Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya

Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya

Malaviya's Contribution to Higher Education


S. Somaskandan


The role of Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviyaji in the cause of higher education in India was unique and highly farsighted. But before coming to the actual subject matter, let us try to know as to what was Malaviyaji’s conception of higher education. As we all know, Malaviyaji’s was born just after the so-called Indian Mutiny of 1857. In the next two or three decades following this First War of Freedom the entire country was passing through a National Renaissance in every sphere of life-social, economic, political, religious and educational. The spirit of many great sons of this land rose in revolt against the British domination. Mahamana Malaviyaji was one of them. He joined the Indian National Congress immediately after its establishment, made his maiden speech before the great national gathering at its second session held at Calcutta in 1886 and became an ardent champion of Indian Nationalism. During his tours of the country in the subsequent years while attending the Congress sessions, Malaviyaji had the opportunity to observe the conditions existing in the country in the various spheres. He felt that religion was being neglected everywhere and that patriotism was impossible without religion for, the unity of life which is the essence of religion is also the basis of morality and of all true patriotism. Malaviyaji, therefore, came to the conclusion that in order to revitalize India as a Nation, it was necessary to feed her youth with the old spiritual and moral food and that religion must be a part of the education founded on Indian Ideals and enriched with the results achieved by the science and learning of the West. He asked:


“What is it that has reduced Hindus, as a body, to their present condition? They live in a country which abounds in natural wealth. Their land is as fertile as any in the world, and grows the best grains and daintiest fruits. The forests of their country are rich in fuel and timber. The mines of their country are rich in valuable ores and minerals. Their peasantries are industrious, sober and thrifty; their artisans are apt and skilful; their laborers are patient and hardworking; their upper classes include large numbers of highly intelligent men who can compete on equal terms, with the most gifted races, and can be trained to the highest functions which citizens of civilized countries may be called upon to perform. In the past, they produced great men and achieved great things. Hindu Society was formerly a lofty and noble structure. It is now a shapeless heap.”1 he replied:-


“Whatever other causes may have contributed to bring about this state of things, all thoughtful and well informed men will probably agree that one of the most important causes is the relaxation among the Hindu of the power, which, according to the Hindu scriptures, sustains society, viz. the power of religion as the very name dharma signifies.”2


“Religion is now mainly the pursuit of a few persons here and there. Barring a few exceptions, men who are endowed with intellectual gifts are mostly absorbed in the cares of office or professional business, and scarcely ever think of religion. Those who are possessed of wealth and power are, in too many instances, so engrossed in their temporal concerns that they have little thought of the spiritual interests of their dependants or neighbors or even their own. The rest of the Hindu Society consists of ignorant agriculturists, petty traders, ill-trained artisans, half-starved laborers, all forming a mass of abject humanity, oppressed by poverty and decimated by disease. Excepting a few earnest souls here and there, every Hindu is pursuing his own aims regardless of the edict of his actions on the society to which he belongs. Mutual trust and mutual co-operation, which are the soul of corporate life, have all but disappeared. There are not many capable leaders, and among such as there are, there is not much unanimity and combined action. In short, Hindu Society is utterly disorganized and disintegrated. This deplorable condition cannot be remedied without a wide diffusion of knowledge and the restoration of religion to its rightful place.”3


One may well think here that Malaviyaji talked about the reorganization of the Hindu Society alone which was fundamentally against the development of a true national sprit in the country. This view is not correct. Malaviyaji himself said in his presidential address at the Lahore Congress (1909 A.D.) that “no Indian is entitled to the honor of being called a patriot, be he a Hindu, Mohammedan, Christian or Parse, who desires for a moment that any fellow countryman of his whatever his race or creed may be, should be placed under the domination of the men of his own particular persuasion or community or that any one section should gain an undue advantage over any other section or all other sections. Patriotism demands that we should desire equally the good of all our countrymen alike. The great teacher Veda Vyasa held forth the true ideal for all religious and patriotic workers to purse in the noble prayer which he taught centuries ago:


“May all enjoy happiness; may all be source of happiness to others; may all see auspicious days; may none suffer any injury.”


