Prof. Ramnath Narayanswamy of IIMB makes an important point as we approach 68th year of India’s independence.
He says why Sanskrit continues to be ignored? Why is our Indian education system still dominated by vision of Macaulay:
How successful has India been in reforming her educational system since that time? The truth of the matter is that we are still dominated by a colonial mindset. Despite the passing of more than six decades since independence, we have failed to establish a vibrant, high-quality system of primary education that is free and widespread; instead we continue to have the largest number of illiterates in the world. We share with Macaulay, his contempt for Sanskrit; instead of teaching it at the primary level and deepening it at the secondary level, we have all but abandoned it. Instead of contemporizing our epics and making them speak a modern idiom, we have relegated them to the backburner.
It was Jawaharlal Nehru himself who in his Discovery of India noted: “If I was asked what is the greatest treasure which India possesses and what is her greatest heritage, I would answer unhesitatingly that it is the Sanskrit language and literature and all that it contains. This is a magnificent inheritance, and so long as this endures and influences the life of our people, so long will the basic genius of India continue.”
Nehru was a committed modernizer who believed industries were the temples of modern India. But while the Nehruvian era could boast of successes in the establishment of institutions of advanced learning in higher education, there was a relative neglect of agriculture and primary education. These were perhaps the biggest failures of the Nehru era. We continue to pay the price of this neglect even today.
Primary education continues to remain our central challenge. We continue to share Macaulay’s disdain for Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic. Take my own case: I studied Sanskrit until the eighth standard and re-established contact with the language only when I had crossed fifty! The sheer wealth of the world that this reconnection helped to expose me in the domain of spirituality profoundly and deeply humbles and astonishes me. We believe that our epics are outdated and do not invest effort in contemporizing the insights contained in them. In our adulation of the English language, we have failed to invest in what Nehru described as our inheritance. By doing so, we do indelible harm by promoting the neglect of our inheritance and denying our progeny an opportunity for that inheritance to take root in them.
It is time to move away from Macaulay’s idea of India and create nation of people who are Indian in blood and color, and Indian in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.
Nehru in Glimpses of World History also says how the British education system was developed to make Indians mere clerks. Ram Guha has also argued how neglect of primary education was the biggest flaw of Nehru’s policies. These issues of broadbasing our education only come when BJP is in power but always goes in the wrong direction. The party should instead spend much of their time to think and encourage Sanskrit scholarship in India. I mean a google search on Sanskrit learning etc takes you to websites in the west. Soon, we will be learning (we might already be there) much of our past from the west.