Revisiting the Beautiful Tree – 8

November 2, 2020 Authored by: Probal Ray Chowdhury

Other features of the indigenous education system

The reports of the Madras survey also reveal some other interesting facets of the indigenous education system in Madras Presidency.  While Sanskrit was the medium of instruction in many of the colleges or institutions of higher learning, the language of instruction in all the elementary schools was the regional language in common use in the region where the schools were located.  Table VI gives the language profile of the schools in some of the districts of Madras Presidency during 1822-25.

Table VI: Number of Schools Teaching in Different Languages

Rajahmundry  285   51291
Machilipatnam  465 (4,847)   19 (234+2) 484 (5,083)
Nellore 4642   501697
Bellary 4226235 23211510
North Arcot1 (8)365 (4,506)201 (2,218) 16 (135) 40 (398)7 (61)630
Coimbatore5671253814 10 763

Source:    Dharampal 1983:23.

Note:        1) The figures in the parenthesis indicate the number of students in the particular category of schools.  This information is  available only for a few districts of the Presidency.

From Table VI, it may be noted that an overwhelming majority of schools in the districts of Madras Presidency in 1822-25 were imparting instruction in the local language.  In the Telugu-speaking district of Rajahmundry, of the total 291 schools, 285 were Telugu medium schools, and 5 imparted education in Persian.  In the other Telugu-speaking district of Machilipatnam, out of the total 484 schools catering to 5,083 students, it may be seen  that as many 465 were of the Telugu medium and they catered to 4,847 students, while another 19 Persian schools catered to 236 students.  In Nellore, which is also a Telugu-speaking district, there were 642 Telugu-medium schools and 4 Tamil-medium schools, while 50 schools imparted instruction in Persian language.  In the predominantly Kannada-speaking district of Bellary, there were a total of 510 schools in 1822-25.  Of these, 235 schools were imparting instruction in the Kannada language; they were closely followed by 226 Telugu-medium schools.  Bellary also had 23 Marathi-medium, 21 Persian and 4 Tamil-medium schools.

Of the total 630 schools in the predominantly Tamil-speaking district of North Arcot, the majority – 365 schools (catering to 4,506 students) – were in the Tamil-medium; they were closely followed by the Telugu-medium schools, which numbered 201 and catered to 2,218 students.  North Arcot also had 40 Persian, 16 Hindi and 7 English-medium schools imparting instruction to 398, 135 and 61 students respectively.  In the other Tamil-speaking district of Coimbatore, of the total 763 schools, the majority – 671 schools – were of Tamil medium; besides them, there were 38 Kannada, 25 Telugu, 14 Hindi and 10 Persian-medium schools.

Table VII: Duration of Schooling

DistrictDuration of Schooling
Rajahmundry5-7 years
Masulipatnam7-12 years
Cuddapah2 years
Nellore3-6 years
Bellary5-10/15 years
North Arcot6 years
Thanjavur5 years
Tiruchirappalli8 years
Madura7-10 years
Coimbatore8-9 years
Salem3-5 years
Madras8 years

Source:    Dharampal 1983:25.

Note:        The collectors of the remaining districts of Madras Presidency did not submit any information on the duration of schooling..

The average duration of schooling was reported differently by various collectors.  In most districts, it ranged between five to eight years, while in a few others it was of even longer duration.  Table VII presents the duration of schooling prevalent in various districts of Madras Presidency as reported by the various collectors.

The students were instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic. The collector of Rajahmundry has given a list of the books used in schools and colleges in his district, which is reproduced below (Dharampal 1983:26-27):[1]

1. Bala Ramayanam                                   2. Rukmini Kalyanam

3. Parijatapaharanam                                 4. Mula Ramayanam

5. Ramayanam                                          6. Dasarathy Satakam

7. Krishna Satakam                                     8. Sumati Satakam

9. Janaki Satakam                                      10. Prasannaragahava Satakam

11. Ramataraka Satakam                            12. Bhaskara Satakam

13. Bheeshanavikasa Satakam                    14. Bhimalingeswara Satakam

15. Suryanarayana Satakam                         16. Narayana Satakam

17. Prahlada Charitra                                 18. Vasu Charitra

19. Manu Charitra                                      20. Shanmuga Charitra

21. Nala Charitra                                       22. Vamana Charitra

23. Ganitam                                              24. Pavuluri Ganitam

25. Bharatam                                             26. Bhagavatam

27. Vijaya Vilasam                                     28. Krishnalila Vilasam

29. Radhamadhava Vilasam                       30. Saptama Skandam

31. Ashtama Skandum                               32. Radhamadhava Samvadam

33. Bhaunumati Parinayam                         34. Virabhadra Vijayam

35. Lilasundari Parinayam                           36. Amaram

37. Swarnadhaneswaram                            38. Udyogaparvam

39. Adiparvam                                          40. Gajendra Moksham

41. Andhranamasangraham                        42. Kuchelopakhyanam

43. Rasikajana Manobharanam      

The collector of Bellary also included a list of books used in the institutions of higher learning in his district.  The same is reproduced below (Dharampal 1983:26):[2]

  1. Most commonly used
  2.  Ramayana, 2. Mahabharata, 3. Bhagavata
  • Used by children from manufacturing classes
  • Nagalingayyana-Katha, 2. Vishwakarma Purana, 3. Kamaleshwara Kalikamahatmya
  • Used by Lingayat children

1. Vayupurana, 2. Raghavanka Kavya, 3. Girija Kalyana,

4. Anubhavamrita, 5. Chenna-Basaveswara-Purana, 6. Guru Ragale etc.

  • Lighter literature read

1. Panchatantra, 2. Vetalapanchavimsati, 3. Punklee-soopooktahuller,

4. Mahatarangini

  • Dictionaries and Grammars used

1. Nighantu, 2. Amara, 3. Sabdamanjari, 4. Sabdamani-Darpana,

5. Vyakarana, 6. Andhradipika, 7. Andhranamasamgraha etc.

The list of books cited above shows that at the school level, primary importance was given to the learning of the regional language and arithmetic.  Instruction in language was through the study of works of high literary standing (such as itihasas, puranas and kavyas) which also served the purpose of imparting the necessary moral and religious instruction of each sampradaya (religious denomination).  At more advanced levels of instruction, there were also works of grammar, lexicography and poetics, mathematics, philosophy and other disciplines (sastras) which formed an important part of the curriculum.

[1] The spellings of the various texts given in the collector’s report have been changed to the spellings commonly in use today.

[2] See fn. 21 above.

Centre For Indic studies