Bharat ki Chhap - Episode 10: Colonialism & the Industrial Revolution
Director: Chandita Mukherjee; Cinematographer: Ranjan Palit
Duration: 00:54:08; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 283.489; Saturation: 0.050; Lightness: 0.390; Volume: 0.283; Cuts per Minute: 6.742; Words per Minute: 83.877
Summary: This episode discusses the reign of British in India and its effects. It compares the dying crafts traditions of steel-making near Hyderabad with low-cost high production models of Industrial Revolution. From reformists like Radha Ram Mohan Roy to scientists like Mahendralala Sircar a new class of educated Indians took the lead in reform and stressed education. By the end of the 19th century, political awareness was sweeping the country and a new spirit of nationalism emerging.
Bharat ki Chhap: EPISODE 10
Colonialism and the Industrialization Revolution (1800-1900 A.D.)
1. This episode 10 is about Industrial Revolution in Europe and also about the colonization of India. Since two centuries, from the late 1600 there have been ‘visitors’ to India like the British, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese sailing all over the world and coming to India. All these nations wanted to build worldwide empires. By the end of the 18th century and early 19th century it was clear that either England or France would triumph and here too we see those battles played out.
Nissim: For more than two centuries, trading ships - British, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch – had been sailing all over the world. Trade was linking the world together. Now these nations sought to build worldwide empires. And, by the end of the 18th century, it was clear that either England would triumph or France.
Maitreyi: Initially, these seemed to be trading companies voyaging only for profit. But it was not that simple. In India the ruling class had become weak and these traders took full advantage of this. And in 1757 – thousands of miles from Europe, in a corner of India, in Plassey - were laid the foundations of the British empire.
2. Battle of Plassey: A seemingly insignificant event in 1757, thousands of miles away from Europe takes place in a tiny corner of north Bengal, the Battle of Plassey. This laid foundations for the British Empire.
We travelled to Plassey to shoot this stuff. At the end of the battle, the Britist put up a cenotaph saying we won. This symbolic act actually comes from Egypt because they put up these needles and markers as triumph symbols. The Europeans just discovered this and were using things from the Greco-Roman-Egyptian world. The British were successful and started collecting money from the people who now were their subjects.
After Battle of Plassey the British became the diwans of Orissa, Bengal and Bihar and this gave the right to print coins because they took over the Mughal mint at Murshidabad
The mint at Murshidabad now started printing coins in the name of Mughal Empire but it was the East India Company brought these out. This can be seen distinctly in the coinage.
Nissim: We come across events in history which must have seemed quite ordinary then but which later proved significant. Fights for seats of power were common enough, but the battle at Plassey was a special incident. Observers then may have thought that this battle
was between Siraj-ud-daulah and his minister, Mir Jafar. But today everyone knows that the real battle was between Siraj's French allies
and Mir Jafar's British friends. The British won
This memorial commemorating the British victory still stands in the battlefield of Plassey. Over time, the pink indicating British holdings
spread across the map of India. This pink became the symbol of India's servitude. Now Murshidabad, Agra, Machilipatnam were decline, along with their industries. And unknown fishing hamlets – Bombay, Madras, Calcutta were to become the country's main cities. And the last Mughal emperor was to be denied even burial space in Delhi.
Hazaarduari Palace, Murshidabad, West Bengal
Such was the success of the British, that eight years after the Battle of Plassey, Mughal emperor Shah Alam had to hand over to them the diwani
of Orissa, Bengal and Bihar. These now came under the East India Company. The British now collected all the taxes -
not in the form of wheat or paddy but in coins of gold and silver. Thus gold and silver for trade had no longer to be brought from England. Now gold began to flow from India to England.
3. Loot of India:
The gold that the British collected as taxes and all the wealth collected as lagaan is the loot of India. This was converted into gold and that gold was carried in ships to England and this gold and silver began to flow from India to England, instead of the traffic going the other way. This period was really about that reverse of bullion flow. That gold which reached England also helped finance the Industrial Revolution. Meanwhile and because of the drain of wealth from India, there is a decline of crafts in India and cities like Murshidabad, Surat and others.
Murshidabad, West Bengal
This gold helped to finance the Industrial Revolution in England. Our cities began to decline. Take Murshidabad - this city of Siraj-ud-daulah was once the capital of Bengal and a major trading centre for silks, ivory and gemstones.
After the Battle of Plassey when this prosperous province came under the East India Company, the policy of the Company did not encourage local production. Mills in England turned out thousands of yards of cloth which needed a market. This cloth was cheap, but not as fine as Indian-made cloth. So British industrialists got their government to pass laws to enable the East India Co. to sell their cloth in India. And Indian cloth was made prohibitively expensive in England's markets.
