Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The native education

In the eighteenth century, education in India was all about learning the languages from different tutors and acquiring knowledge of the sacred texts and verses. Education was certainly a long and elaborate process.

The Asiatic Annual Register or A view of the history of Hindoostan and of the Politics, commerce and Literature of Asia for the year 1801 (pages 13-15) contains this "Account of the Life of Teruvercadu Mutiah, a learned Hindu, a native of the Carnatic.” written by himself in the English language.

Copying the text from the digitized version of Google Books proved to be quite difficult, in view of the writer’s tendency to use the letter ‘f’ instead of ‘s’ , a practice that was prevalent then. So, here is the account, edited to bring some clarity.

In the Christian year 1766, in the 5th year of my age, I was put under tuition of a Brahmin tutor by name Latchmana Eyer who taught me to read and write the Sanskrit, Malabar and Persian writings, especially the first two.

In the year 1772 1 was initiated in the Persian language,under a Mussalman named Abdul Hakim Saheb.

In 1774, I was educated under a Mahratta Brahmana in the name of Sankara Raur, in the rudiments of the Mahratta language. In the 13th year of my life, I finished all the scholastic readings in the aforementioned languages.

In 1775, I received my education in Cauvya Nataka, Alankara, etc of the Sanskrit language from two eminent poets of the Brahmanical tribe by name Emba Ayangar and Rangava Acharya so that in a short time I became able to compose verses in that language.

In 1776, I was instructed by one Vadugunada Pandaram a most learned man of the same caste to which I belong, in the acromatic part of Tamil learning, that is to say in the most excellent and copious grammar of Tamil language, entitled Tulcapiem, and in all other books dependent on it, namely Carky, Nannul, and also in books of poems such as Teruvalluvar, Chintamaney, Peria Puranam, Neeandu, Thevaram,etc

In 1777, I acquired skill in copying proofs and verses on the high and poetic Tamil. Same year I began learning Veyakarana and Tarkasastra under two learned Brahmanas named Rama Sastre and Cuppurama Sastre.

In 1779, I received my education in Siddantaceagamas from one Vataranya Sastre, a distinguished theologist.

In 1780, I was sent to the English school of one Surya Pelly, a native of repute who instructed me on the scholastic readings of that language.

In 1781, I was recommended to the Vessery Missionary, the Reverend Philip Febrecius, with whom I read an English book named the Preceptor, treating of morals, geography, chronology, etc. I began then to learn the elements of the Latin language under Mr Walter, but in a short time thereafter, he departed this life.

So, my worthy father, Teruvercadu Ramalinga Mudelliar has, at the expense of a vast deal of money, caused me to be educated in the aforestated manner. And also furnished me with an abundance of Sanskrit and Malabar manuscripts and also with a number of English authors of whom I have a library.

From 1782 to 1789, I continued to amuse myself with the reading of the Sanskrit and Malabar authors such as the Etehasa, Puranas, etc and also the English authors such as the Old and New Testaments, Ward’s Grammar, Johnson’s and Chambers dictionaries,etc.

In the interim, a proud monk of my tribe wrote a treatise in the most sublime style of the poetical Tamil, upon a sacred author of that religion, to which I and other natives of my class and also all the worshipping Brahmas of Sevas temple throughout the peninsula belong. This treatise he having sent me on October 28, 1784, I was obliged to write my answer in refutation of the same treatise, in the same poetic style of Tamil in which it was written. The said monk, out of malice drew out something in reply to my answer, which was brought to me on Sep 13, 1791, which again I refuted by stating my reasons in such an extensive manner, that it filled about one hundred Palmeira leaves, because I thereby showed absurdities in every sentence written by that monk.

In 1793, in order to gain the good opinion of Dr James Anderson ( a gentleman possessed of philanthropy and public spirit), I made an accurate and literal translation into the Malabar language of three pamphlets which were published by him, consisting of letters on the progress and establishment of the culture of silk and tending to the public welfare.

In 1794, I translated the modern history of Madura (written in a vulgar style of Malabar language) into English in order to satisfy the curiosity of Andrew Ross, Esq, a gentleman of abilities and wisdom. Same year, near the end, I translated verbatim, into English the Sanskrit Almanac of the Indians, for the present year Ynanda, by the desire of Andrew Berry, a gentleman of great worth and learning. And this translation of the Almanac, Mr Goldingham, an eminent astronomer having perused, was pleased to declare his approbation of the same.

I am now aged thirty-three years, four months and twenty-two days and have hitherto been married to three wives ( of whom two are dead). Yet I am still amusing myself with books of my library, as God Almighty has not recommended me to such a service as is suited to me.

(dated Saturday, 24th Jan, 1795)


Balajisblog said...

Raj - Where on earth do you come across such articles ? ! Even assuming you catch some links, which subject do you start with to catch such links ? !
Even today, kids learn to survive by picking up 2 - 3 different types of languages - for instance, Tamizh, and Madras Tamizh. English, Peter English ( of the type popularized by comedians like Vivek ), and MTV english ( where you use "like" 100 times in a sentence of 8 words - other words being "you know" and "kind of").

Raj said...

Balaji, I don't search for something that I want to write about; I write about something that I come across at random. There, I have laid bare my methods.