As a matter of fact the Mohammedans were also proceeding on the same lines and endeavoring to have an educational system combining learning and scientific training with moral and religious education. They were trying to promote the interests of their own community and the building up of a common national life was not possible. So Malaviyaji had to confine himself to the Hindus only. He thought that “a great revival of Hindu Learning must precede any real advancement of the Hindu”, and pointed out to  the need for bringing the Hindu community under a system of education which would qualify its members for the pursuit of the great aims of life- Trivarga- as  laid down in the scriptures, viz.,


     (1)   Dharma – Discharge of religious prosperity

     (2)   Artha – Attainment of material prosperity

     (3)   Kama – Enjoyment of lawful pleasures


As regards the fourth great aim – Salvation or Self realization (Moksha) which was considered in the Hindu thought as an individual’s supreme duty to achieve and for which Education and learning was sought as a means, Malaviyaji thought that it should be pursued by each individual by his own efforts under the guidance of his spiritual preceptor and in accordance with the methods of his own particular need or denomination.


While suggesting such a system of education, he was not averse to assimilate the light and spirit of the new scientific age. He felt that “India cannot regain her prosperity until the study and application of the modern science becomes, so to speak naturalized in the country and that science cannot become a national possession so long as it has to be studied through the medium of a foreign language.”4 He wanted “a wide diffusion of science in India as a means of rescuing the people from the abject poverty,” by making it possible for Indian to learn science, both theoretical and practical, in their own country and in their own languages. Not only that; he considered it essential to introduce an extensive system of technical and industrial education in the country. Thus we see that Mahamna Malaviyaji sought to preserve the best thought and culture of ancient India and at the same time, to train experts in Science, men of business and industrial leaders. This was his conception of higher education.


With these objects in view he proposed in the year 1904 for the first time the establishment of a University (a) for the promotion of Sanskrit learning as a means of preserving and popularizing, for the benefit of the Hindus and the world at large, all that was good and great in the ancient civilization of India especially the high standard of morality, and those teachings, which led to the formation of the solid types of character which were content with plain living and high thinking and delighted in beneficence and generosity, and of enriching the modern vernaculars with the results achieved by modern science and learning and (b) for providing scientific and technical instruction of a superior order as a means of developing the vast resources of the country and of supplying prosperous careers for its people.


He further proposed that instruction at his University would be imparted in Sanskrit to all who desired it and that it should be compulsory in the case of those who wished to qualify themselves to be teachers of religion and those who wished to obtain the highest degree in medicine. For others instruction was proposed to be given through Hindi along with an adequate knowledge of Sanskrit. A sum of Rupees one crore was estimated to cost the establishment of this University.


Thought the scheme of Malaviyaji met with approval and support from the public, many thought that it was not practicable. In those days a private University not under the direct control of the Government was considered to be an impossibility. And even if the Government were to grant the required charter, how could the collection of a crore of rupees be made.


We have already noted that Malaviyaji wanted to revitalize India as a Nation through a system of education by reviving the ancient Hindu learning and combining with it the scientific, technical and professional knowledge of the West and at the same time making religion an integral part of education.


Naturally a question arises as to how a spirit of nationalism could be developed by establishing a University at a particular place in the country. Let us see what Malaviyaji himself felt about it. He said:


“University education has come to be regarded in every civilized country as the most important part of a national system of education and if the expenses incurred on University education in the West is compared with what we are expending on it here, it will be seen that we are far below the standard of other civilized countries and have much be way to make up. Our Universities are like so many power-houses needed to scatter the darkness of ignorance, poverty and cold misery which is hanging like a pall upon the country. The larger the number of well educated scholars the Universities will send out, the great will be the strength of the national army which is to combat ignorance and to spread knowledge. Every lover of India must therefore rejoice at the growth of Universities in India.”


Malaviyaji thus visualized that the students trained in the new system of education would be able to spread knowledge throughout the country and thereby develop the national spirit. So he proposed the establishment of an All-India University which was to be a teaching and residential University unlike the other five Universities that existed in India at that time viz. those of Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Lahore and Allahabad, Modeled on the London University they were mainly examining Universities. He proposed the establishment of this new residential and teaching All-India University at Banaras which has been the cultural and religious centre of India since ancient times and thereby tried to maintain the fundamental unity in India.


.the political atmosphere in the country was however not favorable during the years 1905 to 1910for carrying out an active propaganda in favor of the proposed University. The proposal had to be put off year after year. But Malaviyaji kept it alive by discussions and consultations with a view to begin work. As a result of these discussions, the scheme had undergone some important changes. IT was agreed that the proposed University should be a residential and teaching University of the modern type and that instruction should be imparted though the medium of English but that as the vernaculars are gradually developed, the University might allow any one or more of them to be used as the medium of instruction in subjects and courses in which it might be considered practicable and useful. Even then English was to be taught as a second language in view of its usefulness as a language of world-wide utility.