4. Archival Footage of BKC
BKC was shot on celluloid film. The entire footage, including multiple takes and outtakes and footage not used, is lying in a cold storage in Byculla. I pay a lakh (1,00,000-1,25,000) a year to keep it in cold storage. Nobody is interested in it. The initial people who funded the film would not be interested. I have tried at various times to raise the money to rescan and digitize them.
There is a finite life to the negative. It’s already sitting there for 25 years. I don’t know what condition it is in, because I don’t have the money to open it up and to repair it if its broken. All the footage is shot in 16 mm – and there are 600-700 cans lying out there. It would be valuable footage of India in the late 80s in the period between 86 and 89 with a lot of live stuff on the streets and especially concerning science and technology. it’s a beautiful archive.
Murshidabad, West Bengal
Apart from the textile industry, many other traditional industries were gradually destroyed. In 1815, the population of Murshidabad was 165,000. Fifty years later it was less than 25,000. Many other industrial towns were to become victims of economic decline.
The heyday of rajas and nawabs was over - how could they buy as much as before from craftsmen? And the people who who
could invest money saw greater profit in the Company's trade. When all avenues of earning began to close, where did the craftsmen go?
It is believed that many people shifted to agriculture. But this increased pressure on the land would have created new problems. There was less and less scope for technical skills, as there was less demand for finished goods and more for raw materials.
5. Damascus Steel:
This kind of steel, which has black and white zigzag patterns on them, is often called Damascus steel in the west. The zigzag patterns are called damascene work and so its associated with Damascus.
Wootz is made into steel. The Europeans probably Germans named this metal wootz. The Kannada and Telegu speaking lohars (metal craftspersons) used to call it ukku which is perhaps what the Europeans made into wootz. In the process of making weapons from this material, they would heat the iron or wootz at a fixed temperature, then they would beat it and sandwich charcoal powder in it and then cool it. Repeatedly they would drag it through fine charcoal powder and cool it. This is what would give the wavy black lines on the surface, and would later be called damascene work. The closer these lines were or more uniform the patter, the better the steel. It would slash and bend and be flexible and recover its shape immediately. These swords were treated by people as personalities in themselves – the sword would be imbued with wonderful qualities and magical powers, and the hero would do all kinds of deeds with it.
Ukku or wootz was also imported from india. This wonderful Indian steel was wanted by European surgeons, barbers because it took an edge well and didn’t wear out easily, and even if it wore out it could be sharpened again. But this tradition of a world famous trade was just smashed and destroyed.
6. Several institutions that we visit in the BKC series are treasure houses of stuff. Like the Saraswati Mahal Library in Tanjore or the Khudha Bhashk Oriental Public Library in Patna. Or the library in Bareilly.
The nature of these series meant that in each episode we tried to show where we went and got these materials from. Unfortunately you can’t make stories about libraries and individuals with wonderful collections, all of which were given generously by institutions. We have done several scenes in and about Saraswati Mahal Library, the Rampur Raza Library in Rampur, the Lucknow Residency Museum, the Maharaja Sawai Jaisingh museum in Jaipur, Victoria Memorial Museum in Calcutta which were repositories of a lot of material we were able to use. We wished we had the money to go to England and go the India Office library, Victoria and Albert Museum but that wasn’t possible.
We should have attributed several of our other sources and private collections – the Mittals in Hyderabad for instance. Mittal was a boxwala working in the magagement of some company, but he and his wife put all their energy in collecting stuff that Hyderabad nobility was just dumping on kabadiwallas. And they have most wonderful steel, damascene knives and swords, shields, textiles and other things.
Another mad museum, which has everything from total junk to wonderful stuff, is the Salar Jung museum, which is a mad maniacal collection, with stuff that has been crated in 1922 and still not opened. The catalogue is so huge
It was an age of transformations. Industries famed worldwide for centuries were now to die out. Take the legendary steel of India -
the blades of which were believed never to lose their edge.
I was told by researchers that the steel industry was concentrated in Mysore, Salem and Indur – today's Nizamabad.
Char Minar, Hyderabad
The search for this steel brought me to Hyderabad, where I found some wonderful examples.
Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad
When I saw those weapons I realised why they were considered unique. Their special feature was their sharp and very durable edge. Worldwide, these swords were known as Damascus swords even though the metal was made here – often, the swords too. The Europeans named this metal 'wootz'. Kannada and Telugu-speaking blacksmiths called it ukku
. To make weapons from ukku
it was repeatedly heated at a fixed temperature, beaten repeatedly and then cooled. In this process, wootz was transformed into steel. It acquired a characteristic structure visible as wavy lines on its surface. The closer and more uniform these lines
the better the quality of the steel.
