An Indigenous Pedagogy in Contemporary Times – My experience with the Gurukul System of Training

By Miti Desai


It all began with a simple yet deep dissatisfaction when I was 20. On the first day of my first job, I spurned the possibility of how my time would be spent. With a clear intuition that I did not want to engage in commercial work whose end was just financial transactions;  an inward journey had unknowingly begun. The discomfort, which was actually a yearning for something more than the perceivable life around me, continued. This search led me to a Place and a Person which turned and churned my life around. 

I was all of 23 years of age, with barely any life experiences, but with a gut feeling of what I did not want from my life; when I serendipitously landed at a Gurukul (home of the master) in the midst of a jungle, in a beautiful valley in Maharashtra, India. I went there with an intention to train in classical Indian dance. Little did I know that the intent to train in an art form would churn a whirlwind of changes to my life. This emerged as a deep and nourishing journey that marked a return to my cultural roots, holistic living – and most importantly, gave me a worldview, which inspires me and guides my life.

I arrived at the Gurukul as a city-girl; born and brought up in Mumbai. My life vision was largely established through an educational system which was a result of British colonialism and a simultaneous influence of the West. I was at the fringes of the understanding of my own culture – that which I received from living in India and naturally absorbed in everyday life. However, the real understanding, assimilation and application of the essence of the culture was somewhere absent. 

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