While there has been -some discussion on the extent of school education in early 19th century India (especially in the context of the-statement of 1931 by Mahatma Gandhi and response to it by Philip Hartog) not much attention has been paid, to the nature and extent of higher learning in India at this period of time. It is not that there have been no books etc., written on higher learning in India, But most of these discussions seen to be confined, to a rather ancient period and cover mainly the accounts of the Greek or Chinese travellers on Taxila, Nalanda etc,

While our information on the centers of higher learning in ancient India is thus really scanty, -there somehow have crept in, a large number of pre-conceptions or myths on the) nature and * functioning of these institutions:—That higher learning was predominantly available only some cities as the Pundits who taught were largely patronized by the royal courts; that it was mainly concerned with theology or metaphysics as expounded in' the Vedas and perhaps the Vedanta School of philosophy; that it was exclusive* to Brahmins; that it was predominantly imparted in single-teacher institutions; that the course of instruction was based on various ancient obscure texts with" hardly any modifications being introduced over time etc, etc. There is also the widespread feeling that the whole system had became totally stagnant 'at quite an early period in Indian history and that many of the texts Had become totally unintelligible to most of the teachers who therefore resorted to mere repetitions of the texts with no clear explanations, and that all that a scholar could do was to learn by rote. In addition, it has often been said that by the time the British came here the 'entire system had long outlived its usefulness and no wonder it (eventually got replaced by English education. And so on.

Without going into the question of how much of the above is true with reference to any earlier period in Indian history, it will be our purpose to examine them in the light of whatever information is available regarding higher learning in the 18th and early 19th century India. For this we have to rely on the various British accounts, and especially the various education surveys conducted in early 19th Century. The surveys of indigenous education conducted in early 19th century mentioned the existence of several centers of higher learning, which were termed 'Colleges' in the survey of Madras Presidency. There were reported to be 1,094 such Colleges in the Presidency with 5,431 scholars studying in them.* In addition, various collectors reported that in many places higher education was imparted, privately at homes. The Collector of Malabar Stated that the number of those thus privately taught was 1,594 as compared to the
75 studying in the only surviving College in the district run by the much-impoverished Samudrin Raja. Even the scattered and incomplete survey of Bombay Presidency reported the existence of several centers of higher learning. The Surat Sudur Adalut reported 18 colleges while the Khandesh survey indicated 75 centers of higher learning. There were reported to be around 90 such institutions in the city of Poona and around 47 in the rest of Poona District. As regards the Bengal Presidency, Adam noted in his first report that:

If I were to hazard a conjecture founded on all the facts and statements I have met with, I should say that there are on an average probably 100 such institutions in each district of Bengal, which would give 1,800 for the whole province. In 1818, Mr. Ward enumerated 28 schools of Hindoo learning in Calcutta, in which 173 scholars received instruction ... Assuming the Calcutta average ... there will appear to be 10,800 students of Hindoo learning throughout Bengal.'

What Adam actually found regarding the 'institutions of Sanscritic learning' in the five districts that he surveyed later, is summarised in Table 1 :


One particularly interesting feature of higher learning in Bengal Presidency in early 19th century is the subject wise distribution of the institutions of higher learning as revealed in Table 1. It is often assumed today that higher learning -Y* for Hindus meant merely the study of Vedas and the study of the Vedanta school of philosophy. What however emerges from Table 1 is that, of the 2t524 scholars studying in 353 institutions of higher learning in five districts of Bengal & Bihar, 1424 studied Grammar, 378 Logic, 336 Law, 120 Literature, 82 Mythology, 78 Astrology, 48 Lexico-logy, 19 Rhetoric, 18 Medicine, 13 Vedum, 5 Tantra, 2 Mimansa and 1 Sankhya. Much later in the century, Leitner also found a somewhat similar situation prevailing in Punjab. According to him:

'In the Panjab also, it must be mentioned that instruction in the Vedant seems to have beer, mostly given by down-country Pundits; the study of grammar and of logic apparently forming the subjects in which Panjabi Pandits were Feciles principes among their colleagues in India . Pandit Rishi Kesh Shastri gives a list of 86 famous Pandits, among many others, who maintain Sanscrit school at their own expense, whilst many also feed and clothe their pupils. The largest number of pupils attending those schools seems to be 56 at Bhin, under Pandit Kaka Ram, for it is not considered conducive to careful study to instruct too many eleves at a time. Their ages vary from boyhood to old age, for learning of which 19 taught Law, 13 Grammer and General Literature, 2 Logic and one each taught Puranas, Tantra, Medicine and Vedanta. See for instance the recent edition of Adam's second report by Di Bona: 'One Teacher One School', Delhi 1983, pp. 81-88. All our references to Adam, unless otherwise stated, are to the above edition of Di Bona.


