K Subba Rau.

Convocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras online

. (page 42 of 66)
Online LibraryK Subba RauConvocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras → online text (page 42 of 66)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

1 " I address even to consider such a question. But
if an answer were necessary, the first would be

1874. Honorable H. S. Cunningham. 97

that ignorance is a highly expensive luxury, and that India, having
only fifty millions a year and a great deal to do with them, cannot
afford to be ignorant. It is " the curse of God ;" it costs lives, it
costs money, it costs happiness. Men, when first the curtain rises
upon the stage of history, are wretched, trembling beings, a rather
inferior sort of wild beasts, snatching a precarious livelihood from
shell-fish or berries, exposed to untold hardships, brutalized by
the most degrading customs, frequently exterminated in the un-
equal conflict with disease, misery and wild animals more powerful
and courageous than themselves. By slow and painful degrees
the race mounts up and culminates at last in the fully civilized
man. Each step in the ascent is a piece of knowledge, a further
acquaintance with the working of the world's machinery and the
rules according to which the world around us proceeds, and so a
better mastery over natural results.

Whenever we violate the laws of nature, whether inten-
tionally or not, we suffer at once. For half the
A knowledge iH s o f life there is a remedy or a protection could
tare* we onl J find tt- Ta ke tne simplest of all matter,

the water we drink. Calcutta was at one time the
perennial home of cholera, one of the fountain heads from
which that fell disease constantly started to devastate man-
kind. The water available for drinking was, every scientific
man declared, sufficient to dispose everyone to disease, and
to spread, if not to originate it. A supply of absolutely pure
water was brought in. After a great deal of discussion the
Brahmins decided that it was not irreligious to drink it. "What
was the -result ? The very first year the deaths from cholera
sank to less than half the number of the previous year and to
very little more than to half what had ever been known in the
very healthiest year on record. And a corresponding diminu-
tion occurred in other cognate diseases. Much the same was
experienced in Bombay, and I have no doubt, though happily
we have no cholera here, that a similar improvement in the
public health will be experienced here. But these are
only three among all the thousands of cities and towns in
India, and in many of them, Delhi is one I remember, the
death-rate is awfully high, and the cause has been distinctly
traced by men of science to impure water. Generally you
may be sure that wherever you have a town population, drink-
ing out of wells, a considerable percentage of them is poisoned
every year, and a still larger percentage condemned to the
misery of enfeebled health. This is a needless waste of life to
be debited to ignorance. Then I will take another matter, small-

98 University of Madras-

pox ; it is not such a scourge here as in some parts of India, but
it cost the Presidency 39,000 lives last year. In the Punjab
and N. W. Provinces it is almost universal. In 1866, no less
than 66,000 persons died of it in the Punjab. Altogether in
1871 over 100,000 people died in India of small-pox no, not of
small-pox, they died of ignorance. Small-pox was the blade
that struck them, but ignorance was the destroying angel who
wielded it, and they might be well and alive now but for the
ignorance which shut their eyes to the safeguard which science
offers. The best proof of this was that when strenuous vaccinat-
ing operations were set on foot, in the Punjab, for several years
past the annual average has sunk to 29,000,

Then as to cost of money, look at what ignorance costs the
ryot. Take Mr. Robertson's most interesting report
ranee* f lgn " on I n( li an Agriculture, and see how science, which
is only a grand word for common sense and accu-
rate information, would enrich him if he would let her; how
he might have bigger crops and more of them, and better and
more productive cattle, and how ignorance makes him attempt
what he never ought, and leave unattempted the thing he miglit
do with profit, and do the right thing in the wrong and costly
way, and in fact, commit all the blunders that ignorance and
empiricism must, till science comes to lend her aid.

