In this article we will discuss about the state of education during Mughal period in India.
With the coming of the Mughals educational and cultural activities received great fillip. Babur, the first Mughal ruler, was a man of literary taste and possessed perfect knowledge of Persian, Arabic and Turkish. His memoirs, is a work of great literary importance.
He had great love for education and got a number of schools and colleges repaired. He also set up a number of new educational institutions. Despite his great love for education, Babar could not accomplish much because his reign lasted only for four years.
Hamayun (1530—1556 A.D.) was also a great scholar like his father. He provided patronage to man of arts and literature. In spite of many political difficulties, he rendered valuable service to the cause of education. He established a college at Delhi and appointed Shaikh Hussain as its Principal.
He was fond of the company of scholars and saints and spent lot of time in scholarly pursuits. He was also fond of collecting books and raised a beautiful library. In recognition of this interest to the cause of education his tomb was provided with a Madrasa.
Sher Shah Suri, who ruled India when Humayun was in exile, was also a great Patron of education and learning. He established a Madrasa at Narnaul which became a prominent centre of education. He was the first Muslim ruler who made provision for the education of ordinary Muslims too.
Akbar, the great Mughal ruler, showed much greater interest in education. It would not be wrong to say that his reign marked the beginning of a new chapter in the history of education for Muslim India, Though, Akbar was not himself much educated, he showed a great love for the scholars and education.
During his reign, subjects like philosophy, history, literature and arts made tremendous progress. He introduced certain changes in the existing curriculum of studies in educational institutions Subjects like logic, arithmetic’s, astronomy, accountancy and agriculture etc. were included in studies.
This naturally provided a secular bias to the educational system, Akbar paid great attention to the elementary education of children.
Ain 25 of the Ain-i-Akbari lays down:
“In every country, but especially in Hindustan, boys are kept (in school) for years, where they learn the consonants and vowels. A great portion of the life of the students is wasted by making them read many books. His Majesty orders that every schoolboy should first learn to write the letters of the alphabet, and also learn to trace their several forms. He ought to learn the shape and name of each letter, which may be done in two days, then the boy should proceed to write the joined letters. They may be practiced for a week, after which the boy should learn some prose and poetry by heart, and then commit to memory some verses in praise of God, or moral sentences, each written separately. Care should be taken that he learns to understand everything himself but the teacher may assist him a little He then ought, for some time, to be daily practiced in writing a hemistich Or a verse, and will soon acquire a current hand. The teacher ought especially to look after five things- i. Knowledge of the letters; ii. Meanings of words, iii. The hemistich; iv. The verse; v. The former lesson. If this method of teaching be adopted, a boy will learn in a month, or even in a day what it took other years to under and, so much that people will be quite astonished. Every boy ought to read books on morals, arithmetic, the notation peculiar to arithmetic, agriculture, mensuration, geometry, astronomy, physiognomy, household matters, the rule of government, medicine logic, the Tabiyi, Riazi and Ilahi sciences and history, all of which may be gradually acquired.”
During Akbar’s times, education was liberalised and even Hindus were admitted to Muslim Muktabs and Madrasas, As a result, in course of time certain Hindu scholars and historians learnt Persian and made valuable contribution to the cause of education.
Some of the prominent scholars of the time were Madho Bhat, Shri Bhat, Bishan Nath, Ram Krishan, Balbhadra Misr, Vasudeva Misr, Bhan Bhat, Vidya Nivas, Gauri Nath, Gopi Nath, Kishan Pandit, Bhattacharji, Bhagirath, Kashi Nath, Mahadeo, Bhim Nath and Narain Sivji.
During Akbar’s times a number of Sanskrit works were translated into Persian for the benefit of the Muslims. He also established a number of Maktabs and Madrasas at Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and other places
Jahangir, the successor of Akbar, was also a great lover of learning. He himself possessed a command over Persian and also knew Turkish. He was fond of literary and cultural persons and showed great regard to them.
Though Jahangir did not do much for the spread of education, he at least devoted attention to the repair of existing institutions of education. He had issued standing instructions that whenever a rich person or traveller died without any heir, his property should be taken over by the State and the proceeds be spent on the construction and maintenance of educational institutions.
It is said that after his accession to the throne Jahangir repaired even those Madrasas that for 30 years had been the dwelling places of birds and beast and filled them with students and professors. Jahangir had great weakness for fine arts, specially painting.