Institutions of Sanscritic learning in some districts of Bengal & Bihar

  Murshidabad Beerbhoom Burdwan South-Bihar Tirhoot Total
Number of
24 56 190 27 56 353
Number of
(Subject wise)
Grammar 23 274 644 356 127 1,424
Logic 52 27 277 6 16 378
Law 64 24 238 2 8 336
Literature 2 8 90 16 4 120
Mythology 8 8 43 22 1 82
Astrology - 5 7 13 53 78
Lexicology 4 2 31 8 3 48
Rhetoric - 9 8 2 - 19
Medicine - 1 15 2 - 18
Vedum - 3 3 5 2 13
Tantra - 1 2 2 - 5
Mimansa - - - 2 - 2
Sankhya - - - 1 - 1
Total Number
of Students
153 362 1,358 437 214 2,524

Sanscrit is inexhaustible, and the capacities or occupations of students do not bring them to the same standard within fixed periods. The subjects studied in those 'gratuitous' schools are generally "Grammar and Logic'", "Grammar and Literature", Puranas, Medicine and Astrology. The Vedant is more rarely taught.'

Down South in Malabar, of the 1594 scholars who were persuing higher studies privately, 808 were studying Astronomy, 474 Law and Theology, 194 Medicine, 65 Metaphysics and 53 Ethics. That perhaps the importance given to different subjects in higher learning varied from region to region may be the reason why a somewhat different picture emerges in the rest of Madras Presidency. Of the 618 Colleges in the four Districts of Rajahmundry, Nellore, Arcot and Coimbatore (for which subject-wise details are available) 418 taught Vedum, 198 Law, 34 Astronomy or Ganeet Shastrum and 8 Andhra Shastrum or Telegu Poetics.

Unlike the general or elementary education, which was conducted everywhere in the local vernacular, the higher education was mainly based on Sanscrit texts in the case of the Hindu centres of higher learning and on Persian or Arabic texts in the case of Muhammadan centres. . Again, while in most areas the Brahmins or even the twice-born among the Hindus constituted only a minority amongst all those who underwent elementary education, higher learning amongst the Hindus seems to have been taken up mostly by the Brahmins. However it is important to note that higher learning was in no sense exclusive to Brahmins. According to Adam:

‘Sanscrit learning is to a certain extent open to all classes of native society. The inferior castes may study grammar and lexicology, poetical and dramatic literature, rhetoric, astrology and medicine; but law, the writings of the six schools of philosophy and the sacred mythological poems are the peculia1 inheritance ,of the brahman caste'.

As Dharampal notes (*):
'The disciplines of Astronomy and Medical Science seem to have been studied by scholars from a variety of backgrounds and caste, and this is very evident from the Malabar data where out of 808 studying Astronomy privately only 78 were Brahmins, and of the 194 studying medicine, only 31 were Brahmins. Incidentally, in Rajahmundry five of the scholars in the institution of higher learning were Soodras, and according to other Madras Presidency surveys, of those practicing Medicine and Surgery it was found that such persons belonged to a variety of castes, and amongst them the barbers, according to British medical men, were the best in Surgery'.

Even more so, according to a major British authority of that period on South India (**):
The higher classes of the Sudras have here (i.e. South India) ever shared with them (Bramans) in Ecclesiastic and legal power, and in that education which has enabled them to maintain their pretensions. Hence those works which in Northern India are considered so sacred as only to be perused by the select among the Bramans themselves, even the Vedas, have been transposed into the Tamil, and have by a variety of writers been commented, disputed, and their authority often rejected. Many Sudras, the Pandarams (those of the ecclesiastic order) especially at the present day understand the Sanscrit better than the Bramans, in addition to their native Tamil, of which few Bramans have a competent Knowedge'.


