The Banaras Hindu University
Acharya Sitaram Chaturvedi
Eminent Writer & Prof. BHU
THE BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY is, quite literally, the creation of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. Even when he was at school, he had begun to dream of a day when young men and women of India would not be obliged to go to foreign countries for higher education. It always pained him to observe that while students belonging to other sects knew much about their religion, the Hindu students knew very little about their rich cultural legacy. Later, when he was a student of the Muir Central College, Allahabad, he was grieved to learn that number of Indian youths, who went to England for higher studies, returned home with distorted attitudes towards their own country and culture. The solution, according to Malaviaji, lay in creating a university in which a correct approach towards Indian cultural values and the Indian way of life-behaviour could be taught to the Indian youth. When he ventilated his feelings to his classmates, they made fun of him and retorted, “Have you gone mad? Where will you find means to set up such a big university?” Malaviyaji, however, did not lose heart. When the Allahabad University came into existence in 1887, he changed his original idea of a University at Allahabad and decided to have the University of his dream at Banaras.
With the establishment of the Universities at Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Lahore and Allahabad, a new class of young men sprang up in India, which was ambitious to secure administrative jobs under the British Government. Simultaneously, a group of young rebels also began to grow up at these universities. These young men were appalled by the partisan nature of British education and the slavish mentality of their compatriots who sought to derive material advantages under the British rule. Those who belonged to this group of nationalists and patriots became an eyesore to the British administrators who resorted to all possible means to suppress their activities and disrupt their efforts. But the result was just the reverse. The more the Britishers tried their suppressive measures the more violent and indomitable grew the determination of these young men.
Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy, was greatly alarmed at this state of affairs and appointed an Indian Universities Commission in 1904 to probe into working of the universities in India. On the basis of this report, all the universities were brought directly under Government control. A Calcutta University Commission was appointed in 1917 and on the basis of its recommendations, a teaching university was established at Dacca (now in Bangladesh) while the other universities remained only examining bodies.
In the light of these developments, it became all the more essential to establish a national university where oriental and occidental arts, humanities and sciences could be taught without losing contract with Indian culture and thought. A surge for establishing educational institutions was discernible throughout the country for imparting national education. Raja Munshi Madholal of Banaras had donated a handsome amount of rupees three lakh for the establishment of a National College at Banaras. Lokamanya Tilak with the help of some friends, had founded a Samarth Vidyalaya in Poona. A large number of great scholars had come forward to dedicate their lives to this sacred cause and offered their honorary services to such national institutions. The Maharaja of Nabha called on Sikh community to improve the condition of the Khalsa College of Amritsar. A handsome donation was similarly promised for a new college at Ranchi. Sir Syed Ahmed, the founder of the Aligarh Muslim College, was steadily planning to raise the college of the status of a full-fledged residential university. The Bareilly College was speedily developing under the munificent patronage of the Nawab of Rampur. The Maharaja of Balrampur set apart a notable amount of rupees three lakh for the establishment of a new institution on the pattern of ancient Gurukuls. The Tata Research Institute, furnished with equipments for carrying up-to-date research, had also seen the light of the day. All these private enterprises came into being simultaneously because of the general belief that the educational institutions set up by the Government could not cope up with the growing demand for higher education, specially for education having Indian bias.
It was in consonance with the above efforts throughout India that in the year 1904, Malaviyaji formally moved the resolution for establishing a Hindu University at a meeting held in Kashi under the presidentship of the Maharaja of Banaras. When the ambitious scheme of the Banaras Hindu University was placed before the assembly most of the elite present there expressed grave doubts about its feasibility. The Maharaja of Banaras in one of his speeches at the Central Hindu College of a later date, admitted, “When my honourable friend Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, who deserves the credit of making the initial proposal, first gave me his mind for the purpose, I harboured very great doubts in its realization.” In spite of these doubts, however, the resolution was unanimously carried. This success encouraged Malaviyaji so immensely that he immediately gave up his law practice in November 1905 in order to devote full attention to the new project. For one full month, he practiced penance at the Hanuman temple at Triveni by chanting the Gayatri Mantra for achieving success in establishing the cherished University. He then approached his venerable father for his blessings. In addition to his sincere blessings, his father gave him a token donation of fifty-one rupees for the University. The same year, the Indian National Congress had decided to hold its session at Banaras under the presidentship of Shree Gopal Krishna Gokhale. In October of the same year, Malaviyaji got thousands of copies of the scheme of the proposed university printed and dispatched to leading princes, philanthropists, learned men and other eminent countrymen.
