A brief view of the history of education in India, the impact of Christian education and the attitudes that it inculcates.
Raghunandhan (Raghu) Bhaskaran is a Bharathi and like many today, he for long, ignored his heritage and was focused towards Artha, to the exclusion of the other Purusharthas and is yet another IT consultant. But now he is increasingly a seeker of what it means to be a Hindu, a follower of Dharma in every sphere of life - personal, social, cultural and political. Towards this, he uses writing as a sadhana, to attain clarity and shares his learning with others, learns from others. He considers himself as the 'Mongoose of Mahabharatha', from the Ashwamedha Parva. Serendipity has led him to some yagna-salas, the works/company of some wonderful people - from heritage, family, friends, teachers and even on social media. He rolls around in the crumbs of their wisdom and some stick to him. And he shines in parts, from those borrowed crumbs of knowledge.
Among the many rakshashas sent to kill Krishna, one was Putana. The legend of Putana and Krishna is narrated in many Hindu texts such as the Bhagavata Purana, Hari Vamsa among others.
Putana (also called as poothani), the “killer of infants”, was sent by Kamsa to kill Krishna. Putana assumed the disguise of a young, beautiful woman and came to Gokul. Her beauty resulted in her being mistaken by gopas (cowherds) as a manifestation of goddess Lakshmi. Yashoda, allowed Putana to take the infant Krishna into her lap and breast-feed him. Putana had smeared her breast with a mandana, an intoxicant, to kill Krishna. However, Krishna took her life, as well as her milk.
There is a lesson for us from this story, in today’s context. Christian colonization destroyed the native Indic education systems and delivered it into the hands of missionaries. To know how education was in India, prior to this destruction, one should read Dharampal's immeasurably significant work - THE BEAUTIFUL TREE.
Dharampal (1922–2006) was a great Gandhian thinker, historian and political philosopher from India. Convinced about the urgent need for an objective understanding about India’s past, before the onslaught of colonial rule, he decided to embark on an exploration of British-Indian archival material, based on documents emanating from commissioned surveys of the East India Company, lodged in various depositories spread over the British Isles. His pioneering historical research, conducted intensively over a decade, led to the publication of works that have since become classics in the field of Indian studies. This major work entitled “The Beautiful Tree” provides evidence from extensive early British administrators’ reports of the widespread prevalence of educational institutions in the Bengal and Madras Presidencies as well as in the Punjab, teaching a sophisticated curriculum, with daily school attendance by about 30% of children aged 6–15, where those belonging to communities who were classed as Shudras or even lower constituted a good number of students, and in some areas, for instance in Kerala, where Muslim girls were quite well represented
But even after independence, the Indian state has allowed Christian institutions to have an unjust advantage in the field of education. It has hampered Hindu or majority institutions with series of laws and policies, like the RTE, 93rd amendment to the constitution, all in the name of secularism and the minority appeasement project. The Modi government has unfortunately not addressed any of these issues.
But why is all this important? Why can’t Hindu children study in Christian institutions? A quote attributed to Ignatius of Loyola, says ‘Give me a child for the first 7 years, I will give you a (Christian) man’.
From the education of Loyola to the palliative care of Theresa, Christian activities, are always tuned towards converting the recipient to Christianity. Christian institutions provide education, but there are subtle additives added to it, like the ‘mandana smeared on by Putana’. Those intoxicants at their mildest are to seed a sense of obligation and goodwill towards Christianity; at the normal to teach children to be disparaging and dismissive of Hindu values; at the strongest, punish children if they practice any Hindu traditions and award them if they participate in Christian activities. A couple of instances of such strong action during Holi and Diwali make the point amply clear.
But even more insidious are the invisible subtle acts, like the Moral Instruction periods, entirely based on Biblical lore. All children are expected to dress up as Santa Claus during Christmas for example. In my own personal experience, I have seen the influence of this ‘sense of obligation’. I had some of my schooling in a Christian institution named after Reginald Heber, a Bishop. And I was told I should be grateful to the Christian institutions which provided my education and not speak against their exclusivism and proselytism. I was and still am grateful to my education, but I have started filling in certain gaps in that education. For example, I found that the same Bishop Heber was the author of a popular hymn ‘From Greenland’s Icy Mountains’, which included lines such as:
‘What though the spicy breezes blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;
Though every prospect pleases, and only man is vile?
In vain with lavish kindness the gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.’
Then this vile wood and stone idol worshipping heathen’s gratitude got tempered some. Then I started thinking, history and culture show that Bharatiyas are worshipers of knowledge more than anything. Then what happened to the education system prior to the arrival of Christians? What did these Christian institutions replace? How is that a mere 2% population of Christians are able to run schools, colleges, and hospitals in every town and city of India? Those thoughts and questions lead me to research the works of giants such as Dharampal.
So basically the colonizing Christians killed off existing systems of education and health to replace it with their own. And for this, we are supposed to owe them our gratitude? Still, I am grateful but tempered with this knowledge. Drona and Karna are not recommended as role models, for their blind gratitude was not Dharma. Gratitude cannot be an excuse to ignore the truth. Or to be blind to the faults of a person, ideology or institution.
Most Hindus do not care to ask these questions or research the subliminal impact it has on their children. If not Christianized, children at least are progressively estranged from their roots. Yet we Hindus keep offering our children freely to Christian institutions, like Yashoda trusting Putana to feed Krishna. And it can’t be entirely avoided, for thanks to the secular state, there aren't many good dharmic options. Hence it is important that children are inoculated from intoxicants found in this Putana’s milk. That vaccine is Krishna-Bhakti. Habituating the child to the Hindu ethos of the home, teaching them the stories of Krishna, Rama and Samskruthi etc. is the inoculation that will allow them to resist the toxin and take in only the milk.
And one day, the beautiful tree will bloom again.