One very important feature of these centers of higher learning is that they drew scholars from all over India. According to Adam, The students of Hindu Colleges are generally divided into three classes, which may be explained by the terms townsmen, or natives of the village in which the College is situated. Countrymen, of natives of the district or province in which the college is situated, and foreigners or natives of any other district or province. At the time of his survey of Nattore Thana, Adam found/that of the 397 students in the centers of higher learning, 261 students were outsiders while only 736 came from the village in which their college was situated. All the students were taught gratis and the outside students were provided in addition free food and lodging.

There are indeed several accounts of this period which clearly show that scholars came from really far off places to study in centers such as Navadweep, Benares, etc. TheJCoIlector of Guntoor reported during the Madras education survey that, 'should people be desirous of studying deeper in theology etc., than is taught in these parts, they travel to Benares, Navadweepum etc., where they remain for years to take instructions under the learned Pundits of these places'**. The report from Southern Konkan in the Bombay Presidency noted that, 'It is probable that at least a tenth part of the Brahmins who attain manhood visit Benares' and that 'there are about 250 houses of Concan Brahmins at Benares and there are various schools in the City for the instruction of Hindoo in Sangskrit, which are under teachers of this country [Concan]'. ***

In his first report Adam had himself noted that in Navadweep 'there are many (students) from remote parts of India' especially from the South. There are some from Nepaul and Assam, and many from the eastern districts, especially Tirhoot'(*).

It should also be emphasized that some of those reputed centers apart from having scholars from various distant parts of India studying in them, did indeed have the character of a University. The impression that seems to be generally prevalent that Indian centers of learning were all one-teacher institutions is clearly controverter by many accounts of 18th Century. As regards Navadweep or Nuddea, William Jones wrote to the Earl of Spencer in 1787 that 'This is the third University of which lam a member'(**) JA more detailed account of the 'Nuddeah University', was published i in 1791, from which the following is extracted(***);

'The grandeur of the foundation of the Nuddeah University is generally acknowledged. It consists of three Colleges—Nuddea, Santipore and Gopulparrah. Each is endowed with lands for maintaining masters in every science. Whenever the revenues of these lands prove too scanty for the support of the Pundits and their Scholars, the Rajah's treasury supplies the deficiency: for the respective masters have not only stated salaries from the Rajah, for their own support; but also an additional allowance for every pupil they entertain. And these resources are so ample, and so well administered, that in the College of Nuddeah alone, there are at present about ELEVEN HUNDRED students, and ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY masters. Their numbers, it is true fall very short of those in former days. In Rajah Roodre's time (Circa 1680) there were at Nuddeah, no less than FOUR THOUSAND students and masters in proportion. The students that come from distant parts are generally of a maturity in years, and a proficiency in learning to qualify them for beginning the study of philosophy immediately on their admission, but yet they say, to become a real Pundit, a man ought to spend twenty years at Nuddeah in close application.. Their method of teaching is this: - two of the masters commence a dialogue, or disputation on the particular topic they mean to explain. When a student hears anything advanced, or expressed that he does not perfectly understand, he has the privilege of imercogating the mate about it. They give the young man every encouragement, to communicate their doubts, by their temper and patience in solving them. It is a professed and established maxim of Nuddeah that a Pun who lost his temper, in explaining any point to a student, let him be ever so dull and void of memory, absolute! Forfeits his reputation, and is disgraced'.

The period occupied by higher learning was generally seen to be ranging anywhere between ten to twenty-five years, so that most often the student would have passed his thirtieth year before he left the college. It was the case in Bengal that the apartments used as school houses (Tots) and as a place of accommodation for the students were separate from the dwelling house of the teacher but built at his expense (i.e. from his assignments). Adam has furnished the following account of the expenses involved for the student.*

'As the student is furnished with instruction, food, and lodging without cost, the only remaining, source of expense to him are his books, clothes, and minor expenses, all of which, exclusive of books are estimated to cost him in no case more and often less than seven rupees per annum. His books he either inherits from some aged relative or at his own expense and with his own hands he copies those works that are used in the college as text-books. In the latter case the expense of copying includes the expense of paper, pens, ink, ochre and oil. The ochre is mixed with the gum of tamarind seed extracted by boiling, and the compound is rubbed over the paper which is thus made impervious to insects and capable of hearing writing on both sides. The oil is for light, as most of the labor of copying is performed by night after studies of day have been brought to a close'.

