Chapter 6: OUR PAST PART - VI
History of Education in India
The British also came with the belief that they had a duty to
civilize the natives. The White man's burden was an important reason
for colonizing India.
The Indian Education journey started with William Jones a
judge at the Supreme court of Calcutta. Jones was a linguist who
knew Greek, Latin, Arabic and spent hours on studying Sanskrit and
other intricacies of the language. He also started exploring other
articles on Ancient Indian laws, culture, practices, traditions and
philosophy. With like minded Englishmen he started the Asiatic
society of Bengal. They group of people who respected both the
traditions of east and the West were called Orientalists.
They believed that Indian civilization had reached its epic in the
past and then declined. They wanted to study the ancient texts and
rules of India to understand the civilization as the felt this could
form the basis of future development of India. British wanted to
show Indians the grandeur of the past so that the latter would feel
new respect for the British. The British by doing this would
become guardians of Indian culture and also its masters.
The British influenced by Orientalist thinking believed that Indians
ought to be educated in Sanskrit and Persian instead of languages
alien to them. Thus the orientalist favored stability over
The British needed Indians scholars to teach them Sanskrit and
Ancient laws which the British believed would form the basis of
British rule in India. Lord Warren Hastings was an Orientalist and
opened Calcutta Madrasa, John Duncan formed Sanskrit College in
These institutions were for training Indians for lower level
Anglicist view on Education
They represented the growing criticism
against the Orientalists views. The Orientalist policies hadn't
increased trade nor in any way contributed to developing favorable
atmosphere for British rule in India.
Anglicist's believed that Eastern education and literature was full
of errors. It was light headed, non serious and unscientific. The
Anglicists believed that the aim of education isn't appeasement but
to teach something useful and practical. They rejected the oriental
view on education. They believed that Indian's should be made
familiar with scientific and technological enhancements in the West
rather than Oriental poetry.
The most influential and outspoken attack was from Thomas
Macaulay, member of Lord Bentinck's executive council. He
said that a library of English education would surpass all the
literature produced by Orient. He felt that by teaching English to
Indians they would be able to read the finest literature the world
has produced. The language would civilize the people by making them
aware of the developments in the West and change their their tastes.
He therefore urged the British government to stop spending on
promoting oriental education. The English Education Act
was passed and English became the medium of instruction at higher
levels and vernacular languages were for lower levels.
Work of the Christian Missionaries
The East India Company was against the education provided
by Christian missionaries till 1813. The missionaries believed in
oriental education as it would improve the moral values of a person.
They felt that christian education would civilize the natives. Since
the Company refused them to set up schools in British controlled
areas they operated outside.
A school, printing press was set up and a college was established.
After 1857 revolts Company was apprehensive to the work of
missionaries as it felt the natives would be enaged by the attack on
local customs, beliefs and practices by the missionaries.
Education in Pre - British period, Reforms by British and
Reactions by National Leaders to Education
Indian schools in Pre British period were flexible institutions.
Every village had a school. Each would have a teacher and around
20 pupils. The teachings was oral, no attendance was taken, no
fixed timings, no exams and no written notes. During harvest
season as children had to work in fields schools would be closed.
The British wanted to reform this system and so they appointed
government Pandits to inspect schools and enforce rules. The
Government also gave grants to all those who followed norms laid
by it. The Teachers who didn't accept this were forced to look for
other resources and often couldn't compete with government aided
Gandhiji was critical of the Education policy
and rejected the English medium schools. He felt they would lead
to Indians developing Western tastes, speaking alien languages and
worshiping western culture. Such people would have no value for
the nation. He wanted education to be more practical oriented and
based on vernacular languages.
Rabindranath Tagore also had similar view but
key difference was that he wanted to assimilate the best of both
cultures in Education. He wanted schools to teach Indian art,
culture and western science and philosophy.
Journey of Visual Art in India
European artists introduced painting in India which was
based on realism - The artist would faithfully render what he
observed into a canvas. The oil painting were introduced to
Indian artists. However European artist emphasized the
superiority of their culture, traditions in their art. British
artist also drew paintings of British territory in India. India
was depicted as an ancient grand civilization that was now
declining but it could be modernized only by British governance.
