Oriental Seminary, Calcutta, 1829

OrientalSeminayXtr
গৌরমোহন আঢ্যের ওরিয়েন্টাল সেমিনারি, কলকাতা, ১৮২৯

In 1813 the renewal of Company Charter brought about a change that affected both language and culture of Indian people. Knowledge of English became the key to professional services, and business careers. The Hindu College (1816) introduced instructions attuned to the viewpoints of the Orientalists and the Anglicisers both. The Calcutta School Book Society (1817) and the Calcutta School Society (1818) came into existence chiefly to promote education beyond the government initiatives. The Government supported Sanskrit College (1824) taught English and western science, besides classical literature. The Oriental Seminary, the first private English school in India was founded in 1829 by an extraordinary man, Gourmohun Addy. This school was different on many counts. See Jones.

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Lantern. Seminary Archives

This was the oldest, the largest, and the most respectable independent native school in Bengal. “Though Oriental Seminary was in no degree dependent on Government support, or that of any public society, or distinguished individual, it has never been unnoticed or uncommended by those whose approbation was an honor”. [See Manmathanath Ghosh: Forgotten citizens of Calcutta, 2013] The British dignitaries like Sir Edward Ryan, Sir Henry Seton, Sir Lawrence Peel, Lord Auckland, Lord Jocelyn, Mr. Bethune, graced school events with their royal presence, and admiration. Their patronage provided moral support to the institution from the beginning.
Oriental Seminary, primarily a Hindu-supported school, was open to all castes. It was first housed at Benshohata, changed locations thereafter thrice before moving into its own building on Chitpore Road. The building, now a heritage structure, was constructed by Martin Burn, and inaugurated by the then Governor, Lord Carmichael in 1914. Later three branches of the institution were set up in Chitpur, Bhowanipur and Belghoria.

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Globe. Seminary Archives

The founder of the Seminary, Gourmohun was a self-taught man of strong natural abilities. He soon acquired a sufficient knowledge of English literature and Science to enable him to direct the studies of the school, and see that his several teachers did their duties in effectual manner. He took full share of teaching also. Though a strict disciplinarian, and having to do with the boys whose attendance is dependent on their own will, he commanded the respect of all, and was beloved by many.  See Cal Rev, 1850
Good spoken and written English skills being his prerogative, Gourmohan did not hesitate to invite reputed British teachers like the eminent Shakespearean scholar Captain D.L. Richardson and others. Richardson also taught English in the school later. He appointed Eurasians for the junior classes and Bengali teachers in the intermediate classes, and for the upper classes he appointed highly qualified Englishmen or Bengalis. When the student rolls exceeded 200, Gourmohun took a Mr. Turnbull into partnership. After the death of his colleague Gourmohun conducted the school himself. He was rather fortunate in enlisting Hermann Geoffroy, a frustrated barrister, as Headmaster. Geoffroy was a Frenchman of great learning and master of several languages. During his tenure the school rose to great importance.
On the death of Gourmohun on Feb 23rd 1845, his brother, Hurrakisto Addy, took over the charge of the Seminary and worked most devotedly for betterment. He regulated all the details of the school, and took part in teaching as well. There were 913 pupils on the rolls. Most of those in the upper school required to pay monthly fees of 3 to 4 rupees, and 8 annas in Pathsala. The overall school expenses were on so large a scale that the income was not more than equal to the outlay. With its shoestring budget the Seminary managed to achieve enduring reputation for its high teaching standard and was considered most justly as “the one next in excellence to the Hindu College”. See Oriental Seminary. Annual Report, 1854
In the history of English education in Bengal, the position of Oriental Seminary remains stand out ever for its brand of tutoring design responsive to the emergent needs of the contemporary Hindu society. Oriental Seminary came in at a critical juncture when “many Hindoo parents, while apprehending the usefulness of English education, showed reluctance in sending their boys to English schools.” They felt insecured having seen the way the Derozians of the Hindoo School recklessly disregard Hindu values and customs, and how Dr. Alexander Duff and other Christian missionaries were insidiously shaking the faith of Hindoo boys in the name of imparting high English education. [See Manmathanath]. At this time of uncertainty and turmoil the Oriental Seminary of Gourmohun appeared with an alternative environment and reassured the Hindu parents of the best English education in his school. The school “had for its object the instillation into the young mind of wholesome principle of morality and the formation of a strong groundwork for useful knowledge, amiable manners and social virtues. In fine it aimed at making sensible men and worthy citizens.” [See Hindoo Patriot 16 Mar1854] A few examples of the illustrious personalities it produced are: Akshay Kumar Datta, Sambhunath Pandit, Kailash Chandra Bose, Grish Chandra Ghose, Krishnadas Pal, Girish Chandra Ghosh, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, Gooroodas Banerjee, and many others.
Oriental Seminary still exists. Long back its creator Gourmohun passed away untimely in 1845 leaving no portrait behind for us to commemorate the great man as “a pioneer of English education in Bengal … [who] deserves to be ranked with those of Hare and Duff”. See Madge & Dhur

