Lord Macaulay's Speech on Indian Education: The Hoax & Some Truths

A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below:

"I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation."

The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which appeared too modern. Second, this was far too obvious and too cynical for Macaulay, who was an apologist of the empire, and believed in its high moral purpose. The quote was obviously a fraud.

I was, however, tempted to check the source of this quote [I take this blog seriously!]. I found this useful article by the Belgian academic, Dr Koenraad Elst (read here),  which shows that there is no authoritative source for this quote, except Hindu Nationalist magazines and sources, though this is widely circulated and believed. The author also claims that it is unlikely that such a speech was made, as Macaulay would have been in India on that date.

Then I found more information on Macaulay's speech on a book called Distinguished Anglo-Indians, which contained the text of Lord Macaulay's Minutes on Indian Education (See here), which told me that Macaulay addressed the parliament on about Indian education. [The date was 10th July 1833] This speech is usually referred together with his famous Minutes on Indian Education, which was indeed dated 2nd February 1835 where he was arguing in favour of using English as the medium of education in India, and made his oft-quoted comment that 'a single shelf of good european library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia'. However, what is overlooked, rather conveniently, is this comment contained the same document: Are we to keep the people of India ignorant in order that we may keep them submissive? Or do we think that we can give them knowledge without awakening ambition? Or do we mean to awaken ambition and to provide it with no legitimate vent? Who will answer any of these questions in the affirmative? Yet one of them must be answered in the affirmative, by every person who maintains that we ought permanently to exclude the natives from high office. I have no fears. The path of duty is plain before us: and it is also the path of wisdom, of national prosperity, of national honor.[See the full text here]

Clearly, Macaulay was saying something directly opposite to what has been quoted as his!

There is indeed a clear reason why this distorted quote was invented. This is indeed RSS and its followers, who put words on Macaulay. I now know RSS even referred to English speaking Indians as 'Children of Macaulay'! The quote above, passed on by my trusting friend, is a spoof, RSS trying to interpret what Macaulay might have meant. [I am sure those who did it knew that Macaulay also put Arabic on the same boat as Sanksrit]

Indeed, the same Minutes contain another classic Macaulay quote, which underlines his intentions, which would eventually become the bedrock of all British colonial strategy  - "We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect". This, more than anything else, explains why Macaulay became such a hate figure for the Hindu Nationalists as they came to adopt, dare I say this, the European ideas of nationalism on their own.

India is one of those countries with a great past and a promising future - and a present made up of unending conflicts between the two. No wonder Lord Macaulay has been invoked again, by email! And, no wonder it is a spoof, suiting some political Indian's view of the world. However, the colonialist that he was, India can thank Lord Macaulay for its modernity. Chandrabhan Prasad of University of Pennsylvania's Center For The Advanced Study of India has written another excellent article, outlining Macaulay's contribution in India (read this rather combative article here). He scripted the Indian Penal Code. He made no convenient adjustment to local religions. He wanted to build an education system secular and scientific, free of age-old prejudices and at par with the Western world. While his comment on Indian and Arabian literature was certainly ignorant, he played his part in building the modern India we are all so proud of.


Note: Since I wrote this post, Macaulay kept coming back to the conversations. I reckon it is only fair to highlight what I have written since, which provides an additional perspective, perhaps, to this discussion.

Macaulay and I

Should Britain Apologise?

Does Macaulay Matter?

Undoing Macaulay: The Case for Inglish

Later, to develop a background on how Lord Macaulay came to his minutes, I started the Road to Macaulay project. The links to the published posts are here, though I shall post newer ones as I publish them.

Road to Macaulay: A Personal Note

Road to Macaulay: The Development of Indian Education under British Rule

Road to Macaulay: Warren Hastings and Education of India

Road to Macaulay: Asiatic Society and Reinvention of India's Culture


Anirudha Joshi said…
Thanks Suprio for your views.

While Macaulay is blamed for all things that went wrong with English education, RSS gets blamed for all things that are sounding (rightly or wrongly) nationalist.

When I think of the British bringing 'world class' English education to India, and creating a 'class' of people who in turn helped the British govern the millions of 'natives', it always reminds me of the then Indian National Congress. It is no surprise that many 'real' leaders in the struggle of independence of the INC either had spent many of their formative years outside India (Naoroji, Aurobindo, Gandhi...) or were strongly against such English education (Tilak, Gokhale...).

The advantages of English education are many, but the main disadvantage is that it propagates the inequalities in our society. Contrary to popular belief, only a small fraction of India in 2008 can speak English, and a further fraction actually prefers it. (Going by Census 2001 data on education, my guess for both fractions is a quarter, though I could be overestimating.) Education, jobs and opportunities for self-improvement go only to this quarter of a quarter.

Of course, Macaulay alone can't be blamed for this. Language as a class barrier has existed in India for long. Before English, it was Urdu, and before Urdu it was Sanskrit. An intelligent and thinking person like Macaulay can perhaps be blamed for doing little to bridge the gap. Of course, he was not attempting to bring equality among Indians - merely to see how the British can continue to efficiently rule India.

Can’t let this comment end without mentioning an ‘RSS’ school in Pune – Dnyan Prabodhini. This school teaches the sciences and math in English, social sciences in Hindi and other subjects in Marathi – an interesting experiment.

Anirudha Joshi
sparsha said…
(I want to see how long my post stays on this blog)

Here we go again!. Another great brilliant british educated mind. And THIS is the result of English education in India that Macaulay gave rise to; A mind that accepts as the final word
anything that is given to it from the West. And right here on this blog is the proof.

This guy (Suprio Chaudhuri) questions the source of a quote and rightfully so, I would have done the same. But he swallows up large garbs of fecal matter from this link (http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/hinduism/macaulay.html) because it is descending from the behind of a "great western thinker". Presenting it as the authoritative final word on the matter.

I read through that article and what I saw was an article that lacks the same credibility, the lack of which, it criticizes. However, let us for the moment, agree with him on this say that
quote didn't exist. The rest of the article lacks any meaningful analysis. The author provides justifications for all almost all of the quotes by Macaulay that clearly indicate he was short-sighted.

BTW Suprio you need to make up your mind was Macaulay in Parliament or not in 1835 the article you point to says otherwise and the text you refer to says he was. So please get your head out of your rear-end.

By the way the abstract says "Koenraad Elst discovers through a wrong quotation attributed to Lord Macaulay how right the anglicizer of Indian culture was, or at least how right his intentions were, subjectively." Any historian (Well, a sane one) would agree that the author needs to make up his mind first,
those two things can't be true at the same time.

Reading the very passages by Macaulay provide a very clear picture of the man. Here's one of the quotes.

"I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit
works. I have conversed, both here and at home, with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am
quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the
Orientalists themselves. A single shelf of a good European library is worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written
may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England."

So let's see here. He doesn't know any Indian languages has read translations of most celebrated works (which are ...???) from men distinguished for their proficiency (who are ...???). And works
better than these (which are ...???) are being taught at english preparatory schools. Really ??? (So who's imgination is more crazier RSS or Macaulay?)

The author of the aricle says "If this seems arrogant on Macaulay's part, we must consider that he merely wanted to give India the shock treatment of exposure to more advanced foreign
influences which England itself had received to its own benefit a few centuries earlier"

So lets see again. This guy knows what Macaulay was thinking (now that's an advanced brain for sure). Advanced foreign influence? Advanced in what way? England was influenced by who and
benefitted in what way?

These are the signs of a lizard brain. I don't know about the quote that the RSS supposedly cooked up. If there is indeed such a quote I have no doubt that the british would have destroyed it before it gets public. People who rewarded the The Butcher of Amritsar can be expected to do nothing better. But the reality of
the British did do has been well summarized in this quote. What they did create was a class of people like Suprio Chaudhuri who are proud of Macaulay, Dyer (the Butcher of Amristar) (I'm sure
he will come up with some equally retarded justification of how
the Butcher enlightened the Indians by a massacre) and also the fact that our treasures are in the hands of the British today (from the Kohinoor to the peacock throne).

Talking of software I don't know if that Macaulite guy knows what he is talking about but computers are not language specific and sanskrit is the most suitable for interpretation. Oh and like
Suprio I didn't pull this out of of my behind, I am a Computer Scientist, I know Sanskrit and know what I'm talking about. And don't know if you know this but numbers were invented by Indians
(the pre-british enlightened Indians so don't claim you're one of them) and THAT is the basis of anything and everything scientific (not english unfortunately). Without that the western world would still have been in the stoneage drawing leaves and fish to count.

BTW two of your links are by the same guy and have more or less the same content. Your "enlightened" ming probably didn't catch it.
I am impressed, Sparsha, that I touched a raw nerve here. However, you did not answer the key question that I sought an answer to : Did Macaulay make the quote which I claimed as spoof?

I make no pretense to be a historian. I gave out the sources of my observations, and did not claim any authenticity beyond that. All I sought to answer was, could Macaulay have made those comments.

Apparently not, as you mail proves again. You portray Macaulay as a man with limited education, not an enlightened admirer of India. That makes it very unlikely that he could have made the comments attributed as his, in Parliament, where he admires India and makes a cynical plot.

I love India as much as anyone does. However, I never thought my love for my country needs to be expressed in terms of rejection of all other civilization and knowledge. I shall state my point yet again - if Macaulay chose to teach English to Indians, he did good, even if inadvertantly.

In this context, I remember this dinner time conversation with a British colleague of mine. He said, he 'did not need to learn another language, as the world has learnt English'. I told him that the power in the world remains with the curious, and it is time that he wakes up and sends his children to learn Chinese. Without trying to get into Macaulay's mind, he contributed in laying the foundations, in some way, of the India we are proud of.

We are proud of India not because Sankskrit is the language that computers understand, or because we created the caste system long before others started talking about 'specialisms'. We are proud of India because we have an inclusive culture, which defeated every invading army in absorbing them in itself. I am not the one to be ashamed of acknowledging Macaulay's role, and feel a bit happy that we have finally beaten him in his own game.
Abhay Karnataki said…
Obviously the foreign records will say what preserves their image.

Modernity!?? you call this modernity? having to converse in a foreign language in place of the national language? If you go to Germany, you will see nothing but German signboards, people speaking their mother-tounge.

Whether the exact words are true or not, what is content in it has been the essential strategy of British rulers. They Did Destroy the roots, and converted the intellectuals in this country into clerks. Even today that unfortunate trend is seen in terms of the way people chose the careers, study for marks in the exams rather than knowledge, and so much lack of ingenuity or originality.

They did give the image to the middle class here that whatever is foreign is good, and that trend is still seen in teenagers drinking colas and wearing jeans in hot summer of Mumbai! Self pride of the Indians has been bashed by these education systems which were channeled for having a smooth functioning of TheiR rule on us, rather than our development.
As a result of this the youth in Rural India have started moving to Cities, they are not getting employment there and leading to crimes.

Instead of intellectualising the things and branding it on politics, let's learn the true history of India, which was obviously twisted and presented to us, and deepen our roots. Francois Gautier would be a good starting point to know about the History of India.
abcd said…
to everyone who opposed the guy, supriyo:
friends the last passage of the macaulay's speech syas, "We will create a generation which will be indian by blood and colour and british by test, opinions,culture, intellect and morals". this guy supriyo belongs to that generation. he is the brainchild of macaulay. he is too westernized to identify the difference between the intentions and the views of macaulay. so dont waste your time in posting comment to someone like him. lets WORK together to have a new generation which will be answer to the threat by this BRAINCHILD geneeration.

to the great supriyo:
I would suggest you to first know what indian culture was prior to british invasion and what it is now. if you could find the difference, you will get the answer
Hello and thanks for your comments. I have my views on Indian culture as you have yours. However, the point here is whether Macaulay did make those comments, and whether making up the comment is the best way to talk about our history, pre- or post-British rule. Besides, the content of the made-up comment was very different from what was actually said. What Macaulay said reflects his ignorance and purpose of creating an efficient administration from his point of view, not unlike how a corporate manager will think today, whatever the moral aspect of such action. However, the 'made up' comment project a golden past for India, which is essentially anomolous to what you will think of India under Muslim rule [perhaps], and then sets out to paint the British designs on a different light.

Let me ask you this: Do you think that when Macaulay was seeing India - in 1832 - India was really a land without poverty?
Anonymous said…
I dont know what Englsh education has brought to India, a million of coolies working for a petty money!!! LOL, varnashrama dharma was nectar
Anonymous said…
please go to url http://www.languageinindia.com/april2003/macaulay.html
Pranjal said…
Pragmaticaly . what Macaulay said or did not say ages ago matters nothing in the present day context .What matters is , that WE INDIANS , today stand on the thrashold of THE NEW WORLD , where scripts have started being written . And the nations which harmoniously amalgamate the principles of nature will be rich and powerful to lead this NEW WORLD .What we need to brood over at this hour is that do we have THAT vision , WISDOM , self respect , dicipline, honesty , commitement , perseverance and leadership which can deliver what we aspire !!
Suresh said…
I like to thank Supriyo for pointing out how some misguided people use the Internet to mislead others with lies and false rumours. Whoever is into this type of illegitimate activity should be taken to task and prosecuted. This really underscores the need to realize that whatever is printed (or on the Internet)may not be true at all.
Thanks for your kind comments, Suresh. Yes, indeed, Internet as a medium is great if one wants to spread false information, and there will always be those who would want to take advantage. Remember, a false quote like this can fool almost everyone. I saw Amitabh Bachchan quoting these words on his blog, commenting what a great country India was. I also had someone, who believed ernestly that Maculay indeed said these words, stated that he saw these words on a train compartment being printed by the Ministry of HRD. Without making the pretence of knowing the actual historical fact, I must say that the quote struck me as odd because of its modern language and open cynicism. As far as the Early Victorian public speaking is concerned, you will always find an unfailing correctness in these matters, which was missing here.
As I studied Macaulay more, I came across this observation he made in his seminal essay on Robert Clive. I quote here as this is close to the spoof, in a sense, and Macaulay was praising Indians [though he was actually talking about British valor]:

"The people of India, when we subdued them, were ten times as numerous as the Americans whom the Spaniards vanquished, and were at the same time quite as highly civilised as the victorious Spaniards. They had reared cities larger and fairer than Saragossa or Toledo, and buildings more beautiful and costly than the cathedral of Seville. They could show bankers richer than the richest firms of Barcelona or Cadiz, viceroys whose splendour far surpassed that of Ferdinand the Catholic, myriads of cavalry and long trains of artillery which would have astonished the Great Captain. It might have been expected, that every Englishman who takes any interest in any part of history would be curious to know how a handful of his countrymen, separated from their home by an immense ocean, subjugated, in the course of a few years, one of the greatest empires in the world. Yet, unless we greatly err, this subject is, to most readers, not only insipid, but positively distasteful."
And this:

"Of the provinces which had been subject to the house of Tamerlane, the wealthiest was Bengal. No part of India possessed such natural advantages both for agriculture and for commerce. The Ganges, rushing through a hundred channels to the sea, has formed a vast plain of rich mould which, even under the tropical sky, rivals the verdure of an English April. The rice-fields yield an increase such as is elsewhere unknown. Spices, sugar, vegetable oils, are produced with marvellous exuberance. The rivers afford an inexhaustible supply of fish. The desolate islands along the sea-coast, overgrown by noxious vegetation, and swarming with deer and tigers, supply the cultivated districts with abundance of salt. The great stream which fertilises the soil is, at the same time, the chief highway of Eastern commerce. On its banks, and on those of its tributary waters, are the wealthiest marts, the most splendid capitals, and the most sacred shrines of India. The tyranny of man had for ages struggled in vain against the overflowing bounty of nature. In spite of the Mussulman despot and of the Mahratta freebooter, Bengal was known through the East as the garden of Eden, as the rich kingdom. Its population multiplied exceedingly. Distant provinces were nourished from the overflowing of its granaries; and the noble ladies of London and Paris were clothed in the delicate produce of its looms. The race by whom this rich tract was peopled, enervated by a soft climate and accustomed to peaceful employments, bore the same relation to other Asiatics which the Asiatics generally bear to the bold and energetic children of Europe."
Anonymous said…
Very useful topic! even I am looking into your blog cuz I jus came across this mail from one of my friend!
Our people are mixing intellect and emotion...that is the issue!
If it is a misquote ...let us accept that until we get a proof that it is authentic(the so-called Macualay's address)!
Point 1.Anirudh has tried his best to find the authenticity of the spoof mail and nothing beyond that.
2.why do we have to blame him and make personal remarks on him..shows our immaturity to handle things intellectually.
3.Do we all agree that India was so wealthy before british? check the historical data of famines in India..caste based education...caste discrimination..that still prevails please please please talk sensibly
4.This spoof is so immature that it talks about India during Colony rule(already they were ruling us)
5.We are quoting Germany...do we have a single language to talk..pls accept the reality.
and above all...let us all stop dicriminating people based on the place they live in.Is it a sin living in UK?
I don't have a second opinion on working towards prosperity for India and to contribute my part for a wealthy,healthy and strong India.
Jai hind!
Anonymous said…
sorry,i misquoted :) Anirudh for Suprio !

Thanks Suprio for your work!

I sincerely appreciate your efforts!

Many thanks, Kishore, for your kind comments.
Anonymous said…
It is not important that what Macaulay said in 1830's , Its important to think what will happen if tomorrow all of a sudden if we declare Japanese as medium of instruction. I know that it is not possible in single day may be over a period of time its possible. we never know the consequences of it, atleast we humans cant predict it.one result could be literacy rate could increase or decrease or be the same. with respect to me I learnt german last year , I hate to go classes (my age is 26) ,i hated the teacher who did no harm to me, I started bunking classes.but finally somehow passsed A1 course in german for sake of my job.I am an engineer in automobile field , i used to update myself on automobile field but I felt that for 4 months during the german classes i spent time learning new language and less time about latest update in my field. atleast by 50% because i was learning new things like eating ,sleeping,running all in german lang.which i learn long before at the age of 5-7. think what will happen to a 5 year old (indian)kid if we ask him to suddenly learn russian language even with the best teacher in the world the kid will fail or just pass may be! finally result is kid remains less educated compared to another kid who learns in his mother tounge. if we consider a whole nation instead of that kid then there are possiblities for drop in the literacy rate by almost 40-50%.Now we know Macaulay's or British's noble intention behind introducing english as a medium of instruction.if they did not know this will cause ill effects to indians then they are the dumbest fools in the whole world ,but they are not dumb but cruel sorry the most cruel ever ! this is just only one sction from them,there are a lot more to tell.taking this as a lesson we should convert all the konwledge in the world into language known to us (globalisation), then of course it is for sure only the best leads the race - it wil be us for sure.

Astroyogi said…
I took 30 valuable minutes to scan the blog, to realize that years have been wasted on discussing the past.

Take my word, It has screwed your present and shall screw the future.

Think of what you should do now and not what should have been done as you have no control over the past events.

For everybodies sake, stop such irrelevant blogging.

With great power of the internet comes great responsibility....

PLEASE, use your time effectively.
I will no longer chat with you....


Thanks for taking time to read and leaving the comment anyway. I must admit I read your blog afterwards and understand that we have a disagreement of different kind - that of whether Internet publishing does any good.

There is of course no denying of the fact that most of what we write on our blogs are not credentialled, professional writing. But, then, here is what I think: Most of the words which get published in the print media, or conveyed in the classroom are not credentialled either. I remember someone from the past who spent his life publishing books debunking Galileo's theory and claiming that the Sun goes around the earth. I have seen people using history classes to teach that Lord Ram was born in that precise site in Ayodhya. And, obviously, the spoof comment, which was absurd not just in its content, but in its language and context altogether, did its round in print media before anyone circulated it on the Internet.

So, here is my argument: Internet publishing allows more people to participate in creation and validation of existing knowledge. Yes, one needs to know how to validate available information, but that has nothing to do with Internet publishing or amateur blogging. This comment above was published in journals, was displayed in Ministry of HRD placards, quoted by celebrities and used in classrooms in famous schools, but it is still a spoof: Macaulay never said that.

So, credentialling remains important with or without Internet. And, I think bloggers collectively are doing a service to the society by flipping the power balance between those who could publish and those who could not, and by building a more transparent world.

Warm Regards,

Anonymous said…
OUR INDIA IS GREAT-whether some one
realises or not.
It was looted by many rulers,including the BRITISH.
Modern Education,English language
introduced during the BRITISH,helped
INDIANS go GLOBAL, which is a fact.
Mandar Shinde said…
Thanks Supriyo, for pointing this out!

The concern here is not, whether to support Lord Macaulay or not. The concern is why our people need to fake the past to prove that we are (or were) the best?? We invented zero, ok...we were masters in astrology, ok....our kings were brave enough to rule the world, okay okay... We are proud of all this; but, at the same time, we want to move forward. The people creating such spoof seem to be strong believers of Macaulay, as they think his quotes are so important even today. That's the reason why they want to fake his statements to misguide our people. Why don't these people work hard enough to bring back the old golden days (as they always refer to), instead of spreading such useless rumors.

Some time ago, I received a 'Real' live painting of Shivaji Maharaj, through chain mails. (I can't believe Shivaji was a kind of person who would sit in front of a painter for hours to get his pic made!) How the picture being 'real' or not is going to change fate of his followers today? Still, as it is a sentimental call to our 'cultured, religious and emotional' population, such mails keep going, cleverly dodging the brains of all concerned.

