Sunday, 14 June 2015

THE GREAT PHILANTHROPIST IN BENGAL


Born in a village in Scotland in the year 1775, David Hare was brought up as a watch-maker and in the year 1800, at the age of twenty-five, he come down to Kolkata. Watch making was undoubtly his business, but he was never engrossed in it. The study of the native society of Kolkata to which Hare had free access, was his main pre-occupation. He found a great friend Rammohan Roy, was intimately associated with his circle and his famous “Atmiya Sabha”, founded in 1815. From the progressive movements lunched under the leadership of Rammohan Roy- against the hoary superstitions, the monstrous super idolatry, the most inhuman custom of the sati (suttee) rite and in favors of the dissemination of the Western system of scientific education- David Hare drew his inspirations and discovered the mission of his life. In the crucial circumstances, watch maker David Hare was molded into an ardent educationist and a veteran Social reformer. His interest shifted from the intricate mechanism of watch to far more intricate mechanism of society, from the study of the mechanical “Time” to the study of the dynamics of humanity.

British rulers were not in the least concerned with the social and educational problems of India in the first phase of their imperialist adventures. The East India Company, for nearly half a century  after the Battle of Plassey in 1757, was almost completely occupied with the tusk of consolidating their power over the entire country. “Calcutta Madrasah” and “Benares Sanskrit College” was established in 1781 and 1792, for the sole purpose of bringing out a band of Pundits and Maulavis capable of interpreting native laws and customs in administrative and judicial matters. In 1800, the Fort William College of Kolkata was also established with the purpose of teaching Bengali language to young British Civilians.


 The need for the study of the Bengali language was keenly felt by the English Rulers. Halhed’s “A code of Gentoo Laws” (1776) and “A Grammar of the Bengali Language” (1778) were not sufficient for the purpose. Serious efforts must be made for the study of a language, William Carey rightly viewed the importance of the Bengali language in the preface to his “ A Grammar of the Bengali language” (1801) : “ Bengal, as a seat of the British Government in India, and a centre of a great port of the commerce of the east, must be viewed as a country of very great importance. Its soil is fertile, its population great, and the necessary intercourse subsisting between its inhabitants and those of other countries who visit its ports, is rapidly increasing. Knowledge of this country must therefore be a very desirable object.”


The introduction of modern education by the East India Company was primarily motivated by the political-administrative and economic needs of British imperialists. It had, therefore, its limitations. It could neither spread among the people, nor could its foundations be laid strongly on modern scientific basis. It is simply turning out English knowing Pundits, Maulavies and Bengali- Hindustani- knowing English civilians for filling up the administrative apparatus of the British rule. Raja Rammohan Roy was the pioneer of this modern education in India. But David Hare could equally and rightly claim to be a pioneer of modern education in this country.  And though by birth a native of Scotland,he could claim to be an Indian for his life-long social and educational activities and his intimate association with our countrymen.  None can deny his claims, distortion or ignorance of facts cannot minimize the role of Devid Hare as a promoter of modern education in this country.


In the year 1815, Raja Rammohan Roy entertained a few friends at his house and suggested the establishment of “Atmiya Sabha” for improving the moral conditions of the countrymen. The Raja was animated with a fervent desire to lift the society from the swamp of idolatry and superstations to a higher moral plane and he was convinced that the Brahma Sabha by preaching the Vedanta system of religion could serve his purpose. David Hare differed from his views and suggested as an amendment the establishment of a college. It was Hare’s considered opinion that education of native youths in Western Literature and Science would be a far more effective means of enlightening their understanding, without real education, and rational understanding of truth, no lasting moral improvement of society was possible. The proposal was of course, enthusiastically accepted by Rammohan. Mr. Hare himself soon after prepared a paper containing a paper containing proposals for the establishment of a collage and the paper was handed over to Sir Edward Hyde East. E. H. East offered his most cordial co-operation in the establishment of an institution “for the education of native youth”. Thus in 1817, The Hindu College was opened. David Hare was, therefore, the real originator and promoter of Hindoo College.


Mr. Hare’s educational activities did not end with the foundations of the Hindoo College in 1817, with the unique service he rendered to its progress as a visitor first and one of its Directors afterwards. He was closely associated with the “ School Book Society”., founded in 1817, for preparing  and publishing text books in English and Bengalee and the “School Society” founded in 1818, for establishing English and Bengali schools in Kolkata. In later life he did not find time to devote to his watch business and so he sold it to a friend named Mr. Grey and spent some of the money to buy a small house for himself and the rest for the development of the schools.


After a long life of activity he fell ill. He was attacked by cholera. One of his students Dr. Prasanna Kumar Mitra, tried his best but all efforts failed and Devid Hare died on 1st June,1842.
As news spread around the city, a fade of gloom spread over the city. The Christian missionaries refused to allot him land in their cemeteries, as they thought that he was a non-believer. He was buried in what was then the compound of Hare school-Presidency College that he had donated. The tomb, marked with a bust statue, currently falls within the College Square ( now named Vidyasagar Udyan) swimming pool, opposite to Hare School. According to Sivanath Sastri, “As his body was brought out of Mr. Gray’s house, thousands of people, some in vehicles, others on foot, followed it scene that was witnessed again. Right from Bowbazar crossing to Madhab Dutta’s bazaar( now Calcutta University campus), the entire road was flooded with people.” The road where he lived called Hare street (Nicco House) just off Binoy-Badal-Dinesh Bag (earlier Dalhousie Square). A life-size statue was build with public donations and placed in the compound of Hare School.



Sources : 1. “A Biographical Sketch of David Hare” by Peary Chand Mitra.
                2. “Ramtanu Lahiri O tatkalin Bangasamaj” by Sivanath Sastri.
                3. “David Hare and the beginnings of English Education in India” by
                     Jogesh Chandra Bagal.
                4. "Senate haller smitichitra" by Purnendu Patri.


         Research - Santanu Roy
                Picture Courtesy - Sudip Ghosh.