It may also be of interest to quote at length the following account Adam presents of the Pundits, the teachers in these centers of higher learning in Bengal** (an account which perhaps reveals more of the preconceptions of Adam and other Britishers of that period) :

'The Pandits are of all ages, from twenty-five to eighty-two... The humbleness and simplicity of their characters, their dwellings, and their apparel, forcibly contrast with the extent of their acquirements and the refinement of their feelings. I saw men not only unpretending, but plain and simple in their manners and although seldom, if ever, offensively coarse, yet reminding me of the very humblest classes of English and Scottish peasantry; living constantly half naked, and realizing in this respect the descriptions of savage life; inhabiting huts which, if we connect moral consequences with physical causes, might be supposed to have the effect of stunting the growth of their minds, or in which only the most contracted minds might be supposed to have room to dwell—and yet several of those men are adepts in the subtleties of the profoundest grammar of what is probably the most philosophical language in existence; not only practically skilled in the niceties of its usage, but also in the principles of its structure; familiar with all 1 the varieties and applications of their national-, laws and literature; and indulging in the abstruse and most interesting disquisitions in logical and ethical philosophy. They are in general shrewd, discriminating (and mild in their demean our. The modesty of their character does not consist in a abjectness to a supposed or official superior, but is equally shown to each other. I have observed some of the worthiest speak with unaffected humility of their own pretensions to learning, with admiration of the learning of a stranger and countryman who was present, with high respect of the learning of a townsman who happened to be absent, and with just praise of the learning of another townsman after he had retired, although in his presence they were silent respecting his attainments'.

More than all this it is much more important to have an idea of what the course of instruction was like in the various subjects taught at the centers of higher learning. Perhaps one of the most important parts of Adam's reports is the description he has given of the course of instruction followed in the various centers of Sanscritic learning in the Nattore Thana. We shall present here a detailed extract from his account (All page references are to Di Bona's Edition of Adam's second report).

'In this district, as in Bengal generally, there are three principal classes into which the teachers and schools of Hindu learning are divided, and which therefore may with advantage be separately considered. The acquirements of a teacher of law, and the acquirements, of the latter in general pre-suppose those of a teacher of general literature'. (P-81)

The studies embraced in a full course of instruction in general literature are-grammar, lexicology, poetry and there drama, and rhetoric, the chief object of the whole being the knowledge of language as an instrument for the communication of ideas. Incidentally, Parulekar. and many other scholars seem to categorically rule out any connection between thejelementary education provided in the various schools and the higher education provided in these centers of higher learning, based on statements such as the following by Adam (Adam, p. 240). 'There is not, as I have been able to observe and judge, any mutual connection or dependence between Vernacular and Sanscrit schools'. However, the above judgment of Adam should be assessed in the light of what he himself says concerning the prerequisites that a scholar should have before embarking on higher education. 'The youths who commence the study of Sanscrit are expected to have acquired either at home or r'm a Bengali school merely a knowledge of Bengali writing and reading and a very slight .acquaintance with the first rules of arithmetic, viz addition and subtraction, without acknowledge of their applications' (Adam p. 82). Further, according to the Collector of Masulipatam, 'If the boys are of Vydeca Brahmins, they are so soon as they can read properly, removed direct from schools to colleges of Vedums and Sastrums' (Dharampal, op. cit. p. 29).