The moment you put a question on such intentions (in the largest democratic and secular nation), you are labeled as anti-Indian, anti-religion, pro-British, westernized, etc. Time to introspect?

Thanks, Mandar, for your kind words. You are indeed right in pointing out that as a nation, we should not need to invent our past.

Someone said India is an adolescent nation, with all the energies, insecurities and ambivalences that come with such a period in life. It indeed strikes as true, when we see such efforts. However, it is time to grow up, without doubt.

Thanks for such a nice article. I clicked on this blog with an open mind and found it to be interesting.

I received a mail too, a couple of times.

I would request the readers to note the following:

(a) The scanned copy does appear old (can be done by any Image Editing s/w e.g. GIMP)

(b) The paper uses a modern Tamizh (Tamil) font.

(c) The paper uses ARIAL font, whereas the font prevalent in the British period was the Times.

It indeed appears to me as a spoof.


Anonymous said…
you know,.....it doesn't matter whether or not Macaulay said that above mentioned quote. Point is, he and the British definitely 'did' it - that was their policy and objective. It was done, irrespective of the authenticity of the quote. And so it follows that we consider that we have become what they wanted us to become and its ok to hate the whole lot......
I disagree that it does not matter whether Macaulay said this or not, and whether we can just blame the British for 'doing it' and be satisfied by hating 'them'.

The deeper issue reflected in this fabricated quote of Macaulay is exactly that: We are unable to take the responsibility of our plight and we are looking for someone to blame. We were alright just around 1830s, as the quote claim, though variably we shall claim that the muslims ruined us too. And, the British 'did it', as if we had no controls over our own destiny.

I often wonder how the British dominated us for so long, and was tempted to buy the version promoted by Anglo-Saxon historians: This is because they had superior technology, a more matured system of governance and the will and resolve required.

But then, the roots of our subserviance lie more in us than outside us. It starts with denial, as we see in this quote, that we had a case to answer ourselves. It encompasses the deep divisions of our society, where with caste, class and language, we tend to leave out our citizens from the privileges of freedom and modern life. We hid our head in sand, and kept blaming outsiders, from Mughal to Macaulay, from Curzon to Pakistan, for everything that we get wrong.

I took issues with this mis-quote, and the comments thereafter, because I believed it is time for us to grow up, accept responsibility for our own failings and to start to build a new, inclusive, future.
Sanket said…

I read your blogs and wish to share my thoughts.

I think Macaulay is not the issue. Macaulay wouldn’t have been there had India not been subjugated. The very fact that India was subjugated proves that Indian civilisation had reached its decadence. The seat of power had shifted to the European nations and hence India would have learnt English, Macaulay or no Macaulay.

Here is what Swami Vivekananda had to say about education system prevalent during British regime; (Taken from ‘My India, the India eternal’ written by Swami Vivekananda.)
“It (present university system) is almost wholly one of defects. Why, it is nothing but a perfect machine for turning out clerks. I would even thank my stars if that were all. But no! See how men are becoming destitute of Shraddha and faith. They assert that the Geeta is only an interpolation, and that the Vedas are but rustic songs!
The education that you are getting now has some good points, but it has a tremendous disadvantage which is so great that the good things are all weighed down. In the first place it is not man making education. A negative education or any training that is based on negation is worse than death. The child is taken to school, and the first thing he learns is that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing that all his teachers are hypocrites, the fourth that all the sacred books are lies! By the time he is sixteen he is a mass of negation and boneless.”

Swami Vivekananda was in the favour of education that liberated mankind from any kind of subjugation. He was for education that helped man realise himself. Swami Vivekananda however stressed upon learning English. Why?
Because he knew that the seat of power and learning had shifted its place from India to Europe (& America).
Ancient India was the centre of power and learning. When the Takshashila University was established thousands of years ago in India, had not the foreigners travelled miles to India to learn the subtle Indian sciences? There were many who learned Sanskrit and sciences in Takshashila and went back to their lands happy and erudite.
But now it is we who travel to universities like MIT, Stanford etc to pursue higher studies. This is because the seat of power and learning, as mentioned earlier, has shifted to the western countries.
Macaulay did not do anything great by anglicising India. He did what was necessary to maintain their hold over India. Again, as the west was in power at that time, India was bound to learn English. Macaulay was merely an instrument in making India learn English. As swami Vivekananda mentions, western education has done more harm and was necessary to keep India subjugated. In fact, during the time the British ruled India, they have done more harm than good.
I do not know whether it was Macaulay who quoted all that on India. But it was right in its context. The British education system did have a tremendous effect on Indian social structure and the effect was not a good one.
The seeds of this subservience of India were however sowed much earlier, even before the Islamic conquests of India. The seeds were sown the moment India’s upper classes began to exploit the so called lower classes. If you study India and Hinduism thoroughly, you will realise that the Vedas have been misinterpreted and not understood properly. Vedas never propagated the exploitation of masses on the basis of caste. It was a result of disintegration of Hinduism over the ages.
‘Bigger they are, harder they fall’ is a well known quote. It can be applied to India too. We were a great nation and we fell harder. It is not wise to cogitate on India’s past and argue over it. As we are not in the seat of power today, we should be humbled and learn whatever the west has to teach us without forgetting our values and culture. When we reach the top, the world will follow us again. As of now, we should think of rising from the ashes (of this great ancient Indian civilisation) and soar like the phoenix.

Thank you for your kind and insightful comments.

I agree wholeheartedly with your view that we must look inside and find the reasons for our subjugation. The decline, as you rightly point out, started with the establishment of a rigidly stratified society in late Vedic ages, which limited social mobility, meritocracy and innovativeness. India was overrun by invaders because our once mighty civilization soon fallen backwards in terms of technological innovation, and we were too divided to resist an invading army.

So, as you say, with or without Macaulay, we would have landed where we are. And, I also agree with you that some kind of revival is under way, and we should hope to regain our 'rightful' place in the world in the coming days.

But I shall stop at this point and also mention two areas where our views diverge.

First, I think the ghosts of our past divisions still persist, even if they have taken on new forms. We still discriminate heavily against people who have to do physical work. Every one wants to be a manager, Narayana Murthy lamented, and said we are not a nation of doers. I am optimistic about India, but think we have to do better to bring everyone to party.

Second, since the day I wrote this post, I started thinking deeply about us and them business. I do think with technology and social innovation, we are moving into a world of post-national identities. It is not about subjugating 'them' to get even, but this is time for us to emerge morally superior, not be trapped in the dated nationalist thinking which is becoming a thing of the past.
Sanket said…
You are right in saying that the ghosts of our pasts are still lingering around. I understand exactly what you mean. Our views are essentially the same, I don't see where they diverge.

Swami Vivekananda had said in the same book that;
"Human society is in turn governed by the four castes- the priests, the soldiers, the traders, and the laborers. Each state has its glories as well as its defects. When the priest (Brahmin) rules, there is a tremendous exclusiveness on hereditary grounds;
The military (Kshatriya) rule is tyrannical and cruel, but they are not exclusive; and during that period arts and social culture attain their height.
The commercial (Vaishya) rule comes next. It is awful in its silent crushing and blood sucking power. Its advantage is, as the trader himself goes everywhere, he is a good disseminator of ideas collected during the previous states. They are still less exclusive than the military, but the culture begins to decay.
Last will come the laborer (Sudra)rule. Its advantages will be the distribution of physical comforts - its disadvantages,(perhaps) lowering of culture. There will be great distribution of ordinary education, but extraordinary geniuses will be less and less....
Yet the first three have had their day. Now is the time for the last - they must have it - none can resist it.
A time will come when there will be the rising of the sudra class, with their sudra-hood; that is to say, not like that as at present, when the sudras are becoming great by acquiring the characteristic qualities of the vaishya or the Kshatriya,...the sudras of every country, with their inborn sudra nature and habits - not becoming in essence vaishya or kshatriya, but remaining as sudras - will gain absolute supremacy in every society. The first glow of the dawn of this new power has already begun to break slowly upon the western world, and the thoughtful are at their wits end to reflect upon the final issue of this fresh phenomenon. Socialism, Anarchism, Nihilism, and other like sects are the vanguard of the social revolution that is to follow."

Please note: Swami Vivekananda does not classify the castes on the basis of their birth (nor do the Vedas), but on the basis of their occupation. Brahmins are the thinkers, Kshatriyas are the warriors, Vaisyas are the traders and Sudras are the working class.

So, in time the working class is bound to come up. We cannot stop it for it is the law of nature.
The discrimination of the working class that exists in India today will cease in time. There are many factors which influence this, our multi-party democracy too being a factor. The disadvantage of such kind of governance is that things move really slow and development too takes its own time.
I also agree with your point of 'not subjugating the western world to get even with them'. In fact, India has never subjugated any country in the past. India has influenced many countries with her culture and philosophy without having to send a single soldier beyond her borders. When India reaches the top, the rest of the world will follow her naturally, without her having to intimidate anyone.

Well, I see that the views don't diverge.

Since I stumbled upon Macaulay and the argument that followed, I thought more deeply about caste. I grew up in a deeply religious family in Kolkata, and we had to put Swami Vivekananda's photos on the first pages of our school exercise books and start everyday lessons talking about him. So, I took naturually to his views of caste, that as a common sense system of specialization or division of labour. The hereditary nature of it definitely seemed like an anomaly, but was explained away - in school - by the common sense view that a doctor's son is more likely to be a doctor, and a police officer's son is more likely to join the force.

But, later, when I travelled across India for work and met people from various backgrounds, I realized the other side of caste. I understood, first hand, how demeaning being born in a lower caste can be. Besides, the common sense aspect of caste as a division of labour disappears when you see that it is actually a hierarchy. Suddenly, the whole system appears to be a dated edifice of a bygone era.

The problem is that in modern India, for the sake of affirmative action [which was surely necessary at the time of Independence], we have institutionalized caste. I feel we should have gone the opposite way. We should have forced an extreme secularization like France, where it is forbidden to mention religion in CVs or elsewhere. We should banish caste altogether as a part of social identity, make it illegal to ask about caste, to make it a criteria for marriages, for sale or renting of houses etc. I would add religion to that list too, and I could, would have recommended adding linguistic identity in the list too.

You will say that it sounds a bit utopian, but think, it was almost impossible for France to adopt such policies too. We need a sort of a social revolution, without which we can not move to the next step in the ladder.

Sanket said…

Well, you are right in saying that the government of India should not have institutionalised caste during independence. But I do not see the requirement of totally abolishing the caste system. I agree with you on a few points but differ in the course of action that aught to have been followed. Let me make myself clear;

The caste system was never meant to be a hierarchy in the first place. As I had mentioned in my earlier blog, the class system was misinterpreted by the upper classes. The caste system is in fact a perfect division of labour. This caste system holds good in every era. (Please do not mistake me to be an advocator of the caste system that is present in India today. My views are pertaining to the classification of caste system on the basis of occupation and not on the basis of birth. This issue is very subtle, sensitive and easily misunderstood.)
The scientists of today’s world are the Brahmins for they are the ones who look after material development of mankind. Teachers, professors who share their knowledge are also Brahmins irrespective of their birth. A Brahmin must also look after the spiritual development of mankind. Hence, Brahmin class also includes priests, sages and others who genuinely look after the spiritual aspects.
The people employed in the armed forces are the Kshatriyas of today for they defend our borders. This class will also include the leaders who lead the nation, the policy makers and all those who keep wheel of governance turning.
Today’s Vaisyas are the entrepreneurs and industrialists who keep money flowing and look after the prosperity of the nation.
Sudras will be those who work for these entrepreneurs or offer services to any of the other classes. The workers, office goers, and neglected masses will fall in this category. Thus, majority of the world falls in this category.

Purusha-sookatam, a Vedic hymn explains how the four castes were created with the creation of the universe. The caste system is so perfect that no individual falls beyond these four classes. Every person can be classified into one of these four castes depending on their occupation. So, the caste is actually an integral part of the world. As long as the world exists, the four castes will continue to exist. The caste system in a sense can never be separated from the world. Unfortunately, the castes became associated with birth. The evil which grew out of this association (of caste to birth) was horrendous and its ill effects are visible even today.
I think things would improve if people realise this nature of caste. People of India should understand what was actually meant by the caste system of the Vedas. Once this realisation dawns upon them, there will be no more struggle on the basis of caste. The government of India, intelligentsia and the holy spiritual leaders of India should make conscious efforts in this direction. When people realise that caste has nothing to do with birth, they will leave the futile struggle of caste.

I however agree with you that caste should not be mentioned on CV, Resumes or during admissions to schools and colleges. Caste (on the basis of birth) should never be a criterion for jobs, promotions or admissions to colleges. These should be provided on the basis of merit. But there are many poor people in India who cannot afford education for their children. Reservations should be meant for such economically stressed people and never on the basis of caste.

(cont. on the next blog...I couldn't finish within the character limitation)
Sanket said…
Now, the question of language remains.
I am basically a south Indian, living in the state of Maharashtra. My mother tongue is Kannada. But I am more proficient in Marathi. I also know Hindi. I have travelled to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerela, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and many other Indian states. What I observed from my travels was that in spite of different languages, India is essentially one in spirit. We have the temples of the same gods and goddesses in every state. Lord Krishna is present in innumerable temples across the length and breadth of the country irrespective of the region and language. You have songs praising the exploits of Lord Krishna in almost every Indian language. It is the same goddess Parvati, who is worshipped as Meenakshi Amman in Tamil Nadu, as Durga in Bengal and as Amba in Maharashtra. Numerous states, languages, dialects and attires; yet we all celebrate the Indian festivals with equal enthusiasm and gaiety. Where is the language barrier? We are one. It is only the tongues we speak are different. All tongues are equally sweet and rich. I enjoy Bhajans on Krishna in all 3 Indian languages (kannada, Hindi and Marathi) I know equally.
Language will never be an impediment to India’s progress. The people of India have to realise that in spite of the differences in languages and attires, they are one in spirit. The day this realisation comes, nothing can stop India from achieving what it wills.
So, I think that all the languages of India should be retained. They are all full of sweetness and joy. Don’t you remember the line from Vande Mataram describing India as speaker of sweet languages (sumadhura Bhashini)? The many languages of India are her many souls. They add splendour, colour and pride to India. Where in the whole world will you find a country such as this, so different in tongues, attires and yet so united in spirit and at heart?
I have realised all this on account of my travelling and on great deal of introspection. In time, rest of India will also realise the same. India only needs to wait until the time is right.

Interesting points, and I am enjoying this conversation.

I agree with most of what you say. And, my experiences were similar - and travel was a great education experience for me too. I feel the deep Indianness and proud of it too.

On the caste system, I understand what you are saying, but you know that the hereditary nature of it is ingrained in it now. So is the idea that some work is better than others. I grew up in India, but then lived abroad for a number of years. One of the things I noticed, and something I think we need to work upon, is how little physical work we do ourselves. You may say this is because in India, labour is cheap and plentiful, but I know this is a deeply ingrained attitude. I was trying to set up an office in India a couple of years back, and expected my colleagues to make their own tea/ coffee instead of employing a person to do it for them. To my surprise, some senior managers took this as an insult, and 'a cheap way to control costs', whereas I thought this gave me flexibility and independence [and a very normal thing to do in my office in England].

You may say that this is not what caste system was about, and you are possibly right: But you know the system has become an oppressive, hereditary system through the centuries of practise and abuse by the privileged classes. These prejudices are so ingrained in the whole system of caste, we have no choice but to start afresh.

Sanket said…
Yes, we need to begin afresh. But it has to be in such a manner that the culture and traditions of India are not harmed.

Indians do have an attitude problem as far as work is concerned. They consider some kind of work as way too inferior to be performed by them as you correctly said. The “Chalta Hai” attitude is another similar kind of problem that has a negative impact on our progress. I think it is because of the lethargy induced by the lack of momentum. India, that glorious India, reduced to shambles due years of subservience and slavery, has lost its original momentum and attitude. When the momentum picks up, these problems should vanish. It is only a matter of time when such small impediments will be overcome.

We have the Vedas. We have a distinct spirituality and philosophy. These are the eternal guides and lamp posts on the path that India will undertake in the future. They cannot be scrapped as mere songs or figment of imagination for it was because those that India could sustain its original identity in spite of many invasions. It was because of the very nature of Hinduism that all the invaders were absorbed and yet India could maintain its identity. Now, if we try to alter this social fabric of India under the pretext of renaissance, then India will loose its identity and will crumble. We cannot risk India blindly imitating the west and loose its originality. No, we should learn from the west all that is good and proceed our own way, shaping our own future, absorbing the western culture and yet retaining our own as India has been doing in the past.

The task that lies ahead of India is very tough indeed. But it is not impossible. India has already started on its journey. This journey will be obviously tiring and there will be obstacles. But one doesn’t stop because of obstacles. One can achieve success only after a thousand trepidations. I am sure that no matter what obstacles arise, India will fight and emerge as a more powerful nation.
As Swamiji says; "Arise, Awake and stop not until the goal is reached!"

You are right - India has to find its own path. And that path is unlikely to be one following the West, not just because we are culturally different, our context of development is also different. Take, for example, the issue of environment: We can't just copy the industrial revolution model and build smoke-spewing factories, we must do this in an environmentally conscious way.

So, the path we take must be designed anew, based on our culture and consciousness, but also taking into account the realities of the modern world. I am respectful of India's tradition, but we must critically approach all aspects of our past. Vedas to me represent a deep philosophical view of life, an unique way of approaching our lives and morality. While we must learn from it and try to live its teachings in our lives, I would not want to search for all answers in it, because they were products of their times.

Do not take this as a sign of disrespect though. Far from it, I just think modern life demands us to reconcile tradition and culture with the modern challenges, but one must take a dynamic view of life.

I think the challenge in India is to get this in right balance. This is why illusions about our past, exemplified in this spoof quote of Macaulay, do not help. We must approach our future with a practical, truthful and balanced perspective about our past.

John Doe said…
I for one find it very offensive that these so called defenders of India need to use a lie to show our country in a good light.

These are the kind of people who, in my opinion, are responsible for many of the ills we are facing today.

When the British came to India, we were in a mess. When they left, we were still in a mess, albeit a different one. And today we are still in an unenviable situation.

Yes many things are changing for the good. Many things are also changing for the bad.

We cannot ignore our traditions and culture. They contain a lot of things that we need to learn from and cherish. We also cannot bury our heads ostrich-like in false visions of past glory.

There were eras in our history when we were the most progressive nation in the world. However the main reason we lost the so called 'greatness race' was because at some stage in our history we also lost the ability to learn. To absorb knowledge from around the world.

We believed (rightly) that we were the best and the rest of the world had nothing to offer (wrongly). I read a translation of Al Biruni's book on India in which he describes the country and its people as he found it. This was in the 10th or 11th Century. Every page is dripping with regret, that a civilisation once so great had become decadent.

My suggestion to all those who claim to love our country's past - read its history.
Lavneet said…
Those who are opposed to English in India should either stop using english for communication, internet, postings on blogs, chatting and leave their jobs that necessitate using English in any form. Stop sending their kids to schools that have English as subject or medium. (One way to easily do that is to go to China and live there).
or, stop criticising English/Western languages and cultures. Who is asking us to follow those? Did Macaulay asked us to do so? Did they teach us how to follow their culture? We do it by ourselves! And, what about our own culture? Killing female unborn babies, disallowing women/different cast people from visiting places of worships, starting the day with pooja and doing corruption whole day,chanting hymns on loudspeakers as if God is deaf,throwing every conceivable law and common sense to winds while driving,ok to prepare fake passports,ration cards, below poverty line cards, licenses, supplying chemical mixed fake milk to people,putting in every conceivable idea to practice to evade tax...all this was taught to us by Macaualy? Look back into our rotten souls. This cry of culture is a saving grace that we all need to hide the most crooked people that we've become. If you want to change something, change these things in you and not English/Western culture.
Mandar Shinde said…
Very well said, Lavneet! Most of these cultural rituals were created to distract common people from main issues and ideas. Once you are free from following all these, you get ample time and energy to think and reason. Until you are busy following age-old rituals and beliefs (mostly out of fear and lack of knowledge), how would you look beyond obvious? The whole Macaulay story has been cooked up (like many others), just to appeal people's sentiments and keep them engaged in worthless arguments and false self-pride, while the real issues go unattended at all!
Antubarwa said…
Two comments

(1) When I read this alleged quote of MacCaulay, I can not remember when and where, I immediately thought of it as bogus (at least part of it). My conjecture was based on (a) Not finding a begger at any given time in India, even in the past is hard to believe (what about the sandhus and yogis who live by begging) and (b) Maccaulay would not to be praising India in such laudatory language, even if certain aspect of India was so spectacular.