I. A Hindu University be established at Kashi as an Indian University with the undermentioned objects:
The resolution was carried unanimously. It was also agreed that the foundations of the new university would be laid as soon as a sum of rupees thirty lakh was collected and provision made for an annual recurring expenditure of rupees one lakh.
The Hindu University was not established merely to grant degrees and diplomas to young men of India. Its main purpose was to enable the students to feel grateful to the creator of the Universe and to be true Hindus and patriots. Malaviyaji laid great emphasis on technical education and wished that by achieving knowledge of various arts and sciences, our young men should make out country self-dependent and self-sufficient. In one of his speeches relating to the establishment of the Hindus University, he referred to the progress made by America and Europe during the past seventy-five years particularly in producing articles for daily use with the help of technology, and said that “India has lagged much behind those countries where the study of science by experimentations is done for the good of the society and for the service of the country.” It is evident from this statement that his main aim in establishing this university was to cultivate nationalism in the true sense and spirit of the word.
Just then, an earthquake of great intensity rocked the Kangra valley in the Punjab bringing disaster and destruction to the people of that area. But more violent then the Kangra earthquake was the political upheaval brewed by the British Government through the partition of Bengal. This result was a great agitation on an unprecedented scale resulting in the exile and imprisonment of a large number of Indian political leaders. Among them were some of those great men who were actively associated with the establishment of the Hindu University. So the scheme was put in cold storage for the time being.
The Central Hindu College of Mrs. Annie Besant had gained world-wide repute as a great centre of learning. A number of eminent scholars of renown in India and abroad dedicated their lives to the cause to impart learning without any remuneration. Mrs. Annie Besant possessed great faith in Hindu religion and culture and owed to her credit the authorship of a number of books on Hindu religion. She wanted to raise her College to the status of a teaching University, with the right of affiliating colleges throughout the world. Consequently, she applied for a Royal Charter under the signature of influential personalities for the establishment of a ‘University of India’. The Bharat Dharma Mahamandal of Kashi, under the Presidentship of the Maharaja of Darbhanga, had simultaneously launched a scheme for the establishment of a Sanatan Dharma University. In the year 1911, the Maharaja of Darbhanga incorporated his scheme with that of the Hindu University proposed by Malaviyaji and both of these great men met Lord Hardinge, the then Governor-General of India, who readily gives his consent and assent and promised whole-hearted support on behalf of the Government. Correspondence was in the meantime going on between Malaviyaji and Mrs. Besant and in April 1911, at Prayag, the three schemes were merged into one. Many of the respectable and influential citizens of Prayag pressed Malaviyaji had to shift the venue of the University to Prayag but Malaviyaji did not budge an inch from his original resolve and argued that as Kashi was an ancient seat of learning, the Hindu University could not be established at any place other than Kashi.
There was divergence of opinion among the Trustees of the Hindu College on the question of recognizing J.Krishnamurti as World Teacher. In the meanwhile, it was reported that the establishment of a Muslim University at Aligarh had reached its final stage. Hence, it became all the more necessary to expedite the establishment of the Banaras Hindu University for which so much had already been done and public opinion had already been created. Malaviyaji again became active. He wanted to have Pandit Sundar Lal, the leading advocate of the Allahabad High Court as the Secretary of the Banaras Hindu University Society. Pandit Sundar Lal felt that he would not be able to give enough time to the Society. Moreover, he was not all confident of the success of the scheme. So the burden had to be borne by Malaviyaji all alone. He began his whirlwind tour of the country to collect donations. Calcutta was first on the itinerary. The millionaires of Calcutta generously responded to his call and the reception meted out to him there filled his heart with hope and confidence and his bowl with gold.
When the British Government learnt that education was to be imparted through the medium of Hindi in the proposed University, they became greatly alarmed. The Education Secretary to the Governor-General, Sir Harcourt Butler made it clear to Malaviyaji during personal talks that he should not expect any recognition from the Government if education was to be imported through the mother-tongue in the University, for, as long as work was carried on through English, it was intelligible to them but when recourse was taken to mother-tongue, evrthing became unintelligible, hence no permission would be accorded to any scheme of education in which provision was made for teaching through the mother-tongue. Malaviyaji who did not want to see his scheme-founder, for the reason, dropped the idea of imparting education through the mother-tongue. Bu that time, Sir Sundar Lal had also agreed to take over the Secretaryship of the University Society on the advice of Sir Harcourt Butler.
