Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi’s versatility and achievements were in a way unique. He was an eminent lawyer, one of the framers of India’s Constitution and a seasoned statesman. Coming under the inspiring influence of Sri Aurobindo during is the student days, Munshi had been an ardent fighter for India’s freedom, working at different stages in close association with Jinnah, Tilak, Besant, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Rajagopalachari and Pandit Nehru. His achievements as Home Minister of Bombay in 1937 as India’s Agent-General in Hyderabad before the Police Action, as India’s Food Minister and as Governor of Uttar Pradesh had been characterized by rare courage and decisive energy.
Acknowledged as the foremost writer in modern Gujarati literature, he has to his credit a vast and varied literature including novels, dramas, memoirs and history in Gujarati, as also several historical and other works in English, notably Gujarat and Its Literature, Imperial Gurjaras, Creative Art of Life, To Badrinath, The End of an Era, Krishnavatara, Bhagavad Gita and Modern Life, Saga of Indian Sculpture, Bhagawan Parashurama, Tapasvini, Prithvi Vallabh, The Master of Gujarat, Jaya Somanath, Pilgrimage to Freedom Vols. I-II and Foundations of Indian Culture.
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan—that Institute of Indian Culture in Bombay—needed a Book University, a series of books which, if read, would serve the purpose of providing higher education. Particular emphasis, however, was to be put on such literature as revealed the deeper impulsions of India. As a first step, it was decided to bring out in English 100 books, 50 of which were to be taken in hand, almost at once.
It is our intention to publish the books we select, not only in English but also in the following Indian languages: Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.
This scheme, involving the publication of 900 volumes, requires ample funds and an all-India organization. The Bhavan is exerting its utmost to supply them.
The objectives for which the Bhavan stands are the reintegration of India culture in the light of modern knowledge and to suit our present-day needs and the resuscitation of its fundamental values in their pristine vigour.
We seek the dignity of man, which necessarily implies the creation of social conditions which would allow him freedom to evolve along the lines of his own temperament and capacities: we seek the harmony of individual efforts and social relations, not in any makeshift way, but within the frame-work of the Moral Order; we seek the creative art of life, by the alchemy of which human limitations are progressively transmuted, so that man may become the instrument of God. and is able to see Him in all and all in Him.
The world, we feel, is too much with us. Nothing would uplift or inspire us so much as the beauty and aspiration which such books can teach.
In this series, therefore, the literature of India, ancient and modern, will be published in a form easily accessible to all. Books in other literatures of the world, if they illustrate the principles we stand for, will also be included. This common pool of literature, it is hoped, will enable the reader, eastern or western, to understand and appreciate currents of world thought, as also the movement of the mind in India, which though they flow through different linguistic channels, have a common urge and aspiration.
Fittingly, the Book University’s first venture is the Mahabharata, summarized by one of the greatest living Indians, C. Rajagopalachari; the second work is on a section of it, the Gita by H.V. Divatia, an eminent jurist and student of philosophy. Centuries ago, it was proclaimed of the Mahabharata: “What is not in it, is nowhere.” After twenty-five centuries we can use the same words about it. He who knows it no, knows not the heights and depths of the soul; he misses the trials and tragedy and the beauty and grandeur of life.
The Mahabharata is not a mere epic: it is a romance, telling the tale of heroic men and women and of some who were divine; it is a whole literature in itself, containing a code of life, a philosophy of social and ethical relations, and speculative thought on human problems that is hard to rival: but above all, it has for its core the Gita which is, as the world is beginning to find out, the noblest of scriptures and the grandest of sages in which the climax is reached in the wondrous apocalypse in the Eleventh Canto.
Through such books alone the harmonies underlying true culture, I am convinced, will one day reconcile the disorders of modern life. I thank all those who have helped to make this new branch of the Bhavan’s activity successful.
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan is not an institution. It is a movement, a cause. Its objects, from the very start, were to encourage the study of all aspects of Indian Culture; to help in its re-integration; and to study and spread the fundamentals of Aryans Culture. In my address, delivered when the Bhavan was founded, I started:
“For many years it had been the dream of the Sahitya Sansad to crystallize its work into a center in which the ancient learning and modern intellectual aspirations of this land might combine to create a new literature, a new history and a new Culture. The Bhavan will be an association which will organize active centres where ancient Aryan learning is studied and where modern Indian Culture is provided with a historical background.”
Since then the Bhavan has made rapid progress. It has recently reorganized its institutions and is starting a College of Arts and an Institute of Science. The question, therefore, naturally arises whether the spirit and technique of education in the institutions of the Bhavan should be the same as in other institutions.
The stand of the Bhavan in this respect is very clear. It stands for an essentially Indian education. Such an education must necessarily follow the lines of our own Culture. This Culture is not a mere matter of religion, not a particular social system, nor a philosophy by itself. It is a way of life. Through and in it alone can our destiny be realised.