To comments made by many others.. I will add

The fact number of us think of western or british values in glorifying terms could be attributed to the domination of Indians by British, but it is equally important to realize that such attitude in the first place was also the very cause of domination by British (or foreign powers) This last sentence of mine is not mine but paraphrased statment (crudly by me) of Vinoba Bhave
Just let us all forget about what Lord Macaulay said 150 years ago. British ruled us and they were more powerful. Poverty and power have always existed in India and all other countries. The British ruled other countries also. What statements they made on the roads or in the parliament should not matter now. It is done and dusted. You cannot rewrite what some one has said. Even if you do it does not change the present. Does it? And what are we all doing now.? The statements made in India even in the recent times in India are no better. However, after reading what is written, I observe we all have an intellectual mind to research to find the facts.
During the time of Lord William Benting, Advocated by Lord Macaulay supported by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, English was introduced. The history of English in India was commenced with Raja Ram Mohan Roy's campaign for introducing scientific education in India through English medium. And then English has been adopted in India as a language of education and literary expression besides being an important medium of communication on a vast scale.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy held the view that one should neither have blind faith in one's past nor should one imitate the Western culture and civilization blindly. He advised his countrymen that they should acquire and store all that was best in both East and West.

People in power make errors. During the Indian war of Independence and struggle for freedom there were many errors on both sides. Power is craved because of the pleasure it brings, but the history of statesmanship recounted in the past brings all of us a very different perception: individual power has to be given up in the interest of public welfare. This is a study of the use and abuse of power. It is not that in itself power is good or bad. It is essentially a force, a weapon that can be used to save and foster or to harm and extort: Desiring power first as an instrument for the achievement of other ends, is the game of the present day politics.
Arvind babu

Very valid comments, though I would not agree that Lord Macaulay is dead and gone. His actions had a profound impact not just how India was run, but on colonial policy in general, created the template for future strategies for world dominion and solidified the Eurocentric views of the world that we still live with.

Most of all, we in India institutionalized Macaulay. Remember, Indian reformers were coming to English with the perspective of social reform, but by end of nineteenth century, English had already become the language of privilege; after Gandhi, this had become a divide right in the middle of the country. While Macaulay is still credited with the affirmative action in India, the cultural divide still continues to keep us from creation of an unchallenged Indian identity.

I agree that power is value neutral, but it exists in the context of our society and hence uses and abuses of power can be and should be judged. I observed Macaulay did what he had to do: He achieved his objectives brilliantly. However, his 'Englishmen in taste' took his doctrine farther than his wildest imaginations, and subjugated, as cruelly as colonial masters would have done, the majority of people in India who speak no English!

Anonymous said…
This blog I read only now.It appears that the writer has a valid point to doubt about the purported statement of Macaulay which is floating only for the past few years.Dr.N.Ramasubramanyan'
Anonymous said…
This blog I read only now.It appears that the writer has a valid point to doubt about the purported statement of Macaulay which is floating only for the past few years.Dr.N.Ramasubramanyan'
AIR Announcers said…
I liked your blog. Please take a look at http://indiaexplored.wordpress.com. Thanks.
i read this post after forwarding the mail which i too got. and i did wonder how i missed this particular quote.

however, whatever altruistic sentiments he had added to soften the insulting observations in his obnoxious speech on the introduction of english education in india,he remains the classic example of an incurable imperialist. the sentiments expressed are an open confession of thee need for hegemonic control over the subcontinent.
I would guess Macaulay did not add altruistic statements to soften things: He genuinely believed that he is suggesting a good thing. That would be consistent to his Victorian spirit, and not very unlike the way we feel when we do something about Africa or Afghanistan.

In a way, Macaulay was one of the pioneers of globalization, and great-grandfather of our IT Enabled glory. At the same time, he was furthering the imperial agenda. He was a liberal, remember: So, his approach to imperialism was to see this as a force for good. Again, not very unlike our today's liberals, who, like Obama, would not mind killing a few people for the sake of bringing democracy.
like all liberals of his agee, Mcaulay was schrizophrenic in his perception of the imperialistic enterprise - caught up in the colonial discourse about the subject race being evolutionary drop outs and Britain being divinely ordaained to facilitate the colonised to catch up with the progressive nations of europe.The white man's burden type of a thing.mcaulay in these quotes comes across as a typical sample of the selfstyled saviour of mankind - particularly of those who inhabit the asian and african continents.

sorry, i dont intend to trgger off an argument - but mcaulay's speech on english education in India always gets me very angry.
So it should. There is no disagreement that Macaulay indeed saw Indians as a subject race devoid of the gifts of modern science and rational thinking. That was the whole enlightenment thing that Europeans to this day take pride in.

It is also interesting to see Macaulay's comments in the perspective of the debates of his day. These comments were made in the indirect context of the Orientalist/ occidentalist debates. There were a few Indians, most notably Raja Rammohan Roy, who wanted English Science and Rationalism incorporated in the Indian education system. At the same time, there were a number of English orientalists who were discovering the treasures of Sankskrit literature. Macaulay made no secrets where he belonged: That position is still maintained by a number of Eurocentric historians and policy makers even today.

I understand your anger, but it is possible to see both sides of the argument. There is no what-if analysis in history and therefore, not much merit in imagining India without Macaulay. The whole debate can be seen as the eternal debate of globalization vs local values, as well as imperialism versus nationalism, and there will always be two sides in the debate. We can, however, nake an unambigous commitment to human freedom and dignity, stepping out of Macaulay's racist assumptions but, at the same time, embracing enlightenment values: This same combination was celebrated by the founding fathers of the Indian republic and is ingrained in our freedom.
Anonymous said…
If language is a relflection of civilization, the English language is Grammatically and phonetically one of the poorest languages in the world. Even the lesser known dialects of India have better grammar that English.

On the other hand perfection of Sanskrit language is well known.

It is highly presumtuous to think that the current civilization is the most advanced as it is the most volatile and destructive periods in human history and to add to that an ecological disaster is looming large.

Indian knowledge is gaining more ground today than ever before, the latest theories in Quantum physics mirrors the most ancient sayings of the Rig Veda 1:1. Indian wisdom is perennial wisdom and is not subject to ravages by time as its soucre is the ultimate reality of life itself.

If people who have been living in caves all their lives deny the existence of the Sun, how does it affect the sun?

European interpretations of Indian literature have been highly biased and superficial and lac basic understanding of the eastern perspective on life.

Downfall of India in the last millenium is mirrored in the downfall of west bengal in the last half century where intellectual babus (manufactured by English Education) sit on their big fat asses and debate on inconsequential issues forever thinking they are more intelligent than all others bcoz they've read shakespere and milton. West Bengal that has produced greats like Swami Vivekananda, tagore and countless other Gems (Who dont owe their greatness to English education) has been reduced to a stinking pile of rubbish. If bengal can fall due to being complacent why not India?

You have seen the fall of India, now you'll witness its rise and this rise will be on the basis of its indegenous knowledge and wisdom not McCauly's Clerk Factory.
@ anonymous

Mc's Clerk factory :-)love the expression. your coinaage or standard expression?

shouldnt compare english with sanskrit. sanskrit can be compared to latin -both are parent languages which died cos they wouldnt compromise with the perfection of their grammar. they ceased to become dynamic. the dynamic derivatives of both languages survived. the romance languages from latin and the languages of N india inclding hindi from sanskrit.

english is a derivative of germanic .

the trouble with indians is, we gloat about the past while wallowing in the filth of the present. what's the point if my grandfather owned a palace if i am at the moment sleeping on the pavements?
Anonymous said…
Wonderful article indeed and rightfully exposing a fraudulent action on the part of the so called nationalists. If a hoax email is required to convince others of the country's past then that itself shows how hollow the attempt is. English was a good byproduct of the British rule, no denying that and if anyone believes otherwise they should have the guts to renounce English and keep their kids away from this language. Walk the talk guys and girls instead of enjoying the benefits of this language and also indulge in English bashing just to please a few idiots!
maxxi said…
Hi All of you guys for this great debate...Indians certainly have a lot of time...God knows how?

Please tell me, I am thinking of giving up my job as a psychiatrist in UK and coming to practice in India....Will my training in English Language and UK expereince be a hinderance or benefit to the community in India I intend to serve?
Anonymous said…
I am just stuck on one of your comments: "Are you sure that India didn't have poverty prior to 1832"

Its hard to ascertain this but there are fact around that point toward India being the richest states of the world. Here is a small list:

1. India was the only producer/ supplier of Diamonds before 1895
2. India was often called "Golden Bird" and its a fact that India owned most gold of the world before british invasion. ABout 3/4th of worlds gold was in India.
3. Even today every Indian household may not have food to eat but has gold in locker (shows love for gold)
4. India is the only country that is termed a subcontinent...you know why? Well because it seprated from African continent and stayed a seperate continent of its own with most all resources available with no other nations to share it with.

I am not sure if those comments was made by that stupid Britisher or not but its a fact that It was money and greed that brought Britishers to India and they took all they could before India got independence.
I usually publish all comments posted on this website, unless they are completely irrelevant to the discussion.

In that note, Maxxi's comments are not really relevant, but I have still put it up for a reason. I would think the comments are somewhat unkind - an unwelcome reflection on how other people 'should' spend their time. Besides, this stereotypes Indians, not an welcome thing by any way, and goes on to show one of the less welcome aspects of elitism that some of the commentators have alluded to before.

Regarding the poverty in India, there is no point in trying to claim India's past glory by citing various tidbits. India and China were surely rich countries, contributing to 50% of World GDP by the turn of the nineteenth century. But this did not rule out poverty of the common people, I shall argue the wealth was too much tied to the land and a disproportionate share of that wealth went into taxes and considerations to various kings and landlords, who then spent it into leisurely pursuits and wastefulness, rather than developing infrastructure, innovating the education system, developing commercial systems or investing in public wellbeing.

The English could dominate us with ease because of these reasons. We had nothing to match their industrial power. Besides, one has to remember, India was subdued not by the British monarch and its armies, but by an English company, many ways the first multinational in the world, who operated with the logic of money. Macaulay's comments, from that perspective, can be compared with marketing strategies of some of the multinationals today, those which alter the consumption behaviour of a particular category of people completely.
Khalid Ansari said…
About India being called a golden bird in the past I would say that the money and land was not distributed equally among people at that time. And it is not just about India. Almost all the countries in those old times had this issue. Even today "despite India having the second highest economic growth rate in the world, has more poor people than 26 of Africa’s poorest countries put together". This quotation is from the article by Arundhati Roy - http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/03-the-trickledown-revolution-ss-05.

The point which I am trying to make is that I think India at that time had poor people. There must have been beggars and theifs too.

And moreover as a personal thought. I think there is no time or place in history or future which is without poor people. Money just don't rain down. We are on earth and not in heaven yet.
Khalid Ansari said…
@Maxxi September 06, 2010

Definetely you can serve Indians like most doctors are already doing it here. I hope you have not forgotten your mother tongue - Hindi. Even hindi is not spoken by a lot of people in Indian villages. They just know their regional language. And it is alright because they don't have time and money to learn new languages even if government makes it the national language. But you are the lucky one to know the language to communicate in India - (Hindi) and Internationally - (English).

And moreover whom are you kidding? I bet you have done your education through English medium. Reading and learning the works of great men and women in the study of brain and behavior. Are those works written in Hindi? Or by Indians mostly? Or is it by British? Or American mostly? Or is it a mix of different countries? Now who has the burden of translating the works by scientists and psychologists to our language? Do you really think Einstein should have translated his special and general theory of relativity in Hindi so that others who know only hindi should be able to read his work? Or should the person who wishes to know his work learn the language in which his work is written?

Psychiatry did not took birth in India. You got a chance to learn something and bring it to Indian society. If you are so much concerned then you should write a book in Hindi so that people can read it here - the ones which know only hindi. And it would be really nice if people can do that instead of feeling guilty by getting educated in English. If you may then please think as if you are studying in English and then understanding their work secretly and then would finally steal it from them and give it to people of our land. It would be really nice if we Indians can translate works of history and science to Hindi so that many people can understand.

I am not saying this by standing away from the crowd. I am part of the crowd and would really want some works to be translated to Hindi. Whatever the case may be but you can't have best of both the words. You can't get educated in English and live in England for a better future and money but yet complaining as if what a pain you going through by doing that and being away from your culture.

Definitely we should not embrace other cultures and leave ours. That is kiddish. It is pain to see young Indian kids loving something foreign just because it is foreign or modern in someway or some style statement. But that does not mean that we continue to carry everything our culture gives us or reject everything foreign without questioning and judging.

It may seem that I have gone away from the topic but I have not. The topic is connected by one main thought - Why are some of us going through a guilt trip by accepting some part of foreign culture?
Khalid Ansari said…
@Maxxi September 06, 2010

Definetely you can serve Indians like most doctors are already doing it here. I hope you have not forgotten your mother tongue - Hindi. Even hindi is not spoken by a lot of people in Indian villages. They just know their regional language. And it is alright because they don't have time and money to learn new languages even if government makes it the national language. But you are the lucky one to know the language to communicate in India - (Hindi) and Internationally - (English).

And moreover whom are you kidding? I bet you have done your education through English medium. Reading and learning the works of great men and women in the study of brain and behavior. Are those works written in Hindi? Or by Indians mostly? Or is it by British? Or American mostly? Or is it a mix of different countries? Now who has the burden of translating the works by scientists and psychologists to our language? Do you really think Einstein should have translated his special and general theory of relativity in Hindi so that others who know only hindi should be able to read his work? Or should the person who wishes to know his work learn the language in which his work is written?

Psychiatry did not took birth in India. You got a chance to learn something and bring it to Indian society. If you are so much concerned then you should write a book in Hindi so that people can read it here - the ones which know only hindi. And it would be really nice if people can do that instead of feeling guilty by getting educated in English. If you may then please think as if you are studying in English and then understanding their work secretly and then would finally steal it from them and give it to people of our land. It would be really nice if we Indians can translate works of history and science to Hindi so that many people can understand.
Khalid Ansari said…

I am not saying this by standing away from the crowd. I am part of the crowd and would really want some works to be translated to Hindi. Whatever the case may be but you can't have best of both the words. You can't get educated in English and live in England for a better future and money but yet complaining as if what a pain you going through by doing that and being away from your culture.

Definitely we should not embrace other cultures and leave ours. That is kiddish. It is pain to see young Indian kids loving something foreign just because it is foreign or modern in someway or some style statement. But that does not mean that we continue to carry everything our culture gives us or reject everything foreign without questioning and judging.
Shiva said…
I wanted to check the veracity of this quote too as I just saw a post on facebook touting this quote. I came across the gutenberg site. It contains a list of all of Lord Macaulay's speeches and there's no record of any speeches between July 11, 1833 and May 28, 1839. He made a speech to British parliament on July 10, 1833 on India; but the speech does not contain the quote.

Rahmath said…
i got the same email and was wondering whether i should forward it or not.Still something felt wron adn i wanted to check the authenticity of hte quote...thanks
Anonymous said…
Mr. Supriyo Chaudhuri, thanks for leaving India (and if your forefathers have done so then thanks to them). I felt really bad that an Indian wrote this article supporting Lord Macaulay. English have promoted their education system to rule other nations and Macaulay supported "his" culture and nation. It doesn't matter whether this quote was made my him is true or not but Indian education system was in no way inferior than English education system. English have ruined our culture of "Guru Shishya parampara".

Well I made this comment not because I am a RSS agent or chauvinist but because your article in the end sounds like English are superior and we Indians are inferior.

I appreciate your effort to seek truth about Macaulay's quote because even I came across your blog seeking the same.

Your support for English people really SUCKS!!!.

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

However, if I may say something in my own defense, I only wanted to verify Macaulay's statement as reported and found it to be false. I thought we Indians don't need to be defensive about our past and once we start accepting history as it is and acknowledging the facts, we shall emerge as a confident, honest nation.

Besides, truth be told, I do not think one culture may have all wrong things and the other, all things right. Macaulay played his part in spreading English education, with a simple bureaucratic aim of governing India better: That was his job, which he ended up doing well. This did indeed do harm to Indian cultural traditions, but a careful reading of history will reveal that Indian education system by then declined to state of disrepair. Think of it this way: If our education system was better, and our nationhood was so glorious, how would the British conquer us in the first place, to give Macaulay this chance of subverting us.

Lastly, I wanted to say that we Indians will do well to beat Macaulay in his own game: By learning the good things Western civilization offers, not by rejecting it. I strongly believe that the power in the world remains with the curious. If we close our doors and minds and think of going back to our past, we lose.

'By learning the good things Western civilization offers, not by rejecting it.'
agree with you there. it'd be foolish to throw the baby out with the bath water. but it'd be equally foolish to put the baby on a pedestal and worship it.
atchu said…

pls go to 1:55 min
Regarding the last comment regarding the East India Company, it is good to see that the story is being picked up and glorified as a national achievement.

I did watch Mr. Sanjeev Gupta receive an award for 'ingenuity in business' in this year's Asian Achievers Award in Britain. I learnt that he bought over East India Company, which was defunct at the time of purchase, and is setting up a luxury shop at Mayfair, London, presumably to sell luxury Indian goods. Looking around at the crowd at the Asian Achievers Award, I knew that the assembled millionaires in the room will indeed line up to buy some of the luxury items, branded with history.

One word of caution, though: This is great marketing, but this does not make India great. It does not take away the potholes and the poverty, the corruption and our inability to move forward with even the basic rights for our poor people. We have done almost nothing to overturn the legacy of the East India Company: We have just replaced them with a new privileged class.
Hi Supriyo,

I too, just like you, got an email forward of so called "Macaulay's words" from a friend... and I did log-in to the internet just to check if the words of Macaulay were authentic or not... I didn't want to find the authenticity to be either proud of my country, India or support the English... I just wanted to do it out of curiosity.

What I found when I googled was your blog as the first search result... and I need not had to go anywhere else... I found whatever I wanted in this one place... I esp. loved the conversation between you and Sanket... so insightful! Not only did I learn about the originality of the email forward but various conversations you have had in the blog comments did make me think... think about all those things you and others have said... Quite introspective!!!

I personally don't have any opinion... neither about "Macaulay" nor about the ugly past.. I have personally learned a lot because of all these.. and would like to move on slowly at times and fast at other times... progressing to a perfect future... a successful India.

I also thank you for decently and patiently replying to all (almost all :)) the blog comments you have got. Many a times blog-writers either ban commenting or abuse the one who abuses them... and this is so much more common with us Indians as most of us can't take the realty straight.

Thank you for the article... Hoping to see more introspective articles from you..


Many thanks for your kind words.

It was an interesting journey since I did the blog post out of curiousity. There were two parts of the narrative: (a) Did Macaulay say these things? (b) Whether he was morally right in doing what he did?

I wanted an answer to the first question, but invariably got drawn to the other one. You have correctly noted that this conversation was interesting, and I enormously enjoyed being a part of it, even though some of the commentators were sceptical about my sincerity.

I must admit, however, that while it was easier to answer the first question - that this quote is a spoof and someone invented it to support a doctrine of false history (and, I shall argue, that the same set of people are intent on peddling a doctrine of false prosperity at this time) - it was more difficult to judge the second. I did write about it again and again, as you can see in http://sundayposts.blogspot.com/2008/12/macaulay-and-i.html. I also had an interesting conversation one time over my efforts on this post, though this happened in the context of another post http://sundayposts.blogspot.com/2009/05/question-of-caste-how-caste-affects.html.

In essence, I enjoyed this journey and learnt a lot on the way.

Nikhil Sheth said…
Supriyo, good job. I wish we had more people like you.
I love the factual analysis here, both in the post as well as comments. I hope the bashers and bullies in the first few comments must have made peace with their misconceptions by now. It's funny how people can go so blind when they refuse to change a belief in the light of facts.

I reply with this link every time I get the same silly email forwarded to me.

The latest variant has some completely irrelevant old photos of a kid sitting on a dead cheetah, the (british-made!) parliament bldg and president palace in delhi, the jama masjid, a bunch of indian ladies in a group pic, among others. I don't know what the heck the author was trying to convey there - suddenly I'm supposed to link it all to India's glory. And then, of course, the infamous fake address of our friend Macaulay ;)
proudestkafir said…
What is your agenda? Let us assume that the british ruler ( Actually I would have loved to use unparliamentary language to describe this chappy, but shall let it pass) did indeed not make the statement about India being either great or a moribund country, how does it really matter? If your agenda is to defame nationalists at any cost( I believe that is your agenda)then all I can say is good luck.Indians are not that ignorant these days.Living in UK does not give any one additional brain cells to comment on nationalists! lived in london for 15 years and got fed up of the white trash's way of life and have moved back to india.The fact is Indian history has always been written by the victors and they will never glorify what was In India.If India was full of beggars and poverty, why did people tray and search for India from all over the world? Makes you wonder.
I think we are still moving in cycles. The only point I wanted to make is whether or not Macaulay made the comments. It seems very unlikely he did, and certainly he did not make those comments in the British parliament. What I read later makes me think these comments were a later invention mixing up what he wrote about the province of Bengal in his essay on Clive (which later inspired Churchill) and given a cynical spin for the benefit of someone making a case against English education.

Apart from this fact, my point is Macaulay did what he was supposed to do: Create an efficient, humane or not, administration system for the British. At the hindsight, his idea of creating an English educated native class played out well for the British; indeed, this is the way India was subjugated for another century or so. I am not sure whether Macaulay understood what he did in effect - destroyed the privilege systems constructed around Sanskrit and Farsi and built a new one around English - because he was too much of a Victorian: Deeply faithful in the Enlightenment values and blissfully ignorant of the depth and diversity of Indian culture.

