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Dharampal (19 February 1922 – 24 October 2006) was an Indian Gandhian thinker. He authored The Beautiful Tree (1983), Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century (1971) and Civil Disobedience and Indian Tradition (1971), among other seminal works, which have led to a radical reappraisal of conventional views of the cultural, scientific and technological achievements of Indian society at the eve of the British conquest.


  • There is a sense of widespread neglect and decay in the field of indigenous education within a few decades after the onset of British rule. (...) The conclusion that the decay noticed in the early 19th century and more so in subsequent decades originated with European supremacy in India, therefore, seems inescapable. The 1769-70 famine in Bengal (when, according to British record, one-third of the population actually perished), may be taken as a mere forerunner of what was to come. (...) During the latter part of the 19th century, impressions of decay, decline and deprivation began to agitate the mind of the Indian people. Such impressions no doubt resulted from concrete personal, parental and social experience of what had gone before. They were, perhaps, somewhat exaggerated at times. By 1900, it had become general Indian belief that the country had been decimated by British rule in all possible ways; that not only had it become impoverished, but it had been degraded to the furthest possible extent; that the people of India had been cheated of most of what they had; that their customs and manners were ridiculed, and that the infrastructure of their society mostly eroded. One of the statements which thus came up was that the ignorance and illiteracy in India was caused by British rule; and, conversely, that at the beginning of British political dominance, India had had extensive education, learning and literacy. By 1930, much had been written on this point in the same manner as had been written on the deliberate destruction of Indian crafts and industry, and the impoverishment of the Indian countryside.
    • Dharmapal: The Beautiful Tree, Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century. (1983)
  • The ordinary people who proved the backbone of the freedom struggle, were shunted back to their ploughs and fields, to their tools and workshops, and we exhorted them to work harder, and assured them that we could take care of India.
    • The Statesman March 24, 2000, under the headline, “Project That Has Lost Its Purpose”, regarding the outcry over the recall of the Towards Freedom Project.

About Dharampal[edit]

  • Not that an isolated occasion of saying the truth automatically leads to the disappearance of falsehood. Dharampal's famous book The Beautiful Tree completely demolished the myth that the Brahmins kept all the education for their own caste, and that Shudras were kept in darkness and illiteracy. Yet, the myth is still repeated... It is not enough to unearth the truth, it also has to be broadcast, and nobody should get away with pretending it isn't there.
    • Koenraad Elst, Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991)
  • Dharampal, the noted Gandhian, used British data during the colonial period to show that in the ninetheenth century, the shudras comprised a larger student body than any other community did. ... Besides the large number of schools at that time, there were also approximately a hundred institutions of higher learning in each district of Bengal and Bihar. Unfortunately, these numbers rapidly dwindled all across India during the nineteenth century under British rule. The British also noted that Sanskrit books were being widely used to teach grammar, lexicology, mathematics, medical science, logic, law and philosophy. ....Furthermore, in the early British period in India, British officials noted that education for the masses was more advanced and widespread in India than it was in England. ....According to Dharampal, the British later replaced this Sanskrit-based system with their own English-based one, the goal being to produce low-level clerks for the British administration.
  • Shri Dharampal has documented from old British archives, particularly those in Madras, that the indigenous system of education compared more than favourably with the system obtaining in England at about the same time. The Indian system was admittedly in a state of decay when it was surveyed by the British Collectors in Bengal, Bombay and Madras. Yet, as the data brought up by them proved conclusively, the Indian system was better than the English in terms of (1) the number of schools and colleges proportionately to the population, (2) the number of students attending these institutions, (3) the duration of time spent in school by the students, (4) the quality of teachers, (5) the diligence as well as intelligence of the students, (6) the financial support needed to see the students through school and college, (7) the high percentage of lower class (Sudra and other castes) students attending these schools as compared to the upper class (Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaisya) students, and (8) in terms of subjects taught.
    • Goel, S. R. (2015). Hindu society under siege. (Ch. 3. The Residue of Christianism)
  • I first read about Gandhi’s views on education when I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Dharampal’s The Beautiful Tree, some 10 years ago... I bought the book, and read it from cover to cover on the flight back to England... I was truly astounded when I discovered this, from reading Dharampal and following up the original sources in the India Office Room of the British Library. Why wasn’t this extraordinary fact more widely known?
    • James Tooley, RTE and Budget Private Schools: What would Gandhi think? Viewpoint 13.

External links[edit]

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