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India's Top Secrets

By Chandrabhan Prasad

15 November, 2004
The Pioneer

Should 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 replaced.

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:

Subject Student

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 it approved:

(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 the Resident.

(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 public.

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Reinventing Lord Macaulay
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