Remember, he was not arguing against Indians that time; he was arguing with the Orientalists, those Englishmen who were working to discover the same Sanskrit and Farsi literature, philosophy and science that Macaulay was so dismissive of. What he equated the Indian culture with is the decadence and disease and famines and religious excesses that he saw or were told about, and his enlightenment values stood steadfast against those. Indeed, he failed to explore deeper; but, then, he achieved what he set out to achieve - the British dominance of India.

History, in my view, isn't a black and white thing. It is not a movie, or a political pamphlet. Right and wrong are hard to judge, because it depends upon where you stand. Were Lord Macaulay wrong? He was not an Indian nationalist; what if he learned to talk about 'brown trash' borrowing your language? Does this make him bad or good?

I have watched this debate for two years now, and the variety of points of views have been fascinating. I am deeply grateful to all commentators, as this was a great experience for me. This has also allowed me to explore, ask and learn.

However, on a couple of things, I am still a bit baffled and I shall ask the two questions here:

(a) Why do you think living in India allows someone to claim more love for their country? You said you lived fifteen years in Britain, and I am on my seventh. So, I am just curious, what establishes the claim of loving India comparatively more?

(b) Also, why do you have to love India through untruth and made up stories? Is it unlovable otherwise? I am in complete agreement with you if you say that India is a great country and we don't need a reinvention of Macaulay to prove the same.

In the end, I would say that I see a battle for the soul of India. At one end, rightly, are the ones created by Lord Macaulay, the ones who speak English and use it for protecting their privileges; on the other are those who Mahatma and others brought to party, those people who do not know 'manners' but as truly Indian as anyone else. A battle against Macaulay's legacy is indeed being raged, but it is not being played out in the obvious places by obvious actors. I shall claim that we are beating Macaulay in his own game if we can rise above lies and inventions and can embrace India for what it is.
bavishya said…
I just have these questions:

1. Do you all agree that our very backbone of this nation- the cultural & spiritual heritage has been broken?

2. Do you all agree that our ancient education systems have vanished ?

3. Do you all agree that our "culture" is in the verge of being orphaned?

Then.. whether its a spoof or not, the intent is proved.

We had been such wonderful Indians... Our culture.. spirituality...Values.. Pride ... Probably a freedom fight should not have happened.. Because, neither have we tasted the best of western culture NOR have we retained the best of our culture. Jusr when we were at the crossroads, we got independence - AS CONFUSED INDIANS.

Thanks for your comments.

Since you asked such pointed questions, let me say what I think:

First, it is possibly a wrong analogy to see 'culture' as a fixed thing, like a backbone. It is rather liquid, which mixes with others and changes. And, for this very characteristic, culture lives on: India of the old has not vanished. If it did, you would not talk about it anymore. Just that we now have a different perspective, I shall argue, richer in some way, and have a more informed debate.

Second, the pathshalas vanished today, but they lived much after Macaulay though - well into the twentieth century. The destruction of Pathshalas have more to do with independent India's attempts to spread state school education to villages than the power of Macaulay. Madrashas had a better fate: That is primarily because of the community's rejection of English education (despite efforts like Aligarh Muslim University) and later, the secular education offered by the Indian government. So, the ancient education systems did not vanish overnight because of Macaulay: That will give the dead Lord credits he does not deserve. They rather died a natural death, or morphed into something else.

Third, the culture being orphaned is an interesting comment, particularly because many people who will agree with the contents of your comment believe that it is going through a regeneration. But, if I understand correctly, you are talking about 'secularlisation' of culture, de-linking it from the religion. If so, this is what I think: I think culture and religion is inversely related - religion being the offspring of culture, serving it as a 'knowledge system', a system of codes, symbols, heros and taboos. Macaulay didn't secularize India: That was done many years later, more for the sake of a creating a 'nation'. The secular culture that you complaint about is the very basis, and created for the sake of, the nation you are proud of and pleading the case for.

I am not sure I shall say Indians are confused, because such a generalizations can not and should not be made. I would think that we should not complain about being given the responsibility to decide about ourselves. It does indeed seem to be the point, in this whole spoof of shifting blame to a dead Englishman. Lying about history may make feel some people comfortable, but, I shall argue, shying away from our responsibility is the problem, not what Macaulay wanted to say or do.
Anil said…
More than British parliament of 1830s, Indians, after 180 years, are worried about Macaulay's comments. Its a well known fact that most of the British raj and East-India company personalities are concerned with business. Introduction of English or construction of railway lanes, what ever they did it was for Britain's prosperity. Better we stop blaming others for our problems and start working to solve them.
Anonymous said…
do you think any "bad" statements made by macualay will still be available ?
just to tell you visit arun shourie website and see this...http://arunshourie.voiceofdharma.com/articles ..a book was written by an muslim ,telling that temple was destroyed and mosque was established on it...and then after the ayodya movement ,he took off those pages from his book...
in simiral way ,subramainan swamy article tells another way how a book was banned and made sure that its not available anywhere...
this is internet era and info is the weapon...,
and by the way leftists have started naming macualay as mahatma of downtrodden...
Anonymous said…
Missionary colleges in india have of late started spreading messages that macaulay tried to help downtrodden people and that he is great humanist...
that is the reason why macualay is being priced by leftists and missionaries to spread their christianity...
and education is the sector missions think that will give most benefit in terms of numbers converted...

Thanks for dropping by.

I find your comment about comments made by Macaulay being selectively erased interesting. This means that you are ready to believe something that has no material evidence on the basis of a suspicion that it may have existed.

I must admit my comments on Macaulay were meant to warn against such 'construction' of History. As I have said before, responding to other comments, it is not so much about whether Macaulay was right or wrong, but that we are wrong in conjuring up statements that was never made, in a desperate attempt to blame a dead Englishman for our own failings.

I do not share your fears about conversions though I am also Hindu. I do think Hinduism has many things to offer to the world, but our approach to the less fortunate is not one of them. In fact, Hinduism singularly failed to integrate the 'lower classes' and offer them the basic dignity of life; hence, the conversions, not just to the 'alien' ones that you are trying to talk about, but also to Budhdhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and other modern religions coming out of India.

I think it is time we grow up, not hide behind Macaulay or a leftist threat that does not exist, and admit our failures, and make a fresh start.

Kapil Saraswat said…
I would like to say even if it is spread by RSS or any other organization in india this is in the favour of india. Yesterday I was looking a book of sanskrit in Nai Sadak in New Delhi and I got disappointed that the books of Sanskrit are not available in market. Many countries in world had made seperate sections for the Sanskrit and they are promoting to use it. But, Where are we going
we are loosing our moral values, our culture, tradition. These are the basic values on which India and Indians live, but we are loosing them. Brothers, This is a country of All relegions and regions. We can be a strong only if we are Akhand Bharat.
Hi Kapil

We must preserve our tradition and I fully agree that we are wrong to kill it off. Remember Macaulay's efforts were directed against Sanskrit and Farsi, the dominant medium of education during his time, and we must equally mourn the decline of Farsi. I hope you will agree.

Finally, there are better ways to reclaim our past than spreading false history. In fact, once we learn to face our history, we shall learn to respect our history.

sukesh rai said…
i really agree with mr. supriyo, since it is not believable that during the time india was plundered by muslim rulers, there were no beggars on the streets. it is our tendendancy to blame our present. thats why people are thinking of what would happen if British would not have ruled india.

but i really do believe that british are better than afgan or persian rulers who have tear the very fabric of our society, at least they introduced an education system. removed the bad things from our society like child marriage, sati system etc. they united india built a strong army otherwise we would be fighting with each other, there would be civil war everywhere like africa.
Viggy said…
hey Supriyo,
First of all, congratulations on initiating and sustaining the most stimulating potpourri of conversations, ideas and emotions I have ever read! Of course, I cannot say I have read a lot, so the compliment may not be too valuable. Yet, seriously, from Jan 2008 to May 2011 and still going strong... I admire your dedication to this blog, adding fuel to a fire which just does not seem to go out.

Moving on, I find precious few comments being made objectively. Is this inability to distance ourselves from what we deign to pronounce judgment on helping us at all?
I was overcome by this nagging feeling as I read the last few comments, that over three years, all people have done is more or less chase their own tails.

Many people talk about change, that India is rising, that we will attain that pinnacle that we believe we were once occupying. My only question is, what is the yardstick for the measurement of this achievement? GDP, poverty lines and scientific achievements seem to me to be very crude standards of prosperity (Read 'The Happy Man's shirt', an Italian folktale I believe). You will always have a mixture of good and bad wherever you go. Some nations hide it well, others do not.

So what is this debate really about?
I feel, and this is just in my inexperienced opinion, that this debate is about insecurity, it is about this raging fire inside the Indian to be recognized as coming from a Great nation. Does he not realize that being proclaimed great by a thousand people will not make him feel great, because in his eyes, someone else is always greater.

Something is wrong somewhere, and all the praise in the world will not help cure it.

Owing to the basest part of my nature, I am itching to judge the arguments I just read. I am convinced that the letter is not authentic. I once believed that it was, and harbored a lot of anger against the British. This anger made me narrow minded, and I admit, chauvinistic. I can only imagine the feelings it aroused in hearts more temperamental than mine.

Thanks: I couldn't agree with you more.

I have always found this as a great showcase of our insecurity, not what makes us great but what keeps us from being great. Creating a modern nation is not about paint-brushing history, but about acknowledging it and moving on.

I don't condone what Macaulay did. He, an imperial administrator, understood and exploited a great weakness in India, its divided society, and made it an instrument of colonial rule. He was the precursor of modern imperialism, the principle of cultural dominion rather than a military one, later taken to a global scale by the Americans.

My sole point still remains that we can't escape this by denying what happened, but by acknowledging it and by consciously not doing what Macaulay did. So, as we line up to get our children to the best schools in town and moved ourselves to the gated communities in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, we are still seeking the privileged isolation that Macaulay gifted to a few Indians in return of they being accomplices of imperial enterprise. As you say, India's greatness will not come from the growth of GDP, but how many of its citizens have a decent life, have enough to eat, have access to healthcare and education and can hope to have a decent life.

In the end, thanks again for dropping by and I shall look forward to keep in touch.

Hey your view points are completely wrong. Lord Macaulay wanted to colonize india. You have been beautifully hypnotized by his master plan. It is because of the english education by the west, people of india though that speaking english and knowing science is superior. Due to this thought they gave up their spiritual and cultural heritage. Previously education in India till 20 was only one thing. Making your mind strong with great will power with practises like meditation. These ignorant west doesn't know anything in this matter. Read more of Swami vivekananda to know about this. He knows complete India. He mentions that, India education system introduced by Macaulay is just a bread winning education. I think you should be working in some other country other than India but you are an Indian citizen. You are so selfish. You are earning money for yourself by being a servant of some foreign company. You do nothing on your own to bring India up and help the people of India. You make all useless comments like this. You are a very good hypnotized, ignorant fool.

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I see you missed the point here: All I said is that the quote which was passed on as Macaulay's is fabricated. I haven't tried to condone or condemn what Macaulay did or did not do, but had to say that falsifying history is not the way to build a self-confident nation.

I hope you will agree. It is best to see history as a neutral thing: You can't change what Macaulay did. If we all sought to know the truth, what Vivekananda, Gandhi and everyone else worth mentioning would have thought as a good idea, we can use history to our advantage, however difficult it might have been. This is all I suggested.

For your various other comments, I live in England and I don't think that reduces my claim to call the right and wrong. I consider myself as a global citizen, open, flexible and curious, and I have lived and want to live in different countries and know about different cultures. In a way, I am confronting Macaulay in my own way: I am sure he would not have wanted me to engage with the world in my own terms.

I. Vijay Aditya said…
Hi I like your blog, very enlightening, I hope you can check out mine.. I have some intersting thoughts and have a blog on Sai Baba you may be interested in...
Anonymous said…
The author commented further later and asked someone else: "Let me ask you this: Do you think that when Macaulay was seeing India - in 1832 - India was really a land without poverty?"

Well, what do you say for the below article in TOI.

The treasure worth Rs.50,000 crores (over $10B) and it wasn't found under a royal palace, but inside a temple. Are you going to wait for a Macaulayan to comment that it was looted from a British diembarking from his ship? And you ask the rest of us to disprove it?

Open up your eyes! Have a nice life!
A certain A Raja recently made billions of Rupees which was rumored to have been deposited in an account in Mauritius. Did that make the poverty of India go away?

No one is trying to claim that India was a poor country, since 50% of the Global GDP around the time came from India and China. But, indeed, outside the richness of courts and courtiers, just like today, Indians were desperately poor. Remember, we are talking about a period half a century into the British rule, and a period which saw a succession of famines and after Lord Cornwallis' reforms, absentee landlords and brutal exploitation of the peasants.

Hope that clarifies the point you were trying to make.
Ravi Shankar said…
From Columbia unversity library-
Minute by the T. B. Macaulay, dated the 2nd February 1835.
It shows what he wants from Indian education
Read on...

Anonymous said…
we are still a divided country ...win-win situation for ROW.
Anonymous said…
you are learning other culture but what are you doing to spread indian culture
shall claim that living abroad and talking about India every day is my own modest contribution in raising awareness about Indian culture, its food, literature, music, history etc.
Lot of words for Macaulay, some hateful, some in praise while some in utter confusion. Good , bad, blunders..some by THEM some by US...Does it really help to analyze history so much? How would it really matter if one of us is proved right and others wrong?

My question is, where do we stand today? Has English really been bad for India? Every thing has two sides to it, can we really say that one is a bad side? I may not be liking it, agreed, but is it really bad? and is it bad for all and in every situation??

Why do we always have to divide ourselves as US vs THEM? What purpose does it solve?

All this fanaticism takes us so far away from what is to be done today. To all of you who have opposed Introduction of English, my question is...Are you educating your children/ yourself in vernacular medium? If not then let us just drop this, "Who did what and when" war and focus on the sum total today.

As a counselor and Life Coach I see that irrespective of the medium of instructions or the range of sophistication of the education pattern, grown ups are struggling with many issues of self image, self esteem, emotional stability and lack of purpose. No where these basic life skills are addressed and given full justice.
The Bigger question is- What is the purpose of education if it cannot teach a person to handle situations, make confident decisions, face emotions with maturity, accept changes and failures, and live in harmony with himself and others?

With due respect to all contributors, I believe, WE the thinkers, need to focus on WHAT next and HOW next rather than pull each other down on something that happened 2 centuries ago.
Anonymous said…
This quote was either taken out of context or was never quoted by Macaulay. It doesnt matter. Imperial scholarship, which the Brits are proud about, is nothing more than literary pursuits that is common in all cultures and languages. The real advantage of English has been zilch in India unless you are really taken aback by the back office India runs for other western nations. The english speaking world except for the United States has offerred very little in terms of primary research when compared against the Germans, French, Eastern Europeans, Russians and even Chinese or Japanese in the 20th century. Once man is convinced about something its hard to change him. This is exactly the problem english poses in India, speaking english is equivalent to a qualification rather than being a multi lingual personality. Someone speaking English is regarded for example higher than a physicist who may not have the uber-cool communication skills but one who can drown the English speaker with his technical depth. If all we are caring about are phony reporters or Video Jockeys or what have you, may be we have something going.

I somewhat agree to what you say but one point of debate though: Articulation is an important skill and it is as important as knowing the subject. Indeed, if someone is an absolute genius, one can afford to be weird or inarticulate, but otherwise, one needs to connect with other human beings. So, there is nothing wrong in being able to speak in English, and that indeed does not make one a DJ automatically.

I come from the point of being open and curious. An English friend told me that he does not need to learn any other language because the world speaks his language. I did have to remind him that the English dominated the world because they were curious and adventurous, and ready to learn and engage globally. The cultures they conquered were closed, and each, as far I could guess, thought that they could get away without learning English.

I think English has opened India up to the world, and should enable us to become that curious, confident nation ready to engage with the world. Shutting the doors is not the best way to deal with future, not for India, not for anyone else in the world.
Anonymous said…
Great Blog.
I want to know who are the civil engineers that build Temples like Kalahasti/ Arunacahla temple/ simhachalam built from 5th century on wards and before.
What language the Texts are and where they are. Definitely they are all engineering marvels in par or better tahn current constructions based on modern texts.
One negative consequence of englsh in India is we indians stopped thinking about our ancient science unlike Romans and greek literature whom the west still cosider very authentic and scientific.

my dear sir,thanks for this brilliant rebuttal
Kimmer said…
The now-famous quote is quite possibly/probably not attributable to Macaulay: http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/hinduism/macaulay.html
CaptainK said…
I found this other comment from another website:

It is a general misconception that this is a part of Lord McCauley's speech to British Parliament because Lord McCauley arrived in India on 10th June 1834 and returned to England in early 1838. If in 1835 he was in India then how could he have delivered a speech in the British Parliament. Let me also add that he arrived in India by a 3 month long journey by ship so there is no chance that the Lord made a quick visit to England (British Airways did not exist at that time) for delivering this speech.
Anonymous said…
Supriyo, A nation's resurgence begins with a sense of self belief introduced by some facts and few exaggerations. You say that English has opened the world for us. Has it? Isn't the world open for French, German, Japanese or Chinese? English also destroyed our heritage and tradition of knowledge seeking. Anyway, if you don't work for a non Indian in a non Indian firm and if are not already a labor class rather than the owner class, I will see any merit on your lengthy arguments and your statements against facts or myths, whatever it is.

Let the nation awaken with facts or myths and stop being a worker. Be a proud Indian owner. Can you?
We have had nations built on myths and wrong assertions, like Hitler's Germany, experiments that ended mostly in disaster. In fact, being proud of an India built on lies, as you claim is necessary, is equal to being ashamed of true India. Would you admit then that you would like to disown the real India because you are too ashamed to be an Indian?

This is my problem with Macaulay's invented quote: It shows a discomfort with the realities of the country, which, however imperfect, I love and belong to.

As far as being a worker, I would proudly think of myself as a worker, because only as a worker, one can be true owner of one's own labour. To set the fact right, I work for myself: I am not sure whether you want to go into the details who my customers are, as they come from all over the world. However, I think it is time to grow up and acknowledge the dignity of working, rather than sitting idly in a fanciful existence of an 'owner'. Would you agree?
Anonymous said…
Any student of political science would tell you that not only Hitler's Germany but British empire as well. This is the route to empire building. This has always been and this will always be.

About worker and owner, rather than getting philosophical, what is more important to understand is what has the borrowed western ideology turned us into? Where is that Bankim's proud Bengal that owned the political, cultural thoughts?

The authenticity of what Macaulay said or not said does not depend on your quick 2 hour search on internet. I don't know the source either, I don't know if it is true or not but I don't know if it is untrue either. It might have been written or wrong dated (minor error), it might have been translated or it might have been overheard. There is no basis to be as cynical. If English are believed, we were discovered by Portuguese and we were civilized by British!
Identities built on myths are always counterproductive, I shall believe, and I am no apologist of the British nationhood. Rather, this is one of my key problems with nationalism, that it usually rests on a false foundation. And, this is not me, but the great 19th century humanists, including Rabindranath Tagore, who interrogated the national identities and wanted to go beyond.

Nationalism is an European idea. This is the bit which I find perverse in this debate. In one hand, you accuse me of borrowing European ideas and being a worker, for not buying into the very European techniques, as you yourself say, of inventing myths to build nations.

In fact, if you are interested in lineage, you will see that it is the Asian thinkers who successfully went beyond nationalism before the Europeans did. Count Okakura of Japan talked about Pan-Asian unity, which Tagore and Sun Yet Sen of China subscribed to. Unfortunately, Japanese nationalists will eventually use the European models to justify Japanese superiority and attack China and other nations. It is interesting that the first person to talk about European integration was Count Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi, an Austrian who happened to be Count Okakura's grandson. There, you can say, European's gratefully received an Asian idea to resolve their age-old conflicts, whereas we are struggling to catch up with the European past and invent our nations.

