Some Aspects of Education and Knowledge Formation in Nineteenth Century Delhi

Amar Farooqui

(Professor, Department of History, Delhi University)


This paper looks at the manner in which colonial intervention impinged upon the forms whereby education was imparted in Delhi during the nineteenth century. While it is well known that Delhi College was one of the key institutions of learning to emerge in this period, our understanding of its linkages with various spheres of educational endeavour in the city is rather inadequate. In this context, the role of scholars such as Mufti Sadruddin Azurda, who was simultaneously involved in several educational projects, was crucial. Azurda was closely connected with Delhi College and was at the same time engaged in teaching at and supervising a madarsa. He is representative of a section of the Urdu-speaking intelligentsia which took a keen interest in the question of education. 

The rich experience of educational practice available in Delhi was vital for innovation and experimentation in the second quarter of the nineteenth century—developments simplistically attributed to ‘western’ influences. Further, it would be wrong to assume that the teacher of Arabic at the Aurangabadi mosque and the teacher of mathematics at Delhi College inhabited entirely separate worlds. It was the revolt of 1857 which destroyed the unifying bonds of these of centres of learning. This had significant implications for education and knowledge formation in the latter half of the century when it became increasingly difficult to challenge colonial ideas. The concluding section of the paper offers some comments on attempts by Munshi Zakaullah and Nazir Ahmad to adjust to this situation.