Then as to happiness, what pleasure lost, what beauties un-
perceived, what a stupid, brute-like, uninteresting
affair does H . fe becom e to the man who walks
through it with his eyes shut to its wonders and
beauties. To the real student, of course, to ask him why he likes
education, is to ask him why he likes light rather than darkness
and life than death. With his books he lives a higher and nobler
life than the present gives him. His untrammelled soul com-
munes with the wisest and best men of his own day, and with them
both in their happiest moments : he feels the pleasant excitement
of intellectual effort : he experiences the charm of difficulty grap-
pled with and overcome ; he climbs, exhilirated with past success,
from one vantage ground of truth to another, sees an ever-increas-
ing area at his feet, and welcomes new light into his soul. Fired
with the noble acts of other men, he resolves that he will do
something to benefit and ennoble mankind ; he thrills with the
promptings of an honourable ambition, that last infirmity of noble
minds. These are the pleasures for which he is content to live
and labor, for these he rejects tbe ignominious joys of sense ; for
them he scorns delights and lives laborious days, or rather in them
he finds his greatest delight and his best repose.

1874. Honorable H. S. Cunningham. 09

Gentlemen, these are the pleasures which knowledge has to
give, and for the encouragement of which the Indian Universities
were designed. They have already done good

f W0rk> And ii5 is a faCt f ha PP V au g UI 7 for India
that the people so generally recognize them, and

that the leaders oE Indian society are so aware of the impor-
tance of education that one of the first gentlemen in the country
(the Rajah of Vencatagherry) is now urging on Government a
scheme for the public education of all the sons of the Zemindars
of the Presidency, and has backed his proposal by an offer of a
munificent donation. Already the Universities have done much,
but they are still infant institutions. I wish I
Description of could give you an idea of an English University,
verity: 1Sh m Imagine a venerable city, standing amid sweet
English meadows, embowered in immemorial trees,
washed by the waters of a classic stream picture to yourselves
her streets flanked not by the emporia of trade but by solemn
shrines and time-encrusted colleges, redolent with the piety and
learning of 1,000 years ; here are cool cloisters and long arcades
and the trim gardens where learned leisure walks and thinks :
youngest but not least fair among the sister edifices is the
Temple where the votaries of physical science may study and
adore : towering amid the rest, and presiding over them is a
noble Library rich with gathered treasures of the literary world;
there is a sweet stillness in the air, for it is learning's chosen
home ; the genius of the place breathes calm around ; here you
will find a thousand students, the flower of England's youth,
all busy with the exploration of some field or other of learning's
wide domain you will find mind opening to mind in the healthy
commerce of opinion, competition without a touch of envy, and
controversies unlike those of later life, without a drop of .gall.
ft How sweet to linger here/' one cries

" With fair philosophies,"
That lift the mind !

How natural the great poet's vow,

" Let my due feet never fail

To walk the studious cloister's pale,

And love the high embow'd roof

With antique pillars massy proof,

And storied windows richly dight

Casting a dim religious light ;

There let the'pealing organ blow

To the full -voiced choir below,

In service high and anthems clear

As may with sweetness, through mine ear,

Dissolve me into ecstacies

And bring all Heaven before mine eyes."

100 University of Madras.

Gentlemen, I walked in those streets a few months ago, and
witnessed a curious and illustrious assembly. There
Products of was the Head of the English Church, the Primate
versity. 18 ^ England; the Head of the Anglo-Roman Church,

the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster; the
Head of the English Law, the Lord Chancellor of England; Lord
Coleridge, Master of the hearts of all whom eloquence affects; Lord
Salisbury, the brilliant bearer of a great historic name; Stanhope,
the philosophic historian ; Lyddon, the ascetic dogmatist ; Arnold,
the Epicurean man of letters ; a great collection of orators, states-
men, philosophers; men of art and science what collected them
there ? What united men otherwise so diverse in taste and opinion?
What but a common piety to their Alma Mater, a common allegi-
auce to the place where they first learnt to think, first experienced
the rapture of truth, first listened to the strains of philosophy,
" not stern and rugged as dull fools suppose, but musical as is
Apollo's lute," first learnt how many, and how ennobling are the
pleasures with which learning rewards her sons.

