For me, visiting Banasthali Vidyapeth (known to be the largest fully residential university for women) located in the Tonk district of Rajasthan was an apprehensive expedition.While a part of me was eager to apply for the forthcoming Faculty Development Programme being held at Banasthali, the other part was uncertain and vacillating.
Knowing very little about the place and practically having no acquaintance there, clouded my mind with mixed thoughts and feelings as I received the confirmation email from the university. But the urge to be a part of the event dominated the ambivalence and soon i found myself sure and confident to set out.
The Tonk district is a town around 60 kms away from Jaipur. Travelling towards Banasthali heightened my curiosity to know the place and the people and pacing steadily there I was within the campus.
Numerous buildings could be seen around housing different administrative and academic sections and each department named as a ‘mandir’ viz Nav mandir , Vitr mandir, Sur mandir, Kala mandir, etc., reflecting the belief of the natives who value education as equally as their religion.
I hastened towards the venue to join the programme and found the faculty warmly welcoming and thoroughly professional. A look at the programme schedule gave me an insight into the thoughtfulness and ingenuity with which the whole event had been chalked out.
The 7 day programme included enlightening technical sessions being held by erudite academicians and eminent educationists from different prestigious universities of the country.
Each session mirrored the vision of the organisers to emphasise and foster the faculty’s knowledge, skills and professional competence.The gesture of receiving every resource person with the traditional aarti spoke volumes about the characteristic cultural spirit of Banasthali.
Spending a week at the Vidyapeth campus brought me closer to Banasthalites. Their simplicity and humility was gladdening and heartwarming.The environment around seemed calm, serene and peaceful, creating an aura of blissfulness. .
Myriad hostels, residential quarters and multi storeye apartments constitute few of the amenities of the university. A mini market, colourful food stalls and eateries within the campus usually remain abuzz with students’ activities and becomes a hub of their joyful interactions every evening.Apart from academics,the university offers various avenues for extra curricular activities as well.
A vast field for horse riding known as the ‘Veer Bala maidan’ is one of the attractions for the students. Besides, the licensed air strip the BVGFC (Banasthali Vidyapeth Gliding and Flying Club) is another unique feature of the university. The five fold educational curriculum called the ‘Panchmukhi Shiksha’ has been envisioned to ensure holistic and complete personality development of the students.
These 5 components viz Physical, Practical, Aesthetic, Moral and Intellectual aims to enhance progressive thinking abilities among students and enable them to achieve individual goals through highly personalised learning opportunities.
While tracing the history of Banasthali, a phenomenal story of its inception was unfolded. In 1927, Pandit Hiralal Shastri the founding father of Banasthali Vidyapeth voluntarily resigned from the post of Secretary in Home and Foreign Department in Jaipur with a vision to dedicate his life for the welfare of rural people.
He also desired his daughter Shantabai to work for women’s uplift and prosperity.But unfortunately, Shantabai lost her life when she was barely 12 years old leaving her father in extreme grief and dismay.
Forlorn and bereaved, Pandit Hiralal dreamt of training and educating girls leading to the establishment of Shantabai Shiksha Kutir in 1935. In 1943, the institution was renamed as Banasthali Vidyapeth and from a mini school of 6 students it has progressed to being the only residential women’s university in the country having a distinction of providing education to girls from pre primary stage to the doctoral level.Advocating simplicity and self sufficiency , Banasthali Vidyapeth has been carrying forward a rich heritage of religious and cultural ethos.
While on the one hand khadi wearing has been a quintessence of banasthalites, showcasing the upkeep of their traditions, on the other hand producing exemplary success stories like Avani Chaturvedi (one of the first female fighter pilot) proves how Banasthali Vidyapeth is competing parallel with the technological advanced world.
To sum up, being at Banasthali has been an absolute delight. An abode of spiritual exhilaration, enlivening and edifying, Banasthali Vidyapeth will continue to enlighten the lives of infinite number of girls and contribute immensely towards women’s education.
(The author is Assistant Professor at Govt College for Women, M.A.Road, Srinagar)