Saturday, October 11, 2014




    The question of restoring the Indian languages to its old place in the University was fought over on the floor of the Senate House pretty warmly and, as a consequence of the unsatisfactory result arrived at, meetings are being held over different parts of the Presidency praying Government and the University for making the Vernaculars and other languages compulsory. The supporters of the Hon'ble Mr. T. V. Seshagiri Iyer's proposals had the best of the arguments, and the camp opposed to him was a heterogeneous class consisting of social reformers, language reformers, red-tapists, faddists &c. & c., and their arguments sounded most hollow. In that camp were those who thought that oriental learning would lead to old ways of thinking and would retard social and political reform; there were those who thought that there was not much of value in the Vernaculars, and that Pundit learning and Pundit teaching, were no good; there were even those who thought that the reintroduction would disturb the timetable already established. There were those who thought that they should only encourage the study of the Vernaculars for their own sake, but among the majority were those who really loved the Vernaculars. What struck us as remarkable, at the time we read the proceedings, was the fact that nearly all the Brahmins were ranged on one side and all the Europeans, and majority of non-Brahmins were ranged against them, including those whose attitude towards Vernaculars was well known, and especially in the face of the strong evidence collected by the committed, that the study of the Indian language had declined hopelessly under the new curricula. We had our own suspicion on the matter which we expressed to our friends, knowing as we did the whole history of the introduction of the new curricula. But this is no more a secret, and the cat has been out of the bag by a remarkable letter communicated to the Madras Mail by Rev. L. M. McPhail of the Christian College and appearing in its issue of 14th March 1013, and which really explains the situation. In replying to the observations contained in the editorial appearing on 10th March, which by far was the ablest resume of the question, and strongly favored the pro-Vernacular movement, the Rev. Gentleman pointed out that there was no proposal before the Senate for the reintroduction of the compulsory study of the Vernaculars. The letter continues: -

    The writer of your article has identified himself so completely with the minority that apparently he considers that all "Indian languages" are Vernaculars. During the last quarter of a century the study of Vernaculars was compulsory only for a short time, after the introduction of the new Regulations in the end of 1906. As soon as it was found that the compulsory Vernacular composition in the Intermediate Examination was leading to the Vernaculars being studied in the schools, instead of Sanskrit, an agitation was commenced. It was proposed and finally carried in the Senate that the Vernacular composition test inserted by Government should be struck out. When Government refused to sanction this change it was proposed, as the next best thing to introduce translation from Sanskrit as an option to Vernacular composition. This was carried; vernacular ceased to be a compulsory subject and our new enthusiasts for the Vernaculars have yet shown no sings of proposing to go back upon their action. I do not mean, of course, to imply that these gentleman are opposed to the Vernacular. Their attitude towards it is "I could not love thee, dear, so much, lived I not Sanskrit more" but the recollection of their action in the past deprives eloquent appeals for the study of the mother tongue of a good deal of their face. It is noteworthy, though your article does not mention it, that the large majority on Saturday included almost all the non-Brahmin Indian members of the Senate, and most of the men who have really done something for Vernacular literature.

    Anybody who knew anything connected with the introduction of the new curricula in 1905, knew at the time that the Vernaculars were sought to be sacrificed in the interest of Sanskrit. But the dream of the Sanskritists was upset by the action of the Government who interfered at the last moment by imposing for the intermediate examination compulsory Vernacular composition as a result of the protests that were sent up by the Madura Tamil Sangam, Salem Tamil Sangam, Saiva Siddhanta Maha Samajam &c. The result of this was that even those Brahmin students who were studying Sanskrit from the lower forms had to give up its study in favor of the Vernacular; and the further moves of the Sanskritists are set forth in the letter quoted above. Mr. K. B, Ramanathan observed that he had to raise his solitary voice against going headlong in the matter, ever since the time these reforms were effectuated. We do not know if he was in the Senate at the time, but we received a long letter from the late lamented Dewan Bahadur V. Krishnamachariar, in which he bitterly complained how he stood alone in his advocacy of the claims of the Vernaculars.

    This little historical perspective should be clearly perceived and the particular issues placed before us fully understood, before any real solution of the difficulty can be reached, and the uncompromising attitude of the opposition as the Madras Mail calls it, can be removed.

