Tuesday, 6 January 2015

How Munshi Nawal Kishore overtook Mr Macaulay

Each year the well known Dalit writer thinker Chandra Bhan Prasad celebrates 19th Century British educationist Lord Macaulay’s birthday by lighting a lamp before a statue of English Devi dressed in a western gown . According to him, vernacular education for Dalits is no longer relevant. The Dalits can come up in the world and hold their own against the upper castes only if they too are armed with English. Another thinker, Zareer Masani writer of ‘Macaulay, Pioneer of India’s Modernisation’, similarly believes that vernacular education in India is totally irrelevant and educating the young Indians in the English medium about English language and western science as Macaulay had advised the 19th Century British rulers of India, is a far better and logical option . Neither will, however, deny that in India today  the users of vernacular still vastly outnumber those who have a functional knowledge of English. 
The Indian vernaculars , in particular Urdu and Hindi, rose as popular languages for mass communication after Charles Wood’s 1854 Education Dispatch stood Macaulay’s famous (1839)  tract, "Minute on Education", on its head . This then became the basis for The New Education Policy and was eagerly implemented by Lord Dalhousie . Unlike Macaulay's push for English and English sciences, the new doctrine mandated that all available government funding for education be utilized to encourage use of vernaculars in officially promoting liberal and secular learning in Indian schools.

Enter Munshi Naval Kishore, a young twenty something publisher trained in Lahore, the then biggest centre for India’s nascent publishing industry. He arrived in  Lucknow in 1858, the year after the Mutiny, carrying a few litho stones and a hand press made in India and a vast ambition. Backed by the trade winds emanating from the New Education policy, within a year he managed to establish a flourishing printing business publishing text books in standardized Urdu and Hindi for school children in north India. As business grew he also printed some of India’s first books in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Sanskrit, Hindi, Brij Bhasha, and Awadhi from his humble printing press in Agha Mir Ki Deorhi, (known as Awadh Akhbar Press) . Pleased with the young market savvy Munshi’s  shrewdness and capacity for hard work, the then Commissioner and superintendent of the Lucknow Division, Col S A Abbott allocated a number of government printing contracts to him and also helped him import all needed equipment and machinery from Calcutta. The young publisher immediately began feeding the basics requirements of the new dispensation. Among the first best sellers his Press brought out for the government, was an Urdu handbook on conversion tables, and lists of Desi ,’weights and measures, for use of petty tax and revenue officials and landlords of rural Awadh . As the British government woke up to the potential of native languages in communicating good governance, Munshi ji received another major contract for printing 30,000 copies of an Urdu translation of the Penal code, Tazirat e Hind, at a very reasonable price of Rs 3 per copy . This became compulsory reading for lawyers and law enforcers alike.
Within a decade of setting up shop, the Munshi was advised by an Islamic scholar in Barabanki, to consider what was till then another largely unmet public need . To print native religious tracts in the vernaculars to be used by devout families everywhere. Religion proved to be yet another gold mine and never mind what faith the publisher was . Hindus, Muslims, newly converted Christians, they all needed prayer books and holy texts . So in 1868 Munshi Naval Kishore became the first publisher in the world to issue a finely printed copy of the holy Quran priced one and a half rupees . The low price of all subsequent religious publications made well edited and neatly bound copies affordable for the humblest citizen. The Munshi now embarked on a mass production of Hindu religious books in not only in Sanskrit but also in Hindi and various dialects like Brij Bhasha and Awadhi. Nawal Kishor’s printing press became a landmark in Lucknow. And a decade later Bhartendu Harishchandra, scion of a rich family of Benares and also a pioneering Hindi writer, listed The Nawal Kishore Press (along with Aminabad, Hazratgunj and Nawab Mashkur Ud Daula’s photographer’s shop) as among the must see places in Lucknow . With inexpensive and easily accessed books from NKP , the Rama Charit Manas of Tulsidas, various Bhajan books in Hindi and prayer books in Sanskrit, copies of read aloud religious tracts and poems like the Gita and Sukh Sagar became an inelienable part of most Hindu families’ cache of books. Women not only had easy access to these but the ability to read these was cited as a major qualification for a bride to be. ‘Hamari Kanya Ramayan Gita Padh leti Hai’ girls’ parents said with pride. Print culture hereafter shaped the public sphere even as it was shaped by it . Hindi and Urdu tracts were now deemed crucial to the spread of reformist ideas among both Hindus and Muslims.
Interestingly, even though Hindi had not been accorded the status of an official language (with the exception of the present day Uttarakhand and central India), Hindi in the Nagari script was used for all text books for primary level students all across north India’s government run schools . Soon the Nawal Kishor Press was also publishing 55,000 copies of Hindi text books for schools in the north. This was to have important socio political repercussions. The prominence and patronage to Urdu by the government began to shape a pro Hindi lobby headed by several north Indian princes like Raja Shiv Prasad of Benaras and Raja Laxman Prasad of Kalakankar. In 1872 Hindi too was granted official status in the Central Provinces. Hindi and Urdu till then were much closer and differed largely only in the scripts they employed but a new self consciousness entered the area whereby language began increasingly to be seen as a mark of one’s sectoral identity.
With the Hindu and Muslim political elite choosing religion as a symbol of their social identity, Urdu got identified as a Muslim language and Hindi as a Hindu one. Christopher King, who has written copiously on the Hindi Urdu clashes, observes shrewdly how ‘…The British educational system fostered a Hindi speaking elite, served as an agent of social mobilization..’. However, ‘..the British administrative system, by recognizing only the Urdu and the Persian (Urdu) script for official purposes, supported a group perceived chiefly as Muslim though including many Hindus- opposed to the interests of the Hindi advocates..’
 The publishing market including Munshi Nawal Kishore’s press, remained largely aloof from all this . It published in both languages defying the new cultural compartmentalization looking only for the footsize of a particular demand. In 1876 after the Hindi( Nagari) script arrived in the populous Bihar, given the demographics of northern India, by the third decade of the Twentieth century, Hindi readers had far outnumbered the Urdu readers and so the dynamics of the market place took over . The much bigger investments by publishers from Lahore to Patna in the years that followed, were propelled simply by this fact .



At 8 February 2015 at 10:27 , Blogger navin paneru said...

this is very important for me as learner


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