Sunday, July 09, 2006

Of all Indian problems the educational is the most difficult and most tragic

One of the most remarkable features of British rule in India has been the fact that the greatest injuries done to the people of India have taken the form of blessings. Of this, Education is a striking example; for no more crushing blows have ever been struck at the roots of Indian National evolution than those which have been struck, often with other, and the best intentions, in the name of Education.... The most crushing indictment of this Education is the fact that it destroys, in the great majority of those upon whom it is inflicted, all capacity for the appreciation of Indian culture. Speak to the ordinary graduate of an Indian University, or a student from Ceylon, of the ideals of the Mahabharata¾he will hasten to display his knowledge of Shakespeare; talk to him of religious philosophy¾you find that he is an atheist of the crude type common in Europe a generation ago, and that not only has he no religion, but he is as lacking in philosophy as the average Englishman; talk to him of Indian music¾he will produce a gramophone or a harmonium, and inflict upon you one or both; talk to him of Indian dress and jewellery¾he will tell you that they are uncivilized and barbaric; talk to him of Indian art¾it is news to him that such a thing exists; ask him to translate for you a letter written in his own mother-tongue¾he does not know it. He is indeed a stranger on his own land.

It is hard to realize how completely the continuity of Indian life has been severed. A single generation of English education suffices to break the threads of tradition and to create a nondescript and superficial being deprived of all roots — a sort of intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, the past or the future. The greatest danger for India is the loss of her spiritual integrity. Of all Indian problems the educational is the most difficult and most tragic.

The two great Indian epics have been the great medium of Indian education, the most evident vehicle of the transmission of the national culture from each generation to the next. The national heroic literature is always and everywhere the true basis of a real education in the formation of character.

A great and real responsibility rests upon those who control education in the East, to preserve in their systems the fundamental principles of memory-training and mental concentration which are the great excellence of the old culture.

Ananda Coomaraswamy

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