Indian economy, and several other challenges that the country or world at large faces. Their courses merge science and technology with humanities, philosophy, arts to address some of the deeper issues facing India. They also try to provide education intended to encourage creative and independent thought.

It is an education that can liberate people to pursue their passions, enabling them to do their best and expand their capacities in all fields. Across India, new initiatives are adopting a liberal arts model and implementing new styles of teaching, leaving the bookish knowledge aside.

But in the opinion of a number of learned academicians, while there is a long tradition of this form of education abroad, particularly in the United States, will it work in the Indian context? Why do we forget that India had been a great centre of education with this very concept since early times? The roots have been forgotten, but not extinct.

This liberal art is expected to produce graduates, who will approach the world with a more balanced perspective, in the same lines as our older education system did;  it will develop fine human beings who can create new jobs and programs to help others with a sense of social responsibility.

Development of the human mind and soul in absolute terms was envisioned by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore almost hundred years ago, when he created the Ashrama school of Patha Bhavana and later expanded to Visva-Bharati University. A global university in true sense “Yatra Visva Bhavati Ekanidam” or “Where the world meets in a single nest,” as the name indicates, was meant to developgood fellowship and co-operation between scholars of both Eastern and Western countries. Along with changes in social and political scenarios, Visva Bharati has undergone much changes and struggle to retain the values of the founding mission.

Keeping in view the challenges of present the educational system, with heartfelt gratitude, today I offer my respect to the great teachers, who nurtured me into a compassionate human being, not a machine running for money, glory and personal gains.  The special song for Shantiniketan reveals all:

“It is our Shantiniketan,

Sky-filled is its bosom that our soul rocks on

Often we do find it fresh, like a new dawn.

The fete under the trees, our play in the open,

The passionate blue of the twilight spread across the horizon.

Murmurs ring sweet and calm across the orchard of the Saal,

Swirling down of Amlaki leaves never seems done.

We explore and stray, that is never far away,

Love-lute within our heart, consonance the strings would play.

Our harmonised souls is the result of the music universal,

Prevails concordance and everlasting brotherhood beacon.

                   (Translated by Anjan Ganguly, from the Internet)


©Tapati Sinha

Photos from the Internet

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Tapati Sinha is educated from schooling to Post-Graduation from Visva-Bharati University with a Doctoral degree from Nagpur University in A.I.H.C.A. She loves Indian literature, Indian and world history and continues her personal research. She picks her subjects from various spheres including historical data, daily experiences of life and varied work places. Tapati is passionate to pursue her writings, novel, poetry, short stories on multifarious topics, past and present under the pen name Anjali.