I did not claim any air of authority on Macaulay's quote, but just that it is a simple lie which can be found out with five minutes on the Internet. The dates don't match, the facts are incorrect and the language too modern. In fact, I did find out eventually where this quote came from: Some part of it is derived from Macaulay's later description of Bengal, in his essay on Clive, where he talked about the state being one of the richest in the world. However, it makes quite difficult reading: Macaulay, while describing the richness of Bengal's nature, immediately tears into the cowardly Bengali character. Indeed, I don't agree with Macaulay, but I don't subscribe to the adolescent insecurity of Indian nationalism, and the fact that one needs to invent an Indian nation for any reason whatsoever.
Anonymous said…
yes, i tried to find its source but got nothing
grr said…
Suprio says: ".. he played his part in building the modern India we are all so proud of"
Wonder who does 'We' here refer to? Further, do we know enough of different facets of ancient India for an apples-to-apples comparison with Modern India? For e.g., can we definitively infer that routine life in ancient India was worse than in today's India? Or for that matter, education systems in ancient India compares unfavorably with similar modern systems - given the different prevailing contexts? The article & the author's responses seem to suggest so.
shri8131 said…
Thanks Suprio.
You have taken pains to tell the facts.
Only part I may differ is that 'I do not believe that Macaulay was thinking for the betterment of people of India. Like all other Britishers he was doing service to British govt.' His veiws were no were near to the views of Sant Dnyaneshwar concluded in Dynaneshwari by Pasayadan. आता विश्वात्मकें देवें । येणे वाग्यज्ञें तोषावें ।
तोषोनिं मज ज्ञावे । पसायदान हें ॥

जें खळांची व्यंकटी सांडो । तया सत्कर्मी- रती वाढो ।
भूतां परस्परे पडो । मैत्र जीवाचें ॥

दुरितांचे तिमिर जावो । विश्व स्वधर्म सूर्यें पाहो ।
जो जे वांच्छिल तो तें लाहो । प्राणिजात ॥

वर्षत सकळ मंगळी । ईश्वरनिष्ठांची मांदियाळी ।
अनवरत भूमंडळी । भेटतु भूतां ॥

चलां कल्पतरूंचे आरव । चेतना चिंतामणींचें गाव ।
बोलते जे अर्णव । पीयूषाचे ॥

चंद्र्मे जे अलांछ्न । मार्तंड जे तापहीन ।
ते सर्वांही सदा सज्जन । सोयरे होतु ॥

किंबहुना सर्व सुखी । पूर्ण होऊनि तिन्हीं लोकी ।
भजिजो आदिपुरुखी । अखंडित ॥

आणि ग्रंथोपजीविये । विशेषीं लोकीं इयें ।
दृष्टादृष्ट विजयें । होआवे जी ।

येथ म्हणे श्री विश्वेशराओ । हा होईल दान पसावो ।
येणें वरें ज्ञानदेवो । सुखिया जाला ॥

English Transliteration:
ātā viśvātmakeṁ deveṁ | yeṇe vāgyajñeṁ toṣāveṁ |
toṣoniṁ maja jñāve | pasāyadāna heṁ ||

jeṁ khaḻāṁcī vyaṁkaṭī sāṁḍo | tayā satkarmī- ratī vāḍho |
bhūtāṁ paraspare paḍo | maitra jīvāceṁ ||

duritāṁce timira jāvo | viśva svadharma sūryeṁ pāho |
jo je vāṁcchila to teṁ lāho | prāṇijāta ||

varṣata sakaḻa maṁgaḻī | īśvaraniṣṭhāṁcī māṁdiyāḻī |
anavarata bhūmaṁḍaḻī | bheṭatu bhūtāṁ ||

calāṁ kalpatarūṁce ārava | cetanā ciṁtāmaṇīṁceṁ gāva |
bolate je arṇava | pīyūṣāce ||

caṁdrme je alāṁchna | mārtaṁḍa je tāpahīna |
te sarvāṁhī sadā sajjana | soyare hotu ||

kiṁbahunā sarva sukhī | pūrṇa hoūni tinhīṁ lokī |
bhajijo ādipurukhī | akhaṁḍita ||

āṇi graṁthopajīviye | viśeṣīṁ lokīṁ iyeṁ |
dṛṣṭādṛṣṭa vijayeṁ | hoāve jī |

yetha mhaṇe śrī viśveśarāo | hā hoīla dāna pasāvo |
yeṇeṁ vareṁ jñānadevo | sukhiyā jālā || http://www.geetganga.org/pasayadan-%E0%A4%AA%E0%A4%B8%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%AF%E0%A4%A6%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%A8

Shrikant Barve
manu said…
Hi Everybody,
I think the ambiguity will remain but i am sure that the statistics and the past would definitely cause to believe that the Macaulay's machinaries are very active yet,and only way to eradicate them is to come out of democracy..

a soldier
sunil said…
I wish to make two points:
a. We were different nations/Kingdoms/feudal entities before the English "traders" came to rule us through treachery, which we were ready to lend ourselves to. The English( I will not use the word British, because it is only recent and not tesed in time as we are.) made us into one entity, although they carried through the last bit of their ever useful strategy by dividing India - India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan, causing havoc and mayhem, when leaving, blaming ofcourse the Indians themselves for it.
b. The demon in the piece was not Macaulay but the archetypical Royal guy, Lord Louis Mountbatten ( BattenBerg ) who caused the worst mayhem in history in the final 1 1/2 years of English rule, dividing, while courting our idealist, Harrow educated, first Prime Minister Nehru, through his wife Edwina. This he did in less than 1 year as the Viceroy of India and fooled India into believing that he loved us, despite his satanic visitation on us.
sunil said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Whats so strange about few Britishers ruling us. Before that bunch of mughals ruled India..and even today muslims have hijacked indian democracy..Inspite of hindus being 85% . no one can win elections without appeasing muslims...as individuals hindus can be great scientists, poets, artist etc etc but as a nantions hindus we are first grade stupids
Anonymous said…
The fraud of Aryan invasion preached by britishers is another example of their mindset..Do the Britishers know about their own 2000 years old history and they know what was happenign in India 2000 years back when they dont know what was happening in Britain 2000 years back..what a fraud
Anonymous said…
What Lord Macualay said is probably true because in his day India was the richest nation in the world followed by Ottoman Empire, people did have high morals, Muslims recieved Islamic education, Hindus recieved education in Vedic tradition. They both didn't murder one another, lived side by side. English refused to assimilate into Indian society, they wanted to do what the Romans did to them.

(Romans used to make fun of the English after making them wear togas and speak Latin to be considered 'civilized' for falling in their trick to make them slaves of the Roman culture and language and accepting their dictators as superiors).

Agreed that right now the US is the superpower and its language is English so that gives Indians who speak the language an opportunity to benefit their masters in an easier manner than an Indian who is not a 'wog' (Westernized Oriental gentleman, applogize for using this highly racist term used to describe Indians and Arabs and Iranians etc.)
Anonymous said…
Brilliant post outlining the truth behind this rather popular hoax.
It is sad that people continue propagating such hoaxes without checking for authenticity. :-)
AbdulHameed said…
Suprio. Great work. Much appreciated.

Abdul hameed
D said…
Supriyo Chaudari, Your brain is a closed asshole which is only collecting waste but not letting it go. According to world's most famous historians, India was No1 in almost every field. We did not need this so called western culture. We do now because we have been beaten to pulp because of poverty. Not in the days of Macaulay. At least the Muslim rulers are better off, as they came to India to conquer and rule. As far as the Britishers go they came as sneaky businessmen, who were given opportunity to do business. In return they started plotting grand schemes to take over the country. These bastards are going to bring Modern way of life. They introduced the plundering and massacre way of life. These guys are the ones responsible for killing american Indians as they were innocent and unarmed. We fought back and stood our ground.They gave a free chit to Germany to massacre and conquer countries. Is this mordern way of life, kill and take over. Really!!! is this what have you been filling your brain with. Oh! look at the country it is rich with jewellery, rich with natural resources, rich with oil, with diamonds, lets go kill them and teach them modern way of life. If you see the movie AVATAR, that's what it talks about, protecting and trying use the nature in most natural form is the modern way of life, not destroying it with chemicals, hormone enhancements and unnatural form nutrition. Grow up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am not sure I endorsed imperialism in any way, and I do consider the above comment abusive. However, I still published it for the sake of free speech and representation of a particular, however erroneous and extreme, point of view. I indeed disagree that one has the right to misrepresent history or falsify a quote, which was my central point of contention, just because the imperialists did bad things. Sure they did, but our freedom comes from insisting on the truth, and not by white-washing the past.
Anonymous said…
Your contention about rightful history is a mask to propagate imperialist thoughts. You are unmasked. You are exactly the types the british prayed for and unfortunately have among us. What we have is not education but english memorizing talent stuffling uncreative brains thanks to the British and English. What we need to is re-trace our sanskrit roots where the objective of education was fulfillment of life based on gunas.
Ant said…
You know what, I had the same apprehension as I read this posted on somebody's fb page. Seemed pretty fake to me in a speech because surely the Brits are known to be diplomatic enough to be saying such things in public, especially in the era we are talking about. Thankfully you had spared me the effort and done the digging up already, else google is flooding with the faux speech. Anyhow, my doubts have attained closure and thanks for that :)
Bhupinder Kumar said…
Good Work. I too found it fake and did some digging into it. Your link on the real speech gives a little insight to what actually happened.

Though after going through the book i realized how baseless were the comments made by Maculley. Indeed, he had a very little idea of what is actually contained in these poetic verses. If anyone is ever be interested in knowing what those so called poetries actually contained can visit this informational site http://www.bharathgyan.com/.

If Maculley considered these poeteries worthless i dont know why britisher's took pain of lighting all the Texts of Taxila University continuously for one and half months. I have also come across Rudra Pooja Text which contains chantings of numbers as even and odd. These chantings are about 10000 years old. Untill 1980's according to British, first civilizations existed some 5000 years back so their history is limited to that reign.

Though the text about macullay might be a spoof but to say that we are better with english as language and mordern science was a gift from british is little heavy statement to digest.

Indians knew how to distill Zinc from Ore way back 1000BC but according to british texts zinc distillation started in 1700's which cannot be true if you have ever visted Quatab Minar and seen the pillar which has not accumlated any rust so far due to presence of zinc.
Hence be proud in the fact that we too had a great scientific and spiritual history.
Anonymous said…
Supriyo, from your profile it appears that you are based out of London and work in the British education sector . Since you are getting your paychecks from the British Education system, for the purposes of this article/discussion it would make you an interested party and not a neutral/impartial observer. It would have been appropriate had you prefaced your article with a disclaimer to that effect.

Thanks for this comment, but I shall debate whether what I do is entirely relevant for the purpose of this post. I was not intending to defend Macaulay or British Education: Far from it, I did not think such grand historical judgements can be made in the space of one post. This was a reflection on one, angry, reading of a spoof circulating on the Internet, which is an attempt to paint Indian history in a certain way. This was my attempt to actually check the facts and share what I found.

You will also see that this was work in progress. I did later discover, and posted among the comments, where this spoof came from: Macaulay's essay on Clive, where he described Bengal as a rich land, but went on to describe Bengalis as cowardly and ready for subjugation. I have also made several posts later on the subject, where I tried to explore the moral implications of the whole affair, not just of the spoof but the impact it has had, rather unexpectedly, on my own life.

So, in summary, I was not pretending to present the 'truth', but was sharing my frustration with people who wants to subvert history. This was more to do with being a conscious citizen, and less with where my paycheck comes from (incidetally, I pay myself - as I run a small business).

vadakkus said…
I bit late - but still, I would like to say to all those people who argue about Macaulay: The issue in question happened around 180 years ago. The British and the rest of the World have moved on from there, while we are still stuck in the past. Whose mistake is that? When will we realize that a country is not great because someone did something 5000 years ago, but because what is it today? What will it take for our whole education system to be revamped to create brilliant minds and not clerks?
Ravi said…
Mr.Supriyo,English education was forced on us so that Gurukul schools vanishes.Sanksrit is the systematic way of learning.English education was introduced to suppress Sanksrit.Till 19th Century Indians practiced plastic surgery and Marma kala.British chopped the hands of traditional Indian doctors.And further more they introduced Aryan Invasion Theory(AIT) which has been debunked recently.The followers of the likes of Macauleys used to say Saraswati river never existed as mentioned in Vedas.But they were Proven wrong,dried Saraswati river was found in North Western India as exactly been mentioned in vedas.
We dont have to praise them for anything.They came,vandalised,looted and ran away with our wealth and left us with distorted history.
You should check this site http://folks.co.in/blog/category/history/ and go through the articles.
This link might also help in your research http://www.voiceofdharma.org/indology.html

Many thanks for dropping by and leaving this comment, which adequately reflects your point of view.

The point, however, is not to judge what Macaulay did to India: I am surely not trying to be an apologist of the empire. It is about whether this quotation has any historical basis, which I believe it does not. Further, I see this to be an effort to reconstruct a false history of India, on the presumption that there was an Hindu India which was the land of Milk and Honey, which went into a prolonged decline under the Mughal emperors until the British put the nails in its coffin.

I am acutely aware that Indian economy was large and prominent in the world as late as 1850s, that's what the late British Historian Angus Madison shows us, but there are reasons why we slipped since. Some of it is surely due to the unfairness of the empire, where the surpluses were siphoned off to the mother country; at the same time, some of the decline was internal, and based on the great divide, between the cities and villages, and between the communities, which held India back.

The efforts to reclaim that past glory of India is commendable, but this is unlikely to come by accentuating the causes of our downfall, i.e, the divide. In my mind, the Hindu nationalists only carried forward the work of Macaulay and other imperial thinkers, by imposing a false Indian identity based on division and exclusion, and impoverished India rather than strengthening it.

This post was not to defend Macaulay, but to protest against that falsity. I hope you will understand that we all love our country, and one does not need to pervert its history to love it.

Ravi said…
I think you can find Macaulay's statements from British Parliament Archives if they exist.

From what I found from my end is the decline of India started after the destruction of Universities of Taxila,Nalanda,etc.And later the Hindu practices{aparusheya(impartial)} shifted to South.
Sanskritised India used to question everything until it came to a logical conclusion.Now how many would believe that Charvakas the Atheists lived along theists in India 2000 years ago.At that time non believers and other religious sects were persecuted world wide.Even now in our neighboring countries we can see the plight of other religious sects.

I would be cautious when reading British Historian's work.The modern historians quote the works of British historians who worked under British Empire.

Thanks - that's precisely the point: The parliament archives exist, this statement does not.

I have studied this further since I wrote the post: Some of the text comes from a famous essay Macaulay wrote about Clive, where described Bengal as a rich land but full of cowardly people. Whoever created this quote, which first appeared in a Hindu nationalist publication, hacked off the essay on Clive and created something convenient. As far as I see, this quote is a pure fabrication designed to support a certain, and false, view of Indian history.

A point of detail, the universities such as Nalanda were Buddhist centres of learning rather than Hindu one. I did read a book about India's decline and the thesis that the Indian civilization peaked at about 1000AD and then went into a long decline under the Muslim rule. Indeed, whoever fabricated Macaulay's quote was contradicting that view. Besides, India and China were world's largest economies as late as 1850, and contributed more than 50% of world's GDP.

India's decline happened for many reasons, the imperial exploitation being one of them. However, we need to come to terms with our own history and learn from it, fabricating stories such as the one above does a great disservice in that regard.

Finally, I fully take on board your point about imperial historians, but study of history has to start from acceptance of a few inconvenient truths. Besides, it is also incorrect to label all British historians as the same, because it is an incredibly diverse group with different points of views to be lumped together. So, I would rather keep my mind open and search for the truth, and love India for what it is, and what it can be.

Ravi said…
What was the medium used to be taught in Nalanda?Was it Sanskrit,Pali or Sanskritised pali

Can you give the sources that you follow on India and its history?
Pali. It is fine to claim Budhdhists as a part of Indian heritage, they indeed are: Just that it does not fit into that neat story of Hindu supremacy, as Budhdhists were usually people left behind by Hinduism (a similar conversion happened to Islam in the later years) and the Hindu ruling class fought the Budhdhist influence tooth-and-nail before they gave in.

I am not sure what you mean by the sources I follow, but I wouldn't definitely take an odd quote from Internet as the gospel, and would check out the available literature. I can recommend Romila Thapar on Ancient India, and Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi, though they are out of favour with the prevalent Hindu supremacist view of things.

Ravi said…
But Romila Thapar and Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi are the fiercest defenders of AIT.Ms.Thapar is seen as appeaser to Islam(I'm not against any religion) to get funds.Same with Michael Witzel.Thats why you can see arabianisation of Harvard these days.

They are also running after Aryan Migration Theory(AMT). But there were no aryans that came to India and there is no such thing as Aryan.Arya word is there in Sanskrit meaning 'Noble'.

My question is how much Sanskrit does Romila Thapar,Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi and Witzel know.If they havent read the Sanskrit Vedas(not translated or transliterated) how would they accurately know whether there was AIT and AMT or not.They were proven wrong on both which says that they heavily depended on translations which is a dangerous precedent or deliberately misguided others or wrong in decision making.Modern technology like DNA results show more than 99% of Indians are of the same lineage and does not match with anyone in the world.That means we are native.

And Hindus never left Buddhism behind.They simply Hinduised(if there is any word) just like pali was Sanskritised.As we Shankaracharya defeated Mandana Mishra in debate in 8th Century and accepted Hinduism.Yes if the ruling class is Hindu then obviously there will be an impact on the people too just as in the case of Ashoka influencing people with Buddha's teachings.But in India Hindus dont treat them as seperate.

Sources meaning online and offline that you read though I know that final decision has to be made only after vigorous reading and consulting.

With respect, I can't help but notice the circuitous logic you use: If someone believes in a theory that you don't like, that person is doing it with an ulterior motive, like getting money. This isn't unusual, this is what illustrious statesmen like Hitler and Goebbels have done before, but you may not want to be seen in their company, and may indeed get offended by it. Dr Thapar and Dr Kosambi spent a lifetime studying Indian History and Culture and claiming that they only read second hand English texts is absurd, and had it not been so purposeful, it would have been funny.

What you are trying to do is precisely the problem I was trying to point out in the post above: You have a theory that suits a purpose, anyone who disagrees have a motive and ignorant, and everyone who supports it, even without a shred of evidence, must be correct and patriotic.

This is hardly the way to seek out truth, if you are at all interested in it. However, here is one thing you may want to think about: India is a country you can love without having to distort its history. Even if Aryans came from somewhere, it will not belittle the country or take away its charm, its ideas and its knowledge. We don't have to fall from sky, or emerge as direct descendents of Indian monkeys, to be distinct, original or loveable people.

Ravi said…
Then let me point out how dangerous their theories might have resulted in.

In Africa there are two countries Burundi and Rwanda.Inhabited by two ethnic groups Tutsi's and Hutus.Here Hutus are in majority and Tutsi's minority.The westerner Historians created Tutsi Invasion Theory which was not echoed by the current Historians.

Now the Hutus implied that Tutsi's are not natives they came from somewhere and don't have any right in their land.In actuality both are not natives.Thousands were massacred and was termed racial genocide.

Lets now compare this with AIT.British divided North and South Indians as Aryans and Dravidian(Dravida is Indian word meaning Peninsula).According to Britishers Aryans were outsiders and invaded India and became superior race and looked down Dravidians as miniscules.

Now if Dravidians taken this seriously and retorted same as Hutus then you can see how many thousands or perhaps may be millions would have lost their lives.

And it doesn't look anything funny to me.

You distort History and you don't rectify it.What sort of Historians are those who don't accept their mistakes and rectify it.If they are right then atleast prove the DNA findings as false.The technology is available.What stopping them.In Indian Schools even today AIT is being taught.How would one feel that throughout your childhood you read lies and half-truths about your History.

Yes I understand you have to be neutral when investigating but after the results you cant.

If AIT and AMT is not accepted how would one employ those who preaching them.Then certainly you have to look for funds from somewhere.
Pankaj said…
Dear Supriyo,
It was very interesting to read the whole discussion all through the comments and I also agree the point that an quote cannot be believed without verification but I would need some more insight from you on your last comment.
You said “However, the colonialist that he was, India can "thank Lord Macaulay for its modernity". He scripted the Indian Penal Code. He made no convenient adjustment to local religions. He wanted to build an education system secular and scientific, free of age-old prejudices and at par with the Western world. While his comment on Indian and Arabian literature was certainly ignorant, he played his part in building the modern India we are all so proud of."
Please, explain:
1. How do you see the concept of modernity, Do you think only Macaulay’s education system could have given India its modernity?
2. Do you know how law and order was handled before Indian penal code was scripted, do you see any alternatives to IPC.
3. What do you mean when you say “secular and scientific education system and age-old prejudices?

In the comments you wrote " Even if Aryans came from somewhere, it will not belittle the country or take away its charm, its ideas and its knowledge. We don't have to fall from sky, or emerge as direct descendants of Indian monkeys, to be distinct, original or loveable people."

I don't know you are aware or not of how the AIT or AMT has effected the politics of Tamil Nadu and division of people into Dravidian and Brahmani-cal or even into a invention called "Dravidian Christianity" turning it into playground for "soul harvesting" by Christians and creating a large number of angry and certainly dangerous youth fed by discrimination myth, for integral unity of India.
I don't think you will say "So What,Even if India disintegrates, it will not belittle the country or take away its charm, its ideas and its knowledge.
I may say you will prove yourself wrong if you go on saying this without due diligence.
Hope you reply soon, we can discuss further.

Thanks for dropping by and your comments.

Without regard to the point made in the post, that the quote is a spoof, I shall try to respond the points you raise, though these relate to an wider debate.

In this debate, everyone has a point of view, and what I say here is my view. I can't claim to be an expert on how Aryans moved. However, my views are prompted by what I know of modern nations and politics of nationalism.

In general, I view that while India had a great philosophical and literary tradition, and early science, it had fallen into decline through the ages. The English education system opened it up to European science and enlightenment thinking, not all of that good, but started a new scientific progress in India, which, within a couple of generations, producing innovations and great scientific thinking. It also set off a great humanist movement, which combined the Indian tradition with western rationalism, and produced new thinking. English Education system was not the only reason it happened, but this was an important enabler.

The point about IPC is exactly similar: There was an alternative at hand, because every person is equal before the law was an enlightenment concept. Whether this was appropriately applied (it was not, for a long time) notwithstanding, this gave India a 'modern' legal system.

