Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) in Maharashtra has started a free course on ‘Ganesh Atharvashirsha’ in collaboration with Shrimant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapati Trust and a private institution, though the move was opposed by some segments due to its religious overtones.
However, the SPPU, which posted a notice about the course on its website, claimed that it was based on the philosophy of the ‘Ganpatya sect’ and not on religion.
‘Ganpati Atharvashirsha’, a Sanskrit text, is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, a deity of knowledge, wisdom and good fortune.
The 21-day course was initiated by the Sanskrit Department of SPPU in collaboration with Shrimant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapati Trust and the Sanskrit Department of Lokmanya Tilak College at Vani in Nashik District.
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Author and professor Dr Hari Narke called the step of starting such a course by a “responsible university” like SPPU “inappropriate”.
Pune has a great tradition of knowledge and scientific temperament and the university is named after Savitribai Phule. While it is the duty of institutions to disseminate scientific temperament, I feel that a responsible university like SPPU, in partnership with a private entity, is inappropriate to embark on such a course. Narke said he was not against Ganesh Atharvashirsha, but against “the wrong trend that will start” after SPPU conducted such courses and issued certificates.
However, it was defended by Lokmanya Tilak College Sanskrit professor ‘Vidya Vachaspati’ Swanand Gajanan Pund.
There are various sects in Indian philosophy and one of those sects is ‘Ganapatya Sect’, which worships Lord Ganesh. Ganesh Atharvashirsha is one of the ways to get knowledge about philosophy. It is not associated with recitation or chanting,” he said.
”With this course we try to convey the philosophy of the Atharvashirsha. The meaning of ‘Atharv’ is to become peaceful, happy and Atharvashirsha is a treatise on how to become peaceful, happy and contented. It (the course) has no relation to Dharma Shastra, Upasana,” he added.
He said the course came about after his team made some videos during the COVID-19 lockdown explaining to the Dagadusheth Trust about the Atharvashirsha.
The idea was adopted and a choice-based course under the credit system was developed for a student to choose outside of the regular curriculum, Pund said.
“There is no reason to be against the course. One should first go through the videos and then form an opinion. Bhagwat Gita and Dnyaneshwari are philosophies. Isn’t Dnyaneshwari studied in universities? Just as Dnyaneshwari is a philosophy of the Warkari sect, the Ganesh Atharvashirsha is a philosophy of the Ganapatya sect,” he explained.
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