March 22, 2010 | |

An Intellectual Flashback

It is difficult to imagine Mumbai, a city with stardust sprinkled all over it, as having had a thriving intellectual life. But a brief look at the past reveals that the city once had a dynamic cerebral milieu. Especially the years between 1822-1857.

Though the European hand in the development of Bombay’s intellectual life cannot be denied, education truly impacted society, thanks to the efforts made by some indigenous intellectuals like Sadashiv Kashinath Chattre, who was the native secretary of the Bombay Native School Book and School Society. He encouraged numerous Hindu students to join the society’s school. Among them were Balshastri Jambhekar and Bahu Mahajan, who later became leaders in the social and intellectual life of Bombay.
The establishment of Wilson College in 1832 by Reverend John Wilson also contributed to the formation of a group of youngsters with a corporate identity. Called the “Young Bombay”, they had read the works of philosophers of the French Revolution and questioned the validity of the British rule as ‘Divine Providence.’
The vernacular press prospered. In 1822, The Bombay Samachar, a Gujarati weekly was started by two Marathi brothers, Janardhan Vasudev and Vinayak Vasudevji. Bal Shastri Jambhekar started the first Anglo-Marathi newspaper, the Bombay Durpan, in 1832, aiming at free public discussion of relevant matters.

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