Hailing from a very poor family belonging to the Bhil tribe, Om Prakash Bheel symbolises getting access to education, more importantly, value-based education can transform one’s life.
Having a dual master’s degree, M.Com and M.Ed is not enough for this young lad. Om Prakash is now pursuing his Phd in education.
Om Prakash’s mother Chunni Devi died when he was only 11 years old. He is the eldest among five and his father, Chunni Lal found it tough to make ends meet with a small parcel of agricultural land. Om Prakash is from village Ghasakhedi in Mavli tehsil in Udaipur district in Rajasthan. The family’s annual income does not exceed Rs. 30,000.
To sustain and support his family, Om Prakash started to work as a domestic help with a family in Udaipur- cleansing floors, dusting and washing dishes. This particular family used to follow a spiritual master, Swami Mahaveer Das ji, a devotee of Lord Hanuman.
The Sadhu was moved looking at the plight of Om. Swami Mahaveer ji took Om Prakash under his wings and the little boy began seva at the Hanuman Mandir in the city. Simultaneously, Om Prakash started attending a school nearby and completed his studies till Class 8 in the new environs.
By a stroke of luck, Om Prakash came in touch with Swami Brahmaparananda Saraswati ji, the coordinator of our hostels in Udaipur and Jaipur. Swamiji who had just completed his three and a half year Vedantic course at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Annakati, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, landed in Rajsamand (Rajasthan) to establish a Vedantic culture centre and teaching centre there.
Subsequently, Swami Brahmaparananda Saraswati ji started to teach both at Rajsamand and Udaipur, on a fortnightly basis. Among others, one Sri. Mahim ji Dashaura, a long standing devote of AIM for Seva, Udaipur, became closely associated with Swami Brahmaparananda Saraswati ji.
Incidentally, Swami Mahaveer Das ji , the previous mentor of Om Prakash also knew Sri. Mahim. Swami Mahaveer ji discussed about Om Prakash with him and asked if he can be helped. Sri. Mahim took up the matter with Swami Brahmaparananda Saraswati ji and Om Prakash Bheel joined the Arsha Vidya Tirtha AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Jaipur, Rajasthan, in 2006.
It is here that Om Prakash completed his bachelor’s degree in education along with M.Com from Rajasthan University. In between, Om Prakash also managed to do a certificate course in computers and telly programming.
Om Prakash then began the next leg of his educational journey. He bagged a seat for M.Ed (Masters in Education) at Janardan Rai University, Udaipur, Rajasthan. He shifted to the Swami Dayananda AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys, Udaipur, Rajasthan, during this period.
Simultaneously, Om Prakash also started offering seva at the Udaipur Chatralayam by teaching tribal students residing in the hostel. He also briefly served as the warden of this Chatralayam.
Alongside his post graduate degree in education, Om Prakash kept himself busy by preparing for other competitive exams. He is in the process of completing a post graduate degree (M.A in Sanskrit) from Kota Open University, Rajasthan.
Om is now keen to pursue higher education and is particularly looking at propagating the power of online education in rural, tribal and other underserved areas. Sometime back, he revealed his ideas for the same. “I would like to be in the field of education. I am now contemplating a PhD in education. I would like to focus on challenges of last mile education in tribal areas.”
Recently, Om Prakash appeared for admission to PhD from Janardan Rai University Udaipur, Rajasthan. He managed to ace the written test as well as interview in his second attempt and managed to get admission for the PhD programme.
A fee amounting to Rs. 51,000 has since been deposited and as such, the process of pursuing PhD has since started.
Om Prakash sums up his life’s journey and association with AIM for Seva. “I managed to get a good education and also met a lot of good people who have dedicated their lives to the welfare of others while living in the Chatralayam in Jaipur. My dream of a good education has got fulfilled and more importantly, I had access to value-based education, the hallmark of our Chatralayams. I can tell very confidently that the kind of education that I had access to will not be found anywhere else even if you pay loads of money. The academic support provided at our Chatralayams combined with culture validation is something unique to AIM for Seva,”
The Bhils, the tribe from which Om Prakash comes from have traditionally pledged their loyalty to Mewar’s crown. Rana Pratap Singh (1540 to 1597 CE), one of the most famous kings of the Mewar dynasty, is known for holding fort against the Mughal king, Akbar. He was ably aided in all his battles by Bhil warriors.
Even today, the state emblem of Mewar has Rana Pratap and a Bhil tribesman standing on either side of the Eklingji (the titular deity of Mewar) – a mark of respect for the Bhils’ loyalty and their indomitable spirit.