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The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has found a novel way to propagate, what it calls, the "true Indian ethos" among generation next.
The novel way is, in fact, through novels, or to be precise, novellas, adaptations of epics The Ramayan and The Mahabharat, which it has taken to 264 schools in Mumbai with 52,000 students enrolling for the course and examination conducted on these epics by its affiliate organisation.
The organisation, Shrimad Ramayan Parichay Yojana Samiti, has roped in popular TV 'bahu' Smriti Irani [Images] as its brand ambassador.
"Being a brand ambassador for such a noble cause is a matter of pride for me. I get to preach what I practice," Irani told PTI.
The samiti, headed by Mohan Salekar, a bank official, has prepared books on Katharup Ramayan for fifth class students, Charitra Ramayan for sixth class students and Katharup Mahabharat for seventh and eighth class students.
The books are in Marathi, Hindi, English and Gujarati, Salekar said.
Teachers of these 264 schools spare time from the main syllabus, which has value education as a subject, and teach these books, he said.
The programme, which began in 2003 with 13,000 students in 117 schools, has grown in popularity over the years, Saleka said.
Students from all religions enroll for the course, which culminates in a final examination in January each year, he said.
In fact, the first prize winner in 2005 was a Muslim student, he added.
The samiti's course was also being taught in Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh and has reached the US, Salekar said.
In some US schools, students were being taught online, he said.
The samiti encourages participation in the epic course by giving awards to students scoring highest marks and also for best teacher and best school.
Asked if the message portrayed through her TV avatar was in conflict with the message about the epics she sought to project as brand ambassador, Irani said, "I can't speak for other characters in the serial, but my character seeks to imbibe Indian ethos about respect for elders. At least, I don't go about endorsing tobacco or alcoholic products like some other celebrities do. So, there is no question of a conflict of interest."
The programme has been getting active support of former cricketer Ajit Wadekar, Salekar said.
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