The tradition no longer survives. But Mughal and European records described it. In his Ain-e-Akbari
Mughal historian Abul Fazl refers to steel made in Nirmal and Indur. The fort of Indalvai stood here, and was a centre for the manufacture and sale of steel weapons. To understand why this industry flourished here I met a geologist, Dr. S R Sharma.
Ranjan: Where are the iron ore deposits in Nizamabad?
Dr. Sharma: There are two types of deposits in this area. One is laterite, found in the Deccan trap - indicated here in brown. The other – haematite and magnetite - is found in the granite areas, shown in pink.
There, beyond the hill, some 50 km away, we find remains of an iron smelting industry which used magnetite ore. And 80km away in this direction, iron was extracted from laterite ore. Both kind of iron were used here to make steel. In Konasamudram village, in the midst of houses and fields, is this rubble heap. It contains pieces of thousands of crucibles, remains of furnaces and iron slag. Such heaps are found. In many places in Nizamabad district.
The number of crucibles and furnaces reveal the size and extent of the local steel industry. In the Dutch East India Co records, an entry notes the departure of a ship from Machilipatnam with 20,000 steel ingots bound for Persia. Such a huge industry needed other, ancillary industries. The furnaces and crucibles required special refractory materials. Charcoal was made for the furnaces. Then the iron, fuel, refractories and steel had to be transported over distances. When we speak of industries in India, it is cottage industries that come to mind. But this was different. Steel and its related industries were operating on a major scale here, even before the Industrial Revolution. Around 1820, British geologist Woysey wrote that the furnaces were huge - five feet deep - and could hold many crucibles.
These crucibles were filled with cast iron and bits of vitreous slag. Then began the 24 hour long process of smelting.
Charcoal had to be added to the furnace repeatedly. Air was pumped in through four large bellows made of buffalo hide. Finally, the crucibles were removed and slowly cooled. And then the wootz ingots were heated again and again and beaten to shape the desired weapons.
Wootz was the stage between raw material and end product, but the process of making it was the most complex. Here the crucible's structure and composition were of utmost importance.
This is the lid of the crucible. These marks on it show that the hot crucible was removed from the furnace with the help of tongs. A small portion of the crucible wall is still attached to this lid. And this is an example of the base. The crucible was broken to remove the cast ingot of wootz. Obviously the crucible could be used only once.
Dr. Jhumur Lahiri has been analysing the crucibles with the help of photo-micrography. Let's first look at the design of the crucible. It's made to withstand very high temperatures. This is part of a used crucible. The shiny glaze on the inside was formed in the heat of the furnace. So was the outer glaze. The inside glaze protected the crucible from the melted iron and slag. The outer glaze kept furnace gases from entering the crucible. The melted iron collected at the bottom and formed a wootz ingot when it cooled. The slag remained on top.
Ranjan: Much must have depended on how the crucible was made.
Dr. Lahiri: Yes. Burnt rice husk and oil were mixed with clayey soil.
Ranjan: Clayey soil makes sense - it's what potters use. But why the rice husk?
Dr. Lahiri: Let me show you some slides. This cross-section of the crucible shows how porous it is. This greatly increases its insulation capacity. And the porosity is because of the rice husk. Also, the husk prevents cracks from forming in the crucible. It's like the use of grass and hay in earthen huts. This husk contains a fair amount of silica, which raises the crucible's ability to withstand heat. The charred husk-seen in brown-introduces carbon into the sides of the crucible. This reduces the possibility of the crucible reacting with the slag.
Ranjan: What was merely waste matter for those craftsmen, has become a record for us. The crucible shows how well they knew the properties of different substances.
The age of shield and sword passed. The Telengana steel industry also came to an end. Why couldn't the local craftsmen find new methods? They story of Murshidabad repeated itself. There was no finance to back steel any more.
Maitreyi: In England the Industrial Revolution was under way. Craftsmen were coming up with many inventions, with the full support of the capitalists. The Industrial Revolution was an age of iron and steel. Machines, ships, bridges, trains and railway tracks, huge stations,
immense building and factories - how could these have been built without iron and steel?
Nissim: Our high quality steel was no longer in demand. The demand was only for large-scale production at low costs. Yes, strength was a requirement. Using the Telengana steel-making technique, it might have taken years to make an iron engine! Only the Bessemer converter and open-hearth process could produce on that scale. And it's these steam engines that symbolise the Industrial Revolution.