    From the resolution passed at various meetings and reported in the papers the points at issue seem to be mixed up or are not clearly known. Most of the public bodies in the Tamil districts would seem to insist on the introduction of the compulsory study of the Vernaculars; but this was not the proposal before the Senate as is pointed out above. Under the old curriculum, even a non-Brahmin can take up Sanskrit or Latin or Arabic and the study of the Vernacular even in the lowest forms was not compulsory. The questions before us would then be "are we go back to the old curricula as it stood before 1906", or "are we to introduce the compulsory study of the Vernaculars." We should like the public bodies and Sangams and Academies to have these questions before them clearly and pronounce in no unmistakable terms about them. We should like to ask the opposing sections in the Senate of our Alma Mater if they would unite, if the sole question before them was the introduction of the compulsory study of the Vernaculars. We will go into the facts and the arguments advanced by both sides more fully in another paper.




    History repeats itself; and it will be pathetic to read of the hard struggle for existence which the Vernaculars had to keep up during the past hundred years. In the early decades of the last century when the educational policy of the Government of India had to be settled, the fight was between English and the Vernaculars; and a fierce controversy ensued in which such eminent men as Macaulay, Hodgson and others took part, and there were many friends among the Europeans of that day who strongly advocated a vernacular education. The advocates of English however gained the day, though due provision was made for the study of the Vernaculars which was practically compulsory as in most of the High Schools and Colleges, there was no provision made for teaching Sanskrit. And the old U. C. S. examinations had two divisions one purely vernacular and the other Anglo-vernacular; among those who had passed the purely vernacular U. C. S. examination, were some of the ablest men in the public service including Deputy Collectors, Sub-Judges, and even one District Judge. Then we had Col. G. Macdonald as director of public instruction who advocated the abolition of the Vernaculars, but the glamour in favor of Sanskrit had not arisen then at all, and the motion before the Senate was defeated. But the Director did the next best thing he could himself and the fate of the vernacular U. C. S. Examination was sealed. Sanskrit teaching was introduced in most Schools, and the Brahmin Students were making the best use of the facilities and the glamour in favor of it slowly rose, and the Senate became more and more Brahmanised and they had for their spokesman another Director of Public Instruction, The Hon'ble Mr. G. H. Stuart; and he had evidently created a following among the Europeans also. The European Editor of the Madras Educational Review advocated the abolition of the Vernaculars but he was aware that the Senate as constituted then would not favor his Scheme, and waited for the day when the Senate would be reconstructed according to the new Scheme of the Universities Commission, as there would then be a larger number of aggressively inclined European Fellows; and we may say a larger number of the younger blood who became steeped in their veneration for Sanskrit. Then came the Commission itself, and as we learn there were none in it who knew anything about the merits of the South Indian Vernaculars except the Revered Dr. Miller, who did press on the Commission the importance of the Vernaculars. But his voice was a voice in the wilderness. This was strongly discussed in the papers, Madras Mail, The Madras Times, The Hindu, The Siddhanta Dipika, The Educational Review, &c. Rev. Mr. Lazarus, G. Padfield, Rev. J. A. Sharrock, Mr. A. Madhaviah, Pandit S. M. Natesa Sastri, V. Srinivasa Sastri, (the Gentleman who now adorns the legislative council) and ourselves and others joined in the discussion. At the last meeting of the Senate, Mr. K. V. Rangasami Iyengar deprecated the introduction of racial questions in the consideration of languages, but the discussion in the papers even then took more or less a racial turn, especially when we noticed the warmth with which the Sanskritists treated the matter. The Commission decided against the vernaculars, being chiefly guided thereto by the conditions which prevailed in Northern India, and the violent clamor raised by the younger bloods among Madrasees. The Senate as constituted under the new act decided against the Vernaculars and when almost it was too late, the Government of Madras intervened and imposed Compulsory Vernacular Composition. Two other episodes we will mention and then close this paper. About 1897, on the initiative of Sir S. Subramania Iyer and Dr. D. Duncan, a proposal was put forward before the Senate for the introduction of an oriental side to the University. This was opposed mostly by Young Indians, and in 1910, the very gentlemen who opposed this proposal then, carried the establishment of an Examination for a Title in Oriental Learning before the Senate. During this vast period, one will be surprised to find how the same untruths or half-truths were repeated time after time by the opponents of the Vernaculars. And we shall go into some of these questions in our next.