Shah Jahan was an educated person and gave great encouragement to scholars and spread of education. He set up a Madrasa near Jama Masjid at Delhi His son, Dara Shikoh was a great scholar. He had mastered languages like Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit he has been described by the scholars as the rarest literary jewels produced by India.
Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal Emperor, was also educated and had love for education. However, he spent most of the funds for the education of the Muslim subjects. Thus, he tried to extend his orthodoxy to the field of education and neglected Hindus. He gave liberal grants to poor children belonging to Muslim families.
Gokhale has said “Aurangzeb held in contempt Hindu learning’s and in its place tried to foster Muslim erudition”. Aurangzeb give liberal help to Muslim scholars He also carried out amendments in the curriculum to make the education more practical and useful.
F.E. Keay writes, “Aurangzeb’s part in this pronouncement is all the more remarkable from the fact of his being an orthodox Muslim, who himself had a good knowledge of Arabic and delighted to read and study Muslim theological works. He was not a broad- minded student of human nature like Akbar whose philosophic outlook was a species of eclecticism. But narrow as were Aurangzeb’s views on some questions, he was a shrewd and able ruler, and saw the need of a more satisfactory education than he himself had received. He was not objecting to the theological basis of his education, but to the pedantry and formation which characterized it. He objects to the mere learning of words and terms without the power to understand or use them, and which had no vital connection with the world outside the school.”
The later Mughal rulers also paid much attention towards education. Rulers like Bahadur Shah I, Mohammad Shah, Shah Alam II, Bahadur Shah II were all great patron of education and noted for their literary knowledge.
During the later Mughal period most of the new Madrasas were set up by private efforts. The Madrasa of Ghaziuddin Khan, Madrasa of Sharfud Daulah and Madrasa of Raushanud Daulah in Delhi, Madrasa of Husan Raza Khan at Farrukhabad, and similar Madrasa at other places like Allahabad, Ahmedabad, Surat. Aurangabad, Hyderabad etc. were set up by the nobles with pious bent of mind.
These institutions rendered great service to the advancement of learning. Making an assessment of the contribution of the Mughals to the cause of education.
Will Durant writes, “When the Mughals ascended the throne they brought a high but narrow standard of culture with them ; they loved letters as much as the sword,” and knew how to combine a successful siege with poetry. Among the Muslims, education was mostly individual, through tutors engaged by prosperous fathers for their sons. It was an aristocratic conception of education as an ornament—occasionally an aid to a man of affairs and power, but usually an irritant and a public danger in one doomed to poverty of modest place”
Atulananda Sen says, “The medieval system of education, specially in the later Mughal period failed to impart the qualities of leadership, and thus ensure the supply of outstanding personalities in the different walks of life, which the later Mughals needed so badly.”
According to B.G. Gokhale, “Like the Hindu system of education the Islamic system also suffered from several limitations. It was meant primarily for Muslims who formed a minority in the total population, for with the exception of Akbar, no Muslim King made any significant efforts for promotion of Hindu learning.”
Making assessment of the education system of the medieval India, Prof. Yusuf Husain says, “The system of education in vogue in medieval India lacked resilience and had become much too rigid and non-creative. The modifications made in it from time to time did not go far enough to meet the challenge of the times it was called upon to face. After all, one of the main functions of knowledge is to cultivate the faculty to apprehend relations found in social and natural phenomena, so that one may be able to orient oneself in time and place which is a sign of intellectual development. Without this faculty no group can survive. The chief failing of the medieval system of education was that it was not found adequate to enable its adherents to form habits of accurate observation and practical judgement. It was much too rigid, sterile and bookish.The chief factor in assessing all educational activity should be whether it calls forth the best of the potentialities for moral and spiritual growth. It would be historically true to assert that the medieval system of education, especially in the later Mughal period, failed to impart the qualities of leadership and thus ensure the supply of outstanding personalities in the different walks of life.”
However, Prof S.M. Jaffar has a word of high appreciation for the educational system prevailing during the medieval time. He says even though the medieval Government did not have any regular Department of Public Instructions it could justly boast of possessing one (Department of Public Instructions) which looked after religious as well as educational institutions.
He further says, “It was perhaps only during the days of acute unrest occasioned by external invasions or internal disorders that the sacred cause of education suffered to a certain extent. Barring out a few such cases, however, education made mighty strides during the Muslim period, so much so in fact that Muslim Universities of Medieval India were thronged by thousands of students and professors and often hundreds of hearers.”