7. Steam Engines
the development of steam engine is crucial to understanding the industrial revolution. Exhibits in the kolkatta birla technological museum (sic) where it is shown in sequence – photographing them was not a picnic and they wouldn’t open the showcases so we had to shoto them as they were in the glass cages, shot with glass reflecting and shadows falling. Anyway we tried to do the best we could.
Birla Industrial and Technological Museum, Kolkata
The use of steam power was not something new. In 150BC an Alexandrian inventor, Hero, made this toy which used steam power. Water was heated over a flame here. The steam went into the round container and came out of these opposed pipes, making the container turn. But the potential of steam power was to be recognised and harnessed only centuries later. The 17th century offers many examples - such as Porta's apparatus, in which steam power pumps up water. And this flour mill made by Bronca. Here, a Persian wheel-type gear system uses steam rather than bullocks. The end of the 17th century saw more advanced models. In Denis Papin's engine of 1690 the use of a piston helped to lift weights with a pulley.
In 1702 came Thomas Savery's “Miners' Friend” - used to pump water out of coal mines. 37 years later, the merchant Newcomen made the atmospheric steam engine. Some 50 years later a tool maker at Glasgow University – James Watt - made technical improvements on Newcomen's pump. Now the steam engine became less cumbersome and also consumed less fuel. But merely using steam for engines and pumps doesn't create an Industrial Revolution. There had to be changes in other areas as well. When we watch a craftsman at work, we see that his movements are mainly of two kinds - back and forth or up and down, and circular.
8. We have a sequence on the Industrial Revolution showing how it happened step by step. The Industrial Revolution was powered by all kinds of people, especially ordinary people.
Lots of capital and human investment was put into large-scale industrialization and it was a societal transformation as well in England. Farmers and craftsman went out of work and had to become part of the factory system and the artisan who used to work for himself had to become a labourer. Capitalism grew. Workers started unifying and forming unions. This led to a radicalization of people and questioning of circumstances in which they were working in these factories and in these overcrowded tenement housing and slums in the cities. In 1858 there is a great upheaval through out Europe and people began to demand their rights. Rather than the idea that science and technology brought about huge social progress, we began to think science and tech had intensified human exploitation. Much of the labour and finances for this industrialization came from colonized places like India – this is the age of contradictions which would have an impact on India as well.
Couldn't machines make these movements? They certainly could, and very much faster.
Now it took one man a single day to weave as much cloth as it had taken 300 men to weave, some 50 years earlier. Steam power and machines together made the Industrial Revolution. Human productivity was changed forever. While books are full of stories about machines that now performed human tasks, few people know that many inventors were common folk and not great scientists. Arkwright, who invented the spinning frame, was a barber. His collaborator John Kay was a watchmaker. And Cartwright, who made the first loom, was a clergyman.
National Rail Museum, New Delhi
People from every class took part in this revolution. Anyone who came up with a new technique found a host people ready to invest capital. This is why British industry made such rapid progress, deeply transforming that society. This had two main aspects. One was the factory system in which the artisan now worked as labourer. The other was capitalism.
The Industrial Revolution brought with it not just progress, but also hardship for the working people. There, too, farmers and artisans paid the price for change. From their villages they came to work in these towns where conditions were cramped and unhealthy. And, away from air and light, they had to work 16 to 18 hours a day. Wages were so paltry that the entire family to labour - even four and five-year olds. Slowly workers began to organize themselves.
In 1848 the cities of Europe witnessed an upheaval. Everywhere, people began to fight for their rights. Rather than social progress
science had intensified human exploitation. And much of the industrial finance came from subjugated countries like India. Thus it was an age full of contradictions. All this was to have its impact here as well.
9. Calcutta was then the capital of British India – it looks at institutions set up by the British to study and understand this strange country with all its many aspects and how to convert resources here for economic gain for British. William Jones founded Asiatic society and the motto was to acquire knowledge of all things in Asia, manmade and natural. They made big libraries. They worked on Indian languages, archaeological remains, traditional and classical art, everything they came across. The people doing these studies were gentlemen in the colonial employment – they more or less put together their impressions, they didn’t have much methodology or framework for how they worked. Ultimately the question was whether this would lead for economic gain for Britain but apart from that some were genuine linguists and epigraphers, or others who were genuinely interested also. Not all were agents of colonialism. And now these are resources for us and we use them also in BKC.
There were also surveys – geological anthropological survey of India. All of them did work that is racist or questionable in other ways, but do form a resource now.
