RIVONA (Quepem Taluka): The stillness of the afternoon is broken when the wind rustles and travels through the expanse of the paddy fields on top of the hillsides of Rivona. After crossing the village of Malkarne and before the noted Vimleshwar temple, the road bends sharply up the hill into the interiors of the village. There are homes on the bend of the road and on the hillsides, overlooking the paddy fields and the massive expanse of green over yonder. And in the far distance are the mining ills, with the scars of mining still visible with deep gashes and cuts on the hillsides.
But the home Herald went to; is far removed from the world of mining. This was a temple of higher learning. A seat of excellence in- hold your breath- Sanskrit. This is a home, a ‘Pathshala’, a gurukul where two of the best in the crop of Sanskrit scholars of the country live, dedicated to a life of teaching and learning. One is a father Pandit Devdutt Patil in his early fifties and the other, his son, Priyavrat Patil, only 16, both having cracked the toughest Sankrit exam in this country and probably anywhere in this world. Patil has passed- in first class that too, the ‘Tenali Mahapariksha’ of Kanchi Math as the youngest to do so in the past 150 years.
While this has been reported, a journey into the home of the greats made new learnings possible and the fact that the future of Sanskrit in India or at least of its pillars, is ensconced right in our land. After Prime Minister Modi’s tweet and words of encouragement, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has also visited their home. But they do not want grants or any kind of support from the government, their only mission; impart Sanskrit learning to more scholars.
It was a cloudy day and a short trek to the home of these gurus, their Shreevidya Pathshala is both their home and gurukul where scholars of both genders live and learn with the gurus in their own homes. The language spoken is just Sanskrit unless of course when they interacting with neighbours and others. This Goan family speaks to reach others in chaste, fluent and perfect Sanskrit with not just the father and son but mother Aparna a Ph.D. in Nyayashashtra.
From outside the simple village home, the sound of the other and son speaking could be heard, the words coming straight from ancient texts, a language from ancient times, wafting through the mid-afternoon Goan air. Devdutt, who was in the middle of a short nap, politely opened the door, in his spasre attire leading to an equally sparse home with very little furniture. It’s a life without material wants and desires and the ‘pathshala’ is the sanctum sanctorum for all students including the Priravrat who is both a guru to his students and ‘sishya’ to his gurus He was a student of Ved and ‘Nyayashastra’ learning from his father, while he schooled in the ‘Vyakaran Mahagranthas’ from Vyakaranratnam Pandit Mohan Shivnarayan Sharma, who lives in the same pathshala. Both student and teacher have the title of ‘Vyakaranratnam’ .
Devdutt spoke of his own journey, from his village of Shiroda to Pune and then to Kashi (Varanasi)and then returned to Shiroda to be a temple pujari, But that wasn’t his calling.
Scholarship was which made him go to Kanchipuram as a disciple of the learned scholar Gopal Krishna Shashtri “The rules were simple. We could not take up any job in any university, would not be able to leave the country and had to impart our learning to other scholars. I have not deviated from these conditions ever” says Devdutt. who cracked the Tenali Mahapariksha’ not once but twice at 29 and 42. His son beat him by doing it at 16. Devdutt has mastered the ancient Vedic literature of Nyayashashtra and Vyakaranshastra,
In the other room of their three-room dwelling, young Priyavrat was teaching a student, who looked older than the teacher. But the 16-year-old was the wise one, stopping the older student, if he got even one syllable wrong and then went on chant the text as is he was simply breathing. It was an awesome splendid experience
Priyavrat completed his curriculum of six years and mastered all 14 levels in just two years, leading to the Mahapariksha, which is at the end of it.
In this Mahapariksha question paper is prepared by scholars outside the Kanchi matt with examiners not even knowing what the questions would be.
The treasures in this simple home are degrees, the certificates, symbols of recognition but none of which influences their life. What does is their love for the language, their learning, and their continuous endeavour to run a gurukul according to ancient traditions.