Thursday, 29 September 2016

Out-standing Dr. John Borthwick Gilchrist - promoter of Urdu / Hinduatani languages


Dr John Borthwick Gilchrist (1759–1841)artuk.org
During the Colonial rule under the East India company and later under the British Crown, there were  countless officers to whom the working place was the 'temple' and  their motto was 'strive hard as much as you can, without expecting results or reward and leave a mark in your chosen field so that it'll inspire the others to follow you'. Among the English officers of the EIC, John Gilchrist was a different person. He took the path, not taken by people of his profession. As a surgeon, in the later part of his life, he  developed a flair the Indian Languages - Hindi and Urdu and and further took the oriental languages to a higher level and popularized them the languages of the Colonial bureaucracy and taught them for the first time at Ft. William college, Kolkata to train the foreign officials . This impacted on the colonial rule and their efficiency in the later years. Any way, in the promotion of Hindustani/ urdu, Gilchrist holds a pre-eminent position even today among  oriental scholars.

John Borthwick Gilchrist, FRSE LLD (22 June 1759 -  9 January 1841)  was a Scott who led a productive life in India during the colonial period. Being a man of many talents, his contribution to the Indian languages was a remarkable one.  Besides being  a Scottish surgeon, he was an was  an Indigo farmer, and  an Indologist and an Oriental Linguist. He compiled and authored  An English-Hindustani Dictionary, A Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language, The Oriental Linguist, and many more. His lexicon of Hindustani was published in Arabic script, Nāgarī script, and also in Roman transliteration.

Gilchrist, born in the Old Town, Edinburgh  attended  George Heriot's School, and the High School (1773). He began his Carrier as a surgeon's mate in the Royal Navy, then, in 1783, as an assistant surgeon in the East India Company's Medical Service. In 1782 he first landed at Bombay and had a chance to take up a job   in General Goddard's detachment (army troops).  In the next 16 years he held various positions and established himself as a dedicated worker. Realizing the importance of learning the native languages of India, as a surgeon, he turned 180 degrees and evinced interest  in learning Hindustani- mix of Hindi and Urdu. This is something most physicians do not ever do - taking interest in altogether a different field. Gilchrist thought it would help him  easily communicate with the native soldiers - Sepoys. It was John Gilchrist who was instrumental in popularizing Hindustani as the language of British administration. Earlier, the EIC considered it a Moor's language. He changed their misconception that had been around there for a long time.

He quickly realized the language spoken in the northern part of India was neither  Persian nor Arabic and it  it was only Hindustani developed around cities like Delhi, Meerut and Saharapur, etc as result of interaction between early migrants from Iran and Turkey.
Khariboli, one of the early Hindi languages had  strong grammar and vocabulary that included numerous Persian words. The same language was known as Dakhini  in the Deccan and western parts spoken by the settlers from the north who retained the language and the roots.
Henri Martin, orientalist, student of Gilchrist. commons.wikimedia.org
 The EIC started an oriental seminary, within the Ft. William complex, Kolkata to impart training in the working knowledge of Hindustani under the expect guidance of Gilchrist. The Oriental Seminary gradually evolved into Ft.William College in 1800 and Gilchrist served as the [first] principal of the college till 1804. During that period Gilchrist published many books on oriental languages. The Stranger's East India Guide to the Hindoostanee, The Hindustani Manual or Casket of India, Nastaliq-e-Hindoemay are  worthy of mention. Thus Ft. William, Kolkata became a center for Urdu /Hindustani where the practical knowledge for the EIC officials was taught.  It was the first attempt to teach  western employees the languages of India.  Gilchrist  attracted many writers in this language who could produce materials to teach Urdu / Hindustani in simple style that would be helpful to the English company employees. Gilchrist then had begun to show his interest in Hindustani prose.

First Indian educational institution - Ft. William college (1800), Calcutta navrangindia.blogspot.com
Gilchrist educational trust. karakoram.co
Then Delhi college came into being 1825 to promote Urdu/ Hindustani. Henry Martyn, an Anglican priest of Church of England; chaplain for East India Company did some pioneering work in this language and he revised Hindustani version of New Testament; later, translated Bible into Persian and Urdu languages.
In 1803 Ft. William made rapid strides in the promotion of Hindi and Hindi literature. First Bible translation in Hindi appeared  in 1818 later in 1826
a Hindi news paper called  Udant Martanda appeared for the first time. In a growing colonial bureaucracy, the use of Urdu/ Hindi was quite helpful and it improved the efficiency of the administration. They no longer had to depend on the Dubash for English translation of the native tongue. By 1833, the vernacular languages and the English were widely used in the administration.
Because of the language movements, the administration gave official recognition to Urdu and Hindustani as the languages of the Colonial India. But, Urdu with Persian script was mainly spoken among the Muslim and Hindustani with Nagri scrip was popular among non-Muslims - mostly Hindus. Gilchrist, who discovered Hindustani became a patron of standardized Urdu and of Hindi language  and its re-invigoration indirectly- Hindi as we know to day was the product of 19th C. It became the hallmark of the Raj later as they had to depend on the natives for the smooth functioning of the administration. 

After 1785 Gilchrist never concentrated on Medical services. His travel across the northern belt got him a chance to evolve teaching Urdu in simple style, a pragmatic and practical way to carry on the  Colonial administrative work. The Hindoostanee Grammar and Dictionary was published in 1786. This was useful to communicate with the Indian soldiers. In 1794 he was promoted to surgeon with the East India Company. In 1796, over ten years of efforts, he finally published his grammar of Urdu, which appeared at the Chronicle press, Calcutta. In 1801 Gilchrist was named head of the college, and professor of Persian and Hindustani at Ft. William upon recommendation from the Governor-General, the Marquess Wellesley, .
 

After 1804 he returned to Edinburgh for health reasons and was honored with an LLD by Edinburgh University and in 1807 he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Married to one Mary Ann Coventry,  29 years younger to him (he was 48), Gilchrist had no children. His business ventures in banking did not give him satisfaction, Later in 1828 he helped found Univesity College London  where he taught Hindustani. Upon his  his death in 1841, he endowed the Gilchrist Educational Trust to promote education. 
Tomb at the Père-Lachaise Cemetery./en.wikipedia.org
His Tomb  isat the Père-Lachaise Cemetery.

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gilchrist_(linguist)