There were museums being set up and these museums carried away stuff from where it was in-situ and brought them to capitals to Kolkata and Delhi and so on. Some stuff was taken to capital of England, in London. In the last few decades there has been a call for return of what has been taken to the museums of the ex-colonizers. Even the Greeks have asked the Elgin marbles (Parthenon Marbles –classical Greek sculptures) to be returned.
Home of many institutions started in British times. The Asiatic Society, established in 1784, was the main centre for European intellectuals. The Society held discussions on many topics - scientific and cultural. In the words of its founder, William Jones: “We shall acquire knowledge of all things in Asia, man-made and natural!”
After 1833, the official Surveys took forward the work of the Society on a large-scale, practical level - e.g. the Geological Survey, further down Chowringhee.
Indian Museum, Kolkata
In 1866, the Society set up the famous Indian Museum in Calcutta. Here, various Surveys had their own galleries in which examples of natural resources from all over India were displayed. Why were those people so interested in all this? Was it a mere pastime? Or were the motives similar to what brought the East India Co. here? In the 19th century, British industry was seeking natural resources to provide raw materials for their mills, and for sale in world markets. The result - a collection of 15,00 plant varieties in the gallery of Calcutta's Botanical Survey.
Centuries ago, ayurveda
too had acquired much knowledge of plants and herbs. But this tradition had almost died out. The British had commercial reasons for this classification. For this task they needed science and scientists. The top scientists in these institutions were all British. But much of the day-to-day work was done by Indians who were exposed to science while working under the British. What they learnt was a fair amount of applied science.
10. Raw Materials: Along with the anthropological surveys and making museums and societies, the classification of raw material was done on a huge scale for the first time. This was not done for any noble purpose but for figuring out what could be turned into wealth. As a result of these surveys that went into remote areas, a lot of discoveries were made in places that had been totally forgotten by the wider Indian society.
Like the Harappa cities were discovered when railway track was being built, and they needed ballasts for the tracks to stop shaking when trains passed on it. Typically stones are quarried and stone gravel is used on the tracks. Since the place in Sind was all flat land and dry desert, they decided to go to some nearby ancient mound of ruins out here. Lets take the bricks from there and they started using these on the railway tracks. Then some Englishman said it looks ancient. And that’s how Alexander Cunningham was brought here and they discovered the Harappa civilization that people in India had forgotten about long ago. There was no public memory of it.
The place discovered fast is called Moen-Jo-Daro, or the hill of the dead, where daro is the mound, mouen- dead.
11. Anthropological survey: The anthropological survey would be considered fake science later on. What the British did was to measure people’s noses and cheekbones, and foreheads, and decided they were less or more intelligent based on their own prejudices. Those with raised noses like aquiline features were smarter than those with flat cheekbones and broad features. All that kind of thing went on. They kept measuring the skull to determine the size of the brain inside, and then they would make pronouncements about inherent intelligence of those with larger skulls and longer foreheads.
The British also did some good work of restoration. The Ajanta caves. The Taj Mahal was a ruin with jumbles and bushes growing around it. Though it was a durgah there and an urs mela was held there and people knew its history. But the British did some things like take care of the garden which was overrun.
The classification and documentation of raw materials was done on such a large scale for the first time. The Surveys went into forests, mountains, began archaeological explorations, studied tribal people. They went to places that were not known till then. As a result the Ajanta caves, the forgotten Harappan settlements etc. were brought to our knowledge. These journeys, discoveries, new information helped us to know our resources and our history better.
Those working on the Surveys served British interests, but many were good scientists too - such as George Watt who founded this museum. The displays in this gallery reveal which crops the British encouraged. Take cotton, for example. They tried to get farmers to grow superior varieties of cotton, and fibres like jute, silk and hemp which were used in industries. They started plantations for growing tea, coffee and indigo.
In this way, much was done. But what did it mean for us? Our farmers were linked to world markets yet their technology did not change. New varieties of crops were being developed but the burden of taxes remained the same. Farmers did earn a few rupees more, but to what extent did their standard of living change? Lately historians have been concerned with such questions.
12. All these kinds of developments, these surveys and so on, they also resulted in some changes, like new varieties of cotton and jute were introduced for packaging etc. silk and hemp was cultivated in larger quantities. Tea, coffee, indigo were introduced. Income of farmers expanded a bit, but the burden of taxes remained. The standard of living or quality of life probably did not change much. And it led intensification of exploitation of farmers.
