The Present work Surveys the education system in medieval India during the period of
muslim rule. Both, the Hindu and the Islamic system have been drawn in.
The Hindu educational system was typically utilitarian in nature, whereas, the Islamic
system stressed the need to devote in purely homilectic and theological pursuits.
The Quran was widely read and a must for all.
Despite its political superiority the Islamic spirit failed to impress the stoic Hindu. The two
cultures co-existed drawing lines with deliberate neglect of one another.
Nevertheless there seemed to be consistent, though restrained exchange of ideas,
The resultant cross-culture marked the birth of a new language. The persian and the
Sanskrit parent bred ‘Urdu’, their offspring. It became the common heritage of both
communication and the ‘Lingua franca’ of latter day India
In a balanced way, Mr. Ray reconstructs and reinterprets the socio-cultural history of
Based on the original sources of contemporary scholarly works and documents, the book
gives a strong base to nurture our presumptions and deductions.
It is definitely an important thesis for the historians and educationists of today. To the
student of medieval India it is an indispensable book.
Former Principal of Lumding College (Assam), Dr. Krishnalal Ray is now, the Head of the
Department of Education in Vijaygarh J.R.College, Calcutta.
‘Education in Medieval India (c. 1200-1707 A.D.)’ is his maiden venture in authorship. This
thesis earned him ph. D. in the year 1978.
He has done his masters in Science and arts both.
The present work makes a brief survey of the educational system in medieval India during
the period of Muslim rule. There are several works dealing with different aspects of
education during this period, but none of them discusses the subject as a whole embracing
the entire medieval period from about the tenth to the middle of the eighteenth century A.D.
and dealing with both the Hindu and the Muslim systems of education. Only two
works,-S.M. Jaffar’s Education in Muslim India and N.N. Law’s Promotion of Learning in
India during the Muhammedan rule, cover the entire period, but they deal with Muslim
sources, mainly the contemporary Persian chronicles. On the other hand, B.K.Sahay’s
Education and Learning under the great Mughals, though based on both Muslim historical
works and Hindu literary sources, does not cover the entire medieval period; besides it
gives more emphasis on Hindu sources and on the Hindu system of education. The present
work is an attempt to make a balanced survey of education in the medieval period, both
Hindu and Muslim, with equal emphasis on Muslim and Hindu original sources.
Any aspect of medieval Indian history must primarily be based on the contemporary
Persian chronicles, because the period of Muslim rule was very rich in the production of
historical works, as will be evident from the massive eight volumes of Elliot and Dowson’s
History of India as told by its own historians. Though these Persian historical works are
rather chronicles of political and military events, yet they offer considerable material for
reconstructing the history of education during the period. Not that they deal with education
as a theme, but in them we come across references to events which throw considerable
light on the educational system of the age. The Tabaqat-i-Nasiri which refers to
Muhammad-bin-Bakhtiyar Khiji’s conquest of Bihar also tells us of his raid on the Buddhist
monastery in Bihar which had a rich library and a college attached to it and which served
as a centre of education and learning. The Nuh Sipihr of Amir Khusrav describes the
education and learning of the Brahmans, Ferishta refers appreciatively to Mahud Gawan’s
patronage of learning and education in the Bahamani kingdom as well as to the rich
collection of books in his library at Bidar. The Babur-nama mentions Ghazi Khan’s library
and describes him as a bibliophile. Khafi Khan who wrote during the reign of Aurangzeb
quotes verses from the pen of Sultana Salima Begam and Nur Jahan. References to
Madrasahs are very common in the Persian chronicles.
These chronicles can be divided into four major classes. First, there are general histories
which cover the entire Muslim period from the beginning to the time of their composition,
e.g. the Tabaqat-i-Akbari, the Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh of Badauni, the Tarikh-i-Ferishta, the
Khulasat-ul-Tawarikh of Sujan Rai and the Mirat-ul-Alam. Secondly, there are histories
which deal with more than one dynasty or cover the reigns of several rulers of the same
dynasty, e.g. the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, the Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi of Barani, the Tarikh-i-Mubarak
Shahi, the Makhzan-i-Afghani, the Akbar-nama, the Tarikh-i-Daudi and the
Muntakhab-ul-Lubab. Thirdly, there are works dealing with particular rulers, e.g. the works
of Amir Khusrav, Afif’s Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi, the Tarikh-i-Shershahi of Abbas Sherwani, the
padshah-nama of Abdul Hamid Lahori, the Ma’asir-i-Alam-giri, the Alamgir-nama etc.