The object of the Bhavan embody the educational ideal which are inherent in this Culture, and which can be re-integrated to suit modern conditions only if it follows these ideals. Without them, education is useless and sterile. Only if they are followed, will education be creative and India grow stronger.
When these ideals of Bharatiya Shiksha or Indian Education were drafted – and I had some share in it – the theory and practice of Creative Education both in ancient and modern India and abroad, were drawn upon with the growing number of teachers and students in the Bhavan it is not possible for me to come into close touch with them. I, therefore, decided to place before a wider of the objects of the Creative Education referred to as Bharatiya Shiksha.
I have for thirty years some contact with education in many of its aspects; with the University of Bombay, with Colleges, High Schools, and Pathashalas; with institutions like the David Sassoon Industrial School, the Chembur Home Vocational School and the Mansukhlal Chhanganlal School of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. Though not a teacher myself, I have come into contact with teachers of all grades. But more than that I have been a typical product of our university education; and it has taken me years of effort to get rid of its grip and realise the importance of a truly creative education.
The education which India has been receiving for the last one hundred and fifty years is neither Indian nor creative. Even at its best it is not Western. It started as a political device and has been continue as political makeshift. Macaulay, when he founded modern education in India, frankly wanted convenient instruments of British rule.
The object did succeed. It has created a class of English-knowing Indians who little of India except through their masters’ eyes. They have been rightly described as the “manas-putras” of the British – children born of the British mind. This class basking in the sunshine of foreign rule, which they considered “a dispensation of a wise Providence”, looked upon their own people as more or less inferior, uncivilized people.
Modern education in India has been failure. The extreme emphasis which it lays on the mastery of English exposes its true intent. An Indian, passing through a University, becomes a suitable middle-man with an outlook and ways congenial to his foreign master. As lawyer, doctor, scientist or businessman, he helps the British to make him forget the morally devastating effects of foreign rule.
English no doubt is the predominantly international language; through its medium we can contact the rest of the world. But this is an incidental advantage. In fact, an intensive study of English has denied to our souls the sap which they would have otherwise drawn from the soil of Indian Culture through the use of our own languages.
The second feature of modern education in India is that it is purely informative. It is also a feature of recent educational tendencies in Europe and America. A graduate, therefore, has to grow a waste-basket of useless bits of information. The only effect harmful; it initiates the student in second-hand Westernism.
Another and the most dangerous features of modern education in India is its tendency to induce an inferiority complex in us. It is the legacy of the missionary zeal which, in the early days of British rule, tried to foist a crude European Culture on our ancient and highly developed Culture. This was done in the belief that the souls of Indians, who were taken to be savages, had to be saved. English, as a result, became the symbol of a new aristocracy and trousers the badge of civilization. In some decades of the last century eating beef and drinking wine were considered as signs of being above the level of the uncivilized rest. If truth had to be inculcated, we were referred to Washington, as if we had no Harishchandra. If persistency had to be admired, one had to go to Robert Bruce and his spiders, as if we had no Pratap and no Guru Govind Singh. If we were taught anything about our own country and Culture, it was with an arrogant and hypercritical attitude. And our present generation of educationists bought up under these influences have not yet been able to get rid of them fully.
Teaching of Indian history is not only unhistorical but positively criminal. Histories of India, till very recently, were written and taught from a foreign point of view. We were told about foreign invasions of India but nothing about how we resisted them. We were told about the evils of our social system; we were taught, as we should have been, how this system came into existence and how it happened to be the most tenacious social organization, which, while it protected life and culture, also developed an elasticity unknown in other parts of the world. We had pages on Alexander’s campaign in India; but we were told next to nothing of the contemporary empire of the Shishunagas and the Nandas, and the greatest Culture of the age which it represented. We are given lurid details of the place intrigues of the Sultans of Delhi; but we are not enlightened as to how, or centuries, heroes and heroines, resisted the might of the Central Asian invaders who flung themselves on this land. We are told of the “Mutiny” of 1857 – the British lieutenants’ world for the event – and of how the brave foreigners crushed it. It is only outside our Universities that we learn that it was a great national revolt, when Hindus and Muslims rallied round the last Mogul Emperor of Delhi, the national symbol, to drive out the foreigner. No wonder the product of modern education knows nothing of his country’s greatness. It is intended that he should not know it.
Creative Education must make our young man really Indian, strong, true and free – an embodiment of the finest in his Culture: an authentic representative of India, the teacher of nations, which has a message for humanity.
In order to discover the fundamental of such an education we must begin the search with an entirely fresh outlook. In doing so we must the stand-point of India; we must evoke the genius of our Culture. We may not be partial to ourselves, but in any inferiority complex. By the Self alone, can the self be raised.
In approaching the objects of Bharatiya Shiksha, therefore, we must first consider India. If we want to raise he world, like Archimedes we must have a place to stand on. That place can be Bharata – the Motherland. IN the first instance, therefore, the teacher and the student must become ‘India-conscious”.
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