U.P. university’s courses on ‘Karmkand’, ‘Jyotirvigyan’ a hit

U.P. university’s courses on ‘Karmkand’, ‘Jyotirvigyan’ a hit

The orientation session in progress.

The orientation session in progress.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The interplay of Hindu rituals and spirituality always piqued the interest of 39-year-old Punit Tiwari, who runs a CCTV outsourcing business in Kanpur. So, when he found out that a university in his city – Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj (CSJM) University – had started a course on ‘Karmkand’ (a study of Hindu rituals believed to help a person fulfil their wishes), he wasted no time in enrolling for it.

“Our class is full of people who are excited to study the subject which we have spent a lot of time discussing at home and outside,” Mr. Tiwari said.

He is among the 29 students admitted to the newly introduced Diploma in Karmkand course at CSJM University, one of Uttar Pradesh’s biggest universities. The university launched the course, along with a certificate course in Karmkand and M.A. in ‘Jyotirvigyan’ (‘Astroscience’), this academic session.

The three courses were initially planned for batches of 20 students each. However, seats were increased after the courses became popular. The M.A. in Jyotirvigyan course now has 31 students.

“We were forced to increase seats mid-session. Now the administration is deliberating on further increasing the seats for the upcoming session,” said Vishal Sharma, the media in-charge and a faculty member at CSJM University.

Class composition

Talking about the caste make-up of the class, Mr. Tiwari said there is a misconception that most people studying the course were young, upper caste Brahmins.

“I had a similar misconception, but, believe me, more than half the candidates belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and at least 10 people are over 60-year-old retired government employees,” he said. “Most of the candidates are pursuing the course out of interest in Hinduism, not for job opportunities.”

The university refused to verify or deny the claims. The administration says it started the courses under the New Education Policy 2020, which calls for promoting “ancient and eternal Indian knowledge”.

“We added these courses as part of the ‘Indian Knowledge Systems’, which the NEP terms a ‘guiding principle’, and which is the focus of a new cell that we are developing,” said Vinay Pathak, CSJM University Vice-Chancellor.

The courses, based on a choice-based credit system, have been conceptualised with the help of experts from Centrally funded institutions related to Sanskrit education. The three courses are run by the Deen Dayal Shodh Kendra, a centre named after Deendayal Upadhyaya, a tall leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), the forerunner of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The essential reading list for the M.A. Jyotirvigyan and diploma courses has books from the Gita Press, Gorakhpur. The curriculum of the diploma course consists of topics such as ‘methods of worship’ and ‘introduction to the almanack’. The master’s course in Jyotirvigyan aims to teach students the modern and scientific aspects of ancient Vedic astronomical and astrological knowledge.

Multiplier effect

Similar courses on Karmkand have also been introduced at Gorakhpur and Lucknow University, with more universities likely to follow suit.

Several Hindu priests welcomed the introduction of the new courses, saying it would spread the knowledge of ancient Hindu texts among the masses.

“Such courses were earlier offered mostly in universities, such as Varanasi’s Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya, where the medium of instruction was Sanskrit. Only those who sought employment opportunities went there,” said Mukesh Shukla, a ‘Jyotisharchya’ (astrology teacher) based in Lucknow.

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