Gandhi Vidya Mandir (GVM), founded in 1950 as a sequel to its founder's dedication to the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi whose assassination spurred a revolution in his heart and soul. His name was Shri Kanhaiyalal Dugar. Born and brought up in Sardarshahr in the erstwhile princely State of Bikaner in a very distinguished and wealthy family, yet, Shri Kanhaiyalal Dugar was spiritually inclined since his childhood.
Mr. Dugar's idol was Mahatma Gandhi because of his faith in God, secular approach and 'Vishwa Bandhutwa'. He was in Bombay(now Mumbai) when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. At that moment of profound grief, he felt as though some supreme power ordained him to dedicate his life in the worship of God through the service of mankind. He then went to Matheran, a nearby hill-station. There he had a dream in which Gandhiji came out of a hut to bless him whilst he was teaching young children in a hermitage.
Shri Dugar went to Wardha and consulted Acharya Vinoba Bhave and other Gandhians like Kaka Kalelkar, Kishorlal Mashruwala, Krishnadas Jaju, Shriman Narayan Agarwal and Madalsa Ben. For establishing the institution, some of them proposed Delhi , some Wardha, some Jaipur, and so on. Finally they looked to Vinobaji who said 'Spread Light Where It Is The Darkest, Spread Education Were Illitercy Is The Highest'; the reference was obvious - Kanhaiyalal’s home town of Sardarshahr , in the starkest desert region of Rajasthan.
A project was conceptualised there and the name of Gandhi Vidya Mandir was decided. Later on, Shri Dugar consulted some other prominent persons like Dada Ravishankar Maharaj, Swami Sharnanand, Hanuman Prasad Poddar, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Acharya Tulsi and Jayaprakash Narayan. Sardar Patel had promised to lay the foundation stone of Gandhi Vidya Mandir but unfortunately he passed away. Devised as India 's first Rural University University , its foundation stone was laid in 1955, by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India.
The dream took form and flight. Mr. Dugar, the young 'grihasth', born with a silver spoon in his mouth, volunteered to give up all the luxuries of life, making that ocean of sand his home. He contributed Rs. 5 Lakhs which was a princely fund in those days. Searching for a suitable location near Sardarshahr, he and his colleagues visited an old temple of Shri . Hanuman, and saw some deer frolicking at a distance. They followed them in enchantment and saw a pair of Shami trees and sat beneath these trees for a prayer. Shri Dugar felt, eureka, this was the site he was searching for. From that day till now, on every Tuesday, an all faiths-prayer is held by the entire fraternity of Gandhi Vidya Mandir.
Shri. Dugar constructed a mud and thatched hut encompassing the two Shami trees. Leaving his huge mansion, he stayed in this hut, named 'OmKutir' (Picture above), with his family for the next twenty years.
The first lesson was delivered by the renowned Saint-poet Shri Viyogi Hari (picturer above) in 1952, to three students. 50 years later, there are about 10,000 students on a campus of 1,200 acres. The teachers and students are from all castes, creeds, religions and come from different States of India . The availability of sweet and adequate drinking water in all its wells, in a scarce and saline water zone, is the proof of blessing from Almighty.
Characteristically, the lessons in social engagement and humanistic values are taught here not just through lectures, but teaching by doing or learning by doing. To inculcate the sense of compassion and altruism, students are taken out to villages, where they mingle with the masses, try to know their woes and needs. They also go over to the places where there are large-scale sufferings, perennially or caused by a disaster. Ours was the first, and probably the only University-team, to reach the Tsunami affected areas of Tamil Nadu and Pond Cherry, earthquake affected areas of Bhuj, Gujarat and flood-hit areas of Barmer in Rajasthan. The Relief Team, with a well-equipped medical van, doctors, paramedical staff and our student-volunteers served the hapless masses in an exemplary manner.
Emphasis is laid on inculcating concern for rural upliftment and on developing vocational skills and training. Fifty-three villages are served through village-libraries, dispensaries, mobile dispensaries, vocational training centres, agriculture and animal husbandry programmes, drinking water supply programmes and homes for destitute children.
The founder Shri Dugar had renounced his entire wealth for the cause of education and the welfare of society at large, and embraced Sanyas, thence after known as Swami Shri. Ramsharanji. Fifty long years he spent in service of mankind selflessly. He had realized that his end was closing in, and while conversing with someone, he uttered, “this body of mine can no longer serve others; rather it needs to be served”. He than went into ‘Samadhi’ and left for his heavenly abode.