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The Greatest Ruler World has ever seen

The title might deceive one into thinking that this article is a eulogy to Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great or some other world conquering ruler. But no, this article is about someone who all though never directly ruled a square inch of land, ruled and has been ruling for the past 175 years, the collective thought process of an entire sub-continent. Yes, the article is about Thomas Babington Macaulay, a single decision of whom with regards to the educational system of colonial India, continues to impact our lives (in good ways or bad, is for the reader to discern) till date.

As the footprints of the English East India Company in India started expanding, there was serious debate about how to govern a nation, which in terms of both geography and culture was entirely different from Britain? Some end products of these debates are conspicuous by their presence in India of today, in some or the other form; the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Macaulay’s educational system being prominent examples. When it came to system of education, the East India Company witnessed a clash between two lines of thought. The first, believed that continuing with the erstwhile system of Gurukuls (The traditional Indian hostel-schools) in indigenous languages, would be the best way to go about it, while others were firm proponents of imposing upon colonial India an English based system of education. Macaulay was amongst the prominent leaders of the second group and on February 2, 1835 he put forth a series of passionate arguments which clinched the debate in his favour.

He said (am quoting only the relevant parts here in brief, those interested can read the entire thing here:

“…the dialects commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India contain neither literary nor scientific information….. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia….. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, -a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”

Macaulay’s desire, much like a divine prophecy, came every bit true. From 1835 till today, our education system has churned out millions who despise everything that is Indian and look up in awe to the West. Celebrating Halloween is cool, but talk of celebrating Naag-Panchami and you are superstitious, uncouth and backward (it is a completely different matter that Naag Panchami involves worship of a living animal while the entire idea of Halloween revolves around ghosts, of which science has no proof of existence). A person with the scantest knowledge of English is much respected, but someone with profound knowledge of Hindi, Sanskrit or any other Indian language is looked down upon. All limits are crossed when hi-fi schools in metropolitan cities start imposing fines on students for conversing in languages other than English in school premises (don’t believe it? Check these out: and

Even today, the English educated bureaucracy behaves as if it is entitled to rule over the masses at large. Colonialism might’ve ended in 1947, but the colonial mind-set still reigns supreme. And herein lies the brilliance of Macaulay and the reason I call him ‘The Greatest Ruler the World has seen.’ Many a king would have ruled a piece of land, but there would hardly be anyone else who has so successfully held sway over the collective psyche of asub-continent inhibited by millions for more than 175 years.

Now the question naturally arises, how to counter this Macualayan mind-set? The answer is simple, fight fire with fire, use the same trick which Macaulay used on us- first control the educational system and rest of the nation shall gradually follow. We need a completely revamped educational system which makes every student proud to be a son or daughter of the motherland, which tells them that when the west was leading a nomadic, tribal life, in India the Indus Valley civilisation was flourishing, that when the forefathers of these Englishmen were grazing their herds in the meadows, Aryabhatta and Bhasakarcahrya were dealing with complex scientific problems in India, when the Europeans and the Arabs were fighting the bloody Crusades, Kalidas was writing epic after epic in India. Not to go very far, when women were on the streets demanding voting rights in the West in the 1950s, each and every Indian had already gotten his or her right to vote, right from the first election in Independent India. If we can manage to affect this change, then without doubt our future generations shall be free of the damning influence of Macaulay and as proud citizens of India, make India the greatest in the world once again.

Dev Desai

Budding Medico @AIIMS. Avid newspaper reader (follow politics keenly; NaMo fan), foodie and an enthusiastic dabbler in the magical 'World of Words!'

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