Crafts were also gone, including people who made equipment for crafts too lost out. People began to realize that things were not right and they were paying a very big price and they didn’t have any Indian leadership. Suddenly in 1857 all this sort of disenchantment and annoyance and anger coalesced into one movement. One morning in May this revolt broke out, employees in East India Company who were hired as soldiers, and ordinary farmers and crafts people got together in a revolt.
People of all classes had begun to realise how big a price they were having to pay for Plassey. With more people dependent on farming, land was in short supply. Also, the British had raised taxes and demanded cash payments. And, as forests were taken over, the tribals began to lose their rights. The British policy of usurping seats of power had upset rulers too. The result of all this was the war of 1857.
One morning in1857
on the eleventh day of May
Rebel soldiers of the East India Company
Set out from Meerut for Delhi
Dawn was breaking as they reached
the banks of the Yamuna
Some citizens of Delhi were awake, some lost in sleep
that fateful morning
Some were asleep
But guards at the Red Fort espied the rebels
and barred them from entering
Though barred from entering the Red Fort
the rebels were not deterred
Some citizens of Delhi joined hands with them
And from the rear
of the fort they found a way at last
At last they found a way
They desired an audience with Bahadur Shah
to urge him to lead their cause
Although he lived on the mercy of the British
The rebels proclaimed him Emperor
The rebels seized all city gates
The gunpowder magazine
Government offices were seized and looted
and vengeance wreaked upon the British
They killed all who came in their way
At Kashmiri Gate, in St. James' Church,
the memory of some names survives to this day
So with the cry of freedom exploded the ferment of '57
And continued to gather strength
It needed just a few sparks
for the fire to spread through every lane
Those asleep were jolted awake
The clash of swords and din of cannon filled the air
'Hindu' or 'Muslim' there was none
All were one in this struggle
and a new community was born
The voices of farmers and artisans
also spoke in unison
But yet they were disorganised
No leader came to the fore
Nawabs and rajas realised
that foreign means were superior
Soon a new jewel adorned Victoria's crown
None could oppose her might
But the conflagration spread
and others continues the fight
There came many Mangal Pandeys and Laxmibais
13. There is a story of chappatis that were cooked and went from village to village as a signal that it is time to revolt. All these are legends. We know within a month that the revolt spread. These rebels were very bold and brave, they burnt down the courts and treasuries of the British. They broke open jails and released prisoners. The British side of the story is well documented and what the Indians did is not very well known. The revolt was not across the country. In both northern and eastern side Punjab and Bengal and southern side people were not involved. It was largely the Hindi speaking areas that took part in this.
What planning went into the war of '57 and how it was organised, we do not know. There are legends like the one about chapatis
being sent as signals.
Within a month, the revolt spread through North India. Everywhere, the rebels burned down courts, looted treasuries, freed prisoners. The rebellion was at its peak in Lucknow. Here, at the British Residency, many Britishers took refuge. Many hid in this basement, mostly women and children. The rebels beseiged the area for months. They had the support of the people of Lucknow - possibly because a year earlier the British had desposed Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and usurped Awadh.
The revolt was not countrywide. Nothing much happened in Punjab and Bengal. South India was uninvolved. Significantly, people from every caste and community took part - princes, soldiers, craftsmen. Unfortunately, this first was of Independence did not throw up any capable leader. Everywhere, the rebels sought leadership from the nawabs and landlords. Sunk in decadence, they offered outdated ideas.
And yet, by this time a new consciousness had begun to grow. It was from this that the new leadership was to emerge. This consciousness came with the new education.
Maitreyi: At first there was much debate on whether to stress western science and literature or encourage traditional learning. The decision favoured modern education. And should the medium of instruction be English or the Indian languages? It was finally decided that it should be English. A few chosen centres of higher learning were set up in the hope that, through their students, education would percolate down to the general populace.
Nissim: But the govt probably cared little for the mass education. It simply needed a clerk or babu
class for its expanding administration. It was expensive to get this workforce from England. Also, it was hoped that Indians, thus, would become loyal and future revolt could be avoided.
Maitreyi: As Macaulay said, such people would form a bridge between the govt and its many subjects. Despite their “Indian blood” they would be “British in intellect”.
Nissim: But did this plan succeed totally? After all, the medium of education was English - the language in which Paine and Jefferson hailed freedom, and in which Newton and Darwin wrote. Indians, too, began printing papers and pamphlets to speak of democracy, equality and nationalism, and to defy colonialism.
