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Vidyarthis escort Param Poojya Swamiji to the Pathashaala amidst the chanting of Veda Ghosh

 

Charanam Pavitram... Ved. Ulman Gurunath Bhat performing Paad Prakshalan upon arrival at the Pathshaala
Ved. Ulman Gurunath Bhat, Principal of Shrimat Pandurangashram
Vaidik Pathshaala addressing the Vaidiks, Vidyarthis and other
Sadhakas present.
Ved. Upponi Guruprasad Bhat leads the acolytes in the recitation of our ancient hyms even as audience listens reverntially
Parama Poojya Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji blessing the Vidyarthis with His Ashirvachan

 

The Pathashala (as it was known then) was started about 125 years ago, some time when Param Poojya Shrimat Pandurangashram Swamiji of hallowed memory was the 8th Mathadhipati of Shri Chitrapur Math. It was named later as "Shrimat Pandurangashram Vaidic pathashala" by the 9th Mathadhipati Param poojya Shrimat Anandashram Swamiji of hallowed memory. The core objective of this 'Ved Paathshala' was to preserve our rich Vedic heritage for posterity by imparting Vedic and Vaidic knowledge to young boys of our Saraswat (Smaarth) community. The emphasis was on creating competent Archaks and Purohits, firstly to conduct the day to day rituals, ceremonies such as Poojas, homas, havans, yadnyas etc. at the math and secondly to train the younger generation of purohits of our various temples and also to take care of our scattered community's need for good Vaidics.

Though initially there was no systematic or set curriculum, it broadly followed the (Rig) Ruk Shakhadhayi Ashvalaayana Grihyasootra and the stress was on teaching Shodashasamskar Prayogs. The subjects covered were and are Rig Veda, Taittiriya Upanishad, Sandhyavandan, Devata-archan including Rudra, Pavman, Saptashati, Punyahavachan, Agnikarya, Agnimukha, Mantrasamhita and Brahmakarma. The vidhyarthis are prepared well in vidhis such as Naamkaran, Upanayan, Vivaaha, Matruca, Nandi, Antyeshti, Shraddha and various Shanthis. Along with this they are taught rudimentary Sanskrit, Jyotishashastra and the most important (GURUSEVA).

In 1942, His Holiness Shrimat Anandashram Swamiji made it into a regular pathashala. Ved. Haldipur Ganesh Shastriji who had been trained in Kashi, was its first Principal. At present this post is held by Ved. Ulman Gurunath Bhat. The Vidyarthis are competently taught by 4 senior Archaks including the Math Purohit and the Math Astrologer. The Vidyarthis are under constant supervision of 1 full time resident warden who is responsible for their discipline, deportment, hygiene and health.

The Pathashala is a residential one. Accommodation, boarding and tuition are entirely free. The study materials such as books, notebooks and even clothes are also not charged for. From day one to the last day of the vidyarthi's stay in the pathashala every reasonable thing that could conceivably be required for his well-being (including a library of well selected books for additional reference) is provided by the pathashala.

Boys 11 years and above qualify for admission. The course today is spread over 3 to 5 years, 1st year for Archak, 2nd and 3rd for Purohit qualifications. Previously another 2 years were required for Vishisht Purohits but now this span is devoted to practical experience in the Math and nearby community temples. The senior vidyarthis are absorbed in our Swamiji's retinue for specialized Guru Seva and for exposure to public. They then have the choice either of continuing in the Math or of returning to their temples or of taking to Bhattavritti as a profession wherever our community is spread.

The Vidyarthis are the mainstay of the 4 daily rituals of the Math.

Suprabhat (early morning) Deepanamaskars (evening)
Mantrapushpanjali (noon) Ashtavadhan Seva (night)

Apart from their rather hectic schedule, they also help out in the Math's religious ceremonies to gain hands on experience in conducting these and on the daily catering to and serving of the constant stream of devotees and visitors. During the Chaturmas vrata, these vidyarthis take up the brunt of the workload. We can see them everywhere, right from 5.45 a.m. cheerfully singing the Suprabhatram, preparing for the poojas, singing the mantras during the poojas, helping in serving the food, doing whatever chores are required of them right up to late hours in the night. This in addition to their studies!

The pre-1950 records of the pathashala are a bit hazy as there was a paucity of aspirants for the priestly profession. The course at that time extended to 9 years of rigorous coaching and training. Between 1950 and 1970, about 50 vidyarthis qualified as full fledged priests. After 1970, though the duration of the course was kept at 9 years, unlike before, the vidyarthis were allowed to follow other educational disciplines along with this course. Around another 40 vidyarthis completed the course satisfactorily till the turn of the last century. Thereafter the duration of the course was reduced and again concentration was centered on Vaidic studies.

Out of all the vidyarthis in our Pathashala aome are allocated in rotation to H.H. Swamiji's retinue. H. H. Shrimat Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji's love for the Sanskrit language and his deep knowledge of the Shastras is well-known. After Swamiji has taken up the Mathadhipatya of Shri Chitrapur Math, the Paathshala has got a fillip.

The pathashala has now shifted into new premises, from the old single, bare and Spartan room to separate class rooms which also serve as dormitories for the Vidyarthis of the respective classes. The rooms are spacious, airy, bright and conducive to intensive studies essential for such a course.

The first part of the aim to make the pathashala a premier institution of its kind, imparting Vedic and Vaidic knowledge, is achieved. In order to continue with these efforts the Math needs to spend a substantial amount (of around Rs. 8,000 to 10,000) on each of the Vidyarthis year after year. Patrons of our ancient Sanatan Dharma knowledge and traditions can assist in this task by sponsoring a Vidyarthi's annual maintenance. Such encouragement to the effort is always sought and is always welcome.

We really appreciate these children! Here are a few pictures of these smiling lads. With the blessings of His Holiness Shrimat Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji these vidyarthis will surely blossom into future vaidiks and Shastris of the Math.