The Gurukul Vishwavidyalaya is so named though it has little of a university about it. It was founded in 1901 by one of the early leaders of the Arya Samaj movement, Darshananand Saraswati. The land was given by Mahendra Pratap Singh, who also founded the Prem Mahavidyalaya. The university ran for eighty years and gave degrees in various subjects, but in 1980 was turned over to the military for use as a training center.
Prior to 1980 many of India’s prominent leaders visited the campus, including Mahatma Gandhi, Madan Mohan Malwiya, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Sarojini Naidu, Dr. Sampoornanand, etc., whose tributes are posted at the entrance.
According to Acharya Hari Prakashji, the kulapati (vice-chancellor), the buildings were only returned to Arya Samaj control in 2011, since which time the school has been operating. Acharya Swadeshji Maharaj is credited with this revitalizing of the Gurukul project.
At present they have 90 students studying mostly traditional subjects with English. I saw the students in the yajna shala where they were gathered in small groups according to age and subject matter, with two teachers managing the group.
I looked at a few of the boy’s manuals and saw that they were memorizing verses for use in Arya Samaj homa rituals. Another was writing some English in a note book. From Rishikesh I know of the Prabhat Ashram in Meerut, run by Vivekananda Saraswati, as I have met many of his students including Bhagavan Das, who has opened such a gurukul, the Nava Prabhat Ashram in Orissa. The students there are trained in spoken Sanskrit, and are fluent. The same standard is not being kept here, though the principal teacher knew of both these institutions. Other than that, the students, who are all residents, participate in all activities including managing the goshala, working the crops, cleaning and cooking, etc.
The actual functioning compound is nicely situated in the middle of a 57-acre territory. Since the school came back into operation, this time, they have brought the property back to life with new trees, painting the buildings and so on. The entire campus is surrounded by buildings and I did not notice any monkeys there, probably because the buildings are isolated.
There are some other old buildings on the wider area, most of which are unused and falling apart. According to Acharya Hari Prakash, there is currently a court case disputing this larger tract of land between two factions within the Arya Samaj. I did not go into details.
According to Madan Bihari Dasji, Radha Bawri is on five acres of land that originally belonged to this Gurukula land. It was reclaimed in 1954 when tenants’ rights were affirmed by Indian law. There have been court cases over the Radha Bawri possession of this land, but it seems that the two sides have accepted the situation and there is no current bad blood between them.
I asked about what the plans for the land were. Hari Prakashji said that as long as the land is being disputed, there can be no planning. He said that they would like to plant trees and so on, but in order to do so, he feels they would have to make a boundary wall around the entire property, which would be a huge expense. There are already encroachments at the edges of this land and the threat of more.
The Mahanta of the Radha Bawri ashram has offered his assistance in planting trees and giving the land a greener look. Some of the older trees that line the road through the property give an idea of what beautiful potential this area has as a park and protected.