Inaugurated by Gandhi, Patna's Bihar Vidyapith turns 100, many rue lack of centennial lustre

·4-min read

Patna, Feb 6 (PTI) Bihar Vidyapith, established in Patna in 1921 as a nationalist institution guided by the ideals and educational philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, who even raised funds for it, turned 100 on Saturday.

On February 6, 1921, Gandhi had formally inaugurated the Bihar Vidyapith, according to historical records.

However, on Saturday, the historic institution, born out of the Non-cooperation Movement of 1920s during the freedom struggle, lacked the centennial lustre.

Many Gandhians expressed happiness over the completion of centenary of the Bihar Vidyapith whose sprawling campus is located in Sadaqat Ashram area on the banks of Ganga here, but rued that 'no major celebrations were being held' to commemorate the landmark occasion.

Rajendra Prasad, who was a young Congress leader in 1920s and went on to become the country's first president, has written in his autobiography that the Vidyapith was originally housed in a building on a monthly rental of Rs 200.

'In order to cut down our expenditure, we moved the Vidyapith to the Sadaqat Ashram started by Mazharul Haq,' he wrote in the autobiography.

During the non-cooperation movement, led by Gandhi, people were urged to boycott educational institutions, courts and schools run by the British government, seeking to usher in the 'Swadeshi awakening'.

As part of that philosophy, and prior to setting up of the Vidyapith, a National College was established in Patna in January 1921 with Rajendra Prasad as its first principal.

The National College was also opened by Gandhi on February 6, 1921.

In his autobiography, Prasad has also mentioned about this college which was started in a rented building on the Patna-Gaya Road and, Prasad 'took up residence in the new college premises”.

Rajen Babu, as he was affectionately called, adds in his autobiographical recollection that Gandhi wanted to establish a 'national university' but 'our problem was one of finance'.

'So, Gandhiji when he came on another tour of Bihar, collected more than Rs 50,000 in Jharia alone and sent me a telegram asking me to arrange for the setting up of the university,' he wrote.

'Gandhiji came and inaugurated the university (Bihar Vidyapith) which was housed in the same building as the college,' Prasad said.

Freedom fighters Maulana Mazharul Haque was appointed its first chancellor and Braj Kishore Prasad as the first vice-chancellor, according to the Vidyapith's website.

In his autobiography, Prasad also lamented that in a few years after the establishment of the Vidyapith, 'the strength of the institution began to decline as popular enthusiasm for this type of education was on the wane'.

The Vidyapith, which used to be a vibrant centre of learning and khadi movement with boys spinning wheels on its campus, showed a decline after a few decades and fell into neglect, according to Gandhians and old-timers in the city.

As recently as in mid-2000s, the campus used to wear a decrepit look with collapsed roofs of old tenements, faded blackboards and vegetation grown over buildings. However, few years later, a redevelopment work was taken up and old structures were refurbished.

A Annamalai, the director of Delhi-based National Gandhi Museum, rued that “this centenary occasion was not being celebrated in a big way, as it should have been”.

'Gandhiji set up Vidyapiths at Gujarat, Kashi and Patna too, around the same time. And, like the Bihar government had marked the Champaran Satyagraha centenary, the 100 years of Bihar Vidyapith also deserves a major commemoration,' he said.

Gandhi, an England-trained barrister, after returning from South Africa had first set foot in Bihar on April 10, 1917 when he had arrived in capital Patna by a train, on way to the Champaran district to understand the problems of farmers who were being forced to grow indigo.

'The government of Odisha is marking 100 years of Gandhi's arrival to the state as he had first come there on March 23, 1921 when he visited Cuttack. It would have been befitting to see a grand function to mark centenary of Bihar Vidyapith today,' Annamalai told PTI.

Gandhi Peace Mission Chairman N Radhakrishnan said, 'Bapu had a special place in his heart for Bihar as his karmabhoomi'.

'The Champaran movement had invigorated him and the people of India and institutions like Bihar Vidyapith are testimony to his belief in the fertility of the Bihari mind to lead a social awakening,' he said.

Gandhi had come to Patna on way from Calcutta (now Kolkata), where on February 4, 1921, he had inaugurated a National College at Wellington Square, according to the book 'History of the Indian National Congress: 1885-1935'.

He had come to Patna, his second visit to the city, accompanied by Kasturba Gandhi and Muhammad Ali. PTI KND TIR TIR