Wednesday, 18 November 2015

India's first oriental seminary (1829), Kolkata, W.Bengal

Oriental Seminary, Kolkataen.wikipedia.org
Oriental Seminary, Kolkata.wikimapia.org
The political, cultural and communication scenario saw a change with the consolidation of East India company in places such as Madras (Chennai), Surat, Bombay and Calcutta. As the British merchants were more active in Calcutta and surrounding areas, a working knowledge of English became a key factor in seeking trade, employment opportunities, etc. There were already other institutions such as The Hindu College (1816), the Calcutta School Book Society (1817) and the Calcutta School Society (1818). These followed certain guide lines as fixed by the Orientalists and the English. The Sanskrit college started in 1824 with support from the Government followed the similar lineA section   patriotic  Bengalies  realized the increasing importance of English in a changing situation  but, at the same time,  never wanted to lose sight of India's ancient culture.


The Oriental Seminary, the earliest and largest  privately run, first-rate school for children of Hindu parents in Kolkata (then known as Calcutta) was started  in 1829 by  Gour Mohan Addy, a self-taught man, who had deep interest in education and Indian culture. After a few early locations, the school is presently  is located on Rabindra Sarani (earlier known as Chitpur Road) in Jorasanko, Calcutta. Shri Gour Mohan  Addy, driven by patriotic zeal,  took keen interest in educating Bengalis, in particular, Hindus in a traditional way,  thus following western style syllabus without deviating from the ancient culture and tradition. It was not only India's  first  fully privately owned school, but also Hindu school. The Oriental Seminary played a valuable role in Bengal's renaissance.
 

This school was specifically started for Hindu boys to learn English besides other subjects. The Hindus decided to avoid schools run by missionaries to learn English,  as their children  were subject to  substantial religious influence by the over enthusiastic missionaries. Some of them  openly indulged in such unpalatable activities in the name of imparting English education.  Further, in some states there were religious conversions in the missionary schools that offered free board and lodging to the converts. This was done in a subtle way and the then British government turned a blind eye to such instances. Hence a situation developed for both Muslims and Hindus to have their own schools where such religious compulsion or over exposure won't occur.
Oriental Seminary, Calcutta, 1829.puronokolkata.com
Establishment of private schools for non Christians for  learning free from imposition of other religious belief became a necessity.  With the advent of so manEnglish schools, traditional schools imparting Sanskrit and Persian began to lose importance among ambitious parents.   The Governor of Bengal, Lord Carmichael, in 1914 presided over the inaugural function of the new oriental school that had facilities to teach English.  Gour Mohan Addy (January 20, 1805 – March 3, 1846) ran the school without any support from the Government. He did not get any financial support from any society or individuals. and he hired an assortment  well qualified  Indian, European and English people. Skills in good spoken and written English  were needed in those days, so,  the founder took pain to employ British teachers  to teach the English language.  Well-known Shakespearean scholar  and teacher  Captain D.L. Richardson also taught English in the school. Geoffrey, a Frenchman and polyglot, during his tenure,  made this school very popular. In 1936 and in later  years because of more demands from  young parents  for such a school, additional branches were started at various locations -  Chitpur, Bhowanipur and Belghoria. Girls section was opened as far back as 1934. The school building built by the construction company Martin and Burn company became a heritage building in 1991. Anne Besant in 1926 presided over the 
annual school function. Sir Ashutosh Mukhopadhyay,
well-known  Bengali intellectual, had a long stint with this historical school from 1907 to 1922 as the president of its governing body. Its alumni included several well known people including Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore who completed his early education here. Well-known British who visited this school included Sir Edward Ryan, Sir Henry Seton, Sir Lawrence Peel, Lord Auckland, Lord Jocelyn, et al. 

In 1853, Oriental Theater  formed by the students  initially staged Shakespeare dramas in English which did not get any response. So later they staged Bengali dramas. Later the school theater activities declined for unknown reasons. As happened to many historical institutions,  this colonial oriental school may appear with a faded glory, but still retains the legacy that has lasted more than 184 years  
After the death of Gour Mohun on Feb 23rd 1845, his brother, Hurrakisto Addy, took over the administration and kept up the tradition.
 

Ref

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oriental_Seminary

http://puronokolkata.com/2015/08/01/oriental-seminary-calcutta-1829/