Banaras Hindu University turns 100 years

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Who : Banaras Hindu University
What : Turns 100 years
When : February 13,2016

This Basant Panchami, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) entered its 100th year. An institution founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, BHU has a special significance, and its contribution cannot be measured without understanding this. It was not just a university to disseminate knowledge. It was a university that was founded for a different cause. Perhaps, those raising questions about the Bharat Ratna being conferred to Malaviya are not able to appreciate this reality.

BHU was envisaged as early as 1904 and it was supposed to build a bridge between India’s past and modernising world system in the areas of humanities, social sciences, particularly in evolving non colonial history as a discipline and Hindi as a language of large majority of Indians, thus giving national languages a place of functional utility and local as well as national pride.

Engineering education in BHU, as visualised by Mahamana, was a definite departure from ‘Roorkee model of engineering education’ which was the dominant mode till then offered by the colonial regime.The idea was to take engineering studies beyond the civil engineering that the colonial regime pursued for making roads, bridges, buildings and railway lines to fulfil British agenda. Malaviya presented a model of a non-colonial university for overall development of the nation.

Malaviya was keen from day one to reach out to the modern world of engineering and natural science while preserving the vignettes of Indian past. Through his contribution he was preparing a road map for ‘indigenous modernism’. In that sense he was fully aware of the demands of an Independent India in the coming future. A rare foresight in those days of thick impenetrable colonialism. He was in every sense a modern nation builder with a vision of inclusive Indian society in colonial and post-colonial India.

Early decades of the 20th century signalled an era of awakening in Asia, particularly in China and Japan. Malaviya was aware of it and he mentioned the 1905 defeat of Russia at the hands of Japan in his convocation address in BHU in 1929. In the same speech he had also emphasised the boycott of education as an impediment to “Swaraj”. He saw “Swaraj” from a different point of view. In the same speech he had lauded national initiatives in science by scientists like CV Raman and Jagadish Chandra Bose. For him school was not only for schooling, but for remaking the whole life. He was steeped in ground reality, and wanted the youth to cultivate values and commitment to Indian nationalism, shun sectarianism, develop and lift up the oppressed and serve the disadvantaged — thus build an inclusive India.

For Malaviya, BHU was an instrument to educate India’s restless youth and at the same time battle with “the empire”. Malaviya’s crusade started right from 1916 with the task of making a model university and creating an alternative mode of education. A university that aimed to not just create good engineers, doctors and scientists but also good human beings.

Today, BHU signifies the confluence of old and the new, tradition and modernity, Sanskrit and Urdu, philosophy and biotechnology, ayurveda and nanomedicine, astrology and space science, performing arts and computer science. As an alma mater, BHU has changed in a big way, but its soul remains the same. A truly national university. Evolving but retaining the basic character.