When Malaviyaji met the then Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, in connection with establishment of the Banaras Hindu University, the Viceroy told him, “It has been complained to me that you oppose the Government stealthily.” Malaviyaji at once replied, “This is not a fact. You may get writings and speeches scrutinized personally and if anyone finds any matter which may tend to propagate ill-will against the English people, I will at once beg pardon for the same.” Lord Hardinge was convinced of his sincerity and since then he always held Malaviyaji in great respect and confidence.
Mrs. Annie Besant also extended her support to the idea of the Hindu University. The establishment of the Hindu University was formally declared at a public meeting in Calcutta at which donations worth five lakh of rupees were promised for the proposed University.
A deputation, led by Malaviyaji, visited all important towns in northern India from Calcutta to Lahore. Everywhere it was accorded a rousing reception. In a short period of three months, promises were made for a sum of rupees twenty-five lakh. The party was invited to Simla where Malaviyaji met the then Viceroy, Lord Hardinge. When he returned from there, he informed his colleagues that the Viceroy had promised to give his assent to the establishment of the Banaras Hindu University. At once Babu Shiva Prasad Gupta said, “This is the death-knell of the University.” The deputationists returned back to Lahore from Simla and in a largely attended public meeting, Lala Lajpat Rai, the Loin of Punjab, declared: “Charter or no charter, Hindu University must exist.”
Even Pandit Sundar Lal with whom he had planned the whole scheme of the Banaras Hindu University was not confident of the success of the scheme and he used to ask Malaviyaji in jest, “When will your toy University will surely come into existence?”and Malaviyaji used to give his usual confident reply, “Sundarlalji, the University will surely come into existence and you will be its first Vice Chancellor.” And so did it happen. He used to move about with the blueprints of the buildings of the Hindu University and would reason with people thus: “Is it difficult to collect five crores of rupees from Indian people? Are there no ten such rich men as can donate five lakhs each? Are there no twenty such men as can donate three lakhs each? Are there no hundred men who can give one lakh each?” and this is how he calculated to collect five crore rupees. And there was none whom he spared. No one could leave him without contributing to the coffers of the Banaras Hindu University.
Malaviyaji and Sir Sundar Lal were complimentary to each other. Malaviyaji’s business was to secure promises from moneyed people and that of Pandit Sundar Lal to realize the promised amount. Sir Sundar Lal himself donated a sum of rupees one lakh to Hindu University fund. The whole country was generous enough to raise one crore and thirty-four lakh of rupees. On 31 January 1912, Mrs. Annie Besant paid glowing tributes to the sincerity and perseverance of Malaviyaji to the cause of the Hindu University in the following words: “He has sacrificed his worldly life, his energies, his powerful art of speech, nay, his whole self and health to the cause of this great Banaras Hindu University.”
Shri J.B.Kripalani has given a vivid picture of how Malaviyaji convinced the people regarding the utility of Banaras Hindu University. He says, “He was the greatest beggar if India only after Gandhiji. I can never forget how he used to persuade people to donate for the Hindu University. Wherever he went he used to keep the blueprints of the University ready with him to spread before his fellow travellers and explain the purpose of that great proposed seat of learning where modern science was to be taught along with the Hindu religion and culture. He used to explain how he was going to establish a University at Kashi, holy place on the sacred bank of Ganga, in the city of Vishwanath, in the ancient seat of pilgrimage, where Maharaja Harish Chandra gave away his son and his wife, nay, his all; where great sages used to perform penances since time immemorial; where every Hindu yearns to spend his last days; where innumerable Hindus have offered their ashes to the mother Ganga; which was a great seat of learning since time immemorial and where the students received free education with provision of free lodging and boarding and where now Physics, Modern Arts and Sciences shall be taught along with the ancient learning; that nothing was more sacred than donating for the purpose of spreading learning and that it was a unique occasion for the philanthropists to contribute magnanimously and obtain the blessing of Lord Shiva and immense spiritual virtues. He used to say all this in a very simple language and I have marked many a fellow travellor pledging his support for the University. In frivolity I used to call this pilfering for the noble cause.”
The way in which Malaviyaji collected money for the Banaras Hindu University was interesting. Every day he used to fix a target for the day’s collection with a vow not to take his day’s meal till the target was reached. One day while he was in Amritsar, he went to call on local business man. It was post noon time. Everyone in the company was feeling hungry and exhausted. The business man at once arranged for sumptuous refreshment for the party, but Malaviyaji refused to have anything. When the host enquired the reason, it was explained to him that iit was Malaviyaji’s vow not to take anything till his target was reached. When the trader was informed of the target amount of the day, he at once took out his cheque book and gave over a cheque for the balance even through the amount was much more than he was wxpected to donate.
