Education in the Medieval Period

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With the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, Islamic system of education was introduced. Education in medieval India was designed on the lines of the tradition of education developed under the Abbasids of Baghdad. As a result, scholars from countries like Samarqand, Bukhara and Iran looked up to the Indian scholars for guidance. Amir Khusrau, an exemplary personality, not only developed the skill of writing prose and poetry but also devised a new language which suited the local conditions. Some contemporary historians like Minhajus-Siraj, Ziauddin Barani and Afif have written about Indian scholarship.

The institutions that provided school education were known as ‘makhtabs’, while those of higher learning were called ‘madrasas’. The ‘makhtabs’ were generally run by public donations while ‘Madrasas’ were maintained by the rulers and nobles. There were six different types of institutions:

(i) those established and maintained by nobles and rulers,

(ii) those which were started by individual scholars with the help of state assistance or donations,

(iii) those that were attached to the mosques,

(iv) those that were attached to the tombs,

(v) those that were started and maintained by individual scholars, and

(vi) those that were attached to the Sufi hospices.

The famous ‘madrasas’ were the Muizzi, the Nasiri and the Firuzi madrasas in Delhi, Mohammed Gawani’s madrasa in Bidar and Abul Fazl’s madrasa in Fatehpur Sikri. The Sirat-i-figuz Shahi gives a list of 14 subjects that were taught in the Madarsas like Jurisprudence or Dirat which was a method of recitation, punctuation and vocalization of the text Quran etc.

The main feature of the Muslim educational system was that it was traditional in spirit and theological in content. The curriculum was broadly divided into two categories: the traditional (Manqulat) and the rational (Maqulat) sciences. Traditions, law and history and literature came under the traditional sciences. Logic, philosophy, medicine, mathematics and astronomy came under rational sciences. Later, rational sciences came to be emphasized more than the traditional sciences. Traditional subjects dominated education from the time of Iltutmish (1211-36) till the reign of Sikander Lodi (1489-1517). The scenario started changing from the time of Sikander Lodi when he invited the brothers Sheikh Abdullah and Sheikh Azizullah from Multan to Delhi. They introduced the study of philosophy and logic in the curriculum.

The Mughal rulers were great patrons of learning and literature. This period saw the rise of Urdu as a language which came out of a long contact between Persian and Hindi i.e. the Turks and the Indians. Babar wrote his own biography known as Tazuk-i-Babari. The Mughal Emperor Humayun introduced the study of mathematics, astronomy and geography in the ‘madrasas’ in Delhi. This helped in reducing the bias in the existing education system.

Many Hindus took to learning Persian and a number of translations from Sanskrit to Persian were made. Akbar added subjects like accountancy, public administration, geometry and built a workshop near his palace. He personally supervised the workshop. Akbar’s attempt to introduce secular and scientific system of education was not liked by the orthodox sections. Akbar’s efforts ushered in a change which continued for centuries. In the eighteenth
century some nobles were against the introduction of Western methods in education which involved inquiry, observation, investigation and conducting experiment. Memorising, discussing and writing out the lessons were the basis of instruction in the Muslim ‘madrasas’.

Akbar patronised many scholars such as Abul Fazal, Faizi, Raja Todar Mal, Birbal and Rahim. They were among the nine gems of his court who helped in spreading culture and education.

Education System under the Great Mughals

The Mughal period made immense contribution in the field of learning and education. The Mughal emperors had great love for learning and they contributed more in the field of spreading education through Pathshalas, Vidyapeeths, Makatabs and Madarsas. Akbar gave grants to educational institutions. He started a College near
Jama Masjid. At that time, education was not a state subject. Generally the temples and mosques were the centre of elementary education. They were dependent on the donations given by rulers, rich men and donors. Sanskrit and Persian were taught in temples and mosques. There was no provision for women’s education. The women of the royal and rich families got education at home.

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