Saturday, 13 August 2016

Gov. Elphinstone, a rematrkable British administrator

Elphinstone's memorial in St Pauls Cathedral, London  en.wikipedia.org
Elphinstone College, Mumbai, established in 1856 en.wikipedia.org
During the Raj, among the numerous British personalities who loved India very much and made valuable contributions towards the welfare and growth of this country and its people, Elphinstone stands out as a shining example. He was a great man; regarding policies, never had he failed to call a spade a spade nor did he choose the wrong path and run after wealth and power while in the service of the East India Company. 

The Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone FRGS (October 6, 1779 - November 20, 1859), was a Scottish historian  and statesman of great repute. Besides being  a co-founder and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, as a civil servant in India, he served as the Governor of Bombay from 1819 until 1827. Earlier, he was with  the Maratha states as a British Resident and did his work with distinction. Further, he had developed close rapport with the Marathas and the Peshwas.  He also had a stint in Afghanistan (1808 -1811) on Gov. Duke of wellington Sir Arthur Wellesely's orders to bring the ruler into the British fold as an alley in case of war against the French. 
Mountstuart Elphinstone, Governor of Bombay (1819 - 1827) en.wikipedia.org
Elphinstone was responsible for  the opening of several educational institutions accessible to the Indian population. His survey of the existing schools  revealed lack of books, trained teachers and funds to impart western curriculum tailored to Indian culture. Obviously his concern was more focused on the welfare of the people. Being a keen administrator, he liked India very much and knew many languages. He wrote books on India and Afghanistan.
Elphinstone College, the oldest one is part of the University of Mumbai, was endowed in his honor. European residents erected a marble statue of him in  recognition of his remarkable contribution to education in India
Gov. Elphinstone www.pinterest.com
 During his tenure in the Deccan and his association with the Marathas helped him develop interest in Maratha culture. He was much impressed by the Maratha's self governance policy at the lower level. He founded the famous  Elphinstone college in Poona for the study of Sanskrit, Indian culture and science and strongly believed that western leaning is a must and it should be made suitable to the India's heritage and culture. His aim was to improve the welfare of the people and equip the Indians for self governance. While his peers were chasing power, pelf and wealth for comfortable retirement, Elphinstone was more interested in intellectual pursuits and effective administration of the government. He discarded promotions in his line of work. Along with people like William Jones, he impressed on the western world to take interest in India's ancient history and culture. He dismissed the theory of Aryan invasion and along with Col Brooks defended the antiquity of  Indian Astronomy. In the Bombay Presidency he remained "enlightened governor" of Bombay.

Elphinstone was a highly respected man for his dedicated, honest work and his attitude towards Indians who are culturally different  from the Europeans. James Mill's  book on India was a totally a biased one, showing Indians in bad light and it was written with racial superiority and arrogance. Elphinstone wrote a  book on the history of India with a view to refuting Mill's work. He said no culture has any monopoly over the other one and further remarked :,... "preposterous" to 'add to the intellectual treasures of a nation" by setting out to destroy its "indigenous literature
He had the first bungalow built in Malabar Hill before his retirement in 1827.

He initially settled in Albany, London. He remained a bachelor through out  his life and admitted having friendships with Indian women while in India. But he never  fathered any illegitimate children. He died in Surrey, England having taken a house there in 1847 on November 20, 1859 and was buried at Limpsfield.  

Elphinstone, indeed,  was a remarkable man who is still remembered  today by the Indians, in particular, Maharastrians. The Elphinstone college and the university of Mumbai bear testimony to his pioneering contributions in education in India.
Ref:
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Mountstuart_Elphinstone

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