Similarly, once he approached a certain Nawab who did not want pay a farthing for the Banaras Hindu University and was a very hard nut to crack. But Malaviyaji was equally unyielding. So he stretched out his scarf before the nawab and said, “Whatever you like you may put in this and I will go away.” The Nawab was so cross that he at once picked up one of his shoes and cast it into the scarf. Malaviyaji at once accepted the gift with great regard and announced on the paper that the particular Nawab had donated a shoe and that it would be put to auction on a certain day. When the Nawab heard this, he felt greatly abashed, donated a handsome amount and got his shoe back.
Once a millionaire faced a heavy financial loss. He approached Malaviyaji to seek his blessings and advice. Malaviyaji smiled and said, “You donate five lakh of rupees to the Banaras Hindu University.” The millionaire looked at him amazed because he had most everything in business and was facing liquidation. But Malaviyaji consoled him and said, “You came to take my advice. Why not follow it?” The millionaire at once handed over a cheque for five lakh to Malaviyaji. The next day when the news was published about his donation, his credit recovered to such an extent that his Bank was saved from liquidation.
In 1911, the Hindu University Society was formally registered. The Secretary of State for India gave his assent under advice from Lord Hardinge to establish a Residential University at Kashi. Mrs. Annie Besant and the Trustee of the Central Hindu College, Banaras were gracious enough to hand over the Central College to the Banaras Hindu University to form the nucleus of the University.
The foundation-stone of the Banaras Hindu University was laid by Lord Hardinge, the then Viceroy, on the Vasant Panchami day, 4 February 1916, before an august and colourful assembly of the Indian Princes, Governors and Lieutenant Governors of Bengal, Bihar, Orrisa, U.P. and Punjab and a large number of public men of eminence of India and abroad. Here is an extract from the speech of Lord Hardinge which clearly indicates why this University came into existence and why it was called the Hindu University:
“It has seldom fallen to my lot to address a more distinguished gathering than that which I see before me today, including, as it does, the Governor of Bengal, a constellation of lieutenant Governors (of the United Provinces, the Punjab, Bihar and Orissa), a veritable galaxy of Indian Princes (Their Highnesses of Kashmir, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Kishengarh, Alwar, Nabha, Datia, Jhalawar and Banaras) and so much of the flower of India’s intellect. What is it that has brought together this brilliant assemblage from so many distant parts of Hindustan? What is the loadstone that is exercising so powerful and influence? It is in there in front of us, a fine block of marble, but little different in outward appearance from many others that I have helped to set in their places during the past five years. But in spite of its apparent simplicity, it possesses a deep significance, for it betokens a new departure in the history of education in Indian and one that has attracted the most intense interest on the part of all goods and thoughtful Hindus. This foundation stone will mark a definite step in the advance towards an ideal that has stirred to its very depths the imagination of India.
“But this University is going to do something more than merely increase the existing facilities for a teaching and residential as contrasted with an affiliating and examining University. Perhaps I was wrong to say that these principles are new to India, for though in ancient times, there was nothing quite like a modern University, its prototype may be dimly discerned in the far distant past. The tradition that comes down to us is one of the thousands of students gathered round such great teachers as Vashistha and Gautama. Indeed the whole Indian idea of education is wrapped up in the conception of a group of pupils surroundings their Guru in loving reverence and not only imbibing the words of wisdom that fall from his lips but also looking up to him for guidance in religion and moulding their character in accordance with their precept and example.”
On the occasion of the foundation laying ceremony of the Banaras Hindu University, a meeting was convened in the Kashi Naresh Hall of the Central Hindu College at Kamachha, Banaras in which all the prominent celebrities of India including the Rajas and Maharajas were invited along with Gandhiji. When Gandhiji was requested to speak, he began in English and said: “Formerly, the relation between ruler and ruled was that the subjects used to have darshan of the ruler but the order has reversed in the British regime. When Lord Hardinge went by road nobody was allowed to see him…. All the Rajas and the Maharajas who are assembled are requested to distribute all their jewels and pearls stubbed in their crowns among their poor subjects because it is the property of those poor people… Lord Hardinge and the Government Officers so much fear the bomb-throwers that there is much precautionary vigilance on the roads. But you have to take people into confidence. I request those young men who throw bombs not to do stealthily. Whatever they have to say or do they must do it openly.” There was great stir in the meeting at the speech of Gandhiji. Mrs. Annie Besant stood up and objected to the speech. The Rajas and the Maharajas slipped away one by one but Malaviyaji sat in a philosophical mood in his own place. The Maharajadhiraj of Darbhanga who was the Chairman of the meeting did not stop Gandhiji from speaking in spite of protests from Mrs. Annie Besant and from others. Gandhiji said, “Until the President stops me I will go on speaking.” Young men from the audience cried out, “go on, go on.” Many people stood up and began to leave the meeting. Then, Malaviyaji stood up with folded hands. Upon this Gandhiji ceased speaking and the meeting came to an abrupt end.
