Banaras Hindu University is celebrating its centenary this year. A brainchild of social reformer Madan Mohan Malaviya ji BHU blends the teaching of Bharatiya culture with acquisition of modern knowledge
Historically, Banaras has been an abode of culture and the city boasts of longest continuing human settlement anywhere in the world. There are several institutions of religion, culture and knowledge which stand in solidarity with Banaras’ cultural richness but amongst these the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) occupies centre stage. This year when BHU is celebrating its centenary year, it becomes an occasion to revisit the Varsity’s history and contemporary relevance.
BHU’s founder Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya ji was a visionary. His idea of a university was to have an institution that can blend knowledge forms of the Orient (East) with Occident (West). He felt that a university that unites the seemingly diverse disciplines of music, art, science and technology together would help in the holistic development of students.
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So in 1916 after a long struggle when the University was established under the parliamentary legislation (BHU Act, 1915) Mahamana’s vision was given wings to fly and celebrate the diversity of disciplines with students. The University anthem, popularly called ‘Kul Geet’ is an example of this articulation. Malaviya ji had publicly announced his intent to establish a university in an Indian National Congress (INC) session at Benares in 1905. He then published his plan in 1911 declaring that “millions mired in poverty here can only get rid (of it) when science is used in their interest.” And his vision for BHU was a step towards facilitation of making scientific knowledge available to every Bharatiya.
Sprawled over 1,350 acres, BHU has a Vishwanath Temple, country’s largest library, a hospital, a museum and several hostels for its students. It comprises 3 Institutes, 17 Faculties 140 Departments, 4 Inter-disciplinary Centres, a constituent college for Women and 3 constituent schools apart from affiliated colleges and many centres of Advanced Studies. The University offers a diverse range of disciplines and introduces newer courses of study as and when the need arises.
The sprawling green campus is one of the largest residential campuses across Asia. There are more than 80 hostels on the campus that accommodate around 10,000 students with cheap food and all modern facilities with fast internet connectivity. The university consistently ranked among the top five in the India today-Nielsen Best Universitys” Survey. One of the major attractions of campus is cyber library. A 24-hour, air-conditioned cyber library with more than seating capacity of 200 students is particularly for economically backward students who may not own laptops.
BHU has always played an influential role in the history of modern and contemporary Bharat. Whether it was the Quit India Movement of 1942, or protests against the atrocities of Internal Emergency (1975) the students and faculty members of BHU stood by the ideals of freedom struggle. Today, they represent a strong fortress defending the idea of Bharat and are helping to re-shape
the concept to make it more inclusive
and broad.A year ago the students at the Varsity communicated a fascinating message by giving up the colonial era convocation gowns and replaced it with traditional Bharatiya attire in order to decolonise the University’s convocation process. The gesture though symbolic, yet has deeper implications. It strengthens the ideals and visions of Mahamana who never
compromised with the Bharatiya and Sanatani values.
The University celebrates diversity in every facet. So, one can walk through the department of Astrology into the Computer Sciences or one can witness the contrast of Nanotechnology with Natya-Shashtra. The integrity of various institutions under the aegis of BHU has been reflected through its emblem depicting Goddess Saraswati playing Veena on Hansa and Lotus encircled in an Omkara that signifies immortality through knowledge.
The perseverance of our tradition and glories of cultural past has always been at the heart of this institution. A remarkable example of efforts in this direction is the Bharat Kala Bhavan—a rich cultural museum on the campus. Yet another remarkable feature of Banaras Hindu University is the glory of majestic Vishwanath Temple. The construction of the temple started on February 17, 1958 and was completed in 1966. The temple reflects the tolerance and richness of our tradition. It is worth mentioning that when the colonial state was not focusing on the technical education for Bharatiyas, BHU came up with a start. Institute of Technology (IT) was established way back in 1919 by merging three colleges of Banaras Engineering College, the College of Technology and the College of Mining and Metallurgy. Later in 1931, Institute of Agricultural Research was established which became the first institute in Bharat to provide post-graduate programmes in agricultural sciences.
The library of BHU was started by a collection of books donated by Prof PK Telang in 1917. However, the present Central Library was established from a donation from Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad-III of Baroda and is located in a palatial building that stocks a collection of around 1.3 million books.
Today, the BHU plays a central role in the vision of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Various social science departments organise conferences and seminars to help government widen the scope of good governance. The departments of science and technology are aiding in developing technology to empower the masses.
“It’s a proud moment for all of us as we have completed 100 years. This institution is great for many reasons and one of them is that this is the only university in the world constructed on donations for the students with purpose of nation building. With education we also focus on character building.” said Dr Rajesh Singh, Public Relations Officer of BHU.
Department of Mechanical Engineering
The Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT (BHU) came into existence in 1919 under Prof. Charles A. King from Manchester, the then principal of BENCO. Providing a unique teaching-learning environment and the necessary exposure to real world challenges, it offered a first time degree level programme in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering in India. The achievements by the Department in the last 5 years include 25 research projects in both pure and applied fields, 324 publications, 15 books and 8 consultancy projects under the diverse fields of Machine Design, Thermal and Fluid Engineering, Production Engineering and Industrial Management. Recently advancements in the department include setting up of Flexible Manufacturing System Lab and Centre for Energy and Resource Development.
BHU was the first varsity in country to offer Masters and a PhD degree in agriculture. The Institute of Agricultural Sciences was thus established in 1980 such that apart from teaching it could also carry out scientific research and take the findings of lab to the farms through an elaborate extension programme.
In a similar vein, medical education at the BHU started in 1920 with the establishment of Ayurveda department. Post independence, in 1960 the Ayurvedic college was converted to the college of Medical Sciences. In the year 1978 the medical studies at the university were bifurcated into the Faculty of Ayurveda and Faculty of Medicine. The medical institute boasts of a 927-bed hospital named after its first Vice-Chancellor Sir Sunder Lal which is now an advanced super-specialised trauma centre.
Sugandhi, a Sri Lankan, who is pursuing her Masters course in Hindi language says, “I came to India to study Hindi. I am doing my Masters in Hindi from BHU and planning to pursue my further studies in Hindi. BHU has such a positive environment. I am planning to translate some Hindi philosophy in Sri Lankan languages. At present I am studying Ramayana.”
“BHU is well known for learning good Hindustani music even in Sri Lanka. One of my relative advised me to come to BHU to study music. It’s very interesting to study here.”, says Nisansala, Student of Bachelor of Music, Performing arts faculty.
Thong a student from Thailand who is pursuing PhD in philosophy says, “What I feel is that, BHU is the greatest university and best place to study in India, and I am proud of being part of this. At BHU, I got a chance to know about different religious and philosophical teachings.”
The legacy of a long history of struggle and thereafter the movement for change has kept BHU on a path of development. As the present Vice-Chancellor himself explains, “There are 150 departments and centres that include performing Arts, Visual Arts, Ayurveda, Institute of Environment, Institute of Agriculture, Institute of Medical Sciences and many more. The Science Faculty of BHU is much better than any other varsity.”
Mahamana’s words beautifully sums up BHU’s objective. “We believe religion to be the surest foundation of character and the truest source of human happiness. We believe patriotism to be a powerful elevating influence which inspires men to high-minded unselfish action.”
Nishant Kr Azad (With inputs from Shaan Kashyap)