On entering a School of learning a student is at once put to the study of Sanscrit grammar. Grammar is a favorite study in this district and the most extensive and profound treatises on it in the Sanscrit language are those in most general use. In the thirteen schools of this class there are four different grammars used, Panini being taught in six, the Kalapa in two, the Mugdhabodha in three, and the Ratnamala in two. In teaching the first work employed is the Bhasha Vritti a commentary by Purushottama Deva on Panini's rules omitting those which are peculiar to the dialect of the Vedas. This is followed by the study of the Nyasa, and exposition of the Kasica Vritti, which is a perpetual commentary on Panini's rules. The Kasica Vritti does not itself in any case appear to be used as a text-book, but references are occasionally made to it. The Kalapa grammar is taught first in the Daurga Sinhi, an exposition by Durga Sinha of the Katantra Vritti, the latter being a brief and obscure commentary on the original aphorisms. This is followed by Katantra Parisista, a sup-plement to the Kalapa by Sripatidatta; by the Katantra Panjica, a commentary on the Daurga Sinhi by Trilochandasa; by the commentary of Sushena Kaviraja on the same; and by Parisista Prabodha a commentary by Gopinatha on the supplement above mentioned. The original aphorisms of the Panini and Kalapa grammars are believed to possess divine authority, which is not attributed to any of the other works employed in this course of instruction. The Mugdhabodha of Vopadeva is studied without any commentary in the two schools where it is used; and the Ratnamala, a compilation by Purushottama from the Panini and Kalapa grammars is studied with the com-mentaries called Jiveshwari and Prabhaya Prakasika. A list of verbal roots with their meanings is also committed to memory in this part of the course.

'Lexicology is the most appropriate name that has occurred to me for describing that branch of study by which, simultaneously with the study of grammar, knowledge of the meaning of single words and of their synonyms is acquired. The only work employed for this purpose is the Amara Kosha by Amara Sinha, with the commentary of Raghunatha Chakravarti. The names of objects, acts, qualities, etc., are classified and their synonyms given, which the students begin to commit to memory without the meaning and they afterward read the work and its commentary with the teacher who explains them. This gives the student a large command of words for future use either in reading or composition; and it is after some acquaintance with the grammar and the dictionary that the teacher usually encourages and assists the students to compose verbally or in writing, I short sentences in Sanscrit.

'The work in verse invariably read first is the Bhatti Kavya on the life and actions of Ram, composed to form a continued illustration of grammatical rules. In rhetoric the first work read is the Chandomanjari on prosody, and the only other work by which this is followed here I found to be the Kavya Prakasa on the poetical composition', (pp. 82-83).

'The compilation of Raghunandana on every branch of Hindu law, comprised in twenty-eight books, - is almost exclusively studied in the district ... Of the twenty-eight books those are* almost exclusively read which prescribe and explain the ritual of Hinduism. The first book invariably read is that on lunar days; and this is followed by others without any fixed order of successlon and those on marriage on purification, on obsequies, on the intercalary month of the Hindu calendar etc; but the number of books read is seldom more than ten. Raghunandana's treatise on inheritance and Jimutavahana's on the same subject are also taught by one or two pandits' (p.-85).

'In law,' Manu and the Mitaksara, which are studied in other parts of Bengal, are here (i.e. colleges of Nattore) known only by name' (p. 88). The course of instruction in logic embraces the reading and explanation of the following works, viz. Bhasha Parichheda, an introduction to the system of logic, with definitions of terms, qualities-and objects; Vyapti Panchaka on the necessary or inherent qualities of objects, Sinha Vyaghra, a supplement to the preceding; Vyadhi-karanadharmava'chinabhava on the same subject; Siddhantalakshana, the same; Avach-hedoktanirukti the same; Visesavyapti, the same; Pakshata, on inferential propositions; Samanya Lakshana, on the definition of classes or genera; Samanyanirukti the same; Avayava on syllogism; Hetwabhasa, on fallacies; Kusumanjali, .on the proofs of the divine existence, the attributes of the divine nature and the means of absorption into it; and Vyutpattivada, a treatise on the derivation and meaning of the radical portions and of the suffixes and affixes of words' (pp. 85-86).

'In the Puranic school...the pandit gives instruction in general literature, in law, and in astrology...he also teaches the puranas, Mahabharata, arid derives a great part of his emoluments from the public recitations of them in wealthy families...

In astrology he teaches the Jyotisa Tatwa by Raghunandana, a summary of astrological knowledge; the-Jataka Chandrica, on the calculation of nativities; and the Satkritya Mukta'vali, the Dipika, and Samaya Pradipa, on lucky and unlucky days...