Fourthly, there are provincial histories which deal with particular provinces, e.g. Abu
Turab’s Tarikh-i-Gujarat, the Mirat-i-Ahmadi, the Zafar-ul-Walih (Arabic), the Mirat-i-Ahmadi,
the Riyaz-us-Salatin, the Basatin-us-Salatin, the Hadiqat-ul-Alam and the Tarikh-i-Jaunpur.
The above examples are selective, and by no means exhaustive. All these works and
others have been utilised in preparing the present dissertation.
A few of the Persian chronicles are very interesting from our point of view. The Ain-i-Akbari
of Abul Fazl is sui generis. It is a veritable encyclopedia of the period, and probably the
only work which discusses education as a subject in considerable details. It describes
both the Hindu and the Muslim systems, primary, secondary and higher. It describes the
curriculum of studies at various stages, and Akbar’s efforts at inspiring and enriching it.
Besides, the Ain-i-Akbari gives an account of the arts and letters of the period. Altogether it
is a mine of information on the subject.
Besides the Ain-i-Akbari, the Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh of Badauni is very important as an
original source of information for the educational history of the time. The third volume, in
particular, gives an account of the men of arts, letters and sciences which enables us to
reconstruct the history of medieval education. Similar materials in brief we find in
Ala-ud-daulah’s Nafais-ul-Ma’asir (unpublished MS in the British Museum), the Mirat-ul-Alam
of Bakhtawar Khan (unpublished MS at the National Library, Buhar collection, Calcutta),
and the Tazkirat-ul-Ulama of Khair-ud-din which deals with the learned men of Jaunpur.
Calligraphy formed an important element in the education of the Muslims during the
medieval period. For this, besides general histories which incidentally refer to the subject
(the Ain-i-Akbari is an exception as it has a separate chapter on it), I have consulted works
on calligraphy such as the Tazkirat-i-Khushnawisan (Calcutta text) and the
Halat-i-Khush-nawisan (British Museum MS.). The Nafais-ul-ma’asir and the Mirat-ul-Alam
mentioned above, also devote a few pages to calligraphy and calligraphers of the period.
I have also consulted Hindu sources which are mainly literary works in the major
vernaculars of the country: Bengali, Hindi, Oriya, Gujrati etc. Unfortunately I have not been
able to consult South Indian vernacular literature.
These literary works in vernacular throw an interesting light on the education of the Hindus
which is only occasionally referred to in the Persian chronicles. The most important works
of this category are in Bengali and Hindi. Mukundaram Kavikankan’s Chandi Mangal is a
veritable mine of information on the subject. The Mymensingh ballads are of special
importance as they belong to the category of folk literature. The literature on Sree
Chaitanya (1485-1533) throws a flood of light on the education of the time. The Chaitanya
Bhagavata of Vrindaban Das refers to the debates that were held among scholars and also
enlightens us about the system of primary education and the curriculum of higher studies.
A detailed list of the Bengali literary works throwing some light on medieval education has
been given in the bibliography. In Hindi, Chand Bardai’s Prithviraj Rasau, Malik Muhammed
Jayasi’s Padmavat and Chitra-lekha, Manjhan’s Madhu-malati, the Sura-sagar of Sura Das
and the works of Tulsi Das, Abdur Rahim, Bihari Lal, Bhusan and others are of considerable
help in reconstructing the history of medieval education. In Chand Bardai’s work we have
references to the education of the Rajput princes. We have details of the curriculum of
higher studies in Jayasi’s Padmavat and references to education of women in the
Chitralekha. The Madhu-malati gives us information regarding schooling and curriculum of
Some works in Oriya, Gujrati, Assamese, and Gurmukhi have also been consulted. Oriya
works like Sarala Dasa’s Mahabharata, refer to the pathsala and Rudra Sudha-nidhi to
higher studies. The Vikramcharit Ras, written in Gujrati, gives us materials for primary
education, while the Gurukhalsa Panth, written in Gurmukhi, describes the Sikh system of
The state in medieval India followed a policy of laissez faire in respect of education which
was considered rather as the concern of the community or society than, of the state.
Education was the handmaid of the Church is medieval Europe. In medieval India also
educational institutions were attached to mosques and temples. Whatever was done by
the Muslim state regarding education was the personal concern of the rulers, though there
was a state department concerning education under the Supervision of the Sadr who was
the ecclesiastical minister. Education, though a handmaid of religion, was both religious
and secular. It fact, secular education was not neglected at all. The subject of education
has been treated in the present work in all its aspects, - Hindu and Muslim, primary,
secondary and higher, secular and religious, general and technical . We do not really know
much about the education of the common people during the medieval period. A large
space, on the other hand, has been taken up by the education of the princes and
princesses because our sources throw much light on the same.
The work has been divided into nine chapters besides the introductory and one a brief
resume of each chapter is given below.
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