Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Vernaculars of India.

Number of
languages spoken.
Malayo-Polynesian Family—
 Malay Group (7831)   2
Mon-Khmer Family (427,760)   4
Tibeto-Chinese Family—
 Tibeto-Burman Sub-family (9,560,454)  79
 Siamese-Chinese Sub-family (1,724,085)   9
Dravidian Family (56,514,524)  14
Munda Family (3,179,275)  10
Indo-European Family, Aryan Sub-family—
 Iranian Branch (1,377,023)   3
 Indo-Aryan Branch (219,780,650)  22
Semitic Family (42,881)   1
Hamitic Family (5530)   1
Unclassed Languages   2
 Andamanese (1882)
 Gipsy Languages (344,143)
 Others (125)
  Total Vernaculars of India 147

The only representatives of the Malayo-Polynesian group in India are the Selungs of the Mergui Archipelago and the Nicobarese. The Mon-Khmer family, which is most numerous in Indo-China, is here represented by the Talaings of southern Burma and the Khasis of Assam. Of the Tibeto-Chinese family, the Tibeto-Burman subfamily, as its name implies, is spoken from Tibet to Burma; while the Siamese-Chinese subfamily is represented by the Karens and Shans of Burma. The Munda or Kolarian family, which is now distinguished from the Dravidian, is almost confined to Chota Nagpur, its best-known tribe being the Santals. The Dravidian family includes the four literary languages of the south, as well as many dialects spoken by hill tribes in central India, and also the isolated Brahui in Baluchistan. Of the Indo-European family, the Iranian branch inhabits Persia, Afghanistan and Baluchistan; while the Indo-Aryan branch is spoken by the great mass of the people of northern India. The only Semitic language is Arabic, found at Aden, where also the Hamitic Somali was returned. Gipsy dialects are used by the nomadic tribes of India, while Andamanese has not been connected by philologists with any recognized family of speech.

All the chief languages of India are described under their separate names.

Education.—The existing system of education in India is mainly dependent upon the government, being directly organized by the state, at least in its higher departments, assisted throughout by grants-in-aid and under careful inspection. But at no period of its history has India been an altogether unenlightened country. The origin of the Deva-Nagari alphabet is lost in antiquity, though that is generally admitted not to be of indigenous invention. Inscriptions on stone and copper, the palm-leaf records of the temples, and in later days the widespread manufacture of paper, all alike indicate, not only the general knowledge, but also the common use, of the art of writing. From the earliest times the caste of Brahmans has preserved, by oral tradition as well as in MSS., a literature unrivalled alike in its antiquity and in the intellectual subtlety of its contents. The Mahommedan invaders introduced the profession of the historian, which reached a high degree of excellence, even as compared with contemporary Europe. Through all changes of government vernacular instruction in its simplest form has always been given, at least to the children of respectable classes, in every large village. On the one hand, the tols or seminaries for teaching Sanskrit philosophy at Benares and Nadiya recall the schools of Athens and Alexandria; on the other, the importance attached to instruction in accounts reminds us of the picture which Horace has left of a Roman education. Even at the present day knowledge of reading and writing is, owing to the teaching of Buddhist monks, as widely diffused throughout Burma as it is in some countries of Europe. English efforts to stimulate education have ever been most successful when based upon the existing indigenous institutions.

During the early days of the East India Company’s rule the promotion of education was not recognized as a duty of government. The enlightened mind of Warren Hastings did indeed anticipate his age by founding the Calcutta madrasa for Mahommedan teaching, and by affording steady patronage alike to Hindu pundits and European students. But Wellesley’s schemes of imperial dominion did not extend beyond the establishment of a college for English officials. Of the Calcutta colleges, that of Sanskrit was founded in 1824, when Lord Amherst was governor-general, the medical college by Lord William Bentinck in 1835, the Hooghly madrasa by a wealthy native gentleman in 1836. The Sanskrit college at Benares had been established in 1791, the Agra college in 1823. Meanwhile the missionaries made the field of vernacular education their own. Discouraged by the official authorities, and ever liable to banishment or deportation, they not only devoted themselves with courage to their special work of evangelization, but were also the first to study the vernacular dialects spoken by the common people. Just as two centuries earlier the Jesuits at Madura, in the extreme south, composed works in Tamil, which are still acknowledged as classical by native authors, so did the Baptist mission at Serampur, near Calcutta, first raise Bengali to the rank of a literary dialect. The interest of the missionaries in education, which has never ceased to the present day, though now comparatively overshadowed by government activity, had two distinct aspects. They studied the vernacular, in order to reach the people by their preaching and to translate the Bible; and they taught English, as the channel of non-sectarian learning.

At last the government awoke to its own responsibility in the matter of education, after the long and acrimonious controversy between the advocates of English and vernacular teaching had worn itself out. The present system dates from 1854, being based upon a comprehensive despatch sent out by Sir C. Wood (afterwards Lord Halifax) in that year. At that time the three universities were founded at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay; English-teaching schools were established in every district; the benefit of grants-in-aid was extended to the lower vernacular institutions and to girls’ schools; and public instruction was erected into a department of the administration in every province, under a director, with a staff of inspectors. In some respects this scheme may have been in advance of the time; but it supplied a definite outline, which has gradually been filled up with each succeeding year of progress. A network of schools has now been spread over the country, graduated from the indigenous village institutions up to the highest colleges. All alike receive some measure of pecuniary support, which is justified by the guarantee of regular inspection; and a series of scholarships at once stimulates efficiency and opens a path to the university for children of the poor.

During Lord Curzon’s term of office the whole system of education in India was examined, reported upon and improved. The five universities of Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Allahabad and Lahore, which were formerly merely examining bodies, had their senates reformed by the introduction of experts; while hostels or boarding-houses for the college students were founded, so as to approach more nearly to the English ideal of residential institutions. The schools for secondary education were found to be fairly prosperous, owing to the increasing demand for English education; but more teachers and more inspectors were provided. In the primary schools, however, which provide vernacular teaching for the masses, there were only 4½ million pupils to the 300 millions of India. In 1901 three out of every four country villages had no school, only 3,000,000 boys, or less than one-fifth of the total number of school-going age, were in receipt of primary education, and only one girl for every ten of the male sex, or 2½% of the female population of school-going age. In order to remedy these defects primary education was made a first charge upon provincial revenues, and a permanent annual grant of £213,000 was made from the central government, with the result that thousands of new primary schools have since been opened. The technical schools may be divided into two classes, technical colleges and schools and industrial schools. The former include colleges of engineering and agriculture, veterinary colleges, schools of art and similar institutions. Several of these, such as the Rurki and Sibpur engineering colleges, the college of science at Poona, the Victoria Jubilee Institute at Bombay and some of the schools of art, have shown excellent results. The agricultural colleges have been less successful. The industrial schools were largely engaged in