The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century (1983), his magnum opus, is again based on the materials collected from the British archives. It compiles documents of a survey of indigenous education ordered by Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras, in 1822.
The details of the indigenous schools and institutions of higher learning sent by the collectors of 21 districts of the extensive Madras Presidency offer a fascinating picture of the extent, inclusiveness, and sophistication of the then-prevailing system of education in India. It also includes extracts from the reports of W Adam (1835-38) and G W Leitner (1882) about indigenous education in Bengal and Punjab, respectively.
This work debunks a myth that India was in darkness and that a large number of people in India were denied access to education. This work shows that public education at the elementary as well as higher levels, was widespread in all parts of India until the British started uprooting it and replacing it with their education system.
This work shows that the Indian system of education covered all sections of society and all castes. What is considered the low and Scheduled Castes today had a significant share in the system, both as students and as teachers.
How India's Primary Education system was destroyed by Britishers, Missionaries, and Macaulay's Children
On 10 Mar 1826, Sir Thomas Munro, the Governor of Madras Presidency, submitted a detailed Census and a survey Report to the British government.
The report was 'breaking news' not only to the British government in India but even in England. It surprised the top brass.
What was in that report that revealed certain unknown facts about India to the world?
The geographical dimensions of the Madras Presidency were from the Ganjam district of Orissa and to the entire South India. The population was 1,28,50,941. There were 12,498 primary schools. This is in spite of the fact that the collector of Mangalore did not send a report due to some reasons, and many hilly areas were not covered.
As per the report, on average, there was one primary school for one thousand population. Whereas England had a dismal average primary education record. In fact, Britain didn't have an education policy then.
Another interesting fact that even Indians we're not aware of is that only 24% of students in these schools were Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas. Shudras constituted the lion's share of 65%!
So, that shattered the general impression that existed that the Brahmanas dominated the education field. Of course, in higher education institutions, they were in the majority.
Why, then, the Britishers who came to India to loot and pillage,.. conducted such a nationwide survey covering Bengal, Bihar, Punjab, Bombay, and Madras Presidencies?
By the beginning of the 19th century, Britishers established themselves in most parts of India. They then wanted a steady, assured flow of revenue to fill the British coffers. But they were few in numbers to collect revenue from every nook and corner of such a huge milking cow of a nation like India. Also, employing British personnel was becoming an expensive proposition.
They wanted to find out how to bring in an education system to make certain locals' literate' so they could be employed at cheaper rates to maintain accounts and help in Administration. Such English-speaking people will remain loyal to them, and it would be easier to keep them as "English-speaking class" and "others."
This survey made the British wonder how come, in spite of outsiders plundering India repeatedly, destroying their assets, culture, and sentiments, such an education system continues to exist.
Traditionally every village temple sponsored a Pathashala, Gurukul, or Matha. On average, 35% of the land in a village belonged to the temple. This was a revenue-free land. The temple rituals, festivals, and fees for the teachers were paid out of this income from the land.
Sending a boy on the "fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year" was widely believed to be an auspicious day in those days. Some temples even provided "Anna Prasad" to the students. Every family used to send a boy for at least three years till he learned to read, write and do basic calculations. Subsequently learned the trade of his family tradition. Girls were normally taught at home.
Apart from this, the village temples served as nuclei of important social, economic, artistic, and intellectual functions. They were the library for not only scriptures, Vedas, and Upanishads, even the local literature inscribed on palm leaves were stored. These libraries were called 'Saraswati Bhandara.' There was a Jyothishi, a Vaidya, and a nurse to conduct deliveries of the women folk, all were part of the temple, and their remuneration was paid by the temple either in cash or by farm produce.
Temples also provided free shelter and food to travelers and pilgrims.
In the Madras, Presidency temples managed regional development functions, such as irrigation projects, building and maintaining water tanks and canals, land reclamation, post-disaster relief, and recovery. These activities were paid for by the donations of the villagers and pilgrims. Thus temples were the epicenter of primary education, skill development, and vocational training.
The first thing that the Britishers did was to hide this report.
In England, factory workers leave their children in a room before entering the workplace. These rooms were called "Schools"; in fact, the terminology... School originated here. Children were given some rudimentary education by a worker who wasn't fit for factory work.
There were "Grammar Schools" for the children from well-to-do families who had to pay a very hefty fee.
This was the education system that existed there. How could they digest the fact that India had a robust primary education system in place without any government grants or endowments?
The next thing they did was to reduce the revenue-free land of temples to 5% so that the temples barely sustained themselves. Gradually temples stopped sponsoring Gurukuls and Pathshalas.
Then came Thomas Macaulay...!
Destroyer of Sanatana Bharath's Education System. The primary education system was dying due to a lack of support and sponsorship. Britishers introduced the English education system in high schools. The fee was high, and only a few well-to-do families could afford it. The literacy rate of India nosedived to never heard of limits.
In 1931 Gandhi raised this issue at the Round table conference. He accused the British government of destroying the education system. British denied Gandhiji's allegations. They wanted the proof. Even Gandhiji was aware that the 1826 survey was either hidden or destroyed. It was much later discovered that it was hidden in the archive room of the British Library.
"Beautiful Tree" is a book written by Shri Dharampal on this survey. He took up a job in British Library just to unearth this report.
When he finally found the hidden report, he sat down to write this book.
Essentially Britishers found the education system of India to be a Beautiful Tree...So they wanted to find the roots of this tree, and they uprooted it!
Do the Macaulay's children in India who are now thriving in sold media, Lutyens circuits, looking through red glasses, ever bother to learn what the level of primary education system existed in Santana Bharat?
After India got its freedom from the Britishers, did the education system improve? No. It required a visionary to bring the system back to its original form, a system that was decayed by the missionaries. Unfortunately, the person who became the first education minister of Independent India was a Mecca born, educated at home by his maulvi father, and the learning was limited to Islamic teachings. His name... Maulana Abul Azad. For the eleven long years that he ruled over the education system of India, it just ran on autopilot while missionaries, false historians, and Macaulay's children continued to cause irreparable damage to the education system.
Now that the New Education Policy appears to have come out with some landmark changes let's hope the policy will usher in a new era in our education system.
….Wing Commander Sudarshan
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