Portrait painting - Face and expression of the
Person is prominent became popular now. Indian art used to paint
miniature portraits but now life sized portraits were made. Some
were used to show grandeur, majesty and indicated status and
lifestyle of the subject. Englishmen were the center of such
portraits and Indians were shown as servants or submissive. Some
portraits were made by Princes of India who used to portray
themselves as figures of authority although they had lost it to
History paintings too were a form of popular art. The British
victories were shown in them. They were appreciation of British
valor, courage and victory however they never showed the true
story behind the victory which would be the cunning and the
Effect on Indian Artists
- Some rulers like Tipu sultan rejected the European
art and continued with patronage of Indian artists.
Murals of Wars where the English were defeated continued to
grace his palace.
- Indian miniature artists were encouraged by some rulers to
absorb European features of art like Perspective
- Some artists painted by the Company officials who wished to
collect information about colonial life. The pictures were local
plants, animals, monuments, communities and festivals.
- A new form of art developed in Calcutta villages which was
adopted by local artists. Since Calcutta was becoming a hub of
development it attracted many looking for opportunities. The
artists saw the changes in society by the British and painted
them. These mocked the western babus, corrupt officials and
ridiculed the system. The painting made by them were three
dimensional with use of shades to give appearance of rounded
object. The figures were larger than life i.e. unrealistic
- As Nationalism grew paintings got a religious aspects with
Bharatmata or Durga personified.
- English educated artists used European style to make paintings
of Indians in front of beautiful scenery. Printing press too was
used for large scale printing so paintings could be bought by
Search for Modern Indian Art
Raja Ravi Verma
A search for modern art that would be national emerged and Raja
Ravi Verma became the first to qualify for such a distinction. He
had mastered western style of oil painting and realistic
paintings. But he used this to paint scenes from Indian
mythologies like Ramayan, Mahabharat. The popularity of
such paintings was so high that Princes, Nawabs filled their
courts with his paintings. He also started a printing press so
that color paintings could be mass printed and cheap painting
copies could be obtained. Even the poor could afford this.
Fig 1: Painting
People rejected Ravi Verma's art in some parts as they felt a
truly nationalist art must be obtained from non western forms.
They felt the Ravi Verma couldn't capture the essence of Eastern
art. Indian art should draw inspiration from the traditional art
forms like miniatures and murals paintings like the Ajanta caves.
Abanindranath Tagore drew art inspired by such forms and drew images
of mythologies and old stories. But he too was criticized
as some felt that mythology wasn't the center of Indian art and
artists should depict real life.
Fig 2: Painting
Journey of Indigo in India
British felt that India could be used to grow crops needed in
Britain. The dye of blue was needed for rich blue color in
clothes. The tropical indigo plant gave this color. However the
indigo that reached Europe was in small quantities and costly.
Hence Europeans preferred a temperate plant called woad. The
European textile owners asked the government to ban entry of
indigo into their countries.
However soon it was realized that woad gave a dull blue unlike
the richer variety given by indigo. Hence the indigo trade
resumed. Initially Caribbean countries and India were the only
sources but revolt in Caribbean nations made India the sole source
Plantation system of indigo
- Nif: Under this system the planter purchased
or leased land and cultivated indigo with hired labor. But under
this many problems were faced like difficulty to expand land,
high cost of labor and investment in ploughs and bullocks.
Indigo and ice had the same cycle so labor was difficult to
- Ryoti: Under this system the indigo trader
gave loan to plant indigo to the farmer. He would reserve 25% of
his farm land for indigo and after harvest sell indigo to
trader. However here too the farmer was at a loss as the price
indigo fetched was very low and cycle of loans never ended. He
had to reserve the best soil for indigo and so food crops
Ryoti system became the reason for peasant oppression. Riots
followed in such areas as discontented peasants protested against
the European traders. British government wanted to avoid a large
scale uprising so soon after 1857 riots and so formed a commission
for looking into the matter. The commission recommended an end to
this system and so the indigo riots ended.