    Says Sir T. Moore: - "For as for that our tongue is called barbarous is but a fantasy; for so is, as every man knoweth, every strange language to other, and if they would call it barren of words there is no doubt but it is plenteous enough to express our minds in anything whereof one man hath used to spoke with another."

    This is the quaint quotation with which Mr. B. H. Hodgson, late of the Bengal Civil Service, an erudite scholar, linguist and man of world wide sympathies prefaces his letters to the Friend of Indian now the Statesman, when he took up the cudgels against the Anglicists. He points out in the first place how Lord William Bentinck's proposal was a reversal of all former acts of Parliament, and solemn pledges, which after all were but bare acts of justice, and proceeds to assign some reasons for the opinion that he entertained that the Indian essential welfare, not less than rights, may be urged against the proposed scheme of Lord William Bentinck. Granting that sound knowledge, the diffusion of which throughout India was the sole purpose, is to be found only in the European languages, he enquires what is the best instrument for the free and equal diffusion of that knowledge, whether English or the Vernaculars. The Anglicists assume that the English language is a perfect and singly sufficient organ, whilst the native languages are equally objectionable from their plurality and their intrinsic feebleness. He characterizes these assumptions as somewhat hasty and unfounded. A large portion of the sound knowledge of Europe is not to be found in the English language, but must be sought in those of France and Germany. Englishman daily pick up useful and important words from France and Germany. In regard to plurality of Indian languages he points to the vast range of territory and population claimed by each Vernacular, and thinks that it is a range of language large enough to satisfy the most ardent of reasonable reformers – a range rather above than below that of Europe. In regard to the alleged feebleness of the Indian tongues, he expects the language employed in the unmixed sciences and applied sciences which have a language of their own, for which words are not furnished by "the well of pure English undefiled" and in which the English language is imperfect and unable to express such ideas but thinks that the Indian Vernaculars are sufficient in the field of the moral sciences: "For blended as these branches of knowledge are, from their very nature with the daily pursuits and thoughts, and quickly responsive as they are to the strongest prejudices and passions of mankind; appealing too, as they do for their ultimate evidence, to universal consciousness, or to almost universal experience, powerful intrinsical reasons may come in aid of the lingual considerations. I am about to show against the direct the communication of our superior light to the Indians."

    Mr. S. H. Hodgson of the Bengal Civil Service, thinks that the Vernacular possesses the necessary capacity to bear any weight of knowledge coming home to the 'business and bosoms of mankind,' that can be laid on them. The vernaculars possess good dictionaries and grammars, as well as works which exhibit a respectable share of precision and compass; whilst its connection with Sanskrit and the peculiar genius of the latter extraordinary means of enrichment by new terms competent to express any imaginable modification of thought. He again proceeds to assert without fear of contradiction that the 'existing extreme inaccuracy' of all European languages as instruments of thought is 'notorious' and 'undecided', and that the objects are only sought to be removed by ample definition and much circumlocution. There is also such 'a thing as the genius of the language' of a rigid and commanding nature, according to which the improvement can only proceed for within and not by direct grafting from a foreign language. After descanting on Sir. T. Moore's words quoted in the beginning of this article the following remarkable sentence occurs: "The history, not only of our own language, but of every vulgar tongue in Europe, justifies the presumption that as soon as effort is directed towards their improvement, the Indian Vernaculars will almost immediately and spontaneously put forth the ordinary strength of language, and as for what may be called its extraordinary strength, even our language had not yet put it forth. The habit of language, of all habits difficult of change, is the most obstinately adhesive; and the Indians of all nations are wedded to their habits most." He applies the very reasoning of Sir T. Moore when he contended against Latin and Greek as the sole organ of communication by pointing out that love of knowledge, itself most difficult, would be rendered hopeless if the adieus of the temple were rendered so steep and thorny as the necessary acquisition of a difficult foreign tongue must make it; and that in all probability, the end would be defeated by the means employed to achieve it; to which loss ought to be added the entailing in perpetuity those worst of evils resulting from monopolized and mis-applied learning.

