WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8546

Date uploaded in London – – – 21 August 2020   

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                                                      R. Nanjappa


                                                 Chapter 9 – Part 1

Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century.  

We saw in the previous post that the British colonial powers gathered lot of information

and statistics about the actual  state of Indian education prevailing in the areas under

their administration. But their purpose was not to understand, improve or build upon it,

but supplant it. Two impulses drove them: to evangelise, using education; and to Westernise

(which would achieve the same result indirectly, as expressed by T.B.Macaulay.)

 While the administrators in London initially welcomed the survey and the reports, initiated

by Governor Sir Thomas Munro, they dismissed them as of no consequence upon receipt.

The enormous amount of statistical and other information thus obtained merely gathered dust.

But they make interesting, and essential reading even today. Dharampal has included all

this material in his book, and has also provided statistical tables and analysed them.

We shall now look at qualitative aspects of the reports.

Brahmins did NOT dominate

Contrary to popular perception, and consistent propaganda by vested interests, the

proportion of the twice-born [Brahmins and Vysyas] students  was quite low. It was lowest

in the Tamil speaking areas, from 10% in North Arcot to 23% in Madras, while Sudras and

other castes ranged from 70% in Salem to 84% in Tinnevelly. This was more or less

representative of the whole country. 
In Malayalam speaking Malabar, the twice-born students constituted less than 20%,

Muslims 27%, the Sudras and others constituted 54%.
In Kannada speaking Bellary, Brahmin and Vysya students constituted 33%, while the

Sudras and others constituted 63%.
In Oriya speaking Ganjam, the Brahmin and Vysya students formed 35%, while the Sudras

and others formed 63%.

It is in the Telugu speaking areas that the Brahmin students formed a major portion, from 24%

in Cuddapah to 46% in Vizagapatam. Vysya students formed 10.5% in Vizagapatam to 29%

in Cuddapah.
Sudra students formed 35% in Guntoor to over 41% in Cuddapah and Vizag.
In Andhra, the Brahmin boys took up Vedic studies, after learning reading and writing in the

general schools.


Local languages predominate

The language of the area predominated. But there were also schools teaching languages

such as Grantham, Hindvee
( Hindustani), Persian. Coimbatore had 10 schools teaching Persian.In North Arcot, 365

schools taught Tamil, while 201 schools taught Telugu. Bellary had equal number of Kannada

and Telugu schools, and also 23 Marathi schools. In Madras Presidency there were 10

schools teaching English, 7 of them in Arcot.


The boys entered school generally at the age of 5 in the case of Brahmins, at 6 to 8 in the

case of others. Duration of study varied from 5 to 15 years, 5 or 6 years being common. The

Collector of Madras reported:

“It is generally admitted that before they attain their 13th year of age, their

acquirements in the varied branches of learning are uncommonly great.”

The schools functioned generally from 6AM till sun set with two breaks for lunch.


There were institutions of higher learning, though these were not called ‘colleges’. A total of

1094 were reported in Madras Presidency. Rajhamundry had 279, Coimbatore 173,

Guntoor 171, Tanjore 109, North Arcot 69, Salem 53,Chingleput 51, etc


The practice of learning by private tuition was widespread.  The Brahmin boys generally

learned the Vedas and allied subjects only by private tuition. In the Malabar, Theology & Law,

Metaphysics, Astronomy, Ethics, Medical Sciences were taught by private tuition. It is 

generally Sudra students who took up Astronomy and Medical sciences. British doctors

determined that it was the Barbers who excelled in surgery.
Brahmin boys formed a very small portion of those engaged in higher studies, and they only

specialised in Theology, Metaphysics, Ethics and Law.

                                                          ***      Chapter 9 to be continued

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