In the year 1911, Malaviyaji decided to give up his lucrative practice at the bar for the sake of realizing the cherished dream of his life. He started an extensive tour of the country securing the sympathy and support of the public. A society called the Hindu University Society was established. Mrs. Annie Besant and the Maharaja of Darbhanga who had their own schemes of a Hindu University at Banaras, agrees to abandon their schemes and co-operate with Malaviyaji for the establishment of a Hindu University as envisaged by Malaviyaji.


Ruling chiefs were approached for help. The eloquent pleading of Malaviyaji worked wonders. Money came pouring in. All-rich and poor, princes and peasants contributed their mite and within a short time over Rs. 50.00 lakhs were subscribed.


The Government was then approached to sanction the establishment of the University. Great help was received in this direction from the then Education Member of the Government of India, Sir Harcourt Butler. Considerable time was required for drafting the Hindu University Bill which was eventually introduced in the Imperial Legislative Council on the 22nd March, 1915 by Sir Harcourt Butler.


Exception was taken by some members at that time to the proposed University on the ground that it would be a sectarian University. They expressed an apprehension that being sectarian in its character, it might foster or strengthen separatist tendencies. They thought that the existing Universities had been exercising a unifying influence in removing sectarian differences between Hindus and Mohammedans. In reply to these objections Malviyaji said in his speech in the Imperial Legislative Council:


“The University will be a denominational institution but not a sectarian one. It will not promote narrow sectarianism but a broad liberation of mind and a religious spirit which will promote brotherly feeling between man and man. Unfortunately we are all aware that the absence of sectarian religious Universities, the absence of any compulsory religious education in our State Universities has not prevented the growth of sectarian feeling in the country.


“I believe, instruction in the truths of religion, whether it would be Hindus or Mussalmans, whether it be imparted to the students of the Banaras Hindu University or of the Aligarh Moslem University will tend to produce men who, if they are true their religion, will be true to their God, their King and their country. And I look forward to the time when the students who will pass out of such Universities, will meet each other in a closer embrace as sons of the same motherland than they do at present.”5


The bill was passed by the Imperial Legislative Council and received the assent of the Governor General on 1st October, 1915 and became Law. It came into effect from 1st April, 1916.


Arrangements were soon made for laying the foundation stone of the University at the extensive site acquired on the south of the city of Banaras about half a mile away from the banks of the river Ganges. The Foundation Stone was laid on the 4th February, 1916 by Lord Harding the then Governor-General and Viceroy of India. The University began to function from 1st October, 1917 with the Central Hindu College as its first constituent College. Soon the buildings began to raise their heads at the new site and in the year 1921 the University started functioning in its home.


Malaviyaji laid great stress on the Technical Education and Agricultural Education. His separate note as a member of the Indian Industrial Commission 1916-18 is a masterly presentation of India’s Industrial and Economic position and an open exposition of the causes which have operated to work her ruin. Concluding the portion dealing with Technical Education Malaviyaji wrote:


“I cannot close this portion of my note better than by adopting with necessary modifications the concluding remarks of Mr. Samuelson on the subject of Technical Education:


‘In conclusion I have to state my deep conviction that the people of India expect and demand of their Government the design, organization and execution of systematic technical education and there is urgent need for it to bestir itself for other nations have already sixty years’ start of us, and have produced several generations of educated workmen. Even if we begin to-morrow the Technical Education of all the youth of twelve years of age who have received sound elementary education, it will take seven years before these young men can commence the practical business of life, and then they will form but an insignificant minority in an uneducated mass. It will take fifteen years before those children who have not yet begun to receive an elementary education shall have passed from the age of 7 to 21 and represent a completely trained generation; and even then they will find less than half of their comrades educated. In the race of nations, therefore, we shall find it hard to over-take the sixty years we have lost. Tomorrow, then, let us undertake with all energy our neglected task; the urgency is two-fold-a small proportion of our youth has received elementary, but no technical education; for that portion let us at once organize technical schools in every small town, technical colleges in every large town, and a technical University in the metropolis. The rest of the rising generation has received no education at all, and for them let us at once organize elementary education, even if compulsory.”


Malaviyaji expressed the opinion that “every teaching University should be encouraged to provide instruction and training in mechanical and electrical engineering under training in mechanical and electrical engineering under its own arrangements. The needed measure of workshop practice can be provided by arrangements with railway and other workshops existing in or near the cities or town where they exist; and where this may not be feasible; they should be encouraged to establish sufficiently large workshops to be run on commercial lines as a part of their engineering departments. Under such an arrangements the students will be able to spend their forenoons in the workshops and their afternoons in the classes at the University; they will live in an atmosphere of culture and will cultivate higher aims and ideals than they are likely to, in schools attached to railway workshops. As our mechanical engineers are to play a great part in the future development of the country, it seems to me highly desirable that they should combine culture and character with expert knowledge and technical skill. And nothing is better calculated to ensure this than that they should be brought up under the elevating influences of a University and should bear its hall-mark.”