    Noble words are these which follow: "Our aim is the peoples increase in happiness through increase in knowledge. We seek to regenerate India; and to lay the foundation of a social system which, with time and God's blessing on the labors of the founders, should mature, perhaps long after we are no longer forthcoming on the scene. Let then the foundations be broad and solid enough to support the vast superstructure. Let us begin in the right way or fifty years hence, we may have to retrace our steps and commence anew. Sound knowledge generally diffused is the greatest of all blessings, but the soundness of a language has ever depended and ever will on its due and equal and large communication. Partially diffused it is not only no good, but a bitter and lasting curse – the special curse which has blighted the fairest portions of Asia from time immemorial, and which for hundreds of years made even Christianity a poison to the people of Europe!" The chance of the speech of this vast continent, if not impossible, is most difficult, or which our means are most enormously disproportionate to the end. Specialized knowledge should not be made the monopoly of a few; if not, it will be abused. Leisure and ease are the parents of knowledge and hos is it to be expected that the poor Indians with no inborn taste for the English language will readily and willingly conquer the vast and odious obstacle, we thus place at the threshold of the temple of knowledge, obscuring all the beauty therein, though the few can always be won to pursue through it the path of profit and power. The mystification of knowledge and administration, separately evil, are dreadful when combined, and he holds in special horror the course of his double iniquity if allowed in India. Why did we immortalize our Edwards, he asks pertinently enough "for Vernacularizing the language of the courts of law? Because it is of the last importance to the happiness of nations that the people – the many – should have the readiest possible means of rights appreciating legal proceedings." He further contrasts the means and the ease and facility of Englishmen in India acquiring the Indian Vernaculars; and the means and difficulty and toil involved in the Indians acquiring a foreign language; and asks whether the change of policy is not due to the wish on the part of the rulers to east off even this slight burden.

    Here is a golden sentence. Add to these objections, also the following (1) It is apt to generate or confirm servile intellectual habits, especially when combined with the absence of political liberty. (2) It is not less apt to divorce speculation from experience, theory from practice, abstraction from life and in instancing the case of Rome, her vassals and her conquerors, he observes that those whom Rome subdued, became twice subject by their slavish acceptance of her languages; and her conquerors were only saved from vassalage to her learning by the free genius of their political institutions, and he follows out other examples, among the European nations, as they came under such Roman influence or not in their media of language. And he finishes his first letter with a very strong exhortation that what the Europeans seek to introduce into India is not to prove in nutritive or poisonous but wholesome food, not a curse but a blessing, and that a Vernacular organ should be given. He also wrote that the study of vernaculars was indispensable in paving the way for any general effective and safe measures of education, regeneration, and that sound knowledge may be accepted, taught and studied for ages without awakening the strong man, without stirring of the deep waters of a nation's intellect, and that universal experience strongly indicates the entire dependence, in a national sense, of their verifying power of knowledge, upon the complete fusion of its precepts, with a nation's familiar experiences and wants, "which neither hath been nor can be without a vernacular medium." He advocated the study of the vernaculars both by the rulers and the ruled as mostly conducing to the maintenance of the British Rule in India, and he concluded with a strong appeal in the following words. "Let us find the many to ourselves by community of language. Let us Vernacularize ourselves for their and our common benefit."

    In connection with the defects of character as likely to arise out of the neglect of one's Vernaculars as pointed out above, we do not know if the learned Editor of The Indian Patriot remembers his communicating to us an opinion of the late Raja Sir T. Madhava Rao, namely, the want of clearness of thought and expression noticed in Indian graduates was due to the too early inculcation in a foreign language. Macaulay who took up the side of the Anglicists writes however as follows. "We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions we govern; a class of persons Indians in color and blood but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the Vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the populations."



