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75th Independence Day: The history behind India's own 'National Vidyapiths' founded by Mahatma Gandhi, others

The varsities- Jamia Millia Islamia, Gujarat Vidyapith, Kashi Vidyapith, Bihar Vidyapith was established during Mahatma Gandhi's call of non-co-operation movement, and the institutions follow their own pattern of curriculum different from the British education system.

Arnab Mitra Arnab Mitra @arnabindiatv
New Delhi Published on: August 14, 2021 16:58 IST
National Vidyapiths

Know National Vidyapiths of India founded by Mahatma Gandhi 

At the stroke of the national uprising followed by the Jallianwalabagh massacre, Mahatma Gandhi gave a call for the non-co-operation movement, which included rejecting the colonial system of education. At that time in 1920, nearly 70 years after India first got its higher education institute- University of Calcutta, the four varsities set up in India, called 'National Vidyapith' following the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi. The varsities - Jamia Millia Islamia, Gujarat Vidyapith, Kashi Vidyapith, Bihar Vidyapith were established during Gandhi's call of non-co-operation movement, and the institutions follow their own pattern of curriculum different from the British education system.

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In the birth of these universities one thing was common, the need for India's own education system. Gandhi through his non-co-operation movement asked everyone to boycott the schools and colleges imparting English education propounded by Lord Macaulay. But, the academic loss of students was on his mind, and he therefore decided to establish National Vidyapiths.

According to historian K.K.Mukherjee, "Though late, the Indian political class who were quite sympathetic of their British masters, got a bitter gift for their sacrifice in the first world war with Rowlatt Act and Jallianwala Bagh." The events had shaken the country, and the nation in grief vowed for Satyagraha, non-co-operation movement. "Gandhi's non-co-operation movement in 1920 covers every sector, from industry to education, and the Indian students started leaving the prestigious varsities follows the colonial system and started taking admission in Jamia Millia Islamia, Gujarat Vidyapith, and others."

Though Visva-Bharati was not a product of any national movement, but the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore set up the institution in 1921 to emphasise India's own education system. "Visva-Bharati represents India where she has her wealth of mind which is for all. Visva-Bharati acknowledges India's obligation to offer to others the hospitality of her best culture and India's right to accept from others their best,” Tagore said. Visva-Bharati was declared to be a central university and an institution of national importance by an Act of Parliament in 1951. At present, the varsity offered 176 courses in various Under Graduate (UG), Post Graduate (PG) programmes.

Meanwhile, all other four universities were set up to disregard the colonial education, and to impart the 'Swadeshi' lesson. According to the Jamia Millia Islamia, the birth of university was a direct product of Khilafat and the non-cooperation movement. The varsity page cites the student and teachers of Aligarh Muslim University confronted the pro-British curriculum, and vowed to set up their own education institution run and administered by Indians.

"Responding to Gandhiji’s call to boycott all educational institutions supported or run by the colonial regime, a group of nationalist teachers and students quit Aligarh Muslim University, protesting against its pro-British inclinations. The prominent members of this movement were Maulana Mehmud Hasan, Maulana Mohamed Ali, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, and Abdul Majid Khwaja," the varsity page reads. Jamia became a central university in 1988 by a special act of the parliament.

The Gujarat Vidyapith was established on October 18, 1920 as a national university without a government charter. Gandhi became its life-long chancellor. Professor A T Gidwani was its founder vice-chancellor. After Gandhiji, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Morarji Desai adorned the post of chancellor of the Vidyapith, as per the university.

"Out of those five Vidyapiths established during that period, Gujarat Vidyapith was one, established by Gandhiji himself on October 18, 1920. Gandhi wanted his Vidyapith to prepare the youths for the task of national reconstruction and usher in 'Hind Swaraj', the India of his dream," the varsity page narrates.

Apart from the Gujarat Vidyapith, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith, Bihar Vidyapeeth also came up to impart national education among Indians, inspired by Gandhi's call for self-reliance and swaraj (self-rule). Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta and Bhagwan Das established the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith in Varanasi, on 10 February 1921. The university at present has over 350 affiliated colleges and it is one of the largest state varsities in Uttar Pradesh. However, Bihar Vidyapith, established by Gandhi has been lying defunct since 1942. The National Institute of Open School (NIOS) has proposed to start vocational course in the institute.

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