14. Whatever 1857 was, a new kind of consciousness was rising and a new kind of leadership emerged that put a lot more and they put a lot of emphasis on education, including people like Rajaramohan Roy
15. Reformers: What marked all these reformers in the 19th century was interest in rationalism, rational thinking and humanism and going beyond caste and traditional barriers. They identified orthodoxy as the thing that held Indians back. They were suspicious of feudal rulers though they made strategic alliances with them. There were people like Jotiba Phule in Maharashtra for women’s liberation and education. Vireshalingam in Andhra Pradesh, Kumarashan in Kerala, and so on. And they were very influenced by French revolution, American war of independence. It was becoming apparent to them that science and technology could form the basis for human prosperity and well being.
Radhanagar, Hooghly Dist., West Bengal
In this village of Radhanagar, near Calcutta, Ram Mohan Roy was born in 1772. Bengal was famine-stricken during his childhood. Lakhs died, but the British still demanded taxes.
The farmer's discontent grew. There were uprisings against the British and the landlords. These rebellions were brutally put down
but names like Bhawani Pathak and Raghunath were not forgotten. During all this, Ram Mohan was educated. He read Sanskrit texts as well as works in Persian and Arabic.
Being from a rich landlord family he had the opportunity to study. He must have been an unusual student. He studied the Hindu, Muslim and Christian texts and learned French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and other languages. Thus he absorbed new Western ideas along with ancient thought.
Residence of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Kolkata, West Bengal
On growing up, he came to live in Calcutta. He started many newspapers. Educated people joined him, to help foster awareness. Their demands were that taxes be reduced, the East India Company's monopoly on trade be ended, the heavy taxes on Indian goods be abolished, Indians be given equal rights to justice and racial discrimination cease, so as to give Indians equal access to education and work.
He firmly believed that a modern India had to be based on science and reason. And so, science education was necessary. He helped start many schools, colleges and libraries. Here, too in his Calcutta house - now a police office – he started a school. He stressed useful science such as mathematics, chemistry, astronomy and anatomy. Ram Mohan Roy was in the vanguard of those who tried to introduce western ideas here. This was not to imitate the west, but to realise a new India where there would be no backwardness or discrimination, men and women would be equal.
16. Railways: The coming of the railways is a paradox. We can see the craft centers are dying and old cities are collapsing. The railway tracks are being laid over the country, hinterlands to the ports especially. But the railways did not develop the interior of the country, nor did they did not bring new opportunity. They were drainage points, for trees, logs of woods, bales of cotton, to be taken to the ports to be taken to Europe. So Calcutta, Madras, Bombay are all developed and that’s where the railway trains go to reach raw materials to Europe. The cantonments also had to be linked up because after 1857 the British got serious about their security.
For making the railways everything came from the abroad. Those who dealt in theory were apart from those working with their hands once again. Building of railway network did not develop science and technology in India.
17. At this point in time, to run the railway network, irrigation canals, bridges, telegraph, roads etc. to maintain and expand these systems the British required some Indians with education and training. Some engineering colleges were opened for Indians that focused on civil engineering. These were started in Rourkee, Pune, madras, and the Bengal Engineering College, all begun by Public Works Department (PWD). These colleges would give licenses, not degrees. Contrary to colonial expectations, the people who got training in engineering colleges did not merely fulfill a purpose for the government. They developed a deep interest in science, and though their education was limited they helped disseminate it, even set up science popularization clubs and societies. The British thought that they would avoid this by giving only licenses to practice as engineers and not degrees, but the students did something with the knowledge they got anyway.
Rationalism and humanism. These aspects were stressed by many social reformers besides Ram Mohan Roy - Jyotiba Phule in Maharashtra, Vireshalingam in Andhra, Kumaranashan in Kerala. Ideas of equality had played a major role in the French and American Revolutions. And it was now becoming apparent in Europe how science and technology could form the basis of human progress.
National Rail Museum, New Delhi
Barely 30 years after the first train ran in Britain, India's first train ran between Bombay and Thane in 1853. Within 7 years, over 1300 kilometres of tracks had been laid.
By 1900 we had 25,000 km of tracks. By 1910, Indian railways formed the fourth largest network in the world.
Amrita: It seems so strange that at the same time that old craft centres were dying and the country was in great difficulties, rail tracks were being rapidly laid - suggesting great progress.
Ranjan: That's just it! The railways, did not develop the country's interior. They were laid to serve the interests of the rulers. Long trunk lines linked remote interiors only to the major ports so that our raw materials could go out and finished British goods come in. And, yes, the cantonments were linked up for the movement of their troops.
Amrita: So railways were yet another technology used for empire building. Isn't that so?
Ranjan: Well, track-laying did employ thousands. Also, as irrigation and road building works expanded, trained Indians were increasingly needed. The British started civil engg and survey courses. All this was for their own gain but for India it was
the start of technical education.
