A century-old Gurukul, spreading light of Jainism

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 15 Apr 2018 10:17:42


By Shrikant Ukhalkar,

The ‘Shatakpurti Mahotsav’ of Shri Mahaveer Brahmacharyashram at Karanja Lad, will begin from April 18. The year-long celebrations will commence on the auspicious occasion of ‘Akshya Tritiya’.

FOR long, the Shri Mahaveer Brahmacharyashram (Jain Gurukul) at Karanja (Lad) is inculcating the true Jain spirit of ‘Live and let live’ among young minds. As it reaches a century of its journey, the institute has become a symbol of spiritual teachings promoting social harmony. Founded in 1918 on the auspicious day of ‘Akshaya Tritiya’ by Deochand Kasturchand Shaha, who later became Gurudeo 108 Shri Acharya Samantbhadra Maharaj, this ashram has been the abode of purity, peace and progress--- the ‘akshaya’ teachings of its spiritual founder.

The historic city of Karanja presents a culture that represents a fine mingling of Jainism and Hinduism. As Jainism prospered in this prosperous town, Karanja became known for centuries as Kashi of Jains in the South. The land was destined to witness another revolution in the modern times -- the Shri Mahaveer Brahmashram. The Gurukul at Karanja was the first of 11 Gurukuls established by Gurudeo Samanbhadra Maharaj. Gurukul on this pattern were later started in Bahubali, Ellora, Kunthalgiri, Khurai in Madhya Pradesh, Stawawidhi, Karkal, Terdal, Bellad Bagewadi in Karnataka. The Kankubai Shrawika Ashram (for women) was started in Karanja.

The journey of 100 years continues in its travel spreading around teaching, initiated by a divine soul, to impart knowledge that uplifts the spirit. The Gurukul worked on the principles of Ashramshala for many years. Beginning with just five students, it soon gathered nearly 100 students from different parts of Vidarbha.

Situated on the outskirts of the town, the ashram gradually progressed imbibing religious teaching in the disciples under the guidance of Gurudeo Samanbhadra Maharaj. Pradyumna Saoji Dongaonkar, Jambusaoji Chaware, Motilalkaka Onkarsaoji Chaware, Jinwarsaoji Gangaramji Chaware, Shamlalkaka Dulasasaoji Kabri were the pillars of the ashram who not only donated funds but devoted wholeheartedly to the development of the Gurukul.

Manikchandji Deokumarji Chaware alias Tatyaji and Deochandji Joharapurkar continued the ‘Guru-Shishya’ tradition. Tatyaji who remained a bachelor for his life was a selfless worker and never even took meal at the Gurukul. It was against his ideals. He was the Dean (Adhishthata) for many years during which the Gurukul progressed. The 52-feet high ‘Manstmabha’ which stands as a symbol of its glorious past was built in 1925, during his tenure. He served the Gurukul for over seventy years.

The economic recession of 1929 also affected the development of the Gurukul. It was difficult period to feed over 100 students. However the trustees did not open the reserve funds. Instead funds were raised from other sources to continue the working of the Gurukul. Its peace remained unperturbed even in dramatic period of freedom movement.

The goals of religious teachings were mingled with the aims of modern day education system after the formation of Maharashtra State. Now the Institute has got recognition as a school. Non-Jain children began to join the primary as well as the secondary schools. Though its responsibilities increased, the traditional ashram system continued with no change. The resident students were given lessons in religious teachings in the morning and in the evening. The tradition still continues.

The diamond jubilee ceremony held in 1979 was a milestone in the development of the institute. New buildings came up. The school received grants also. During these years, a number of ‘Munis’ and ‘Acharyas’ visited the Gurukul. Gurukul shaped personalities on the foundation of moral education. The alumni have contributed with success in different walks of life.

Today with 105 resident students, the institute with its one unit in the Karanja city imparts education to 1,600 students at secondary stage. “We look forward to start an ITI with focus on skill development so as to open up industrial job opportunities to our students” said Piyush Jagdish Dongaonkar, young and enthusiastic member of the Board of Trustees. To provide more comfortable living in the hostel is our priority as nowadays students need all facilities, said Prakash Topre who recently retired from the school. “We run the hostel on no-grant basis. It is run on charities. Even the students are not asked to pay,” Topre informed. “Today the Trust runs 10 academic institutes, some of them are in Aurangabad and Ellora” informed Piyush Dongaonkar.

The ‘Shatakpurti Mahotsav’ will begin from April 18. The year-long celebrations will commence on the auspicious occasion of ‘Akshya Tritiya’. Religious programmes, ‘Manstambha Abhisheka’, academic symposia, exhibitions will be held during the centenary year. The Board of Trustees headed by Satish Sangai, comprises Shripal Bilal, Rajkumarji Chaware, Suhas Chaware,Parimal Ruiwale,Pannalalji Gangwal, Ashok Chaware, Kirtikumar Bhore, Pramod Chaware, Bharatkumar Bhore and Rajkumar Dongaonkar, informed Piyush Dongaonkar.