Macaulay is somewhat a hero among Indian dalits, because it is his reforms which created the platform of equality before law. Our age-old prejudices of caste determines life came under scrutiny, and at least the seeds of a modern meritocracy was sown.

I don't think India will disintegrate just because Aryans came from elsewhere, but it may if we disregard India's diversity and try to impose an uniform, fictitious identity on the whole country. This is where disagree on this idea that India is an original, Hindu country. For me, India is diverse country which is tolerant and open to all cultures, views and religions, and this is what makes India special. The idea of India as a nation in the European style is ludicrous, because India isn't an European nation. We have tried to create one, post-Independence, and this has led to the scramble about changing our history as necessary. This is what the invention of Macaulay's quote is about, this is what theories of Indian home of the Aryans is about, this is what the pure Hindu identity is about. However, the world has moved on and we need to wake up to the post-national world that we live in now: Otherwise, we shall be left behind, or implode.


You seem to have a circular logic, the sort Karl Popper would have called 'unfalsifiable' and therefore, unscientific. Scientific logic would have been to say - if X happened, Y would have followed, and if Y did not follow then X couldn't have happened. However, the way you are arguing sounds like - if X happened, the Y must be true, but if Y is false, someone must have conspired inbetween. That may indeed keep you happy, but it does not sound convincing to me.

The point I make again and again is that India is a great country, because it is so tolerant and diverse. This isn't because Aryans came from inside (the fact that they were called 'noble' in their own text does not prove where they came from, considering that Sanskrit is very much part of a wider Indo-European language family), but because India has since accommodated so many cultures and religions and became great by the infusion of the diverse. The central claim behind India's glory is that it is a microcosm of the world, not because everything originated from there, but because it absorbs everything, rejects nothing. This is the central point where we differ, how we see the country and its culture.

Anonymous said…
see mr. without any proof how can one bring a comment, are you sure whether its a thing of rss or not its just your assumption.being an indian your doubting your nation and supporting someother as if they are your forefathers...
first have athorough knowledge of our culture and then post a comment

if you want to know what our culture is read the articles of david frawley "myth of aryan invasion","debate with christian missionaries" and stephen knapp "why be a Hindu" who are not hindus and not even indians!!!

I am fascinated by this comment left by Anonymous which is to say that why should I comment without proof that a comment was made without proof: All I pleaded for is an escape from this kind of idiocy. I am sick of India being claimed by this supposedly 'true' Indians, whose only thesis is that they must exclude everyone else, all those who has a different caste, language or religion, or those who can remotely read English and have a different conception of India. Left to them, they would take India back to the middle ages, happily burn 'Sati's and restore untouchability in all walks of life, and live in smugness till the society crumbles all over again as it did in the past. This fabricated quote above is only symptomatic of this attempt to drown India in the mire of superstition and backwardness, and commentators keep affirming my fear that there is indeed such an ongoing attempt which we all must guard against at all times.


Regarding this Hutu/ Tutsi analogy, thanks very much for bringing it to the discussion. This is indeed goes on to show why this quest for authentic Indianness is so dangerous. Contrary to your claim that if we allowed theory of Aryan invasion to stand, Dravidians would have claimed themselves to be true Indians and tried to drive the North Indians out, theories like these are designed to establish a different authenticity claim - that India is an Hindu country from the start, and everything else is alien. This is about running a Gujrat-style pogrom all over India, driving out anyone who seems remotely non-aryan. The underlying theme is Hindu are Aryans who are true Indians, and Muslims are invaders and all Indian muslims are semitic: Exactly the kind of rationale the Nazis would have liked and Hutus used while slaughtering Tutsis. It is false too as most Indian muslims have nothing to do Arab or Mongol invaders, but converted to flee the oppression of the caste system. On these debates, I stand on the other end of the debate, where I shall see India as a great land of tolerance and amalgamation, not a 'true' nation in the narrow European sense, but a civilization by itself, with all its diversity, fusion and possibilities. In this construct, it does not matter whether Aryans came from outside or originated in India, whether Rajputs were invaders too (settled by Guptas) or Muslims or Zorastrians or Armenians are true Indian or not. In my conception, whoever tolerates others, are open to ideas and progress, is inclusive rather than exclusive, is an Indian. This is why I refuse to give in to the fabrication of Macaulay's quote or the hatefulness of the 'true Indian' debate.

Ravi said…
Mr.Supriyo(your words in quotes):"the fact that they were called 'noble' in their own text does not prove where they came from"

My Response:
American Journal of Human Genetics published on Dec.9 2011 'Shared and Unique Components of Human Population Structure and Genome-Wide Signals of Positive Selection in South Asia'.
The tests proves More than 99% of Indians are of same lineage.There are no Aryans and Dravidians.
About Sanskrit the research is still on so can't say whether its Indo-European or Indian originated language.

Mr.Supriyo(your words in quotes):
"Regarding this Hutu/ Tutsi analogy, thanks very much for bringing it to the discussion. This is indeed goes on to show why this quest for authentic Indianness is so dangerous. Contrary to your claim that if we allowed theory of Aryan invasion to stand, Dravidians would have claimed themselves to be true Indians and tried to drive the North Indians out, theories like these are designed to establish a different authenticity claim - that India is an Hindu country from the start, and everything else is alien"

My Response:
I don't know in which world you are living.In South former Tamil Nadu CM Mr.Karunanidhi and his Mentor Periyar strongly believed the AIT and came to power on the basis of AIT's Dravidian suppression.American Journal of Human Genetics published Journal proves that we are one that itself proves Indianess.If this hasn't been proved there would have definitely be a rift between North and South.How the word Hindu came thats debatable.One theory is that Avesta(5000-1000BC)called Hapta-Hindu for Sapta-Sindhu.Greeks used o call us Indoi.So if thats true we dateback to a long period.

Whether Rigveda said anything about Hindu I don't know.I have to ask Sanskrit Scholars.But everyone accepts its the oldest manuscript and some fools Griffin,Max Mueller,even Mahidar translated the verses wrongly.Critical review of their translations with verses are out there on Internet.

Everyone in the world with or without knowing what Vedas said follows them.For example why do u brush your teeth you can live without brushing but everyone does brush,likewise you do bathe,you do have breakfast in the morning(now scientists say you shouldn't miss it)why not in the midnight,you do have lunch in the afernoon and dinner at night but why not on other timings.It's all in the Vedas and its the oldest manuscript.When different regions have different customs why everyone follows the same pattern.According to Historians our ideas spread just like numbers spread to the world from us.

Our Past is great before the invaders came that doesn't mean we live in the past but that doesn't also mean we take the false theories as is.

About Mcaulay my research is limited so I cant comment on that for now,when I get more info I will respond.

I can't agree more with you that all Indians may have the same origin, Aryans or otherwise, going by the Genome study that you cite . Would you accept the same for all castes and religions too? If you do, then we are on the same page.

This debate is about Macaulay, and not the origins of Aryans. In fact, there is no disagreement if you are just trying to say Aryans should be accepted as Indians. Where we disagree is that this assertion shouldn't mean non-aryans, such as aboriginals, are less Indian. Neither this should lead to an Aryan supremacist theory and a call to colonize Mongoloids (apart from the fact that we can't possibly match China's military power).


Hello Mr. Supriyo

I was just looking out for some material on Macaulay and stumbled upon this post.

I appreciate your concern to establish the truth behind Macaulay's education system.
I also appreciate your love for India irrespective of your geographical location.
I share a different perspective on this issue.

I will elaborate on it later. First of all let me share with you a link to Life and letters of Macualay:


Below is the text of young Macualay writing to his father:

"I am very much pleased that the nation seems to take such interest in
the introduction of Christianity into India. My Scotch blood begins
to boil at the mention of the 1,750 names that went up from a single
country parish. Ask Mama and Selina if they do not now admit my argument
with regard to the superior advantages of the Scotch over the English

Another text below...

Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully. We find it
difficult,--indeed, in some places impossible,--to provide instruction
for all who want it. At the single town of Hoogly fourteen hundred boys
are learning English. The effect of this education on the Hindoos is
prodigious. No Hindoo, who has received an English education, ever
remains sincerely attached to his religion. Some continue to profess it
as matter of policy; but many profess themselves pure Deists, and
some embrace Christianity. It is my firm belief that, if our plans of
education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among
the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And this will
be effected without any efforts to proselytise; without the smallest
interference with religious liberty; merely by the natural operation of
knowledge and reflection. I heartily rejoice in the prospect.

Many thanks for this comment. Indeed, you seem to agree that the spoof is a spoof, and Macaulay never said that: This was the central point of this post anyway.

As for the quotations you reproduce, they exactly show why, in the first place, I suspected the 'quote' to be fabricated. The Victorians, particularly men like Macaulay, were convinced of their god-given purpose, and sincerely believed they were doing a good thing by bringing their Indian subjects to enlightenment. Indeed, you and I can observe today and say that this has done more harm than good, but, at the time, when the British administration, aside from their economic exploitation, were engaged in social reform such as banning Sati burning, and allowing the widows to re-marry, Macaulay and his occidentalist friends (but not the Orientalists, who were preserving Sanskrit and Farsi texts and studying its language and literature) couldn't surely see any advantages of continuing the education system as it was. You will notice this ardent belief in doing the 'good thing' in the quotes you reproduce, and you must believe that Macaulay's humanism that made 'the oppression in Bengal as intolerable to me as the oppression on the streets of London'; the fabricated quote circulated on the Internet tries to portray Macaulay as a cynical conspirator, which he wasn't.

I congratulate you though for injecting some sense in this discussion here. You will see from comments above that it is increasingly becoming difficult to have an honest conversation about India's history, which is a problem. There is a vile attempt to impose a wrong and distorted history upon us, which will do no one any good. I am no apologist of empire, but I find it foolish to try to pass off such an obvious spoof as a part of our history. It is our duty to understand what happened in perspective, and I am sincere in my appreciation of your efforts in trying to read Macaulay's work.


Anonymous said…

Oxford university England.

1.It is a "Letter" not a speech!
2.Their is no such thing as the British archives, Only "The National archives"

3. A copy is openly shown to "student's" at the Oxford university along with max muller written notes which i do find in a deep regret to be highly racist.

I do find it rather strange how you almost empower the humiliation of your ancestors, but then again we did spoon feed you.
Rohit said…
Your Question - Did Macaylay make those comments? Maybe yes, maybe not. Did he do a good thing? It appears good now, but only time will tell how sustainable it is. Lets focus on what we know for certain in the meanwhile. Did the British plunder India and many other countries? Check! Did they do what would be called genocide, crimes against humanity, terrorism, Al Quaedaism, etc.> Absolutely! Check 2! Did they want Indians to remain enslaved? Check 3! Now some positives. Did ancient Indians produced scientific literature (read mathematics, astronomy, medicine, LANGUAGE far superior to where any modern thinker cannot even reach? Check 4! Putting things in perspective. We know for certain that Macaylay said Oriental literature is useless and nothing compared to European creations (mind you most Arabian knowledge was stolen from India anyway - there is proof for this). Saying this, without knowing the language or the subject matter, with a thoroughly narrow mind is in itself a sign of a self-delusional personality who can go to any lengths to achieve cognitive dissonance (look up what this is on Google). Thoughts, words and deeds of such a man should be taken not with a pinch but at least a kilogram of salt. So basically all I am trying to say is that you may be right in English being good for us today but who has seen tomorrow? And to others who are attacking Suprio personally, stop it. Don't fall to Macaulay's level. You are Indians and we don't need to insult someone personally to prove their thoughts are wrong. Fact is that all things Indians have always been and will always be superior than modern literature. Suprio mentions caste system. I assure you it was not what it was shown to be, again by vile work of Max Muller who was paid to misquote and misinterpret Sanskrit literature. We have enough proofs in scriptures (read Atri Smriti in particularly) where it has categorically been stated that caste comes by actions not birth. So caste system is not our invention, it was a perversion of truth by some idiots before the British came and British just used it as an excuse to enslave us. Finally, I say you yourself learn Sanskrit Suprio, read the literature (don't read translations by foreigners and Indian Macaulay's children). Know the facts yourself. Its great you know English, that's why we are all able to communicate here. But don't forget it only has a utility value, just like money. It won't buy you happiness. Use it, benefit from it but don't fall in its trap. Don't let it enslave your mindset and belief systems.

Whoever you are, it is interesting to see you had to choose an English name and locate yourself to Oxford to appear knowledgeable.

The letter you mention is another example of how some people, in desperation as their hoax was exposed, tried to cling to another shred of evidence for Macaulay's great crime, displaying, in the process, total naivete and ignorance about history.


You seem to have missed the point. This is not about whether India had a great heritage, which it sure had, but whether Macaulay's quote was accurate, which it was not. It is a shame that one needs a fabricated quote, and indeed try to distort history, to prove the 'greatness' of India: A story built on a false base indeed turns out to be hollow.

The final point is this: A country does not remain great by burying its head in sand. Knowledge grows in connecting, not by keeping it in a chest somewhere. This was India's problem in the past. However great the country's heritage was, we were the defeated party (so was China). One of the reasons of that humiliation is that we turned inward: We were so convinced that our historical greatness will guarantee our future superiority, that we refused to learn anymore. Your comment about Arabs stealing our knowledge indicates to me that you subscribe to such a view, and indeed, you are not alone.

Countries rise and fall, but the country which refuses to learn may forever be condemned to self-defeat.

Sourasis Roy said…
I was also scratching my head over the supposed comment by him recently did some research on it. Then I found an authentic source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Education_Act_1835#Macaulay.E2.80.99s_.E2.80.9CMinute_Upon_Indian_Education.E2.80.9D

I quote him from there - "Whoever knows [English] has ready access to all the vast intellectual wealth, which all the wisest nations of the earth have created and hoarded in the course of ninety generations. It may be safely said, that the literature now extant in that language is of far greater value than all the literature which three hundred years ago was extant in all the languages of the world together. The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach this language, we shall teach languages, by which, by universal confession, there are not books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our own; whether, when we can teach European science, we shall teach systems which, by universal confession, whenever they differ from those of Europe, differ for the worse; and whether, when we can patronise sound Philosophy and true History, we shall countenance, at the public expense, medical doctrines, which would disgrace an English farrier, --Astronomy, which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school,--History, abounding with kings thirty feet high, and reigns thirty thousand years long,--and Geography, made up of seas of treacle and seas of butter"

So, yes he didn't say those words that we are debating here. But he did potray a deep ignorance of contemporary India and a sense of british supremacy with rampant racism.

From what I read, I can't really color him in black or white. My takeaway from all this is that, he is the father of western education and english in India and to some extent the destroyer of contemporary India for what it stood for. But, I must emphasize that on the bigger spectrum of 10000 year old Indian civilization, he has done what every other conquering force has done to India, that is to enrich our civilization yet again. We must understand, that the two main reasons for which our civilization has survived over 10000 years while others have lost their ancient heritage, is because of (one) geography (two) adaptability to various threads of world knowledge. That is our strength and we should be extremely proud of it.

Thanks for this and I completely agree. One thing to remember is that Macaulay's Minutes, and rest of his work, were happening in the context of an intellectual debate within the British ruling class, and Macaulay was, if I may say so, arguing not against the Indian public opinion, because there might not have been any representation of such a thing at the time, but his own compatriots, the Orientalists, who were resurrecting great texts in Sanskrit and Arabic, and was strongly arguing in favour of preservation, and development, of the ancient Indian culture and its Mughal heritage. These Orientalists, and Max Mueller was a later adherent of the same school, did not set onto 'civilizing' India, but to rediscover its civilization, and to preserve its heritage. The Occidentalists, such as Macaulay and from among Indians, Raja Rammohan Roy, were arguing, at different times (Rammohan before Macaulay's time), that India needs the modern science and technology, and therefore, a modern education system.

It may seem racist to read Macaulay with the current perspective, but you may try to understand him in his own contemporary context: If you do, this may sound very much like the education debates raging in many countries even today (for example, Britain) about what education is for and what kind of education should be delivered in schools. There is always a school of thought which argues in favour of modern technical education, and another, about preservation of culture and heritage. It is indeed not an either/ or debate, but a question of priorities, as it is today, as it was then. Macaulay was a particularly vocal advocate of the white-men's-burden school of thought, that believed in the civilizing mission of the empire (we have them even today, try watching or reading Niall Ferguson's work): This is exactly why I thought Macaulay's comments as represented in this hoax to be fabricated [because they are so cynical].

My takeaway from this hoax, and the ensuing debate, is the thought that why, with such a glorious tradition, India was conquered so easily by the British: The answer seem to lie in the fact that civilizational superiority can not be, shouldn't be, taken for granted. While the heritage needs to be preserved, history is a moving train and those nations which continually prepare themselves for progress, win. This is what happened in the Nineteenth Century: The British, with the commerce, technology, enlightened science, represented a superior civilization. India and China accounted for more than 50% of the world's GDP as late as 1850 (says economic historian Angus Madison), but in a matter of decades, this was reversed. The important lesson, therefore, is not to live in the past, but to continue to move forward and renew one's own civilization, by interacting with outside, by learning, by experimenting: The river that does not flow is dead. While I respect India's tradition and heritage and believe that we must show greater sensitivity towards preserving it (and not break down historical mosques and let Nalanda crumble by lack of maintenance), I do believe that the power of the world remains with the curious, with those who attempt to learn (just as you did, by taking the pain to read Macaulay). This was my principal objection with this crude hoax and the subsequent attempts to defend it.

Gaurav said…
It wouldn't be fair if I say anything or comment or favour on what is going on about Macaulay since 2002 and it is claimed that these were his comments said in the British Parliament on 2 FEB 1935.

But what ever I am reading for a few days about Macaulay and after reading his minutes to British, it seems that Macaulay is mostly an overrated personality by british gvt. The way they have used him as a hero to prove that he brought liberalisation, foreign thoughts, ideas and intellect to this country as though people here did not have any knowledge.

Everyone on this blog would have to accept that during 18 century there was not much modernisation in the country it only started in the 19th century or late 18th century. At this period of time in middle era of 18th century, british were whole and solely focussed on annexing kingdoms in India. So it would not be worth saying that Macaulay and british that time brought modernisation to the country.

Due to the hypocricy in interim british government they felt the requirement of people trained in English which can support them in their administratrive jobs. If you notice in early 19th century, Indians had started working as their administers e.g.- accountant, clerks, office man, receptionist. However the higher positions were still in the domination of English. It is proved from the words said by Macaulay- "We will create a generation which will be indian by blood and colour and british by test, opinions,culture, intellect and morals". It was interim british gvt's hypocricy that they used the idea given by Macaulay and also it was shown to the world that british is educating Indians and Macaulay is the godfather for them. After leaving India in 1838 Macaulay started writing books, but sources say that the books he wrote in that period were the schools books and syllabus to be used in India for education for primary, secondary and higher secondary.

After 1835, there was a period when gurukuls or rishikulas were de-recognized and schools having the educational system has state level recognition which attracted the higher class of Indians towards it. It is said that in that period around 700,000 teachers were either jailed or murdered all over the country, If you study the ancient Indian educational system, we had around 700 K gurukuls all over the country which were demolished and declared de-recognised.

As much as british emphasized on ruining the Indian educational system, we Indians also welcomed them in a warm manner. Indians were very much fascinated from the English language and britishers, this trend can be seen even now among us. There was a huge attraction towards the british brought educational system. So Macaulay is not the only one who can be blamed for this.

In 1931 Mahatma Gandhi made a statement at Chatham House in London, which made headlines in the British press. He said “today, India is more illiterate than it was a fifty or a hundred years ago because the British Administrators, when they came to India, instead of taking hold of things as they were, began to root them out. They scratched the soil and left the root exposed and the beautiful tree perished.” The beautiful tree Gandhiji referred to was the tree of education.

After independence this should have been changed at least to some level but according to transfer of power agreement b/w british and India, we could not.

Either ways now we cannot change the past but we should be thankful any ways we have the knowloedge of european language as well as Indian culture and sanskrit. Let it not become our weakness instead a power against them who tried to weaken us. We should always keep in mind that India has everything that needed for a life and beyond life, just needed a realization to the youth of the country.
Anonymous said…
Well not sure if you guys are still interested in the topic but this seems to be the best I could find about the speech (though I would like to mention that I could not find a link which actually proves it). The language seems more natural to that of the age in which he lived.
I have a small suggestion for everyone, why do we need recognition from to west to accept and cherish our own achievements. Yes we have achieved a lot before the Moghuls and the Brits arrived, but let us also strive to achieve the same glory in the future. Also let no British apologits forget that the Brits were nothing more than pirates (wearing a coat and a tie!!) who came to plunder our riches by colonising us. Knowing the correct version of our own history would do wonders though.

"I accept catholic beyond the across and across of India and I accept not apparent one getting who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such abundance I accept apparent in this country, such top moral values, humans of such caliber, that I do not anticipate we would anytime beat this country, unless we breach the actual courage of this nation, which is her airy and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I adduce that we alter her old and age-old apprenticeship system, her culture, for if the Indians anticipate that all that is adopted and English is acceptable and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their built-in self-culture and they will become what we ambition them, a absolutely bedeviled nation."

