Inspired by the success of a tiny village in Orissa becoming a full-fledged model arts village, the Ministry of Tourism has selected five villages for reviving the gurukula tradition for teaching of arts.

What started as promotion of pattachitra (painting on palm leaf) in Raghurajpur village in Puri district as part of rural tourism project five years ago culminated into transformation of the village into a vibrant centre of folk art. In 2002, only about 6000 tourists visited the place. In 2005 the tourist arrival figure went up to 34,000, as well as their revenues. Stone craft, pattachitra, palm leaf inscription, paper mache, sodhai work, mural painting, golden grass coir, screw pine leaf and wood work, filigree, applique, terra cotta and bell metal work greet visitors whose number is increasing every year.

“Every house in this village is an art gallery,” said a senior ministry official. “The village has served us not just as a role model for generating employment through rural tourism but also as an inspiration for how to preserve folk art.”

Besides Raghurajpur, the other villages identified for setting up gurukula tradition of teaching art are Pochampalli in Nalgonda district in Andhra Pradesh, Hodka in Kutch district in Gujarat, Pranpur in Ashok Nagar district in Madhya Pradesh and Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district in Kerala.”

“Gurukul embodies one of the earliest learning systems in India’s cultural history. Gurukul, meaning the home of the teacher, was the place where pupil lived and served as member of family. We will invite students and visitors to spend time and learn art in the similar way,” a United Nations Development Programme official told PTI.

UNDP and the Tourism Ministry share the funding of rural tourism projects in about 104 villages in India. As per plans, the skilled craftsmen will be sensitized to the Gurukul concept. The home stay facilities will be upgraded wherever required.

“We plan to develop training modules of different durations. The packages will be marketed. A guru may or may not take money for teaching art,” the UNDP official said.

Each village thus selected is unique in its claim to fame. Hodka village showcases cultural variety and talent within Kutch through a cultural festival organised every week. Earnings from the camp Shaam-e-Sarhad are diverted to running the resort in the heart of the wetland.

acharya Vinova Bhave’s ‘Bhoodaan’ movement is still kept alive by the village of Pochampalli, which has been a launching pad for movement and a centre for learning an intricate tie-and-dye weaving art of Ikat.

Apart from showcasing famous snake boat race, a gurukul in Aranmula will also offer lessons on Aranmula Kannadi, a unique metal mirror which uses no glass. A matchless ‘tana-bana’ style of weaving is mainstay of weavers of Pranpur who craft gossamer silk and cotton saris on their looms.