It is significant to note that the word “Gurukul” is very much Indian which is derived from two Sanskrit words – ‘guru’ (teacher) and ‘kulam’ (family). That is, in the Vedic system of education, the students used to live with the teacher as a family to learn and seek knowledge from the Guru. This intimate relationship between the teacher and the student is a strong feature of Gurukul.
It was at the second meeting of the All India Lutheran Conference held in 1912 that efforts were initiated to establish a higher standard theological institution to train pastors and other Church workers for serving in all the Lutheran Churches in India. This initiative, however, could not be pursued due to the outbreak of World War I in 1914. In 1923, the then secretary of the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC) attended the first meeting of the Lutheran World Convocation held at Eisenach and stressed the urgent need for establishing the proposed Lutheran Theological College in Madras (now Chennai). The same need was presented to the Mission Supporters in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the United States of America. In July 1927, the first step was taken to establish a Lutheran Theological College in Madras for the Tamil region. Meanwhile, the Federation of Lutheran Churches in India (FELC – now known as the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India) was formed in 1925 and the Leipzig Mission offered its Kilpauk property in Madras to run a Seminary as a common Theological School to serve all the Lutheran Churches in India. Accordingly, in July 1953, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute were established to impart higher theological education for the efficient training of ministers, teachers, and other leaders for the churches. It was registered under the Society Registration Act of 1860 on 18 June 1962 to function as a full-fledged theological institution, and thereafter affiliated with the Senate of Serampore College (University), Serampore, West Bengal.
Later, in response to strengthening ecumenical relations, and in order to make Gurukul a Centre for praxis-oriented continuing theological education programmes, the academic programmes of Gurukul were transferred to the United Theological College, Bangalore and Serampore College, Serampore, in the year 1971. However, later having felt the need for new directions to make theological education in India more relevant, Gurukul was revived in 1985. Realising the distinctive role Gurukul could play in this regard, Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.), Master of Theology (M.Th.) and Doctoral of Theology (D.Th.) programmes were initiated respectively in 1985, 1989 and 1998, with an overall thrust to impart “A Bold Theological Vision” in theological education in India.