Anonymous said…
From the speeches of Macaulay


while it is not the exact quote . you can read between the lines if u like. He was no great admirer of our culture. There are many more derogatory comments about Indian ways in his commentaries and speeches. Point is its important to know history so we know where we came from what we became and why generations after generation we seem to be aping the west and forgetting what was good in our own culture . We forget what our ancestors taught us,and that is the greatest tragedy.

here is an excerpt from the link
The destinies of our Indian empire are covered with thick darkness. It is difficult to form any conjecture as to the fate reserved for a state which resembles no other in history, and which forms by itself a separate class of political phenomena. The laws which regulate its growth and its decay are still unknown to us. It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history. To have found a great people sunk in the lowest depths of slavery and superstition, to have so ruled them as to have made them desirous and capable of all the privileges of citizens, would indeed be a title to glory all our own. The sceptre may pass away from us. Unforeseen accidents may derange our most profound schemes of policy. Victory may be inconstant to our arms. But there are triumphs which are followed by no reverse. There is an empire exempt from all natural causes of decay. Those triumphs are the pacific triumphs of reason over barbarism; that empire is the imperishable empire of our arts and our morals, our literature and our laws.

Thanks for the quote and completely agree: We need to remember our traditions and be proud of it. However, this is not about creating an illusion of what we think they taught us, but taking time to explore and understand our history. Made up quotations such as the one making rounds on the web is not the way to do it.

India is coming to a point in its history when it will need to reinvent itself. This is because India itself is a modern idea, an ancient land constructed in the image of a modern European nation. This reaffirmation has to happen simultaneously looking forward and backward, reassessing our history and reimagining our future. I see that as a great responsibility bestowed on current generations to do so, and therefore, coming to terms with our history is one thing we must start with.

Nice post!

But I found the comments to be more engaging than the post itself. Some people bring up valid arguments by reading your post for what it is. But there is an alarmingly large number of people who commit a straw man fallacy, accusing you of being an apologist of the British rule and even label you anti-India.

I applaud you for maintaining your coolness and responding to all comments with civility.

I implore people to be logical and put some thought before making comments. It's fine to disagree with the author's stance, but you have to be clear about what the stance actually is!

I apologize for my comment not being related to the post, but I just had to say it all. :)


Many thanks for the comment.

I do consider this to be related (not least because I feel relieved), because the point we are all trying to make is that we need a sensible debate about India's past and its future. Indeed, we need to be reasonable and hear out one another, and not treat a dissenting point as the lack of loyalty: My experiences since writing the post had been the opposite.

Mithun C M said…
Well Said Suprio Chaudhuri! 1 odd speech can easily be identified by some one with some thing inside his Skull. History of India at 19th century is not lies in Dark side, it is enlightened and any historians will say about the real facts at that time. 90% of Indians were living under foot of Varna Arayan brahmins and Land lords & local puny rulers. Those culture had ended up by the British and unites India as a Big nation and the power of education comes to this land. Even though some ** heads believe this sort odd hoax with out any radical or parallel thinking or investigation. So One thing I want to tell you who oppose this 'Suprio Chaudhuri' Go and study Indian History, such as Arayan culture , Aryan Invasions, babarians, mughals, ans also why does Europeans were attracted to this land. etc.
Anonymous said…
Dear Supriyo,

I agree with your blog. But my comment is not on this topic. I just noticed that you seem to have a liking for the word "indeed". If you search for it, your blog and almost all your comments have it. Just a fun fact, nothing more. :)
Point taken. Indeed :)
I hear few people keep saying "English" is an international Languge. Out of 195(Thru Internet) countries hardly less than 15 countries are speaking in english. Most of the countries dont have English but still they are prosperous in all aspects including science and technology. Japan, China, sweaden, france, germany and many more coutries doesn't speak or talk in english but still they are doing good. In simple words when a child is born, for the first few years he keeps talking to his parents in their own language and once start going to school, he start in new language (english). So talking in different language and studying in differnt language putting more burden on our children. Japanese talk and study in their own language and few other countries. To understand something Japanese kids may take 10 mins but for our kids it may take 1 hrs because of reading and studying in different language. English is very young language compared to other languages like latin, greek, sanskrit, french and more over most of the english words are derived or borrowed from other languages. I am not against English but we can also prospor without English.
PS: I dont see English has done good to India. Infact due to Macaulay we went back 100 yrs and still people are suffering due to not having higher education in their own language.


We can indeed debate whether English has done more harm than good, but such a conversation, to be useful, need to take into account India's historical context at the time of these reforms. I shall argue that spread of English training was critical for introduction of Enlightenment ideas in our country, and that the prominent language of India at the time, Farsi, wouldn't have allowed us to do so as quickly and effectively as English education did. Mughal empire was set to decline and was technologically superseded by Europeans, and learning English allowed Indian scientists, researchers, social reformers to introduce new ideas. You can surely take the opposite view that we should be still burning the widows and allowed polygamy by upper caste brahmins, but if you aren't prone to such extreme positions, I hope you will agree with me.

So, the point is - surely development can happen without English education, but this was not true for the particular historical context here. Besides, I don't think it is an English versus Japanese choice: I think we should explore both and more. Essentially, being open to the world and accepting diversity are best ways to deal with the possibilities and challenges around us, and I hope we shall accept our history, open our minds and engage with the world in its own term, rather than deluding ourselves with fabricated theories and hoaxes of this nature.

Jaspreet said…
I am truly amazed at all the perspectives expressed in this blog. So, I came across Lord Macaulay's quote on Fb today and was appalled. So, in search of the truth, I landed upon this blog. Whether Macaulay wrote that blog of RSS, I think the outcome came out to be the same. We did end up believing that foreign was good, and we started to westernize ourselves. But the most amazing thing that I found from this blog is that so many of us care... one way or another, and hence the length and breadth of this blog! I am truly proud of us Indians! And thanks to all who went "breadth and length" to find the truth!
Anonymous said…
You are fucking idiot , who just want to be in London as a servant of english... you are the people who to get a bread can sell his Mother...if you do not know the truth why don't u keep ur mouth shut...do not falsify image of Bharat
Raja Shah said…
PEACE Supriyo Chaudhuri,

I too find my way here from this interesting Facebook posting.

I was quick to dismiss it as it lacks the continuum of the European legacy of moral legitimacy. All their acts, as evil as they may have been, were always legitimized to their own voting public as a moral necessity. Bring the gospel to pagans and civilization to the savage.

One will see (understand) this conversation according to their reality. Their interpretation alone gives us insight to their reality. And unfortunately I find these to be some sad realities because they lack original thought and do not deal with actual facts.

Words like power, culture, nationalism and so many more are thrown around without much thought. What is power to you? What is culture to you? What is knowledge to you? With understanding these ideas we begin to understand our selves. And without this knowledge of self how can one even begin to evaluate that which was before the British experience?

With my knowledge of self I acknowledge all others - my reality - and as such can quickly conclude this conversation with: Yes, the British were generally greedy savages that raped and looted the kingdoms that now comprise India (Britishstan).

Indeed there were many conflicted British men and women however they are inconsequential to me regardless of their intent and actions - they did not un do what their country men and women have already done. What reparations could bring a better justice? It is just inconsequential to me what the thoughts were of any one particular savage from within the British Ranks - as their thoughts are naturally skewed.

Now I find it laughable that many argue history KNOWING that history books, as we know them, are absolutely tainted and molested. They do not reflect the likes of court or corporate minutes rather rely on the unalike: propaganda creating nostalgic notions of great nations. As a point of reference read a typical American history book and you'll quickly be lost in the imagination of some delusional patriot. The accepted history is that British brought modernity to India and this is in part of their moral legitimization and is not actual fact. The concept of modernity itself suffers extreme hypocrisy. Just in as much one may ridicule a proponent of the Hindutva; one should ridicule all other isms including their own and all other religion.

Again without self exploration, one will not understand the great knowledge that India has suffered to preserved and build upon. One cannot begin to understand that the British simply destroyed the culture of the masses and enacted a different one. However much they trampled, pillaged and destroyed - the knowledge survived through great many yogis, gurus and mystics. Just as much the Greeks destroy the great kemet and established Alexandria (Egypt) - the mystery schools and systems survived.

When one comes to be with this preserved knowledge we realize that it is not until we find our unique method, become the creators within our own creation that all will be reliant upon others. When we stop relying on these ridiculous religions and isms and deal with actual facts that we can begin to build a more just reality. As such the yogis today tell us not to focus on history but to rather focus on the here and now and the results of it which will be our tomorrow. They suggest this because you are not studying history in the context of building a better future and the current method of studying history makes it irrelevant. Yogi's themselves are by nature historians however that which they share in all is relevant. It is the British conquering our culture (our lived understandings) that doesn't allow us to see the relevance and has us chasing the irrelevant. As such I suggest to find this knowledge of self and as a result we seek truth to bring the best benefit to us and as a result to all.

Anonymous said…

I came to your blog because I too was trying to find out if the quote was true. I was convinced it was not, simply because it is way too blatant and obvious. The British were far more diplomatic, subtle and clever. In fact the quote sounds almost comical, something a hindi movie villain Englishman (probably named Robert) would say.
Reading through the comments, it seems clear that so many Indians are desperate to prove how great India was and all current day troubles are the fault of the British. The truth really does not seem to matter. My knowledge of India (historically limited I admit)tells me that India was a vast, varied place and deeply divided by many languages, castes and cultures and conquered by many throughout its history. The British were able to exploit India's weaknesses, rob it blind cause a lot of harm and do some good (inadvertently, not by design). But, India was not some glorious magical ancient superpower and this damn quote is just not true. Good grief just look at the words "I have not seen one beggar or thief". Really! Not one single one? Did he never come across any Brahmins? Also this "I propose we replace her culture", "they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture". Sounds like very modern day psychobabble. As I said, Hindi movie villain Robert!
I admire you for putting up with so much abuse in the comments section in order to stand up for the truth.
Anonymous said…
To one of the recent Anon comments posted above: Despite your doubt, my motive is only to remain true to our history. I am Indian, and India does not have to be, in its past or now, a shining supermall for me to love it. For me, being respectful to different views and perspectives is Indian; the abuses you use will fit nicely into today's Britain. It may be time to wake up.

To Raja Shah: Thanks for your comments, even though I agree with them. While perspectives will matter in interpretation, in this case, the quote itself is fabricated. So little point in debating what it meant, when 'it' is entirely imagined.

And, to the others, thanks for participating in the conversation. Only by accepting the past, we can come to terms with it and then deal with it.
myriadmind said…
One of the introductory texts to a socio-cultural study of Colonialism and the white man's burden; Macaulay's Minutes have far transgressed the validity of the statements. Whether a verbatim copy of the same remains is immaterial. What really matters is the simple fact that the intention was to create the babu class, as a go between for the rulers and the ruled.
Having studied the Minutes in a premier UGC run University, and discussed at great length, the implications and the impact of it, rather than the rhetoric is what I believe is the road to be taken.

For all the people bashing Macaulay for his pomp, arrogance and brashness, the one thing you cannot disagree is the very fact that we're using the language as the means of discourse/discussion and dissent. One would do well to read Orwell and some of his contemporaries who snigger at the white man's burden. Dissent and disagreement on M's views (and to the larger extent the view of all Brits/Colonists)about the supposed superiority of the White man always existed.
What most of us perhaps do not realise, is that the very fact that we think of us as a nation and have strong nationalist views, is actually thanks to the British!
We were a cluster of fiefdoms and kingdoms, of races and regions, with no means to communicate with each other either!
M may have been parochial and extremely narrow minded, but his intentions albeit in the interest of the Raj/ Monarchy, eventually led to the identity of a nation state we call India. What he set out to achieve is inflammatory and controversial, however, the outcome of this social engineering was the first step towards accepting INDIA.

The argument against the hegemonic thrusting of English om us is only as valid as the Dravidian disagreement to Hindi as the national language!

Think about it!
Anonymous said…
before british period, indians were master of all trade viz, architecture, maths, metallurgy, astronomy, medicines, agriculture. the knowledge was transmitted through gurukul & father-to-son . this was derecognised by british mcauley system. they promoted section of people as rulers as ICS. rest of the indians fell prey to dumb education system capable of any professional skills. thus the enormous knowledge and skill of traditional Indians was lost by the sinister design of Macauley.
Hello Anonymous

I think this last comment reflect a popular but completely wrong view: The simple question we need to ask ourselves that if we were masters of everything, why was the country so easily subjugated? There is no denying the intellectual achievements of ancient India, but the civilization obviously declined and failed to maintain its lead. I shall argue that this happened because of the false sense of superiority, where India turned inwards and stopped learning from other societies. My argument here is that we are making the same mistake again: We are trying to claim false history and trying to say that we have nothing to learn from anyone. It indeed seems that we have not learned any lessons from our own history.

Since I wrote this post five years ago, I have had several conversations, both online and offline, about the merits of Macaulay and the education system he created. There is one level of argument on the fairness, and one could argue that the English system of education was unfairly imposed on India. However, remember, people in power always try to do the same: If India gets a BJP government at the centre next year, invariably they would start tinkering with the education system and impose their versions of what students should learn (and, indeed, Congress did this too). So, Macaulay arguing for an imperial system of education may or may not be fair, but it is usual.

The second argument is whether it did harm to India. Ironically, those who argue that it harmed India also claim that India is emerging as a great superpower today leaving Britain behind. Considering that at Macaulay's time, India was the subject nation and if it had moved forward from there, it has done so on the back of an English system of education, this argument is inconsistent at best, and willfully blind at worst.

Finally, let me restate what I think: First, I think this comment is fabricated. Second, I think that wouldn't have been a big deal unless so many intelligent people like you didn't try to turn a blind eye, and accept a misleading version of Indian history. Finally, and it follows from above, those who claim India's superiority seems to be the most ambivalent about it: They can not seem to love their own country without first creating a false image of it. On the other hand, I shall rather accept our history, acknowledge where we failed and move forward - and love the country regardless of whether it is poor or backward.

Anonymous said…
1) I see you people have lot of time. Lot of time. About Indian education system how it should be ideally is described well in Ram Chartira Manas ( I am trying to modify your views on Indian culture, you should read ram charitra manas once). It says free education to all without any discrimination based on family back ground. Check it. Its there. If it was not followed it's definitely mistake of people, but is it better than British, yes at least at philosophical level.
2) Your starting statement was like " see all this hindu nationalist funda" if your intention was to find out which one is true you should have asked which one is true. BTW I have heard both the versions except yours was said in a board room meeting and the Hindu version in assembly.
3) Go to Japan, Germany you will see how they are trying hard to preserve the Identity. Identity forms a nation, no identity no nation. Even Americans have tried to define a very vague and "false" identity of what is American. I can go on but really I have to make breakfast.
I don't understand why are you against creating a feeling of Hindu nationalism, we all know its good for culture and country and create a diversity in a world which is getting colored in one color?

Thanks for these comments. My responses below:

1. I indeed have time to think about the country I consider my own. I haven't read Ram Charit Manas, and I should indeed read it (Being from a different region, I read Ramayana in my regional language). However, the idea of education consistent with family or social values isn't just Indian, you will see almost every country has a variation of the same principle. Even the British education system is firmly rooted on that, though they encourage, in its modern form, development of the individual character and curiousity.

2. I state again that the above quote is fabricated: Macaulay never said this. Let's say that's the only thing I say, unless someone can prove otherwise.

3. Kindly make your breakfast :) Arguments get better when you are not hungry. India is not Germany or Japan: Indian identity not based on one language or religion. I haven't read Ram Charit Manas because it was not normal for me to do so (because I would read Ramayana in a different language). If you think numerically, everyone is a minority in India, including the Hindi-speaking Hindus who tend to think India should be run according to their identity. So, if an Indian identity is to be constructed, it has to be based on diversity and tolerance, and acceptance that different people can have different views. This is my problem with the Hindu identity of India, because there isn't one.

The contradiction in your argument is that while you believe India is exceptional, and therefore we should follow our tradition, in the end, you say because we live in 'a world which is getting colored in one color', we shouldn't speak about diversity. First, world isn't becoming monolithic, but more diverse. Second, as I said, India is nothing without its diversity. I am Indian, and I want to preserve the identity, and the only way to do so is to preserve the tolerance and diversity, which is the basis of the idea of India.


Anonymous said…
Hello Sir!
As I was checking out Macaulay's detailed info at Wikipedia,I came across a very interesting(and very NAIVE,I must say)statement by Macaulay where he says that "all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England"
Now,I am an 18 year old student, and I am still learning... but I definitely know that all the facts that were written in the Ancient Indian Texts(in Sanskrit)eventually came out to be true in the long run.The concept of Tvashta or coiled helical DNA was mentioned by learned scholars in the Vedas thousands of years ago,when England was going grunt-grunt for communication. Aryabhatta,on the basis of phenomenal observational skills and clever calculations,proposed that the Earth revolves around the Sun,which was laid forward by Nicolas Copernicus thousands of years later.
I could go on and on,but the point is.....why defend a person like Macaulay who had absolutely no knowledge about the essence of our Sacred texts and blatant disregard towards the then Indian public?
.But I have no ill-feelings towards the English.They have undoubtedly contributed towards the development of the Nation,and there are SO many things to learn from our English Brothers.But such elaborate defence on your part is uncalled for.If he didn't say it,fine.You have already clarified on that issue.But,Respected Sir,you must remember that " a man who LIVES without honour,falls without honour".
Thank You.
Anonymous said…
There is a huge population which comes to the aid of Mr. Macaulay on what he said, what he might've meant & how he might've been demonized.

A request to that population. How many have bothered to check whether what the current media publishes as 'quotes' are valid or not.

Everybody blindly believes the media when they say that Mr.ABC has said 'blah blah blah' - .

My intention is not to defend Macaulay or British Imperialism, but to promote a truthful approach to history of India. Because what's in danger is not Macaulay's legacy, but the past, and consequently the future, of India. For example, Macaulay's comment certainly portrays ignorance when he says the whole Sanskrit and Arabic literature will not compare with a single bookshelf of an Englishman's library (and I have noted how often people quoting this line forgets to mention to Arabic bit, displaying their own bias against the Arabic literature), claiming that everything was foreseen by Indian sages was also misinformed. Let us not conjure up a false history and try to go back on time: My plea is to enjoy the fruits of civilisation and progress, to be real about our history and constraints and build a country based on fairness, inclusion and participation. Hope this makes sense.


Anonymous said…
Hello Sir!
The same curious 18 year old student wants you to remove his doubts-and this time its not about Macaulay because its just a complete waste of time,to be honest with you.What he said or did not say makes no difference to me,because the reality is we had far less pros than cons due to the British Rule.
My question,Sir,is about Mahatma Gandhi.Gandhi was a pacifist,and he pleaded the crowd to resist the British in a complete non-violent manner.But why in the world did he persuade the Indian soldiers to fight the Germans as a part of the British Army??(I WON'T CALL THEM MERCENARIES THOUGH,BECAUSE IT WOULD HAVE BEEN INAPPROPRIATE).
And one more thing-the British gave up because they were a civised and educated nation.But if we would have been under the control of,lets say,The Taliban or under Hitler, would the"turn the other cheek while being slapped on the first" theory work.
Beats me.

I am trying to keep the discussion focused on Macaulay, because I think it is an interesting and important debate, so I shall try to keep my comment brief on Mahatma Gandhi.

It is good that you feel confused by his actions, of recruiting soldiers for British empire during the First World War, because history is confusing. But the confusion is not in what happened, but in our efforts to judge things with our contemporary views, measurements and contexts. Gandhi was a great man, but no fortune teller: He had no crystal balls to gaze at in 1915 and predict that he would become the leader of India's Independence movement. Like many men at that time, he was a citizen of the empire and believed in its ability to do good. Jalinwalabag massacre, which will help change that view, remained in the future.

So, my short answer - you feel lost because you are trying to judge something with what you know now. But time does not move backwards. An action at the time must be seen at the context of the time. That is the method of history, and this is why we should study it.

Anonymous said…
I have conversed both here and at home with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. .... I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.…
I feel with them, that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.
Anonymous said…
This is our Problem, we wont appreciate our culture. By the time you realize how good our Indian culture is, your children may have fallen victim to western thoughts. In your late 70z admiring the Indian culture and narrating your young old traditional Indian days is no good. Be an Indian and live as an Indian.

Does living as Indian mean fabricating quotes and disseminating untruth? When was our culture like that? Just because we have a political aim, we are trying reinvent India's history: This may not have anything to do with India's culture but old nationalistic tricks with a long history of use in Europe.

K. S. Dwivedi said…
The actual words from Macaulay in 1835:
"I accept catholic beyond the across and across of India and I accept not apparent one getting who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such abundance I accept apparent in this country, such top moral values, humans of such caliber, that I do not anticipate we would anytime beat this country, unless we breach the actual courage of this nation, which is her airy and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I adduce that we alter her old and age-old apprenticeship system, her culture, for if the Indians anticipate that all that is adopted and English is acceptable and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their built-in self-culture and they will become what we ambition them, a absolutely bedeviled nation."
Available in the archives to genuine researchers. Not for followers of the "If it cannot be Googled it did not happen" doctrine
Mr Dwivedi

Thanks - I publish it though it looks like another hoax that you want to start. I am publishing it not because I think it is true, but because this is rather pathetic.