The Hindu University was thus legally established and the first batch of examinees of the Banaras Hindu University appeared in 1918.
The word ‘Hindu’ in the name of Banaras Hindu University does not carry any communal and sectarian connotation. Malaviyaji was very clear on this point. In a speech delivered at the time when the Banaras Hindu University Bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly, Malaviyaji took great pains to clarify this point and to explain the true purport of the Banaras Hindu University.
Speaking again on the occasion of the final passing of the Bill, Malaviyaji made the following observations:
“I conclude with the earnest hope and prayer, that this centre of life and light which is coming into existence, will produce students who will not only be intellectually equal to the best of their fellow students in other parts of the world, but will also be trained to live a noble life, to love their country and to be loyal to the Crown.”
Once a delegation of educationists from England came to visit the Banaras Hindu University. Malaviyaji asked Professor Seshadri who was available at hand to take them round and show them the Engineering College as he himself was going to attend a meeting. It was growing dusk and Professor Seshadri expressed his doubt whether any College would be on by that time. But Malaviyaji encouraged him, “Doesn’t matter, some peons must be there.” But Professor Seshadri harboured apprehensions that there was little possibility of any peons being there at the late hour. But Malaviyaji insisted, “Doesn’t matter. They will peep through the doors.” On this, one of the visitors remarked with a sense of admiration, “Now I can understand how this University has come into existence. It is this, ‘Doesn’t matter’ spirit which has given birth to this great institution.” And then Malaviyaji took the visitors around and attended his meeting very late.
The first trouble sprang up in 1920 when the students boycotted the Banaras Hindu University and joined the Satyagraha movement. Mrs. Annie Besant was the only Indian leader who stood by his side. The University was threatened every moment with closure but it goes entirely to his credit that he withstood the tides boldly and bravely. Not only this, when the Prince of Wales visited India in 1921, he went to the extent of inviting him to the University and in the teeth of opposition from all quarters, he conferred upon him the Degree of D.Litt. Honoris Chausa.
In the early thirties of the century, the Banaras Hindu University had become the centre of the anarchists and revolutionaries. A number of students were arrested and sentenced to serve imprisonment to different terms. Their families were put to great hardships but Malaviyaji gave them all possible help.
When he was arrested at Bombay in 1931 while offering Satyagraha at the Hornby Road, a batch of 125 students and teachers started off from Banaras to follow their Kulpati. Though Malaviyaji was released very soon, the impact of his arrest on the national movement was so great that it accelerated the movement and brought the British Government to disrepute.
In 1942, when the Congress passed its historic ‘Quit India’ resolution and all the leaders of the country were put behind the bars overnight, a number of students of the University, specially those belonging to the eastern districts of U.P. led the movement in right earnest and held their reins of the Government in their hands for days together. The British Government had to send a special force to suppress the movement. The Banaras Hindu University had actually become the thermopile of the movement. The British force entered the University compound, broke open the locks and doors of the University buildings and drove out the students from the hostel mercilessly. Malaviyaji was living in the compound. He challenged the British Government but he was too infirm to move about to resist the invasion. But soon the events took a turn. The Naval Revolt at Bombay, the activities of the Indian National Army under Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in Burma and the downfall of Hitler obliged the British Government led by the Labour leaders to hand over power to the Indians. But the result was not very happy. We had to pay a heavy price for our freedom. The country was divided into two parts resulting in the death of hundreds and thousands of people. The unfortunate events at Noakhali and the atrocities perpetrated on the Hindus there so moved him that he succumbed to that shock on 12 November 1946.
The Banaras Hindu University is essentially a national and cultural University and this character of the University was maintained by Pandit Malaviya through out his life. Once someone questioned Malaviyaji why his students were not selected for I.C.S. He promptly retorted “The University was not created to produce Government servants. Our aim is to produce servants of the nation.” And no doubt the University did produce great servants f the Nation who contributed immensely to the achievement of Independence for our Motherland. Patriotism was the crux of all his speeches and writings to his students and he always exhorted them to become great patriots.
The Women’s College, the Medical College and the College of Agriculture maintain their status quo.