Amrita: That may be so, but mechanical engineering was taught. Nor were we allowed to build our own engines. Listen to this – between 1865 and 1941, some 12,000 engines were imported while only 700 were built here. These manufacturers' plates are an indication. Why weren't locomotive workshops set up?
Ranjan: In fact, this was the policy the followed in all industries. All machinery came from abroad. Nothing was made here. It's the same, age-old problem - for centuries, those who dealt in theory remained apart from those working with their hands.
We paid the price for this separation. Only a meeting of the two could have created an Industrial Revolution. This happened, but elsewhere.
When Indians asked for modern science, the British were hardly ready to make us a gift of their knowledge! We sound like we're discussing today's news! Isn't this as important as any news report?
Besides railways, British rule also needed the telegraph, canals, roads, bridges etc. For these to function, Indians had to be given some education and training. Engineering colleges, which stressed only civil engineering, were started.
Roorkee in 1848, Pune in '54, Madras in '55 and in '56 the Bengal Engineering College, begun by the Public Works Dept. However, these colleges awarded licences, rather than degrees in such matters, official policy is often one thing - the outcome quite another. Many British employees of the East India Co had a personal interest in science. They emphasised modern education, and helped disseminate science.
18. At the time of making BKC not much was done on science in colonial period but since then in the last two decades a lot of work has been done. New discoveries and stories have surfaced. For instance, Dr. Mahendra Lal Sircar who went to Calcutta Medical College said that we want a public institution of science – where there will be lectures on science subjects, illustrative experiments performed by the lecturers and the audience should be invited and taught to perform experiments themselves. We wish that this institution be entirely under native management and control. From these big and rebellious thoughts, he and his friends set up the Indian association for the Cultivation of Science. He got support and patronage from big landlords, the only ones remaining with independent wealth.
In the early 1800s, the government had not discouraged Western education. But after '57, this attitude changed. It was explicitly declared that Indians were, as yet, incapable of absorbing modern science and ideas. Of course there was a reason for this view -
a new, educated class emerging, and some people were using their newly acquired knowledge to question the policies of the British government.
I was thinking about those students who went to places like Roorkee and Grant Medical College. How many of them saw more in science than a job? Did they think of its role in shaping India's future? How many had a dream that perhaps one day modern technology could help free us from poverty? How many thought of taking science to the people? I thought of all this when I was in Calcutta recently.
For I learnt about a person who gave serious thought to these problems - Mahendralal Sircar, who went to Calcutta Medical College. He really began his work in 1869. In the Calcutta Journal of Medicine
he wrote: “We want an institution which shall be for the instruction of the masses, where lectures on scientific subjects will be systematically delivered. Not only should illustrative experiments be performed by the lecturers, but the audience should be invited and taught to perform them themselves. And we wish that the Institution be entirely under native management and control”
19. Indian National Congress was formed in 1885 in Bombay and the ideals of the INC were similar to those of Dr. Mahendra Lal and his friends in the the Indian association for the Cultivation of Science. They both promoted nationalism, democracy and universal education.
The People’s Science Movement in India comes from Marxist ideology, and consequently the need for revolution and changing the social order. The Indian association for the Cultivation of Science is not so radical. They were just talking about realizing your potential as a nation, becoming self reliant, cutting yourself from the British economy, for reasons of social justice and especially the poor.
These are no longer independent societies; the Indian association for the Cultivation of Science is now a government body, a research and grants-making institute.
Nissim: Who, however, could finance such an institution? Rajas, landlords, big merchants. But when Sircar went to them with his project for the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, he got more assurances than money. The rich must barely have comprehended his aims. Education for the masses? Why? Of what use are experiments? Why learn to them oneself? Mahendralal was talking of self-reliance and of a scientific culture. His aim was that students here have the opportunity to do research, science be used for the good of society, applications useful for production be found.
Amrita: The centre was set up at last -smaller than planned but independent.
Maitreyi: His faith in self-reliance was not unique. By the end of the century, political awareness was sweeping the country and a new spirit of nationalism emerging. In 1885, the Indian National Congress was born. The ideals of the Congress matched Mahendralal's. Both upheld nationalism and democracy.
Amrita: Congress members like SN Banerjee were with him.
Maitreyi: Yes. And later, the bond between scientists and freedom fighters grew even stronger.
Nissim: A new generation of scientists came forward. Several had worked at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science Prafulla Chandra Ray, Jagdish Chandra Bose, Ashutosh Mukherjee, and later, CV Raman and Meghnad Saha.