Gentlemen, there was a curious characteristic of this meeting
it was spontaneous and unofficial, a mere meeting of a club of
Oxford men, a Debating Society and a Reading-Room, to cele-
brate the first half century of its existence. You may take a hint
from this. The most important education is what
a man gi ves himself. We want to see in you inde-
pendent thought; what is wanted for India is a class
of independent and high principled, courageous men who will
form an enlightened public opinion. Many things are done badly
or left undone, because Government is afraid to move without
more guidance from public opinion than it at present receives ;
you have the remedy for this in your own hands. We want you
to think and learn and feel on public matters, and so to strengthen
the Government in its task of ruling this great empire for its
good. You and we, brothers in blood, have met after long cen-
turies of separation, not so very far from the cradle where our
common rise began we have met, and we must resolve as brothers
ought, that our meeting shall be for the benefit of both, resolve
this, and be men enough, courageous enough, high-minded
enough to carry your resolution into effect, and there is practi-
cally no limit to the good you may effect, and the blessings which
you may be instrumental in pouring on mankind.

"Methinks," said Milton of his own country, then in a
critical moment of her existence, " methinks I see
* n m J m ^ n( ^ a mighty and puissant nation, rousing
herself, like a strongman after sleep, and shaking

1875. Mr. Geo. Thorn. 10l

her invincible locks ; methinks I see her, as an eagle, renewing
her mighty youth and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full
midday beam ; purging and unsealing her long abused sight at
the fountain itself of heavenly radiance, while the whole tribe
of timorous and flocking birds, with those also who love the
twilight, flutter about, amazed- at what she means, and in
their envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and
schisms." Gentlemen, let us apply Milton's language of courage
and hope to your own case, and think of India as the mighty
and puissant nation, rousing herself, after her lowg, long sleep,
purging and unsealing her long-abused sight, and preparing
herself, as I pray God she may, to enter upon a nobler and hap-
pier cycle of existence than ever yet has dawned upon her.

Then whenever it is fated that we are again to part company
and History writes, "Fuit" upon the British Raj,
^^J* 1 . 01 ?^- she will not record that the races of rulers and
rule in India. administrators from the far West came hither
on a bootless errand, or departed without having
achieved a grand result. She will point to a long list of solid
improvements effected, to many real curses of the race re-
moved, to happiness brought within the reach of classes who
knew not of its very existence, to life rendered to many millions
something brighter, better, and nobler than before ; she will
record how the English found India impoverished, and left her
opulent; found her the home of ignorance and superstition,
placed the sacred torch of knowledge in her hand ; found her
the prey of the great untamed forces of nature, turned those
very forces to enrich and embellish her ; found her the monopoly
of a despotic few, left her the common heritage of all her sons ;
found her a house divided against itself, and the prey of the
first comer, left her harmonious and tranquil, and therefore
strong ; found her a mere congeries of petty tyrannies with no
principle but mutual distrust and no policy but mutual extermi-
nation, left her a grand consolidated empire with justice for its
base and the common happiness its guiding star.


(By GEO. THOM, ESQ., M.A.)

Gentlemen, You have now reached a most important stage
in your journey through life, and may well pause for a little to
look back on the difficulties you have surmounted and forward
to the great world wkich you are about to enter. In the name

102 University of Madras.

of His Excellency the Chancellor and the Fellows of this Univer-
sity I congratulate you on the position you have attained, and
trust that your past success may be an earnest of a future career,
highly honorable to yourselves and useful to your country.

The University to which you have now the honor to belong
has been in existence only some eighteen years.

Nature of We cannot, therefore, point to an Institution
Indian U*niver- -, .,- ,-, ,^ ., /. j_ > ,

sity. invested with the authority or antiquity, nor stimu-

late you to action by bringing forward the illus-
trious example of a brilliant array of men famous in the annals
of their country. But we have no mean counterbalancing ad-
vantages. We have neither the difficult, the tedious, task of
modifications and reform, nor, should change become desirable,
have we, on the score of sentiment, to retain any organization
which is not the best of its kind. Your University has already
expanded far beyond what could have been supposed possible
even by those who were most sanguine of its success. It is a
great power in the land. Its influence permeates every school
and shapes the course of study in every college. Its honours are
eagerly sought after by yearly increasing numbers. It is a centre
of national life and of national unity. Whatever your difference
of caste and creed, of mother-tongue and race, the higher educa-
tion will form among you a bond of union for the great work of
doing battle with ignorance and superstition, and disseminating
light and knowledge throughout the length and breadth of the