[In] the Tantric school...the pandit teaches superficially grammar and Vedanta, but his distinctive name is derived from his professional instruction in the Tantra... The work taught by this pandit is the Tantra Sara', (p. 86)

'[In] the Medical school...the work first read is the Nidana, a standard medical work, after which the students of this school read Chakradatta by Chakrapani, Ratnamala by Ramakrishna; Dravya Guna by Narayana Dasa'" a commentary by the same author on his own work Madhamati; commentaries of Vijaya Raksita,' and Siddhanta Chinta-mani on the Nidana; a commentary on Chakradatta by Yasodhara; and Patyapatya, a work described as variously treating of the causes of disease, diagnosis, the practice of medicme, and materia medica' (p. 87)

'Before commencing the study' of medical works, it is deemed requisite to pass through a course of grammar and general literature' (p. 229)

We shall also reproduce here a list of books that Adam reported as being used in the various colleges of Bengal and Bihar that he covered during his survey of the five districts.

Books used in the Sanscritic Centres of Learning of Bengal and Bihar Grammar:
1. Mugdabodha (with Rama Tarkavagisi commentary) 2. Kalapa (Trilocha-nadasa commentary) 3. Panini (with Kaumudi commentary) 4. Sankshipta Sar (Goyi-chandri commentary) 5. Mugdabodha (Daurgadasi commentary) 6. Harinamamrita (by Mulajiva Goswami) 7. Sabda Kaustubha (by Bhattoji Dikshita) 8. Mahabhasya (by Patanjali) 9. Siddhanta Kaumudi (by Bhattoji Dikshita) 10. Manorama (by Bhattoji Dikshita) 11. Sabdendu Sekhara (by Nagoji Bhatta) 12. Vaiyakarana Bhushana (by Konda Bhatta) 13. Sabda Ratna (by Hari Dikshita) 14. Paribhasartha Sahgrahya 15. Chandrica (by Swami Prakasananda) 16. Paribhasendu Sekhara (by Nagoji Bhatta) 17. Siddhahta Manjusha 18. Saraswati Prakriya (by Anubhuti Swarupacharya) 19. Laghu Kaumudi 20. Vaiyakarana Siddhantamanjusha (by Nagoji Bhatta)

Lexicology : 1. Amarakosa

General Literature: 1. Hitopadesa 2. Bhattikavya 3. Sakuntala 4. Raghuvamsa 5. Naishadha 6. Kumarasambhava 7. Magha 8. Padankaduta 9, Kirata Kavya 10. Purva Naishada 11. Bharaviya

Law: 1. Tithitatwa (by Raghunandana) 2. Prayaschittatatwa (by Raghunandana) 3. Udbahatatwa (by Raghunandana) 4. Suddhitatwa (by Raghunandana) 9. Srad-dhatatwa (by Raghunandana) 6. Ahnikatatwa (by Raghunandana) 7. Ekadasitatwa (by Raghunandana) 8. Malamasatatwa (by Raghunandana) 9. Samaya Suddittatwa (by Raghunandana) 10. Jyotishatatwa (by Raghunandana) 11. Dayabhaga 12. Prayas-"Tchitta Viveka 13. Mitakshara 14. Sarojakalika 15. Sraddhaviveka 16. Vivahatatwa 17. Dayatatwa.

Rhetoric: 1. Kavyaprakasa 2. Kavyachandrika 3. Sahityadarpana.

Vedanta : 1. Vedantasara 2. Sankarabhasya 3. Panchadasi 4. Vedanta Paribhasha.

Mimansa : l. Adbikaanamala.

Sankhya : 1. Sankhyatatwa Kaumudi

Tantra: 1. Tantrasaraa 2. Saradatilaka.

Logic: 1. Vyapti Panchaka (Mathuri commentary) 2. Purvapaksha (Jagadisi commentary) 3. Savyabhichara (Jagadisi commentary) 4. Kevalanvaya (Jagadisi commentary) 5. Avayava (Gadadhari commentary) 6. Satpratipaksha (Gadadhari commentary) 7. Sabdasktiprakasika (Gadadhari commentary) 8. Siddhantalakshana (Jagadisi commentary) 9. Vyadhikarama Dharmavachinnabhava. 10. Sinhavyaghara 11. Avachhe- ' doktanirukti 12. Vyapti Grahopaya 13. Samanyalakshana 14. Pakshata 15. Paramarsa 16. Samanyanirukti 17. Taraka (Mathuri) 18. Anumiti (Gadadhari commentary) 19. Satpratipaksha (Jagadisi commentary) 20. Visesa Vyapti 21. Hetwabhasa, 22. Sabdasaktiprakasika 23. Saktivada 24. Muktivada 25. Bauddhadhikara 26. Pramanya-vada 27. Lilavati 28. Kusumanjali 29. Bhasha Paricheda 30. Siddhanta Muktavali 31. Pratyaksha Khanda.

