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Revisiting the Beautiful Tree – 5

November 2, 2020 Authored by: Probal Ray Chowdhury

Table I, which is based on the source tables given in The Beautiful Tree, presents the detailed community-wise data of boys who were undergoing instruction in the various districts of Madras Presidency during 1822-25.  The same table also presents the aggregated data for different language regions (Oriya, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil) and for the entire Presidency as a whole.

The data in Table I pertains to the public system of education.  As mentioned earlier, it was noted by several collectors (like those of Dakshina Kannada [South Canara], Guntur, Cuddapah, Malabar, Madras etc.) that a large number of students were being educated at home.  It is only the collector of the Madras district, L.G.K. Murray, who sent a detailed tabulation of the number of students being educated at home.  The data for boys of different communities who were undergoing instruction in the public education system and the data for boys of different communities, who were undergoing instruction at homes, in the district of Madras, are reproduced in Table II.  As may be seen from Table II, while the total number of boys who were instructed in the public education system within the district of Madras was around 5,500, the number of those who were instructed privately was indeed nearly five times larger at around 26,500.

Table I clearly reveals the important fact that the indigenous education system was widespread; nearly one-fourth of the of the boys of school-going age were indeed receiving instruction in the indigenous schools, a fact which was highlighted in the extract from the minute dated 10 March 1826 of Governor Thomas Munro cited earlier.  The total number of boys studying in schools in Madras Presidency was 1,53,172, as shown in Table I.  Following Munro’s assumption, that one-ninth of the male population (or one-eighteenth of the total population) roughly corresponds to the boys of school-going age (which he assumed to be between five and ten years), the aggregate percentage of boys of school-going age who were studying in schools in the Madras Presidency, as a whole, actually turns out to be  21.45%.

Table I: Community Profile of Boys Studying in the Indigenous Schools of Madras Presidency 1822-25

DistrictBrah- -manasKsha- -triyasVaisyasSudrasOther CastesTotal HindusMuslimsTotal Male StudentsNo. of SchoolsTotal PopulationPercentage under Instruction
Oriya speaking
Ganjam Percentage of Total808 27.25 243 8.201,001 33.76886 29.882,938 99.0927 0.912,965  2553,32,015  16.07  
Telugu speaking
Vishakhapatnam Percentage of Total4,345 46.16103 1.09983 10.441,999 21.241,885 20.039,315 98.9797 1.039,412  9147,32,570  21.93  
Rajahmundry Percentage of Total904 34.49 653 24.91466 17.78546 20.832,569 98.0252 1.982,621  2917,38,308  6.39  
Machilipatnam Percentage of Total1,673 33.1318 0.361,108 21.941,506 29.82470 9.314,775 94.55275 5.455,050  4845,29,849  17.16  
Guntur Percentage of Total3,089 40.43 1,578 20.701,923 25.23775 10.177,365 96.63257 3.377,622  5744,54,754  30.17  
Nellore Percentage of Total2,466 32.61 1,641 21.702,407 31.83432 5.716,946 91.84617 8.167,563  6974,39,467  30.98  
Cuddapah Percentage of Total1,416 24.03 1,713 29.071,775 30.13647 10.985,551 94.21341 5.795,892  49410,94,460  9.69  
TELUGU TOTAL Percentage of Total13,893 36.41121 0.327,676 20.1210,076 26.404,755 12.4636,521 95.701,639 4.3038,160  3,45440,29,408  17.05  
Kannada speaking
Bellary Percentage of Total1,185 18.01 981 14.912,998 45.561,174 17.846,338 96.31243 3.696,581  5109,27,857  12.77  
Srirangapattanam Percentage of Total48 7.83 23 3.75298 48.61158 25.77527 85.9786 14.03613  4131,612  34.90  
Malayalam speaking
Malabar Percentage of Total2,230 18.64 84 0.703,697 30.902,756 23.048,767 73.283,196 26.7211,963  7599,07,575  23.73  
DistrictBrah- -manasKsha- -triyasVaisyasSudrasOther CastesTotal HindusMuslimsTotal Male StudentsNo. of SchoolsTotal PopulationPercentage under Instruction
Tamil speaking
North Arcot Percentage of Total698 9.60 630 8.664,856 66.76538 7.406,722 92.41552 7.597,271  6308,92,292  14.67  
South Arcot Percentage of Total997 9.57 370 3.557,938 76.19862 8.2710,167 97.58252 2.4210,419  8754,55,020  41.22  
Chengalpattu Percentage of Total858 12.74 424 6.304,809 71.47452 6.726,543 97.24186 2.766,729  5083,63,129  33.36  
Thanjavur Percentage of Total2,817 16.16369 2.12222 1.2710,661 61.172,426 13.9216,495 94.65933 5.3517,428  8849,01,353  34.80  
Tiruchirappalli Percentage of Total1,198 11.76 229 2.257,745 76.00329 3.239,501 93.23690 6.7710,191  7904,81,292  38.11  
Madurai Percentage of Total1,186 8.67 1,119 8.187,247 52.992,977 21.7712,529 91.611,147 8.3913,676  8447,88,196  31.23  
Tirunelveli Percentage of Total2,016 21.78  2,889 31.213,557 38.428,462 91.40796 8.609,258  6075,64,957  29.50  
Coimbatore Percentage of Total918 11.30 289 3.566,379 78.52226 2.787,812 96.16312 3.848,124  7636,38,199  22.91  
Salem Percentage of Total459 10.75 324 7.591,671 39.151,382 32.383,836 89.88432 10.124,268  33310,75,985  7.14  
Madras Ordinary Schools Charity Schools Madras (Total) Percentage of Total  358 52 410 7.42   789 46 835 15.12  3,506 172 3,678 66.59  313 134 447 8.09  4,966 404 5,370 97.23  143 10 153 2.77  5,109 414 5,523    305 17 322      4,62,051      21.52
TAMIL TOTAL Percentage of Total11,557 12.44369 0.404,442 4.7857,873 62.3013,196 14.2187,437 94.135,453 5.8792,890  6,55666,22,474  25.25  
TOTAL (including Srirangapattanam) Percentage of Total    29,721 19.40    490 0.32    13,449 8.78    75,943 49.58    22,925 14.97    1,42,528 93.05    10,644 6.95    1,53,172      11,575    1,28,50,941      21.45  
TOTAL (excluding Srirangapattanam) Percentage of Total    29,673 19.45    490 0.32    13,426 8.80    75,645 49.58    22,767 14.92    1,42,001 93.08    10,558 6.92    1,52,559      11,534    1,27,19,326      21.59  