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Munshis, or Native Language Scholars, Calcutta, Company Era

Munshi RiceandCurry
মুন্সি তথা দেশীয় ভাষাবিদ শিক্ষক, কলকাতা, কোম্পানি আমল
The role of British orientalists is to bring to light documents and information that would have been kept secret and lost in the dark cells of Indian priests, were it not for their unremitting dedication. This official and impersonal discourse demonstrates the intellectual superiority and effective domination of British scholars over Indian scholars. Their talents were used in researching, compiling and translating materials, but their labour as well as intellectual abilities were not considered worth noticing. It was the British approach and treatment of this new source of knowledge, their curiosity and wisdom, which were ultimately praised. Indian scholars were not legally admitted into the circle of British orientalism until mid-nineteenth century. The procedures of the Asiatic Society founded in Calcutta in 1784 clearly states that Indians cannot be taken in as full members of the Society although their contributions to the annual publication of the Asiatic Researches are welcomed.
As Edward Said said orientalism as a science was bound to collude with colonialism or to take in the history of European domination over the East. There is indeed clear evidence that, until the 1830s, the British believed that the colonization of India could not be sustained without a deep understanding of Indian society. Warren Hastings, governor general of India from 1773 to 1785, confirms that this collusion between native informants and native scholars is the best option the British have to maintain a firm grip on the newly conquered provinces. “Every instance which brings their real character home to observation will impress us with a more generous sense of feeling for their natural rights, and teach us to estimate them by the measure of our own. But such instances can only be obtained in their writings: and these will survive when the British dominion in India shall have long ceased to exist” See. Hastings gained this view through his personal interactions with native scholars and teachers; one of them was Nabokrishna Deb whom he employed as Persian tutor in 1750. European Gentleman in India learning Arabic
Lord Wellesley founded Fort Williams College on 10 July 1800 to train the Civil Servants locally. The idea was to teach the British rookies understand the Oriental culture, tradition, law and administration to better coordinate in the governance. The period was of immense historical importance for bringing about Bengal renaissance. In 1815, Ram Mohan Roy settled in Calcutta, establishment of The Calcutta Madrassa in 1781, the Asiatic Society in 1784, and the Fort William College in 1800, completed the first phase of Kolkata’s emergence as an intellectual centre. Fort William College aimed at training British officials in Indian languages and in the process it fostered the development of Asian languages dominated: Arabic, Hindustani, Persian, Sanskrit, Bengali; and later Marathi and even Chinese were added. Some of the eminent scholars who contributed towards development of Indian languages and literature are: William Carey (1761–1834); Matthew Lumsden (1777 – 1835); John Borthwick Gilchrist (June 1759 – 1841); Mrityunjay Vidyalankar (1762?–1819); Tarini Charan Mitra (1772–1837); Lallulal (also spelt as Lallo Lal), the father of Hindi Khariboli prose; Ramram Basu (1757–1813) ; Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820–91) ; Madan Mohan Tarkalankar (1817–58)[ Picture at left -> A European Gentleman with his Moonshee, or Native Professor of Languages, plate 1 from ‘The European in India’, published 1813 (hand-coloured aquatint) – a hand-coloured aquatint, painted by Charles D’Oyly (1781-1845) in c1813.]
Because they needed to conduct business in Indian languages, British soldiers and administrators labored to acquire local vernaculars. Indian scholars were a key figure in the construction of British knowledge of the Orient, although their participation was not systematically acknowledged.- See. British orientalists would normally refer to moonshee when talking about their Persian language teachers and to brahman or pundit, when referring to their Hindu interlocutors. A brahman is a member of the highest or priestly caste among the Hindus”, and a munshi is a secretary; a language teacher”. Although there has always been distinction between Persian and Hindu cultures, it is not noticeable in context of language teaching. The title Munshi denotes the family’s role in teaching native languages such as Urdu, Hindi, Persian and Bengali or as secretaries to the Europeans. There is a place called Munshibari estate established in the 1700s was held by a landed, Anglo-Indian family of Munshis in Chandpur now in Bangladesh.  This may suggest possible intermarriages with the British as an outcome of a cordial relationship developed between them and their Munshis.
The lithograph “Our Moonshee,” displayed here at the top, is from one of the 40 plates by George Francklin Atkinson depicted with dry humor life in a “typical” English “station” in the second half second half of the 19th century during his stay in India.