Mythology: 1. Bhagavata Purana 2. Bhagavadgita 3. Ramayana 4. Harivansa 5. Saptasati.

Medicine: 1. Nidana 2. Sarangadhara Samhita 3. Charaka 4. Vyakhaya Madhu-kosha 5. Chakrapani.

Astrology: 1. Samaya Pradhipaj2. Dipika 3. Jyotishasara 4. Mahurta Chintamani 5. Mahurta Kalpadruma 6. Lilavati 7. Sighrabodha 8. Mahurtamartanda 9. Nila-kanthiya Tajaka 10. Laghutajaka 11. Vija Ghanta 12. Graha Laghava 13. Siddhanta Siromani 14. Sripati Paddhati 15. Sarva Sangraha 16. Surya Siddhanta 17. Ratna Sara' 18. Brahma' Siddhanta 19. Bal Bodha.

A similar list of text books used in the centers of Sanscritic learning in Punjab has been provided by Leitner. One very important feature of the above list of the books! used in these centers of higher learning is- that many of these happen to be important treatises written in the period 1600-1800. While some of these treatises have been taken up for study by the scholars of the West (or the 'modern' scholars of India) only late in 20th century, many of them still remain totally unexplored by modern scholars.

By the 1830's the centers of: higher education in India were in no less a state of decay than those of elementary education discussed in Part I. Still, since perhaps the numberjof scholars pursuing higher education was not that large as in elementary education, the former continued to be provided free of any charge and further all those scholars who came from a different village or even distant provinces were freely provided for. Indications of how resources were assigned in pre-British times for higher education are to be found in the reports of some of the collectors who conducted the Madras Presidency survey. According to the Collector of Madurai, 'In Agraharam villages inhabited by Brahmins, it has been usual from time immemorial to allot for the enjoyment of those who study the Vaidums and Pooranums (religion and historical traditions) an extent of maunium (rent-free) land...and they gratuitously and generally, instruct such pupils as may be brought to them.' The Collector of Masulipatam reports the following on the 'Colleges of Vedum and Sastrums': 'The former (Vedum) is said to be the mother to all the sciences of Hindoos, and the latter (Sastrum) is the common term for all those sciences, which are in Sanscrit, viz law, astronomy, theology etc. . These sciences are taught by Brahmins only, and more especially Brahmins holding Agraharams, Mauniums, Rozunahs and other emoluments, whose duty it is to observe their religious obligation on all occasions.'

Other ways of supporting higher education, apart from revenue assignments was by the grant of 'money-pensions or 'Yeomiahs' to Pundits, Maulvis and other scholars. One such grant in the Bombay Presidency noted by Parulekar: The well-known "Daxina" Fund of the Peshwas which amounted to several lakhs was annually distributed among learned Brahmins who assembled at Poona every year. In the year of the Report (1B24) this Daxina was much reduced by the new Rulers (the British), keeping it to about 35,000 rupees for annual distribution'.

In Adam's Report on Nattor Thana we came across several instances of a similar policy by the British, a policy which had led to the I round decay that had set in not morely in elementary education but also in higher education. Adam notes that 'I have met with only two instances of teachers of Hindu schools of learning in the actual enjoyment of endowments. Representations were made to me respecting certain endowments which formerly existed, but which have been recently discontinued, and are claimed as still rightfully due to persons now alive". Adam then cites four instances where this had happened specifically and also that 'Two or three other cases were reported to me, but not with sufficient precision to justify their mention at this place'.

Adam then goes onto make a plea that the Government should reconsider its decision and perhaps restore some of those endowments, so that a new impulse would be given to learning*. In response to this suggestion of Adam, Macaulay wrote** 'Here are six endowments of the same sort. Two are continued and Mr, Adam acknowledges that they are mere' jobs. But if the other four were revived, immense impulse would be given to' learning. I am 'forced to say that do not very clearly see how Mr. Adam has arrived at this conclusion. There is something so extravagantly absurd in hereditary professorships that we ought not to express any wish to have them 'revived.'