And surely, gentlemen, you are well fitted for such a work.
You have received many advantages denied to
^ e ma j ol> ity f your countrymen. You have
been trained to read, to speak and to think in
one of the leading languages of the West a language which
possesses the richest and most varied literature in all depart-
ments of. human thought, and which for you constitutes the
only pathway to all that is best in Philosophy, in History and
in Science. This is the greatest of your acquisitions. It intro-
duces you to the society of the original thinkers of the age, and
enables you to participate in the intellectual movements of your

The importance of a scientific training in English was only
recently recognized in England itself. There the reverence for
Latin legitimate enough as long as Latin was the language of
educated men in all Europe was handed down from generation
to generation, and was strong enough to cloud the most vigorous

1875. If r. Geo. Thorn. 103

intellects and to lead them to regard any education not founded
on a classical basis as essentially false.

It would be presumption on my part to say much either
for or against classical education. I venture,
however, to express a hope that the day is not
far distant when the classical students of this
University may be counted by hundreds and not by tens;
for there is much in classical literature which we cannot afford
to lose and which cannot be had elsewhere. But the spirit in
which classical studies have, until very recently, been pursued,
and which even now has many advocates, is characterized as
narrow by the most competent authorities. To get up endless
rules and gigantic lists of exceptions by heart, to turn Latin and
Sanscrit into English for the purpose of learning these languages,
and to give little or no thought to the subject-matter or to the
picture of human life presented, is surely not the system by which
the classics can be rendered either attractive or instructive. If
we are to have classical education, let us not perpetuate the
" elegant trifling" of the English public schools in prose and
verse composition. Let us learn Sanscrit for the purpose of
being able to read it, and read it for the purpose of being im-
pressed with its beauties and with the primitive form in which it
presents to us the ever-interesting problems of human life.
The question as to whether the study of a classical language
should form part of our higher education was recently discuss-
ed by the Senate of this University, and, as was to be expected,
elicited great diversity of opinion. Without presuming to say
what should or should not be done at present, I may observe that
in the University of London, on which ours is closely modelled,
a competent knowledge in Latin, Greek, English, and either
French or German is required in every candidate for the B.A.
degree. No doubt, the educational machinery in England is far
in advance of what it is now, or what it will be for some time, in
Intellect of India. But, in point of intellect, the average
the average Hindu is not one whit behind the average English-
man, and what can now be reasonably expected
from the latter may soon be looked for from the former. The
time then, we trust, is not far distant when those who occupy
the place which you do now shall have been taught a classical
language as well as their own vernacular.

But though an appreciative acquaintance with literature

and a firm grasp of history, " treated not as a

succession of battles and dynasties ; not as a series

of biographies ; but as the development of men in times past and

104 University of Madras.

in other conditions than our own," are highly important elements
in education, the culture got from these alone would be narrow
and one-sided. And the defects can only in part be remedied
by Mathematics.

In their own place Mathematics are invaluable. There is
no better discipline for the mind than that close
and continued thought, that strenuous and volun-
tary application, to which the distinguished Mathematician must
have submitted. But his sphere of labour is after all a narrow
one, and the symbolical language he uses is by no means calculated
to promote acquaintance with his own vernacular.

The education cannot now be regarded as complete, unless
natural knowledge has received a large share of
enl alu attention. The great fact of our age is the

advance of science. It numbers among its votaries
many of the greatest intellects of the day. It leads to the
possession of the most elevating ideas. It brings us face to
face with physical nature and with the relations of cause to
effect. It develops the powers of reason and observation,
and enables the mind to draw accurate general conclusions
from particular facts. " It removes those superstitions, those
fantastic persuasions and prepossessions, which are the fog and
pestilence, the mist and malaria of the mind." It is an indis-
pensable preparation for the more complicated problems which
meet us in the science of life. But not only is the knowledge
gained in the pursuit of science wide and elevating, and excellent
as a mental training, but it is also essential to success in life ;
and this, gentlemen, is what the most of us cannot afford to
overlook, in spite of the objection which may be urged against
it that it is a low standard to set up. Whatever your trade or
your profession may be, you will encounter keen competition and
will assuredly be left behind in the race, if you are not alive to
the movements of the scientific world and ready to press scientific
discovery into your service.