So where is this archive? And how does some people get access to this archive that no one else can? Why do we get quotes in amateurishly modern English, why do they come without any attribution and why they cynically, but rather comically, project a view of India some of our political parties want us to believe in?

Why this farce? Does this mean that the first one was indeed a hoax, and since it has been exposed, it is time to invent a new one? I am not writing another post because my initial points remain valid - that some people are trying to steal India's history, claiming rather laughably that this history that they want to impose on us is only available to 'genuine researchers', who are indeed of the same political view.

I would be angry if I did not find it so comical and also tragic. It is time that we stop this game and learn to live with the India as it is.

Anonymous said…
Well the article and the comments were a good read (except for some chaffs lol)

What one can understand from the emotive responses are that:

1. the present Indians takes for granted the idea/concept of "India" predating British Colonization

2. And that the whole of "India" is /was hurt because of "rapes in history by external factors" more so the Britishers who are now suspected with "enforcement of " a paradigm change.

IMHO, the context of the speech or even the basis of this "hurt" needs to be measured with this basic foundation.

We cant just jump-start with an ideation, which was created in the modern history of the INDIAN SUBCONTINENT....and counter an argument with a holier-than-thou sentiment.

Was there any "INDIA" before? from ancient history? from medieval history? from pre-colonial history?

Forget about a political entity, or administrative entity - was there even a REMOTE ideation of "Bharat/India"????

If it was not , then how can a hurt be manufactured now, to bring some emotive response vis a vis "nationalism"?

Congruence of modern "Indian" history is required....but the foundations needs a more cohesive philosophy rather than a blame of the past/history, which is not amenable to correction. Rather the focus needed in what IDEA India/Bharat should be now and in the future.......for this we dont need a quoted/misqouted Macaulay's speech. Lets save the energy for true nation-building.

Thanks for this.

The idea of Bharat may have pre-dated British Empire, but it was a very different conception than the nation-state we sought to build after Independence. In fact, the idea of the 'nation-state' is quite European in origin, and the attempts that we see here, to create a 'glorious history' congruent to the modern conception, are similar to what happened in European nations, such as Germany.

And, indeed, you are right - that we need to think about India's future, but in practicality, resolving these questions about past are important building blocks for the debate about the future. For me, accepting the thousands of years of history of India, not the gory details but in a general outline, that it hosted a great civilisation but terrible caste system and age-old divisions, the fissures that eventually undermined its scientific and cultural advances, are important lessons for our future. I find it difficult that the modern nation state building attempts are grounded on emphasizing and building on the same social divisions which undermined us in the first place. That was possibly the broader point I was trying to address here: A false history, externalising the problem and blaming the outsiders while continuing to try to divide the country may not be the way to India's future.

Bharath said…
Happy to see another curious mind that decided to look up a suspiciously self-congratulating piece of photo being shared by fellow self-proud Indians.
I feel sorry that you had to put up with so much defamatory speech for posting your analysis of that piece of text and Macaulay's real quotes.
Keep up the good work.
Anonymous said…
Hi all, keeping a side whether T. B. Macaulay said above words are not, from the below you can see, read and understand following definitely:

1. He killed ancient languages like Sanskrit to save the money for British to fund English schools and colleges
“I would at once stop the printing of Arabic and Sanscrit books. I would abolish the Mudrassa and the Sanscrit College at Calcutta. Benares is the great seat of Brahminical learning; Delhi of Arabic learning. If we retain the Sanscrit College at Bonares and the Mahometan College at Delhi we do enough and much more than enough in my opinion, for the Eastern languages. If the Benares and Delhi Colleges should be retained, I would at least recommend that no stipends shall be given to any students who may hereafter repair thither, but that the people shall be left to make their own choice between the rival systems of education without being bribed by us to learn what they have no desire to know. The funds which would thus be placed at our disposal would enable us to give larger encouragement to the Hindoo College at Calcutta, and establish in the principal cities throughout the Presidencies of Fort William and Agra schools in which the English language might be well and thoroughly taught.”
2. He dared to say “We are a Board for wasting the public money, for printing books which are of less value than the paper on which they are printed was while it was blank-- for giving artificial encouragement to absurd history, absurd metaphysics, absurd physics, absurd theology-- for raising up a breed of scholars who find their scholarship an incumbrance and blemish, who live on the public while they are receiving their education, and whose education is so utterly useless to them that, when they have received it, they must either starve or live on the public all the rest of their lives.
3. He offered his resignation: “If, on the other hand, it be the opinion of the Government that the present system (supporting Arabic and Sanscrit) ought to remain unchanged, I beg that I may be permitted to retire from the chair of the Committee. I feel that I could not be of the smallest use there.”

That is how he ended public/governmental support to Sanskrit by closing colleges, not supporting with funds, stop printing books. So he is the initiator of killing Sanskrit in India. Hope this you all agree.

You can find source of this at : http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/macaulay/txt_minute_education_1835.html

Vikram Jeet said…
Mr. Supriyo you exactly fit into the class of people which Macaulay wanted to create and was indeed successful in that - indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. If Macaulay were alive today he would have been very happy to see the fruits of the tree he had planted. Let us assume that the quote in the discussion was not stated by Macaulay, but that does not change the fact that he had deep disgust about India and indians. He was only concerned about the british interest and the way of ruling this country. His intention was evident in one of his letters to his father dated October 12, 1836, Calcutta in which he said, "Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully. We find it difficult, indeed, in some places impossible, to provide instruction for all who want it. At the single town of Hoogly fourteen hundred boys are learning English. The effect of this education on the Hindoos is prodigious. No Hindoo, who has received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. Some continue to profess it as matter of policy ; but many profess themselves pure Deists, and some embrace Christianity. It is
my firm belief that, if our plans of education are followed
up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable
classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And this will be effected without any efforts to proselytise ; without the smallest interference with religious liberty ; merely by the natural operation of knowledge and reflection. I heartily rejoice in the prospect." (http://archive.org/stream/lifelettersoflor01trevuoft#page/454/mode/2up).

Again, you seem to agree that the above quote most likely to be a hoax. Macaulay had indeed no respect for Indian culture and tradition, and one can argue that this is an uneducated view, and wanted to govern India 'well', according to what he thought governing well meant (though we may not agree with this conception of governing, justifiably so).

But, also at the same time, lots of people commenting here seemed to be completely misinformed about who Macaulay was arguing against. Do you not wonder why Macaulay was having to justify what he intended to do, namely the introduction of English education at the expense of Sanskrit and Farsi? He was speaking in British Parliament, not in any Indian assembly. If the British imperial design to disempower India was so firmly set, shouldn't Macaulay just say - "as we agreed, we should stop funding Sanskrit and Farsi, and start teaching English" - rather than trying to justify what he was doing?

Once we wake up, stop indulging in hoaxes and start exploring the truth, we would discover that he was arguing against his own countrymen, so called Orientalists who discovered the rich culture of India and helped preserve it. It was not a grand imperialist conspiracy theory, but a question of judgements, positions and beliefs, that Macaulay was espousing. And, yes, he did not believe in India's great tradition. And, yes, the quote is, based on the evidence so far, is a hoax.

One final point about me not being an Indian. If being Indian means indulging in falsity, being in denial of the world, being arrogant and misinformed and disrespectful of others, and being intolerant, then I am surely not Indian. However, any one person wouldn't have any monopoly on defining what being Indian means: Anyone who love the country are equally entitled to have their definition of Indianness. And, therefore, though you display most of the above characteristics, you can not claim to have inscrutably maligned the concept of Indian identity after yourself.


Vivek Kumar said…
i do not want to blame anyone because i dont have any proofs with me...but the one thing i want from my beloved india and and the people of india that everybody should sanskrit..actually i want that india should have atleast should have sanskrit as its national language..not only in terms of official papers..but in speaking , reading and writing...jab baccho ko school mein A, b,C sikhate hain to sanskrit kyon nahe. it is discourging our own language...kaash hamare india jo ki bharat hai usme ek language ko to sahe se sab bolte aur samajhte aur baad mein saare worrld ke knowledge ko usme convert karte ya update karte rehte ....like english people had done..they have aal the knowledge of the world in their own language..isliye unhe kisi aur language ko seekhne ki koshish nahe padegi...even hamare holy texts like GEETA and VEDAS they have in their own language....we should do the same... knowning one more language is good for somebody but he or she should not forget his own language... forget ka yahan meaning yahan yah nahe hai ki sirf yaad he rakhna hai balki usme read, write aur baaki ke saare kaam bhi karne hain. dusri language jaane se yeh hota hai ki hum unke vichhar jan sake ki woh kya sochte hai aur likhte hain...but woh sab jaane ke baad use hame apni language mein to convert karna chahiye....jaise ki woh karte hain sanskrit knowledge ko english mein convert karke...thank you
Gaurang Vaishnav said…
I stumbled upon your blog while trying to find right spelling of "Macaulay". I read each comment till end of 2011 and enjoyed diverse viewpoints san personal attacks. Because of time constraints, I had to stop reading further.

While there are two sides to the coin (may be more!), and you come across as a level headed person, I was disappointed to note that without any solid proof (which you ask of others), you have blamed this spoof on RSS when you say "RSS trying to interpret what Macaulay might have meant."

We all have our biases and prejudices but considering fairly objective arguments that you have made, this was a bit disappointing.

Thanks for this comment.

First of all, I can't pin down the source of the quote to RSS, which is understandable, because the whole problem that we are discussing here is that this quote does not have any origins. But that is precisely the point about hoaxes, that they are rarely traceable, because the author of this quote will never claim the authorship.

This makes my suggestion of RSS involvement circumstantial, but not unsubstantial. Koenraad Elst, who researched the origins of this quote extensively and who I quoted in my post, finds its origins in an American magazine, though there is no way of knowing how it found its way there. However, since then, it has come up with regularity in Hindu nationalist magazines and political pronouncements, and was used to construct a thesis about India's past. LK Advani famously quoted this, and Murli Manohar Joshi's Ministry of HRD made billboards out of it. (See this article as well http://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/debunking-lord-macaulays-infamous-quote-koenraad-elst/)

This is the basis of my observation: It is a judgement by motive rather than catching the criminal red-handed. This quote, I suspect, was invented to justify a certain view of India, which I contend is false, with the purpose of justifying a certain approach to its future.

I hope this clarifies my stand.


I agree we should study our own language and culture. My grandparents were Pandits and Sanskrit scholars and I enjoyed the beauty of the language and its enormous literature, which is rather forgotten. I am trying to arrange a performance of Vaas' Pancharatram, a comedy which I enjoyed enormously (a what-if drama if the Kurukshetra war never happened), and indeed, know that people don't talk about these books anymore.

However, where I disagree with you is that this does not come at the expense of studying English and its literature. It is not an either/or thing, it should be both. In fact, I despair that Indian School Children don't learn Mandarin as commonly as they should, considering that China is our neighbour and such a dominant force in world affairs. So, it is not closing our mind but opening them: In fact, my thesis is that the British, a tiny island nation, could dominate the Indians not because they were scheming (if so, then Indians were generic fools) but because the British in that generation was open and Indians became inward-looking. I live in England today and know that the British has lost their spirit of exploration and learning (not unsurprisingly, they have stopped learning, more or less, other languages), and I believe that this is a sure recipe for decline.

So, while we agree on the greatness of India's heritage, I see India's future in openness, not in the mistake of looking inward (something we have done, and suffered from, in the past).

vnkoduri said…
Dear Supriyo,

I stumbled on your blog while searching for answers to the spoof on Macaulay, posted by a friend of mine on Face book. First of all, I congratulate you for having put up with so much stupidity and indecency for ages! You should have realized long back that you are dealing with incorrigible zealots and dogmatists, who masquerade as patriots.

Asathoma Sadga Maya, you just can't spend rest of your life pursuading those dwellers of the dungeons to come out and see the light, for your own sake , atleast.Aham Brahmasmi.Am I misquoting here?

Coming to the topic on hands, it is clearly a hoax, a spoof and a fraud. Macaulay was sent there to put a lid on this rotting cauldron of Medium of Instruction in 1834/35 and he did the right thing.
Indians were learning in Sanskrit and Parsi since time immemorial and the British were the first to pay them for their education which started in 1803 by some Minto , an outspoken orientalist and also a hardcore imperialist. The entire system was going nowhere after thirty years!Macaulay consulted the leading social reformers and elite of Indian society before he formed his opinion and presented it in the parliament. He might be ignorant about the true worth of Indian Heritage , as was almost everyone at that time of history, that is around 1850s – no knowledge of Harappa or Vedas and Upanishads or Ancient Indian History. Nobody knew much about India, period.

Why everybody in India was paying to learn English while the British government had to pay for the education of Sanskrit and Arabic students? Why did people welcome it, after all, if such measure was so detrimental to indian culture and ethos?

I read about this controversy over Macaulay umpteen times over a decade and I sincerely admire the guy for being more than a pretty politician that we encounter in politics everywhere nowadays. He was a visionary and a colonist, combined in one.

When I read the posts of some of those chest thumping megalomaniacs, who claim India was the centre of the universe, except that somebody or something stole its true importance in history , I feel sick. They just seem to sabotage the very foundations on which this great culture is built - diversity, tolerance,kindness and so on. Why don't they understand that we were not the best in every period of history. Nobody can beat our Upanishads as of now, nor can we beat their computers, medicine etc. (Please,don't even try to say these were all there in Vedas or in Puranas. If these were actually invented in the past by Indians, the British would be learning Sanskrit now. )

I congratulate you again for your patience , a trait which is losing its ground here in India very fast.Everybody is furious and ignorant, chauvinism at its worst in modern times. The best are slowly but surely going out of the country or nudged out. What is left here is the hapless rubble at the bottom and the rowdy that runs the ramshackle system called mobocracy. And they would rather propagate falsehood than profess the truth. All we can say to these gullible folk who blame it all on Macaulay , is ‘Go, tell it to birds’.
All the best.

Narayana Koduri

Thanks for your kind comments. Since my loyalties regularly get questioned, kind words like yours light up my day. Thank you.

Perhaps there are two reasons I keep publishing and answering the unkind comments. First, because I hope that they would serve as a FAQ, so that I don't abused for the same thing twice. So far, that did not happen - people keep coming back to the same thing. Second, eventually, I started hoping that this fact, that people keep coming back to the same thing, basically saying 'we don't want to know the truth', will convince others that there is really something wrong with this attitude. I hope that is happening.

There is one final reason why I do it. I love India too, just like the others abusing me. However, I would love it the way it is - imperfect, poor, confusing, unjust. I see no problems in that. I just believe that if I love the country and accept its imperfections, I have some chance of being useful and help change things.

I agree with you that the quality of public discussions in India is abysmal. So is many other countries: We are succumbing to PR tactics and shouting techniques; style and social media muscle is beating truth and integrity hands down. This is indeed the context to engage more, not less, and hope that may be, may be, a few conversations will be started, a few things will change and few connections will form.

Rajiv Hudek said…
I see a lot of unnecessary anger and debate simply because proof was given that Macaulay didn't in fact make these statements, much less to parliament. It is common knowledge that Macaulay was in Calcutta during 1835. He could never have addressed parliament in England and much less with these words. This quote seems to be VERY freely adapted to fit someone's personal agenda. For further proof of this comment being a fraud, simply read "Macaulay's Nation" by Catherine Hall. It is a scholarly resource. If you can't find that, then find a credible Encyclopedia (not open-source i.e. Wikipedia which can be very inaccurate and downright wrong) and look up Macaulay. It will clearly show where he was throughout what years of his life and what his true feelings were about India. It's not classified information.

Wow! I'm Indian and I'm not offended that this quote isn't true. I don't need the validation of some British Official from the 19th century to be proud of my country. Nor do I needlessly need to uplift my country when it does have problems that most people in India just simply just to ignore or blame on this situation or that person or anyone but themselves for not taking action.

Many thanks for this - I have just got Catherine Hall's Macaulay and Sons, following your suggestion, and looking forward to read it.

My point in this post and elsewhere is not to try to justify imperial education policy, but just to enquire about historical truth and to encourage a public debate based on truth and understanding. Thanks for contributing to that conversation.

upasana said…
its so curious.. we are taking offence at something that was said/not said by Macaulay so many years back and yet we trash our country, each other.. day in day out.. and that doesn't seem to bother us..
the systems, followed before India was colonized or while it was under British rule..they are of historical importance.. even if we get all our facts right we will need major restructuring to apply anything to present day India.

And guys, change begins with oneself.. first teach it to yourself.

(before shredding someone's reputation, just try to understand the intent and content of what is being said)
Anonymous said…
Only idiots would believe the so called Macaulay quote. Indian society was screwed up the day casteism was introduced. Cunning Brahmins are at it again. No wonder Indians were invaded again and again and are good only as slaves. Nothing great has come out of Indian civilization after Manu. That is the reality.
I don't agree that nothing good came out of Indian civilisation. However, I believe that India needs to address the constraints of casteism, which has done untold harm.
Girish Hegde said…
I am very sorry to say that you have not studied India properly.You are the perfect product of Macaulay syatem of Education , No doubt.

Please study Swami Vivekananda and other great people of India, You will realize what India was & is capable of.
Dear Girish

Thanks for dropping by and leaving this comment.

I obviously do not agree to what you say. I refuse to believe that Indians are only capable of falsifying history to project a past that wasn't.

I would also disagree that I am product of Macaulay's system of education. That system of education was intended to create a class of Indians ready to help the British to rule the country, by accepting whatever is written in English, unquestioningly. As you would see, I am doing precisely the opposite: Questioning the authenticity of a quote written in English and circulated through World Wide Web.

I would believe we are looking at an irony here: I am, in clarifying Macaulay, defying his intentions. Others, in accepting the quote, is surrendering to the kind of thinking the British ruling class at the time wanted the Indians to do. If we must bring Swami Vivekananda in this discussion, I would believe he would belong more to the tradition I am following, questioning the facts, but loving India regardless whether it is rich or poor, than the other, trying to create a false history, encouraging us-and-them mentality and replacing reason with rhetoric.

I hope you will understand.

Anonymous said…
Hi there. I stumbled across this Lord Macaulay quote a few weeks ago on facebook and I immediately suspected it was a fabrication because of this assertion:

"...I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief..."

This is it pretty much. No literary criticism is required - as far as I am concerned - to ascertain the status of this quote.

I can't believe that someone who traveled "accross the length and breadth" of India 'missed' out all the thousands of beggars, poverty etc.

In addition to this, when a proper reference is totally missing, it should ring an alarm bell in one's mind.

Thanks for your excellent essay.
Gupta said…
The author seems to be following the typical Marxist way of peddling lies cloaked in intellectual whitewash as the truth. His praise or western education gives away his inherent bias for things Indian. He wants to keep his nationalist image secure so that he is not identified with the class enemies on first look. And then the master stroke, that it is an RSS manufactured lie. What's the authority that makes him say so than his own inherent prejudice to trace any attack on the "secular west" to the RSS. Ad to quote his authority on the quote, koenraad elst - the man is also one of the key contributors to the theory that the ayodhya temple was replaced forcibly by Muslim invaders with a mosque. Now would the author agree or beg to disagree conveniently
Mr Gupta

Did Macaulay made that statement? Is this Marxist to ask? Or the rant only indicate that it was indeed a lie, and everyone questioning the elaborate scheme to mislead would have to be painted as the 'other'? You are not the first one to invoke everything else other than the central question, and I am sure this is how political discussions in India will be conducted in the next few months: If one talks about something inconvenient, paint him as the other and avoid the question itself. My hope, however, is that this will not fool people who still want to know the truth.

Dear Supriyo,

This post has been on my reading list for years mainly because I am researching the effect of abolishing Sanskrit on the decline of knowledge of Ayurveda on the subcontinent. I use the quotation in my Ayurveda classes, when students ask me why Ayurveda is not better known to Indians.
The paltry knowledge of Indians toward 'our' native science of Ayurveda, especially in Calcutta, is something I want to change: it is my lifework, my dharma.
I have a Tamil/Malayali? version of the quotation you are exploring in this string, and I would like to share it, but cannot add images. If you can write to me at bhaswatimd@gmail.com, I can send it to you.

Om and Prem,

Thanks for writing. Strange as it may sound in the context of this post, 'pre-modern' education in India is also one of my key interest areas, so it would be great to know about your work.

This post on Macaulay, and my subsequent stance on this, was less about any value judgement on Macaulay's effect on Indian Education, and more about the veracity of this quote. The more I studied Macaulay's life, I know that this quote is manufactured, because Macaulay's description of India is full of observations about wretched natives and their misdeeds.

Besides, I have now traced back the quote to a 1970s American magazine published by RSS sympathisers, and understand the motivation, however crude, behind this quote. The fact that this stance contradicts RSS' own version of decline of India under Islamic rule does not seem to matter.

Finally, I must clarify my approach to knowledge. Like you, I believe Sanskrit should be more widely studied. In fact, I believe that the Indian school students must have a better sense of the various regional cultures of India than they have now, too. However, such knowledge must not come with the rejection of any other knowledge. As Tagore would have said - if there is a lamp lit anywhere in the world, we must be able to see that light. This must not come at the cost of neglecting our own culture, but our own culture must not teach us to be blind, to be inward looking and to reject progress.


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