Most of the accounts on the history of Indian education in early 19th century deal 'at some length with the so called 'controversy' between the 'Orientalists' and 'Anglicists'. In many of these discussions the impression that gets conveyed by and large is that the Orientalists werej supporters of indigenous learning and if only they had their way, English education would not have been imposed on India at the expense of indigenous education. , This is perhaps not the place to go into a detailed discussion of the larger purposes that the 'British Orientalism' served in terms of working out an appropriate re interpretation of the entire Indian past, traditions and even scriptures and erecting huge edifice of 'Indology' that we have to content with even today. What should however be made clear is that there was indeed no difference between the Orientalists and Anglicists in terms of what they wanted to see achieved. The differences lay only at the level of the method that was to be adopted for achieving a common goal.

As a typical instance of the Orientalist approach, we may cite what actually Adam argued while advocating .that some of the endowments for higher learning be restored: 'As the Government has been made the almoner and trustee of such endowments, it is worthy of consideration how without neglecting native learning, the promotion of which was one of the principal objects of the founder, they may also be made-subservient to the cause of genuine science through the medium of the learned language of the country, for the enlightens of those whose influence there can toe little hope of winning over to the cause of true and useful knowledge except through that medium.'

Clearly what Adam is arguing is that these centers of higher learning should prove useful, hot because they are teaching anything valuable, but because they could be of help in advancing the cause of Genuine Science or of True and Useful Knowledge by which is of course meant Christianity any Western Science.

The importance that was attached (at very high levels of British society) to Sanscritic learning for the sake of 'propagating true knowledge' can be clearly seen from the following account of the establishment of the prestigious Boden Professorship at the University of Oxford in the 1830's.

'The late Joseph Boden, esq. Colonel in the Honorable East India company's service, bequeathed the whole of his properly to the University of Oxford for the foundation of a Sanscrit professorship, and the encouragement of Sanscrit learning; being of the opinion "that a more general and critical knowledge of the Sanscrit language will be a means of enabling his countrymen to proceed in the conversion of the natives of India to the Christian religion by disseminating a knowledge of the sacred scriptures amongst them, more effectually than all other means whatsoever". (Oxford Calender 1832 p. 48). Horace Hymen Wilson Esq., perhaps the first Sanscrit scholar of the present age**, and highly distinguished for his taste and learning in general literature, was elected to this chair in the present year (1832)'

While there was no disagreement on the importance of Europeans' acquiring mastery over Sanscrit and other Indian languages, and their literature for the purposes of propagating Christianity or Western science, or even more so for reinterpreting Indian traditions for the benefit of the Natives, few among the policy makers in London or their main agents here such as Bentinck, Macaulay etc, thought that the indigenous schools or centers of learning could play any role in this great project. Thus the main difference between the Orientalists and the Anglicists was therefore essentially one of the methods to be adopted in introducing the true knowledge of the Christian West into India. Nowhere does this become more clear than in the Note (dated 15.2,1835) written by Prinsep (a leading figure among the 'Orientalists') in order to refute the arguments expressed in the famous minute of Macaulay*** (dated 2.2.1835). According to Prinsep:

'But the great argument remains to be noticed and that is that by encouraging the study of native literature we create the very opposition which is adduced as the chief obstacle to the introduction of the study of English and of true science. It is declared by those who take the opposite view to Mr. Macaulay that . . . there is no hope of our being able by the mere offer of instruction in English and English science to secure that it shall be received for its own sake. These persons say that the best chance of procuring that true knowledge shall ultimately prevail is to engraft it upon the course of education now most esteemed (i.e. indigenous learning) and to take every means of leading the youth to the improved condition in which it is desired to place them by giving them first all what they respect and admire in their fathers and then besides the further instruction we have to impart. The argument on the other side is that unless we violently assail and displace the false literature that we see held up as erudition and learning we shall by continuing instruction in it create opposition to the reception of the new(*)'.

Clearly none among those who mattered in decision-making thought much of the kind of 'engraftment' that the Orientalists talked about. The indigenous system of education, already considerably smashed, was not going to get any new lease of life even for the purpose of spreading Christianity or Western Science.

Author:Madras Group(**)

No comments:

Post a Comment