You cannot expect to reach the lofty peak untrodden but
by the foot of Newton, nor yet perhaps the

r lower level of a Farada y or a Kirchhoff. But
you can imitate these illustrious men in their
earnest, their untiring, search for truth. The path will not
always be smooth and level, sometimes it will be rough and
angular, leading through dense jungle and over pathless and
rocky mountains, but at every stage disclosing beauties which
yield a lifelong pleasure. In words which do much more justice
to the subject " who can contemplate our globe in this orderly

1875. 4fr. Geo. Thorn. 105

system of the universe with all the delicate adjustments that
astronomy reveals, and all the splendid mechanism of the
heavens; contemplate our atmosphere with all its mechanical,
chemical, and physical properties the distant sun darting its
light and heat and power on the globe, and fostering all the
varied and beautiful animal and vegetable life, giving rise to
winds and showers and fruitful seasons, and beauties of form
and richness of colour, filling our hearts with food and gladness ;
who can know something* of the inexorable sequences, see some-
thing of the felicitous combination of the varied forces of nature
that are employed, and not feel awed and impressed by the

" To see in part,
That all as in some piece of art
Is toil, co-operant to an end,"

is to see that which he who sees it not is as incapable of estimat-
ing as the deaf man is of judging of music, or the blind of
enjoying the glories of a sunset."

Do not be discouraged at difficulties. The value of the dis-
covery will, in most cases, be commensurate with the difficulty
of the search, and the difficulty itself, the healthful exercise of
your mental powers, will form not a small portion of the pleasure.

Hitherto your course has been shaped and your education
directed by others ; 'now you must think and act for yourselves,
and realize the rules and principles you have been taught. You
are able to appreciate in some degree the merits and defects of
the culture you have received. Your knowledge of the laws of
matter, force and mind, rudimentary though it may be at
present, is yet sufficient to place you on the ladder of intellec-
tual progress, and your own efforts well directed, will enable
you to ascend. Try to find out more of the mode of operation
of these laws and to bring your whole life into harmony with
them. This is the aim and end of all real education, and
cannot be gained by desultory or intermittent efforts. Habits
must be formed.

" For use almost can change the stamp of nature."

Let action ever be your watchword. The man of energy
and decision takes at the flood the tide which leads
Action. on to f or t une . He seizes every opportunity to

gain the end he may have in view, and not unfrequently is
able to bend to his purpose the very accidents of life apparently
most calculated to defeat it.

106 University of Madras.

"Who breaks his birth's invidious bar

And grasps the skirts of happy chance,
And breasts the blows of circumstance,
And grapples with his evil star.

Who makes by force his merit known

And lives to clutch the golden keys,

To mould a mighty state's decrees,
And shape the whisper of the throne :

And moving up from higher to higher,
Becomes on fortune's crowning slope
The pillar of a people's hope,

The centre of a World's desire."

Whatever be your occupation, you will find in it ample
scope for all your energies. Your honest en-
eminenc? deavour to master it and everything connected

with it will open out for you a field of knowledge
which is literally boundless. While thus aiming at complete
mastery over the one thing which is to be your chief work in
life, you should also endeavour to counteract the prejudicial
influence of a narrow line of thought by acquiring a sound
general knowledge of the leading subjects of human interest.
" A man of the highest education knows something of every
thing and every thing of something." It is by this combination
alone that you can hope to become trustworthy leaders of
public opinion in the great questions with which your generation
will have to deal, or produce anything really great in any

Online LibraryK Subba RauConvocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras → online text (page 42 of 66)