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History of 13th July- Scottish Church College

History of 13th July- Scottish Church College

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13th July

In this episode, we explore the history of 13th July, which includes various events and a special feature on the establishment of the Scottish Church College in Calcutta, in the year 1830. Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Alexander Duff played pivotal roles in founding this institution, which aimed to provide English education and promote social reform.

As I read from the pages of the history of 13th July, I see that it was this day when Van Marco Cesti’s opera “Il Pomo d’Oro” (the Golden Apple or Tomato) premiered in Vienna in the year 1668. Then in the year 1832 American geographer Henry Schoolcraft discovered the sources of the Mississippi River. Again in the year 1835 John Ericsson, a Swedish-American inventor filed a patent for his screw propeller design. This day is also the day when Mumbai was shaken by the triple bomb blast which took place in Mumbai’s Zaveri Bazar, Opera House, and Dadar.

With this, I come to the feature story from the history of 13th July.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Alexander Duff started the Scottish Church College with five students.

History of 13th July takes us to the year 1830 when The Scottish Church College was founded in Calcutta. Its establishment was a collaborative effort between Raja Ram Mohan Roy, a renowned Bengali religious and social reformer, and Alexander Duff, a Christian missionary. Initially, the college had a modest beginning with only five students.

Being one of the oldest liberal arts and sciences colleges in India, the Scottish Church College has a rich history that traces back to Alexander Duff, the first missionary from the Church of Scotland to arrive in India. Raja Ram Mohan Roy extended significant support to Duff, leading to the establishment of the institution on July 13th, 1830.

During the early 19th century, English education in India faced suspicion, despite the East India Company’s efforts to support native languages like Persian and Sanskrit and establish institutions like the Calcutta Madrasah College and the Sanskrit College. The colonial administrators generally showed little interest in spreading knowledge in English or providing educational opportunities for the native population. Missionaries like Duff played a crucial role in filling this gap.

The introduction of English education in India was spearheaded by Thomas Macaulay, a British historian and politician. Macaulay aimed to create an English education system that would produce Anglicized Indians serving as intermediaries between the British and the native population. His vision was to have English-educated Indians who appeared Indian but embraced Western tastes and thinking.

Inspired by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Alexander Duff, a young missionary, arrived in Calcutta (then the imperial capital) with the goal of establishing an English-medium institution. Lord William Bentinck, the Governor-General of India, also supported Duff, along with Raja Ram Mohan Roy. With their combined efforts, Duff opened the Scottish Church College, initially using the premises of Feringhi Kamal Bose on Upper Chitpore Road. In 1836, the college was relocated to Gorachand Bysack’s house in Garanhatta. On February 23rd, 1837, the foundation stone of the college was laid by Mr. McFarlon, the Chief Magistrate of Calcutta. The college building, designed by Mr. John Gray and Captain John Thompson of the East India Company, was completed in 1839.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy, often referred to as the “Father of Modern India,” is renowned for his efforts to abolish Sati (a funeral practice) and child marriage. He strongly supported English education in India, believing it would lead to social reform, eradicate superstitions and meaningless rituals, and foster a rational mindset among young Indians.

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Roy assisted Duff in organizing the venue for the college and recruiting the first group of students. He also reassured parents and guardians that the students’ study of the King James Bible did not imply an attempt to convert them to Christianity. Duff, unlike other missionaries, aimed to expose his students to the best of European science, and literature. He carefully selected teachers for the institution, ensuring a harmonious blend of European and Indian educators who would promote secular knowledge. Duff encouraged his teachers to instill a spirit of inquiry and rational thinking in their students. With this visionary approach, Duff established a robust education system in Bengal, which successfully disseminated progressive values throughout the region. While Duff desired to expand English education as widely as possible, he recognized that students needed to first master their vernacular language. Thus, considerable emphasis was placed on learning the Bengali language. The Scottish Church College also emerged as one of the earliest institutions promoting women’s education, admitting both male and female students from its inception.

To this day, the Scottish Church College remains one of Calcutta’s most prestigious higher education institutions, boasting notable alumni such as Swami Vivekananda, Subhash Chandra Bose, Gopinath Bordoloi, Derek O’Brien, Mithun Chakraborty, and Nirad C. Chaudhuri, among others.

That’s all for today from the history of 13th July.

 

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