Source:    Dharampal 1983:87-247.

Note:        1) The number of boys in school and the total population of districts are taken from The Beautiful Tree.

2) The 1822-25 estimate of the total population of Nellore is incorrectly entered in The Beautiful Tree as 8,39,647.  This is corrected to 4,39,647 from the Board of Revenue’s letter dated February 21, 1825, to the Government of Madras.

                3) The percentage of boys of school-going age is estimated to be one-eighteenth of the total population.

4) For each district, the ‘Percentage of Total’ gives the percentage share of the boys of each community among the total number of boys studying in the indigenous schools of that district.

Table II: Community Profile of Boys Undergoing Instruction (both in Schools and at Home) in the District of Madras in 1822-25

 Brah- -manasKsha- -triyasVaisyasSudrasOther CastesTotal HindusMuslimsTotalNumber of SchoolsTotal PopulationPercentage under Instruction
Madras (Ordinary Schools)358 7893,5063134,9661435,109305  
Madras (Charity Schools)52 461721344041041417  
Madras (School Total)410 8353,6784475,3701535,523322 21.52
Percentage of Total7.42 15.1266.598.0997.232.77    
Madras (Instructed at Home)7,586 6,1327,5893,44924,7561,69026,446  103.02
Percentage of Total28.68 23.1928.7013.0493.616.39    
Madras Total Studying: (School + Home)  7,996   6,967  11,267  3,896  30,126  1,843  31,969   4,62,051  124.54
Percentage of Total25.01 21.7935,2412.1994.245.76    

Source:    Dharampal 1983:21, 34-35, 232-233.

Note:        1) The percentage of boys of school-going age is estimated to be one-eighteenth of the total population.

2)The ‘Percentage of Total’ gives the percentage share of the boys of each community among the total number of boys studying in the various schools and at home in Madras.

The data for the various language regions and the individual districts is also quite interesting.  Following the same estimate that one-eighteenth of the total population gives the number of boys of the school-going age, the percentage of boys of school-going age who are under instruction in the indigenous schools, in each district and the various linguistic regions of the Presidency can be worked out.  The percentage of boys of school-going age who were studying in schools in the Tamil-speaking districts of Madras Presidency turns out to be 25.25%, showing that one among every four boys of school-going age was undergoing instruction in the indigenous schools of this region.  In particular, this percentage turns out to be fairly high in districts such as South Arcot (41.22%), Tiruchirappalli (38.11%), Thanjavur (34.8%) and Chengalpattu (33.36%), where more than one among every three boys of school-going age seems to have been undergoing instruction in the indigenous schools.  In the Telugu speaking districts, 17.05% of the boys of school-going age were studying in schools.  However, even among the Telugu-speaking districts, this percentage is much higher in Nellore (30.98%) and Guntur (30.17%).  In Malabar, the lone Malayalam-speaking district of Madras Presidency, 23.73% of the boys of school-going age were attending school; while in Ganjam, the lone Oriya-speaking district of the Presidency, 16.07% of the boys were receiving instruction in the indigenous schools.  Among the Kannada speaking districts of Bellary and Srirangapattanam, 12.77% and 34.9% respectively of the boys of school-going age were found to be under instruction in the indigenous schools, according to the 1822-25 Survey.

The data compiled in Table I pertains to the number of boys undergoing instruction in the schools or in the public education system. There is also the data presented in Table II, pertaining to the Madras district, regarding the number of boys who were undergoing instruction at home.  If both these are added together (as is done in Table II), it is seen that almost all the boys of the school-going age in the Madras district are undergoing instruction, either at home or in the indigenous schools.

The information compiled in Table I reveals an even more important feature of the indigenous education system as it prevailed in the Madras Presidency in the early 19th century.  This has to do with the participation of the various communities in the indigenous school system.  While ordering the survey, in his minute of 25 June 1822, Thomas Munro expressed the view that the indigenous education system was perhaps largely confined only to a few sections of the society:

In some districts, reading and writing are confined almost entirely to Bramins and the mercantile class.  In some they extend to other classes and are pretty general among the Patails of villages and principal Royets…. The mixed and impure castes seldom learn to read, but as a few of them do, columns are left for them in the Form.[1] (Dharampal 1983:83)


[1] See fn.3 on page 3.

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