    Mr. Alien's argument based on sound principles of commerce need not detains us a moment. Mr. Azizudin Saib's fear that compulsory study would prejudicially affect his class need not cause us much anxiety. The mother tongue of the majority of Moslems in Southern India is the Indian vernacular, and there have been very good poets and prose writers and preachers in Tamil among them, and there is a very decent Moslem Literature in Tamil. And as one who advocates greater encouragement being given to Moslems in public service he ought to have known that Moslem should qualify in some one of the Indian vernaculars even for the highest officers place. And if there is a demand for instruction in Hindi or other language, it can certainly be met. And if need be, they may be accorded the special treatment given to Anglo-Indians. As regards his taunt that Hindu parents should compel their sons to pay more attention to their mother tongues in their houses, the first idea that occurs to us is that if they could teach everything which their sons should learn, there is no need for schools and colleges at all. Another aspect of it however we hope to discuss later on. Mr. Yahub Husan's plea for the classical languages as essential for the profound knowledge of the Vernaculars has no force whatever so far as this presidency is concerned. How the coupling of Sanskrit with the vernaculars has affected the non-brahmin class of the School going population and is a distinct hardship on them will be shown later on also. Mr. Reddiar's argument that the people should become reformers first before they could improve their vernaculars was novel to a degree, and that it was based on false premises was at once shown by Mr. Pranatartihara Iyer. Then there remain the arguments that the people should read the Vernaculars out of a genuine love and interests for them, that making the study optional would serve this purpose and the present curricula is the best. If the sole aim of university education be this 'art for arts sake' principle then, why should English be made compulsory at all even for the ordinary pass-courses? Even ordinary matriculates have passed through the inns of courts, with distinction they have taken the highest medical and other professional degrees. And if the advocates of this doctrine believe that Indian students take up the study of English for its intrinsic wealth of knowledge and education, they will be suffering from the grossest delusion. It is all very well for a few Indians who have waved rich to descant at length on public platforms on the glories of the English language and literature but to the ordinary graduate who begins life on 15 Rs. and who could not afford even a little jaggery for his cup of coffee, this eloquence does not appeal. He could not afford the luxury of following this 'art for art's sake' principle. I wonder if the majority do buy any books at all after they leave school or could afford to buy, except a few cheap reprints of second and third rate novels. We have examined the libraries of some who could even afford this luxury and the examination was a sore disappointment. Our old Tamil Pandit used to call this as (Un Padai) 'food language' and he was not far wrong. We have heard our class mates calculate to a nicety as to what return the family lands if sold out and invested in higher education would yield. And how many families have not been reduced to the direct penury by the young hopeful turning out a failure, or what was the more frequent case, dying a premature death. The struggle for existence is becoming keener every day among certain classes of our community who have no other resources to fall back upon, except education and the special lucrative inducements they offer is the sole motive for their exertion. It is a common fact that sons of our floated 'official' aristocrats are less industrious than pauper students, and very few of the sons of the rich among the landed and commercial classes really care for English education. And we hear of congratulatory meetings reputed in the papers even today held in honor of the "first Reddy graduate, the first Chetty graduate" &c. And then we would respectfully ask our European friends as to how far this art for art's sake principle has been acted out in practice in Europe, in all the most ancient universities. Why is there so much necessity for endowments, and scholarships fellowships and prizes, and why are Rhodes and carnages so much sought after? While writing in the Siddhanta Dipika long ago in regard to affording the necessary encouragement for the study of vernaculars, the 'Madras Mail' took to our proposals on the ground that it did not favor of this 'art for art's sake' principle and we quoted a paragraph from the editorial jottings of the "Pall Mall Magazine" we came across just then and we would like to reproduce it here as it enunciates the basic principles which underlie this question and which we hope to discuss at length later on.

    (Pall Mall Magazine June 1897) "We see then that in the most brilliant age of Greece and Greek art and letters the civic spirit was the inspiring Spirit. But as the Greek cities sank one by one before the Macedonian power and forfeited their liberties his civic spirit died for lack of nourishment and exercise and a literary spirit took its place. In other words literature was driven to feed upon itself which is about the worst thing which could happen to it…. Whatever was invented by these men had a purely literary origin and though their compositions have a certain interest of their own, they no longer reflect the feelings and energies of free political life." "Again turn to Rome and you will find very nearly the same story. A civic spirit in education and literature accompanies her growth; a literary 'art for art's sake' spirit her decline." We will close this paper by calling attention to the fact that a single Victory gained by the British, a royal marriage or a royal demise announcing our British sovereigns have called forth Indian Poetry more in beauty and in volume than any other occasion or time.

J. M. Nallaswami Pillai.

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