Malaviyaji did not stop here. He put into action immediately his ideas and started the Engineering College in the Banaras Hindu University in the year 1919. Soon he established a Department of Mining and Metallurgy also. Other technological courses like Ceramics Technology, Glass Technology etc. were also introduced. The graduates, who came out of the Colleges of Engineering, Mining and Metallurgy etc., are to-day occupying key positions in several industries. Malaviyaji thus rendered an invaluable service to the country in the field of industrial and technological development by making available well-trained personnel for the purpose.


Malaviyaji pleaded for the promotion of commercial education also. He said (in his note as a member of the Indian Industrial Commission):


“I believe that in view of the industrial development which our recommendations foreshadow, if a College of Commerce is established in every major province of India, a number of our young lawyers who find the bar over crowded, will be glad to take advantage of such education and become efficient means of promoting the growth of industry and commerce in the country.”


The establishment of the Banaras Hindu University was a novel experiment in the field of education. It was the first residential and teaching University to be established in the country. The next decade was an era of a general development of University education in India. “Twelve new Universities were organized or strengthened by the addition of staff and equipment to afford facilities for higher education and research in both arts and science subjects. It is just after the establishment of the Banaras Hindu University that the Calcutta University Commission submitted its report. That report was the result of several years of close study. It may be noted that the recommendations which were made by the Calcutta University Commission both on the administrative and on the academic side were forestalled by the Banaras Hindu University. The constitution which the Commission recommended was on the lines of the one adopted by the Hindu University.


Thus we see that it was Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviyaji who showed us the way in the field of the University Education in India.


Malaviyaji laid great stress on the contact between the teachers and the taught. He was keen in developing the corporate life in the University campus. It is for this purpose that he wanted all the Colleges of the University at one place and not scattered. Speaking about the Hindu University as its twelfth Convocation held in 1929, he said:


“We do not rely upon the teaching of religion alone for the building up of character in our yuth. The whole life at the University is so happily molded and regulated as to help a student to develop the best of which he is capable. Physical culture is greatly encouraged. It is practically compulsory …… They (the students) live under the eye of the teacher, for residences for the teachers have been provided in the hostels themselves. The whole arrangement is such that the teachers and the taught come into close contact with each other, so also students with students……..The common life which makes the many one is pulsating more vigorously. The atmosphere is pure and elevating. Apart from the help which he receives from his teacher, each student is educating himself and educating his fellow-students at the University. A code of honor is silently growing among them – a good augury for the future.”


Malaviyaji exhorted the graduates going out of the University “to form Loka Siksha Samiti, a People’s Education League and start betimes the campaign against illiteracy and ignorance.” He asked them “to invite all the educated youth of our country to join in undertaking this grand Endeavour.”


He wanted the students to “make it a point to go to the villages and work among their countrymen.” He exhorted them to be determined to dispel the darkness which envelopes our masses.” Open Schools. Instruct the masses in the three ‘R’s, i.e. reading, writing and arithmetic. To which add one more viz., religion, the religion of which I have spoken the religion of love and service, of toleration and mutual regard.”


Malaviyaji attached foremost importance to Patriotism. Exhorting the students he says:


“The education you have received would have been lost upon you if it did not plant an ardent desire in your minds to see your country free and self-governing. I wish you to cherish that desire, and to prepare yourselves to discharge every obligation which may be cast upon you for the early fulfillment of it. You know that the highest duty of a citizen is to offer the final sacrifice of his life when the honor of the motherland requires it. I desire you at the same time to remember that duty also demands that life shall be preserved for service and not lightly thrown away under wrong inspiration. I, therefore, wish you to act with a full sense of responsibility and to work in the right spirit and under proper guidance for the freedom of the country.”6


For Malaviyaji, to keep alive the sense of duty towards God and towards our motherland, to serve our fellowmen, to promote public weal and to be prepared to sacrifice everything for the sake of the motherland, was the real purpose of higher education. Throughout his life he endeavored to serve this cause.




      1.      Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, The first prospectus of 1904, p. viii

      2.       Ibid, p. ix

      3.       Ibid, p. x and xi

     4.      S.L. Dar and S. Somaskandan, History of the Banaras Hindu University, B.H.U.  Press, 1966, p. 61

      5.      Ibid, p. 282

     6.      Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya’s Convocation address, Twelfth convocation of the Banaras Hindu University held on 14th December, 1929.

Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya