15 November, 2004
we know our past the way we like to, or should we know it as it existed?
In other words, should there be any distinction between "History
Writing" and "Story Telling"? Those who condemn Lord
Macaulay for imposing the 'wrong' education on India, never tell us
as what was the education system which he fought, and eventually got
The present columnist is not a trained 'Storian', yet a cursory journey
through original files gathering dust in the National Archives, tell
us some top secrets Indian 'Storians' have suppressed. We don't have
to spend much energy to learn what is taught in Indian Madrasas, which
survived Macaulay's onslaught. But, most Sanskrit schools as they existed
in pre-Macaulay times, have withered away, making our task difficult
to decode our past. In pre-Macaulay India, there were two kinds of education
systems, often called, "indigenous systems", and the subject
matter was Hindu/ Muslim theology, and the medium of instruction was
either Sanskrit or Arabic/Persian. Here is a case of the Benaras Sanskrit
College, founded in 1791 by Jonathan Duncan, the East India Company
Resident at Benaras.
The Company official one Mr A Troyer, Secretary to the Government Sanskrit
College, Benaras, filed a progress report of the College on January
31, 1835 (page 40, Selections from Educational Records, 1781-1839).
In his report, Troyer gives a break-up of 181 students enrolled, and
the subject they were studying:
Sanskrit Grammar 78
Sanskrit Literarture 28
Sanskrit Rhetoric 16
Sanskrit Mathematics 12
Sanskrit Logic 07
Sanskrit Law 21
Sanskrit Medical 13
Earlier, immediately after establishing the college, its founder Jonathan
Duncan proposed the following rules for the college on January 01, 1792
(Pages 11-12, Selections From Educational Records, 1781-1835), and got
(1) The Governor in Council to be Visitor, and the Resident, his Deputy.
(2) The stipends to be paid by hands of the Resident; but the Pundits
to have no concern with the collection of the Revenues.
(3) The nine scholars (or eighteen if so many can be supported) to be
taught gratis; but no others except a certain number of such poor boys
whose parents or kinsmen cannot pay for instruction. All other scholars
should pay their respective teachers, as usual.
(4) The teachers and students to hold their places during the pleasure
of the Visitor.
(5) Complaints to be first made to the Resident with a power of appealing
to the Visitor for his decisions.
(6) The professor of medicine must be a Vaidya and so may be the teacher
of grammar, but as he could not teach Panini it would be better that
all except the physician should be Brahmins.
(7) The Brahmin teachers to have a preference over strangers in succeeding
to the headship and the students in succeeding to professorships, if
they shall on examination be found qualified.
(8) The scholars to be examined four times a year in the presence of
the Resident in all such parts of knowledge as are not held too sacred
to be discussed in the presence of any but Brahmins.
(9) Each professor to compose annually a lecture for the use of his
students, on his respective science; and copies of such lectures as
may legally be divulged to be delivered to the Resident.
(10) Examinations of the students, in the more secret branches of learning,
to be made four times a year by a committee of Brahmins nominated by
(11) The plan of a course of study of in each Science to be prepared
by the several professors.
(12) The students to be some times employed in transcribing or correcting
books for the use of the College, so as to form in time a perfect library.
(13) The discipline of the College to be conformable in all respects
to the Dharma Sastra in the Chapter on education. The second book of
Manu contains the whole system of discipline.
In light of the above facts, can Indian 'Storians' enlighten us as on
what count Lord Macaulay was wrong? Or, what would have been India's
face had the "indigenous" system of education continued till
August 15, 1947, had that "Tryst with Destiny" occurred without
Macaulay? The Dalit Diary would like many more top secrets to be made
By Chandrabhan Prasad