Teaching Ideals and Feelings: Moral Education in Colonial Northern India
My paper explores how moral education – for both children and adults – became a vital issue in Colonial India. I will exemplify this by looking at text-books and advisory literature, written in Hindi and published in northern India during the latter part of the 19th and the early 20th century.
The first schoolbooks in Hindi were translations, either from English sources or from an earlier version in Urdu. As this did not prove sufficient, the Government tried to stimulate print production and tackle the need for good educational material by awarding cash prizes for original books written in the vernacular. With the revision and development of text-books underway, the records of the educational department show a rising awareness of the importance that lies in moral education. How this educational goal could be incorporated into the curriculum of government schools – while maintaining the prescribed policy of non-denominational education – was the main question.
The colonial government’s concern centred chiefly on the urban elite’s English education and rural literacy programmes for the masses. But the development of commercial printing along with rising literacy also let indigenous social and religious reformers raise their voices. They were united by the interest to educate their fellow countrymen and reform society along their visions of an ideal Aryan society that had existed in the past and should now be revived. Members of the Arya Samaj, for example, voiced concerns regarding the moral effects of “western education” on students and promoted alternative institutions for a “national education”. Institutions like the Nagari Pracharini Sabha started their own patronage systems to stimulate the production of “valuable books”.
Advice manuals on domestic as well as civic topics thus became a prominent means to induce moral education outside the institutional sphere of the classroom. A close analysis of these texts shows that they not only propagate rules for manners and conduct, but also – more subliminally – postulate norms for feelings and the expression of emotions. Certain emotions frequently recur, such as female bashfulness, male pride and marital love (as opposed to sexualized passion). I will argue that shaping and nurturing emotions within a tight social framework becomes a key element of moral education, and the propagated norms are subsequently identified with the emerging upper-caste Hindu middle class.
Analysing advisory literature in Hindi thus draws light on the development of print culture in India and shows how a new text medium emerges, that propagates moral education and spurs the process of community formation.