By Swami Harshananda
Gurukula literally means ‘house of the guru’.
In ancient and medieval country education was generally residential. The students had to reside in the houses of their gurus. This gave them more opportunities to learn the sciences and the arts with all the intricacies and secrets. It also inspired them from the lifestyle of their guru.
When the number of students in teacher's houses grew quite large, these houses grew into institutions called ‘gurukulas’. They were maintained by the society, especially the kings and the rich persons, who endowed these gurukulas with sufficient property and funds, so that they could provide quality education, free of cost, to all the students. In these gurukulas, attention was paid to physical welfare and intellectual development of a student. It also enhances the spiritual growth so that the students could develop a wholesome personality.
It was common to find as many as ten thousand students in some of the bigger institutions. Not only out of necessity but also as a good practice, the senior and better-qualified students were made to teach the novices and supervise over their life and discipline. Though punishments for transgressions existed, but they were not very severe. Incorrigible students were expelled to save the discipline and reputation of the institution.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore