Indigenous Education in the 18th century

  • By Dharampal
  • March 2004

Leitner on Punjab     
Some 45 years after Adam, DR g w Leitner (one tome principal of Govt college, Lahore and for sometime Director of Public Instruction in Panjab), prepared an even more detailed survey of indigenous education there. The survey was similar to Adam but much less complementary about British rule. As time passed, the inability of the British rulers to face any criticism grew correspondingly.

Leitner’s research shows that at the time of the annexation of Panjab –

Year Nos of Pupils
1. 1850 Lowest computation of pupils in schools of various denominations acquainted with reading, writing, and some sort of computation. 3,30,000.
2. 1882 Same as in 1 1,90,000.

Furthermore, 35-40 years ago, thousands of them belonged to Arabic & Persian colleges, in which oriental literature and systems of law, logic, philosophy and medicine were taught to the highest standards. Persian was the official language of India till 1837. For extracts from Leitner’s work see below.

History of Education in the Panjab since Annexation and in 1882, Leitner on Education in the Panjab (extracts)

General - I am about to relate-I hope without extenuation or malice-the history of the contact of a form of European with one of Asiatic civilization; how, in spite of the best intentions, the most public-spirited officers, and a generous Government that had the benefit of the traditions of other provinces, the true education of the Panjab was crippled, checked, and is nearly destroyed; how opportunities for its healthy revival and development were either neglected or perverted; and how, far beyond the blame attaching to individuals, or system stands convicted or worse than official failure. Whether it is possible to rouse to renewed exertion, on behalf of its own education, the most loyal population that has ever been disappointed, is a question, which the following pages will only partially attempt to answer. Much will of course, depend on the wise adaptation of the noble principle just propounded-of ‘local self-government’-to a department of the Administration-that of education, -in which above all others, it can be introduced with perfect safety and the greatest political advantage.

Respect for learning has always been the redeeming feature of ‘the East’. To this the Panjab has formed no exception. Torn by invasion and civil war, it ever preserved and added to educational endowments. The most unscrupulous chief, the avaricious moneylender, and even the freebooter, vied with the small landowner in making peace with his conscience by founding schools and rewarding the learned. There was not a mosque, a temple, and a dharmasala that had not a school attached to it, to which the youth flocked chiefly for religious education. There were few wealthy men, who did not entertain a Maulvi, Pandit or Guru, to teach their sons, and long with them the sons of friends and dependents. There were also thousands of secular schools, frequented alike by Mahomedens, Hindus and Sikhs, in which Persian or Lunde was taught. There were hundreds of learned men who gratuitously taught their co-religionists, and sometimes all-comes, for the sake of God-Lillah, There was not a single village who did not take a pride in devoting a portion of his produce to a respected teacher.

In respectable Mahomedan families husbands taught their wives, and they their children nor did the Sikhs prove in that respect to be unworthy of their appellation of ‘learners and disciples’. In short the lowest computation gives us 3,30,000 pupils (against little more than 1,90,000 at present) in the schools of the various denominations who were acquainted with reading, writing, and some method of computation; whilst thousands of them belonged to Arabic and Sanskrit colleges, in which Oriental Literature and systems of Oriental Law, Logic, Philosophy, and Medicine were taught to the highest standards. Tens of thousands also acquired a proficiency in Persian, which is now rarely reached in Government and aided schools or colleges. Though all schools there breathed a spirit of devotion to education for its own sake and for its influence on the character and on religious culture; whilst even the sons of Banyas who merely learnt what they absolutely required in order to gain a livelihood looked with respect, amounting to adoration on their humble Pandhas, who had taught them the elements of two “Rs’.

We have changed all this. The annexation disturbed the minds of believes in Providence, and all that was respectable kept, as much as possible, aloof from the invader-just as the best Englishman would not be the first to seek the favor of a foreign conqueror.
Classification of Indigenous Schools

I. Sikh Indigenous Education
1. Gurmukhi Schools
II. Mohammedan Indigenous Education
2. Maktabs
3. Madrasas, religious and secular
4. Koran Schools.
III. Hindu Indigenous Education
5. Chatsalas (for the trading community)
6. Patshalas (religious)
7. Patshala (semi-religious)
8. Secular Schools of various kinds and grades
IV. Mixed Indigenous Education
9. Persian Schools
10. Vernacular Schools
11. Anglo-Vernacular Schools
V. Female Indigenous Education
12. (a) Female Schools for Sikh girls
(b) ---do--- Mohammedan girls
(c) Instruction at Hindu homes
With a more minute subdivision the indigenous schools might have to be classified as follows: -
I. Maktabs or Madrasas
1. Arabic Schools and Colleges (of various grades and specialties)
2. Perso-Arabic Schools and Colleges (of various grades and specialties)
3. Koran Schools (where merely or chiefly the Koran is read)
4. Perso-Koran Schools
5. Koran-Arabic Schools
6. Perso-Koran-Arabic Schools
7. Persian Schools
8. Persian-Urdu Schools
9. Persian-Urdu-Arabic Schools
10. Arabic Medical Schools
11. Perso-Arabic Medical Schools
II. Gurmukhi Schools
12. Gurmukhi Schools
13. Gurmukhi and Lande Schools
III. Mahajani Schools
14. Lande Schools of different kinds (Chatsalas)
15. Nagari-Lande Schools (Chatsalas)
16. Perso-Lande Schools
IV. Patshalas
17. Nagari-Sanscrit Schools
18. Sanscrit religious Schools
19. Sanscrit secular literary Schools (cultivating various branches)
20. Sanscrit semi-secular Schools (cultivating various branches)
21. Sanscrit Medical Schools (Chiefly)
22. Hindi-Sanscrit Schools
23. Sanscrit astrological or astronomical Schools (Chiefly)
V. Female Indigenous Schools
(classified as above)

List of Sanscrit books used
Balbodh                                                 Akshar dipika
                                                              I.     Grammar

Saraswat Manorama
Chandrika Bhashya
Laghu Kaumudi Paniniya Vyakaran
Kaumudi Siddhant Kaumudi
Shekar Prakrita Prakasa

                                                             II.    Lexicology

Amar Kosh Malini Kosh

                                              III.  Poetry, the Drama and Religious History

Raghu Vans Mahabharat
Megh Duta Venisanhara
Magh Sakuntala
Kirat Arjun Naishadha Charita
Ramayan Mrichhakatika
Sri Mad Bhagwat and other Puranas Kumara Sambhava

                                                                   IV. Rhetoric

Kavya Dipik Kavya Prakash
Sahitya Darpana Dasu Rupa

                                              V.  Mathematics, Astronomy & Astrology

Siddbant Shriomani Nil Kanthi
Mahurta Chintamani Brihat Jatak
Shighra Bodh Parasariya
Garbh Lagana

                                                            VI. Medical Science

Sham Raj Nighant
Susruta Sharang Dhar
Charaka Bhashya Parichehed
Madhava Nidan Vagbhat

                                                                    VII. Logic

Nyaya Sutra Vritti Gada dhari
Vyutpattivad Tarkalankar
Tark Sangrah Kari kavali

                                                                  VIII. Vedant
                                                      Atma Bodh Sarirak, Panch Dashi
                                                                       IX. Law

Manu Smriti Parasara Smriti
Yagya Valk Gautama

                                                                   X. Philosophy

Sankhya Tatwa Kaumudi Patanjali, Sutra Britti Sutra with Bhashya
Sankhya Pravachan Bhashya Yoga Sutra Vedanta, Vedantsar (see also above)
Vaiseshika, Siddhant Mimansa, Sutra with
Muktavali Sutra with a commentary Bhashya Artha Sangraha

                                                                  XI. Prosody

Srut Bodh Vritta Ratnakar

                                                              XII. Prose Literature

Hitopadesa Vasavadatta
Dasa Kumara Charita


Rigveda Sanhita (rare) Samaveda, Mantra Bhaga
Yajurveda, Shukla Yajur Chhandasya Archika (very rare)
Vajasneyi Sanhita

End of Extract.

The new rulers, educationists or missionaries were interested in a particular art like their writings on the manufacture of iron & steel, cotton & textiles but their interest lay in the method & technology and not how these were learnt.  Another reason for lack of documentation of techniques was that most learning was done at home, passed from father to son or from one group to another.

There is a sense of widespread neglect & decay in the field of indigenous education within a few decades after the onset of the British rule. This is the major impression, which emerges from the reports on Bengal, Madras Presidency and Panjab. The decay increased with time. The 1769-70 famine in Bengal (acc to the British one-third of the population actually perished) may be taken as a forerunner of what was to come. By 1900 it became general Indian belief that India had been decimated by British rule.

Receive Site Updates