Indian middle-class impressions of the many beneﬁts of British education and of participating in British society had been developed well before a signiﬁcant number of Indians were actually taking part in the opportunity to study in Britain. In the passage above, Rabindranath Tagore had recalled in 1881 some of his images and ideas of Britain before he went to study there in 1878. The United Kingdom held a special attraction for students who were familiar with British ideals, British oﬃcials and British educators in India. Of course, the opportunities for entry into the higher government services and higher levels of law could only be exploited if young Indians went to London to compete. This in turn added to the prestige and desire of many Indians to study abroad because they realized the beneﬁts that could be accrued from taking this voyage. Many held high expectations of the country they were about to visit and the educational experience they would receive. As we have seen in the previous chapter, education in India was designed and adapted by the British along the lines of British education where English language was particularly important and beneﬁcial for careers. It is worth noting that English literature in the curriculum was a study of ‘English’ culture as well as language and produced an image of the ‘English’ as producers of knowledge.2
This inculcated Anglophilia among these educated middle-class elites, and the syllabi allowed Indians to form many hegemonic representations of England and Britain. However, the practice of sending young Indians to Britain also
played a part in shaping and perpetuating some of these representations of the West. More recognition and attention appeared to be focused on those students
who went to Britain rather than other foreign countries. This can be seen by the relative lack of caste opposition to those who went to other countries. With so much depending on Britain in India, ‘abroad’ generally meant Britain; B. K. Nehru remembers that ‘the only country the Indians were aware of outside India was Britain’.3 Having been taught British history in schools in India, students were attracted to images of the British Parliament (the House of Commons) and the British Crown. As the British Crown ruled over India during this period and Indians were technically British subjects, many had a natural desire to see the buildings and the country from where they were governed and where such important decisions relating to India took place. Vallabhbhai Patel, nationalist leader and deputy Prime Minister of independent India, joined the Middle Temple in 1910, having saved up during the previous ﬁve years by walking 14 kilometres a day to work. Patel has explained his desire to study in Britain because, ‘I was anxious to go overseas to see the people of England who, living 5000 miles away, were able to rule us for so long’.4 By going to Britain, Indians could compete directly with the British to demonstrate their own self-worth and furthermore accrue the perceived beneﬁts from British education that had created such a successful and powerful society. Although Indians did go abroad in growing numbers in the twentieth cen-
tury, there was still considerable opposition to travel and study in the Britain. Caste opposition among some Hindu communities against crossing the ‘black seas’ had been fairly strong in the nineteenth century. The case of Mohandas Gandhi is a well-known example. His caste elders in the Modh Bania community were opposed to his travelling to Britain in 1888, explaining that their religion forbade foreign travel. Despite these obstructions, Gandhi proceeded to Britain and upon his return the community was divided over whether he should be welcomed back. Gandhi bathed in the sacred Godavari River in Nasik and gave a caste dinner in Rajkot in order to appease the caste community.5 The Hindu England-returned were often required to perform a puriﬁcation ceremony, known as the prayaschitta ceremony, to be accepted back into their castes. Refusal could result in exclusion for the student and their immediate family, although the amount of penance depended on the demands made by speciﬁc caste councils. Gradually, as the number of Indians studying abroad increased, orthodox
Hindus came to realize that those who had returned had not lost all their religious values and that they could not prevent young students from trying to go to Britain if Hindus wanted to compete with other communities in India. The Bharat Bandhu said as much in 1881.